10 Local Things to Do in Vietnam

By: City Pass Guide

There are many things to do in Vietnam, but the country has such a well established backpacker trail that a real immersion into the local culture can seem impossible. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the famously cheap beers, tourist tours and gaudy souvenirs. But if, like us, you’re a lover of all things authentic, the question still remains - what are some local things to do in Vietnam?

If you have ever visited Vietnam, you will know that the Vietnamese population still relies very much on traditional processes as they go about their daily life. Even in the country’s metropolitan hub Ho Chi Minh City, with its transnational chains and fusion of Western and Vietnamese lifestyle, many locals still cook traditional Vietnamese food, wear traditional dress, use traditional tools and run businesses which date back tens of generations. Vietnam is well known for its rich and still thriving culture, and its past is very much a part of its present. There’s just so much to see!

In light of this, we’ve compiled a list of 10 local things to do in Vietnam that will get you off the beaten track and immersed in the country’s unique past and present. There’s nothing touristy about this list of must-sees...

Meet local people with amazing life stories 

Explore the countryside and experience the thrill of getting lost amongst the rice paddies. You never know what you might find. In the outskirts of Hoi An, you have the opportunity to stumble upon an astonishing 300 meter handmade bamboo bridge, with its builder sitting by peacefully, smoking a cigarette, and waiting to collect a small toll of 10,000 VND. Local people in the countryside are friendlier than you may think, so feel free to say “Xin Chao” and shake the hands of people like this bridge builder, Thanh. He repairs this bridge every year by hand so that local people can have a safe way to cross the river.

The bamboo bridge built by the bridge builder, Thanh.

Learn how to cook rice crackers

One of the top things to do in Vietnam is eat. But why not try cooking the food you eat yourself? Vietnamese rice crackers are a popular snack throughout the country. They are made with rice flour, chili, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. First, the batter is steamed and then laid in the sun to dry. The final step in the cooking process is lightly toasting the crackers over an open fire. Banh Dap is a popular dish made with rice crackers and rice noodles. To eat Banh Dap, you smash the center of a large cracker to turn it into bite-sized pieces, and then dip those pieces into classic Vietnamese fish sauce. To experience this firsthand, check out Vespa Adventures’ countryside process behind that piece of culture. Vietnam Vespa Adventures provides the chance to get tours in Hoi An

Rice crackers drying on the racks.

Weave your own Vietnamese sleeping mat

Vietnam is known not only for its healthy and deliciously fresh cuisine, but also for its handicrafts. Hand-made goods are a significant aspect of traditional life here, and are still used today especially among the rural community. Many people visit Vietnam every year to purchase a piece of the country’s creativity for themselves, but what if you could be a part of the design and creation involved. Learn how to weave Vietnamese cloth and rush mats, understand the process and ask as many questions as you like while working with the smiling local women who have been weaving these mats for generations.

A tourist helping the locals weave a mat

Sleep on a traditional rush mat

A typical bed in Vietnam isn’t a plush mattress like many people may imagine when wishing for a nap or a good night’s sleep. Here, a bed is usually a thin sleeping mat made of dried reeds. These reeds are dried in the sun and dyed with vibrant colors that are weaved into intricate patterns. If you want to experience the real local way of living, try sleeping on a rush mat for a night. It’s pretty hard to find a hotel with these traditional mats, but you can always grab one at the market for a few dollars and try it out. Alternatively, using your mat to dine picnic-style is a great local experience for those who’d like to keep their cushiony mattress.

A tourist laying down a a traditional rush mat

Tailor a traditional dress: A unique thing to do in Vietnam

Ao Dai is the traditional Vietnamese dress that you will often see women wearing to work or to formal events. With tailoring prices being surprisingly low, we suggest getting one of these iconic dresses made. Pick a fabric, typically silk, with a traditional design for a fun and unique outfit. If you don’t know what kind of design you want, swing by the Women’s Museum in Ho Chi Minh City to see some beautiful displays of Ao Dai’s and more. Buy your fabric in the local market, but make sure you bargain! Some tailors offer their own range of materials.

A woman measuring up silk for a tailored ao dai.

Photo by Tommy Japan

Learn how to build a fishing boat

Seafood is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, being both fresh and widely available throughout this skinny country. Hundreds of local families are employed, either privately or commercially, to supply local Vietnamese markets, restaurants and households with the best of the country’s seafood. And what if, aside from filling your stomach, you could understand the process behind that whiskery piece of catfish on your plate? Vietnam Vespa Adventures provide the chance to visit a local fishing village and watch as the men build and repair their fishing boats using unbelievable traditional methods, bring in their catch or head out in the early morning for a day of salty sea-spray and Southeast Asian sun.

