A Guide to Responsible Travel in VIETNAM

3 min to skim, 10 min for in-depth info |  January 2024

Vietnam is a captivating country known for its breathtaking landscapes, complex history, and vivacious culture, not to mention the mouthwatering food. As world travellers in Vietnam, we have the privilege of exploring this beautiful nation, but with that privilege comes a responsibility -  a responsibility to travel with an awareness of the impact your journey makes. 

Before we embark on this journey through this enchanting land, it’s crucial to understand why responsible travel is of the utmost importance here. Vietnam is a country that treasures its traditions and natural wonders. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene beauty of the world-famous Ha Long Bay, Vietnam’s treasures are vast and diverse. 

However, the rapid tourism growth in Vietnam over recent years has brought with it both opportunities and challenges. While tourism can inject vital resources into local economies, it can also strain ecosystems and the fabric of a country’s cultural heritage. This is where responsible travel comes into play. 

At Traveller Collective, we understand that exploring new destinations comes with a responsibility. That’s why we’ve created this guide with the intention of enlightening travellers on the importance of mindful and ethical tourism practices in Vietnam. 

Through these words, we hope to inspire you to travel with purpose and leave behind a trail of positive effects wherever your adventures may take you in Vietnam. 

Here are Some Experiences You Don’t Want to Miss

Vietnam offers an array of captivating destinations for responsible travellers. Each location not only showcases the country’s natural beauty and cultural richness but also provides unique opportunities to engage in sustainable and ethical tourism practices. A win-win if you ask us! 

Support Local Artisans in Hoi An

A local boatman waiting to transport passengers across the river in Hoi An.

The ancient and enchanting town of Hoi An in Central Vietnam, beckons travellers with an incredibly well-preserved cultural heritage. So well-preserved, in fact, that the entire town has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. 

One organization in particular that’s leading the way for positive social enterprise in Hoi An is Reaching Out Arts & Crafts. This organization empowers disabled artisans in Hoi An & the surrounding area by providing them with a platform to showcase their skills & create unique handicrafts. 

These artisans, despite their challenges, display remarkable craftsmanship, and your visit will ensure their talents continue to thrive. You can support them in a multitude of ways while you’re in Hoi An by purchasing from their shop, taking one of their workshops, or having a quiet cup of Vietnamese tea in their stunning Teahouse. 

Hoi An is just one of those places where it's easy to travel responsibly. Travellers across the globe are naturally encouraged to explore its historic streets on foot or by bicycle, minimizing the impact on the environment. It’s actually easier to roam through Hoi An without a motorbike or car! 

While you’re exploring the streets of Hoi An, be sure to stop by the Precious Heritage Museum and Hart Upcycle across the street from the museum. Both of these places you’ll find while wandering the magical streets of Hoi An. They both hold great regard for the preservation of traditional Vietnamese culture & provide an unparalleled glimpse into traditional life in Vietnam you’ve got to see to believe. 

With locally-owned restaurants that serve authentic Vietnamese cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients your responsible travel experience in Hoi An is sure to be enriched. And perhaps after a scrumptious dinner, you can catch a show performed by some of the world's most incredible acrobats at Hoi An’s famous bamboo theatre; The Lune Centre

With stories drawn from the daily life of people in the various regions of Vietnam, this self-proclaimed bamboo circus called “Teh Dar” vividly represents Vietnam's traditional culture. It’s a performance that you’ll surely regret missing if you don’t go. Trust us. 

Become Part of the Community in Sapa

The breathtaking mountains of Sapa are speckled with the shadows of clouds and glistening rice terraces.

Sapa, a quaint town nestled among the clouds and breathtaking northern Vietnamese mountains, invites travellers to immerse themselves in its stunning landscapes and surrounding diverse ethnic cultures. 

Responsible travel in Sapa centres around engaging in community-based tourism initiatives that benefit local residents. One exceptional organization leading the way is Sapa O’Chau. This social enterprise is dedicated to supporting ethnic minority communities through tourism. 

When you choose their tours or opt for a homestay experience, you become part of a sustainable tourism model that directly contributes to Sapa’s economic development and cultural preservation. As you hike through terraced rice fields and interact and share meals with local families, you forge connections and contribute to Sapa’s sustainable future. 

Sapa’s awe-inspiring vistas of emerald green rice terraces and vibrant hill tribes are best explored on guided treks. These treks often lead you through remote villages where you can witness traditional practices and interact with local communities. 

Responsible treks aim to minimize their impact on the environment and respect the culture and customs of indigenous people. By choosing community-based tourism and guided treks in Sapa, you’ll not only have a culturally enriching experience but also help empower and uplift the local communities in this majestic area. You seriously don’t want to let this place fall off your Vietnam bucket list.  

