Thursday, March 31, 2022

5 tips for traveling with children in Vietnam

 When traveling in a large group of people with varying ages, interests, and tastes, it can be difficult to plan a cohesive trip that suits everyone. In Vietnam, you have the opportunity to create a family trip that suits everyone’s needs because it is still relatively cheap to travel here and easy to find activities that the whole family will enjoy. Here are our top 5 specific Vietnam travel tips for those of you traveling with children.




1. PLAN AN ACTIVITIES BASED TRIP

An easy way to keep you and the kids happy during a trip to Vietnam is to plan activities that are ‘hands-on’, but still appeal to both the younger and older crowd. Vietnam has many opportunities to do just that. Here are specific places that the whole family can enjoy doing activities while still relaxing and enjoying the surroundings:

Northern Vietnam – Halong Bay is a great spot for family friendly adventure in Vietnam. During most cruises in Halong Bay, there are plenty of opportunities to kayak in the bay, swim in the ocean, lay on the beach, go squid fishing or take cooking classes. Some cruise lines are more family friendly than others. Bhaya, Au Co, and Indochina Sails have some of the biggest decks, giving your kids plenty of space to run around. Paloma cruises offers the Paloma Family Cruise, which is a private cruise with a 6-person capacity. The tour can be more catered to your family’s individual needs if the standard activities don’t appeal to you.

Hanoi, being the capital of Vietnam, has many museums and landmarks that you can visit.  If that gets a bit dry for some members of your family, you can take a trip to the Bat Trang pottery village where everyone in the family can paint a piece to take home.  Your kids might also like “toy street” in Hanoi, located on Luong Van Can street.  If you want to enjoy some open space, the parks near Hoan Kiem lake are usually not too crowded and there is plenty of room for kids to run around.

Central Vietnam – The culture and environment in central Vietnam can be quite diverse from city to city.  Along the coast, you will have many opportunities to enjoy water sports.  Nha Trang is famous for scuba diving and Mui Ne is known for windsurfing and parasailing.  If your family enjoys water sports, we recommend visiting these destinations.  Nha Trang also has the Vinpearl amusement park which can be a fun activity to enjoy as a family.  To get to the park, you take an impressive gondola ride, which is one of the longest gondola rides over water in the world.  In contrast to Nha Trang and Mui Ne, Hoi An is a much more relaxed town and is a place to experience a different city vibe in Vietnam.  That being said, it is a very touristy town (and therefore, very tourist friendly) so if you and your family need a break from the hustle and bustle of life in Vietnam, Hoi An is a great place to visit.  Visiting the countryside near Hoi An is also a great option and many tours offer the opportunity to float down canals in small bamboo fishing boats.  You can also engage in some cultural activities like taking lantern making classes or taking a bike tour to the surrounding villages.

Southern Vietnam – One of the biggest appeals of Ho Chi Minh City is the bustling and chaotic nature of the city.  If you want to take some time away from the chaos, we recommend visiting Dam Sen Water Park or Suoi Tien Amusement Park.  Both places have plenty of rides, attractions, and activities geared towards children and is a great way to keep them active during your vacation.  Dam Sen Water Park is, as the name states, an aquatic themed park with lots of themed water slides and pools for kids to play.  It is not too far away from the centre of town and the admission to the park is based on height.  Suoi Tien Amusement Park is a Buddha themed amusement park which may seem strange but is a lot of fun for kids.  Besides the rides and activities, they have shows, go kart rides and boat rides.  This amusement park is about 30 minutes outside of town.

The Mekong Delta is also a nice family friendly destination.  Most tours in the delta are hands-on and engaging for young kids because they entail canoe trips down the backwaters, visits to rice paper factories, and visits to fruit candy manufacturing shops.  Large tour companies with multiple groups of people on the same tour can get very ho-hum for kids.  The itinerary is more rigid and not all activities may appeal to your children.  Instead, we recommend private tours through Water Buffalo Tours.  Or, you can even go to Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels through Saigon River Express, where you travel by speed boat, which can be a fun experience for your kids.

