The Essential Guide to Vietnam with Kids

Hanoi Temple of Literature © Aleney de Winter

Hanoi Temple of Literature © Aleney de Winter


Here’s the scoop on the best places to explore in Vietnam with kids, plus our tried and tested  tips for making the most out of your Vietnam family holiday.

Vietnam is the perfect playground for the whole family, filled with a cornucopia of incredible experiences, minus the eye-watering price tags. Whether you’re seeking ancient history, thrilling outdoor activities, or simply the joy of experiencing new flavors and traditions together, Vietnam promises an immersive journey that will leave lasting memories for every member of your family. From the buzzing streets of Hanoi and the mystical landscapes of Ha Long Bay to beachside bliss in Fa Nang and Nha Trang and teh bizz of big city life in Ho Vhi Minh CIiy, we share the best of Voetnam with Kids. But w From temple etiquette to navigating bustling markets, our tips ensure a respectful and immersive journey.


Where to go in Vietnam with kids


Hoi An © Aleney de Winter

Hoi An © Aleney de Winter

Vietnam stretches like a sinuous dragon along Southeast Asia’s coast. But don’t be fooled by its length on a map – it packs a punch in terms of experiences and destinations. To make the  your holiday in Vietnam with kids a perfect one, we’re sharing destination highlights, along with road tested tips and tricks, covering everything from etiquette to navigating its cuisine, to ensure a respectful and fun journey for every member of the family.

Hanoi with kids

Hanoi © Raissa Lara Lutolf Fasel via Unsplash

Hanoi © Raissa Lara Lutolf Fasel via Unsplash

Hanoi, Vietnam’s vibrant capital, buzzes with energy. Navigate the labyrinthine streets of the Old Quarter, a maze of shops selling everything from silk lanterns to hand-painted lacquerware … and gravestones. Experience the enchanting Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre, where colourful puppets come alive from waist-deep water – a magical spectacle for all ages.

For a change of pace, rent paddleboats and explore the serene Hoan Kien Lake, a tranquil oasis in the city, or discover the Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius. If your curious crew is fascinated by the natural world, the Vietnam National Museum of Nature is a must. For curious kids, the Museum of Ethnology offers a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s diverse ethnic groups, because who says family vacations can’t be educational?

Ha Long Bay with kids

Junk on Ha Long Bay

Junk on Ha Long Bay

Take the three-hour road trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay to kayak through hidden coves, explore mysterious caves, and spend the night on a traditional junk boat, creating memories that will be cherished for years to come. Kids will be as captivated by the towering limestone kaasts that emerge from its emerald waters as the legends of the celestial dragons that are said to have descended upon the bay, breathing divine fire and jewels to protect Vietnam from invaders.

Sapa and Ha Giang with kids

Vietnam with kids Sa pa Photo by Jireh Foo on Unsplash

Vietnam with kids Sa pa © Jireh Foo via Unsplash

Don’t miss Vietnam’s captivating north! Sapa, a misty mountain town, is the gateway to incredible trekking adventures. Explore Cat Cat Village, home to the Hmong people, and learn about their rich traditions. Trekking the mountains alongside local families offers a unique perspective. Imagine the wonder on your children’s faces as they explore this rugged terrain and forge connections with their new companions. Descend and delve into the vibrant Bac Ha Sunday Market, where hill tribes gather to trade everything from crafts to livestock, creating an electric atmosphere. Let your children practice their bargaining skills and find unique souvenirs.

Venture further to Ha Giang, a region famed for its dramatic scenery and ethnic diversity. Marvel at the towering limestone peaks and terraced rice paddies that paint the landscape in hues of green and gold. Encounter the hospitality of the Tay, Hmong, and Dao communities, whose warmth and cultural heritage add depth to your journey.

For a serene retreat away from the crowds, Ba Be National Park beckons with its UNESCO-listed wonders. Lose yourself in lush forests, navigate tranquil lakes by boat, and admire majestic karst formations rising from the emerald waters.

Hue with kids

Hue © Aleney de WInter

Imperial City of Huế © Aleney de WInter


Hue, the former imperial capital, is steeped in history, but not the dusty museum kind. Hue’s attractions come alive with tales of dynasties and emperors, making it an ideal destination for families seeking both education and adventure. Begin your journey at the majestic Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as the political and religious centre of the Nguyen Dynasty.

Discover the intrigue of the Purple Forbidden City, once reserved exclusively for the emperor and his concubines. Imagine life within its walls as you stroll through the remnants of palaces and gardens, offering glimpses into royal life centuries ago. For a glimpse into imperial grandeur, visit the ornate Khai Dinh Tomb, a fusion of Western and Eastern architectural styles. Marvel at its intricate mosaics and ornamental dragons while learning about the legacy of Vietnam’s penultimate emperor.

