10 Unique and Unforgettable Experiences to Have in Vietnam

Vietnam is renowned for its pristine temples, colonial architecture, geological wonders, and mouth-watering cuisine. However, beyond the well-trodden tourist paths, this fascinating country offers unique experiences that are sure to create unforgettable memories.

Despite years of colonialism and modernization, many parts of Vietnam remain relatively authentic, with locals preserving their traditions and beliefs. From staying with a hill tribe in Sapa to downing a shot of (poisonous) snake wine, here are the top 10 unusual experiences you will have in Vietnam. Be warned, some may be unsuitable for the squeamish.

1. Sampling a Shot of Snake Wine

Snake wine is a popular yet intimidating drink in Vietnam. It involves soaking herbs or animals, like snakes, in high-alcohol distilled white spirit. This unusual beverage is believed to have medicinal properties. Travelers often find it daunting due to the sight of various creatures, such as snakes, gizzards, geckos, and even bear organs, floating in the liquid. Despite its fearsome appearance, sampling snake wine is a must-try for those seeking a truly unique Vietnamese experience.

2. Crawling Through the Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi Tunnels, located in Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi District, are a significant historical site. These tunnels were initially constructed by local people in 1948 during the French War and later expanded during the Vietnam War (known as the American War in Vietnam) to serve as living quarters and hideouts for Viet Cong fighters. The intricate tunnel system, often referred to as an underground village, played a crucial role in the war. Visitors can book a day trip from Saigon to explore these tunnels and learn about the resilience and ingenuity of the Vietnamese people.

3. Navigating the Chaos of Saigon Traffic

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is famous for its chaotic traffic. The Vietnamese often joke that traffic rules are merely suggestions here. For first-time visitors, crossing the street can be a nerve-wracking experience as people and vehicles seem to come from all directions. However, this organized chaos works remarkably well, and navigating it offers an exhilarating glimpse into daily life in Vietnam’s largest city.

4. Sandboarding on the Mui Ne Sand Dunes

The White Sand Dunes of Mui Ne, located about 65 kilometers northeast of Phan Thiet Province, are a top attraction. These massive Saharan-like dunes range from gold to pure white and provide the perfect backdrop for sandboarding, an adrenaline-pumping activity. Further south, in Mui Ne village, you can find red dunes. The dunes, with their stunning scenery, are also ideal for picnics and afternoon naps under the shade of pine trees.

5. Riding a Cyclo Through Hoi An Ancient Town

Riding a cyclo (rickshaw) is a quintessential Vietnamese experience. In Hoi An Ancient Town, this mode of transport becomes even more special. The city, famous for its well-preserved ancient architecture, forbids motorized vehicles, allowing only primitive vehicles like cyclos. Riding through the narrow streets of Hoi An on a cyclo offers a unique perspective on the town’s historical charm and vibrant street life.

6. Haggling at Local Markets

Haggling is an integral part of the shopping experience in Vietnam, especially at local markets. Sellers typically start with higher prices, expecting buyers to bargain. This practice is common in many Southeast Asian countries, and learning a few Vietnamese phrases for bargaining can make the experience more enjoyable and help you secure better deals. Embrace the local custom and enjoy the lively market atmosphere.

7. Drinking $0.50 Beers at Bia Hoi Junction in Hanoi

Bia Hoi, or fresh beer, is a light, refreshing draught beer served at local drinking spots in Vietnam. Bia Hoi Junction in Hanoi is particularly famous for offering these beers at just $0.50 per glass. This no-frills drinking experience is a great way to mingle with locals and fellow travelers, making new friends over countless rounds of this popular brew.

8. Swimming in Elephant Spring’s Natural Pools

Located about 40 kilometers south of Hue City, Elephant Springs is an off-the-beaten-track destination that feels like a secluded paradise. The area features multiple small lakes with bamboo huts where you can store your belongings while swimming. The natural pools are perfect for a relaxing dip, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

9. Exploring Caves at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province is home to some of the most spectacular caves in the world. Paradise Cave, located 14 kilometers southwest of Son Trach village, is a must-visit. This remarkable cave system extends for about 31 kilometers, though most visitors only explore the first kilometer. The cave’s vast chambers, adorned with colossal stalagmites and stalactites, create a breathtaking, cathedral-like space. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and fully appreciate the cave’s beauty.

10. Staying with a Hill Tribe Family in Ba Be National Park

Ba Be National Park is a haven for adventure seekers and cultural enthusiasts. Trekking through mountains, jungles, streams, and rice terraces offers a glimpse into the natural beauty of the area. One of the highlights is staying overnight in a homestay with a hill tribe family, such as the Black H’mong, Red Dao, or Tay. This immersive experience allows you to learn about their daily life, traditions, and customs firsthand. You can book tours from Hanoi or take a bus to Ba Be and arrange a homestay with the local tribes.


Vietnam’s charm lies not only in its historical landmarks and natural beauty but also in its unique, offbeat experiences. From adventurous activities like sandboarding and exploring caves to cultural encounters with hill tribe families and navigating the bustling markets, Vietnam offers a wealth of unusual experiences that make for unforgettable memories. Whether you’re sampling snake wine or crossing the chaotic streets of Saigon, each experience reveals a different facet of this vibrant country. Embrace the adventure and discover the extraordinary in Vietnam.

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