LGBTQ+ travel in Vietnam: visa and other things you need to know

Vietnam is one of the best countries in Southeast Asia for LGBTQ+ travellers; here's all you need to know and how to apply for the right visa.

If you are travelling to Vietnam, it is essential to get the right visa. The image shows rickshaws cycling along a road in Vietnam.
Image: Tran Phu via Upslash

Compared to most countries in Asia, Vietnam stands out as being among the most progressive. Here, we’ll go over what makes Vietnam a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ people looking for a fun time abroad. We’ll also provide important tips about what things you need to keep in mind, such as the best travel time and getting the right visa.

Progressive strides
Homosexuality was never actually illegal in Vietnam, unlike other Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, where same-sex relationships were only decriminalized very recently. But in the past decade or so, Vietnam has been making major strides when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. For example, in 2012, the capital Hanoi had its first pride parade, something which would have been unthinkable just a few years prior.

More importantly, in 2015, the country passed a law permitting same-sex marriages. While this doesn’t mean Vietnam is all the way there (the law does not legally recognize LGBTQ+ marriages), it clearly shows that the country is moving away from its conservative roots to a more progressive future. 



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A post shared by Hanoi Pride (@hanoipride)

As a result, Vietnam has become arguably the most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia for LGBTQ+ travellers. While the queer scene used to be mostly underground, the country is increasingly embracing its reputation as a more progressive country in the region. There are LGBTQ+ bars and cafés, such as the Golden Cock in Hanoi, tour operators catering to LGBTQ+ needs and community events, and an overall increasingly accepting culture.

Of course, regardless of your sexual orientation, you want to enjoy all the highlights Vietnam has to offer when going on holiday. And if there’s something Vietnam has no shortage of, it’s highlights!

Admire the limestone wonders of Halong Bay
If there is one feature that defines Vietnam as a tourist destination, it’s probably Halong Bay. The iconic limestone structures, or karst, rising up from under the water are among the most popular images seen on postcards and in tour guides. It should come as no surprise that the bay is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

There are a wide variety of cruises available that take you through the maze of limestone giants, from large expensive ships to more humble boats. The many islands found in Halong Bay include marvels such as Cua Von, the Floating Village, a village which floats gently on the surface of the water. 

An areal photograph of Halong Bay in Vietnam. The bay is surrounded by high mountains and and there are a large number of boats sailing in the bay.

Explore Cat Ba’s massive national park
Cat Ba is routinely hailed as the most beautiful natural area in Vietnam. The island can be reached by ferry from the nearby island of Cat Hai. While Cat Ba has a quaint little town you can enjoy, the reason most people travel there is to explore the gigantic national park. Indeed, the majority of Cat Ba is in fact made up of this national park.

The park offers a variety of hiking and biking routes, and you can also rent a scooter to more easily explore large swaths of the park. In the park, you’ll frequently run across monkeys, deer, squirrels and a wide variety of other wildlife that make the park their home.

Enjoy vibrant Hanoi
The capital Hanoi should be on everyone’s itinerary when going on holiday to Vietnam. It offers something for everyone. Art lovers will enjoy the numerous museums that cover a variety of unique subjects, such as the Women’s Museum or the Museum of Ethnology.

Food lovers are well situated to enjoy Vietnam’s unique cuisine. And nature lovers will find Hanoi to be a prime base to explore a number of Vietnam’s most famous natural sights. To sum it up, Hanoi exemplifies everything that makes Vietnam such a popular tourist destination.



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A post shared by Hanoi Pride (@hanoipride)

Vietnam travel tips: visa, travel time and other important things
There are several important things you need to take into account when travelling to Vietnam. Perhaps the most important thing to sort out in advance is your visa. This is because visa applications are notoriously fickle: some are approved in a matter of days, while others can take weeks for no apparent reason.

Also, check whether you actually need a visa. For example, UK nationals don’t need a visa to travel to Vietnam, as long as they are staying for less than 15 days. Irish nationals do require a visa. However, they can apply for their Vietnam visa online, rather than having to visit the embassy. The e-visa for Vietnam is valid for a stay of up to 30 days.  

In Vietnam, it is strongly discouraged to attempt to drive yourself. In fact, international driving licenses aren’t accepted, you need a Vietnamese driving license. While these can be acquired if you really want to, having to deal with the infamously hectic Vietnamese traffic is generally best done via taxis or public transportation.

Depending on the area you are visiting, you’ll want to check the date you’re travelling. Vietnam is large, and the climate can vary wildly from north to south, depending on the season. Generally, the best time to visit is around March to April, or November to December. This way, you avoid the scorching summer temperatures and the heavy rainfalls of the rainy season.

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