Where to stay in Vietnam for the first time?

Vietnam is one of my favorite countries in SouthEast Asia. I have traveled to many cities in Vietnam and loved them all. In today’s article, I will help you to find the best places to stay in Vietnam for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best areas to stay in Vietnam for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map. I’ll also recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

Vietnam is a popular tourist destination known for its natural beauty, historic sites, and vibrant cities. Ha Long Bay, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, and the Mekong Delta are among the top attractions.

Visiting Vietnam for the first time can be an exciting experience. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your first trip to Vietnam:

Depending on your nationality, you might need a visa to enter Vietnam, so Make sure to obtain the necessary visa before your trip.

Vietnam has a tropical climate, so be prepared for hot and humid weather, especially in the summer. The north can get cool during the winter months.

The official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Credit cards are widely accepted in major cities, but I recommend carrying some cash for smaller shops and restaurants.

Public transportation, taxis and ride-sharing services like Grab (similar to Uber) are common in cities. I love using Grab, which is a cheap and convenient way to get around. Be sure to use the official app to request a ride. The traffic can be hectic, so be cautious, especially in busy cities like Hanoi and Saigon.

Vietnamese cuisine is delicious and diverse. Don’t miss trying pho (noodle soup), banh mi (baguette sandwiches), and various regional specialties. Be adventurous with street food, but make sure it’s from reputable stalls to avoid foodborne illnesses.

Vietnam is known for its markets. Bargaining is common in markets, but it’s done with a smile and politeness. Be prepared to haggle for a better price. You even need to bargain for Motorbike taxis (xe om), so to avoid this, I recommend using Grab.

It also recommended to get a local SIM card for your phone to have easy access to data and communication. Vietel is the most popular company to go to. Wi-Fi is also widely available in hotels, restaurants, and cafes.

Where to stay in Vietnam for the first time?

The best places to stay in Vietnam for first-timers and tourists are Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Halong Bay, Sapa, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc. Many visitors first arrive at international airports in Hanoi and HCMC then find their way to explore the whole country.

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and is known for its historical charm, bustling street markets, and vibrant street life. It is the transport hub of northern Vietnam, home to an international airport and a major train station. From here, you can easily take trips to Halong Bay, Sapa, Ninh Binh, and Ha Giang.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the largest city in Vietnam. It is a bustling metropolis with a modern vibe, offering a mix of historic landmarks, lively markets, and a vibrant nightlife. HCMC is home to an international airport, and a great base to explore southern Vietnam and the Mekong delta.

In Central Vietnam, you can stay in either Hoi An or Da Nang and will be able to take day trips to another. Both of them offer beautiful beaches and delicious cuisines. Hoi An has a UNESCO World Heritage site Old town with charming architecture, traditional wooden houses, and vibrant lantern-lit streets. 

Below is a map of the popular areas in Vietnam for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the best areas to stay in Vietnam first time
Map of the best areas to stay in Vietnam first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Vietnam, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Vietnam have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

8 Best places to stay in Vietnam for first-timers and tourists:

1. Hanoi

Hanoi is one of the most popular places to stay in Vietnam for first-time tourists. It has an international airport, many visitors first arrive here, then make the trips to other parts of northern Vietnam. 

Hanoi is the capital and the second-largest city of Vietnam and serves as the political, economic, and cultural center of the country. 

The city has a rich history that spans over a thousand years. It has served as the capital of Vietnam for much of its history, including during the French colonial period and the Vietnam War.

The city is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, ancient temples, and vibrant street markets. The Old Quarter, with its narrow streets and traditional architecture, is a popular area for tourists to explore.

Hanoi is home to several significant landmarks, including the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, and Hoan Kiem Lake with the iconic Turtle Tower.

The city is renowned for its diverse and delicious street food. Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, is one of the most famous dishes that originated in Hanoi. The city’s culinary scene reflects a mix of French, Chinese, and Southeast Asian influences.

Hanoi features several lakes and parks where locals and tourists alike can relax. Hoan Kiem Lake, in the heart of the city, is a popular spot for walking, jogging, and enjoying the scenery.

