Whether you adventure with a bicycle or your tastebuds, Vietnam offers it all. It’s a country bursting with experiences for every type of Explorer.

Look around any corner in Vietnam and adventure will be waiting for you. Cycle through bustling cities and serene farmlands by day then savour world-famous street food before hopping on a sleeper train at night. Taking a guided tour is a hassle-free way of having the best activities packaged together. I was delighted to join G Adventures’ Hike, Bike and Kayak tour to explore Vietnam’s endless playground.

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Vietnam Highlights

  • Cycling off the beaten track
  • Kayaking at a World Heritage site
  • Mouth-watering food scene
  • Overnight train travel
  • Traditional homestay accommodation

Cycle Through Cities and Countrysides

Getting around on two wheels is considered the norm in Vietnam. In every town you’ll see scooters whizzing past you carrying anything from a family of four to a whole crockery store. 



For those of us weary of using a motorised two-wheeled vehicle in a foreign country, why not try cycling? It’s slow enough to take in your surroundings but fast enough to cover long distances. Plus, it’s a great way to be active on holiday when you’re stuffing your face with bánh mì!

Cycling through big cities can seem daunting at first. But joining a tour group, like G Adventures’ Hike, Bike and Kayak tour, can take the stress out of planning the right route and navigating the chaotic traffic system. Riding in peak hour will engage all your senses – you’ll see how people live their daily life, smell the open markets, and hear the honking of scooters as they weave past you.

Perhaps you prefer a casual cycle from a smaller town to grab a sunset bevy on the beach. Escape the lantern-lit town of Hội An and cycle through the backstreets of local houses to reach rice paddies and warm beaches. Visit Tra Que vegetable village, where traditional farming methods are used, and have a crack at being a farmer. 


A Beginner's Guide to Adventures in Vietnam, Chagi Weerasana, G Adventures, rice paddy, farmer, hut

Cycling can also be used to get to tourist hot spots, like the Cu Chi Tunnels. Start your ride at Hamlet Cay Da and pass through rubber plantations and rice paper fields. Grab a cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee) to cool down before visiting a Buddhist monastery. Keep a hand free to wave to locals who yell out xin chào (hello) as it’s not common to see tourists around these parts of town!


Kayak Hạ Long Bay

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Hạ Long Bay is on every traveller’s radar. The seemingly infinite limestone karsts create a stunning backdrop for the seascape. 

Bear in mind that because of its beauty, Hạ Long Bay suffers from the effects of over-tourism. Pollution is evident throughout the bay so choosing an ethical company that’s environmentally and socially responsible is a must. Despite this, it’s absolutely still worth visiting as it’s one of the most impressive karst formations in the world. And there’s no better way to get up close and personal than on a kayak.



Hạ Long Bay is full of unique kayaking adventures, like visiting fishing villages and paddling through arc-shaped caves. I got Indiana Jones vibes when I beached the kayak and wandered through a large cavern to arrive at Trinh Nu swimming bay.

Kayaking gives you the freedom to paddle in nooks and crannies that junk boats can’t reach. Paddle around the jade-green waters at your own pace while taking in the towering beauty around you. You may even spot a monkey swinging around the tropical forests that coat the cliffs. And while you’re kayaking, choose to take three for the sea.

If your arms aren’t too sore from the day of kayaking, be prepared to raise a glass or few on your junk boat during happy hour. You’ve earned it. 


Feast on Local Cuisines

There’s one word to describe Vietnamese food: phở-nomenal. Food is an adventure in itself – each region has its own specialties which showcase fresh local ingredients and cooking styles.

Immerse yourself in the food culture by joining a cooking class. Oodles of Noodles is a class developed for G Adventures through their not-for-profit organisation, Planeterra. The program employs disadvantaged youth who take part in hospitality training programs. The staff are eager to share their culinary knowledge and will demonstrate the delicate noodle-making process. Dig into a dish of mì Quảng (Quảng noodles) while having a chat with the lovely staff who are keen to practise their English. 



If cooking on holiday doesn’t sound relaxing at all, opt to join a food tour. Led by a passionate local foodie, they’ll guide you on a street food safari that’s guaranteed to fire up your tastebuds.

