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Vietnam is one of our family’s favourite countries in the whole world! We’ve visited Vietnam with kids multiple times and are always looking for an excuse to go back. This incredible country is filled with delicious food (and child-size stools), friendly people, inspiring culture and scenic countryside. There’s truly something for everyone, including the kiddos!
If you’re looking for the ultimate family holiday Vietnam definitely delivers. It’s adventurous, but well-traveled enough to be relatively easy. Our first family trip to Vietnam was when the kids were little (6mo & 2yo), and even then we found it easy to navigate on our own. Ever since that visit we’ve been looking for every excuse to spend our family holidays in Vietnam. I’m sure you will too!
Related Vietnam Posts You Should Also Check Out:
- Ultimate Travel Guide To Vietnam
- What To Do In Hoi An With Kids
- Taking The Bus From Vietnam To Laos
- Visiting Our Sponsor Child In Vietnam
- Relaxing at The Gold Coast Resort Phu Quoc
Know Before You Go To Vietnam With Kids
Whether you’re traveling to Vietnam with a toddler, a baby or visiting Vietnam with children that are a bit older, start here.
When To Visit Vietnam
In my opinion, ANY TIME is a good time to visit Vietnam!
Vietnam is a small country with a surprisingly varied climate. It can range from 30C in the South to below freezing with snow in the North, all at the same time of year! Overall, the best time to visit is October-November and February-March. You’ll (mostly) avoid the snow in SaPa, mist in Halong Bay and extreme monsoon season throughout the country. If you’re looking for a bit more information, Rough Guides has a great month-by-month round up of the country’s weather.
How To Get To Vietnam
Vietnam has international airports at Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Hanoi and Da Nang. If you’re coming from North America you’ll likely arrive via somewhere in Asia, with the most popular connections being Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. If you’re lucky enough to be traveling from Europe, Vietnam Airlines offers direct flights from Moscow, Paris and Frankfurt.
How To Get Around Vietnam
We’ve used pretty much every mode of transportation with our kids in Vietnam; cyclos, pedal bikes, motorbikes, trains, buses, boats, planes, etc. You name it, we’ve ridden it!
Flying is the most efficient way to get around the country and is the best option if you’re short on time. It’s relatively affordable (compared to North America) and is the fastest way to move long distances in Vietnam. I always start with Momondo when searching for flights, as I find it includes most discount carriers and options not available anywhere else!
Train travel is my favourite way to travel, and it also has the lowest environmental impact (aside from self-propelled forms of transit). The “Reunification Express” runs from Hanoi to HCMC stopping at all the major cities along the way. You can spend 36’ish hours in a soft sleeper going the entire distance, or do shorter, hard or soft seat segments. You can find the schedule and book tickets online at Vietnam Railways, or at any of the train stations.
If you’re going a long distance, or want a soft sleeper on a overnight train, I highly recommend booking well in advance. For shorter distances, booking a day or two in advance is fine. Also, if you don’t want to deal with the language barrier of booking at the train station, most accommodations will be happy to book for you for a (very) reasonable fee.
Automobiles (Bus, Van, Etc).
Bus Travel is the best way to connect to the destinations not serviced by the train or an airport. There are many different bus companies all offering comfortable tourist buses to any destination. Many of the tourist buses are sleeper buses, with lay-down (not quite flat) seats, a toilet, wifi and TV’s. You can book bus travel at the bus station, via your accommodation, or online at Bookaway or BusBud. You can also consider an open bus ticket on a tourist bus, check out Hanoi Expore Travel to decide which is the best type of ticket for your family.
Vans are also a popular mode of transportation. You can book a private van or a seat in a luxury minivan for shorter distances. We used this to get to/from airports and between Hoi An and Da Nang. It’s easiest to book this via your accommodation, especially if you’re looking for a private van option. If you’re traveling with wee-little ones and want to be able to use a car seat, this is your best option.
Grab (Asian Uber)
The easiest way to get around within each city in Vietnam is with Grab. Download the app before you go, attach your credit card, and you’re on your way. I find this is super easy because you don’t have to give directions (just plug the address into the app) and you don’t have to dig around for money (it auto-pays with your credit card)! You also know the price ahead of time and don’t have to haggle over price.
