Your Essential Vietnam Packing List for Any Time of Year

Stacey Ebert

For your Southeast Asian adventure, lightweight, loose fitting, and layers are the name of the game.

In 2010, that long awaited trip to Vietnam finally came. The traveler in me was excited and the history teacher in me was intrigued and still a little wary. The nerves were unnecessary – the welcome was exceptional. Vietnam held far more than scrumptious pho and exquisite tailor-made clothing. There were stories to be shared, history (through very different lenses) to be witnessed, architecture to be admired, and culture imbued in every alleyway, paddy and city. We rode, journeyed, swam, ate, did Tai Chi, checked out motorbikes, and more; our senses were heightened and palates satiated.

My trip was in April, but the climate of the region rarely includes cold, snow, or ice. Hot and humid are the norm, and be prepared for lots of rain during the monsoon. If you’re not sure how to pack for Vietnam and its varying climates, don’t worry, we’ve got you. Read on for our Vietnam packing list that you can modify for any time of the year.

Vietnam packing list

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Vietnam?

Vietnam is a good destination to visit year-round but December-February is generally the best time to go. Although weather patterns vary between northern, central, and southern Vietnam, monsoon season is generally between April – October. March and April tends to be the hottest, as temperatures rise and monsoons haven’t yet broken the humidity.

Keep in mind that even in the dry season, you can expect rain. Year-round, Vietnam is warm, humid, and–especially during during monsoon season–rainy. Rain gear is always a must, along with hat, umbrella, and that trusted travel towel to dry you off when the skies douse you midday. As always, pack layers and be prepared for the country’s diverse weather patterns.

  • Northern Vietnam (Ha Long Bay, Sapa, Hanoi): Winter is between November-April, with temperatures hovering around 20ºC/70ºF in January-March. Summer is May-October. The wettest months are July-September.
  • Central Vietnam (Hue, Hoi An): January-July are hot and dry, with temperatures around 30ºC/90ºF. The wettest months are October and November, when typhoons risk hitting the coast.
  • South Vietnam (HCMC, Mekong Delta): Weather in South Vietnam generally flips between wet and dry seasons. Rainy season is May – November, with July and August being the wettest. Dry season is November-April. Year-round temperatures are around 30ºC/90ºF.
What to pack for Vietnam if you're riding a motorbike

The Vietnam Packing List

For Vietnam, as well as the rest of Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand), lightweight, loose fitting clothes you can layers are ideal to pack. Humidity, rain, monsoons, and typhoons occur, and those chilly evenings that arrive without warning are rarely as much fun if you’re still soaked from the afternoon’s rain shower. There’s sunshine and warmth, nature, cities and culture, food and friends, so pack for it all. 

As far as figuring out what to wear in Vietnam, focus on lightweight layers and avoid overly short shorts — even in hot weather, most locals don’t wear them. You’ll also want to wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, as is customary when entering Vietnamese homes and even some stores.

Below you’ll find a Vietnam packing list that works for 7-10 day trips. If you’re gone for longer, you don’t necessarily have to pack more. Laundry is cheap and easy to do in Vietnam.

Vietnam packing list for women

  • 3-5 pairs of socks
  • 4-7 pairs of underwear
  • bras (1 sports bra)
  • 3-5 assorted tops (tees/light long sleeve/tank tops)
  • 1 athletic outfit (for workout or hiking)
  • 2 pairs of travel pants (shorts/capris/skirts)
  • 1 travel dress
  • Pajamas: Or double up a pair of leggings/shorts/tee
  • 1 cardigan/sweatshirt
  • 1 rain jacket
  • swimsuit
  • Sarong or travel scarf for cold days or visiting temples
  • 1 pair of flip flops or sandals
  • 1 pair comfortable walking/hiking shoes
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses

Vietnam Packing List for Men

  • 3-5 pairs of socks
  • 4-7 pairs of underwear
  • 3-5 assorted tops (tees/light long sleeve/tank tops)
  • 1 athletic outfit (for workout or hiking)
  • 2 pairs of travel pants
  • 1 cardigan/sweatshirt
  • 1 rain jacket
  • swimsuit that can double as shorts
  • Pajamas: Or double up a pair of leggings/shorts/tee
  • 1 pair comfortable walking/hiking shoes
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses

What to Pack for Vietnam in April-October: Rainy Season

If you’re traveling to Vietnam in April-October, rainy season in much of the country, be sure to bring:

  • A rain jacket
  • Travel umbrella
  • A rain cover for your backpack
  • Dry bag for your gear
  • Bug spray; rainy weather also brings more mosquitos

What to Pack for Vietnam in December-February: The Mildest Season

The best time to visit Vietnam, and much of Southeast Asia, is from December through February when there’s less rain and milder temperatures. Especially if you’re heading to a higher altitude, like Sapa, be sure to bring:

  • A warm layer (sweatshirt, sweater)
  • A pair of warm socks
  • Walking shoes you can hike in
  • Travel scarf or compact neck buff

Toiletries Packing List for Vietnam

Packing toiletries is always a challenge. Remember that much of what you need can be purchased when you arrive. Pack only those items that are brand specific, focus on your needs, be sure to bring enough for the first couple of days. If you’re like me and attract mosquito bites – plan accordingly.

