What to take to Vietnam – NOT MUCH!
When friends and family ask me what to take to Vietnam, my first response is always, “As little as possible!” There are, however, a few things you would be advised to bring.
The list below is for Ho Chi Minh City and most of Vietnam in Summer. If your are headed to the mountains or the north in winter you might want to pack some warmer clothes, although, I think these basic principles remain the same.
Vietnam is cheap and you can buy most casual clothing and other personal items here for much cheaper than you will at home (Note the sizing issues below)
If you can’t buy it, they can probably make it. You can have custom made clothes, including shoes, made for a fraction of the price you pay at home and most times it will take less than a couple of days. Express services can be 24 hours. The range of materials available are huge and if you choose the right tailor the quality will be excellent.
Personal Hygiene items are widely available in the hundreds of minimarts scattered around the city. Unless you have really particular tastes in soap, shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste, you can buy everything here (including the big brand names) much cheaper than back home.
Pharmacies are everywhere in the cities and can provide something to fix most minor medical issues extremely cheaply, on the spot.
What to Take to Vietnam – A Basic Packing List
- Light weight clothing that will rinse and dry quickly. You will sweat in HCMC without much exertion at all, so it might pay to choose colours that don’t show it as much. Don’t bring too much if you have more than a couple of days. Vietnam has some awesome, excellent value tailors that can knock you up the outfit of your choosing in a day or two.
- Appropriate shoes for the activities you want to participate in. At the very least they need to be comfortable for walking around the city, and won’t injure you if your feet swell due to the weather. Shoes are cheap here but if you have even average size feet for a westerner you will have to have shoes made. Vietnamese people have tiny feet. I’m only a size 7.5 in Australia (UK 5.5) and I can’t buy shoes here.
- Medication – Bring any medication you are required to take by your doctor and get them to write an official letter to say you must carry it. No point in getting customs excited if you don’t have to. Read more on my Staying Healthy on Your Visit Post.
- Personal toiletries – See above. You can buy most things when you’re here but if you have specific preferences then bring them along.
- Sarong or light shawl – this will be invaluable for both male and female travellers. Here’s but a few uses for it:
- To cover your shoulders or knees when you enter temples or pagodas
- As a makeshift towel
- As a curtain to help block light into your room or window on a bus/train
- As a head dress if you get caught short without a hat
- As a flannel to wet and cool yourself down with on hot days.
- Sunglasses – “Designer” sunglasses can be purchased off street hawkers and in markets all over town for around $3-4. Somehow I don’t think they’re genuine do you? I wouldn’t vouch for their UV protection either.
- Sunhat – Caps and sunhats are easily purchased at any of the main tourist markets for just a few bucks, but if you have a favourite then bring it along.
- Sunscreen- Sunscreen is available but there’s no price advantage in buying it here. It will of course save you a couple of hundred grams in your luggage.
- Insect repellant – Freely available here but you won’t get some of the popular brands like RID (Australia)
- Camera, a spare battery and recharger – You won’t want to miss a single photo opportunity when you are here and there will be hundreds of them. Make sure you have enough battery power at all times. You can purchase a cheap adapter when you get here if you don’t have one, although a surge protector might be a good idea.
- A money belt that sits under your clothes for your passport, cash and cards that you will not be using on a regular basis. (See my tips on staying safe in Ho Chi Minh City).
Other than that, you shouldn’t need much else except access to cash (Check out my Money page ) and space for all your souvenirs on the way home. Don’t worry about bringing an extra bag, you can buy that here too!!
If you have any other ideas on what to take to Vietnam then please let me know in the comments below.
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