See Vietnam In Style From The Water - 5 Types of Boats For Tourists

January 20, 2024 - 16007 views

Vietnam has vast and scenic inland and coastal waterways, with a dense network of rivers, lakes, and canals, many with the potential to be experienced by boat. In many riverside or seaside towns, having a boat tour is a great way to get a view of nature and serene local life on the riverbanks.

If you are looking for a calmer, gentler, more traditional Vietnam, you should consider exploring it by boat. Needless to say, a boat trip is perfect for reconnecting with nature, family, and yourself.

1. Rustic Rowboat

  • Where to experience: Ninh Binh and the Mekong Delta

Back in the old time, rowing boats were widely used in daily work, transport, and trade through lakes, rivers, or narrow canals. Rowboats can be easily handled by one person alone with oars (unlike canoes and kayaks are propelled by paddles) and can carry up to six people.

Closer to our times, fishermen and ferrymen have used countless variations of rowboats. In Vietnam, these kinds of boats have been used as fishing boats to catch fish on a lake or river, even in the sea, and they are still in use today. Any small boat trip is a great experience for travelers to have a somewhat more personal experience.

Rustic Rowboat

Rustic Rowboat

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is a lovely introduction to the legendary Ha Long Bay, and discovering the difference between the two is a real experience. Duplicating the scene of Halong Bay, Ninh Binh has its nickname "Inland Halong Bay" since it is surrounded by wondrous karsts formations, and the seawater is replaced by a carpet of rice paddies.

The boatmen will lead you through many major amazing attractions such as Tam Coc, Trang An, and Van Long on his small wooden boat to discover the caves while admiring the beautiful nature of both two sides.

Discover The Serene Landscapes Of Ninh Binh

Discover The Serene Landscapes Of Ninh Binh

Mekong Delta

Lush, relaxed, and scenic, Mekong Delta is a welcome contrast to the hectic Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a worthwhile destination of the South that can be visited on a day or multi-day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, and having a boat tour through small canals is the best way to get a glimpse of the delta's village life. The lives of these inhabitants, basic and authentic, are displayed along these narrow waterways.

Have A Sampan Tour On The Mekong Delta

Have A Sampan Tour On The Mekong Delta

The major mouths of the Mekong River and the intricate network of canals mean that nowhere is far from the water, and there is a tremendous variety of boats working: most of them still traditionally built wooden boats. Some canals are so narrow that sometimes passengers sitting on the boat can touch grass on either bank as they float by.


2. Round Basket Boat

  • Where to experience: Hoi An

Basket boat (“Thuyen Thung” in Vietnamese) is among the less common and lesser-known types of indigenous boats. They are crafted of split bamboo, which is dried in the sun, bent, woven into shape, and then tarred or varnished in order to waterproof the craft. These boats have no wood in their construction at all. They are used because they are flexible and lightweight, while capable of carrying a heavy load.

The round boats are hard to row and maneuver. You need special skills; otherwise, it just goes round and round. The round “basket boat” traces its history back to the French colonial era. As the story goes, in the colonial period, under the rule of the French, they levied taxes on anything they could – including a tax on the ownership of boats. Most of the poor fishermen who depended on their livelihood on boats could not afford to pay the heavy taxes, so they created a new type of boat: the basket boat. The clever fishermen argued that these were not boats at all but baskets – and therefore couldn’t be taxed!

Round Basket Boat

Round Basket Boat

Hoi An

The photogenic and laid-back Hoi An town has become one of traveler’s favorite destinations in Southeast Asia. If you have quite a bit of time and want to get off the beaten path in Hoi An, opt for an eco boat trip in the Nipa palm of Cam Thanh village - you will have a scenic ride through the lush Nipa palm flooded forest.

This small village is ideal to relieve your stress with the joy of cruising and gaining insight into the daily life of local fishermen. Along the way, you can learn how to paddle the unique basket boat, and see a few demonstrations of traditional fishing techniques while admiring charming landscapes.

Explore Cam Thanh Village By Basket Boat

Explore Cam Thanh Village By Basket Boat

3. Junk Style Boat

  • Where to experience: Halong Bay

A junk is an antique and traditional boat known for its durability and versatility on high sea voyages and is supposed to be one of the most technically advanced ships of ancient time.

The original junk boat, most commonly used for trade or functioning as warships in China and other countries in Southeast Asia, typically sailed long distances, incorporating a grand large sail and hull design. Developments in technology mean junks are no longer used broadly for trade and military purposes, but rather for travel and sightseeing.

