12 Unique experiences you can only have in Vietnam

Vietnam is a beautiful and diverse country, with a thousand-year history and a vibrant culture. The followings are the top unique and amazing experiences that you can only have in Vietnam.

1. Hop on the back of the motorbike

For tourists, though taxi and public bus are safer and cheaper (for the group of 2 and more), motor taxi (xe om in Vietnamese) can give you a fun and unique experience.

They can’t weave through the small and always crowded alleys when needed, they can’t escape a traffic jam in just some minutes and they don’t have the addicting game of bargaining. Motor taxi offers you interactions with locals, the real joy of moving among the city traffic to see not through a glass plane but directly with your own eyes.

Xe Om drivers are masters at haggling and they often double the price to foreigners. Don’t forget to bargain to have a reasonable price. Generally, the price is determined by the distance, the quality of the road or even the weather. VND 10,000 – 15,000 per kilometer is acceptable.

You can take a motor taxi in almost everywhere in Vietnam.

2. Riding a cyclo (Xich lo)

The cyclo is a three-wheel bicycle taxi that appeared in Vietnam during the French colonial period after a failed attempt to introduce rickshaws.

Cyclo is a great way to feel the local life because it is slow enough for tourists to see the city and more importantly, it is safe enough for travelers in the busy traffic of Saigon or Hanoi.

If you want to hire a cyclo, always negotiate the fare in advance. Tips for cyclo driver is highly appreciated.

Cyclo is available in most big cities in Vietnam such as Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, Ho Chi Minh city.

Cyclo tour

3. Drink egg coffee (Ca Phe Trung)

Egg coffee is a Vietnamese drink which is traditionally prepared with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and robusta coffee. The drink is made by beating egg yolks with sugar and coffee, then extracting the coffee into the half of the cup, followed by a similar amount of egg cream which is prepared by heating and beating the yolks.  The best place to enjoy egg coffee is Hanoi – the homeland of egg coffee to enjoy the best egg coffee.

Recommended address:                           

  • Café Giang: 39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem, Hano
  • Café Dinh: 13 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
  • Oriberry coffee: 36 Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

4. Eating street food

Vietnam is very famous for many unique street foods and eating in the street is a must do in Vietnam, not only as it is cheaper than eating at the restaurant, but also because the food is truly delicious.

The key to find a good place is checking its audience. A mixture of locals and tourists, women and children, and more than anything else food being continuously cooked are indicators that the food is good and safe.

Taking a street food tour is highly recommended to gain confidence with the local food to make sure that they are hygiene and safe.

There are myriad of food you should try:

  • Pho(rice noodle with beef ): 13 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
  • Cha ca: Cha ca La Vong, Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
  • Bun Cha: 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
  • Xoi (sticky rice): Xoi Yen, Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
  • Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches): Banh mi Hoi An 98 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Banh mi Huynh Hoa (26 Le Thi Rieng, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city

Street Food Tour

5. Crossing the street

If you plan to visit Vietnam, prepare to forget everything you ever learned about crossing the street. Forget about waiting for the traffic to stop, forget about zebra crossing, and forget about traffic lights. because in Vietnam, people cross the street by charging right ahead, weaving their way through moving traffic. It’s the only way to do it!

Crossing the streets sounds dangerous but fun. The magic is that no one will ever run into you. Most of the vehicles on the streets are quite small, mostly scooters, since buying a car in Vietnam is an expensive affair. People riding these scooters are quite careful, they move slowly, have an unobstructed view, and are cautious not to crash into pedestrians. All you have to do while crossing is take it slow, and don’t panic. Walk very slowly, but don’t stop either. If you keep moving at a slow pace, you’re likely to make it to the other side safe and sound. Remember, don’t be scared.

6. Visiting Cu Chi tunnels

The Cu Chi tunnels are one of the best known “tourist attractions” in South Vietnam because the tunnels are much more than a museum for the enjoyment of national and foreign visitors; they are the raw history of Vietnam’s war times. The local people of Cu Chi started digging this 250km network of connecting underground tunnels during the French occupation

The Cu Chi tunnels can easily be visited from Saigon (40 km 1.5 hours) – as a half-day trip.

Address: Ben Dinh is 22 miles (35km) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City at Tay Ninh and Ben Duoc is 31 miles (50km) in the same direction.

Transport: The tunnels are best visited on a day tour, otherwise a bus from Ben Thanh bus station stops in Cu Chi where public transport services the site.

Opening hours: 7 am – 5 pm

Opening times: Sunday to Friday 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 7am-5pm. It is best to arrive before 3 pm as it gets quite dark towards late afternoon/evening.

Cu Chi tunnels

7. Visit love market in Northern Vietnam

Love markets have been a unique and valuable aspect of the culture of the Mong and Dao ethnic groups for a long time.