Then venture into the heart of Hue’s culture at Dong Ba Market, a busy marketplace brimming with stalls offering everything from traditional textiles to delectable street food.

Da Nang with Kids

Linh Ung Temple on Son Tra Peninsula

Linh Ung Temple on Son Tra Peninsula © Aleney de Winter

Da Nang is a friendly city offering a mix of natural beauty and urban excitement that is perfect for family adventures. Begin your journey at the stunning My Khe Beach, where kids can build sandcastles, swim in the gentle waves, or try out water sports.

TAKE the cable car to Sun World Ba Na Hills. This mountaintop wonderland unveils breathtaking vistas, the fantastical Golden Bridge held aloft by giant hands, and heart-pounding rides at the Fantasy Park amusement park. Or take to the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills. These five limestone peaks offer a labyrinth of hidden caves, pagodas, and stunning views. Kids will love conquering the stairs and unearthing the secrets hidden on each level.

After dark, be sure to visit the Da Nang Dragon Bridge,the world’s largest dragon-shaped steel bridge, which lights up and even breathes fire on weekends. A big winner with little kids.

For more, we share more of the most epic experiences in Da Nang with kids.

Hoi An with Kids

Hoi an's Thu Bon River © Aleney de Winter

Hoi an’s Thu Bon River © Aleney de Winter

Hoi An is one of the most and picturesque towns in Vietnam. Begin your explorations in Hoi An’s historic Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where time seems to stand still amidst narrow cobblestone streets lined with ancient buildings, colourful shops, and quaint cafes. Completely car free, the pedestrian-friendly environment makes it easy to explore with kids. The town’s architectural marvels, such as the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge and well-preserved merchant houses, provide a fascinating glimpse into its illustrious past. Stroll through the streets and visit workshops where children can craft their own lanterns, a cherished souvenir of their time in this enchanting town. While you’re in town, pop into one of Hoi An’s many dressmaking shops, where kids can participate in creating custom outfits, choosing fabrics and designs that reflect their individual style.

As dusk falls, watch Hoi An’s old town transform into a magical wonderland illuminated by lanterns, and the Thu Bon River fill with traditional wooden boat, bathed in the warm glow of lanterns, as they gently glide past the ancient town.

Beyond the Old Town, Hoi An offers plenty of activities to keep kids entertained. For a break from sightseeing, spend a relaxing day at the beach. An Bang Beach is a popular choice, with calm waves and a laid-back atmosphere. Many beach bars and restaurants offer sun loungers, hammocks, and delicious food, making it the perfect spot to build sandcastles and enjoy some family fun. Head further afield to explore the the Cham Islands, an archipelago of eight pristine islands nestled along the coastline, celebrated for their abundant marine biodiversity. Or rent bicycles for guided tours through Hoi An’s scenic surroundings, pedalling past gorgeously green rice paddies and tiny villages to see glimpses of local life.

Basket boat in Hoi An © Aleney de WInter

For something completely left field, take the kids on a hand-woven basket boat adventure through the canals of a coconut forest. Hoi An’s basket boat rides are a mind-bending blend of serene exploration and exhilarating chaos. One minute you’ll be sitting peacefully in your basket boat, and the next, mayhem! Be prepared to hold on tight as your boat driver adds a twist of fun as the guide spices things up, sending the basket and you spinning, leaving you exhilarated, a little damp. But there’s more! You’ll soon descend into an open space where locals offer glimpses into traditional fishing life, and you’ll come face-to-face with floating karaoke barges and locals belting out karaoke classics in Vietnamese. It’s crazy fun that the kids will love.

Nha Trang with Kids

Vinpearl Resort Nha Trang in Vietnam © Photo by Street Windy from Pexels

VinWonders Nha Trang © Photo by Street Windy from Pexels

Nha Trang is famed for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal destination for families seeking sun-soaked adventures. The soft golden sands of Nha Trang Beach stretch for several kilometres, with gentle waves perfect for swimming. Families can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, enjoy beachside cafes, and enjoy water sports like jet skiing and parasailing. Long Beach (Bai Dai), located south of Nha Trang, offers a quieter, more relaxed option for families. The expansive sandy beach is perfect for building sandcastles, playing beach games, or simply relaxing in the sun.

Take a boat trip to the nearby Hon Mun Island, where snorkelling and swimming in the turquoise waters are the main attractions. For a more secluded beach experience, Hon Tam Island is a short boat ride from the mainland. Families can enjoy the tranquil beach, swim in clear waters, and participate in activities like kayaking and banana boat rides. And not to be missed is VinWonders Nha Trang, formerly Vinpearl Land Nha Trang, accessible by a scenic cable car ride to Hon Tre Island. This sprawling entertainment complex features an amusement park packed with thrilling rides, a water park with a variety of slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers, and an aquarium.