Tap Into Conservation Efforts at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

A portion of the world’s largest cave inside Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

This incredible UNESCO World Heritage site, home to the world’s largest caves, spreads over a realm of astounding natural beauty and geological wonders. Responsible travel in this pristine environment focuses on supporting ongoing conservation efforts. 

One of the coolest ways to do this is by choosing a farmstay like Phong Nha Farmstay as your base of operations for exploring the area. This farmstay’s commitment to sustainability perfectly aligns with the national park’s preservation goals.  

While you’re there, you won’t want to miss checking out the largest cave system in the world either. This is the site that makes this entire area famous. You’ll need to take a guided tour through the caves and of course, choose a tour operator focused on cave conservation to join. 

Participating in tours through these stunning natural wonders that are led by tour companies focused on cave conservation ensures the protection of these subterranean marvels for future generations. 

In order to minimize your impact on the park’s delicate ecosystems, it’s essential to follow responsible hiking and adventure guidelines. This includes staying on designated trails, disposing of waste properly, and respecting the park’s biodiversity. When you explore Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park responsibly, you actively participate in its preservation. A task as easy as picking up trash makes a huge difference!

Jump Into Sustainable Farming in the Mekong River Delta 

A group of local Vietnamese working on a flower farm in the Mekong Delta while one Mom helps her child. 

This pristine landscape in Southern Vietnam holds a labyrinth of winding waterways and fertile lands. This is a place that invites travellers to delve into the heart of Vietnamese agriculture. 

Responsible travel in this region involves exploring sustainable farming practices and engaging with local communities. Something that the Green Summers organisation does extremely well. 

Their thriving community of volunteers immerse themselves in community service projects across the delta that go beyond conventional tourism. With them, you can learn about the intricacies of sustainable farming and contribute directly to the well-being of local communities. 

During your stay, you’ll have an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and join local farmers in cultivating crops using traditional methods. From planting rice in the emerald-gree paddies to tending to organic vegetable gardens, you’ll gain hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture. 

Additionally, you can also engage in numerous community activities which help locals and travellers alike build a deeper connection with the local way of life. 

As you dine on delicious meals every day prepared from locally sourced ingredients, you’ll savour the authentic flavours of the Mekong Delta while also supporting the livelihoods of farming families. Dig in!

Indulge in Responsible Cruising through Ha Long Bay

A portion of the breathtaking Ha Long Bay.

With its emerald waters and iconic limestone karsts, Ha Long Bay is a true marvel of nature. When you’re here the best way to see this wonder of the world is by hiring a boat cruising company. Of course, responsible and sustainable cruising is the only way to go to preserve the bay’s pristine beauty. 

Cruise operators like Indochina Junk and Bhaya Cruises are dedicated to environmental conservation and sustainable tourism practices. Embarking on one of their cruises allows you to savour the breathtaking beauty of Ha Long Bay while minimizing your ecological footprint. 

Not only that, but these eco-friendly cruises offer opportunities to explore hidden caves, kayak through secluded lagoons, and savour fresh seafood caught using sustainable fishing practices. 

Visiting the majestic Ha Long Bay means respecting the bay’s delicate ecosystem. Travellers should be cautious about the trash they leave behind and refrain from disturbing the wildlife that calls the bay home. 

You can also make an even longer-lasting impact by joining a tour group that incorporates volunteering like trash pick up into their schedule. This tour with Mango Tiger is an excellent example of eco-tourism that blends sightseeing and volunteer experience seamlessly. 

By choosing responsible cruise operators and adhering to guidelines that prioritize the preservation of Ha Long Bay, you play a pivotal role in safeguarding this natural wonder for generations. 

The Ongoing Journey of Responsible Travel

As we conclude this exploration of responsible travel in Vietnam, remember that your journey doesn’t end here – it’s just beginning. Being a responsible traveller is an ongoing commitment, a path you can choose to walk with every adventure. Each step you take on the road, whether you’re supporting local communities, or conserving the environment, makes a big impact. 

By choosing sustainability and ethics with every step, you become a steward of responsible tourism. So, embrace the power of mindful exploration and carry it with you to your next destination. 

And speaking of your next destination…

We’d like to invite you to dive deeper into the world of responsible travel by exploring our other featured country articles. Whether you’re planning a trip to Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, or Indonesia, our advice will help you build a meaningful adventure wherever you choose to roam next. 

Join us in our mission to create a more sustainable and responsible travel community, leaving lasting benefits for the places we visit and the people we encounter. Together we can make every journey an impactful one. 

Travel safe! 

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