Vietnam is one of the most essential stops on any South East Asia backpacking trip. Like the rest of South East Asia, Vietnam has quite a few things that backpackers hold dear. Gorgeous beaches, otherworldly sights, a fun-loving culture, and of course, cheap beer. Alcohol is so cheap in Vietnam that hostels often just give it away. Everywhere I stayed in Vietnam, there would be an hour or two each night where beer was just free. The alcohol was free-flowing and the nightlife was poppin’. As far as party destinations in South East Asia go, you can’t go wrong with Vietnam.
There are an abundance of places to party in Vietnam, but as a backpacker, you’ll want to hit these places up. Whether your scene is a karaoke bar or huffing balloons on a pub crawl, Vietnam’s got you covered.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and rightfully so. This might be the most beautiful place you visit in all of South East Asia. With it being such a hot destination, travelers often make the mistake of booking in advance, oftentimes, choosing an over-touristy cruise that just kind of ruins the fun. If you are a young backpacker or solo traveler, you are going to want to do it right.
Castaway or Hideaway are two options ran by two different backpacker hostels in Hanoi, and they are your best bet for having an unforgettable time in Ha Long Bay. You might not think of Ha Long Bay as a party destination, but hey, if you’re going to be on a boat all day, why not turn it into a booze cruise? Swimming in the waters, gawking at the limestone karsts, and capping the day off with some sunset beers on your own private island is the way to do Ha Long Bay properly.
Da Lat is one of the more overlooked destinations in Vietnam. Among backpackers, there just doesn’t seem to be enough to draw travelers in. Some come for the Crazy House and Crazy Bar and then leave after a day or so. It’s fair, but still, I think a stop in Da Lat is more than warranted. I did visit the Crazy Bar, and while it lacked a crowd, it definitely was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever drank. A few drinks here before moving onto one of Da Lat’s livelier venues is a perfect way to break up the lengthy bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City. The weather, the lush rolling hills, and vibrant nightlife scene make Da Lat more than a worth layover.
Hoi An is Vietnam’s top backpacker haven. While small, Hoi An packs a punch. You can laze away the day at one of the nearby beaches before taking a leisurely stroll through the extensive night markets. Of course, the lanterns are the biggest draw for most travelers, and they provide a one-of-a-kind ambiance that you can only experience in Hoi An. The bustling night markets set the stage for a lively nightlife scene.
Backpackers and other young travelers will typically flock to the Tiger Tiger bars, even though there are many more to choose from. The hostels in Hoi An also know how to party right, and if you’re looking for cheap alcohol and a fun crowd, look no further. Sunflower Hostel and Vietnam Backpackers are two of the most fun hostels in Hoi An. Each offers some crazy cheap drink deals. For solo travelers, it will take no time at all to find a group to go out with.
Hoi An’s nightlife usually lasts around 3 AM, at which point the crowd starts to thin and make their way home. No night is complete without a banh mi, though, so make sure to grab a bite to prevent a hangover the following morning.
The coastal city of Nha Trang might be the closest thing Vietnam has to the stereotypical beach party destination. Since it is a larger city, Nha Trang isn’t on most backpackers’ radars, but it is popular among a few crowds. It’s huge among Russians, for some reason. The sparkling blue waters and abundance of beach clubs make it a great stop for anyone seeking out a more typical beach holiday.
To this day, I can’t get over the nightlife of Hanoi. Not that it stands out as one of the best in the world, but it surely is one of the weirdest. I’ve had some memorable nights in Hanoi, and not always in a good way. One night, I got lost and found myself roaming the market streets at around 4 AM. Butchers were unpacking their trucks and lining their stalls with skinned animals. I felt like I was in a horror movie, lost, alone, and surrounded by bloody animals and butchers.
Thankfully, I made it home eventually, and didn’t have any more issues with Hanoi’s nightlife. Jokes. I definitely did. The thing with Hanoi is that the nightlife technically is supposed to shut down around midnight. The cops will shut down the bars and the bustling Beer Street becomes a ghost down. At least, it does on the surface. Behind closed doors, the party rages on. The bars and clubs smuggle people from the streets inside and shut the metal gates to give police patrols the impression that they’re closed.
That’s how it is in the Old Quarter, at least. I’ve been to other bars in Hanoi that seemed to have no issues with partying on all night. It’s hard to know the deal, especially as a traveler. Again, staying at a hostel gives you the local down-low on the nightlife scene, and some party hostels in Hanoi host bar crawls so you can take on Hanoi’s strange nightlife scene with fewer problems than I had.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Honestly, nothing else on this list even comes close to Saigon’s nightlife scene. Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest and most modern city. The nightlife scene here is closer to what you’ll find in other bustling South East Asian party capitals like Bangkok and Singapore. For late night venues ranging from all types of music styles, Ho Chi Minh City is your best bet. I capped off my Vietnam trip with a night out in Saigon and I was definitely Sai-gone out of my mind by the end of the night.
A lot of backpackers tend to skip over big cities, Ho Chi Minh City included. However, I welcomed the change as Saigon was the first taste of modernity I had experienced since Chiangmai in Thailand nearly two months prior. Take advantage of all the fun things this cosmopolitan city has to offer. It’s got the best food, the best nightlife, and some of the best places to stay in all of Vietnam.
There’s nothing quite like the killer one-two combo of being drunk and eating a banh mi, a combo that can only authentically be found in Vietnam. While it may not have the world-renowned parties like Thailand or the luxurious beach clubs of Bali, Vietnam more than suffices for the traveler who likes to party. With free-flowing cheap beer, any destination can be a party destination, and Vietnam’s got some of the cheapest alcohol you’ll find in South East Asia.