Being the capital, Hanoi is home to important government buildings, including the Presidential Palace and the National Assembly.

There are many areas to stay in Hanoi, including the Old Quarter, Tay Ho, Ba Dinh, and Truc Bach; but the best area for first-timers to book hotels are in the Old Quarter/Hoan Kiem district. This is because it is the heart of the city and the most central location to explore the city.

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Hanoi for first-timers:


2. Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is one of the best places to stay in Vietnam for the first time. Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and is home to an international Airport, serving as a major gateway to the country.

Many visitors use HCM as a base to explore southern Vietnam. From here they can take day trips to Cu Chi tunnels, and the cities on the Mekong Delta.

Located in southern Vietnam, the city has a rich history and played a significant role in various historical events, particularly during the Vietnam-American War.

After the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1975, the city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary leader who played a key role in the country’s fight for independence from French colonial rule.

The city has numerous museums, theaters, and art galleries. The War Remnants Museum and the Museum of Vietnamese History are among the notable institutions. The city is also known for its lively street markets, delicious street food, and a mix of traditional and modern architecture.

Some prominent landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City include the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, the Central Post Office, the Reunification Palace, and Ben Thanh Market. The Bitexco Financial Tower, with its distinctive helipad-shaped design, is one of the modern additions to the city’s skyline.

There are many districts to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for visitors, including District 1, District 3, District 5 Chinatown, and District 2 Thao Dien; But the best area for first-timers is in District 1 and District 3, where you can find the highest range of accommodations for all budgets.

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City for first-timers:


3. Halong Bay

Halong Bay is one of the most popular places to explore in Vietnam for tourists, especially first-timers. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the northeastern part of Vietnam, 5 hours by bus ride from the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi. 

It is known for its stunning natural beauty, with thousands of islets and limestone karsts rising significantly from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. 

The karst landscape of Halong Bay is dotted with caves, grottoes, and floating fishing villages, creating a picturesque and unique seascape. The bay covers an area of around 1,553 square kilometers, and its beauty has made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.

Visitors to Halong Bay often take boat cruises to explore the bay and its various attractions. Some of the notable features include Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave), Dau Go Cave, and Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave). The bay is also home to a diverse range of marine life and ecosystems.

While many visitors take day trips, I recommend taking the Halong Overnight Cruise, which is The best way to explore the Bay. The typical cruises are 2 Days 1 Night and 3 Days 2 Nights packages; the 2 nights packet allows you time to explore the beautiful Cat Ba island.

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Halong Bay for tourists:


For more information about Ha Long, you can check this article: Best places to stay in Halong Bay.

4. Sapa

Sapa is a popular tourist destination in the Lào Cai Province in the northern part of Vietnam. It is known for its stunning landscapes, vibrant local cultures, and trekking opportunities. The town is situated in the Hoàng Liên Son mountain range, near the border with China.

Sapa is renowned for its beautiful terraced rice fields, which cascade down the hillsides. The terraces create a stunning visual effect, especially during the planting and harvesting seasons.

Sapa is home to Fansipan Mountain, aka Roof of Indochina, the highest peak in Vietnam. Climbing Fansipan is a challenging but rewarding trek, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.

Sapa has several ethnic minority groups, including the Hmong, Dao, and Tay. Visitors often have the opportunity to interact with these communities, learn about their unique cultures, and purchase traditional handicrafts.

Other places of interest in Sapa include Love Waterfall, Ham Rong Mountain, and Sapa Market. The town’s market is a bustling hub where locals from different ethnic groups come to trade goods. It’s a great place to experience the local culture and purchase traditional handicrafts.

The climate in Sapa is characterized by cool temperatures, especially in the winter months, making it a refreshing escape from the heat of the lowlands. Visitors often engage in trekking and hiking activities to explore the scenic landscapes and cultural richness of the region.

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Sapa:


5. Da Nang/ Hoi An

Da Nang and Hoi An are major tourist destinations in central Vietnam, located 40 km apart. They are well-served by Da Nang International Airport, located within a short Grab/taxi ride from the city center.

Da Nang is home to My Khe Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Vietnam, known for its long stretch of white sand and clear blue waters. It is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.