  • Tissues (small packs for easy travel access)
  • Baby wipes
  • Travel soap
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Shaving necessities
  • Contact lens solution (especially if brand specific for sensitive eyes)
  • Feminine hygeine products of choice (the type you like might be harder to find)
  • Makeup
  • Hair products/accessories
  • Travel towel
  • Insect repellant (malaria and dengue are significant risks in Vietnam)
  • Sunscreen (especially if you need a specific brand)
  • Baby powder (a life saver for hot wet climates)
  • Deodorant

Optional Things to Pack for Vietnam

Sure, you want to be prepared for everything, but you know you can’t fit your entire apartment into your travel backpack. Keep the miscellaneous stuff to a minimum. Still, you might want to consider some of the following:

  • Clothes line to hang your wet gear in the shower
  • Outbreaker daypack (this baby is made of truly waterproof sailcloth, just sayin’)
  • Travel journal and pen
What to pack for Vietnam

What Health Items to Pack for Vietnam

Packing a basic health kit is a good idea no matter where you are going, and truly imperative if you have any sort of health conditions or take regular medications. Vietnam has chemists, doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals should you need to take advantage of those services while you’re in country. Arrive prepared for the things you can anticipate, carry copies of your prescription medications, and write down your allergies ahead of time.

When traveling to Vietnam, also be sure to pack:

  • Personal medical essentials plus Epi Pen if necessary
  • Prescription medications and copies of all of your prescriptions/immunizations
  • First aid kit: Immodium, ibuprofen, paracetemol, tums/antacid tablets, Benadryl
  • Allergy meds, asthma inhalers, and eye drops
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibiotic cream/ointment
  • Anti-malarials if necessary (check with a travel doctor first)
  • Anti-itch cream for bug bites
  • Band-Aids/bandages

It’s also always a good idea to buy and pack a copy of your travel insurance.

What Electronics to Bring to Vietnam

For electronics, try to bring only what you need while in Vietnam and experience the moments instead of focusing on their capture and know that if you need to replace something – you can. If you’re traveling from abroad, do remember to pack an adapter for plugging things in.

  • Phone, headphone, and charger
  • Travel adapter (Vietnam uses type A, C, and F)
  • Kindle and charger
  • Camera/memory cards, connecting cables and chargers
  • Portable charger/battery pack
  • Laptop or tablet and chargers
  • Back up external hard drive/portable flash drive

Pack your electronics in a waterproof dry sac to make sure they’re safe if you get caught in any unexpected rain.

Packing Tips & Tricks

Now the fun begins! If you’ve got the Outbreaker travel backpack, you’ll be able to take advantage of the well designed interior pockets for keeping things organized, fitting all of your bits and pieces and making sure your water bottle or travel yoga mat fits in the outside pocket, accordingly.

  • Pack all of your chargers and cables in a separate packing cube
  • Keep some Ziploc bags handy for any emergency
  • Travel size containers for jewelry, toiletries and personal items are always helpful
  • Official currency is the Vietnamese Dong but keep a stash of US Dollars or Euros 
  • Call bank cards and credit cards to let them know you’ll be overseas
  • Power strips allow you to charge many gadgets at once; check the voltage capacity
  • Always keep medications and tech gear in your carry on luggage/personal item
  • Pack duct tape, it saves the day every time!
  • Clip a few carabiners – they always come in handy
  • Keep a few clothes pegs with you – good for laundry and closing snack bags

Places to Visit in Vietnam

There are city adventures, both large and small, UNESCO heritage site excursions that find you afloat on a traditional junk, trails that wind their way to the very top of cultural centers, historical sights, and cultural gems hidden amongst the paddies, the countryside and the busy city streets. Whether culture seeker or happy hiker, foodie or history buff, cycler, wanderer, or first time traveler–Vietnam has something for everyone.

A few spots to be sure to stop along your journey in Vietnam:

TL;DR

Strap on those sturdy walking shoes and get ready for an exciting adventure. Vietnam has it all – beaches, cities, sites, culture, tradition and history in abundance. Explore widely, experience local culture and be prepared to taste some of the best pho you’ve ever had! To make sure you pack well for your Vietnam adventure:

  • For clothes, pack for the city, but plan for a few outdoor adventures. You can get your adventure on with junk voyages, bike rides, hikes and motorbike journeys.
  • Flip flops and a good pair of walking shoes are the best footwear.
  • No matter what time of year you’re visiting Vietnam, be sure to pack a good rain jacket and a warm layer for cold busses and high mountains.
  • Backpacks are the best type of luggage to use for Vietnam, especially if you plan to rent a motorbike.
  • Consult the state department website for Vietnam passport and visa info, and make sure to get a visa in advance and carry a print or digital copy of it in your carry on.
 

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