Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam – Vietnam Travel Blog

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Vietnam with kids: If you’re planning to visit Vietnam with children or daydreaming of Vietnam family tours in the future, then read on. Here are our best tips for family travel in Vietnam with a baby, a toddler or a teen.

Rice terrace —Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blogor visiting Vietnam with a baby, Vietnam with toddlers and Vietnam with teens, as well as other aspects of Vietnam family tours and experiences. | Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids | Mekong Delta with Kids | What to do in Hue with Kids | Have Fun in Hoi An with Kids | Riding motorcycle between Hue and Hoi An | Things to do in Hanoi | Northern Vietnam | Travel Safety in Vietnam | Best Hotels in Vietnam | Getting around in Vietnam with Kids | Vietnam Family Travel Guide

Vietnam with Kids: Our Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam

We certainly recommend going to Vietnam with kids. There are few countries I’ve loved spending time in more than Vietnam. I’ve been three times now, and would easily go back tomorrow if I could. I love the food, the people I met and the experiences I had there. There is so much to love about traveling in Vietnam with children. The scenery is fantastic, and the food is some of the best in the world. Did I mention the food?

There are educational lessons to be learned everywhere, too: from science (the biodiversity in the Mekong Delta) to social studies (the hill tribes of Sapa), to the country’s rich and complicated history — both recent (the war) and much older (ancient empires and Chinese influence). In this Vietnam travel blog post, I hope to show you some of the reasons we love travel in Vietnam so much.

Related Posts:

Perfume River boat — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

Vietnam Travel Tips – Vietnam Travel Blog

Vietnamese people are amazing. They adore children, and most people will treat you differently if you’re traveling in Vietnam with a baby or other young kids. Seriously: solo travel in Vietnam and visiting Vietnam with kids are two completely different experiences. Both have been great for me personally, but traveling in Vietnam with kids was even better.

Warning: Not everyone visiting Vietnam has such a positive experience as we have. Visiting Vietnam with kids, with friends or on your own requires some preparation — preparation both online and in your mindset. The same kind of tips for Southeast Asia, really. Our top Vietnam travel tip would be this: travel is Vietnam is not always easy, but totally worth it.

There’s a lot to cover here: tips for visiting Vietnam with a baby, Vietnam with toddlers and Vietnam with teens, as well as other aspects of Vietnam family tours and experiences. Let’s get into it!

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Table of Contents


Weather in Vietnam can vary across the country. If you’re planning to visit Vietnam with kids, it helps to look ahead and plan accordingly. In general, both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are good to visit any time of year, but climate variations elsewhere in the country are worth considering.


Southern Vietnam Weather

The rainy season runs usually from around May until November, but unlike parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, storms are usually strong, short, and fairly predictable, happening in the afternoon and then over for the day. The only time we really factored them into our plans was when spending time on the Mekong river and its tributaries.

Heading north, the Dalat highlands are pleasantly cooler than elsewhere in the far south in the summer.

Central Vietnam Weather

In general, the best time to visit Central Vietnam with kids is for the first six months of the year. It’s relatively dry until late July/early August, but very hot and humid.

Northern Vietnam Weather

As I mentioned before, Hanoi is good to visit year round, but keep in mind that winters are cool and sometimes mist falls over the city, which can make things feel even colder — especially when riding a motorcycle.

If going to Halong Bay or the highlands of Sapa, plan a visit in spring or fall for the best weather.

Visiting Vietnam with Kids During Tet

The biggest and most important holiday in Vietnam is Tet, which is like Chinese New Year for the Vietnamese people, and usually happens late January/early February.

Should you visit Vietnam with kids during Tet? Hard for me to say. I’ve never been in Vietnam during Tet, but I’ve heard and read about other families’ visits. It can be an amazing cultural experience to witness Tet in Vietnam with your family but understand that things won’t operate as usual for at least one or two weeks.

For the main 3-4 days of Tet, most restaurants, museums and other attractions will be closed. During the days leading up to and immediately following Tet, transportation will be mobbed, as everyone is en route to or from their ancestral homes. By most accounts, accommodation in Vietnam is not hard to find during Tet, as everyone is going “home” to family, but it’s best to book far ahead.

If you’re considering visiting Vietnam with kids during Tet, make sure to do your own research and plan accordingly. Makes sure that you have your food, entertainment, and plans sorted for at least four days during Tet’s peak, as there will be few things open.


Floating Market — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

So you’re looking for things to do Vietnam with kids? If you’re like us, you’ll leave with a longer list than when you arrived. We’ve done a LOT in Vietnam with kids, and I felt like we’d just scratched the surface. We have lots of tips on where to go, what to see and what to eat in Vietnam with kids, but perhaps first I should explain the order in which my tips are laid out.

Start in the South

My recommendations run from south to north. Whether you’re in Vietnam with kids or on your own, most people recommend starting in the south. Why? Well, people in Southern Vietnam have a reputation for being more open and welcoming to foreigners. That’s been my experience as well. Visiting Vietnam with kids can be an intense experience for some people — that goes double if you’ve just arrived and everyone’s a bit jet-lagged and overwhelmed.

My advice is to fly into Ho Chi Minh City, spend some time in the city and Mekong Delta region, and then work your way north.

Let the Kids be Kids

In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not a war buff. In fact, I haven’t spent a lot of our time in Vietnam with kids recounting the horrors that happened there. I recognize the importance of knowing the history, but when I think of Vietnam today, I see the bustling, creative, diverse and delicious place it is now. I wanted our kids to know that side of Vietnam first, and then we talked about the war.

Kids can be loud and rowdy in Vietnam. They get a pass. That means other kids will be loud and rowdy, too. Go with it.


Mekong Family Portrait — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

In all our time in Vietnam with kids, we’ve spent the most time in the south. That’s where we usually recommend others start their Vietnam vacation, as well.


In addition to the most flight options, stepping into Vietnam with kids through the former southern capital can provide a softer landing if you’re new to Southeast Asia (some tips here). The people in the south tend to be more open and welcoming to foreigners. The south also has lots of food, history and cultural opportunities that we think are good to start to any trip to Vietnam with children.

Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

Reunification Palace — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

Read More: Best Hotels and Guesthouses in Ho Chi Minh City, District 1

Ho Chi Minh City with kids: What a dynamic town! Keiko and I seriously considered moving the four of us here for a while, but the lack of green space or nearby soccer fields for the boy’s practice became a deal-breaker. The history, food and frenetic energy of the area really put a spell on us. So did all the activities and learning opportunities for kids in the area. This is one of the best places to go in Vietnam, but it’s a big city, with a bit of the big city hustle, so stay on your toes! Below are a few of our recommended things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids.

September 23 Park (Công Viên 23/9)

Just across from many of the cheaper guesthouses and within a few minutes from Ben Thanh Market is this long stretch of green. There are frequent events and food carts in the area and it’s worth your walk to go over and see what’s up. The park’s reputation goes up and down, but if your Vietnam travel itinerary includes HCMC, check to see if there are any events happening.

Reviews: September 23 Park (Công Viên 23/9) at TripAdvisor

The AO Show

Held in the exquisite Saigon Opera House, the AO show is spectacle full of music and acrobatics that depicts Vietnamese culture in a dynamic way. If you walk by the Opera House in the afternoon a day or two before the performance you want to see, you might be able to get cheaper tickets like we did. We thought it was a must for family travel in Vietnam, and should be on any Vietnam itinerary.

Reviews: The AO Show in Ho Chi Minh City at TripAdvisor

Book Tickets: Saigon Opera House: Tickets to A O Show or Teh Dar Show

Amusement Parks

One of the best activities in Vietnam for kids are the amusement parks. There are two near Ho Chi Minh City: Dam Sen and Suoi Tien. We visited Suoi Tien, and wow: what an amazingly weird place. It’s huge, and the waterpark inside is fever-dream bizarre. Unfortunately, it was opening for the season the following week after our visit. Instead, we spent the day in the amusement park.

Read More: Our Day at Suoi Tien Amusement Park in Ho Chi Minh City

Reviews: Suoi Tien Theme Park at TripAdvisor

Reviews: Dam Sen Water Park at TripAdvisor

The Cu Chi Tunnels

This is the network of underground passageways that the Viet Cong used to sneak around the American troops. Some are so small and narrow that only the kids could go through them. There are also examples of the traps that killed American troops, and our guide referred to them as “enemies.”