Fishing village, vietnam, boat

Photo by Andrea Schaffer

Harvest rice the traditional way in Mai Chau

Mai Chau is a spot that’s not to be missed. The iconic scenery makes this a perfect place to travel for a few days of relaxation. There are a variety of cultures in Mai Chau, including Vietnamese, the White Thai and other ethnic minority tribes. With Mai Chau Ecolodge you can interact with the locals and help out with the rice harvesting. This authentic experience in Vietnam will show you first hand how hard harvesting rice is, but as you connect with the local people around you and gain real insight into how they live, it could also be the highlight of your travels. To really get in touch with the nature of Mai Chau, staying at Mai Chau Ecolodge is a must-do.

Woman harvesting rice in Vietnam 

Go night fishing on local boats

If you’re a fan of fishing, and even if you’re not, night fishing for squid on Phu Quoc Island is both intrepid and eventually delicious. There are many opportunities to head off for a few hours with a local operator and catch your own fresh squid, before barbecuing it on-site. Catch, cook and sample some traditional Vietnamese seafood, as you float on gentle water and watch the sun fall behind the horizon.

Squid fishing at night on a boat with harpun

Image by Sheraz Sadiq

Lounge in Vietnam’s second Halong Bay

Vinh Hy Bay on Vietnam’s central coast is usually off the radar for the typical backpacker. Far less popular than Halong Bay but with similar majestic scenery, towering rock faces and strips of white sand, this bay is protected from the tourist trail by its proximity to the Nui Chua National Park. Visit this quiet bay for a quiet getaway, and take in the area’s vibrant marine life with a glass-bottomed boat or a snorkel.

Vinh Hy Bay, Bay, Sand, Rocks, Nature

Photo by DBSSW

Drink with the locals.

Drinking with Vietnamese people is one of the best ways to interact and learn about local life. Find a busy restaurant with those iconic little red chairs and grab a seat. Although the locals might not speak perfect English, you’re bound to have a good time. In Vietnam, it’s common to put a large ice cube in your glass of beer, especially since usually they don’t keep the cases in the refrigerator. Also, you’ll notice a lot of ‘cheers!’ going on because it’s considered rude to drink by yourself. After a few hours at restaurant and a lot of beer, the locals will most likely invite you out for karaoke, a favourite here in Vietnam. Make sure to learn “Mot, Hai, Ba, Yo!” (Means 1,2,3, cheers!) before you experience the nightlife, and this will surely be one of the top things that you do in Vietnam.

Drinking with locals on small plastic chairs in Hanoi

Photo by Prashant Ram 


This list of top 10 things to do in Vietnam may seem unusual to travelers, however these experiences are actually very common to the locals. We encourage travelers to discover something new, and these authentic experiences will without a doubt be the highlights of your Vietnam trip.

This article was co-written with Vietnam Vespa Adventures' Lindsay Russell.

July 2014 B2B Newsletter

By: City Pass Guide


July, 2014
The City Pass Post: An Insider Look



This is the first in an occasional series in which we profile a successful industry identity. We find out what makes them tick, how they got to where they are now, and what they learned along the way.

We caught up with Yega Thiyagarajan, the general manager of Villa Song SaigonRead the full article that reveals the path to his success.

If you have an interesting business background and would like to participate in our series, don´t hesitate to contact us: send an email to carlos@citypassguide.com or emilio@citypassguide.com

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The latest news in the Travel and Hospitality Business. We've gathered the best articles to keep up to date with the latest Online Marketing practices in our industry:
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The rapid move to mobile research and bookings means travelers require easier ways to access content. In 2014, approximately 40% of leisure travelers and 35% of business travelers will use mobile search engines to find hotels, and this number will only grow, with 72% of travelers worldwide saying that the ability to book via mobile device is useful.

Placeable has recently conducted a survey where they surveyed 1,000 consumers to find out about how they research and find businesses before and during their travels. Read the FULL ARTICLE for key findings and nicely illustrated infographic.

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Julien Robellet, Distribution Manager at City Pass Guide, talks about the quick and high increase of the distribution network.

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Aiming to reach a larger number of readers and provide useful and meaningful information to travellers and residents, City Pass team has done a great effort on its distribution channels. READ FULL STORY


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CityPass Guide is a proud sponsor of the 1st Inter-Company Football Tournament, organized by BBGV. The event will bring 16 teams together to compete for the Championship title. Colleagues, families, sponsors, associates and volunteers will support and cheer on the football teams throughout the day.

