Generally traveling as a family can seem a bit daunting as normally it costs more, you may be worried that the kids will be bored, and there is a lot more organization and preparation involved. All your worries will be invalidated when you plan a family trip to Vietnam. This incredibly family friendly country will have you and the kids so busy, you will want to even extend your trip. There are caves, animals, incredible food, beautiful temples, cooking classes, theme parks and gorgeous natural islands. From the north in Sapa, all the way down to the South in Ho Chi Minh City, there is something for everyone in the family to continuously enjoy.
Modes of Transportation
There are many economical and easy ways to get around in Vietnam for a family. The different modes of transportation are national flights, trains or buses in cities there are rickshaws and taxis. Flights are going to be the most expensive out of all the options, but if you need to cut down on some time they can still be an economical option.
The train system can be more comfortable compared to taking busses. They have options of air conditioning in the cabins, and some have wifi as well. There are also express trains and standard trains. Go to the Vietnam Railways (www.vr.com.vn), website for more information. There are also 2 types of sleeper trains, hard and soft. The hard have 6 beds per compartment with the upper berth being the cheapest and lower being more expensive. The soft sleeper has 4 beds per compartment and all the bunks are the same price. Linen is provided, but bringing a sleeping bag liner or a pillow case is a great idea for santiations. One last thing to know is that children under two are free, and those between two and nine only pay 50% of the adult fare.
Overnight buses in Vietnam are reliable, comfortable and also a cheaper option for families. There are 3 main transportation routes in both directions, Hanoi to/from Sapa which takes 12 hours, Hanoi to/from Hue which will be 13 hours and Hoi An to/from Nha Trang ends up being 11 hours. Be sure to buy a silk sleeping sheet found in many towns or Amazon before the trip. These are sleeper buses so you will have a bunk which are set up in rows, top and bottom birth. The overnight busses are substantially cheaper, but there can be a few things that would make a family want to take the train instead. The first is the bathroom situation, which means you are not guaranteed to have a bathroom on board. Confirm this when booking your tickets. The roads can also be a bit windy, so it is recommended to try and sleep immediately. You will also be saving money on accommodation for the night as you will be arriving in the morning, but if this kind of adventure doesn’t sound like fun with children, then definitely only choose this option if your kids are a bit older.
For inner city travel there are the options of taxis, cyclo(bicycle rickshaw), Xe Om (motorbike taxis), and uber. Taxis are relatively cheap, but always check the meter or try to have a set price. Motorbike taxis aren’t going to be the best option for an entire family, but a cyclo can be fun for the whole family to enjoy. They are not as fast as a taxi or uber, but still nice to take a local mode of transportation. Uber is the easiest and most reliable option to use in major cities throughout Vietnam.
The best place to start and spend most of your time as a family with children, would be the South of Vietnam. This is a great place to experience family fun while adapting to the culture.
Starting in Ho Chi Minh City previously known as Saigon, you will find many family friendly options. There are two amusement parks, Dam Sen and Suoi Tien. Suoi Tien even has a waterpark! The Cu Chi Tunnels are also a nice historical activity that is great for children to learn about the war. The Cu Chi tunnels are underground passageways that the Viet Cong used to avoid American troops during the war. Some are very small and only children can fit through. Independence palace is also great for children to see some of the helicopters and tanks that were used during the war. Combine these two activities for a great day of historical fun with the family.
Every family has at least one picky eater, so a recommendation is to take a food tour when you first arrive in Ho Chi Minh City. This way you can try different typical dishes, decide what things your family likes, and dislikes so you can steer towards or away from these things during the rest of your trip. Another option is taking a cooking class together. This can be a great way to learn about the local ingredients in the market as well. Regarding food and entertainment, the Ben Thanh Market at night can be a nice way to end an evening and get out some energy. Starting around 7pm, there are food stalls, restaurants, fresh juice, ice cream and also shops. This is definitely a great way to have any person in your family find something they want to eat while having a nice family evening.
If you wander a bit more south there is the Mekong Delta, with boardings cities Ben Tre and Can Tho. If your family consists of 2 children and 2 adults, or even 2 younger children, one teenager and 1/2 adults, then renting scooters here will be a great option. Renting bicycles are also an option. Travel along the river and find local life in action such as vegetable/fruit sellers, fisherman and more. Try to find a coconut candy store or brick factory for an educational lesson, but definitely take a boat ride on the Mekong. If you are unable to get as far south as Can Tho, Ben Tre will be great as well, but it is known that the further away you get from Ho Chi Minh City, the more authentic your boat experience will be if this is important to you.