We needed to talk about how each country & culture interprets things differently, and while understanding this is important, it can be offensive to some people. If you want to learn about the war while here, then this should be on your Vietnam itinerary, for sure.

Best Tour to Visit Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels: Half-Day in Small Group

Cu Chi Tunnels & Mekong Delta Tour from Ho Chi Minh City

Private Cu Chi Tunnels & Mekong Delta: Full-Day Guided Tour

Reunification Palace (Independence Palace)

Seemingly stuck in 1975 indefinitely, this former house of the South Vietnamese government is like a time capsule you can walk through. All of the furniture and decorations are from the same period, and the tanks and helicopters on site are too.

Places like this and tours like the one for the Cu Chi Tunnels are interesting for kids since they hear a retelling of a war from the other side. Whatever you think about the Vietnam War, sometimes it’s important to know that there are (at least) two sides to every story. Should this be on every Vietnam itinerary? Perhaps not. Not all family travel in Vietnam requires this, but my kids got something out of it, even if it was mostly the tanks and helicopters.

Reviews: Reunification Palace at TripAdvisor

Saigon Street Eats

Our friend and former Epic Education radio guest, Barbara Adam, has an exceptional street food tour in Ho Chi Minh City. This is a great way to taste much of what the country has to offer. I would suggest making any food tour to be the first thing you do when traveling to a new place. That way if you liked any of the food introduced during the tour, you can go back to enjoy them again. Saigon Street Eats is an excellent addition to any Vietnam travel itinerary.

Reviews: Saigon Street Eats at TripAdvisor

Best Food Tour in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 10 dishes: Saigon Luxury Private Food Tour By Motorbike

Saigon Street Food: 3.5-Hour Evening Tour

Ho Chi Minh City Food by Night: Private Motorbike Tour

Cooking Classes in Ho Chi Minh City

We love taking cooking classes. Whether it’s Chiang Mai, Kyoto, or Mexico City, we love making the local food ourselves. For my 43rd birthday, we went to HCM cooking class and made an amazing meal. Afterward, we used a guide they arranged for us and visited the Cu Chi Tunnels and other Vietnam War-related sites.

Read More: Our experience with HCM Cooking Class

Best Tour For Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City

4-Course Hands-On Vietnamese Cooking Lesson in Small Group

Ben Thanh Market Tour and Cooking Class

Half-Day Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City

Five Boys Number One – Our Favorite Juice Stand

Like much of Southeast Asia, Vietnam has lots of delicious tropical fruit. If you need something refreshing after a hot day in the city, we would certainly recommend Five Boys Number One, a juice bar. We basically stumbled onto this little alley store one night while wandering around. My boy and I went back to try later that night and we were hooked. It was so good.

Read More: Our Experience at Five Boys Number One in Ho Chi Minh City 

Reviews: Five Boys Number One in Ho Chi Minh City at TripAdvisor

The Ben Thanh Market after Dark

Benh Thanh Market restaurants — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

The main Ben Thanh Market is large, central and well-known, but I’m not a fan. In the stalls just outside the market, you’ll find a lot of the bootlegged backpacks I mention later on.

The real reason to go here when you are in Ho Chi Minh City with kids, however, is to eat. Where? If you go in the afternoon, you won’t see it, because the restaurants I’m recommending don’t materialize until nightfall.

Stand in the Ben Thanh Market parking lot at around 6:45 PM or so. As it gets closer to the 7 PM opening hour, you will witness dozens of people spring into action, building stalls, erecting tents, stoking fires and creating an amazing display of delectable food. The night market opens and a dull parking lot suddenly roars to life. This is one of our favorite places to eat in Vietnam.

Reviews: Ben Thanh Night Market at TripAdvisor

The Mekong Delta with Kids

Mekong boat — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

We just hung out in the Mekong, really — just walked and rode scooters with our favorite riding companions, our kids. And you know what? That’s exactly what I’d recommend that you add to your own Vietnam travel itinerary. If you’re not comfortable riding scooters, then follow your instinct and take a taxi or bicycle. Or just head towards the Mekong or one of its tributaries and you’ll often find local life in action: vegetable sellers, fisherman, etc.

There are lots of small country roads and jungle paths that you can roll through if you feel like it — some of our biggest memories are stumbling onto a coconut candy store and a brick factory — both places ripe with educational opportunities. Of course, taking a boat into the Mekong with kids is also an amazing thing to do in Vietnam. The further you get from Ho Chi Minh City, we were told, the cheaper and more authentic the experience can be. We took our tour in Can Tho, mentioned below.

Take a Tour: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta Small Group Tour

Ben Tre

It’s here that we did most of the lazy wandering, and that’s what I’d recommend you build into your Vietnam travel itinerary, as well. The town itself has quite a bit of delicious fruit and noodle shops, and it was here that the boy and I tried cobra for dinner.

Can Tho

Far from the pull of Ho Chi Minh City life, Can Tho is where we toured the floating markets and several tributaries of the Mekong Delta. Our guide was Linh, the daughter of the proprietors of our guesthouse. More on her in the accommodation section.


Hue Tomb — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

This part of the country holds a special place in my heart. I had some of my most important travel memories to date in Hue and Hoi An as a solo traveler in the late ’90s, long before marriage or a family. When I returned to Central Vietnam with kids, I found it to be just as fun, meaningful and rewarding as I had nearly 15 years earlier. Add it to your Vietnam itinerary if it isn’t there already.

Hue With Kids

Hue is many things to many people. Here’s what Hue is not. It’s not as scenic as the north, or as picture-perfect as Hoi An to the south. It doesn’t have the austere grandeur of Hanoi, the frenetic energy of Ho Chi Minh city, or the slow pace of the Mekong.

What it does have — at least for me — is the tastiest food, the most interesting history, and some of the friendliest people. This is all subjective, of course, but this has been my experience in Hue — twice as a solo traveler in the 90’s, and now with kids. It’s always part of my Vietnam itinerary.

Keep in mind that Hue is more about history. There is plenty of Vietnam War history here, of course. Long before the war, however, this area was a kingdom ruled for around 200 years by feudal lords. One of the most interesting things to do here is to visit their tombs which lie along the Perfume River. The best thing to do is hire a boat along the river and have them take you up the river to the tombs. Many of these tombs are incredibly ornate and the stories behind them fascinating. Talk to your accommodation about their recommendations for this.

Hue is hot and humid, regularly reaching over 40ºC/100ºF in the afternoon, with humidity between 80- 90%. One place to cool off near town is called Elephant Springs. You can ride out there yourself or hire a driver to take you.

Best Tour in Hue

Small Group Hue City Tour by Bus & Boat with Lunch

Hue City Group Tour with Lunch

Hue: 5-Hour Street Food Tour by Motorbike

Flavor Street Food Tour in Hue

Hoi An With Kids

Hoi An is one of the most picturesque Vietnamese towns you’ll encounter. That’s why everyone puts it on their Vietnam itinerary, and the crowds continue to grow. But like with many other popular tourist destinations (I’m thinking Ubud), it’s best to get out of the city on a bicycle if you can. That’s one of the best Vietnam travel tips someone can give you. Granted, a lot of the crumbling colonial architecture is now loaded down with souvenir shops and bars, but it’s still a delight to walk these streets.

The beach is a bicycle ride away, and there are many delicious foods to try in the area. More than a few digital nomads have begun to call it home. In fact, Konrad and Regina Braun were living there when I spoke with them for their interview.

Best Tour in Hoi An

Market Tour, Basket Boat Ride and Cooking Class

Half-Day My Son Temples Tour

Hoi An: Night Food Tasting Small Group Tour

Riding Between Hue and Hoi An with Kids

Motorcycle tour — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

One of our best Vietnam travel memories was hiring motorcyclists to take us from Hue to Hoi An. Usually, I prefer to ride myself, but I’m so glad we decided to all ride as passengers. If you have time in your Vietnam travel itinerary, then this is one of our top Vietnam travel tips. It was awesome.