Places of interest in Da nang include Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh Son), Dragon Bridge, Han River Bridge, Son Tra Peninsula (Monkey Mountain), Museum of Cham Sculpture, and Ba Na Hills.

Ba Na Hills is a mountain resort with a cable car that holds the Guinness World Record for the longest non-stop single track cable car. It features the Golden Bridge, a visually stunning structure held up by giant stone hands.

Hoi An is the location of the well-preserved Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town is characterized by narrow winding streets, ancient buildings, and a mix of architectural styles influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and European cultures.

The town is known for its lively festivals, including the famous Full Moon Lantern Festival. During this event, the Ancient Town is adorned with colorful lanterns, and visitors can participate in traditional activities and enjoy cultural performances.

Hoi An is renowned for its tailor shops, offering custom-made clothing at reasonable prices. You can choose fabrics and have clothing items tailored to their preferences.

Hoi An is situated along the Thu Bon River, and its riverside area is a picturesque place to stroll, relax, and enjoy the views. Many restaurants and cafes line the riverbanks, offering a peaceful ambiance.

If you stay in Danang, I recommend booking your accommodation along the Han River in the city center, or along My Khe Beach. In Hoi An, the best places for first-time visitors to stay is in and around the Ancient town. 

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Da Nang/ Hoi An:


You can continue reading about Hoi An and Da Nang in these articles:

6. Nha Trang

Nha Trang is a  popular beach destination in Khanh Hoa Province. It is known for its beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, vibrant nightlife, and cultural attractions like Po Nagar Cham Towers, Long Son Pagoda, and the Nha Trang Cathedral.

Nha Trang is surrounded by picturesque islands that are easily accessible by boat. Hon Mun, Hon Tam, and Hon Tre are among the popular ones, offering opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and relaxation.

Vinpearl Land amusement park and resort complex is located on Hon Tre Island and is accessible by a scenic cable car ride. Vinpearl Land features a water park, aquarium, and various entertainment attractions.

Some of the best areas to stay in Nha Trang include Tran Phu Beach, the City Center, and Hon Chong Beach. Tran Phu Beach is the best location for first-timers to book a hotel and explore the city.

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Nha Trang:


7. Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its scenic landscapes, cultural experiences, and unique way of life. Tourists often take boat trips to explore the waterways, visit floating markets, and experience the local customs and cuisine.

The Mekong Delta is often referred to as the “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam due to its significant contribution to the country’s rice production. Besides rice, the delta also cultivates other crops such as fruits, vegetables, and aquaculture products.

The delta is known for its vibrant floating markets, where boats and sampans gather to sell and exchange goods. Cai Rang Floating Market in Can Tho is one of the most famous floating markets in the region.

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Mekong Delta:


8. Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc is the largest island and a popular tourist destination in Vietnam, located in Kien Giang Province, in the southwestern part of the country.  

Phu Quoc’s pristine beaches, clear waters, and lush landscapes attract visitors seeking a tropical getaway. Popular beaches on the island include Long Beach, Bai Sao Beach, and Ong Lang Beach.

Phu Quoc National Park, covering a significant portion of the island, is known for its tropical forests, wildlife, and hiking trails. It provides opportunities for nature enthusiasts and eco-tourists.

Phu Quoc is famous for its production of fish sauce, a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. The island is home to numerous fish sauce factories, and visitors can learn about the traditional methods of producing this condiment.

Phu Quoc International Airport facilitates easy access to the island with direct flights from major cities in Vietnam and some international destinations.

The Dinh Cau Night Market in Duong Dong town is a popular spot for tourists. It offers a variety of local seafood, souvenirs, and a vibrant atmosphere in the evenings.

Some of the best places to stay in Phu Quoc include Duong Dong Town, Bai Dai Beach, Bai Truong Beach, and Ong Lang Beach.

Best places to stay in Vietnam in Phu Quoc Island:


In conclusion, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Halong Bay, Sapa, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mekong Delta, and Phu Quoc are the best areas to stay in Vietnam for first-timers and tourists

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest cities that you can stay during your first trip to Vietnam. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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