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Travelling in Vietnam with kids (nearly 3 and 5)

(19 Posts)
pilsbury1 Thu 05-Nov-15 13:22:39

So, we've taken the plunge and booked flight to go to Vietnam over Easter hols (flying into Hanoi and out of Ho Chi Minh, 18 nights in total). We have a vague idea of itinerary, but not booked anything up just yet. I'd love to hear if anyone has experience of travelling with young children in Vietnam. I've seen a few recent-ish threads on here re: Vietnam but none with pretty young kids - my DD will be almost 5 and DS getting close to 3 by the time we travel. In particular I'd love to hear any must/must-not sees/dos, how many different destinations you think is viable in that time with that age kids, any hotel and resto reccs etc. I'd also love to know how to start introducing them to Vietnamese food (starting that this weekend with a dinner of chicken satay, sticky rice and spring rolls, wish me luck!). Thanks!

caravanista13 Thu 05-Nov-15 13:35:36

Why???! Children of that age like familiar comforts and are far too young to remember the experience.

pilsbury1 Thu 05-Nov-15 13:55:31

ha! thanks for the support!

Frazzled2207 Thu 05-Nov-15 14:02:10

Tbh, I've been and it's not the sort of place I'd take small kids. I found it fascinating for all kinds of reasons but I don't think small kids would. It's hot, smelly, not especially clean. Dodgy in parts but you could avoid those.

I'm not being very helpful! If you were able to change your flights I think parts of thailand and malaysia would be far better places to take little kids.

pilsbury1 Thu 05-Nov-15 14:03:01

Ok, I can see that I'm perhaps asking the wrong forum. Nevermind

BeanMachine Thu 19-Nov-15 21:12:57

I case you look at this thread again, OP, I don't think you are mad.

We are booked to go at Easter too, albeit spending time in Bangkok as well. My older child (now 6) was born in Vietnam and I think there is a lot you can do with young children. We moved to Thailand when my daughter was 8 months, and only went back a couple of times, so I'm not an expert on travel with kids, but as long as you don't expect Thai levels of development (and service at times), you'll be fine.

Central Vietnam generally has pretty good weather in March/April and that is definitely worth exploring. The beaches around Danang are great and Hoi An is a very pretty and interesting little place. You could easily spend a week in this area.

I personally love Saigon for its bustling streets and a wonderful variety of shops, markets, restaurants and hotels, although many tourists prefer Hanoi.

Another great beach spot is Phu Quoc, off the south coast of Vietnam, although you would really need to fly from Saigon.

The food generally is great and easy for kids to try everything as it is not spicy - you add spice to your preference after it is served, unlike in Thailand, which is much spicier in my opinion.

Happy planning!

OldPossum Thu 19-Nov-15 21:25:02

Just for balance - we took our 5 year old there and we had a great time. Yeah, he may not remember it as such but we wanted to go, we had the opportunity to go and we had a fantastic time there, just the three of us. Just because a child doesn't enjoy things, or even remember them like an adult might, doesn't mean we shouldn't take them. Lots of things he did like - the boat trip at Halong Bay, swimming on Christmas morning, the sleeper train from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An, the markets and the food. Go for it - we loved it. Oh, and we didn't introduce him to the food in advance - just waited til he was hungry and then he ate it very, very happily. Superb food.

ShanghaiDiva Mon 23-Nov-15 07:15:56

I took my children to Vietnam when they were 3 and 9.
Make sure you are up to date with vaccinations - we live in China so my kids have had every jab going!
I really like Hanoi and recommend the water puppet theatre, lake, one pillar pagoda etc. There are lots of interesting museums, but my dd was not very interested in them. Halong bay also great.
Lots of western food available and local food is delicious. Traffic is horrendous and standard method of crossing road is to walk out in front of traffic - so hold on to your children!
Have heard good things about hoi an, but not been there. Not so keen on HCM - so,r of the museums are brutal as are the tunnels outside the city - fascinating to visit, but I only took ds with me. Think he quite enjoyed all the gruesome aspects.
Have also been on an overnight train in Vietnam - Hanoi to Sapa - clean, but pretty rickety.

Bambambini Sun 06-Dec-15 12:22:33

Have been to Hanoi but without children. Great town, perhaps not so child friendly - especially in regards to traffic though. There is a lovely little park in the centre of town? The traffic is terrifying, I'd be very nervous with children TBH.

I would go to the likes of Hoi An though with kids and have been to Thailand, Malysia, Singapore and Indonesia (though very child centred rather than adventurous).