Date: Saturday 19th July 2014
Time: 08:30 to 17:30
Where: RMIT University, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, District 7, HCMC
  • Fun and games for adults and children
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For more info visit the Event Page
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Ox-racing festival in An Giang

By: Quang Mai

Annual festival for all ages

The 21th Bay Nui ox-racing festival was held at the Khmer pagoda of Ta Miet, in the southern province of An Giang, on October 14, with 64 pairs of cows from southern provinces of Vietnam and Cambodia.

In order to promote the solidarity of 54 ethnic minority groups, the festival is organized annually. This is a joyful activities in An Giang that visitors from all ages are fond of. During four-day event, visitors also have chance to enjoy the cultural identities in Vietnam.

A muddy 120-meter-long racing path is the central point of the whole event where people gathered to witness the strongest and the fasted pairs to win the race. Before the cow racing festival, farmers had chosen the best pairs of cows for racing. The cowboy held the stick with sharp point when the race starts, he hitted the cows to make them run as fast as they can. The challenge is how to keep the pair run at the same speed and stay focused, otherwise he can probably fall down onto the race and get severe injury.

Photo by: Huỳnh Bá Long


Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

By: Vinh Dao

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

The weekend is one day away so if you are heading to Nha Trang, we have listed 5 things to do in Nha Trang. Nha Trang is known for it’s beaches and scuba diving sites and is a popular destination for both local and international tourists. While high rise hotels span the length of the main beach, the city still retains some of it’s local charm and if you are willing to head out of town, there are a few unspoilt beaches to be visit.

While we’ve written in length about Nha Trang in our Discover Vietnam post, we’ve listed our top 5 things to do at the beach destination.

1. Take a cable car to Hon Tre

Take the 3,320 metre gondola cable car to Hon Tre which is home to Vinpearl Land. This entertainment centre  includes a water park, bumper cars along with an expansive food court and is enough entertainment for the whole day!

Local insight: The cable car is the longest over the sea cable car in the world.

2. Take a mud bath

There are a few spas dotted around town that offer relaxing spa treatments but for the ultimate in relaxation, head to Thap Ba Hot Springs for a hot mineral-mud bath.

Local insight: They are a bit out of town so make sure you take a taxi there.

3. Get your PADI

The scuba diving is world-class and there are many different schools to choose from in the city. Just make sure you use a PADI certified school.
Local insight: Rainbow Divers has been running for over 17 years and is the recommended choice in town.

4. Go diving

There are over 350 different species of coral and other marine life in the ocean off Nha Trang. So when you get your PADI, rent a boat and go diving!

Local insight: Hon Mieu island’s clear water makes it a favourite for snorkellers and scuba divers alike.

5. See the sleeping Buddha

Located in Long Son Pagoda, this 80 metre long sleeping Buddha is one of the largest in the world. Inscriptions of the teachings of the lord Buddha dots the walls of the pagoda.

Local insight: Make sure to take the 150 step staircase to the top. Stunning views of Nha Trang are your reward.

Have a great weekend and enjoy our 5 things to do in Nha Trang!

Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon

Golf in Dalat

By: Simon Stanley

"City of Eternal Spring", Why not?

Golf Clubs

Dalat is the stepping stone to the Central Highlands of Vietnam.  It stands at 1475 metres and this French influenced city is a breath of fresh air after the mayhem and humidity of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Dalat has been known for decades as the "City of Eternal Spring". This is due to its year round cool crisp mountain climate.  Dalat is the centre for vegetables and flowers, which grow in abundance in the rich, dark colored soil.

Dalat palace golfGolfwise, it is well serviced by three golf courses, although two are only nine holes, with both scheduled for completion of 18 holes this year.  In 1994 Dalat Palace Golf Club emerged again as the ideal golf retreat in Southeast Asia. The 18- hole golf course is crafted into the area’s rolling hills, surrounded by stately pine trees and seated above the majestic lake Xuan Huong.. The course weaves its way through stately pine trees to oversized and delicately manicured bent grass greens.  For many years it has been rated as the best golf course in Vietnam and many would tell you that it still is.