It also allowed Keiko and me to enjoy the scenery and take pictures without worrying about crashing. The road went over mountains and down the coast. We had several great stops along the way for coffee, snacks, and a fantastic lunch. We used Hue Adventures and had a great experience. They were excellent Vietnam travel guides: professional, considerate, and funny. Highly recommended. One of our top Vietnam travel tips for adventurous families.

Read More: Motorcycle Trip to Hoi An from Hue: Vietnam with Kids


Northern Vietnam offers lots of opportunities for adventure for kids of all ages. Whether it’s the hill tribes to the west or the surreal Halong Bay to the east, visiting Northern Vietnam with kids is worth your time. Here are a few North Vietnam travel tips.


Many traveling families put Hanoi at the top of their Vietnam travel itinerary. Whether it’s visiting the hill tribes of Sapa with kids or soaking up the frenetic life in the capital, lots of family travel in Vietnam starts or ends in Hanoi. As I mentioned earlier in our Vietnam travel tips, we recommend ending your time in the north, but there are varying opinions on this.

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

This is one of the best museums to visit in Vietnam with kids and an excellent item to put on your Vietnam travel itinerary. Expect lots of hands-on exhibits and an immersive style of portraying life in Vietnam over the years. The most popular exhibits with your kids will probably be the many life-size houses of ethnic minorities that you and the kids can climb in and out of.

Another great thing about Hanoi’s Museum of Ethnology is space. After keeping your kids close on Hanoi’s crowded streets and sidewalks, this is a place where they can run free for a while. If you need some room for the kids to run, this should be on your Hanoi itinerary.

Water Puppets

No visit to Vietnam with kids would be complete without watching a water puppet show in Hanoi. Yes, you can see water puppet shows in Ho Chi Minh City and other Vietnamese cities, but Hanoi might be one of the best places to see a performance since there are several options and it’s closer to where the art originated back in the 11th century.

Put the water puppet show on your Vietnam itinerary, but remember that some kids will love it, while others will not. Don’t build it up into something it’s not. We thought it was lots of fun, but we’ve seen a few, and they all have slow and confusing parts.

Ho Tay Water Park

This is one of the biggest water parks in Vietnam, and it also has amusement park-style roller coasters as well. You can dedicated an entire day of your Vietnam travel itinerary to this place, and in the hottest months of summer, you might want to. Have your hotel call and check to make sure everything is open before you head out.

Vietnam travel tip: water parks in Vietnam get very crowded in the summer, and you will definitely stand out. So expect people to talk to you. If you or your children are fair-haired, people may try to touch their hair, as well.

Sapa and the Hill Tribes

Far away in Vietnam’s remote northwest territories, close to the border with Yunan province in China, there are at least five distinct aboriginal tribes who continue to follow a way of life forgotten by most of the world.

Getting to Sapa is often a deal-breaker for families traveling in Vietnam with kids. Two of the most common ways to reach Sapa with kids is by train (8 hours) or bus (10 hours), and for those with limited time, this can be a considerable disadvantage.

That said, those who do go often report amazing hiking, pristine nature and unforgettable cultural experiences.

Sapa Hill Tribes 2-Day Trekking Tour from Hanoi by Train

From Hanoi: 2-Day Spectacular Sapa Trekking and Bus Tour

Halong Bay

Halong bay Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

This is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Vietnam with kids. You can hire boats for a few hours or a few days, depending on your time and budget, and there are both basic and luxury options.

Tips for visiting Halong Bay with Kids

  • If you’re going to Halong Bay with kids, make sure to have motion sickness medicine if you think you need it.
  • The trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay can take three or four hours. Sometimes longer. Make sure to have enough water and snacks for the trip.
  • Ask your tour company or whoever’s in charge to see if you can be picked up first. That way you can choose the best seating in the transport vehicle. When returning to Hanoi after your trip, ask to be dropped off first, as well.
  • Not all boats are particularly childproof. Expect stairs, sharp corners, and low guardrails. Keep these in mind if boating in Halong Bay with a willful toddler.
  • We are big fans of budget travel, but when it comes to boating on Halong Bay with kids, cheaper may not always be better. There have been a number of accidents on Halong Bay over the years. Previous accidents have never deterred us from travel, but it does make us more cautious and encourages us to research the best options more carefully.

Best Tours for Halong Bay

Halong Bay Islands and Caves: Full-Day Tour from Hanoi

Halong Bay, Thien Cung Cave & Kayak with Incredible Cruise

Full Day in Halong Bay with Deluxe Alova Cruises from Hanoi


kids goofing around on the Mekong — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

Like India, Vietnam is polarizing for most travelers: most people leave either swearing never to go back or daydreaming about their inevitable return. One of the reasons for Vietnam’s bad reputation is how it treats some travelers. Many tourists complain about being harassed into buying something, going somewhere, or eating in a particular restaurant. They gripe about getting scammed, getting pick-pocketed or being followed by insistent cyclo drivers demanding you take a ride with them.

I’m sure that these things happen all the time, and yes, I have experienced some of this as well. Yet despite this, I’ve had more meaningful interactions with local Vietnamese people than almost any other country I’ve visited.

Below I offer some advice on visiting Vietnam with kids:

Family Stuff

Carry Enough Snacks & Water

You can find great stuff to eat and drink everywhere, but Murphy’s Law states that you can’t find an open restaurant or convenience store when you really need one. Vietnam is very hot and humid, so always carry some water with you.

Prepare Everyone for the Toilets

Many of the toilets in Vietnam are of the squat toilet variety, and they use a spray hose instead of tissue for clean up after a poo. If you and your kids aren’t used to this, it’s worth reading up, and knowing how it’s done beforehand. You’ll find it all over Southeast Asia, especially in neighboring  ThailandIndonesia, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Also in Japanese bathrooms, too sometimes…the squatters, not the hose.

Carry packs of tissue with you, but it’s best for you and the kids to learn how to use the “bum washer.” Learn to keep your belt and pants from dragging the floor. If you have anything hanging from your belt, make sure it’s in a pocket or otherwise not dragging the floor.

Also, water pressure in these hoses can vary widely: from a trickle to a firehose. Test it before you take aim.

Do Kids Stuff

Vietnam can be hot, crowded and overwhelming — make sure to spend some of your time doing kid stuff. Vietnam has parks, playgrounds, beaches, play centers and waterparks. There are cooking classes and there are cool performances. Choose something that they’ll enjoy and look forward to, and make sure they know it’s coming.

Practice Gratitude

Visiting Vietnam with kids can be a great place to practice gratitude — reminding your kids (and yourself) of all you have to be thankful for. I don’t believe that this is the only — or the best — form of gratitude to practice (“Hey guys, aren’t we lucky not to be poor like them?”), but it can be important for your family to consider how others live.

Interacting with Locals

Some of my most intimate and authentic experiences with local people in my travels have happened in Vietnam. From hanging out with a cyclo driver’s family in my 20’s to having a little old lady try to play matchmaker with my girl and her grandson 20 years later. I have found the Vietnamese people to be straight shooters and great storytellers. Here are a few tips for meeting and talking with local Vietnamese people.

Lines? What Lines?

If you’re taking public transportation, buying something at the market or waiting to go into a Vietnamese waterpark, you may notice that there is no such thing as a line or a cue. People just go for it. Don’t take it personally.

Mentally Prepare for Vietnamese Affection to Children

I know you hear that with almost every country, but the Vietnamese love kids and they really show it. So much so that you might want to prepare the kids for it, especially if they have fair hair/skin. Why? Because people will put their hands on them, and on their hair.

And for young boys — I know how this is going to sound, but hear me out — locals may grab their crotch. Freaked out? Don’t be — or rather be aware that this is not an uncommon practice and usually an affectionate form teasing. You deal with it how you like, but understand that it’s mostly thought of like tousling a kid’s hair or patting a friend’s butt. Perhaps inappropriate, but not meant in a perverted way. It never happened to my son, but I’ve heard about it from other traveling families.

Learn to Say “NO” Firmly, but Respectfully

Whether you’re in Vietnam with kids or traveling solo, you may be followed by someone trying to sell you something. You may think of yourself as broke or just scraping by (I know we’ve felt that way), but realize that you have more money than anyone else they know. This is the only way they know how to get some of that money: selling trinkets to tourists.