I wasn’t brave enough to rent a scooter in the cities in Vietnam, but we spent an incredible day touring Ha Giang province by scooter. Most companies renting scooters have helmets available, including for the kiddos. Use your discretion and base your decision to do this on your own personal skills and ability. It can be a lovely way to see the countryside, but only if you feel you can do it safely.
Walking (& Strollers)
Many of the cities in Vietnam are easily walkable, especially in the tourist centres. It’s easiest to use a carrier, but a cheap (very small) umbrella stroller can also be handy in certain situations. A stroller was reasonable to navigate in the centre of HCMC (including Ben Thanh Market), around Hanoi old quarter (mostly Hoan Kiem Lake, but we did use it throughout the Old Quarter) and it would also be okay in Old Town Hoi An.
There are 2 specific uses for the stroller; nap time and meal time. It gets SO hot in Vietnam that it was nice to be able to put baby Kacela in the stroller to sleep. We also found the stroller useful during meals as it kept toddler Calais contained (while some random person carried the baby around!).
Crossing The Road
One of the first skills you’ll want to learn is how to cross the road. On the surface it looks like absolute chaos, and is incredibly nerve-wracking the first time. However, once you’ve succesfully crossed once you’ll feel more confident to do it again (and again).
Confidence here is key! The vehicles (scooters included) are used to people crossing and will change course to veer around you. Keep your kiddo close (honestly, if they’re under 5yo you may want to pick them up), set a steady pace and DO NOT HESITATE!!! Just walk with confidence and you’ll arrive safely on the other side.
Cyclos aren’t really a form of transportation anymore, more of a tour guide if you want a tour of the city. They can be quite pushy, and can be tricky when quoting prices. Often they’ll tell you a price but that will be for one person and at the end of the ride they’ll multiply that by everyone (kids included).
That said, there are some lovely cyclo drivers out there, and just like everyone else, they’re just trying to earn a living. Make sure you ask enough questions and are very firm about the price prior to hoping in!
The Vietnamese LOVE Kids
The Vietnamese LOVE kids, and are very open about it. This can be a bit off-putting, especially for little ones who don’t like being touched by strangers.
On our first visit to Vietnam, Kacela was only 6mo old and her big blue eyes got a lot of attention! Every time we sat down to eat someone would come scoop her out of my arms or out of the stroller. Then, as soon as the bill was paid, she magically ended up right back in my arms (or the stroller) and we’d go on our way. Initially I was taken aback by it, however eating a steaming bowl of pho soup WITHOUT a squirming baby is MUCH easier!
The “baby-grabbing” was partly because Kacela was soooo stinkin’ cute (of course!), and partly to help us parents out. The Vietnamese truly believe it takes “a village” to raise a child, and they’re more than happy to help out wherever they can.
The other type of “grabbing” in Vietnam, that we didn’t experience, is “chiming”. This is typically (I’m told) older ladies grabbing at young boy’s crotches either to ascertain gender or for good luck (what the ?! I know, it’s hard to process initially). We visited with friends, and none of their boys experienced this, but it is a possibility and therefore worth mentioning.
Apparently, this often occurs on public transport when the boys are sitting (according to some of the families in one of the facebook groups I’m a part of). One way to combat the potential of this occurring is by traveling with a backpack on your boy’s lap. I don’t mention this to alarm you, just to ensure that you’re going in with the ability to properly prepare for as much as possible.
Tips for your Family Vietnam Holiday
I’m not sure about you, but I have one child that gets a bit hangry when hungry (and by child…I may or may not mean my husband!!). It’s good to always have a few snacks in the daypack for emergency purposes!
The tap water in Vietnam isn’t safe to drink, and it’s irresponsible (in my opinion) to buy plastic water bottles and add to the significant trash problem in Vietnam. Instead, opt to travel with a good filter water bottle. This way you can fill up from the tap whenever you need and end up with safe drinking water.