Dalat and Nha Trang are two of the last areas in the South that are interesting for family traveling in Vietnam. In Dalat you will find waterfalls and water-filled caves. Try to avoid these saves during October and this is monsoon season and they is often flooding which makes it impossible to visit. Nha Trang on the other hand is a beautiful coastal resort city. If you are interested in having a bit of time at the beach, or simply a few days in a resort, then Nha Trang is definitely the place for you and your family. On the other hand, if you are an active family who likes the outdoors, Dalat might be exciting and interesting.
Vietnam has a few incredible cities in the central region that are great to travel as a family. These cities are Hoi An, Da Nang and Hue. There are many different activities depending on what style of family and travel you prefer to do. In Hoi An, you will encounter a gorgeous city that is accessible on a bicycle. There is also a beautiful beach and a lot of shopping. One of the highlights of Hoi An are the tailor shops. You can get everything made specifically for you from the most popular option of suits, to jumpsuits, rompers, dresses, shorts, tops, hats, anything you can think of! There is an extremely well preserved ancient town that is cut through canals. A must see for the kids is a Japanese covered bridge with its pagoda still in place.
Either your next stop when traveling south to north can be Da Nang, or Hue. Da Nang has beaches and is surrounded by beautiful hillsides such as the Marble Mountains. The Marble Mountains are great for a family interested in quiet and spirituality. They are 5 limestone outcrops, topped with pagodas and hide caves containing Buddhist shrines. If this doesn’t seem like something your family would be interested in, then it’s best to go straight to Hue from Hoi An.
Hue is known as a place of wonderful food, inviting locals, and a lot of history. The weather will be hot and humid, so make sure to have the kids prepared for this beforehand. An incredibly fun activity is to visit the tombs that lie on the Perfume River. Hire a boat with the family, and go up the river to the tombs. There are beautiful examples of ancient culture and some have incredible stories behind them as well.
Getting from Hue to Hoi An can be done in a few ways, but one fun way to go with the family can be by motorbike. You would need to hire one motorcyclist per family member. It is easy to hire this through a Vietnam travel guide.This allows everyone to take in the scenery and enjoy the ride. This road goes over mountains and down the coast. You can make stops for coffee, snacks and food. If you are not such an adventurous family, then think about taking a car, the train or bus instead.
Whether it is visiting tea plantations and hill tribes in Sa Pa, exploring Hanoi, or the beautiful Ha Long Bay, the Northern region of Vietnam is filled with things to occupy your family's time.
In Hanoi is the largest city in the North and there are a few exciting things to experience for your family. Water puppet shows are best seen in Hanoi, and these performances originated in the 11th century. It can be very fun for children and adults of all ages. Be sure to take it light hearted and enjoy the show. Additionally in Hanoi there is a great museum called the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. It has a lot of hands-on exhibits and life sized houses to climb in and out of, and i also a place that children can run free away from the busy streets.
Sapa is a picturesque northwest territory that may or may not be a good plan for your family. One reason that it may be tough for families is because of how far is it from Hanoi which is 8 hours. Although it is great for those who enjoy hiking and cultural experience with tribes, it may not be the best option for you family if you have young children or children with disabilities so take this into consideration and make the best choice for you and your family.
Finally Ha Long Bay is an almost perfect family destination to finish off your trip in the North. Traveling from Hanoi to Halong Bay can take 2 hours and is recommended to bring water and snacks for the bus ride. Depending on your time and budget you can hire a boat for a few hours or even a few days. There are also options to go kayaking through the limestone islands and even to stay on one of them. Make sure to bring motion sickness medicine if anyone in your family gets sick on boats. The entire family will have a lot of fun in a beautiful natural paradise.
Many people think that a trip through Vietnam with a family can be daunting or difficult but it really should be the opposite. Whether you decide to start your trip in the calm and relaxing North, or start in the South by visiting the famous Saigon, it will be exciting, fun, educational and the trip of a lifetime. With these tips there should much less of a chance for any issues, just remember to stay vigilant and try to relax, you family will thank you and talk about it for years to come.