Vietnam Travel Guide
- Country Profile
- Travel FAQs
- Hoi An
- Ho Chi Minh City
- The Lands between
Hanoi, the capital of the country with its old quarter and colonial vestiges, is a highlight of the trip to the country while the bustle and hustle cities of Ho Chi Minh City offers a different taste of an emerging power in Asia. From idyllic countryside with lush paddy fields and evergreen gardens to the highland areas of colorful hill tribes, you will find yourself overwhelmed and delighted in the discovery of the soul-stirring landscapes and everyday sights
Geography & Climate
There is no good or bad season for visiting Vietnam. What ever the season and period of the year, there are always somewhere or the whole country with weather is pleasant and favorable. On a trip you can sometime experience different types of weather and climate as you cruise along its length.
Religion and belief
|nem - spring rolls|
|Dong Ho Painting|
Festivals and holidays
VISAS & PASSPORT
Oversea Vietnamese and foreigners whose husbands, wives and children are exempt from visa requirements to enter Vietnam and are allowed to stay for not more than 90 days.
In order to be granted visa exemption certificates at Vietnamese representative offices abroad, overseas Vietnamese need conditions:
Foreign-issued permanent residence certificate (PRC) with the validity of at least six months since the date of entrance.
Visa exemption paper (VEP) is granted by Vietnamese appropriate authorities.
Those who expect to stay more than 90 days must apply for visa according to current stipulations before their entrance.
Bilateral visa exemption agreement
Citizens of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Laos holding valid ordinary passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 30 days; Philippines is allowed to stay for not more than 21 days.
By February 2011, citizens of China, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, and Rumania holding valid ordinary passports for official mission. Citizens of following countries holding valid diplomatic or official passports are exempt from visa requirements including: Argentina, Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela.
Unilateral visa exemption
Visa with 30-day validity is exempted for officials from ASEAN secretariat holding different kinds of passports.
Citizens of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Japan and South Korea holding different kinds of passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 15 days.
Citizens of other countries and those not subjected to visa exemption above are required to get an entry visa before departure or an approval letter for a visa on arrival (the visa issued on arrival at Vietnam International Airports)
To obtain your entry visa you have to apply to any Vietnam Embassies and/or Consulates worldwide.
Tourist visas are valid for a single 30-day stay and allow visitors to enter and exit Vietnam at Hanoi, HCMC and Danang airports or at any of land borders, shared with Cambodia, China and Laos.
Processing a tourist-visa application typically takes four or five working days in countries in the West.
If you plan to spend more than a month in Vietnam, or if you plan to exit Vietnam and enter again from Cambodia or Laos, you just need to arrange a multiple-entry visa.
Documentary requirements for a visa
- You must provide your actual signed passport, including one copy of the personal information page of your passport. Your passport must:
- Be valid for the next six months
- Have at least one blank visa page (amendments and endorsement pages cannot be used to fulfill this requirement)
- Not be frayed, torn, separating, or altered in any other way
- You must provide at least 2 color-passport-type photograph. The photograph must:
- Be printed on photo paper
- Be two inches by two inches
- Have a white background
- Have been taken within the last six months
- You must provide one completed visa application form. The application form must:
- Include answers for all fields
- Display your full name as it appears in your passport
- Be signed
Visa fee ranges from US$45 to US$85 if application is sent directly to the Embassy or US$25-55 if your visa has been pre-approved. This fee depends on The Embassy and Type of visa required.
If there is no Vietnam Embassy or Consulate in your country, or if you just want to make Vietnam part of a multi-destination trip, then Visa on Arrival is the best option.
This is most likely the easiest way to obtain your visa without having to chase down embassies, consulates and the like prior to your trip. The entry visa will be stamped on your passport at the Visa On Arrival Desk at the International Airport in Vietnam. Then you can pass through the Immigration checking point. With this type of visa, you only can enter the country by air.
Please contact us for your visa arrangement. ARRIVAL IN VIETNAM
By air: Consult your local travel agent for routings, fares and availability on flights to Vietnam. Discount websites and flight search engines may offer some good deals. Major airlines flying to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi include: Vietnam Airlines, Air France, United Air-lines, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Bangkok Airways and many more. Major airlines flying to Dan-ang International Airport include PB Air from Bangkok and Silk Air from Singapore.
BY LAND: Vietnam shares a border with China in the north (three border crossings), Laos in the west (three border crossings) and Cambodia in the south-west (three border crossings).
From China: Trains from Beijing to Hanoi pass by Nan-ning and Pinxiang in China and enter Vietnam at Dong Dang (north of Lang Son). There is also a road crossing know as Huu Nghi in Lang Son province. Trains coming from Kunming cross the border at Lao Cai, in northwest Vietnam. From Guangzhou, you will cross the border at Mong Cai, a few hours drive from Halong and its spectacular Bay.
From Laos: If you travel from Laos by road via Savan-nakhet and Sepon, you will get to Vietnam by the Lao Bao (Vietnam) border crossing. This crossing links Laos to central Vietnam (Danang and Dong Ha). If you travel from Vientiane, you will cross Lak Sao before entering Vietnam by Cau Treo border crossing, in Ha Tinh Prov-ince (Vietnam). The Nam Can border crossing connects Nghe An Province (Vietnam) and Xieng Khuang Province (Laos).
From Cambodia: If you travel from Phnom Penh by speedboat, you will enter Vietnam at Chau Doc, in the Mekong Delta area. If you arrive from Cambodia by road into Ho Chi Minh City, you will enter Vietnam at Moc Bai, which connects Vietnam’s Tay Ninh Province with Cambodia’s Svay Rieng Province. Border crossing at Prek Chak/Xaxia (close to Kep in Cambodia and Ha Tien in Vietnam) are now possible.
There is a departure tax on all international flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City but this tax is already in-cluded in the price of your all airplane tickets.
Travel Insurance is compulsory on all Custom Vietnam Travel trips and is a condition of booking with Custom Vietnam Travel. This will not only guarantee you peace of mind while you travel but also covers you for many of the things that can go wrong. Please ensure you have your policy number and emergency telephone number for your insurance company. If this is unavailable please ensure you have the necessary information required by your Insurance company in case of an emergency.
Traveling in here is generally safe. Anyway, from our experiences, you should be aware that thing might happen unexpectedly some time.
Before booking for travel insurance you should study well all things relate to your travel plan and itinerary. Make sure that your travel insurance will cover all the activities in the itinerary and any optional activity you may take during the trip. The more detailed and clear you learn about your travel destination, the better it is to work out travel insurance policy.
Please, note that except you use luxury and up standard service, conditions in Southeast Asia in general are not the same at home.
Your insurance policy should cover at least
- Medical and health cover for injury or sudden illness
- 24 hour emergency service and assistance.
- Personal liability in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property.
- Lost and stolen of possessions.
- Cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip due to illness, injury or unforseen circumstances.).
- Personal accident.
You should find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or if they reimburse you later.
Here, except you come to International health care service or those who can make deal with Insurance companies (not always available) you are likely have to pay in cash and get reimbursement later. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation.
Some policies ask you to call back (reverse charges) to a centre in your home country where an immediate assessment of your problem is made.
In case of lost or stolen, you have to report to police for investigation and get paper from them.
Custom Vietnam Travel will provide you help and advice in resolving matters on sport or dealing with local procedures relate to your case but nowhere liable for any legal matter relate to your claim or deal with Insurance company.
Before visiting Vietnam, you may need to get vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk during your travel. Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.
To have the most benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect and to start taking medicine to prevent malaria, if you need it. Even if you have less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see a health-care provider for needed vaccines, anti-malaria drugs and other medications and information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.
Pack medications in their original, clearly labeled containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. If carrying syringes or needles be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. If you have a heart condition brings a copy of your ECG taken just prior to traveling.
