Packing Smart


Packing Essentials

What you take will naturally depend upon where you are traveling, and it can often be difficult to decide what to pack, nevertheless the following should act as a useful checklist of essential items worth thinking about taking.


o   Passport – Ensure that it is valid and in good condition with empty pages available. Make a photocopy as well


o   Copy of visa approval letter (if visa is to be obtained on arrival)


o   Insurance – Ensure that it will be valid for the whole journey


o   Passport Photos – Will invariably be needed for identification passes and certain overseas visas


o   List of emergency contact numbers of the ground tour operator


o   Insurance 24 hour emergency contact number and next of kin contact details


o   Debit/credit card cancellation numbers


o   Friends/family with international dialing code


o   Air tickets and Itinerary


o   Money belt – Ensure that it is discrete and comfortable to wear


o   First Aid kit - Basic travel kit to cover basic mishaps which may occur along the way


o   Personal Medication –with international doctors’ note to ensure easy passage of medication across  international borders



o   Sun block – High UVA protection ideally


o   Sunglasses & sunhat


o   Comfortable walking shoes


o   Mosquito spray & insect repellent


o   Long sleeve top and trousers – Useful to protect against mosquitoes at dawn and dusk and the sun through the day


o   Camera & battery


o   Security code pad lock

o   Apart from Credit cards, bring small bills in US dollar.



If your trip to Vietnam includes stops at beaches and mountainous areas, you will need clothes for all temperatures. A swimsuit, sunglasses, a hat, t-shirts, shorts that are not too revealing, long trousers, some light-weight, long-sleeved tops and a light jacket that is wind and rain-resistant will get you through most trips. If you plan to visit northern Vietnam in the winter, you’ll need a warm coat. Mountainous areas can get chilly; choose clothes you can layer.

If trekking is on your agenda, you will need sturdy footwear with traction—plus lots of socks. Slip-on shoes or sandals are useful for visits to pagodas or people’s houses, as you’ll save time taking your shoes on and off.


Larger cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi offer upscale bars and restaurants, so be sure to pack some clothes and shoes for a nice evening out. Leave your flashy jewelry at home.  



While imported beauty products are readily available in major cities, you’d be wise to pack staples like sunscreen, contact lens solution, tampons and mosquito repellent. It is advised that your prescription medication is in its original box with the label along with the prescription to avoid any complications that may arise at Customs. Many medicines are available in Southeast Asia without prescriptions. If you plan to purchase medication, choose a reputable supplier and read the labels carefully, particularly paying attention to expiration date.



Bring a money-belt to safely carry your travel documents and cash, and ensure that your luggage has a lock. Bring photo-copies of your passport and visa, plus some extra passport-sized photos if you’re applying for on-arrival visa (just in case). When flying into or within Vietnam, you will probably be given baggage claim tags (they will be stuck to the back of your ticket). Keep these, as you will need to show them when leaving the airport.



Reading materials may be hard to find, especially in less-touristy areas, so bring some good books. While cheap, counterfeit CDs are tempting, remember that you may face trouble when you bring these illegal copies home.


Recommended Reading

“Vietnam Now, A Reporter Returns” by David Lamb

“Catfish and Mandala, A Two-Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam” by Andrew X. Pham

“Vietnam, A History” by Stanley Karnow

“Vietnam Today: A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads” by Mark Ashwill and  Thai Ngoc Diep

“National Geographic Vietnam” by Jim Sullivan



Most camera and photo developing shops carry memory cards and battery for digital cameras. Camera equipment and film is sold in bigger tourist cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.