For something with a messy twist, Nha Trang has some of the most famous mud baths in Vietnam. Unleash your kids and your own inner child and get delightfully messy in the mineral-rich mud, followed by a refreshing dip in the pools.

Ho Chi Minh City with kids

Lady in yellow outside Central Ppost Office in Ho Chi Minh CIty

Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh CIty © Aleney de Winter

Ho Chi Minh City will hit you like a rogue rickshaw. From the enthralling chaos of its street markets to the serenity of ancient pagodas, the busy, buzzy city packs plenty of punch for families. Don’t miss the chance to explore the city’s museums. The War Remnants Museum offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s complex past, while the Ao Dai Museum showcases the fascinating history of Vietnam’s national dress. For a touch of whimsy, explore the exhibits at the FITO Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine, where youcan learn about ancient remedies and herbal concoctions.

History buffs can also delve into the fascinating Cu Chi Tunnels, a labyrinthine network of underground passages showcasing wartime ingenuity. Looking for a show that trumps any tired circus act? Head to a water puppet show where fantastical creatures cavort on a shimmering stage, guaranteed to entertain even the most fidgety visitor. Then buckle up your junior thrill-seekers for the heart-stopping coasters at Dam Sen Park, then cool off with a refreshing splash at the aptly named Saigon Water Park.

For a deeper dive, check out our detailed guide to spending 48-hours in Ho Chi Minh City with kids.


Understanding Vietnamese culture


Vietnam temple with little boy © Aleney de Winter

Vietnam temple © Aleney de Winter

Vietnam offers a unique blend of ancient traditions and modern life, making it a fantastic destination for an unforgettable family adventure. We suggest immersing yourselves in the local culture for a richer experience! Here are our tips to ensure a smooth and respectful experience.

Body Language Basics

Vietnamese people are known for their warmth and friendliness. However, pointing fingers or raising your voice can be perceived as disrespectful, rude, or aggressive. Remind your kids to use polite gestures like smiles, waves, and nods. Cultural Sensitivity

War History

The Vietnam War was a complex and tragic event in Vietnamese history. While some war sites are now historical landmarks, it’s important to be respectful when visiting them. Remain mindful when discussing the Vietnam War. While it ended in 1975, it remains a sensitive topic for many people, especially those who were directly affected.

Photographs

Respect the people you meet. Ask for permission before taking photos of adults, especially in rural areas or at cultural sites. Don’t photograph children that aren’t yours. Regardless of the context or country we are in, we need to stop mistaking compliance for agreement, and give kids the same privacy and protection we demand for our own.

Temple etiquette

In a nation where diverse faiths have beautifully shaped its cultural landscape, Buddhism holds a prominent place, emphasising humility, restraint, and modesty. Show respect by dressing modestly at temples and pagodas. Cover your shoulders and knees, and always remove your shoes before entering temples and sacred sites. In general, it’s a good idea to observe how locals dress to get a sense of appropriate attire wherever you go (this applies to kids as well).

Respect your elders

Vietnamese society values their elders greatly. When travelling in Vietnam with kids, its important to teach them to greet older people politely with a simple “Xin chào” (pronounced sin chow). Always let them be seated first and address them politely. Emphasise the importance of using respectful language and avoiding loud behaviour in the presence of elders.

Food etiquette

Meals in Vietnam are often shared family-style. It’s polite to serve others before serving yourself. Elders should be served first. Never stick chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice, as it resembles incense sticks used in funerals, and is considered very disrespectful and bad luck. Pointing your chopsticks at someone or something is considered rude and disrespectful. Tapping your chopsticks on the side of your bowl or plate is seen as a sign of impatience or anger, and it’s also considered impolite.

Festival fun

Vietnam boasts a rich festival calendar. Research festivals happening during your visit and prepare your kids for the vibrant sights and sounds. These festivals offer a chance to experience local culture firsthand, with parades, costumes, and delicious street food. Families should approach Vietnam’s festivals with an open heart, embracing the unique traditions that define the country. By respecting these cultural nuances, you not only show courtesy but also gain a deeper appreciation for the Vietnamese people and their rich heritage.

 


Eating out in Vietnam with kids


Sugarpuff loves the noodles in Vietnam © Aleney de Winter

Sugarpuff loves the noodles in Vietnam © Aleney de Winter

Vietnamese cuisine offers a delightful culinary journey for families, blending spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet flavours to perfection. Known for its fresh ingredients and healthiness, it’s perfect for all ages. When visiting Vietnam with kids, start with mild dishes like pho (fragrant noodle soup), goi cuon (fresh spring rolls).