In most Southeast Asian countries you can buy many medications over the counter without a doctor’s prescription, but it can be difficult to find some of the newer drugs, particularly the latest antidepressant drugs, blood pressure medications and contraceptive pills.
We recommend that you see a health-care provider who specializes in Travel Medicine. If you have a medical condition, you should also share your travel plans with any doctors you are currently seeing for other medical reasons.
If your travel plans will take you to more than one country during a single trip, be sure to let your health-care provider know so that you can receive the appropriate vaccinations and information for all of your destinations.
The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever. Proof of vaccination will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone within the six days prior to entering Vietnam. If you are traveling to Vietnam from Africa or South America you should check to see if you require proof of vaccination.
Specialized travel-medicine clinics are your best source of information; they stock all available vaccines and will be able to give specific recommendations for you and your trip. The doctors will take into account factors such as past vaccination history, the length of your trip, activities you may be undertaking, and underlying medical conditions, such as pregnancy.
Most vaccines don’t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given, so visit a doctor four to eight weeks before departure.
Recommended items for a personal medical kit:
- antibacterial cream, eg Muciprocin
- antibiotics for skin infections, eg Amoxicillin/Clavulanate or Cephalexin
- antibiotics for diarrhoea, eg Norfloxacin or Ciprofloxacin; Azithromycin for bacterial diarrhoea; and Tinidazole for giardiasis or amoebic dysentery
- antifungal cream, eg Clotrimazole
- antihistamines for allergies, eg Cetrizine for daytime and Promethazine for night
- anti-inflammatories, eg Ibuprofen
- antinausea medication, eg Prochlorperazine
- antiseptic for cuts and scrapes, eg Betadine
- antispasmodic for stomach cramps, eg Buscopa
- decongestant for colds and flus, eg Pseudoephedrine
- DEET-based insect repellent
- diarrhoea ‘stopper’, eg Loperamide
- first-aid items such as scissors, plasters (Band Aids), bandages, gauze, thermometer (electronic, not mercury), sterile needles and syringes, safety pins and tweezers
- indigestion medication, eg Quick Eze or Mylanta
- laxatives, eg Coloxyl
- migraine medication (your personal brand), if a migraine sufferer
- oral-rehydration solution for diarrhoea, eg Gastrolyte
- paracetamol for pain
- steroid cream for allergic/itchy rashes, eg 1% to 2% hydrocortisone
- sunscreen and hat
- throat lozenges
Malaria is not really a big problem in Vietnam. Vietnamese Government and Ministry of Health, with lots of strong solutions, have tried to put it as well as other tropical diseases under control. Anyway, since it is a tropical country, this type of disease can not be totally eradicated. You need to discuss with your doctor if you need to use antimalarial drug since it might cause side effects like: tiredness, nausea, drowsiness or stomach upset….
The best ways for you to avoid getting sick with malaria is to use insect repellent and wearing long and sleeves to prevent mosquito bites when and where mosquito is available. Try to get the type of long lasting insect repellent and use them more frequent around every 3 or 4 hour when you travel to the areas have mosquitos.
When and where the risk of malaria is low, taking an antimalarial drug is not recommended.
Your insurance should basically cover health service and medication. You should find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or if they reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures. You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation.
Be prepared but not paranoid. Before departure you should check the packing list carefully. Actually, health service in Vietnam is rather quick and good. You can use the local services from government run or private hospitals or to set peace your mind, international health care services are available in most of big or tourist cities. You can also buy common drug anywhere and anytime from drug stores without doctor prescription as long as you know what you want.
At the group meeting or the first day of your trip, you should inform our group leader or tour guide about your health status and your special request on using medication, pre-existing medical experience or food balance request if there is any.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Transport in Vietnam is varied except without subway and sky train and the standard of public transport are not very high. For the locals, the main mode of transport is by motorbike. In the big cities like Hanoi and Saigon, the number of motorbike is huge and scene of traffic jam is commonly seen during rush hours. Tourists normally use private car or private tourist bus and for short moves you can use taxi that available anywhere. Motorbike taxi (xe om) is common for both locals and tourists. Cyclos (three wheel pedicab) are used for city tours and is rather relaxing type though. Anyway, local governments are now trying to ban cyclo since, as said, they make traffic jam worse and also looks not very human. For a long distance you can use train or air services. Public trains are rather basic except some certain trains to tourist sites like Hanoi-Sapa or Saigon-Nhatrang. Most of aircraft are new and big enough with Boeing and Airbus are most common.
Custom Vietnam Travel strictly request our service providing partners to provide safety equipment on all type of transport and service but elsewhere you take your own pace, please remember to check for those equipments.
Seat belt is available on all of our cars and buses and life jacket is the must on water way as the same norm for other services according to national and international safety regulation. Our group leaders or tour guides are responsible to check these and to give you instruction but anywhere it does not go properly, please tell him or call directly to our Customer Care Center.
If you take a taxi, the price here are pretty cheap around 12-15,000VND/km (0.6-0.7USD) depends on size of the car. There are some time fake taxis whose meter increase very quick or driver tries to take you around though you do not need a city tour. Recommended taxi operator all over Vietnam is Mailinh taxi. In Hanoi you can use also Hanoitourist taxi, Taxi Group and in Saigon are Vinasun, Happy Taxi. Try to remember the taxi number that attached on the front and back glasses in case you have anything to deal with them after the trip.
If you happen to take motorbike taxi (xe om) or cyclo, please remember to ask for price first. Try to make it clear between you and the driver about how much the price is and in Vietnam dong or US dollar. Do not use body language or finger since it is very obscure and might cause misunderstanding at the end. The price for motorbike taxi or cyclo is around 20,000VND for a ride of less than 1km and 10,000VND for every next km.
Never get on motorbike taxi or cyclo with another strange person at your back nor accept offers of free transfers to hotels at night, as these are likely to be bogus.
Driving yourself in cities is quite difficult if you are not used to similar traffic system. Riding motorbike on your own is not recommended but you can let someone to take you around. Make sure that your travel insurance policy covers motorbike if you want to ride it.
Walking and crossing street
When you wander around on foot, take side walk and pay attention on the traffic if you have to walk on the road. Walking at night should be in pair and do not show off your jewelry and properties.
Crossing street here in cities is something bizarre for those who the first time comes to the country like Vietnam. Just learn how the locals do. Do not panic, do not try to run or jump off the path nor stand still. If you just stand you never make it and will be hit by vehicles. Stay calm, just walk slowly and steadily. People need to know how fast and where you are heading for to weave off from you. Look toward the direction where current of traffic coming and move your feet appropriately.
If you cross street with the group, stay in horizontal line or stick together and walk along. Do not lag behind as the risk of getting hit is higher since drivers just pay attention on the big group.
For your big bag or suitcase, a padlock is the best to keep it safe when traveling around. When you check in hotel, the first thing to do is to leave your valuables in the safety box with your own password or to deposit them at hotel reception. If you leave your valuable at hotel’s reception box, please remember to put them into a paper envelope and use adhesive tape to cover all the sides then put your signature across the paper and the tape as a seal. This is to make sure you get back what you leave with them and avoid confusing. Remember to get a receipt for your deposit and keep it with you.
Do not bring more than you need when you wander around. Passport, important papers, spare money and valuables should be in safety box. Just bring enough for day use. Depends on your need but around 100USD and a credit card is enough for you to party around.
Do not put your wallet in the back pocket since it is not safe when you come to crowded place. Money belt is the best option to keep your money safe. Prepare some small change both in USD and VND ready for petty deal when you around.
Bag should be wore in the front and do not put the whole junk shop in it. Camera should be held in hand with the strap wore around your wrist.
