Vietnam 2012‎ > ‎

What to Bring

GENERAL: You will need mostly work clothes. The only activity that you may want to “dress” for is the farewell ceremony with homeowners and our own farewell dinner. Lightweight clothes are worn in My Tho. A light rain jacket and/or sweater might be needed in air conditioned rooms. We anticipate heat and humidity outdoors round the clock with rain likely some of the time.

MALES: Most men dress casually but modestly. Long shorts are fine and “T” shirts are generally accepted. Shoes can also be casual such as open sandals, however closed shoes must be worn at the work site.

FEMALES: You will see short skirts and shorts being worn by tourists, but we shouldn't wear them on the worksite or to Habitat-sponsored events. We need to wear non-figure hugging blouses, long shorts, capris, or long pants at the worksite.  Long pants, dresses or skirts, should be worn for special events. 

This question has an ever-changing answer.  Please check with your travel agent or the individual airlines on weight limits for your luggage. In the United States, many airlines charge additional fees for bags weighing over 50lbs.  

In general, when traveling internationally, we find that soft-sided luggage, like duffel bags, works best on public transport and vans. Soft luggage crams more easily into trucks and buses, as well as smaller overhead compartments on airplanes. Soft luggage/duffels can still have wheels.

Travelers are encouraged to secure their luggage with locks, keeping in mind TSA (Transportation Security Administration) restrictions concerning personal locks. Whether you use TSA approved locks or not is up to you. Avoid placing electronics, jewelry, cameras or other valuables in checked luggage.  We also suggest that you not put anything valuable or necessary in the outside pockets of checked luggage unless they can be secured.


We are asked to dress “conservatively.”

KEEP FLEXIBLE! Plan for all kinds of weather, delayed buses, lost luggage, snoring roommates, and other pitfalls of group travel. The solution? Grin and bear it.

KEEP SAFE! Wear what is necessary to protect yourself from the sun: hat, bandana, etc. and use sunscreen. If you want an interesting story about sunscreen, go to:

KEEP IT MINIMAL! To keep within your weight allowance, consider bringing fewer changes of work clothes and paying for hotel laundry service, or wash out at night.  Lightweight cotton clothing makes this an easier option, rather than t-shirts and jeans.

  • Sturdy closed-toe shoes (tennis shoes are OK)
  • Shorts, pants as described above
  • Blouses, shirts as described above
  • Work gloves that can handle cement plaster
  • Hat or bandanna - sunburn is a reality and a danger. Some people prefer a broad-rimmed hat, such as a straw hat, to protect the neck.
  • Water bottle
  • Day pack/small bag - It will be very helpful if you have a small, simple day pack or bag to put your valuables - camera, documents, etc. - in when you are at the worksite and while on R&R. We cannot guarantee security for these items if they are left at the hotel. You may want to wear a passport carrier around your waist or neck for documents, cash, etc, but put them in a zip-lock bag to keep them from soaking up your sweat at the worksite!

OTHER CLOTHING YOU WILL NEED when not at the worksite:

  • Comfortable/casual walking shoes  - tennis shoes or sandals
  • Pants/shorts as described above
  • Shirts/blouses as described above
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Sleepwear 


  • Flexibility, patience, and a sense of humor
  • Passport with Vietnam BUSINESS visa
  • Spending money - for whatever you need for traveling. It is suggested to have at least $100 cash while in Vietnam for souvenirs, gifts, etc. You can change US dollars at the airport or in town after arrival. All meals and beverages (except alcohol) are covered by Habitat. You may purchase alcoholic beverages at your own expense.
  • Insect repellent - DEET level of 30 or higher is suggested.
  • More patience
  • TP Kit (zip-lock bag with hand sanitizer & toilet paper for a couple of trips to the latrine)
  • Toiletries
  • Alarm clock
  • Throw in an extra dose of “sense of humor”
  • Laundry bag (mesh, or old pillowcase) - please put your name on the outside of the bag/pillowcase
  • More and more patience
  • Prescription medications, contact lens supplies (could be very dusty, especially mixing cement) and any other personal needs, including feminine hygiene supplies
  • Flashlight, extra batteries (loss of electricity is not unusual)
  • An extra dose of “flexibility”
  • LED headlamp - These lamps come on a strap for around your head, or there is the kind that snaps onto the bill of a baseball cap
  • Waterless antibacterial wash when water is not available (towlettes not recommended because of disposal problem)
  • Personal first aid supplies for cuts, blisters, diarrhea, constipation ( we will also have a large Team First Aid kit, but it helps for you to have a few of your own supplies available in your pocket at the worksite)
  • Electrical adapters and converters, depending on what you are bringing (see note at bottom for more info)
  • What the heck - a little more won’t hurt - add even more flexibility, patience, sense of humor

