Vietnam is one of the most thrilling destinations to visit in Southeast Asia (and perhaps the world). There’s a bit of everything for everybody here: picturesque beaches, metropole cities, charming villages, national parks, and lots of beautiful places to hike or trek. Northern Vietnam is especially great for hiking, but you could do it almost everywhere in Vietnam. If you love mountains, hillsides dotted with tiny villages and green rice terraces stretching as far as the eye can see, you should definitely hike in the north! If you’re doing the Ha Giang loop, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to go hiking.
But before you start heading out, there’s a few things that you should think of. Check out this list and start preparing yourself for an unforgettable hiking trip in Vietnam.
Bring lots of water
The first thing that you should think of is bring water. Not just a little, but lots of it. If you’re hiking in summer, you’ll be sweating extra too because of the hot weather. So depending on how long of a hike you’re going to do, make sure to bring at least a few litres. If you know that you’ll be hiking where there’s streams, bring water filtration too so you can fill up your water bottle wherever you go.
The other thing you should do is to bring snacks. Don’t overdo it though so you have to carry some extra weight for nothing. When you hike, every extra weight counts, so pack only the essential snack you think you’ll need. Snickers is always a good idea, by the way.
Tell people where you’re going
Even if you’re going hiking with a group of people, make sure that someone from home knows where you’re going and for how long you’ll be away.
Don’t underestimate good hiking shoes
I’ve seen people who’ve hiked in sneakers. Some were okay, some had serious trouble with it. The thing is, if you know you’re going to hike a lot, why not get good gear? Good footwear is especially crucial for the longer treks or hikes you’re going to do. Buy a pair of waterproof shoes, get some thick, absorbent socks for the shoes and bring along lots of blister bandaids.
Hiking is about mental endurance
You might not be in the best physical shape, but hiking is a lot about mental endurance rather than the shape you’re in. When things get tough, don’t think “I can’t do it”, keep pushing yourself and believe in yourself. Hiking isn’t supposed to be a walk in the park – it’s a lot about challenging yourself, your body and your mental endurance. And once you’ve reached your goal, you’ll be so thankful that you never gave up.
Protect your face and head
Don’t underestimate the sun – wear a hat when you hike, put a lot of sunscreen on and bring layers! Even if it’s hot, it’s better to cover your arms and legs so you won’t get sunburnt. It’s also good to bring a rain jacket and cover for your bag if it starts to rain. When you’re in the mountains, the weather can be very unpredictable, so make sure that you come prepared for all kinds of weather. One of the worst things is to get completely soaked and then have no extra clothes to change to.
The earlier you start, the better
Even if you’re not a morning person, it’s always better to start hiking early in the morning rather than later. The weather tends to be more favorable in the mornings and it won’t be so hot either. Vietnam gets really hot in the summer and it’s not fun to hike when it’s scorching hot outside.
Reward yourself afterwards
Why not go for a nice massage after the hike? There’s so many massage parlours in Vietnam and they’re usually quite cheap as well, so you should definitely reward yourself after that strenuous hike. It’s also a good motivator for when you’re hiking.
Before you travel to Vietnam, make sure that you apply for a Vietnam visa. Most nationalities are required to get a visa in order to enter the country. There are three types of visas you can apply for: Visa on Arrival, E-Visa or go to a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate and apply with them. The best, and most favorable type of visas, are the online visas. This is partly because you can apply for it from wherever you are in the world, safely from the comfort of your home and get it within just a few business days. Most people get the Visa on Arrival because the E-Visa is only granted to certain nationalities. If you have, by any chance, forgotten to apply for a visa, you can get a so called ‘Emergency Visa’ that takes around 48 hours to get.