And it works sometimes. Being pushy works. You need to be clear that you are not one of those “sometimes” people, and that they should move on to find someone else. They need to know that they are wasting their time with you. You need to do this with confidence and respect. Say “NO” firmly and respectfully. I explain this technique in detail here.

Health, Safety, Scams & Theft: Vietnam with Kids

Vietnam is not as dodgy and dangerous as some people make it out to be, but there are certainly a few things you should be aware of. PLEASE don’t let these things discourage your visit to Vietnam with kids. Instead, use these tips to prepare yourself and enjoy yourself.

Don’t Expect Seat Belts

There may be seat belts in the front of the car, van or taxi, but they’re frequently broken or missing in the back. If you’re planning to travel in Vietnam with kids, accept this now. And leave the car seat at home.

Crossing the Street in Vietnam with Kids

This is not as hard as you might think. The key is intent: if your movements are predictable and the motorcycles and scooters know where you intend to go and the speed in which you’re going there, you’ll be fine. In contrast, if you run, stop or change direction suddenly, then you’re putting yourself in danger. Acting squirrelly on Vietnamese roads will get you hurt. Ask my son: he found out the hard way in Taiwan.

Instead, walk slowly and with intent. Watch how the locals do it and follow suit.

Keep Some Stomach Meds Handy

Vietnamese food is some of our favorite. Very few cuisines in the world compare. That said, if you’re new to Southeast Asia, you might need to give your belly a day or two to adjust. Vietnamese street food is some of the best, by far, and for the most part, it’s fresh and cleanly prepared. If you have some stomach trouble, it could just be a drastic change in diet, time zones, and climate. However, it’s always good to have some stomach meds handy.

Don’t drink tap water, though. Ice is okay since it’s usually machine-made from distilled water, but for the rest, go with bottled water. You can’t be sure about where the next bathroom will be (and what it may look like), so come prepared. You can always buy a cup of coffee so you can use the bathroom in the cafe.

What are Scams and What Aren’t

For many new travelers visiting Vietnam with kids for the first time, it’s easy to heed fellow travelers’ warning too well. Yes, you need to be more aware of things more than, say, Tokyo or Topeka, Kansas. However, not everyone is trying to scam you, and some things that may seem like a scam aren’t.

For example, yes, there is an additional fee that taxis charge from the airport into town. They go through a toll and add it on later. And yes, napkins are an extra fee at many restaurants.

Keep Your Valuables Close

Unfortunately, pickpockets or purse-snatchers are real. Keep your packs in front of you when walking through crowded places, and don’t wave your smartphones around. If you’re carrying a bag or holding a camera or device in your hand, hold it on the side of your body away from the street. A lot of these crimes are by teams of two on motorcycles grabbing the goods as they speed past.

One time, while riding a scooter, Keiko tried to film Ho Chi Minh City’s crazy traffic with an iPad. When we stopped at the traffic light, a nice local guy stopped his moped next to us and warned her to put it away before someone tried to yank it out of her hands. Would it have happened? Who knows, but it happens enough that this guy tried to help us.

One of our other traveling family friends had a relative visit them while traveling in Vietnam. Grandma came to visit while they were in Vietnam with kids and had her smartphone snatched right out of her hand. Twice! It’s easy to forget how valuable these can be (the story here).

Don’t keep all your money in one place, either. Keep your day’s budget handy, and the rest in a secure or hidden spot. Maybe several spots. Keep copies of all your documents, as well: passports, visas, and flight info. Hard copies and digital copies.

Understand that Some People Have to Hustle to Survive

Don’t forget that if some of these guys don’t hustle, they don’t eat. You don’t have to buy something from someone if you don’t want to. We don’t. And you don’t have to be overly nice to people who you are certain are trying to scam you. But don’t hold it against them for trying.

Some people may be pushy or unpleasant. Don’t take it personally. Smile, shrug it off and move on. You may encounter good-hearted and helpful local later that day.

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Why Buy Travel Insurance

Choosing Travel Insurance: 14 Tips

Legal Stuff: Vietnam with Kids

Check Vietnam’s Visa Requirements

Before traveling to Vietnam with kids, check to see if your nationality needs a visa to enter Vietnam and what to do about it. I arranged to have Visa On Arrival (VOA) and paid for it in advance. I used Visa4Vietnam, and I’m sure there are other similar services as well.

Once I paid and filled out the paperwork, they emailed me a document, which I printed and brought with us. I then showed this document to immigration officials, and baddabing-baddaboom, I was in.

For the record, Keiko and the kids didn’t need this. They entered with their Japanese passports, which gave them visa-free entry.

Yes, some Hotels and Guesthouses will Hold your Passport

This is a country-wide policy and it’s not a scam. It’s a common practice. Hotels have to report who is staying in their establishments to the police, so please understand that they’re just doing their job. Many high-end hotels and resort follow this rule much more loosely, so if staying at a four-star place, you might not encounter this practice.

More Vietnam Travel Tips Below:


Vietnam with Kids Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog PIN 3


HCMC Scooter family portrait: Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog
You’ve probably seen video footage of traffic in Vietnam, and yes, it looks pretty insane. On the surface, anyway. However, there is a pattern to it and in some ways, I felt safer riding a scooter in Vietnam with kids than I did in other Southeast Asian destinations.

Vietnam on Foot

Much of Vietnam is walkable, and we’ve walked over a lot of it. But with a stroller? I wouldn’t — at least in cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City you would do better with a baby carrier.

The first and most important lesson many people learn is how to cross the street when there’s no crosswalk, no red light and a swarm of motorcycles are rolling past. Just remember: if you walk slowly and deliberately, the sea of scooters will part. Raise your hand if you want, but whatever you do, don’t act squirrelly or indecisively. If your path is easy to determine by the riders, then you’re safe. Really. That said, keep your kid close.

Scooters & Motorcycles in Vietnam

These can be rented all over the country, but before you sign anything, inspect the scooter in question and snap photos of any scratches or dents, preferably with the renter watching you. Riding scooters and motorcycles in Vietnam is easy: go slow, stay alert and you’ll be fine.

Keep in mind, however, that riding scooters and motorcycles without a Vietnamese license is technically illegal. If you have an accident without a valid license, you will be the one who gets in trouble, even if the other party was at fault. Your insurance probably will NOT cover it either. If you have never ridden scooters, it might be wise not to try it for the first time in Vietnam.

We knew the risks. And we’ve ridden in Taiwan, Thailand, Bali, and several places in Vietnam, so we were comfortable to do so in Ho Chi Minh City as well. But it’s not for everyone, and we try to use caution when needed, as well. For example, we never felt comfortable riding in Sumatra with kids, and for the drive in Vietnam between Hue to Hoi An, we took a guided motorcycle ride, partly because we didn’t want to take the risk on that stretch of coastal road.

In Vietnamese cities, however, we enjoy riding.

Buses in Vietnam

HCMC Bus — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

For city-to-city transport, the trains are better. There is more room to move and usable toilets on train cars. Buses don’t have this. They are often extremely cramped by Western standards (they’re designed for the average Vietnamese height), and the restroom breaks are inadequate. Consider this when comparing prices.

That said for inter-city transport, we used the public buses a lot and had a good experience.

We took public city buses all over Ho Chi Minh city. In fact, we even skipped the taxi from the airport and took the city bus into town and it was no problem. We took the bus from the Ho Chi Minh Airport to the Ben Thanh Market area near our guesthouse. At the time of writing, that bus was #152 and stopped running around 6 PM. Check this info before you go. Just keep small change available and keep your bags in your laps, just in case.

We took public buses down south to the Mekong Delta and then back up to Ho Chi Minh City while we were there with kids in September 2014. The ride from Ho Chi Minh City was nice with decent seats and AC, but the bus from the Mekong Delta was pretty harsh, with no AC and hard, narrow seats.

I was pouring sweat from the heat and the sun searing through the window when a young Vietnamese businessman gets on. There he sat in a crisp ironed white shirt without a crease or drop of perspiration. The entire way. For hours. Three feet away, I was a crumpled, dripping mess.