But then dive deeper as each region has its own specialties. In Hanoi, try bun cha (grilled pork patties served with tender pork belly slices, vermicelli noodles, and fresh herbs) and banh xeo (stuffed cispy pancakes). Hoi An’s cao lau (thick, springy rice noodles served with barbecued pork, fresh greens, sprouts, croutons, and broth) and banh bao (delicate dumplings crafted from translucent rice paper and filled with shrimp or pork). Da Nang is all about seafood delights. And in Saigon, kids might like com tam (broken rice dish topped with grilled pork chop, fried egg, pickled vegetables, and fish sauce) and goi cuon (fresh spring rolls with rice paper wrapped around shrimp, pork, and vermicelli noodles).

And what kid would say no to Vietnamese sweets like banh tieu (hollow doughnuts with a fluffy interior and crispy exterior) and che (sweet soup featuring shaved ice, sweet beans, fruits, and jellies).

For more tips on what to eat in Vietnam with kids, check out our complete Vietnam Family Food Guide with all the must-try dishes and where to find them.

 


Getting around in Vietnam with kids


Cyclist in blue shirt passing doorway in Hoi An

Cyclist in Hoi An © Aleney de Winter

Despite the chaotic city traffic, getting around Vietnam with kids is easier than you’d think, with options for every family budget and travel style. Taxis and cyclos offer comfort and convenience within cities, while buses are a more affordable option and provide connections between cities.

Trains are another scenic and budget-friendly option, with Vietnam’s Reunification Express railway winding along the coast, connecting major cities like Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Opt for the soft seat experience (a little like seats on a plane with armrests and a fold-down tray table) for an especially comfortable journey.

Embrace the local pace and soak in the scenery by cycling, particularly in rural areas or flat cities like Hoi An. This eco-friendly option allows you to truly connect with the landscape and smaller towns.

But if time is of the essence, domestic flights connect major cities quickly and efficiently. Consider budget airlines like Viet Jet for affordable options, especially for longer distances.

Or enjoy a different perspective from the water. From cruising on Ha Long Bay to navigating the Mekong Delta’s labyrinthine waterways, boats offer a unique perspective on Vietnam’s beauty.

 


Vietnam Shopping


Markets - incense

Incense at market in Da Nang © Aleney de Winter

Whether you’re browsing city markets or peeking into hidden alleyway shops, Vietnam overflows with unique finds, from handcrafted treasures to trendy street fashion. Keep an eye out for tailored clothing, silk garments, scarves and lanterns, high-quality pearl and jade jewellery, and traditional folk paintings. intricate lacquerware, wooden carvings, ceramics, and bamboo products.

Haggling is a part of the shopping experience in Vietnam, and a fun way to test your skills. Start with a substantially lower counteroffer, but always be polite, friendly, and respectful. While credit cards are widely accepted, always carry cash for transactions with street vendors and smaller shops.

Don’t feel pressured to tip in most everyday situations. Street food stalls, local cafes, and small shops generally don’t expect gratuities, but a small token of appreciation is always welcome.


Vietnam with kids – need to know before you go


Women in Hue © Aleney de WInter

When to visit

Visit Vietnam during the low seasons (September to December, March to April) for pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Avoid monsoon season (May to October) to minimise travel disruptions, especially in central and northern regions prone to heavy rains and flooding.

Language

The main language is Vietnamese. While many locals in tourist areas speak English, learning a few basic Vietnamese phrases can enhance your experience. Learning basic Vietnamese greetings like “xin chào” (hello) and “cám ơn” (thank you) goes a long way.

Currency

The official currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND). ATMs are widely available in urban areas, and major credit cards are also accepted in urban districts, though cash is preferred in more rural or local markets. We advise visitors to have some cash handy for smaller purchases and entrance fees, particularly in remote areas where cards aren’t as widely accepted.

Power

Vietnam uses a 220V voltage and Type A, C, or D power outlets.

Visa and passport requirements

Australian citizens must obtain a visa to enter Vietnam, regardless of the purpose or duration of their stay. Apply for a tourist e-visa through the official Vietnamese visa website, ensuring you do so well in advance to avoid delays. The processing time typically ranges from 3–5 working days. Remember that your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date. Stay updated on the latest visa regulations by checking the official websites of the Vietnamese Government and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Health

When travelling in Vietnam with kids, you need to protect against mosquito-borne diseases by using child-safe insect repellent (up to 20% DEET) and dressing children in lightweight, long clothing. While no essential vaccinations are required, consult your family GP six weeks before travel for personalised advice and up-to-date advice on immunisations.

Food Safety

Avoid tap water, raw foods, and food stalls with dubious hygiene standards, and avoid tummy bugs by following our safe eating mantra of “cook it, peel it, or forget it.


 

 

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ABOUT US

Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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