As with many countries in Asia, lines aren’t really a “thing” in Vietnam. For my overly-courteous Canadian self this was a bit hard to swallow. However, once I realized that shoving through lines and “butting” in front of people is just how it’s done, I stopped taking it personally!! Stick out your elbows, stand firm on your feet, and you’ll make your way to the beginning of the “line up” eventually!
*expert tip – It’s best to leave one parent a safe distance away from anything requiring a line-up and send the other parent to brave the crowd.
If Vietnam is the first developing country you’ve visited you may be shocked by the lack of seat belts in the vehicles. Sometimes they’re just tucked behind the seat, but in other cases they’ve simply been cut off!
And child safety seats…not even a thing. At all!
Pick The Right Day Pack
It’s almost impossible to go out without a day pack when traveling with kids. You’ll need something to hold the snacks and water bottle, extra clothes, diapering supplies if needed and distractions for restaurants, etc. Although Vietnam is an incredibly friendly country, there are still pick pockets, especially in the larger cities.
Choose a day pack that keeps all your valuables safe, like one of these anti-theft backpacks. It’s nice to not have to worry about someone stealing from you when in a crowded market or public transit.
Kid’s Vietnam Packing List
What you pack will partly depend on the time of year you visit, but there are some staples you’ll want to include.
- Hiking Shoes like these great Kid’s Waterproof Keens.
- Comfy walking sandals/crocs (my girls LOVE their crocs, although I can’t understand why!)
- Quick-dry pants and shirts, my favourite are Old Navy Active and Champion Brand (Target)
- Good quality leggings (Icebreaker kids are our favs)
- Quick-dry underwear (like these Champion ones for girls and these ones for boys).
- UV-blocking bathingsuit
- Kid’s UV Buff (we use these to keep our necks warm, to pull back hair and wet them to cool us down in the heat!)
- Zip-up, long sleeve fleece
- Wind-proof, water-proof jacket
- Reef-safe sunscreen
- Rehydration tablets (we use these when we’re doing a lot of walking in the heat).
The Best Things To Do In Vietnam With Kids
Hanoi is my favourite city in Vietnam, so I’m biased. I love the sights, sounds and smells of the Old Quarter. It’s just so…Vietnamese!
One of the best things to do in Hanoi is to get lost wandering the Old Quarter. Download an offline Google Map (or use Waze or maps.me), pin your hotel, then just start wandering. The alleyways can be a bit congested, so hang on tight to your little one.
If you need a break from the busy-ness, head to Hoan Kiem Lake. There’s a lovely pedestrian-only walkway around the lake, with a bit of green space. It’s the perfect place for your kiddo to blow off some steam (safely away from traffic).
When you get hungry, stop for a steaming bowl of Pho Soup on the sidewalk (from the busiest vendor so you know it’s fresh AND delicious). The plastic tables and stools lining the sidewalks are perfectly kid-sized.
Water Puppet Show
There are so many great things to do in Hanoi with kids, but a Water Puppet show at Thang Long Theatre is definitely worth a stop. We’ve visited twice, and I think Kacela was just as mesmerized at 6 months old as she was at 6 years old! Snag your tickets early in the day from the theatre on the North edge of Hoan Kiem Lake.
The Best Playground In Hanoi
Although there are a few green spaces in town, there aren’t many playgrounds. Our favourite is in Cong vien Nghia Do Park. It’s a bit of a trek from the Old Quarter (you’ll likely want to take a Grab), but it’s worth it if you have kid that need to blow off some steam and play!
Where To Stay In Hanoi
You definitely want to stay in the Old Quarter in Hanoi. This is where all the tourist “stuff” is located, but it also has the best atmosphere and the most accommodation options. A quick search on Booking dot com reveals an abundance of options at various price points. We’ve stayed at a number, and while they’ve all been good, nothing’s stood out as good enough to recommend above anything else!
You’re best to just plug in your dates, read the reviews, and see what you can find.
*expert tip – if you’re visiting in December/January, make sure you book accommodation with heating as it can get a bit chilly at night.