2.  BE ORGANIZED AND TRAVEL WITH A PLAN

When traveling with kids to Vietnam, it is important to travel with a plan.  It’s very easy to travel here with a relaxed, non-scheduled pace, but that requires a certain amount of flexibility, which is sometimes difficult to have with kids.

Hotels – Definitely book your hotels beforehand, as accommodations fill up quickly, especially during busy season.  Even if you find last minute hotels, be aware that you may not get the amenities that you want.  For instance, if your kids are young enough and you want them in the same room as you, many hotels here only have double beds and little room to put another cot or bed in the room.  Or, if you need a microwave or fridge to store perishable food, that is often difficult to find in hotels here.  Some hotels in busy tourist areas have also have swimming pools, but if these hotels are booked up or outside of your budget, many of them allow outside guests to use their pools for a fee.  In Saigon, The Grand hotel and The Renaissance hotel, both in District 1, allow public access to their pools if your kids want to go for a quick swim to get away from the heat!

Pre-arrange Transport – The standard car taxis in Vietnam are big enough to fit 4 people (but 3 comfortably).  Van taxis can fit more, but it can sometimes be a struggle to find vans.  They are also more expensive.  In any case, with a family, it’s best to arrange transport beforehand through the hotels so that you can be more certain that it will be safe, will fit all of you, and will take you to the right destination without long detours or go-arounds.  The less time you spend sitting in traffic in a stuffy car in Vietnam, the happier you and your family will be.  The rates are usually competitive and you can check online for average taxi rates for whichever city you will be in to compare.  On top of that, taxi scams run amuck in Vietnam so it’s best to avoid the situation altogether.

Check the Weather – The weather in Vietnam is incredibly varied not just by latitude but also by time of year.  It can get quite miserable at certain times of year depending on the time of the year and the last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere that is blazing hot or currently in typhoon season.  Please note that many parts of Vietnam are consistently hot so prepare your kids for what to expect because children can be less resilient to weather that they are not accustomed to.

3.  STAY SAFE

It is well known that the lifestyle in many parts of Vietnam is chaotic, to say the least.  Here are some tips on how to stay safe with young children in the city:

Transportation – There are many transportation choices available to you in Vietnam.  When you’re traveling as a family, we highly recommend taking planes or trains from city to city rather than a bus.  Often times, roads in remote stretches are not very developed and can be treacherous.  Also, the journey by bus can be very long because buses tend to travel quite slow, and the long and bumpy ride can be very frustrating for children.  Fortunately, most cities, even small ones, have airports so very few places in Vietnam are inaccessible by plane.  As for overnight trains, they are also quite safe.  If you are a family of more than 4, you will have to split between two cabins as one cabin only holds 4 people.  Within cities, we recommend taking taxis or cars for longer distances rather than bikes or cyclos.  You should especially exercise caution when deciding whether to hire a cyclo in Saigon, though there are safe to hire in Hoi An and other cities in the North.  It seems like a very quaint way to see the downtown area of Saigon, but cyclos have been confined to smaller areas of the city recently and that has made many drivers more desperate and aggressive.  In fact, there have been reports of cyclo drivers threatening the safety of tourists and this is not a situation that you want to be in, especially with children.

Crossing the Road – Crossing the road in Vietnam is a bit of an art.  It may be alarming at first, but the best thing you can do is prepare your kids.  They may be used to wandering around on the side of the road at home, but many roads here don’t have side walks and wandering can have grave consequences.  Make sure that they walk between the adults, and all of you cross in a straight line.  It is usually easier for drivers to navigate that way.  Be alert and cautious, yet definitive, in your movements and you all should be just fine.

