What to Pack for Vietnam: A Packing List for Teachers and Travelers
No matter if you’re a teacher preparing for a contract or a traveler prepping for a trip, deciding what to pack for Vietnam can be a daunting task. Because I fall into the second bucket as I have only traveled in Vietnam, I reached out to one of my friends who has spent a few years teaching there to get his opinion on some things he wished he brought.
Similar to most of my packing stories, he recounted how he overpacked for his first stint in Vietnam and was surprised at how much he could actually get there, though there were some select items he always recommends people bring – this is that list.
Want more info on teaching in Vietnam? We wrote an entire guide that covers everything you need to know including what you need to apply and how much you can make.
New country, new germs, right? So many things you cannot see and you don’t want to get sick from everyday germs that you can prevent with a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Purell offers a convenient, wonderfully-fragranced jelly wrap bottle that you can simply hang on your bag for easy access whenever you need it – if you’re going to be working with kids, eating street food, using public transportation or leaving your apartment at all – I highly recommend it!
Your first few days in Vietnam will be spent exploring new paths and trying not to get lost. Get yourself a quality outdoor backpack that will carry all your essentials like laptops, change of clothes and all your valuables without you worried about damage or anything. Daypacks also make for great emergency pillows in a pinch!
New food alert! The food in Vietnam is incredible and while you aim to satisfy your inner foodie, don’t forget that your system will take a while to adjust to its new surroundings and culinary specials. Imodium helps give you instant relief from diarrhea, gas, bloating and other uncomfortable effects of too much Pho before noon. You’re going to need as many as you can get.
While abundant, bus and train travel in Vietnam is not the most comfortable experience and I’ve found regular “horseshoe” pillows pretty lacking. Tempur-Neck pillows are designed to provide comfort for your neck and lumbar and have been a lifesaver on everything from the flight over to a poorly chosen hostel bed. These babies fit right into your backpack conveniently and help you have a better sleep posture when in transit. You also don’t have to worry about them getting dirty as the soft cover can be removed and washed as required.
Universal Travel Adaptor
Bringing an adapter to Vietnam is pretty much common sense (Vietnam uses 220v for anyone that’s curious) and this adapter prepares you for every possible type of sockets you will meet in your travels. One big feature of the Ceptics adapter kit is its surge protection reduces the risk of your devices getting affected by bad voltage and it has 2 plugs vs the usual 1.
The sun in Vietnam can be oppressive and if you don’t come prepared you’re going to have a bad time. Our top pick is the Columbia Bora Bora Booney Sun Hat that offers a convenient sweatband and chin strap for easy adjustment. Even if it rains, its Quick-Dry technology means it will be dry in no time.
Sometimes you need more than a hat for sun protection. CeraVe Sunscreen stick fits into your pocket or bag and provides sun protection from all the rays that can give you skin issues. It’s light, oil-free and lasts for almost 2 hours before you need to re-apply. I usually travel with one or two of these in different bags because they are small enough to not notice and won’t spill because it’s a stick and not a cream.
Columbia Men’s Watertight Jacket is the one item you will be glad you packed when torrential rainfalls begin in Vietnam and you are not in the comfort of your room. The front zip and drawstring hood will keep your clothes dry and the 100% Nylon shell will deflect the rain better than most similar products.
A nice convertible pant allows you to cover your legs when you need to and zip them off to form cargo pants when the weather requires. If you’re worried about looking like a dork – don’t be – the flexibility and compactness of these pants outweigh the potential embarrassment and I usually bring at least one pair on most trips.
You can travel stylishly and not have to worry about sun protection. The color-blocked sleeves help keep you comfortable and airy all-day long. Because it is made of a combination of really soft and durable materials, your skin will be dry all day and your movement won’t be limited. It is also available in most common sizes. Bonus points for teachers who need a dress with sleeves that doesn’t make you sweat excessively!
Lonely Planet Vietnam
Traveling with a Lonely Planet is a divisive topic – you either love it or hate it. I’m in the former category definitely recommend you include it when packing for Vietnam – yes you can use your phone to plan, but there is just something about using a tangible book to plan and organize! If you’re really adventurous, pick up a used copy to see where other people have been, their notes, etc!
One of the coolest reasons why sandals are perfect for your Vietnam is the comfort level. The Chaco Sport Sandals will withstand the most gruesome of treks and protect your sole from wear. I’ve done everything from hiking to trekking to river crossing in my Chacos and never looked back, there is not a better sandal out there in my opinion!
World Nomads Travel Insurance
Vietnam is full of adventure and it’s always a good idea to have some emergency travel insurance for peace of mind. World Nomads is arguably the leader in this category and most plans can be had for next to nothing. Why not?
Bugs are abundant in Vietnam and while bug spray is common, these wristbands aren’t. If you’re like me and don’t like smelling like deet all day then these are the answer, get some before your trip and prevent yourself from being a freshly baked snack for mosquitos. The Citronella wristband is non-toxic and repels mosquitos and most bugs easily. It comes in all the colors of the rainbow so you have an accessory that is both stylish and useful in keeping mosquitoes away from you.
Maybe the best thing you can bring to Vietnam is a SIM card – it will allow you to be connected without needing to search for a store when you arrive and this Vietnam SIM card has one of the best local rates available in Vietnam. The SIM Card is already activated so you don’t need to waste time looking for a phone shop when you arrive Vietnam.
I know, I know – it seems like overkill, but depending on where you stay this net could make big difference and it’s an easy item to toss in when packing for Vietnam. The Coghlan’s Mosquito Net comes with 6 metal ties at each corner and sides to help you anchor it firmly into the ground or tree posts as needed.
Anker Portable Charger
Remember how my friend recommended some items for this list? This was the first one and if you’ve seen any of our other packing guides you will know that I agree – not having to worry about power when your traveling in Vietnam is a huge plus. I’ve used these power banks to stay charged on trains, busses, and mototaxis.
Some Final Thoughts on Packing for Vietnam
Vietnam is an incredible country and no matter if you’re visiting or moving there you will certainly find it enjoyable. Everything from the people to cuisine is memorable and while it’s always a good idea to plan ahead when it deciding what to bring with you to Vietnam, don’t let it overshadow the planning you do for your traves and sightseeing.
Learn from my mistakes and when in doubt pack less! Safe travels!