Tools you could bring if you can: (keep in mind weight and that they have to be in checked baggage). There is absolutely no requirement that you bring tools, but Habitat Vietnam says if you've used trowels for masonry work before, please bring one with you. On our last trip, to Kenya, there were trowels at the work site but often not as many as we could have used.

OPTIONAL (consider value, weight, and security):

  • Binoculars
  • Back support - the work is all manual
  • Extra prescription glasses
  • Poncho or lightweight rain jacket
  • Journal, paper, pencil or pen
  • Book
  • Games to play with children - frisbees, jump ropes, finger puppets, stick-on tattoos, etc. NOTE: Do not give these to children directly, even simple gifts are not allowed. The kids can use them with you, but they must give them back each day when play ends. We will give them to the school or Habitat to use with all the children after we leave. The idea here is not to encourage children to think they will get gifts every time foreign Habitat volunteers roll into the community.
  • Laundry powder- in case you want to wash something out at night on your own - but we suggest just using your shampoo or other multi-purpose soap
  • A few photos of family and home to share with team and host (remember, pictures of who we are, not what we have - like boats, houses, cars, etc)
  • Camera, batteries, extra memory
  • Sunglasses
  • Pocketknife
  • Small musical instrument - recorder, harmonica
  • Ear plugs


  • Illegal drugs
  • Firearms, firecrackers
  • Bad sense of humor
  • Inflexibility
  • Short tempers


  • Your carry-on should have a little of everything, to get you through several days of waiting for your luggage to catch up with you, just in case it gets lost. You wouldn’t be the first team member that this has happened to.
  • For those of you having a tough time with the baggage limit, remember that they don’t weigh YOU! Wear as much weight as you can on the airplane to keep your bags lighter - wear your heaviest shoes, and possibly several layers of clothes. You can take some of those layers off and cram them in your carry-on after you go through the inspection of your carry-on.
  • Make sure you can padlock your bag to help insure against theft enroute. Do not put items in unlocked outside pockets. (a simple duffle, with no outside pockets works best). Use a combination padlock instead of a key. Leave the expensive stuff you don’t need (like jewelry) at home - there will be little to no opportunity to wear it anyway. Other valuables (cameras, binoculars, etc) should be in your hand-carry.
  • Pack leaky items (shampoo, lotions) in zip lock bags - and tighten the cap right before you put them in. Pack most of that in your checked baggage. Read up on the current allowances for liquids in your carry-on.
  • Be sure your bag(s) are well labeled with your name and contact info (maybe a friend or family) - it doesn’t do any good for them to try and contact you at home about a found bag since you won’t be at home! Insert a copy of your full itinerary in each bag in case the outer labels come off.
  • Hair dryers can be cumbersome. If you can share with others you know, that will help cut down on your weight and space. 

NOTE: Electrical adapters and converters

Adapters: Vietnam uses A, C & G adapters.

Go to:

and it will show you a picture and give a description of what is needed. Vietnam is in the process of standardization to 220v

Converters and Adapters: A converter is not the same thing as an adapter. The adapter just makes it possible for your plug to fit the socket. Your appliance, such as a hair dryer, must also be able to change voltage from 120 to 240. If your appliance doesn’t have a built-in converter, then you also need a converter to accommodate the wattage of your appliance. They come in different capacities (wattage). A hair dryer usually takes a pretty big converter so check that out. Converters and adapters can be purchased at a travel store or online ( Target, Joe’s (formerly GI Joe’s) and REI, among others.