Kuriusoranj Sun 06-Dec-15 12:37:51

Oh for the love of heaven. I hope you do come back to the thread OP, and I'm sorry that I didn't see it before. Jeez, this ridiculous idea that you can't or mustn't expose little children to anything other than the things they already know well! Sounds like a smashing way to produce a(nother) generation of parochial, narrow-minded fearful xenophobes.

We've been to Vietnam, specifically to Hanoi and Halong Bay, with a 3 and 8 year old - this February in fact. (My 3 year old told everyone we were going to 'visit Nam' - like she was some grizzled vet). It was lovely. We took them to the temples, we walked a lot, even went to HCM's tomb, which was a fascinating experience for them. They particularly loved Halong Bay, which is an astonishing place.

The Vietnamese love children, it seems - especially European looking children. One of mine has blonde curly hair and she was constantly cooed over by giggly teenagers. We had a lovely time.

Yes, it's a dirty place (it has a smell that is occasionally revolting, truth be told). Yes, it's busy and haphazard and you have to be aware of your surroundings, but as a tourist it's fine. I wouldn't necessarily suggest a fully independent backpacking tour of the hinterland, unless that's your thing, but as a touristy tourist, it's a great place. The food is awesome, everything is dirt cheap and it's really interesting. Hanoi is full of Western chain restaurants, if you're looking for some familiarity occasionally too. I assume HCMC is similar.

My big recommendations are - just walk around, it's amazing. The traffic is horrendous (and so noisy!) but you'll soon work out how to handle it). More than that, though - do the boat trip at Halong, at least one night and two if you can. It's otherworldly.

Go - experience, it'll be great.

Artandco Sun 06-Dec-15 12:47:15

We went with 2 small children. Eldest was 18 months, youngest just 10 weeks old. Stayed 2 months.

18 days is tight to get down the country as can take a day or two travelling between certain places.
Definitely try and head inland and stay with locals, and when along the coast stay on a boat to travel down a bit.

It was a lovely trip and we would do it again

Yours are a bit older. But I would recommend a sling for the 3 year old still I think. The boba 4g is good as folds small, and can carry 3 year old if they get tired in the day so they can nap a bit. A pram would be completely pointless as paths often non existent, and wouldn't help in many places.

Take far far less luggage than you think. As an idea when we travelled with ours we just took x2 45L rucksacks between the 4 of us. Meant travel between locations, on trains, boats, etc was possible as easier. You want your luggage with you and not on top of a bus as likely to be lost/ stolen otherwise. So yes just take absolute minimal. Your eldest being 5 could take a small rucksack also if needed. ( the kids osprey ones are good and what mine use now they are 5)

hifi Sun 27-Dec-15 14:19:27

we took dd when she was 5, hoping to pop to Halong bay but it was a 6 hour round trip on terrible roads so we didnt go. Not as much to do in Hanoi as Saigon, 2/3 days is enough. The roads in Hanoi are terrible and getting around with a buggy is challenging.
stay in the best hotel you can afford.We were in a lovely hotel but constantly badgered for tips.
Saigon is great, far more manageable than Hanoi.Cu Chi tunnels are worth a visit, but not with kids.
Its not an easy place with kids, i would have waited until they were older.

Cathpot Mon 28-Dec-15 16:45:13

We went this year but with older kids- and completely loved it. Feeding them was easy most of the time- western options in restaurants and also local food is very tasty and not spicy. Breakfasts in the hotels were usually noodles ( which oddly were spicy) or some sort of egg dish and a selection of fruit. I thought Hanoi was strangely clean for such a bustly city and all the hotels we stayed in- and we did the full range from all of us in one room very basic budget , to a suite in a 5 star ( very reasonable rates) - were clean and staffed by extremely helpful friendly people. We stayed north and in 12 days did Hanoi , sapa and halong bay to cut down on travelling time. If we did it again I would have thrown in a train trip to hoi an as we were slightly too long in Hanoi. It was very hot ( October) and sweaty, but I think the weather varies quite a bit across the regions?We did a day trip out from Hanoi to a Buddhist temple (perfume pagoda) which involved being rowed down a river and then a long hot walk up endless steps to a fantastic temple in a cave - it was off season and no one else there. It is apparently mobbed at certain times of year. Also a 3 day / 2 night boat trip to halong and cat ba, one night on the boat , one in a hotel on cat ba . That was really lovely - the canoeing included was fantastic in a complete lack of health and safety kind of way and we did a nature walk on cat ba which was great. We were supposed to cycle to the start of the walk but the bikes were too ropey and the path too steep for our 8 year old even for my reasonably gung ho DH , so they put us into a golf buggy and we met the rest of the group at the other end of the cycle route . It was an example of the tour guide being very proactive - by the time we met up for the walk he had contacted head office and got clearance to pay for our golf buggy. . Both trips we booked online before we went with Vega travel in Hanoi , and they collected us and drove us where we needed to go in air conditioned mini buses with friendly tour guides, I would recommend them. We also did the overnight train to Sapa which the kids loved (Livitrans) Tickets booked on line and collected from odd little shack round the back of the train station. Sapa is completely beautiful and much cooler but the views are weather dependent and we had a 10km hike in fog - which the kids took remarkably well. There are lots of village stays available there- very peaceful- go to Indigo Cat , a fair trade type of craft shop in Sapa, run by a Vietnamese local lady and her French husband. We had a lovely afternoon trying to do traditional batiking with the French guy and his Hmong MIL. The also do village stays and it's not far from Sapa- they booked us a taxi. The Sapa train gets you in very earlier in the morning - 5am-ish so we paid a reduced room rate for us to be able to go straight to the room and crash out there and then come down for breakfast. I booked all the hotels online in advance without trouble except for the last two nights and we had seen a bit of Hanoi by then and did a walk in booking for that. Email bookings were answered quickly and all correct when we got there.