Due to the distance between the villages, the market meets once a week (Sunday) in Sapa and once in the year in Meo Vac, Ha Giang (Lunar March 26th)

  • Khau Vai market in Ha Giang (lunar March 26th and 27th)

The festival features food and drinks culture, song performances and also folk games. Ethnic costumes, jewelry, ethnic musical instruments and culture and art publications are on display in the market, reflecting activities of the local people.

  • Love Market in Sapa (every Saturday):

This is the place where visitors can experience and feel the spirit and the "love" of ethnic minority people. On Saturday night, guys and girls from all villages come to Lao Cai to meet one another. They talk, sing and play different games according to their ethnic group’s tradition. After the night, many couples become intimate and promise to see each other again on the following morning. Many of them become husbands and wives in the spring.

Bac Ha Market tour

8. Stay with a hill tribe family in Sapa

H’mong, Dao, and Giay people speaking English more fluently than Vietnamese, tremendous natural vistas right outside your balcony, an early morning chill with clouds hovering over the mountains, this and more is what you should expect from Sapa!

If you’re in a group you’re likely to be sharing a room, but you should at least get your own bed or mattress.

Red Dao homestays usually include a herbal bath so you’ll be able to take it in turns to have a bath. Dinner will be prepared by the host and their family. The menu is likely to have been modified from what the family usually eats to appeal to foreign palates, but will still be Vietnamese: spring rolls, rice, stir-fried meat, and veg.

Recommended homestay:

  • Homestay Mr. Tang – Ta Van village - traditional house on stilts of Giay people
  • Homestay Mr. Ly Sai /Mr. Cong - Ta Phin village – traditional house on stilts of Dzao people

Homestay in Vietnam

9. Explore Tam Coc during rice harvesting season

Tam Coc is located in Ninh Binh Province, about 100km south of Hanoi (2 hours drive) which can be done easily in a day trip from the hustle and bustle capital city. Copying on the world-famous Halong Bay, Tam Coc is considered the glamorous land of unique landscapes and myth.

The best time to see: at the end of May or early June or In late September, the fields are still green with patches of golden color, making a picturesque view, mixed with imposing mountains and peaceful villages.

The best place to see: taking a boat trip on Tam Coc or cycling around the villages, or do a trek to Mua Cave and get a great panorama of Ninh Binh.

10. Take a cruise around Halong Bay on a Junk boat.

Halong Bay is one of 7 Wonder of the World, this beautiful bay is inevitably included in Vietnam Travel Packages. Located about 170 km from Hanoi (3.5 hours drive). There has been numerous caves, amazing vegetation, lakes with islands and reefs.

2 days 1 night trip on Halong bay cruise is the most common trip that most people do. However, for senior travelers or nature lovers, 3 day 2 night trip without rush is the best itinerary as there are many interesting sites to visit: caves, floating villages, beautiful beaches and many activities: doing taichi, kayaking, swimming, going squids, cooking class, diving, Canoeing, BBQ on beach that 1 night trip is not long enough to explore.

Book a Halong cruise via a travel agent is highly recommended as most Halong cruises have a better rate for agents than walk-in clients.

The region actually includes 3 bays: Bai Tu Long, Lan Ha, and Halong Bay.

Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay have the same scenic beauty as Halong Bay. Halong bay now has hundreds of boats and tourists and more crowded. Bai Tu Long bay, less visited thanks to its harder – to - reach location and fewer accessible caves, still remains pristine, there are some good options for accommodation varying from Basic cruise to luxury cruise. Lan Ha Bay is the smallest one, unspoiled and there are only some basic cruises on this bay.

Halong Tour

11. Boat trip in Cai Rang floating market in the early morning.

Cai Rang is the largest wholesale floating market in the Mekong Delta.

It starts around 05:00 and runs until midday, meaning boat tours pick up around 06:00. It’s a six kilometers journey or around a 30-minute boat ride from Can Tho to arrive in the wondrous scene.

In between the large cargo vessels, smaller sampans weave in and out selling anything from banh mi to bun rieu, to coffee, coconut water, and lottery tickets. The experience of flagging down a sampan loaded with boiling pots of stock and having a bowl of noodle soup on the river is a fun one.

 A private tour with a sampan allowing you to have more personal experience. Large group tours and the boat can only circle around the melee as the guide squawked into a loudspeaker.

Cai Rang Tour

12. Watch a traditional water puppet show in Hanoi.

Water puppetry is a typical Vietnamese art. In the past, water puppetry once served for the King’s family and ancient Vietnamese aristocracy amusement. It is full of joys, lighting, colors, and surprises for the audience that referred to the daily life of Vietnamese farmers (cultivating, tending buffalo, catching fishes), communal entertainment (swimming contest, dragon dancing) or historical legends.

Where to see:

  • In the big cities: Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi, The Vietnam Puppetry Theatre, Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Saigon.
  • Other places: Yen Duc Village in Quang Ninh Province, The Museum of Vietnamese History in Saigon

 Water puppet show tour

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