Trains in Vietnam

The reunification express — the train that runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City — is often described as a must. The sleeper cars are more spacious than bus services, there are more places for kids to get up and walk around if needed, and you have reliable access to a toilet, which buses don’t provide. The downside? It’s slow. Very slow.

Taxis & Cyclos in Vietnam

If you’re going long to mid-range distances, taxis are worth considering, especially if your accommodation can arrange them (and set the price) beforehand. Understand that you might not find a seatbelt in the back seats.

Sometimes the price difference between taxis and other forms of transportation aren’t that different for distances between 2 and 4 hours. Sometimes it may be more, but completely worth it when considering the time, trouble and hassle to transfers and lack of comfort.

There’s more detailed info on taxis in Vietnam here, and I know that Uber and the Grabtaxi app are both trying to enter the market in a big way. This market is likely to change dramatically over the next few years, so check the latest information when you plan to go.

Beware the Charming Cyclo Driver

Cyclos can be a fun way to see a city, and indeed, one of my first great travel experiences was with a cyclo driver I met in Hue in the late ’90s. If I’m honest with myself, I was tricked out of some money even then, but the overall experience made it worthwhile. That story for another time.

However, a lot of these guys have become pushier and more scheming over the years. Some of them  — okay, most of them — may try to hustle you. Don’t hold it against them, but don’t fall for anything, either. These guys often know the cities they work in well and can be an excellent tour guide for a few hours, but if I were you I’d just avoid them, as sometimes the prices “change” along the way.

By Stroller?

My kids were far past the stroller age when we arrived in the country. If you’re going to Vietnam with kids and thinking about carrying a stroller, you might want to reconsider. Or at least know that most of the country isn’t exactly stroller-friendly. I’ve heard good reports about UNESCO Heritage site, Hoi An, but elsewhere, not so much.


Shooting pool in HCMC — Vietnam with Kids: Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog

There are lots of great places to stay in Vietnam with kids, and you’ll be pleased to know that Vietnam accommodation offers lots of options for families of four, five and even more. Vietnam accommodation tends to be either humble guesthouses or luxury hotels and resorts. Not much in the middle. The good news here is that both options have family rooms or rooms for groups, so look around.

One thing worth mentioning is that unless you’re staying at a resort or high-end hotel, there probably won’t be an elevator. Keep that in consideration if you have young kids and you’re looking at a great price on a 5th-floor suite. Here are a few Vietnam accommodation options worth looking into.

Read More: Best Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, District 1

Family Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City: Beauty Guesthouse

The kids loved this place because of the pool table on the ground floor (which is now gone after renovation). Keiko and I liked it because it was close to the bus station, close to 23rd September Park, and yet on a smaller alleyway away from most of the traffic noise.

The staff helped us arrange motorbikes and transport to the Mekong Delta, as well. Simple, but friendly staff and convenient location, so it was a good fit for us.

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Family Hotel in Ben Tre: Oasis Hotel

Run by an affable Kiwi named Ken, this place is right on the river. There’s a pool, motorbike rental, and Ken knows all the good places to eat in town. If you plan to stay on foot, then you might consider this place a bit away from the town center. However, with scooters, we had no problem.

A nice big pool was a plus for our kids. Fortunately, there was another family with similarly aged kids there when we visited — an unexpected bonus for us.

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Family Hotel in Can Tho: Chambres D’hotes Mekong-Logis

We would recommend the rooms and the tours here without hesitation. The house itself was huge, with high ceilings and clean, spartan rooms. The parents arranged tours and transport for us, while the daughter, Linh, took us around the river, to the market, and out for two meals.

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Family Hotels in Hue: Four Seasons Hotel

Nope, it isn’t that Four Seasons, but we had a great experience with this hotel. In fact, I would say that we had our best customer experience here at Hue Four Seasons. All of the staff were super friendly and helpful, and the owner even drove us to his favorite restaurant on his way home one night.

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Family Hotel in Hoi An: Cosy House Homestay

This is more like a guest house than a hotel. The family who owns it lives on the first floor. The grandmother matriarch of the family took to my daughter fairly quickly, trying to match her up with her grandson. At first, we thought she was joking. She wasn’t. When we told her to “…maybe call us when she’s 18,” she went to get a pen and paper so we could exchange contact information.

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Family Hotel in Hanoi: Hanoi Guest House

This well-loved place has been a favorite with families for a while now. The service is very well regarded, and the rooms are clean and well appointed. Fruit and snacks in the lobby. It’s in the old quarter, which means that you’re in a great location and walking distance to Hoan Kiem Lake, but some guests have reported noise in the mornings.

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Going to Vietnam with kids can be a fantastic opportunity to spend some money, although some of the best bargains stand on dubious grounds. More on that below. As far as shopping in Vietnam for children, the country has you covered on just about any of the basics: diapers, medicine, clothing, swimwear & lifejackets, etc. But many Vietnam travel guides talk about buying additionals such as suits, wedding dresses (no kidding) and travel gear.

All of these are possible, and at hard-to-believe prices, but it’s easy to end up with items that are worth exactly the low price you pay for them. But fear not. You can get some well-made clothing and decent backpacks and other gear if you shop right and stay with the process. That goes double if you’re getting tailored clothing. One of the best Vietnam travel tips for shopping in Vietnam is to check and double check everything in the tailor process. More on that below. Here are a few purchases worth considering.

Kids’ Clothing

Vietnam can be a great place to change out your kids’ tattered wardrobe. This goes double if you’re in Vietnam with a baby, as there are lots of baby clothes around. We’ll discuss bespoke clothing below, but there are plenty of brand-name and off-brand/knockoff kids clothes to choose from — especially for younger kids.

Vietnamese Tailors

If you want to have clothes made for you during your Vietnam family tour, you’ve come to the right place. Tailors around Vietnam can do bespoke projects very well — from 3-piece suits and wedding dresses to cargo pants. But you must know exactly what you want when you’re walking in. In the ’90s, I designed a pair of travel pants for a tailor to make, and they served me well. Then again, I also had them make a suit with no idea what my measurements were. I didn’t check the stitching or confirm exactly what my requirements were. The final product was atrocious. A complete joke. Keiko still teases me about that suit.

Shopping in Vietnam travel tip #1: Always, always be direct and double check everything. Especially if you’re making something important (ie. suit) and has to meet certain specifications. One easier way to go about this is to come to a tailor with an item of clothing you already like and ask them to copy it. Or find one in the town and show them. Show them the pants/shirt/sportcoat you already know fits you well, and then have them recreate it in different materials.

Backpacks, Camera Bags & Travel Gear

Vietnam also has heaps of knockoff goods, including handbags, sneakers, and fashion. The most popular stuff with us is travel brands, of course. Like the tailors mentioned above, ambitious Vietnamese manufacturers have deconstructed backpacks and other gear from names like North Face, Lowepro, and Patagonia and then made their own versions of these products. Lots of Vietnam travel guide books mention these places. Some items are well-made. Others fall apart within weeks.

If you’re considering buying travel gear, our top Vietnam travel tip is to always check the stitching, the zippers, and width of the webbing straps on packs. These are some of the most common shortcuts. Please know that I am not advocating dealing with pirated goods, but it is certainly a way to save money.

Need Luggage?

Our Guide to Best Travel Backpacks

Best Carry-On Luggage Reviews: Ultimate Guide for Your Next Travel

The Best Checked Luggage for Travel: Choosing the Best Suitcases

Bootlegs, Bootlegs, Bootlegs

Music. DVDs. Books, too. You’ll find plenty of pirated copies of them all in Vietnam. I’m not advocating buying them, nor am I telling you that they’re worth it.

When I was younger, I bought a number of CDs and books from street stalls in Ho Chi Minh City. About one out of five of them wasn’t worth the pennies I paid for them. Some CDs played twice and stopped working, and the copy of Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American” I bought had some nearly illegible pages due to bad printing. That said, you can often find kids’ movies and even kids books in some places.

Important: Please remember that bootlegs are illegal. In fact, I wouldn’t leave Vietnam with bootlegged CDs or DVDs in my bag. It’s not enforced that often, but customs officials in some places could confiscate them — and even fine you for having them.