Where To Eat With Kids In Hanoi
Pizza 4P’s Trang Tien (find it on Google here) – If you’re looking for a break from Vietnamese food (I’m not sure WHY you’d want a break from Vietnamese food…but you’re traveling with kids, so there’s a good chance they’re up for a change!), this is the BEST pizza in Vietnam. Not that we ate a lot of pizza in Vietnam, but it’s pretty freaking delicious pizza!
Pho 10 (find it on Google here) – I think the best place to eat Pho is at a tiny table on the sidewalk! But, if you’re looking for something more restaurant-like, Pho 10 is the place to go. Be cautious of the tiny chili peppers, they’re VERY spicy!
Cinnamon Restaurant (find it on Google here) – We very rarely eat at “fancy” restaurants when we travel, but after (months) of backpacking we decided to splurge on a nice meal with our friends. It was 100% worth it! If you’re sticking to a backpacker budget, steer clear of here. But, if you’re looking for a nice meal at a very reasonable price by Western standards, Cinnamon is delish! (Our “fancy” meal for 9 people with non-alcoholic drinks was 2,950,000dong/$165CAD).
Ha Long Bay
A boat ride on Ha Long Bay is a quintessential Vietnamese experience. It’s possible to do a day-trip to Ha Long Bay, but I think this is a horrible idea! Especially if you’re traveling with kids.
The drive from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay is about 3 hours, so you’ll want to have enough time to enjoy being at the Bay (and out of the bus with your kids!). I highly recommend doing a 3day/2night cruise if you have the time. This will give one full day in Ha Long Bay with the opportunity to see significantly more and get a bit further away from the main port.
We used Indochina-Junk for our cruise and I can’t speak highly enough about how fantastic it was. This is the only company allowed to enter neighbouring Bai Tu Long Bay, allowing you to get well away from the crowds. Bai Tu Long Bay is essentially an extension of Ha Long Bay, but without hundreds of junk boats plying the water! Indochina Junk is a bit pricier than the average tour operator, but worth every extra penny.
SaPa With Kids
If you’re looking for stunning rice terraces and local homestays, SaPa should be on your radar.
We skipped SaPa on our first visit to Vietnam because the thought of an overnight train with a 6mo old and 2 year old was the last thing on earth I was interested in doing! I regret that decision SO much. Over the past decade the city of SaPa has exploded from a sleepy mountain town to a gaudy, neon-light covered tourist trap. (Sorry SaPa, you weren’t my favourite!)
As much as the city itself doesn’t hold the charms it once did, the surrounding countryside is still spectacular. Filled with hill-tribe villages, trekking trails through rice terraces and stunning waterfalls, this countryside is the reason to visit SaPa.
Trekking in SaPa
I love supporting locally-owned companies when we travel (and at home), especially when it’s run by women! In Nepal, we trekked with 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking and I just loved how they were employing and elevating women in their country. In SaPa, the equivalent can be found with SaPa Sisters. This local company that is entirely owned and run by Hmong women, empowering them by offering employment opportunities that allow them to financially support their families.
Minority Markets Around SaPa
Visiting a minority market is one of the main attractions in SaPa, and is a fantastic thing to do in SaPa with kids. Th colours of the market are vibrant enough to hold the attention of even the youngest traveler. On most days of the week there is a market in one of the surrounding villages, but the easiest to visit with kids is in the center of SaPa on Sunday.
Where To Stay In SaPa With Kids
High End – Topas Ecolodge
This is a National Geographic “Unique Lodge of the World” property, and is definitely worth a stay if you have both the time and the money! The lodge is located 45min outside of SaPa, nestled amongst minority villages and rice terraces. Kids will love cooling off in the infinity pool after a day trekking through the surrounding countryside.
Mid Range – Praha Hotel
This lovely little hotel is right in the heart of SaPa. There’s a 2-bedroom suite, which is perfect for a family, and it can even accommodate a family of 5 (very uncommon in Vietnam). A fantastic breakfast is included in the price and the air con unit can be turned into a heater to take the chill off if you visit in December/January (trust me, you’ll want it!).
