Destinations Vietnam

Scooters, Starfish & Street Food: A Vietnam Travel Guide

From the beauty of Ha Long Bay to the best banh mi spots and starfish-studded shorelines, this whizz-bang Vietnam travel guide hits all the spots.

Vietnam is a razzle-dazzle dynamite destination, with buzzing cities, off-the-beaten-track beaches and old towns time forgot. Visiting for the first time? It can be quite the task figuring out where you want to visit. Foodies converge in Hoi An, hikers make the trek to the hill tribes of mountainous Sapa, and those in search of star-spangled oceans journey to Phu Quoc to see the bioluminescent plankton. Meanwhile, the frenetic cities of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are as fast-paced and exciting as the scooters which zip from street to street. Read on to discover which exciting Vietnam destination to visit next. 

Ready to dive in? Check out our handpicked Vietnam escapes

Hoi An: Vietnam’s foodie capital

Hoi An’s dazzling Old Town, with its spherical lanterns in alternating shades of crimson, deep purple, orange and yellow light a pathway to the town’s mouthwatering array of culinary wonders. Slurp on signature cao lau noodles with caramelised pork, crunch deep-fried Hoi An wontons filled with fresh shrimp, and tuck into world-famous white rose dumplings. Wash it all down with a cup of noc mia (sugarcane juice), the perfect cool down after the day’s heat. 

Hungry for more? Read Must-Try Hoi An Street Food: A Vietnam Foodie Adventure

Cam Ranh: Untouched beaches

This quiet beach town just an hour’s drive south from Nha Trang is the ideal spot for a secluded and laidback escape. Disconnect from the rest of the world and leave your phone in your hotel room while you explore (with a sweet Vietnamese iced coffee in hand) and spend the day lazing on Bai Nuoc Ngot (Fresh Water Beach). The water here is a bright blue hue, and its calm conditions make it ideal for a family beach day. Take a 10-minute boat ride from Ba Ngoi port in Cam Ranh to Binh Hung Island, where pristine beaches and a smorgasbord of affordable and delicious seafood make it a fabulous day trip.

Quy Nhon: Seafood galore

A sparkling coastline and postcard-perfect ocean panoramas make up the majority of the landscape at Quy Nhon, a local-loved seaside resort town four hours north of Nha Trang. Thanks to its superb location by the water, it’s no wonder the city is renowned for its excellent seafood. At Anantara Quy Nhon Villas, reserve a table at Sea.Fire.Salt for a deep dive into fine dining with excellent ocean views. Try the lobster thermidor for something ultra-indulgent, or for a lighter bite, opt for the oysters three ways (fresh, baked and deep fried). 

Relax in five-star luxury at Anantara Quy Nhon Villas

Phu Quoc: Nature lover’s paradise

The magic of nature comes into full effect on the island of Phu Quoc, home to dense tropical jungle, white-sand beaches and neon-bright coral reefs. Be sure to visit Starfish Beach during your stay, where you can see – surprise surprise – a huge population of starfish living in the crystal-clear waters. The real spellbinding moment happens after dark on this enchanting stretch of coast; at certain times of the year, you might be lucky enough to glimpse the bioluminescent plankton, which twinkles and winks like seabound stars in the shallows of Starfish Beach, Long Beach and Dat Do Beach. 

Sapa: Epic mountain hikes

Attention hiking enthusiasts: if you haven’t heard of Sapa, now’s the time to launch it to the top of your Vietnam travel list. This hill station in the country’s northwest is a mosaic of undulating rice terraces, the smiles of local hill-tribe people, and misty mountains peeking out from behind low-slung clouds. Used as a premier trekking base for global travellers, Sapa is the spot where hikers can set off on their trail (with a local guide), meandering through the lush green countryside, scaling the sides of mountains and visiting small hill-tribe villages on a pilgrimage unlike any other. 

Hanoi: Gateway to Ha Long Bay

Vietnam’s capital goes beyond the scooter-filled roads, buzzing local markets and Old Hanoi historical remnants – it’s also the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay. In just 2.5 hours from Hanoi, you can reach the glittering green waters and limestone karsts of this postcard-perfect icon of Vietnam. Here, a variety of cruises navigate the 1,600 islands and islets, stopping for swim spots, island beach visits, cave tours and overnight island stays (highly recommended). 

Ho Chi Minh City: Wartime history

The heaving metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City is a must-see for history buffs and foodies alike. Learn about Vietnam’s war-torn past at the War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, or spend a day exploring the Cu Chi Tunnels, a huge network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. After all that history, you’re bound to have built up an appetite. If there’s one local dish you must try in HCMC, make it banh mi. For the ultimate, traditional banh mi, make a pit stop at Banh Mi Hong Hua, a local favourite. 

Stay in a designer apartment at SILA Urban Living

Read more: Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: A First Timer’s Guide to Vietnam