The course makes full use of its mountainous setting and cooler climate with breathtaking views of famous Xuan Huong Lake nestled amongst French inspired architecture.  It really is a delight to play and tee times are easy to get during the week.  Weekends tend to be busy due to the influx of native golfers from Saigon and Hanoi. The clubhouse sets the scene for the entire course, built in 1956 and restored to its former beauty. It houses a fully equipped pro-shop, locker rooms and international standard restaurant.  Stya and play packages are available from the golf course owned Hotel du Parc and the upmarket Dalat Palace Hotel.  Check the website for promotion packages, such as twilight golf.  www.vietnamgolfresorts.com

Located about 15 minutes drive from the airport, Royale City Golf Club, whilst only 9 holes is an absolute gem of a golf course.  Some of the views will take your breath away and the par three third hole, with its 80 metre drop from tee to green is just stunning. Designed by Peter Rousseau, his concept is to keep the site as natural as possible, preservingRoyale city golf the beautiful trees, some of the paddy fields and other water features. At the same time, enhance it with more exotic flora and fauna and to utilize the many natural springs, waterfalls and smaller lakes.

With four sets of tees, then it is recommended to play nine holes off one set and another nine of another tee box.  We can guarantee you will never get bored with this course!  Because of the many changes is elevation and the distances between holes, a buggy is mandatory. The current price is only $3 per hole, including green fee, caddie fee and a buggy.  This is great value for money.  www.royalecity.vn

Tuyen Lam golfThe latest addition to Dalat is  Tuyen Lam Golf Club and Resort, situated halfway up the mountain heading into Dalat City. The resort is located by the beautiful Tuyen Lam Lake, right outside of Dalat town. The valley topography is surrounded by sloping hills and primeval pine forests. 18 holes are planned to be completed by April 2104 and nine holes have been opened since February 2013.

The heart of the valley is a natural high mound which is a highlight for the formation of a four-star hotel, a golf clubhouse and next to it is the driving range. Halfway is a winding path following the slope of the hill. You can feel a combination of high-level works among the pure natural hills by standing anywhere.   http://www.sacomresort.com.vn/.

Dalat is highly recommended not only for the magnificent golf courses, but also a wonderful and relaxing place to visit.


Dalat from high upWith its mountain setting, the temperate weather is usually warm to hot during the day and cool during the evenings.  There is no need for air conditioning. The rainy season lasts from May to October, and the dry season is from November to April.  The wet season does not prevent golf, as the rain is not continuous and many days are dry.  One word of warning!  Due to the high altitude, the sun’s rays are much stronger; therefore use plenty of sun lotion to avoid getting sunburn.

Staying in Dalat

There are many hotels and resorts in Dalat, from five star to one star and therefore accommodation is plentiful and built in a French style.  There are many restaurants and cafes offering interesting local and international cusine.

Getting there

There is an international airport, with regular daily flights from Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Hanoi.  For visitors on a budget, sleeper buses from companies such as Sinh Café.  Be warned that is it about 7 hours from Ho Chi Minh to Dalat.  BEWARE.  The usual charge for the 35 kilometer journey from the airport to Dalat centre is around 300.000 Vietnam dong.  Do not use the meter if you are using a taxi.  You can buy a ticket from the taxi booth inside the terminal.

Booking golf

Golf Asian – www.golfasian,com  - and Golf Dalat – www.golfdalat.com – specialize in booking golf trips to Dalat.  They can book not only tee times but also accomodation and make all travel arrangements as well.

Things to do in Ninh Thuan Province - Phan Rang City

By: Mark Gwyther

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Activities

The beach is the main attraction, and choosing the right place to stay is very important if your goal is to have quality beach time. The resorts have private beach rights allowing them to keep non-guests away from guests. It also motivates the resorts to keep their beach clean. However, only Bau Truc and Saigon Tourist-Ninh Chu do it consistently. Beaches in front of the other resorts can accumulate garbage from the locals who come to the bay in the morning and evenings.

Waking up for sunrise is highly recommended and may be a highlight of your trip to Vietnam. Get to the beach before 5:30 AM with a towel to sit and watch what seems like the entire city of Phan Rang doing their daily exercising/socializing in front of a beautiful sunrise. You will also see many of the traditional round boats out in the bay as the fisherman collect their daily catch.

Sunrise at Ninh Chu BayThe hundreds of locals mysteriously disappear around 8:00 AM and the beach is all yours until the evening. If you have traveled to other popular beach locations in Vietnam, you will notice im/mediately that nobody will come and try to sell you trinkets in Ninh Chu Bay. In fact, during the daytime you may not see anyone on the beach.