Mid Range With A Pool – SaPa Eco Bungalows & Spa
If you’re looking for something tucked away from SaPa’s busy city center, this is the place for you! This cute little Ecolodge is surrounded by rice terraces and offers incredible hospitality. Breakfast is included in the price, and there are many easy self-guided treks right out the front door. Plus, how can you beat a pool with the kiddos (although this may not matter if you’re visiting during the winter!).
Budget – Sen Vang 2 Hotel
Coming in at under $50 (Cad) per night, this is a steal of a deal right in the heart of SaPa. The rooms are large and clean, and the staff is willing to help book anything you need. As a bonus, there are electric blankets on the bed for a winter visit!
Getting To SaPa
The journey here is via an overnight train (which is actually a pretty cool way to travel, especially if your kids are over about 4 years old), or sleeper bus.
I’d recommend the train. It takes about 8hrs, so not ideal for a great night sleep, but long enough to at least feel rested. The train ends at Lao Cai, which is 38km (1hr) from SaPa. If you pre-booked accommodation they will typically organize your pick-up from the train. If not, there are plenty of buses and taxis available to get you from Lao Cai to SaPa.
On the train you can choose either a 2- or 4- person sleeper berth. Book the train online direct from Vietnam Railways.
The sleeper bus only takes 6hrs, which isn’t long enough for a good night’s sleep. It may be a good option if you have teenagers, but I wouldn’t recommend it for younger kids. If you’re still brave enough to give it a go, you can book the Express sleeper bus ahead of time to save some hassle.
Ninh Binh (Tam Coc/Trang An)
Ninh Binh itself is a bit of a grungy, industrial city. However, the area around it is stunning, with huge limestone karst mountains erupting out of the earth, and winding waterways flowing between them.
A boat trip through Trang An Grottoes or Tam Coc can be done as a (long) day trip from Hanoi, but it’s well worth spending a night or two here if you can spare the time. Beyond the boat trip, you can hike to Hang Mua Viewpoint, visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, or see the Bai Dinh Pagoda.
Because the countryside here is so flat (around the mountains of course), renting a bike is a great way to see the area…although not always completely practical with kids! If you’re not up for biking, hire a driver or arrange transportation through your accommodation.
Where To Stay In Ninh Binh (Tam Coc)
There’s a massive variety of places to stay in Ninh Binh & surrounding area. I’d suggest focusing your search near Tam Coc. It’s WAY MORE charming than Ninh Binh, and has some great restaurant options within walking distance. There’s a huge number of well-rated homestay in Tam Coc, all of which include breakfast, and all available for an incredibly reasonable price.
Getting To Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is easily accessible by train or bus from both the North and South.
From Hanoi, the reunification express takes 2-3 hrs with hard and soft seats both available for a reasonable price. From Dong Hoi (South) it’s an 8 hour train ride available both during the day in a seat, over overnight in a sleeper berth. Book ahead online, from the train station, or with your accommodation.
Food is available to purchase onboard, and the toilets are (relatively) clean and Western style!
The bus from Hanoi takes about 3 hours, the same time as the train! Personally, I’d rather travel by train ANY DAY, especially with kids! However, if you want to take the bus, check out 12go.asia for prices and schedule.
You can also visit via an organized day-trip from Hanoi, like these ones below.
This little backpacker paradise ended up front and center on the world stage in 2009 when the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong, was discovered by a British Caving Team. The cave had actually been found in 1991 by a local man, but it didn’t gain international attention until after 2009.
Although it’s fame as home to the world’s largest cave, Phong Nha is still a relatively sleepy town with a lot to offer. There are dozens of smaller caves in the area that can be explored via a day trip, as well as boat rides and bike trips aplenty.
You can easily book your tours with your accommodation, or book this tour to Phong Nha Cave in advance if you don’t want to worry about it while you’re traveling!