Interacting with Locals – Vietnamese people are fascinated by kids, foreign kids in particular.  They show their affection towards kids very freely so your kids will not only get treated really well here, they will also be touched, prodded, hugged, played with, and generally be adored.  Don’t be alarmed if this happens to you as it is very innocent on the locals’ part.  With babies and very young children, you do have to be careful that you carry wipes and clean their hands if too many strangers play with them.  And, make sure that they are not wearing anything valuable that may be easy to snatch.  Even if they are wearing something inexpensive which could mistakenly be taken as a valuable item, leave it off them so they don’t become a target of theft.

Getting Lost – Losing your children in a sea of traffic and people is a parent’s worst nightmare.  Take every precaution to avoid this predicament and keep a piece of paper with them with all the necessary information for them to find their way back to you.

4. STAY HEALTHY

Short vacations can be easily ruined when children get sick, and changing plans is often difficult when you have less flexibility.  Use these tips to keep your kids happy and healthy during your time in Vietnam:

Include Down Time:  As we mentioned earlier, Vietnam can be a very hectic place.  That, combined with the heat and pollution, can really wear you and your family down.  Vietnam has so many amazing places to see and explore that it can be easy to go overboard and plan every activity imaginable.  But be sure to include some rest periods so that you and your family don’t fall ill.

Food Safety – When traveling with kids to a new country, eating healthy is a big issue.  Check out our previous blog on how to travel in Vietnam without getting sick.  We encourage you to be smart with food choices.  Children can be more susceptible to food borne illnesses so being careful is all the more important when traveling with kids.  Street food can be safe to eat, but you need to be careful where.  Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) is usually a safe item that kids can try because it’s mostly bread with whatever fillings you like.  It’s also very hearty so it keeps them full for a longer period of time.  If your child is not too fond of strange fillings, many Banh Mi stands also have processed cheese – you can’t go wrong with bread and cheese!  It may be a good idea to bring non-perishable food items that your kids are familiar with if they decide not to eat local food.  Be careful not to bring anything that will melt because it will turn to mush in the heat here.  In any case, if your kids need a break from Vietnamese food, there are plenty of fast food options like MacDonalds, Burger King and Lotteria where you can find familiar food.

Water Safety:  This is another big concern when traveling with children.  First of all, please ensure that your family, and kids especially, have received all their recommended shots before coming to Vietnam.  If you have travelled substantially before or have been exposed to this kind of climate, there is a chance that contaminated water may not bother you.  But children often have lower immune defenses so getting vaccinated for diseases that are transmitted by contaminated water are a must.  Once you are here, be sure to drink bottled water only and even brush teeth with bottled water.  Brushing teeth with tap water may not do a lot of damage if your kids do it accidentally but it’s best not to take the risk.  Ice is also usually safe in Vietnam but use your best judgement when ordering cold drinks.

5. BRING PROTECTION

The elements can be just as big a factor in children becoming ill as food and water, and require just as much attention.  Vietnam can have an extreme climate which can be bothersome without proper preparation.  For a more comprehensive list of what to bring and what not bring to Vietnam, check out our previous blog entry.

Insect Repellent:  We have mentioned before that dengue fever is fairly common in Vietnam, and though it can affect anyone, immunocompromised people and children are more likely to contract this disease.  What’s more, children are less likely to show restraint when scratching mosquito bites so even if they don’t contract dengue, those bites can become infected easily in the hot climate in Vietnam.  Some areas in Vietnam like the Mekong Delta are quite swampy and mosquito ridden, so use strong insect repellent with DEET to avoid any issues and bring anti-itch cream with you.

Hats and Long Sleeves:  Both heat and pollution can cause a lot of body stress for children so keep hydrated, bring a hat and breathable material long sleeves if you plan on spending a lot of time outside such as significant beach time or hiking in the hills.

Medicines:  Vietnam has many long and windy roads and even short distances can be nauseating.  Some foods and smells may also give you nausea, even if they are perfectly safe to eat.  Many people comment that the wafting smell of fish sauce or strange meat is too different for children to handle.  Because of this, we recommend that you pack anti-nausea medication and Pepto Bismol.  Note that although you can find these medications here, they are often marked up significantly and special versions specifically for children can be hard to find.


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