Packing Light: What you need to know for Vietnam

I have always found that packing, while it can be one of the more exciting bits of a trip (yay, travels and adventure are upon me!), it’s also one of the most stressful. This is even more accurate when traveling to a different country because there’s more research involved. What kind of outlets do they have? What do the hotels/hostels keep in stock? What’s the weather like? What is easily available in this country, and what will I never be able to find? These are the kinds of questions that buzz through my head.

While my trip to Vietnam wasn’t 100% backpacking (we stayed in nice hotels and had everything planned out in advance), we still brought backpacks for the trip since we were advised that rolling suitcases will be difficult to manage. Did we see tourists with those? Oh, of course, but it didn’t make their trip easier.

This list is generally geared towards women (although if you’re a man and want to wear a maxi skirt, you go Glen Coco!), but provides as a basic list for anyone heading to this area of the world.

General Packing/Preparation Tips

  1. Group clothing and items into gallon size bags. It will be easier to find what you are looking for.
  2. Put the heavier things towards the bottom of your pack. Your shoulders will thank you later!
  3. In general, I think it’s wise to pack more underwear than you think you will need. Some things I can wear more than once/slightly dirty, but never underwear!
  4. That being said – LESS IS MORE. You might think you need 3 pairs of sandals and 5 cute tops as options, but that’s just taking up room you could use for souvenirs. You really don’t need everything.
  5. Keep your valuables at home. Although I never was truly worried about my safety in Vietnam, I still left my wedding ring behind and wore this silicone band for my travels, which ended up working out quite nicely.
  6. Always keep your passport in a safe spot – it is, in fact, probably the most important item you carry on this trip! Don’t forget to make copies of that/credit cards, alert your bank of your travels, etc. If you have an itinerary planned, email it to family/close friends so they know where you will be at all times.
  7. Check up on what shots or medication you should have for your travels.

My Vietnam Packing List

I packed everything into one carry-on sized backpack that I bought in Korea – It was about a 55L size.

  • 4 pairs of shoes – walking sandals, cute going-out sandals, basic flip flops (shower shoes or for wandering the streets), and good sturdy walking shoes
  • Small cross body purse
  • Day backpack
  • Umbrella (pictured, ended up not bringing)
  • Mesh laundry bag for dirty clothes
  • 1 small toiletries bag (travel sized everything – toothbrush/paste, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturizer, dry shampoo, etc)
  • 1 sarong (perfect for covering up those shoulders at a temple, last resort towel, beach time, as a scarf, etc)
  • 1 bag of medicine (Tums, Advil, Benadryl, Imodium, Antibiotics, Anti-Itch cream, antibiotic cream, travel size first aid kit, bandaids, etc.)
  • 1 small bag of makeup (just the basics – foundation, concealer, mascara, some eyeshadow, and tweezers)
  • Hand sanitizer and wipes – these were crucial! I used them every day, and also in case the bathroom didn’t have any toilet paper…eek!
  • Bug spray and sunscreen
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 9 pairs of underwear
  • 5 bras (2 sports, 1 wired, 2 comfortable)
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 4 pairs of shorts (2 Nike, 1 stretchy, 1 jean)
  • 2 pairs yoga pants
  • 1 maxi skirt
  • 1 light dress
  • 1 light jacket
  • 8 tops (2 cute tanks, 2 workout shirts, 2 normal v-necks, and 2 plain tanks)
  • 1 black long sleeved cardigan
  • PJs/nighttime attire
  • Nice camera – Panasonic Lumix GM1
  • Selfie stick (I refused to be embarrassed by this item! Huzzah!)
  • Phone and camera chargers
  • 1 Anker mini portable charger
  • Headphones
  • Accessories – versatile necklace, earnings, bobby pins, hair ties, stretchy headbands, cheap sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Journal and pens

Things I bought in Vietnam

Knowing that there were many North Face/Under Armor outlets in the cities we visited, I didn’t bring a few things that I knew I could buy for cheap there. Other things that you can get are day packs, suitcases, duffle bags, sports bras, etc. This included:

  • Rain jacket
  • Ball cap
  • Fleece jacket
  • T-shirts
  • Socks
  • Yoga pants
  • Dress

For the most part, I tried to keep my wardrobe simple and versatile. While we didn’t trek around Vietnam in the horrible heat and humidity, we were still working with a range of temperatures. I made sure I had things to keep me both warm and cool. Nothing I hate more than packing incorrectly or bringing stuff I don’t need.

I hope this helps all future travelers to Vietnam, or any country in Southeast Asia. Remember to pack light and safe travels!

Kisses & Kimchi,

Elizabeth

11 Comments

  1. This is so timely! I’m headed to Vietnam on the thirtieth of April. Your tips will definitely come in handy. I think I need to pair down somethings because I’m only going for five days. Plus I’m not sure a maxi dress would work for me! 🙂 Seriously though I love the idea of a mesh bag for my makeshift hamper I hate having to find somewhere for dirty clothes and I don’t like putting them back in the suitcase! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I realize this post is mostly geared towards women, but I am so happy you found use out of it. The mesh bag was a lifesaver, surprisingly. I am updating more on my trip to Vietnam to stay tuned! 🙂 Happy Travels!

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  2. I’m reading so many posts these days about Vietnam, and it’s just stoking my desire to get there more and more. I’ve only been once for 2 days, on a Korean tour with my mom and aunts, and all we ate was kimchi. Not even one bowl of pho. I had to beg them to take me to a cafe for Vietnamese coffee. ARGHGHGH! I love packing light and these are great tips. I especially like the idea of the mesh laundry bag (not why didn’t I think of that?) We always resort to plastic bags to store our dirty laundry…

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  3. You go Glen Coco! ^^
    You’re right. This is not only applicable to Vietnam but also to other countries in SouthEast Asia. I’m going to Philippines next month and I’ll definitely keep this in mind. I have to read this while packing my stuff. Thanks!

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  4. Wow, you really packed everything a girl could need – I’m impressed. What size is your backpack? How long was your trip to Vietnam? I battle to pack and no matter how much I try prepare and think carefully about it, I always end up missing things and carrying around things that I absolutely don’t need! I really like your use of ziplock bags for outfits – I use cubes but everything gets so muddled after I take something out for the first time!

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  5. Vietnam was my first adventure into backpacking almost a decade ago. Afterward I quickly realized that I should NOT have packed nearly as many necklaces. What was a thinking? And the clothes were light, but in the end inefficient for putting outfits together haha. So much learning goes into what to pack.

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  6. Teach me how to be optimize my packing because I’m hopeless at it! I always end up overpacking even for a weekend in Seoul or Busan because I like having options haha. This isn’t a big deal now but at the end of my contract, when I go on my year+ around the world trip, I will definitely need to master the art of light packing… I may even need to purchase a smaller backpack as I suspect mine is too big at

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  7. Good point about packing for Vietnam is the range varying temperatures that you can encounter (Dalat apparently is standing at 5,000 ft above sea level). Another great point you mention is making copies of your passport/credit cards and of course, notifying them about your travels. Very helpful post indeed!

    Like

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