Where to Eat in Phong Nha
Easy Tiger Hostel Restaurant
This was one of our favourite places to eat in Phong Nha, mostly because it was so relaxed and easy with the kids. We’d eat in the courtyard and they’d play foosball or run around until dinner was ready. The other great thing about this place is the pool! They offer day-passes to non guests for FREE (incredible!). We enjoyed an afternoon swim and ordered a late lunch out by the pool.
Omar’s Namaste Indian Restaurant
You may think it’s strange to recommend an Indian restaurant in Vietnam, but this place was incredible! My mouth is still watering over the chilli & coriander naan. If you’re looking for a change from Vietnamese food, this place is a must-eat-at in Phong Nha!
Nguyen Shack is a small BBQ joint in the center of Phong Nha. It can be a bit stressful with kids (you cook the food on hot coals right on the table), but it was such a fun meal it’s worth a small bit of stress!
Where To Stay In Phong Nha
There are a lot of low-cost, fantastic options for accommodation in Phong Nha (like the rest of Vietnam!). My favourites are Vu’s Homestay, Lucky Homes and Phong Nha-Tuan Garden House, all of which have pools!
For a high-end option I suggest looking at Victory Road Villas (really the only high end option in town).
Getting To Phong Nha
The main “access point” for Phong Nha is the city of Dong Hoi, along the coast. It’s easily accessed via train, bus and plane. If you don’t want the hassle of getting from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha, you can book a long distance bus directly to Phong Nha.
Once you’ve reached Dong Hoi, you can have your accommodation arrange van pickup, book a private transfer yourself, or just hail a taxi. Don’t pay more than 400,000-500,000vnd ($22-28CAD) for the taxi, you may have to barter hard! If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, or want to save a bit of money, consider catching the local bus. It’s bus B4 (Dong Hoi – Hoan Lao – Phong Nha), and you can catch it from the Nam Ly Bus Station.
Although the Old Town in Hoi An is incredibly tourists (because it’s beautiful), there’s SO much to do in this city. It’s likely the most kid-friendly place in Vietnam.
The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Cars aren’t allowed to drive through to preserve the architecture from the damaging exhaust. There are still a plethora of motorized and non-motorized bikes, however each evening the centre is also closed to bikes and scooters. It’s so nice to wander the streets without worrying your kid’s going to get run over by something (which is a CONSTANT worry in most other cities in Vietnam)!
Visiting Old Town Hoi An
Just wandering the streets of Old Town is an enjoyable activity in itself (especially if you choose to go in the evening when it’s closed to all motorized traffic). You can pop into any of the lantern shops or tailors, or stop for a Vietnamese coffee and enjoy people watching while the kids run wild!
Cost: 120,000 vnd ($7 CAD) per person, kids <16yo free.
Lantern Making Class
This was our kid’s favourite activity in Hoi An, and I don’t blame them! We went to a sweet little family-run stdio and spent a few hours making beautiful lanterns that now hang in the girl’s bedrooms.
We did the full class, but I’d recommend doing the “express class” with kids. Our littles struggled making the bamboo frame and it was a lot of work for the adults! The express class starts with the frame already made, and will be much easier for kids under 10.
You can find the exact tour we did at Hoi An Handicraft Tours.
Vietnamese Cooking Class
The food in Hoi An is exceptional, making it a great place to take a cooking class! There are SO many options to choose from; vegetarian classes, market visits and basket boat rides.
Find the perfect cooking class for your family:
If you’re looking for more things to do in Hoi An, and want to know why I both loved and hated the city, head on over HERE.
Where To Eat In Hoi An
The best food in Hoi An is found on the streets (as with everywhere in Vietnam). There are plenty of incredible Banh Mi stands, noodle soup, Can Lao (a Hoi An specialty), Rose dumplings, and so much more. The central market is a great stop for a food-fix if you want lots of options under one roof!
If you’re looking for a good, sit-down meal, Red Dragon restaurant is a great choice. It’s located half way between Old Town and the beach, so it’s a bit out of the way, but worth it! The food is fresh and delicious, and there’s great variety. It borders on a fancy restaurant, but still kid-friendly and reasonably priced.