During your trip, when you join in group activities, you are cared by our group leader or tour guide but it is the must you have to inform us your health status or pre-existing medical condition in order to help you to deal with situation when it happen. The group leader or tour guide shall have the right to refuse the participation of any group member who he thinks unsuitable for an activity on the trip since it is for the safety of themselves, the rest of the group and the tour guide.
Protect yourself and get away from any danger before you call for help from the others.
As it is the regulation that you have to follow the group leader or tour guide’s advices and instructions on the matter of safety during the trip and before you take any activity.
You have to determine well before you book for any tour that demands a high physical fitting such as trekking, climbing, motorbiking, biking, rafting or kayaking…
It is your responsible to prepare proper gear for that activities. Please read your trip dossier for more instruction on what is needed.
During the activity, if wrong thing happens or if local conditions become an issue then the ultimate decision on whether to continue is made by your group leader or tour guide.
For any high risk activity that is not included in our itinerary but you want to take part when you have free time, please understand that you do so of your own choice and at your own risk and your group leader will require passengers opting to partake in high-risk optional activities to sign an ‘Optional activity form’ or a ‘Passenger release form.’
Troubles and annoyances
Noise: In some city like Hanoi and Saigon, noise is something a problem. These cities are busy from early morning until midnight with currents and currents of people moving on their mototbikes or cars. Vietnamese drivers tend to use horn more than normal. Honking horn here is not type of expressing anger or fretty but just simple to inform their coming though it is not very gentle way. Traffic noise normally subsides around 10 or 11pm but if your hotel is located near the main road you might sometime woken up by single motorbike passing by. If you find it difficult to sleep with noise then take the room at the back and earplug come in handy.
Street annoyances: you might sometime confront problem with street vendors while walking around. Some street vendors are rather persistent and will follow you for a while if they find that you seem to be interested on their stuff. If you can, bargain well and get a good deal but if not, just use this incantation: khong, cam on (No, thank you) and walk away without looking back.
Bargaining is something bizarre for someone who not use to it but it is the must when you do shopping here except in super market. It is not only applied for tourist but locals also. The better and harder you bargain, the better the deal is. Just take it as art of interaction. Remember that the price for local stuffs here normally cheaper than you get at home. Get fun bargaining and nice shopping around. If you find it difficult to do so, just find supper market around.
Do not change money on street. Go to banks or change your money at hotel reception. And do not show your money or let someone to help you to get the right note out from your wallet since Vietnamese denominations are very confusing with lots of zero. Check the note before giving to people to avoid misunderstanding and unexpected argument.
For anything you do not well, it is really know better to consult your group leader or tour guide for advice.
Local law and custom
While you are traveling in Vietnam, you are subject to the laws of Vietnam. The Vietnamese legal system and some Vietnamese laws can be vastly different from your own and if you do anything against local law then your foreign passport will not help.
We strongly recommend you not to get involve in prostitution or drug using since it is against local law and our responsible travel code.
Penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs can be severe and Vietnam maintains the death penalty. In Vietnamese law, anyone found in possession of even a small amount of drugs can face the death sentence.
Traveling with children
Traveling with your children here in Vietnam is a great experience for both parents and children. Anyway, you have to take care of your own children and attend them when they are around on the road with you. You should also prepare for your children and tell them the different things they might find strange here.
Vietnamese people love to see and play with Western children since for them, blonde hair, blue eyes children are something like little angels. People normally very friendly and they might try to talk, touch or kiss your child. In that case, you should be very calm and do not try to make a fuss that will make them loose face. That might be a chance for your children to build up self confidence and skill of interaction.
In general, put aside some minor problem, Vietnam is one of the safest countries for travelers. And further more, Vietnamese authority applies a strong protection for foreign tourist as a solution to promote tourism industry. So, traveling in Vietnam is relaxing. Open your mind, open your heart and enjoy every single minute.
Vietnam is located in both a tropical and a temperate zone and has a tropical monsoon type of climate.
In general, from May to September the southern monsoon sets in and from October to April, the northern monsoon is dominant with wind from the North and Northeast. There is a transition period between each monsoon season when winds are light and variable.
Under influence of monsoon, and further because of the complicated topography, the climate in Vietnam always changes in one year, between the years, or between the areas from North to South and from low to high.
Rains normally come during the summer (April to September) and the time from October to April is called dry season with very few and light rain. Annual rainfall is ranges from 2000 to 2500mm depending on location.
The North of Vietnam with the weather is divided into four seasons and rather typical type of subtropical weather. During the winter, from November until February, the day time temperature is pleasantly cool and the weather is often damp. To the far north in places like Sapa, there is occasionally freezing temperatures during this time. It begins to warm up in March and stays dry and warm until May. From June to October, the weather is rather warm and rainy.
Central Vietnam experiences warm weather from July to October and wet, colder weather from November to May. Frequent typhoons hit the central coast from August to October which can cause flooding and disrupt travel plans.
Although the temperature remains fairly steady throughout the year, Southern Vietnam has two seasons. The dry season lasts from December to May, while from May to November is the rainy season.
In general, there is no good or bad season for visiting Vietnam. What ever the season and period of the year, there are always somewhere or the whole country with weather is pleasant and favorable. On a trip you can sometime experience different types of weather and climate as you cruise along its length.
PREPARE FOR YOUR DEPARTURE
Travel to Vietnam has never been a complicated affair. So, preparing for a trip to Vietnam doesn’t have to be difficult but there are some basics that you should take care of before your holiday.
Your passport and visa - Your passport must be valid for at least next six month and has at least two blank pages for visa and stamps. Check your passport status to make sure it still valid and function.
Allow enough time to arrange visa. You will need to prepare 2 passport type photos 2 inchs by 2 inchs that taken within last six month, a visa application form (taken from the specific Embassy where you will obtain your visa) and visa fee.
Check the list of Vietnam Embassy and Consulate here.
If you do not want to go through that process and just want a visa on arrival, then contact us through email for more information
Travel insurance is compulsory on all Custom Vietnam Travel trips and is a condition of booking with Custom Vietnam Travel. Your insurance policy should cover at least:
- Medical and health cover for injury or sudden illness
- 24 hour emergency service and assistance.
- Personal liability in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property.
- Lost and stolen of possessions.
- Cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.).
- Personal accident.
Vaccinations and medical checking list
Visit a doctor or travel clinic at least two months before you travel to find out which travel vaccinations are necessary. By the way, check if what type of medication you will need on your holiday. Please, click here for more information.
Make photocopies – Make photocopies of your passport, visa and other important travel documents and leave one copy with someone at home and keep one with you. You could also email it to yourself. This makes things much simpler in case you lose any of those paper or documents.
Money and credit card – You can not buy Vietnam dong outside the country and do not need to do it. You can actually withdraw VND at the airport when you arrive. ATMs are easily found in the cities in Vietnam. Anyway, some USD, EUR, AUD or EP are come in handy. Traveler cheques is usable but you need to sign and show your passport when you change it. The most easy to use cards in Vietnam are Visa card, Master card, ANZ… Before you leave, let your bank know that you are going abroad so that they don’t block it when you use it there. It’s always a good idea to have a few bank cards as back ups in case one gets blocked or stolen.
Study well your itinerary and trip note to work out what you should take for the holiday. Pack your luggage as light as possible. Just take with you what you really need. Quantity is still an issue...but today it isn't "How much"....but "How little". Make your vacation more of a stress-free getaway by packing light and leaving the burden of those heavy bags behind.
You should first check the weather of the country before departure to know how to deal with it. If it is winter then jacket and jumper are necessary. The summer time requires loose and light clothes. Long pant, shoulder and chest cover stuff are needed for visiting holly places like temples or historical sites.