Cruise In Halong Bay

Cruise In Halong Bay

Halong Bay

The Gulf of Tonkin consists of thousands of small limestone islands rising out of emerald waters, which make up the legendary seascape of Halong Bay. Exploring the bay is like being lost in a mythical world of numerous natural islands and islets with unique shapes and it’s not hard to see why this is Vietnam’s must-see attraction.

There are many cruise options for travelers to choose - from budget to luxury cruises, from day cruises to overnight cruises, it all depends on your budget, demand, and interests.

Admire The Natural Beauty Of The Bay On A Halong Bay Cruise

Admire The Natural Beauty Of The Bay On A Halong Bay Cruise

Our recommended Halong Bay cruises
Budget Cruises
Mid-range Cruises
Luxury Cruises


4. River Cruise Boat

  • Where to experience: Mekong River

You should experience a river cruise at least once in your life. A river cruise holiday is a unique opportunity to get to the heart of a region, with ever-changing scenic vistas that unfold as you meander from picturesque villages to historic towns and natural wonders.

And it is not a recipe for doing anything in a hurry. You may think that a week on the open water can give you a case of cabin fever, but a slower pace of life can be much welcomed and enjoyable. Inland waterways are much calmer than those on ocean-based voyages - which is great for those who are prone to seasickness.

Cruise In Mekong River

Cruise In Mekong River

Mekong River

The rivers of the world are fast becoming hotspots for travelers, and cruising through the Mekong River is really an up-and-coming trend. It is the main artery of Southeast Asia. It begins in the Tibetan plateaus, runs through China, then flows along through a part of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and it comes to an end in the south of Vietnam in the fertile Mekong Delta via a tributary dendritic network.

The lower Mekong is home to over 50 million people, with at least 4000 years of recorded history. All aspects of daily life float on the Mekong or along its shore banks - from villages, schools, and temples to markets, goods transportation, industry, and tourism.  Mekong Delta, nicknamed the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, is a world on the waters. The labyrinth of rivers, canals, and streams serves as waterways instead of roads. One of the great sights in the delta is the bustling and colorful floating markets, a bazaar of tightly-packed wooden skiffs loaded with fresh tropical produce - pineapples, mangoes, papayas, durians, jackfruits, soursops, and rambutans.

RV Mekong Princess Cruise

RV Mekong Princess Cruise

The most popular options are cruise tours between the Mekong Delta and Phnom Penh or Siem Reap in Cambodia, longer cruises extend their way to Luang Prabang in Laos. The common feature of every tour is the beauty around every river bend, including fantastic sights like floating villages, stilt houses, gorgeous temples, farmers at work, and floating markets.

Itineraries may make key stops at major cities, but your experience will focus as much on smaller towns and villages that you come across along the way. They often include shore excursions which are the essence of the river cruise experience, typically guided walking tours or specially planned tours (cooking classes, trips to the market, and other more offbeat adventures). And cruise lines have developed a variety of relationships to enhance the guest experience ashore.

5. Dragon Boat

  • Where to experience: Hue

Dragon boats are so-called because they are designed to resemble the dragon, a traditional symbol of water in Asia. In detail, they have a carved dragon head on the front, a wooden tail on the back, and the hull of the boat is painted with dragon scales. Dragon boat has ancient Chinese origins and date back more than 2,000 years. Unlike racing boats, dragon boats in Vietnam, especially in Hue,  are used to serve the royal family on their sightseeing trip on the river or lake.

Dragon Boat

Dragon Boat


Hue is an ideal place for culture lovers who seek out history and heritage - as it is full to the brim of pagodas, palaces, temples, and tombs. Booking a boat trip through the Perfume River is the most tranquil way to travel in this former capital city. The best part of the trip is a chance to view Hue from a different angle and bring you very close to the local life of enchanting and gentle Hue people.

Get On A Dragon Boat On Perfume River, In Hue

Get On A Dragon Boat On Perfume River, In Hue

Our recommended tours: 


There's so much to see in the world that a trip to Vietnam promises the holiday of a lifetime. For culture, history, and independent discovery against one of the most beautiful and scenic backdrops in the world, this is the place to go. So have some unforgettable memories by traveling on a boat on your next trip to Vietnam!

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Read more: Rivers in Vietnam, You Gotta Know These

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Questions & Answers (1)

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Hi, we have booked flights giving us a 34 day visit to Vietnam. Please can you let us know how what type of visa we can get to give us multiple entry to the country ( so that we can visit Laos part way through the trip). Thanks Liz

@Elizabeth Brandon-Jones:

Current Vietnam only provide E-visa single entry for 1 month.

SO I you included your visit Laos, you can do 2 single Evisa.

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