If you’re looking for more on Vietnam with kids, you can find them here. Want the inside scoop on living and working in Vietnam with kids? Then you need my friend Barbara’s book. Barbara Adam is the owner of Saigon Street Eats and the woman behind the amazing Vietnam family travel blog the Dropout Diaries. Her book is full of excellent Vietnam travel tips and advice from someone who actually lives in Vietnam with kids.  Here’s my conversation with Barbara for the Epic Education Radio podcast.

Related Read:


So have you been to Vietnam with kids already? Where did you go? Where did you like? What did the kids enjoy? Do you have any Vietnam travel tips? Have you used a Vietnam travel guide before? What are your recommendations for visiting Vietnam with children? We want this Vietnam travel guide to be as useful as possible, so any feedback is welcomed. Add your Vietnam travel tips below in the comments.


Vietnam with Kids Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam - Vietnam Travel Blog PIN 4

Vietnam with Kids - Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue, Mekong and more PIN 1

Vietnam with Kids - HCMC, Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi, Mekong and more PIN 2

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book a hotel in Vietnam using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel in Vietnam.

This Vietnam travel guide and my Vietnam travel tips are designed for families, but just about anyone can use these Vietnam travel tips for their use. If you have any Vietnam travel tips you’d like to add to this guide or have any other related Vietnam travel advice, please let us know. Thank you!

Photo Credits via Royalty-Free Image sites: #1, #5, #6, #13





Okay, so… I had an old post about Vietnam with Kids and I wanted to get rid of it to clean up the blog, but I didn’t have the heart so I just cut & pasted it here. Feel free to read it, but almost all the info you need for Vietnam family travel is in the much more comprehensive post above.

Old Vietnam With Kids Post (from 2014)

My oh my. What an unforgettable two weeks it has been. Attempts to experience any country in such a short amount of time will always leave one wanting, and Vietnam has certainly done that to us. This was my third time to visit, and some of my most meaningful experiences in Southeast Asia took place there: I ate at a cyclo driver’s home, had (real) conversations with kids on the street and ended up being pen-pals with a family for two years or so.

Back to Vietnam with Family

But all of this was over a decade ago. How had the country changed? And how would my kids respond to it? Many travelers leave Vietnam with bad experiences. Some travelers — even seasoned, talented travel bloggers — occasionally vow never to return (not all of them, however). Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Vietnam and my homeland have a bit of history between them.

How could I explain what happened there to my 8-year-old and 11-year-old without causing significant distress? I knew that the kids would love Bali (they did), and I knew that they’d probably love Sumatra and northern Thailand. But what about Vietnam? I loved it when I was young and single, but how would I feel about Vietnam with kids?

That’s Right: Vietnam with Kids

Lantern seller in Hoi An — An Epic Education

Our trip went above and beyond my expectations. The kids had a GREAT time and quite possibly learned and experienced more in Vietnam than in all of our other recent short trips combined. There are a variety of reasons for this.

First of all, we moved around a lot: from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue to Hoi An and then back down through Ho Chi Minh to a few towns in the Mekong Delta. All the planes, buses and motorcycles we took were an education unto themselves, but seeing so many places also put our kids in front of a lot of people and situations that required their effort to navigate: we make them check schedules, pack their own bags, set their own alarms to wake up and use maps/ask directions on their own.

Vietnam is also quite diverse: Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City are strikingly different, and the Mekong Delta is a world unto itself (and we didn’t visit the ethnic minorities in Sapa). Moving around showed the kids exactly how disparate small areas can be. I tend to be a slow-travel advocate and don’t usually recommend whirlwind tours like this, but it worked incredibly well for us this time.

cooking class portrait with teacher — Vietnam with kids

Vietnamese Food

Oh, and did I mention the food? This played a huge factor in how much the kids enjoyed Vietnam. Vietnamese food is remarkably healthy and diverse, and unlike most of the other places we’ve traveled thus far, hot & spicy elements are usually optional and on-the-side. Sure, there are peppers for the taking (and I take them), but they’re not cooked into the food as frequently as in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, so the kids can order with less fear of their tongues catching flame later on.

They stuffed their faces and discovered many new things they loved — Keiko and I joked about that the code name of our trip was “Operation Food Coma.” We also took a great cooking class together (not our first), and learned a lot about the herbs and vegetables used in Vietnamese cooking, collecting them ourselves with our instructor at an on-site farm. Our class even ended up in a local newspaper.

Vietnam History (Recent)

Teaching the history wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, but we didn’t cover everything (of course), and I had to make some sacrifices. For example, I wanted to visit the War Remnants Museum, but I knew the carnage documented there would just be too much for them, so we skipped.

We all learned plenty, though. The Reunification Palace gave them a taste of the time, and they were completely fascinated by the Cu Chi Tunnels. This also became a great opportunity to discuss the complicated relationship of war and the media. It also gave them a new word: propaganda. The Vietnamese used it. The Americans used it. Hell, they’re all still using it now, like, all the damn time.

The discussions that were brought on by this topic were possibly worth the entire trip: both of our kids now realize, at least nominally, that just because someone in authority says something (a government, a company, a newspaper, whatever) that doesn’t make it true. We’ve talked about this dozens of times, but I believe that it sunk in a bit deeper here.

Hue Tomb Interior: Vietnam with Kids — An Epic Education

Vietnam History (Ancient)

We focused on recent history, but while in Hue we got a taste of what Vietnam was like long before the war nearly tore it apart. The tombs along the Perfume River in central Vietnam were as fascinating as the first time I saw them some 15 years ago. Perhaps more so, because I could discuss them with the kids.

The picture above is from the interior of a tomb for the last emperor of an old Vietnamese kingdom — thought by some to be a puppet of the French, but buried in the most elaborate way imaginable.

Vietnam by Motorcycle

Perhaps my favorite memory from Vietnam happened as we left Hue for the open road. Using the Hue Adventures company, each of us rode on the back of a different motorcycle from Hue to Hoi An, with lots of stops to eat, swim and snap pics along the way. I must write an entire post on this trip to do it justice, so, for now, I’ll just leave this here:

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The Yoshikawa-Jenkins moto transfer

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This post only scratches the surface of our trip, and in the coming weeks, I hope to elaborate on some of the things we saw, did, ate and learned. I also have a theory on why Vietnam is so polarizing. Hopefully, I can flesh it out intelligently enough to share with you all soon, but some of the lessons I learned my last time in the country have something to do with it.
But for now, know this: Vietnam is still one of the most amazing and meaningful places I’ve ever visited. So much so that for a minute there, Keiko and I even considered moving to Ho Chi Minh City for a while (language and a lack of easily accessible soccer fields may have knocked it out of the running). But either way, Vietnam with kids comes highly recommended by our crew.


  1. I also spent a really good time there with my whole family and we came back with a lot of pleasant memories.

  2. Amanda de Somer says

    Very helpful blog, thanks for sharing. We’re headed to Vietnam for 3 weeks next week on a trip fully booked by myself ?? I’ve never solely booked a trip like this before so hopefully my hours of googling and research pays off.
    The trip is to celebrate my husbands 40th, we’re a family of 4, my kids are 8 and 10 years old.

    • Safe travels! We love Vietnam travel and food. It can feel pretty intense when you first arrive, especially if you haven’t traveled in this part of the world, but it’s part of the adventure. Some Vietnamese people come off as harsh, but they love kids, and when treated with respect they usually reciprocate. Hope you have a GREAT time!

  3. Hi Jason,

    We are looking at going to Vietnam next year, however I’m a little concerned about taking our children (5, 8 and 10 years old) as I’ve heard that you cant eat salads, fruit that you cant peel, everything must be cooked piping hot, no ice and only bottled water, dont eat of street vendors etc. Do you think its important to stick to these guidelines, love to hear a bit about your experience and if anyone got food poisioning/gastro/sick on your travels to there? Also, do you know if malaria is a concern in sapa or mekong delta.. and did your children take antimalaria medication.

    Thanks, Vicky

    • Hi Vicky. We loved traveling in Vietnam with our kids, and can’t wait to go back. I understand your concerns and will try to address them here.