Before you start packing, make a list of the “must takes”. After you’ve assembled all the “must takes”, lay out the rest of the clothes you want to pack. Do not take more pants or shirts than the number of days you’ll be gone. If your itinerary involves in adventure activities then your own comfortable and proper gears should be prepared.
Leave the "I might need" items at home.Make sure your carry-on has all your important documents, medicines, your camera, and anything else you can’t live without for more than a day in case your luggage gets lost.
Packing light means less hassle for the airline crew, your driver, the hotel staff, and most importantly you, leading to a more relaxing vacation and travel experience.
In general, you can buy almost everything in Vietnam with good price so; do not need to bring the whole junk shop with you.
To be responsible tourist – Places and you will visit have been there forever and you just pass through for a quick peek. But these places are homes for people who live and work there. How would you want visitors to behave in your own home? Think about it!
Read up on the places you want to visit. This is not so time consuming but really helpful to behave properly.
Plan what you can buy during your trip. You will help circulate money in the local economy and support or create jobs for local people. Things you can buy here in Vietnam include cloths, ceramics, painting and work arts of many types…
Learn something about local food, learn a few words in the local language and use it. You will surely get a smile from local people.
If you really want to give, then some of your unused stuffs at home can help the disadvantaged people here. You yourself can give it directly to the people or we will help you to distribute that stuff to those in needed.
And here's the big one....good manners are nearly universal. A pro tourist is polite and positive and eco sensitive. These are just simple things. What we need is just a little desire to make our world a much better place to be -- not just for ourselves, but for everyone.
SHOPPING IN VIETNAM
Shopping in Vietnam is something a fantastic experience. With wide range of products in different places the country offers some really good shopping opportunity.
You can find here stuffs from contemporary art paintings, silks, wood and bronze handicrafts to war souvenirs along with other commodities of all kind. It’s never been difficult to find in the cities and places you travel to.
Some most popular shopping places when traveling in the country include Hanoi, Saigon, Hoian and Hue.
When shopping here, please bear in mind that local made stuffs is normally cheaper or much cheaper than you get at home but imported products of big international brands might be the same or even higher price because of import tax.
In general, the price here is not fixed except in big shops and department stores where you see price labeled on the item. Have fun bargaining! This is not only the way to get a good deal but art of conversation. Bargaining is applied for both locals and tourist without exception. So, the better you bargain, the better price you have. Do not get upset if you find some one else can get better price. It is just they bargain better than you did. Here, with lots of competitions, vendors normally do not set up certain profit rate and just take any single chance they can have though sometime very tiny. You can start from 50% of the offer then gradually go up until you think it is reasonable. If the vendor still insists more, then just walk away. They may call you back or you can find the same stuff somewhere else.
Keep smiling and do not get angry or argue. Once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Remember that in Asia, “saving face” is very important. In some cases you will be able to get up to 50% discount, at other times this may only be 10%.
If you plan to make some deal during your travel here then depending on your starting point, you should sort the list out for place and it will help you to save space in your bag and energy to carry stuff along.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – Large commercial centre with lots of markets and shops around. You can find here ready made clothes, T-shirt and shorts, wooden box or lacquer, painting, silk embroideries and other petty souvenir stuffs.
Most popular shopping area is Benthanh Market and shops in surrounding streets. For up market stuffs, then Diamond Plaza or along Dong Khoi street is good idea.
Nhatrang – Though not a hotspot but a visit to Dam market in centre of the city would be a nice experience.
Hoian - Hoian is really a paradise for shoppers especially those who like fashion. Here you can have suits, dress and clothes of all types tailor made with quick service and good quality. You can pick styles available from catalogues or ask them to copy any mode you have. Along with fashion, there are also many shops in town offer pretty souvenirs ranges from silk embroideries, woods carving, paintings and other local handicrafts.
Danang – Just close to Hoian. Shopping items here is stone carving in Ngu Hanh Son village at the bottom of Marble Mountains. This is one of the most famous stone carving villages in the country. Here you can find a wide range of stone art carving from huge statues or home decoration sets to tiny carving objects and precious stone.
Hue – Home of Hue style conical hats. If you like one of those, why not? Painting and other petty souvenirs also available here. A visit to Dong Ba Market on the bank of Perfume River would be a nice experience.
Hanoi – the whole Old quarter of Hanoi offers you a fantastic opportunity for shopping.
There are many shops here with different type of product from wood, bronze, silk, ceramic to clothes, bags, watches, books, movie discs, jewelry and more…
It is quite convenient since each street here seems to have the same specific product or type of shop. Set aside a half or one day to wander around to satisfy your hobby and dispense your Vietnam dong. Stay calm! Have fun bargaining and get good deals.
There will be lots of things you want to shop when you are in Vietnam. Just plan it well and remember 3W: What; Where; When. What you want to buy, Where you can get it and; When it is the best time. This will certainly help you to save your bag’s space and you won’t have to carry them along on the whole trip.
If you want to send something home then post office in any city is a place to send your parcel but the most convenient place to do this is Hoian where offers quick, cheap and good service.
FOOD & DRINK
When it comes to eating and drinking, Vietnam has never been an easier place. In tourist areas especially popular places like Hanoi, Saigon, Hoian or Nhatrang… you can find a wide range of food that is acceptable to the international palate. Restaurants are usually clean and menus often have English translations. Apart from most common food – Vietnamese – you can have also French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian… upon your choice.
There are quite lots of restaurants around and the price is also varied depending on quality or style. Average standard meal is around USD5 to USD7 including dink while up market restaurant could be up to USD15 or more.
In some other areas, the variety might be less but it is not really difficult to find. Most of hotel from 3 star have dining facility but dining out is something more interesting.
There are also lots of street foods. This type of food severed very conveniently on side walk but they are sometime far away from international standard of hygiene. Exotic foods are just available in some specific type of restaurant with clear sign and normally for locals so, do not worry if you are not sure what they will serve you during the meal. But, if you want to try something like that, why not?
In general, Vietnamese food is tasty but fresh and healthy and easy for people with different palate. During your trip, apart from included meals in the itinerary, we have optional meal when you can hover around for your own choice. Our group leader or tour guide is willing to help you to book for a table, accompany you to or just simply show you where to have good food. We also encourage you to try something local. This is not only to experience local taste but local culture. Local food restaurants we take you to are well selected among the typical ones and good quality. Our gourmet tour programs are designed to provide you a great chance for cuisine experience with different cooking styles and tastes that available in the country. Here in Vietnam, each place has their own local specialties and many of them are famous in the international food slate. Why not? Dig in, learn something, cook it yourself and enjoy it. It would be great to treat your people at home Vietnamese food with the recipes you learn from Vietnam.
When traveling in Vietnam, one thing you never have to worry is drinks. There is a huge variety of drinks around ranging from Coke and Pepsi to finest cognac or whiskey. Beer is the most common and quality is good. Beer is served cold in tourist restaurants or bars and locals prefer to drink it with ice.
“Bia hoi’ known as “fresh beer’ is rather popular in Hanoi. It is a low alcoholic and cheap beer brewed daily and poured out from big aluminum barrel. A half little glass of this beer costs around 5 to 8 thousand VND can provide you a sit for a hot talk with others on the busy pavement in Hanoi old quarter during a hot and humid afternoon.
Except imported luxury stuffs, price for drinks is also very reasonable. You can have a beer around USD1, wine from USD3/glass and drinking water around USD 0.5/bottle. There is also a huge choice for fresh juices. Since Vietnam is a tropical country and fruits available all year around, it is good chance to try the difference.
In Vietnam, drinking is something man’s privilege and they prefer to drink rice wine or vodka during their meal. Rice wine is made from rice with a simple method of distill and rather strong, some time up to 50%. Vodka is made from rice also and quality can be compared to some other types of vodka around.