Thinking about the age of your kids it's not that it's a difficult place to negotiate - the bits I've seen anyway- and the people were exceptionally friendly and helpful to tourists, it's more that with older kids just the excitement of being somewhere new was enough to keep them happy most of the time. There didn't seem to be many specifically kid activities We did the water puppets in Hanoi - which they really liked, and a kids cookery morning in Hanoi , and they liked exploring the houses in the museum of ethology ( although the ladders in and out would be hairy for little ones) , but at 8 and 10 they were happy just to generally travel. I think how much fun you will have depends on how easily wrangled your two are/ how they cope with heat/ long journeys etc. The idea of having a sling or backpack for the 3 year old is great and second the go light on luggage thing. The hotels all do laundry cheaply anyway and a soft bag is a lot easier to stow on the trains. We took 2 large hold-alls that had backpack straps that DH and I carried and then a small day back pack each. The beaches look nice further south so that would presumably keep them happy? It is such a fantastic place- I think it is actually the best family holiday we've had and we would definitely go back to explore further south. Have a lovely time

Tram10 Wed 06-Jan-16 15:08:44

This is great information, cathpot, we are looking at doing a trip to Vietnam end of March and have been really struggling trying to figure out an itinerary and distances between places. Your post is a great source of info. Would like to spend a few days on a beach at the end of the trip too.

Cathpot Wed 06-Jan-16 16:15:48

I'm very jealous- we hope to go back and visit the central and southern regions one day. PM me if I can help with anything else- I've got a list somewhere of where we stayed etc.

pilsbury1 Sun 26-Jun-16 21:03:08

wow, well i am the OP and i basically was so angry with the first two responses that i deleted the thread and thought nothing more of it... i have only revisted it today out of chance and DAMN i'm annoyed that i didn;t come back and see all the positive stuff that was written afterwards! Anyway, you later posters will be pleased to know that the unhelpful comments did not dissuade us and we had an AMAZING 2.5 week trip over easter hols - if you are planning a trip there with kids then DO IT, is is a fabulous and beautiful place and a relatively easy place to travel around (compared to other off--the-beaten-track locations). Go to www.eastdulwichforum.co.uk/forum/read.php?29,1596858,1680248#msg-1680248 and the penultimate messge on there (my local forum) includes a document with our full itinierary, hotels, restos, things we loved etc - hopefully will come in useful for others planning trips to vietnam in the future smile smile smile

pilsbury1 Sun 26-Jun-16 21:03:42

wow, well i am the OP and i basically was so angry with the first two responses that i deleted the thread and thought nothing more of it... i have only revisted it today out of chance and DAMN i'm annoyed that i didn;t come back and see all the positive stuff that was written afterwards! Anyway, you later posters will be pleased to know that the unhelpful comments did not dissuade us and we had an AMAZING 2.5 week trip over easter hols - if you are planning a trip there with kids then DO IT, is is a fabulous and beautiful place and a relatively easy place to travel around (compared to other off--the-beaten-track locations). Go to www.eastdulwichforum.co.uk/forum/read.php?29,1596858,1680248#msg-1680248 and the penultimate messge on there (my local forum) includes a document with our full itinierary, hotels, restos, things we loved etc - hopefully will come in useful for others planning trips to vietnam in the future smile smile smile

ShanghaiDiva Mon 27-Jun-16 07:59:08

Glad you had a great time smile

bigTillyMint Mon 27-Jun-16 08:09:05

I will have a closer look at your itinerary later - we are off in 5 weeks to do the same tour but in reverse and with a 15 and 17yo!

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