      RE: salads/fruit, yes, sticking to peel-able fruit is a safer route, and I’ve never eaten a salad in VN, but we ate heaps of raw veggies at pho stands (they’re sitting in bowls on the tables as condiments) and didn’t have a problem.

      RE: Ice and bottled water. Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. Esp with bottled water. Most of the world lacks potable water and so you just get used to buying big jugs and refilling our bottles each day. As for ice, I think much of it is made from purified water. We had ice in drinks and drank LOADS of fruit smoothies in HCMC and never had a problem. You may even see large blocks of ice being delivered on the backs of motorcycles. You can play it safe and avoid all ice if you like. It’s not that hard to do. But we haven’t. In VN anyways.

      RE: no street vendors, wow, I couldn’t disagree more. Eating at street vendors is one of the best parts of VN travel. Of course, I won’t eat at just any street vendor or sidewalk table. I look for lines & crowds — that means it’s popular with locals and the food doesn’t sit around. Sure, some places we want to eat things that are freshly cooked. Indeed, you usually watch them cook it right there. Most food is cooked to order and arrives piping hot.

      RE: food poisoning, I’ve only been sick once in VN, when I tried a “special” nuoc mam sauce at a very local off-the-beaten-path place (the nuoc mam you find at all restaurants is totally fine). Any sane person could have avoided my fate. My family enjoyed the same meal (sans homemade fish sauce) and were fine. I’ve eaten at VN street vendors since 1998 and have been sick only that once. Of course, it happens — from Vietnam to Colombia, eating street food requires some caution and risk, but it also has provided me with many, many moments of culinary joy. Be safe and selective and you should be fine.

      RE: malaria, I do not know the present state of Malaria is Sapa or the Mekong, so you should check that yourself. However, we have been in many places where it existed but have never taken antimalarials, and have no plan to. Perhaps the drugs have made advances in the last few years that I am unaware of, but in the past my wife and I felt the health risks were worse for taking the drugs rather than being careful, covering up and using bug spray. Of course, I am not a doctor and this is just my opinion, but I would not consider using antimalarial meds unless we were going to countries with the highest levels (Ghana, Uganda, etc) and even then I would consult a doctor about the risks and the alternative of keeping covered. I’m not anti-medicine by any means, But antimalarials, in particular, are (or were?) risky.

  4. Jessica Givens says

    Hi there,
    I’m planning a trip to Vietnam in December/January with my husband and our daughter, who will be 3.5 at the time. I’m mainly worried about being in cities with her, which is inevitable because we’re flying from Houston. We’ll need to spend 4-5 nights in HCMC just to get our bodies on track before trying to travel somewhere else. How do you recommend getting around with her? I’m just worried that we won’t be able to use a stroller in the crowds, and it wouldn’t be safe for her to walk, in case we get separated. We’ve also never used a carrier, and I can’t see her going for it. Is the stroller an option at all? Thank you so much.

    • Hi Jessica,

      I hate to disappoint you, but I think you’ll need to train her to walk with you or to get used to sitting in a carrier before you go to HCMC. I’m sure in some parts of VN you’ll be able to use a stroller, but many pavements in HCMC aren’t wide/smooth enough, or there are holes here and there, and bikes are parked all over. Bringing an umbrella stroller could help you, but it’s better to expect public street to be difficult to push through, and there are times where you may be crossing a street with a crowd of scooters around you…they need to see your child. If she doesn’t like the carrier, you can try something like this. She has to stand all the time though and it seems like all her weight is on your shoulders. Hope this helps you make a decision. Enjoy Vietnam!

  5. Thanks for sharing Jason! A really well balanced article of the good and bad in Vietnam with many good tips shared. Would say good to be aware of potential pitfalls here (cyclos, fake taxis, massage scams, copycat tour companies, etc), but really no need to be overly paranoid. As long as you have done your research, just stay firm, stay calm, and you will have an amazing time in Vietnam!

  6. Wow there’s literally EVERYTHING in your article, that’s such a great work !

    I may add that in Ho Chi Minh City, and especially around D.2 there are countless activities for kids to enjoy : Karting, Trampoline (Jump Academy), Rock Climbing, Ice Skating (at the Vincom Mall), as well as other activities sometimes offered by the private schools of the neighborhood.

  7. So glad I was sent a link to your blog. I went about 15years ago as a backpacker with a friend and now finally convinced hubby to come with the kids. Just trying to plan 5-6week trip in dec/Jan this year with our 11yr old and twin 8yr olds. Flying into Hanoi spending Christmas and new year in the north and then heading south over the next 5 weeks or so flying out of HCM. The logistics of travelling between all the areas is doing my head in and trying to work out the order and what to include.

  8. Hi Jason
    Thank you for the post
    We will be going to Vietnam maybe during the second week of december but dont know which city to go to as i only have 7-10 days with my wife and 2 sons aged 1 and 4
    Hence since i will be with an infant and toddler i dont think ill be able to visit many places so which 2 places could i concentrate on? We would like to be close to the beach for the boys to play there but im open for ideas
    One of my friends said to stay away from Ho Chin Min as its not for kids but then again i never listen to her 🙂
    Thank you

    • Hi Kal,

      It really depends what you and your family want to experience. If you’d rather find beach for your boys to play around, then beach place like Danang or Nha Trang might be the option. However, it will be the rainy season so you may not have as many days with good beach weather as you’d like. An Bang Beach is close to historic Hoi An, so you get to enjoy the town with a beach not so far away. As much as I love HCMC it can be a bit too chaotic for your kids that young. The 1-year-old may be fine if he/she is attached to you, but the 4 year old would need to talk on her/his own, and that’s a challenge in HCMC unless you are all experienced on scooters or taking taxis everywhere. The Northern part of Vietnam such as Hanoi would be too cold for us in December. If you’d rather stay close to warm climate, it’s best to stay in south of Vietnam unless you welcome cooler weather.

      Considering the age of your kids and the time of your visit, I’d say central Vietnam: Hue, Danang and Hoi An specifically.

  9. Very informative guide. I was thinking about going on trip to Vietnam with my family and your tips proves very helpful to me in choosing the best places to visit there. Thanks for kind sharing.

  10. Hi! I’ve really enjoyed reading your article, I’m planning on visiting Vietnam with my husband and 4 kids in a few years (they’re currently 12,8,8&4) I’ve seen lots of holidays with a pre planned itinerary, what’s your thoughts on these as apposed to just going over and planning your own route/activities please? Any advice greatly appreciated, thanks.

    • Hi Jennie,

      We usually arrive in a new place with ideas of what we want to see/do/eat, but we tend to make it up as we go. We’ve taken pre-planned itineraries a few times — usually with relatives with they visit us — but in general, we improvise. That doesn’t mean that we let fate decide where we go: we end up doing LOTS of planning and research before and during our travel. For example, we’ve never planned out our visits to Vietnam, but Keiko and I had researched loads before we went, asked the kids what they were most interested in, then had a google doc with lots of websites, email addresses, and other contact info. That said, if we ever found the “perfect” package tour (or could customize it to our specifications) we might take it. As for accommodation in Vietnam and elsewhere in SEA, we tend to book ahead the first night or two in a new town, then search on foot for where to stay after that. In general, you can often swing better deals in person in Southeast Asia.

  11. My family and I are considering taking a week in Vietnam since I will be there for work anyways. We have a daughter who will be almost a year and a half by this time and is the biggest consideration when making the decision to go or not. Many of your recommendations are for older children, but do you think it would be doable with a young toddler? We have a hiking carrier that we would take, I just don’t want to put us in an uncomfortable position when we are trying to see many of the gorgeous sites there are to see in Vietnam.
    Thank you.