Green tea is most common drink for people here. Hot or with ice is just depending on weather or one’s hobby. People drink tea before and after their meals, during their work and it is just a mean to great anyone who visits their home.
Another very popular drink in the country is coffee. Coffee shops or bars that serve coffee can be found at almost every street corners or sidewalk. Vietnamese coffee is rather strong but good. Café sua da – Iced coffee with condensed milk is very popular here. Café den – black coffee served in traditional style with a metal filter put atop a cup and coffee is brewed slowly through. One glass of light tea is normally served along when you order coffee. If you find your coffee is too strong then just ask for a glass of hot water or more ice.
Capuchino, Expresso or other Western style coffees can be found in bars or western style restaurants around. But once you are in Vietnam, why not Vietnamese coffee? As rice wine or local foods, they make your tour full of local taste.
Entertainment in Vietnam, in general, is a great combination of traditional and modern styles. The country is home of lots of festivals from the countryside to cities those normally boom during the spring after the lunar new year and less hot on the other time. During festival, traditional music and games are normally performed as part of festive activities. This is home of some of special and typical traditional art like water puppet, Quan ho folk singing and so on…
Although traditional stuffs still plays very important role in people life, the young now have much more choice than their parents did before.
Nowadays and in the tourism sphere, entertainment includes a variety of activities ranging from sports to sightseeing, shopping, music, dancing etc.
Along with the economic development, the globalization process has changed the atmosphere of entertainment in the country swiftly. Pop, rap, hip hop is something indispensable now along with internet and other media facilities.
In big cities, sport clubs, cinemas, discotheques, bars and nightclubs... are on the list of entertainment. Karaoke, a type of singing with an audio set attacked the country around 1990’s and become very popular now.
It is not difficult for tourists to find a place of entertainment when you are here.
Though, according to the government regulation, all the places have to be closed at 12pm but you can still find somewhere that open later until 2 or 3 am, especially in tourist hubs.
In the view of government, discotheque or those alike are considered haunts of social problems so; the number of places likes that can be counted with fingers on your hand.
Anyway, coffee bars and western style bars are rather popular around and most of them are convenient and often with music dead or live and sometimes with a little dancing ground and is good place for nigh owls.
Cinemas and theatres are normally good and big enough and some of them are really in impressive style.
Along with those mentioned above, in cities there are also quite lots of good parks that are place of entertainment and sport, some of them modeled Disneyland.
Wandering around and find a place for entertainment is not a difficult affair. There are always enough for you to kill your time and enjoy your holiday when you are here, in Vietnam.
The currency of Vietnam is the dong, which is abbreviated to ‘vnd’ or ‘d’. Small denominations include VND 200; 500; 1000; 2000; 5000 in both coin and paper notes. Bigger denominations include polymer notes of VND 10,000; 20,000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000 with Ho Chi Minh’s picture is on every banknote.
The interesting thing when you are in Vietnam and change your money is that you suddenly find yourself VND millionaire.
The Dong value is rather low in comparison to other currency and exchange rate now is around 20,000 to 21,000 vnd to 1 USD.
Since the banknotes bear many digits and the color of some notes roughly the same, it is advisable to check the face of the note carefully before handling for your deal since it might cause confusing and misunderstanding.
Vietnam dong is the first and theoretically the only official currency for any common transaction in the country. According to government regulation, all prices for services and commodities must be in quoted in VND; foreign currencies can be only dealt through authorized exchange bureaus or with special permission.
In fact, USD is considered second currency in tourist places and with commonness of EUR, AUD, BP… goes on respectively.
Places like restaurants, bars, travel agencies or souvenir shops in tourist places sometimes accept both USD and VND and price might be quoted in both type of currency so, the best solution is to carry both of them.
Out of tourist sites or in remote areas, only Vietnam dong is accepted.
Remember to stock up enough small bills for your petty deals when you around.
It’s a good idea to check that any bills you take do not have any tears or look too tatty, as shops and restaurants will not accept them.
Also try not to change too much money at one time, as you will end up with a large wad of notes. The largest denomination is currently 500,000 dong and some notes look only slightly different but the value is a big gap. Keep big notes separate from other smaller notes to avoid confusion then.
The exchange rate is rather fluctuant due to inflation or other effects include government regulation that issued unmethodically at time. Recently, the exchange rate for 1 USD is around 20,500 to 21,000 d.
In theory, you can only exchange your money at banks and government authorized exchange bureaus and any transaction out of those places are considered illegal but the practice is not really strict.
Before, the black market operates quite openly but recently that type of business has been cracked down by government authority.
Please, note that exchange money on streets is vulnerable to get risk. Fake money or cut of amount is rather common in this case. If someone approaches you on the street with offer to change money at the better rate you can have at a bank then it is most likely a trap being set for you.
Most of major currencies can be exchanged at banks in Vietnam that nowadays available with offices and branches everywhere in towns and cities and the rate offer among them are roughly the same.
According to regulation, you can not take dong out of Vietnam but you can reconvert reasonable amounts of it into US dollars on departure at land border crossings or airport.
The cost of travel in Vietnam varies from dirt cheap to sky high. You can live it up with a budget from US$15 to US$250 depending on your level of taste and comfort.
In comparison to many parts of the world, travel in Vietnam in general is quite cheap and reasonable.
Street food is cheap and you can fill your stomach with around US$2 or US$3. A meal in average restaurant costs you around US$5 to US$8 while gourmet restaurants can offer good meal with a dink between US$12 and US$15.
Drinks in bar is quite reasonable with US$1 or US$2 for a beer, cocktail from US$3 to US$6.
If you plan to do good shopping on your holiday then it is the right place. With cheap labor cost, most of the product made in Vietnam is in good price.
Here you can find stuffs from clothes, bronze wares, china wares, wood carvings, paintings and so on with good quality and reasonable price.
Bargaining is essential in most shopping places except super markets and department stores. Remember that in Asia ‘saving face’ is important, so bargaining should be good-natured. Smile and don’t get angry or argue. This is not only for a deal but it is a type of art of living. Bargaining is applied for both locals and tourist without exception.
In some cases you will be able to get a 50% discount or more, at other times this may only be 10%. And once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Don’t be upset if you find someone can get better price than you did; it is about paying the price that is right for you.
ATMs & CREDIT CARDS
In cities and tourist places, you can easily find ATMs from different banks at many corners of streets. Most common and well represented banks include Vietcombank, Argribank, Vietinbank, Sacombank, SEAbank and so on. HSBC, ANZ, Citibank or some other foreign banks are less common but can be found in big cities. Withdrawals are issued in dong, and most of Vietnam banks offer a multiple withdrawal with a limit of 2,000,000d each time. ANZ offers far higher limit depends on your type of card.
The ATMs fees are 20,000 or 40,000 per transaction depending on what bank you use.
Most ATMs enables you to withdraw cash from VISA, MASTER CARD, CIRRUS, PLUS, MAESTRO, JCB, DINNER CLUB through its network, 24 hours per day.
However, a 3% commission charge on every transaction is pretty common; check first, as some charge higher commissions than others. Some merchants also accept Amex, but the surcharge is typically 4%.
Traveller cheques now become less common since using ATMs is much more convenient. Your travelers cheques can be cashed at authorized foreign exchange outlets and banks and require presentation of passport. There is normally a 2 to 5 percent transaction fee for cashing Travelers checks.
It is wise not to rely entirely on travellers cheques by keeping a reasonable stash of US dollars to hand.
If your travellers cheques are in currencies other than US dollars, they may be useless beyond the major cities.
Tipping is not compulsory in Vietnam, but it is enormously appreciated.
If you're happy with the services provided then some tip is appropriate. It's of great significance to the people who take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry.
