We traveled from London to Vietnam with our 20-month old this last month. I’ve referred to our daughter as X in this as that’s the first letter of her name (also!). Vietnam can seem like a daunting country to travel to with a toddler, but I’m here to tell you that not only it’s doable, but it’s totally worth it!
I have some advice that I think will make your trip better if you are considering the journey. In Part 1, I shared my packing list and how to prepare for the trip over. Here, I will share what we actually did while on the ground in Vietnam.
A Word On Food & Drink:
We gave X bottled water for everything including teeth cleaning. We even rinsed her little cutlery (that we brought with us) in bottled water to be extra safe. Despite this, X got a brief vomiting bug one night, but it was over within a few hours. We never knew why, but things like that can equally happen in any country.
We made sure X only ate stuff that we either peeled, or had been recently peeled (oranges, bananas etc..). That said, by the end of it she was eating cucumber and other salads in restaurants.
In general we found the food sanitation levels in Vietnam very satisfactory, though we didn’t give her street food.
The type of food you get in Vietnam is definitely not the kind of food X is used to eating in the UK, which I was a bit nervous about. Consequently, I brought a lot of her favourite snacks with us – I wanted to know I could feed her a few meals from my own bag and not be worried.
Fortunately X loves rice, so that was a bonus – she wasn’t majorly adventurous with trying everything, but by the end was tucking into spring rolls and drinking Pho broth.
You can pretty much get most western-style meals out there (especially for kids) – pasta was on most menus, as was a form of chicken or fish nugget type of thing. There are small supermarkets in most places selling basic supplies – pasta, pasta sauces, fruit/veg, obviously Vietnamese foods too.
At HCM (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi Somerset apartments –places we stayed– have their own western-style supermarket underneath. We were able to buy most supplies there, so even if you are not staying there, try these places if you are desperately missing something from home for the little one.
We stayed in Somerset Apartments in Hanoi. After the long haul flight, it was awesome to collapse onto their comfy, king-sized bed and sleep.
The jet lag was TOUGH on us all the first few days. Plan for this and assume you will be wiped out for the first three days. Somerset was the perfect place to recuperate.
They are self-catered, serviced, apartments, so the best of both worlds. Room service was great with a toddler. It’s not cheap and is very international, but, for us, it was perfect for our first few days while we got over the jet lag and found our feet.
Virtual high five for taking a boat tour of Halong Bay- I’m so pleased we did this – we were warded off doing this with a toddler by so many people in various forums. Many said it wasn’t safe – and particularly annoying were comments like “you will ruin other people’s holidays if you take your toddler on a boat with them for 3 days”. Bleeeurgh!
I used my logic and decided to go for it. I did a lot of research on the boats. For me, the requirements were: large deck/s so that we’d have lots of space for toddler; a room with a safe balcony so that if things went toddler pear-shaped, we could retreat to our room and still enjoy ourselves there; a boat that had a good safely record – I studied the railings on so many boats. I ended up choosing the Long Quan suite on the Au Co Cruise, 3 days, 2 night. Let’s be clear: this isn’t cheap. But we figured it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. The Long Quan suite is a larger room, with a large, enclosed, balcony (no gaps).
This meant i could confidently let X run about when in the room without fear of her going over the edge. Relaxing.
The whole experience was great from beginning to end. The staff loved X, and she loved them. We managed to make it to all but one of the arranged excursions with X which surpassed our expectations. This was only because her nap/s worked well around these (these are non-compulsory).
The crew was amazing and very thoughtful. They let us eat in our cabin one night due to sleeping toddler (bringing the food to us once X was asleep), and at other times prepared suitable fresh food for her – handmade fish fingers one time, and breaded chicken breast another. The toddler reins (mentioned in Part 1) came into their own on this boat trip, as they enabled X to feel quite free and for us to be able to take our eyes off her, or grab her easily at different points.
A word on train travel…
We took the famous train from Hanoi to Da Nang, overnight (around 16 hours). We booked the 4-person soft sleeper to ourselves, so could spread out and get some sleep. This train journey is really only worth it for the last 1-2 hours coming into Da Nang, when it snakes along the east coast in the morning light. It’s lovely, but don’t feel you’ve majorly missed out if you decide to fly this leg instead.
Baby-friendly spots – special mentions:
– The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh has a play room on the top floor, so you can take it in turns viewing the harrowing images (!).
– Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Minh: this is fine for a toddler – you can do a day tour to the Cu Chi tunnels (in which the Vietcong lived for many years) – incredible. The tour was quite hot but X managed, she even walked through some of the tunnels, giggling. Not to be missed.
– Somerset (Hanoi and HCM) apartments and Sherwood apartments (HCM) have large playrooms for kids and lovely kiddie swimming pools (albeit quite cold ones!).
– Cassia Cottages on Long Beach, Phu Quoc – we absolutely loved this place with X – lots of pool choices, long beach front, great food and service. An oasis of calm. We spent 10 days here which passed in a flash, gorgeous.
I hope this information is useful to anyone consider travelling to Vietnam with a toddler. Bottom line: it’s brilliant, we had an amazing trip, go!