    • Becca,

      There are a lot of factors at play here so I hesitate to give you a definitive answer, but I’ll try. :-). Not knowing your work, where you’ll be working or how much time you’ll have for family…all these make a difference. Of course, if you have a nice hotel where your spouse & child can hang out, that makes a difference too. If you are in Hoi An, it’s most certainly possible to stroll through the old town with your girl. If you are in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, there’s always a taxi for you to take around to go anywhere. If you are in Na Trang, the beaches would be a great place for your daughter to roam around. In our experience (and many others) the Vietnamese are are some of the sweetest to traveling children. They can be strong and direct to college backpackers, but very kind to families. In fact, it’s quite possible that restaurant staff might (gently) pull the baby out of your hands and entertain them while you eat. Happens a lot. Kids can scream, cry whatever in VN and you’ll have no problem — you’ll have no problem taking kids anywhere if your concern about kids’ behavior. The key is time and distance. Long flights, jet lag for 2 days in VN? I’d pass. But more time I’d say go for it. Some may disagree, but I wouldn’t use a hiking carrier though. Too many low doorways, awnings & hanging things above sidewalks. And if in HCMC you’ll have to cross streets. I’d use a wrap or something with her closer to your body.

    • We travelled in Vietnam when our son was 18 months old with his older brother of 3 years old. We used a sling to carry him but there were so many options, hiring cyclo, putting him in a basket on a bicycle or no doubt one of the locals will take a toddler off you and carry them for you. This happened regularly as they love kids, especially as our son had white hair at this age. It was surprisingly easy to travel with a toddler. Our only concerns were taxis with no car seat and one tour we completed only had motorbike transport for a small section. Enjoy your week just take your time as it is a lot more tiring travelling with a toddler. We went back to our hotel for afternoon naps each day in the aircon which recharged the kids batteries so we could spend more time out and about in the evening. It was also the hottest part of the day so a good time for a break. We stayed at local hotels guesthouses and so often had the staff feeding the kids, playing with them, buying them gifts etc. They really do love kids!

  12. it’s amazing that your kids get to experience so many different cultures all at once. Kudos to them coming from Japan and doing well in Vietnam (I’m Vietnamese), from such order to such chaos. Like you said, I love the chaos (most of the times) because it can also be heartwarming, but for a lot of foreigners it can be overwhelming. You’re also right that mentioning the war takes a lot of context, and there are always two sides. Nobody is the absolute “good” or “bad” guys, although some people’s lives were better under one regime vs the other. As a person born in late 80s, the war is not directly on my mind. I know about it from parents’ telling me how it was before vs now, but to me we’re a people who have long moved on from the past. Save for veterans, the war is almost never something young people my age talk about. The government these days is also less pushy about their agenda, so it’s not like you have to recite Communist ideals several times a day (you do have to learn it, but I don’t know any Vietnamese who takes it as an absolute truth). That’s why when I move abroad, I got very annoyed with people who kept asking me about it. I don’t know it from first-hand expenrience, and wiki probaly does a better job explaining than me. All in all, very happy you all enjoyed the stay, and I wish you and the family the best!

    • Thanks for your comment. It’s always great to hear encouraging words from people who are from the places we visit and write about. Yes, Vietnam is a complicated place for some travelers, but it’s one of the most rewarding and enjoyable places we’ve ever traveled in. Being there yourself is doubly rewarding because you can — if you wish to — learn about Vietnam’s history (which spans much longer than 50-60 years ago) while also experiencing its present. Too many people still see the country through the lens of the past.

  13. Nhung Hoang says

    Your post is helpful for me. I am going to plan Vietnam tour with my Family and already contacted a tour guide for more information. I hope our journey will be enjoyable.

  14. Hi Jason, thanks for the really informative guide. We are going to Vietnam in October with two kids and in full planning mode :-). Similar itinerary to yours, starting in the south. Id like to know is it best to prebook bus trips (HCM-Can Tho) and (Hanoi to Halong) or do you just arrange it from the hotel once we get there? How do you know which buses provide the best services?

  15. Happyluke says

    Your article is indeed pretty helpful! And by looking at the photos, I can say that your kids really had fun with their trip. 🙂

  16. hi, just came across your blog, very useful, thank you. I’ve been looking into going for a two weeks trip to vietnam in april 2018 with my 8 year old kid. yesterday i heard about the outburst of latest type of super malaria in south east asia. i’m usually not a type of person who cares much about mass hysteria diseases and we’ve already been twice with our son in thailand, but this one got me pretty worried. do you have any opinion on this, or tips? thank you,

    • Hi Mira. I’ve just begun to read about this new strain of malaria and haven’t formed an opinion just yet. I tend to be skeptical of hyperbole in the first headlines, but keep reading to find out more. There have been so many cases where the press screams “EPIDEMIC!” and then things turn out to not be nearly as bad as they’re first reported. Is this the same? To early to tell. I hesitate to recommend to go or stay just yet, as there is much more to learn, so I guess my advice is to keep reading for a while, since you’re not planning to go for another 6 months or so. Hope this helps, and hope you get to go to Vietnam: one of our favorite places in the world!

  17. Glad I found your blog also..
    We are planning a trip to Vietnam from Australia in April 2018 as well. We have a 16 (who will turn 17 while holidaying) a 14 and 7 year old.
    Our plans are to start in Hanoi,Ha Long Bay,overnight train to DaNang but stay in Hoi An, then fly to Nha Trang and then fly to Ho Chi Min. We looked at a guided tour initially but decided to do our own thing with travel and just book our own day tours, fingers crossed my persistent googling will pay off…!
    I am conscious of finding a mix of things to do for everyone but most of all the dreaded budget, flight ps and accommodation aside, and a 16 yr old with a fussy appetite ‘can we still get normal food’ is his concern…
    Your blog is very helpful, thanks for posting.

    • You already have a great itinerary, and if needed I’m sure that you can find some “normal” food, especially in places like Hoi An (expat establishments) and HCMC (fast food & other restaurants). Have a great time and let us know how the trip goes!

  18. Hello there! I’m so glad I found your blog! So much information! We’re planning on going next April with 2 10 year-old, and we’re not sure whether to go for a planned tour kind of thing or to try and do things on our own. What worries me is the transport from one city to another, I’ve read dreadful stories about driving in Vietnam. Any tips? Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    • Hi Helene. We rent scooters in each Vietnamese city we visit, but when it comes to transport one city to another, we’ve always taken buses or the occasional flight. There are many levels of bus — some nicer or more crowded than others — but that’s been our mode. The train is also an option many prefer, but we haven’t had a time frame for it on our last few times there. We did one great trip from Hue to Hoi An on the back of motorcycles, but then again someone else was driving then, as well. Have a great trip! Vietnam is very close to my heart.

    • Hi Helene. I am a Vietnamese American who have live in the States for 25 years. My family, wife and two kids aged 6 and 12, visits Vietnam every two years. Every time we are there, we try our best to avoid taking buses as they are too crowded and pretty uncomfortable, not to mention some drivers do their jobs unprofessionally.

      For short distance, around 100 miles or so, it’s best to experience riding a motorcycle, for example from Hoi An to Hue, as Jason Jenkins has tried and liked. For longer distance, I suggest train or fly. Personally I like train because it is much safer and cleaner, both bed and restroom. This last May we took the train from HCM city to Nha Trang and my kids loved it.

      Good luck with your trip and let us know how it went.

  19. thank you for a great guide. we are a full time travelling family and we have been many times to vietnam (currently in Dalat :-)) and still i find your guide very helpful.

  20. You say Hue the friendliest people in Vietnam. I think that that you are kidding!! From all Vietnam that I been in Hue I met the most un-friendly people and i have been in Hue many times.

    • Hi Nicolas, Interesting! I’ve been to central Vietnam (Hue & Hoi An mostly) many times since 1999. Probably not as much as you, but I have always had great interaction with locals in Hue — with kids and without. I don’t doubt that you’ve had less-than-friendly experiences there, but mine have been quite the opposite. Bad/rude stories to tell from other locales, but never in Hue. Isn’t it fascinating how timing, perspective, and the people to meet can change your experience so dramatically? In this respect have the impression that Vietnam and India have something in common: every departing flight is half full of people daydreaming their return visit, while others swear that they’ll never return 🙂 I hope to return to Vietnam. Many more times. You? Where have you have the best experience with Vietnamese people?

      • Dalat. My best experience was in Dalat city. No so many people to try to sale me something, everything was much more perfect. And i make some Vietnamese there. But in this city Hue I have had the most but experience. Of course i was travel alone the whole Vietnam that means i was a more easy victim as foreigner. Of course i love the attractions of Hue and the Imperial Palace, the Tombs … etc.