Vegan guide to Vietnam

29th January, 2024

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When we heard that Vietnam had opened up for tourism after the borders were closed for 2 years we booked our tickets! We spent two amazing weeks in Vietnam, met some of the most friendly people, ate incredible food (at unreal prices) and got a small glimpse of the vast landscape and rich history this country offers.  

Our Two Week Slow Travel Vietnam Itinerary

You might look at our 2 week Vietnam itinerary and think we could have done more. Sure, we could have packed in more into time, visiting Sapa, Halong Bay, Da Nang, Dalat or even Phu Quoc Island. So why didn’t we? 

We now try and follow the Slow Travel movement. Rather than packing in as much as we can into a trip, we take our time, try and connect to local people to get a deeper understanding of the culture. Ideally, we would have spent longer in Vietnam, but visa issues prevented this.

The best bit? When we return, there’ll be unexplored places for us to visit!

Days 1 – 3: Hanoi

  • Explore Hanoi Old Quarter and walk around lake Ho Hoan Kiem
  • Walk the quieter streets of Hanoi’s French Quarter
  • Visit the Ho Chi Minh museum and Museum of Ethnology
  • Enjoy one of many delicious bowls of Phở

Days 3 – 6 Ninh Binh

  • Stay in Tam Coc and explore limestone hills
  • Hire a bike and cycle to Bich Dong Pagoda just outside Tam Coc
  • Cycle to Mua Cave and Hang Mua Peak
  • Explore Van Long Nature Reserve
  • Boat trip in Trang An along the Sao Khe River

Days 6 – 8: Huế 

  • Hire a bike and cycle around the city
  • Visit the Tombs of the Ancient Emperors
  • Walk along the Perfume River
  • Explore the Imperial Citadel
  • Eat traditional Huế cuisine – Quảng noodles

Days 8 – 12: Hoi An

  • Stay in the sleepy beach town of An Bang
  • Visit the Lantern Market (and take a boat trip on the river if you like)
  • Walk around the Old Town and local markets
  • See the Japanese Covered Bridge
  • Relax at An Bang Beach and eat at a local beachfront restaurant
  • Eat traditional food from Hoi An – Cao Lao, Rose Dumplings, Mi Quang and Bao
  • Visit Da Nang and see the Dragon Bridge Show (only weekends at 9pm)

Days 12 – 14: Ho Chi Minh City

  • Spend an afternoon learning about the Vietnam/American war at the War Remnants Museum
  • Tao Dan Park
  • Take a cooking class
  • Join a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels

Cultural Considerations: Do’s and don’ts in Vietnam

Religious sites

Just like in Thailand and Cambodia, when visiting religious sites you should dress appropriately (covered shoulders and knees), remove shoes before entering, and behave respectfully.

Head and feet

Again, just like in Thailand and Cambodia, the head is considered the most sacred part of the body and the feet the lowest. This means don’t touch anyone else’s head, avoid pointing to people and things with your feet, and remove shoes before entering people’s homes or religious sites.


The Vietnamese people are very modest. Public displays of affection are seen as inappropriate – even just touching a member of the opposite sex can be frowned upon. Try to also dress modestly (except if at the beach), avoid tight and revealing clothing especially in less touristy areas.

Vegan Friendly National Foods

Pho Chay

Pho – probably the most well known Vietnamese dish. A delicate rice noodle soup with fresh herbs and veggies. Normally Pho is made with a meat broth with beef, but vegetarian-friendly versions are easy to find. The best part? A generous squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of fresh chilli elevates this dish to the next level. 

Banh Mi

Basically a sandwich! Always a baguette, and filled with pretty much whatever you like! There are lots of places that make vegetarian and vegan friendly versions of this classic street food, we had mushrooms, tofu, stir fried veggies and  vegan sausage banh mi.

Goi Cuon (Vietnamese rice paper rolls)

Goi Cuon, vietnamese spring rolls, rice paper rolls, summer rolls, or fresh spring rolls… doesn’t really matter what you call them! Completely different to spring rolls from your local Chinese takeaway, these rolls are made with rice paper, fresh veggies, fresh herbs and sometimes thin rice noodles and protein. Served with a peanut sauce this dish is healthy, light and satisfying.

Dau Sot Ca Chua (Fried Tofu with tomatoes)

One of our favourites! We ate this a lot, especially in Tam Coc. We found a local family restaurant that made this deliciously tomatoey, garlicky tofu dish, with sticky rice for 30,000 Vietnamese dong, aka £1! Do you blame us for getting this 4 days straight?! 

Useful Phrases

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, “chay” means that you eat vegetarian food in the same way that Vietnamese Buddhists do – i.e. vegetarian without egg. Just like in Thai cuisine, dairy isn’t normally used in cooking, so if you say you’re vegetarian without egg, the food will likely be vegan safe – but it’s always worth double checking! 

Favourite Restaurants

We didn’t have any problems finding vegan food in Vietnam. Here’s some of our favourite restaurants we visited in Vietnam:

Struggles with food in Vietnam

We had very few struggles with food in Vietnam! We found food in Ho Chi Minh City to be a lot more expensive compared to the north, but overall still cheap compared to at home.

Final Comments

We definitely will be returning to Vietnam, there’s so much more we want to explore. It was a shame that we couldn’t extend our visas (we wasted an entire morning in Hanoi trying to), because the country had just opened up after covid it wasn’t possible to apply for 30 day visas. The short fortnight we did spend in Vietnam was one of the best experiences we had in Asia. We met such lovely locals, ate incredible vegan food and marvelled at the breathtaking landscapes. I know we just scratched the surface of what Vietnam has to offer, so we can’t wait to go back and discover more!

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