Hai Cafe Courtyard BBQ & Restaurant
This place is all about the ambiance. Hai Cafe Courtyard BBQ & Restaurant is located right in Old Town, but the courtyard keeps it quiet and serene (as serene as you can get eating with kids!). The food is tasty, but it is on the more expensive side, especially compared to street food!
This delicious (and cheap) restaurant is a small walk from Old Town but still very easily accessible. Cafe 43 is located just down the street from the Lantern-making class and is a great place to go if you’re looking for a break from Old Town.
Where To Stay In Hoi An
The first decision you have to make is whether you want to stay in Old Town, on the beach, or somewhere in between. If you’re only visiting for a couple days I’d suggest staying in Old Town so you’re closer to the main tourist sites. If you’re staying for longer, stay in the middle so you can be out of the hustle and bustle but still easily access Old Town each day if you want to.
High End: Little Riverside Hoi An Family Suite
How To Get To Hoi An
Plane: The closest airport to Hoi An is Danang, with connections to various points in Vietnam. It’s easy to arrange transportation from Danang to Hoi An with your accommodation, or organize yourself. A private car should cost 300,000 – 400,000vnd ($17-23 CAD) depending on the size of vehicle.
Bus #1 (the yellow bus) travels between Danang and Hoi An three times an hour. It only costs 25,000vnd ($1.50 CAD) but it takes almost an hour and a half. Take a taxi from the Danang airport to the bus stop (the taxi or Grab driver will know) and hop on the next bus.
Grab (Asian Uber) is also an option to get from the Danang airport to Hoi An. You’ll need to download the app, and make sure you have internet connection, then just plug in your destination and call a car!
Train: The closest train station to Hoi An is also Danang. If you’re coming from the South you’ll have to take the Reunification express, withe the option of either a seat or sleeping berth. If you’re coming from the North (Hanoi or Ninh Binh) you can choose to take the Reunification express or a nicer 4-berth in the fancier tourist trains. Search for your best option on the Danang Vietnam Railways site.
Bus: Many of the open bus tickets stop in Hoi An, and are a great way to get around the country. Find the best ticket for you or book individual segments with your accommodation along the way.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC/Saigon)
This is my least favourite city in Vietnam (sorry Saigon!). It’s noisy, busy, full of exhaust, and just too Western for me! However, it’s a great starting point if it’s your first trip to Asia, or your first time in a developing country. There are enough conveniences to make it enjoyable, and enough Vietnamese culture to feel like you’re arrived somewhere new and exciting.
HCMC may be one of the only stroller-friendly cities in Vietnam! The area around Ben Thanh market actually has sidewalks, and the market itself is navigable with a stroller.
Start your day with a steaming bowl of Pho from one of the vendors along the alleyways south of Pham Ngu Lao street. Look for a busy vendor and plop yourself down to eat. Follow our saying, “the worse the chairs the better the food!” to get over the fear of a plastic chair & table on the sidewalk.
It’s also worth strolling past the Independence Palace, and visiting either the War Remnants Museum or the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (I’d pick the War Remnant’s Museum personally). You can get a bird’s eye view of the city from the Saigon Skydeck or just simply enjoy getting lost in the various markets around the city.
Cong Vien 23 thang 9 (September 23) Park
I love finding a good park when traveling with kids, and the one in HCMC is a pretty good one! It’s in the middle of the road, but is completely fenced in so you won’t have to worry about your little one running off.
Cu Chi Tunnels
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that we’ve yet to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. It’s on the “list” and for some reason it keeps evading us. Ideally you’ll wait until the kids are over 5 before visiting, as the dark spaces (and machine guns, war history, etc) may be a bit too much for younger children.
If you have the time, it’s worth spending a night or two in the Mekong Delta. If you don’t have time, consider going on a day trip instead.
Where To Eat In HCMC
Banh Xeo 46A
The one place I send everyone to eat in HCMC is Banh Xeo 46A. Don’t let yourself be dissuaded by the 4star Google rating, those people just don’t appreciate good Banh Xeo! This crispy, slightly oily crepe stuffed with herbs and dipped in fish sauce is one of my favourite dishes in the world, and Banh Xeo 46A makes THE BEST Banh Xeo.