Although in some hotels or restaurants, a service charge of 5% sometimes put on your bill but this money most likely not going to the pocket of workers. So, if you are happy with service provided, tipping should be given directly to the recipient.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travelers:
In local restaurants, if you are a single diner, then a tip of around US$1 is appropriated. It is from 10% to 15% of your bill in the more up-market restaurants. If you are in group then depends on the group size, a gather of US$4 or 5 is good.
For drivers, we suggest US$5 if you are single traveler and an amount of US$10-15 from the whole group per day can be used.
For your tour guides or group leaders, tipping is much depending on their services. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however it is US$5-7 per day or US$2-4 per person in group tour is appropriate.
Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the trop-ics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and an umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.
Evenings in the north and the center can be quite chilly so bring a sweater and a good jacket especially from November to February. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other revealing clothing when visiting pa-godas and monasteries. Shoes must be removed before entering some religious building or a private home. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off.
Vietnam mainly uses 220V but in some areas, 110V is also used. A mixture of flat and round 2-pin outlets are used throughout the country. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.
Major hotels have Business Centers with PCs connected to the Internet. Some of them have wireless broadband access in rooms or public areas. Cybercafés are avail-able everywhere and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable, usually below US$1 per hour. Most Internet cafés are equipped with web-cams, headsets and microphones. Vietnam has an ex-ceptional amount of cafés and restaurants offering free WIFI connections, if having a meal or a drink internet fees are waived.
Normal print films are available in Vietnam as well as professional quality films (like slide films). Digital pho-tos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-Rom in case you run out of memory.
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel recep-tion desks. A postcard to Europe costs VND 9,000 (0.5 USD) to send and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of destination.
If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make domestic or in-ternational calls. Check with your mobile phone pro-vider for the costs before using it abroad - it may be expensive.
Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices al-though these services are expensive. It may not always be possible to make international calls in remote areas.
Vietnam is GMT 7 and does not operate daylight-saving system.
HOURS OF BUSINESS
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07:30 or 08:00 until 17:00 or 18:00 and often close for lunch between 11:30 and 13:00. Some offices also open on Saturday morning. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.
What to see in Hanoi?
Hanoi is one of Asia’s most fascinating cities with its unique blend of western and oriental charm. You can wander through the 36 streets in the Old Quarter, rummage for souvenirs and witness the artisans working on their specialty crafts. As the oldest university (established since 1070), the Temple of Literature and its five courtyards retains a scholarly atmosphere and makes a peaceful respite from Hanoi’s busy streets. Pay homage to the late Ho Chi Minh at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and his ‘house on stilts’ and learn why “Uncle Ho” is such a respected figure to the Vietnam-ese. Vietnam is a culturally diverse country and the fascinating ways of life of her 54 ethnic groups can be seen at the Museum of Ethnology.
To check out the budding arts scene, pop into the dozens of art galleries that stock works ranging from traditional to modern. Some of our favorites, the Apri-cot Gallery and Art Vietnam have consis-tently received positive accolades from art connoisseurs and travelers. Although modern entertainment outlets are read-ily available in Hanoi, why not opt to catch a water puppet show - a unique cultural form of North Vietnam? For early risers, head to Hoan Kiem Lake or Park of Reunification (formerly Lenin Park) and observe Vietnamese in their synchro-nized Tai Chi moves. On fine afternoons, stroll through the French quarter, sip an aromatic cup of coffee on the sidewalk and observe the bustling street life.
If you have more time to spare, there are many interesting locales in Hanoi’s out-skirts that are lesser visited by tourists. Tam Coc in Ninh Binh - with its series of limestone rock formations jutting out from a sea of rice paddies, is a scenic and surreal place to visit. Nearby Hoa Lu also offers similar landscapes of rocky outcrops - no less spectacular when compared to Tam Coc - as well as 10th century relics from when the area was the capital’s country.
To learn about Vietnam’s pottery his-tory, a visit to Bat Trang Ceramic Village should be on the travel agenda. Here, you could try your hands at making the ceramics, but it is much easier to be en-ticed into owning the exquisite vases, bowls and dishes produced from the hands of the talented Bat Trang potters. For lovers of indigenous crafts, the Van Phuc Weaving Village lures visitors with its bewildering range of silk products.
Explore the rustic landscapes by cycling around the city’s northern outskirts in Dong Ho Village, which is also famous for its painting styles that depict the traditional Vietnamese village lives. Fol-low the trails of Vietnamese pilgrims and embark on a 2-hour trek up Huong Son Mountain to Perfume Pagoda (or Chua Huong), with lots of photographic oppor-tunities along the way.
Where to stay in Hanoi?
When in Hanoi, a stay in a colonial-style hotel should not be missed. The Sofitel Metropole Legend Hanoi is a celebrated Hanoi institution which boasts of an impressive guest list. For a lavish stay, the InterContinental Westlake Hanoi tops with its chic Vietnamese décor and waterfront location by the historic West Lake. Nearby the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, the boutique Maison D’Hanoi Hanova Hotel appeals to discerning travelers with its 55 tastefully designed rooms. For accommodations that are more wallet-friendly but yet present good value, we prefer The Silk Path Hotel - conveniently located within walking distance to the Old Quarter and other city attractions.
Where to eat in Hanoi?
For street eats, Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), Bun Cha (grilled meat with dry noodles) and Banh Cuon (pho package with beef rolls) usually make good intro-duction to the local cuisine. For delicious pho eats, consider the ubiquitous Pho 24 which offers different varieties of the much-loved Vietnamese beef noodle. The popular Quan An Ngon makes a good introduction to Vietnamese cuisine with its scrumptious and inexpensive of-fering in a courtyard setting.
A classic Hanoi dish, Cha Ca - grilled fish with tumeric usually served with rice noodles - is best savored on Cha Ca Street where this northern specialty dish originated at Cha Ca La Vong Restaurant. Highway 4 is a recommended stop for its complete dining experience with its de-lectable range of traditional Vietnamese liquor and specialty dishes. The bustling Bao Khanh Street, lined with numerous cafés and open-air eateries, is a great hunt for a cup of Vietnamese coffee while people-watching.
Housed in an old colonial building, both Wild Lotus and Seasons of Hanoi are styl-ish establishments that serve rich Viet-namese menu with tasteful Asian décor. For French - Vietnamese fusion fare, opt for Didier Corlou’s La Verticale which showcases an impressive selection in an intimate setting. For the ultimate dining experience, head to one of the homes of the celebrated chefs who will whip up a tantalizing dinner for you.
Where to eat in Hue?
The recommended street eats are Banh Khoai (tradi-tional savory pancake), Com Hen (tiny mussels served on rice with soup) and Bun Bo Hue (hot and steamy beef noodle soup). Modeled after a style house, An-cient Hue offers imperial style cuisine. Near the Citadel, Y Thao Garden is a simple yet charming choice. Dine in style in the grounds of the former mandarin houses or hobnob with the locals as you tuck into a bowl of noodles at the Dong Ba Market. For the romantics, a private dinner cruise down the Perfume River makes a memorable experience.
What to see in Hue?
Step into imperial times with a visit to the large Hue Citadel, the prime attraction of Hue. There, the walled interior houses the Forbidden City - a sprawling com-plex of palaces, temples, pavilions and galleries. Enjoy a romantic boat ride along the Perfume River on the way to explore the royal tombs of Tu Duc, Minh Mang and other former emperors that lie scattered around the countryside. The covered bridge, lush paddy fields and cottage industries that dot the city outskirts of-fer varied and interesting excursions. Hue is good for a day trip out to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), a buffer site between North and South Vietnam that saw intense fighting during the American War. Traverse the quaint streets of Hue on a cyclo or bicycle and take in Hue’s unique atmosphere. Do not forget to visit nha vuon, el-egant historic garden houses that are exclusive to Hue.