Start off with Huế’s staple snack, bánh bèo chén, a chewy and crunchy rice cake lathered in sweet fish sauce. Squat on tiny plastic stools while you slurp down bún chả, Hanoi’s specialty of juicy pork meatballs in a sweet and tangy broth.

Munch on crispy bánh khoai, a savoury pancake drizzled in peanut sauce, at Lạc Thiện Restaurant while talking to the owners about the difficulties of running a restaurant during war times. Sip on a creamy cà phê trứng, Vietnamese egg coffee, to end your night. 

Travel by Overnight Train

Rail is an interesting way to explore any country and Vietnam is no exception. For those wanting to take the scenic route and travel slowly, consider catching the Reunification Express sleeper train from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.



Train travel is a series of snapshots of local life – you’ll see children chasing their friends down aisles, groups crammed into six-bunk cabins having a laugh, and families waving goodbye from the platforms. 

When you’ve got nothing but time to kill, it really makes the mundane seem amusing. Eating a pot of instant noodles and sharing coconut cookies with my cabin mates in our bunks brought nostalgic feelings of being at school camp.

Having my G Adventures guide Jack, sort out the logistics of the sleeper, meant that I could switch my brain off and be rocked to sleep by the gentle sway of the train. While the late-night speaker announcements might have awoken me at times, it was definitely a journey to remember.

Hike & Homestay in Mai Châu

After all the active adventures in lively cities, you’ll crave a getaway in the mountains. Mai Châu is one of the many peaceful escapes Vietnam has to offer to recharge your batteries. The charm doesn’t lie in the town itself, but the endless patchwork of rice paddies that surround it. The valley is dotted with homestays, inviting travellers to experience traditional living in a stilt house.

Spend your day cycling or hiking through the fields with mountainous backdrops and visit the various ethnic communities selling indigo tapestries. Venture back to the homestay to find a delicious share-meal plated up on banana leaves while you sip (or shot) home-made rice wine with your host. 



The sleeping setup upstairs is rustic and cosy. Mattresses are laid out on the floor communal-style (meaning no rooms) while the windows are laid open to let the cool mountain breeze through. Waking up to roosters crying and songbirds chirping will be a welcomed break from the hustle of Hanoi. 

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Tips for Visiting Vietnam

  • For first-timers in South East Asia, it’s best to book with a tour group, such as G Adventures. Locally-based leaders with in-depth knowledge will guide you in small groups throughout the country. G Adventures have developed strong relationships with local communities and businesses, so you can be sure that your money will be directly benefiting the people and places 
  • Organise your e-visa early and correctly as the process may take a couple of days
  • Learn basic Vietnamese phrases. While English is widely spoken, knowing a few words in Vietnamese will be appreciated by locals
  • Cash is king here, so be sure to carry enough Vietnamese dong (the local currency). Larger establishments may take card payments, but markets and street vendors will likely use cash
  • Don’t drink the tap water. To avoid using plastic bottles, boil tap water at the hotel to fill up your reusable bottle. Better yet, bring a filtering water bottle

Vietnam Adventures FAQs

How do you get to Vietnam?

Direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City are available daily from Sydney on Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, and Jetstar, and from Melbourne on Vietnam Airlines.


When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

Vietnam is 1,650km long, meaning the climate can vary dramatically between the north and south. Generally, spring (March and April) and autumn (September to December) bring pleasant temperatures with minimal rain. Visit in summer (June to August) to avoid the peak-season crowds, but be prepared for heat and humidity.


How do you get around in Vietnam?

If you book through a tour operator, like G Adventures, transport between destinations is included in the cost. Getting from city to city is possible on buses, trains, planes, and motorbikes. Within towns, explore on foot, scooters, bicycles, cyclos or taxis.


What gear should I pack for Vietnam?

Packing breathable and quick-drying clothes will be ideal for the humidity. Mountainous areas are cool so pack a warm layer, like a raincoat. Dress conservatively when visiting religious sites. A bum bag is handy to access your phone and wallet easily. If you’re planning on cycling, it’s recommended that you bring your own helmet.