The restaurant is a little out of the way, so I suggest taking a Grab to and from. Also, go early in the evening as it’s not uncommon for there to be a long line-up during peak hours.
Little HaNoi Egg Coffee (Góc Hà Nội)
This cute little restaurant is located down a tiny alley near the edge of the backpacker district. If you haven’t had egg coffee before, you should prepare yourself for it! It’s quite rich and creamy, but very delicious. We ordered sandwiches from here to take away, and they were just okay. Really, you’re coming for the coffee!
The best part about Little Hanoi Egg Coffee is the fresh baked cookies, perfect for the kiddos while you enjoy your coffee.
In my opinion, the BEST thing to eat in HCMC is street food. There’s a huge variety of Pho soup, Banh Xeo, Banh Mi, grilled skewers and so much more. The little alleyways south of the park are a safe bet for great food that’s fresh. Look for a busy stall, pull up a stool, and enjoy a delicious, cheap meal.
Where To Stay In HCMC
If you’re visiting HCMC with kids (which I assume you are if you’re reading this post!), the best place to stay is along the alleyways in the backpacker district between Pham Ngu Lao (street) and Bui Vien (street).
How To Get To HCMC
You’ll likely either arrive into Vietnam at the HCMC airport, or leave from here. The easiest way to get to and from the airport is to use Grab. It’s cheaper than a taxi, eliminates the need to explain where you’re going (the map & address does it for you) and you don’t have to haggle over the price or feel like you’re getting ripped off.
How Much Does It Costs To Visit Vietnam With Kids
Vietnam can be an incredibly affordable country to travel in, but there truly is something for every price point (and level of comfort). It’s relatively easy to travel for $50/person/day (or even much less), or you can spend as much as your heart desires!
Accommodation – For $50Cad/night you can get a reasonable 4-person family room, with beds for everyone and breakfast included. If you have a larger family the cost will increase a tiny bit. I recommend bringing a blow-up mattress or hammock so you have somewhere to put kid #3 (or more if you have more!)
Food – Street food is CHEAP! A family of 4 can easily have a meal for $10CAD at one of the road side street food stalls. Our most expensive meal was Cinnamon Restaurant in Hanoi, at around $80CAD for our family. And then there’s everything in between. Trip Advisor and Google are both great places to look for reviews when choosing a restaurant.
Activities – One of the most enjoyable things to do in Vietnam is to just wander the streets, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this incredibly vibrant country. For the cost of a tip you can join free walking tours in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, or consider swapping English practice for a walking tour with HanoiKids Free Tours.
Sample costs of other activities in Vietnam for a family of 4:
- 2 night/3 day Halong Bay Tour with Indochina Junk ~ $1000 USD.
- Cyclo ride around Hanoi’s Old Quarter 250,000 VND ($14 CAD)
- Boat Trip at Trang An Grottoes 600,000VND ($35 CAD)
- Phong Nha Cave Day Trip $150USD
- 1/2 Day bike tour in Phong Nha $30 USD
- Lantern Making class in Hoi An $40 USD
- Hoi An Cooking Class and Round Boat tour 1,035,000 VND ($60 CAD)
Transportation – Within cities Grab is the cheapest way to travel, make sure you download the Grab app before you go and input a credit card. You need wifi, but SIM cards can be easily purchased at airport arrivals or almost anywhere on the street.
Between cities, the train and bus are both economical options. I would choose depending on departure time as well as overall travel time. We found it reasonably easy (and the cheapest) to book at the train station or bus station whenever possible, but for a few extra dollars your accommodation can book for you. This is well worth the price if you’re not going to be at the station ahead of time (because you should book in advance whenever possible).
Make sure you check out my other comprehensive guides on visiting Vietnam. The Vietnam Itinerary and Travel Guide includes some of the same things in this post but is a bit more broad (and less kid-specific), and the Best Things To Do In Vietnam (By City) expands on many of the cities here and includes the rest of the main cities to visit in Vietnam.