Where to stay in Hue?
La Residence Hotel & Spa is the city’s top accommo-dation with its enchanting blend of French colonial décor and tranquil location by the Perfume River. In the quaint countryside, Pilgrimage Village lures with its harmonious combination of a rustic village setting and modern art elements.
Where to go in Hoi An?
Hoi An’s tailors are renowned for their high workman-ship, so be sure to shop for tailor-made clothes. Do also shop for interesting souvenirs such as silk lanterns and custom made jewelry. Head to the Old Town where his-torical sights await. There, you can cross the Japanese covered bridge, stroll through the cultural halls, enjoy a traditional music performance, and explore the layout of an ancient house.
Just a few kilometers out of town, Cua Dai Beach’s golden sands provide a nice place to unwind over fresh seafood. Explore the small villages on a bicycle and dis-cover artisans crafting pottery in the narrow streets. For day trips out of Hue, opt for the historical Cham stat-ues at My Son or to the Marble Mountain where caves, temples and magnificent views await at the summit.
Where to stay in Hoi An?
Situated close to the old town, the Ha An Hotel offers a pleasant stay amid its shophouse-style property and manicured gardens. For a luxurious resort stay, it has to be The Nam Hai which sits on a tranquil stretch of palm-lined beach facing China Sea. Overlooking the scenic Do River and lush paddy fields, the gorgeous Life Resort is highly favored for its proximity to Cua Dai beach and the old quarter.
Where to eat in Hoi An?
In Hoi An, do not miss the local specialty Cao Lau which is a dry noodle dish with a tantalizing touch. Other deli-cacies include Hoa Hong (white ‘rose‘ dumplings) and Mi Quang (noodle soup with a foray of ingredients). With only 6 tables, the seafood specialty restaurant Hoi An Hai San features a cozy and intimate atmosphere but pre-booking is required if you want guaranteed seats. The funky Mango Rooms serves fusion food at its best – delectable dishes with great visual appeal. If you are eager to learn local culinary recipes, be sure to join in the cooking classes at Tra Que Organic Vegetable Vil-lage which produces the country’s finest organic food. For an original culinary experience in Hoi An, indulge in a private picnic on a deserted beach on the Cham Island (accessible by speedboat).
What to see in HCMC?
Within the city, HCMC has many sights that should not be missed. A city tour of the Opera House, Le Loi Street, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and War Remnants Museum on a classic Citroen or Vespa scoot-er are nostalgic ways to be introduced to this former colonial city. Ben Thanh Market, a massive old-style market in the central district, is a place to rummage for knock-offs and interesting souvenirs. However, do not forget to bargain hard (but in a polite manner) for your purchases.
For more ‘posh’ buys, head to art galleries and fashion shops that line Dong Khoi. If you are keen to own a piece of propaganda art, Dogma stocks a unique range. History buffs should reminisce at Rex Hotel, where me-dia briefings known as ‘five o’clock follies’ to inter-national correspondents were held during the Vietnam War. For a night out, hit the city’s chic bars and restau-rants that are crowded by the rich and trendy.
If you have a bit of time to spare, make a day trip outside of Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This network of over 200 kilometers of tunnels was used by the Vietcong during the American war and offers a fascinating look into the lives of the inhabitants during the war-time era. This can easily be combined with a stop at Wildlife at Risk (WAR) rescue centre, a non-profit organization to stop illegal wildlife trade, and Tay Ninh Temple, home to the intriguing Cao Dai religion.
Where to stay in HCMC?
Park Hyatt Saigon is the city’s most luxurious hotel that packs world-class restaurants and spa services in a classic French colonial building. One of the finest in its class, the Caravelle Hotel offers commanding views of the city and overlooks Lam Son Square and the Op-era House. Recently refurnished, Palace Hotel Saigon retains its original French architecture and is favored for its convenient location in the city’s heart. Another landmark building from the colonial era, Hotel Majestic exudes old world charm combined with excellent ser-vice and rooms come with either pool or river views. The cosy and unique Sanouva is well located close to Ben Thanh market and boasts charms with its well fur-nished interiors and friendly staff.
What to eat in HCMC?
Street eats can be found in almost every corner of this bustling city. To be inducted into Southern Vietnamese cuisine, opt for Lau (hotpot with cook your own ingredi-ents served on the side), Com Nieu (broken rice served out of a claypot) and Banh Xeo (pancakes cooked over a flame). To enjoy the clatter of an authentic Vietnam-ese eatery, Com Nieu will surely leave an impression when the waiters fling claypots across the restaurant. Dong Pho is the best place to enjoy a meal of tradi-tional Hue dishes in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you are looking for authentic Vietnamese cuisine in an old world setting, Anh Vien receives the thumbs-up – it offers superb food and tasteful décor in an old French villa. Tucked in a former opium refinery (hence the name) in a small alley, the Refinery is a French bistro that serves a wide range of light eats in classy décor. Just next door, Hoa Tuc serves a tantalizing selection of Vietnamese dishes in an elegant setting of green and purple hues. Xu is our favorite when it comes to fusion Vietnamese fare, a renowned restaurant cum bar tops with a chic and classy atmosphere.
Halong bay, the bay of descending dragon, is one of the most beautiful places on earth and is a very popular travel destination in Vietnam.
Halong bay, with its outstanding scenic landscape, special geographic and historical features has been twice recognized by UNESCO; the first time in 1994 as Natural World Heritage and second time in the year 2000 as Natural and Cultural World Heritage.
Ha Long Bay has a water body of 1,553km2 with 1969 limestone islets in various sizes and shapes uninhabited and unaffected by a human presence.
The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments.
The erosion of limestone has found not only the shape of islands and islets here but also created lots of cave in the area, some of them boasted most beautiful in the country.
Another distinctive feature of Ha Long Bay is the abundance of lakes within the larger limestone islands, some of them can be accessed by kayak or little bamboo boat through sea level cave or long dark tunnel.
Dotted among the bay are some floating fishing villages where people live on floating houses are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture
Tourists visiting Ha Long Bay are not only treated to one of the natural wonders of the world, but also to a precious geological museum that has been naturally preserved in the open air for the last 300 million years.
In 2009, the New 7 Wonders Foundation, which runs the New Seven Wonders of the World program, included Halong Bay on its list of nominations as one the World's New 7 Wonders of Nature. On November 11, 2011, the New 7 Wonders Foundation provisionally named Halong Bay as one of them.
Ha Long bay is also a member of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World.
Sapa, a beautiful summer resort locates near Vietnam- China border in the Lao Cai province. It is 400km northwest of Hanoi, the capital city. Sapa lines on the middle height of Hoang Lien Mountain range in the shadow of Fansipan, 3143 meters, the highest peak in the country.
Sa Pa is home to some of very colorful hill tribes in the country. There are mainly 5 ethnic groups in Sapa district: Hmong, Dzao, Tay, Dzay and a small number of Xa Pho.
The scenery of the Sa Pa region in large part reflects the relationship between the minority people and nature. This is seen especially in the paddy fields carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoang Lien Mountains. The impressive physical landscape which underlies this has resulted from the work of the elements over thousands of years, wearing away the underlying rock. On a clear day, the imposing peak of Fan Si Pan comes into view. The last major peak in the Himalayan chain, Fan Si Pan offers a real challenge to even the keenest walker, the opportunity of staggering views, and a rare glimpse of some of the last remaining primary rain forest in Vietnam.
The Hoang Lien Mountains are home to a rich variety of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects, many only found in northwestern Vietnam. For this reason, the Hoang Lien Nature Reserve was made a National Park in 2006.
The climate of Hoang Lien National Park is unique to Vietnam. It is highly seasonal, with a subtropical climate in the summer and a temperate climate during the winter. Annual temperature for Sapa town is 15.4°C, with a maximum of 29.4°C and a minimum of 1°C. The warmest months are July and August, and the coldest months are December and January. Snow falls in some years on the highest peaks. In summer time, one can feel the climate of four seasons in one day with cool fresh air of spring in the morning, summer weather at noon, clear and cool like autumn in the afternoon and light winter cold at night.
With the combination of great natural landscape, colorful sight and typical culture, Sapa promises to be a wonderful place to visit. Trek down a long the Muong Hoa stream to visit minority villages, enjoy home stay in local house on stilts, join in with locals in the Saturday love market or conquer the top of Fansifan mountain prove a great experience.
Although not a major stop on the tourist trail, Danang’s location between Hoi An and Hue makes a nice stop along the way. The city is one of the most dynamic of Vietnam’s modern cities with rapid industrial and eco-nomic growth. Visitors to Danang can enjoy the under-stated, yet fascinating Cham art and culture at Cham Museum. On the outskirts of town is China Beach, steeped in legend yet wonderfully deserted.
Buon Ma Thuot
Buon Ma Thuot is the largest city in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region, an unexplored area with great ad-venture and trekking potential. The abundance of un-touched forests, stunning landscapes, national parks and hill tribe villages are still off the tourist trails.
Da Lat is the capital of Lam Dong province in Vietnam, about 300km from Saigon. The city is located 1,500 m above sea level on the Langbiang Plateau in the southern parts of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Da Lat is a popular tourist destination for both Vietnamese and foreigners.
Da Lat’s specific sights are pine wood with twisting roads and tree marigold blossom in the winter. The city’s temperate weather stands in contrast to Vietnam’s otherwise tropical climate. Mist covering the valleys almost year-round leads to its name “City of eternal spring”.
The beauty of Da Lat was discovered by French scientists and explorers in around 1890’ and in 1907 the first hotel was built here and Da Lat became a summer resort center for both French and Vietnamese aristocrats.
With its year-round cool weather, Da Lat is an ideal place for relaxing and is considered the town for honeymooners. Da Lat is also the home of flowers with thousand of species of flowers and vegetable grown here.
Visiting Da Lat is a chance to mingle your self to the beauty of nature with waterfalls, beautiful lakes, valleys of flowers and evergreen forest.
Da Lat is also highly marked with cultural identity. It is the home of beautiful architectures with French colonial building dotted on hillside among green trees and blossoms. The vicinities of Da Lat live some of very colorful minority group those still maintain their traditional life style and culture identity.
It is great chance to experience village festivals with dancing, singing, playing music with unique instruments.
Da Lat market, Xuan Huong lake, Liang Biang Mountain, the old French church and train station are among lots of attractions of the city.
Mui Ne is a coastal resort town in the Binh Thuan Province of southeastern Vietnam, about 200km from Saigon – Hochiminh City. The town is close to the city of Phan Thiet. Tourism has transformed Mui Ne into a resort destination since 1995, when many visited to view the total solar eclipse of October 24, 1995.
Outstanding natural landscape makes Mui Ne a strong attraction for both local and foreign tourists who seeking water sport and beach relaxing.
The pristine landscape of Mui Ne is marked with sand dunes with white, brown or light red color. Sand dunes here run for dozens kilometer away to Phan Ri. Shapes of sand dunes are changeable due to strong sea breeze.
With a dozen kilometers of white sandy beach, emerald water and beautiful natural surrounding and idea climate, Mui Ne now ranks one of the best beach in the world. Strong sea breezes make it very popular for kitesurfing and windsurfing. The tourist season is from December to May. The average temperature is 27°C, and the climate is hot and dry for most of the year.
Located in Binh Thuan province, Phan Thiet is a small coastal town with a thriving fishing industry. Check out the production of nuoc mam (fish sauce seasoning commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine). Golf lovers will be delighted with a choice of two international class golf courses overlooking the sea – Ocean Dunes and the recently established Sealinks.
Nha Trang is well known for its pristine beaches and excellent scuba diving and is a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists. Nha Trang Bay is widely considered as amongst the world's most beautiful bays.
The city is located on the beautiful Nha Trang Bay, which was chosen by Travel and Leisure in two succeeding years as one of 29 most beautiful bays in the world. Nha Trang is surrounded on all three sides by mountains and a large island on the fourth side.
Nha Trang is one of the most important tourist hubs of Vietnam, thanks to its beautiful beaches with fine and clean sand and the clear ocean water with mild temperatures all year round.
Nha Trang provides a rich variety of tourist activities for visitors. Island hopping, scuba diving, water sports and other sporting activities can be enjoyed in the city.
The local cuisine is most famous for fresh seafoods and barbecued pork rolled in rice paper. T
Quy Nhon is capital city of Binh Dinh province in South Centre of Vietnam, about 1,100km from Hanoi and 650km from Ho Chi Minh City. Quy Nhon can be accessed easily by air, train or bus from Hanoi or Saigon. Quy Nhon is one of three commercial and tourism centers of the central southern coastal region along with Da Nang and Nha Trang.
The city has a varied topography, being extremely diversified with mountains and forests, hills, fields, salt marshes, plains, lagoons, lakes, rivers, shorelines, peninsulas and a coast of 42 km long white sandy beaches.
Dotted around Quy Nhon are some most famous Cham towers what provide a great sight of ancient architecture style and religious aspects. Besides that, Genh Rang Hill that located to the South East of Quy Nhon city is a masterpiece of nature and is the national tourist spot. Here, stones and soil created blocks of hills, caves, sea gates with fresh air and beautiful scenery. Below the foot of Ghenh Rang is a beautiful beach with variety of round stones, once was private beach for Queen Nam Phuong.
Being boasted as a beautiful place, however, for the majority of travelers Quy Nhon remains relatively off the beaten track. The town is perfect for those who want to break up a journey between Nha Trang and Hoi An and is a worth stop on your journey along the country.
One of the world’s most fertile areas, the Mekong Delta is home to countless rice fields and tributaries across thousands of square miles of flat land. An overnight cruise in the Mekong Delta is definitely worthwhile, for the experience of awakening in the early morning to find floating markets and villages floating around you is incredible. The small sizes of the Song Xanh Sam-pans and Cai Be Princess are perfect for glimpses into the local ways of life while relaxing in the comfort of a floating boutique hotel. The ornate vessels of Pandaw and Bassac are great for Mekong Delta cruises between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh.
Phu Quoc, also known as Pearl Island because of its beauty and tourism potential, the largest island and is considered the best big resort in Vietnam. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc Island with other islands of the archipelago, form the Phu Quoc island district of Kien Giang province. The entire island district has a total area of 589.23 sqkm, approximately the same size of Singapore. In 2006 Phu Quoc was designated as world biosphere reserve.
With its rugged jungle, squeaking white sands and sparkling cobalt waters, unbroken beach stretches for almost the entire length of the island's west coast, only a small part of it has been developed, Phu Quoc Island has been described as paradise for relaxing and there is enough to do for a longer stay than you may be planning. There are not many places quite like it here. The mix of isolated and deserted beaches, and a few thriving yet unadulterated Vietnamese towns, make Phu Quoc a rare find indeed.
Accommodation on Phu Quoc encompasses a full range of options from affordable backpacker guesthouses through to quite fancy beach resorts and hotels. Hoteliers report that some guests do nothing more than the daily bungalow-beach-restaurant-beach-bungalow circuit for days on end - for couples in particular, Phu Quoc is a favourite.
Many leave Phu Quoc as their final stop in Vietnam before leaving, only to find that a couple of nights just aren’t enough. Be sure to allow yourself enough time on Phu Quoc.