If you love to wind surf or kite surf, then Ninh Chu Bay is a paradise. A consistent, strong wind begins blowing before noon and lasts until the evening. Jet skis and motorboats are still unknown, leaving just a few fishing boats as the competition. As of now, none of the resorts rent equipment, however. If you feel like exploring, behind the Saigon Tourist Hotel and within walking distance from the center of the bay, is a hill with several temples and pagodas. Pathways make it easy for visitors to walk up to the statues among the hills and look out over the area. It is a very peaceful place.

Thap Cham in Ninh ThuanThap Cham is the location of two of the most famous Cham temples. The most popular is Po Klong Garai, which was built in the 13th century and is still an active site for Cham celebrations. Unlike many old ruins, the government has recently renovated the attraction and it is kept in good shape.

If you want to take a day trip, the most popular attraction for the Vietnamese tourists is near-by Vinh Hy Bay. Vinh Hy is a small fishing village about 30 kilometers north of Ninh Chu Bay. Your resort can arrange for you to catch a bus. Once in Vinh Hy, you can take a boat tour to some of the nearby islands and the deserted beaches of the Ninh Thuan coast. Before the new coastal highway was built, these beaches were only accessible by boat.

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Eating

Your dining options are fairly limited, but they are also pretty good. Of course Vietnamese style seafood is the main attraction. The Sakaya Restaurant at the Bau Truc Resort is highly recommended. The restaurant is open air and located on the beach, unlike many of the other resort dining options. The food is relatively inexpensive with most dishes being around $4 and a beer costing $1. Stick with the Vietnamese dishes and stay away from their attempts at western food.

If your resort has a large group of loud Vietnamese tourists, then another excellent option is the beach bar at the Saigon Tourist-Ninh Chu Hotel. It is usually very quiet and you can order any of the dishes from the main restaurant.

Phan Rang is also famous for its chicken and rice. The dish is fairly simple, just boiled chicken, rice, and a spicy fish sauce. You can find this dish in many of the local restaurants around Phan Rang.

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Entertainment

16 April ParkPhan Rang does not have any nightlife fitting for foreign tourists, yet. If bars and discos are your thing, then Nha Trang or Mui Ne are more appropriate locations. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to do at night, though. Check out 16 April Park to experience a side of Vietnam that not everybody sees. Hundreds of locals gather around the park to eat street food, drink beer, and chat. It is safe and you will be left alone to enjoy the cool evenings. The park is located between the beach and Phan Rang city.

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Getting Around

 In general, it is not safe for foreigners to rent motorbikes in Vietnam. Phan Rang might be the exception, as the roads near the beach are wide and empty. Most resorts can rent one to you for about $7/day. We still recommend a taxi or bus if you plan on visiting the Cham Temples or Vinh Hy Bay. If you stay at a resort in the center of the bay, you can walk along the beach or the road lining the beach for some light exploring. Taxis are easy to find and Mai Linh Taxi and Phan Rang Taxi have meters.

Issues and Concerns

The biggest factor that can negatively affect your vacation to Ninh Thuan is if a large group of Vietnamese stay in your resort. Ask the receptionist when you check in if they expect a large group and ask for a room that is away from them. These company or school trips are usually accompanied by an tour guide/MC with a microphone and large speakers. A banquet with entertainment and karaoke can make dining at the restaurant impossible. If this happens, try going to the beach bar at the Saigon Tourist-Ninh Chu Hotel. Have some beer, good seafood, and relax while listening to the waves. Another option is to go to your restaurant, order, and have them deliver dinner to your balcony. The groups typically go to Vinh Hy Bay for most the day or they move on to another destination. Daytimes at the resorts are almost always quiet and peaceful.

Phan Rang RoadPhan Rang is not Ho Chi Minh City or even Nha Trang when it comes to service. Many of the staff speak English, but you are far more likely to have to point to the menu (written in English), and ask the receptionist to tell your taxi driver where you are going than in the more popular tourist destinations. You should keep your expectations low for any spa treatments from the local resorts.

The beaches are separated from town, so there are not a lot of convenience stores around, yet. It is possible to find some convenience store items nearby, but if your plan is to stock up on groceries, you may want to take a taxi to the Co-op Mart near Phan Rang.


Ninh Thuan Province is very much like the eye of a storm. To the south are the bars and crowds of Mui Ne and Phan Thiet. To the west is the increasingly popular mountain city of Dalat. To the north is the beach city of Nha Trang. If you are looking to step out of the storm that is Vietnam tourism and see what Vietnam is like when foreign tourists are not present, then maybe you should try Ninh Thuan Province. You might want to hurry, though, as this hidden gem is becoming discovered.

Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Saigon

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon