Why Travel To Vietnam

Vietnam is a country of startling contrasts: a feast for all the senses. This is where the staggering natural beauty is matched by the bright colours of the minority groups in Sa Pa and Mai Chau. It is where the peaceful countryside getaways contradict the never-ending buzz of the dynamic cities like Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. The scents are vibrant too, from incense-making villages in Hue to inspired cooking classes. The cuisine is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated in the continent.

The different destinations within Vietnam have become world-famous for their historical significance and visual intrigue. The urban environments, from the charm of Hoi An to the elegance of Hanoi, are something truly unique, a true blend of East and West. The natural beauty, from the visual intensity of the Mekong Delta to the poetic Halong Bay, are simply breathtaking. The history will engross you, from the checkered story of Ho Chi Minh City, to the underground lives that took place at Cu Chi and the DMZ.

A trip to Vietnam leaves a lasting impression that is unique to each individual visitor. Come and see what this country has in store for you and discover your own personal Vietnam. 

The sheer diversity

A fascinating myriad of vibrant cultures to discover.

Street food and coffee

The best street food and coffee in Asia.

Stunning nature

Beautiful beaches and magnificent mountains.

Inspiring Trip Ideas

Recommended Places & Senses

Map

Vietnam Travel Guide

AT A GLANCE
Capital: Hanoi
Population: 91.7 million
Languages: Vietnamese
Currency: Dong (VND)
Time zone: GMT +7
Electricity: 220V
Dialing Code: +84
Over the last 2 decades Vietnam has emerged as a growing tourist destination with remarkable physical beauty, incredibly friendly people and value for money. There are some incredible caves including the world’s largest, Son Doong Cave for the adventurous Vietnam traveller. What you choose for your travels in Vietnam is up to you, whether an enchanting cruise through Halong Bay or along the Mekong Delta absorbing local life and traditions. Many travellers believe that Vietnam boasts the best food in South East Asia and it is certainly renowned for its exceptional cuisine, from street food to fine dining, beach restaurants and cooking schools. The food is a delicious fusion of influences including Chinese, Mongolian and Cambodian with a subtlety that perfectly reflects the beauty of this place.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
  • January – February: Dry and pleasant weather can be enjoyed throughout the country at this time of year, although mornings and late evenings can get cold in the north of the country and central areas still get a little rain. One thing to note when travelling in February is that during TET (Vietnamese New Year) the majority of shops, museums and restaurants are closed for about a week, so this may impact your stay.
  • March to April: This is peak season for travel to Vietnam. Beach-goers now have a better choice of destinations, with Mui Ne, Con Dao and Nha Trang all getting good weather.
  • May to August: You may get the odd shower in the north and south of the country, however, Hanoi, Mai Chau and Halong Bay are likely to have clear blue skies for the majority of the time.
  • September: Catch the last of the sun on Vietnam's central coast before the rains become more frequent towards the end of month. The north and south are usually very wet at this time of year, but hotels are cheap.
  • October: The sun comes back to the north of the country and this is a great time to trek in Sapa or venture off the beaten track in Ha Giang. While this isn't the best time for a beach holiday, Vietnam has so much else to offer and travelling in October means you beat the crowds.
  • November and December: The high season begins again and many flock to Vietnam before the colder winter months in the north. Towards the end of the month, the whole country will generally be hot and dry, the exception being the central region, which may experience a few showers.
PEOPLE, HISTORY AND CULTURE
  1. Vietnamese People
Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country with 54 recognized distinct groups, each with its own language, lifestyle, and cultural heritage. The most prominent ethnic group is the Kinh people, comprising 86% of the population. Although geographically and linguistically labeled as Southeast Asians, long periods of Chinese domination and influence have placed the Kinh people culturally closer to East Asians. Other significant ethnic groups include the Tay, Thai, Muong, Khmer, Hoa, Nung and Hmong, residing mainly in the Northern highlands and the Cham, Chinese, inhabiting in the Southern provinces of the country, though none of these groups has a population over one million.
  1. Religion
With ten million followers and 20,000 pagodas, Buddhism is undoubtedly the largest established religion, however Vietnam has a rich and wide variety of religions based on imported faiths and popular beliefs, with several indigenous groups embracing animism, theism and ancestor worship. Catholicism, introduced by European missionaries, is the second largest religion, with about six million followers, and more than 6,000 churches. Vietnam's indigenous religions, including the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao sects, have their holy sites in the city of Tay Ninh and the provinces of Chau Doc and An Giang in the Mekong Delta, and they peacefully coexist.
  1. Social
The most appropriate manner of greeting is a gentle handshake and a smile. Though occasionally rigid, Vietnamese officials such as the police, appreciate being treated in a firm, yet diplomatic manner. It is best to deal with misunderstandings with patience and good humour. Local people who offer assistance appreciate small gifts such as cigarette lighters, pens, foreign cigarettes, liquor, perfume and even shampoo.
GEOGRAPHY
  1. In northeastern Vietnam, there are several mountain ranges forming the shape of a bow. In northwestern Vietnam, high mountains and highlands are the dominant scenery. The famous Sapa region is in this area. In the centre of the Northern part of Vietnam the Red River Delta is an important food growing region, one of two such important deltas in Vietnam.
  2. Central Vietnam has the largest difference in height between the east and the west. The west is featured with the high mountain range of Truong Son and Tay Nguyen’s highlands, while the east has various small plains along the coast. In the central/southern highlands the holiday town of Dalat attracts thousands of visitors each year to enjoy the cooler weather and great scenery. It is also home to Vietnam’s important coffee growing idustry.
  3. In Southern Vietnam, the topography is much flatter, dominated by the Mekong Delta, the largest of its kind Vietnam, covering an area of over 40,000 square kilometers and is the main rice-cultivating area of Vietnam and of world importance.
TRANSPORTATIONS
  1. Domestic flights
Flying comes into its own on longer hauls, and can shave hours or even days off journeys – the two-hour flight between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, for instance, compares favourably with the thirty to forty hours you would spend on the train. Prices are reasonable, with Jetstar, VietJet Air and Vietnam Airlines offering flights to numerous destinations. Note that you will need your passport when taking internal flights.
  1. Local Transport
Most common by far are motorbike taxis known as Xe Om. In the cities you will rarely be able to walk twenty yards without being offered a ride and prices tend to start at around VND10,000 for very short runs, though this goes up after dark. Xe Om have almost entirely replaced that quintessential Vietnamese mode of transport, the cyclo. These three-wheeled rickshaws comprising a “bucket” seat attached to the front of a bicycle can carry one person, or two people at a push, and are now only really found in tourist areas (though locals use them just as much as foreigners).
ACCOMMODATIONS
  1. Luxury stay
Rooms at this level will be comfortable, reasonably spacious and well-appointed with decent furniture, air-conditioning, hot water, fridge, phone and satellite TV and are available in all but the most remote areas.
  1. Mid- and upper-range accommodation
There are numerous hotels across the country in this category. Prices are very reasonable and most hotels are well appointed and comfortable. You should have no problem finding a room in the bigger towns, but be warned occupancy rates can vary and around the Tet period, with holiday destinations such as Nha Trang, fully booked.
  1. Homestay
As Vietnam’s minority communities have become more exposed to tourism, staying in stilthouses or other village accommodation has become more feasible. In the north of the country, notably around Sa Pa and in the Mai Chau Valley, you can either take one of the tours out of Hanoi which includes a home-stay in one of the minority villages, or make your own arrangements when you get there. In the central highlands, the Pleiku and Kon Tum tourist offices can also arrange a stilthouse home-stay for you.  
EATING AND DRINKING
  1. What’s in Vietnamese Food
In the northern part of the country, due to the influence of neighbouring China, people tend to use more soy sauce than other parts, where fish sauce is more usual. Other common ingredients in Vietnamese cooking include black pepper (mainly in the north), hot chili, ginger, coconut milk, lime, lemon grass, tamarind and cane sugar, supplemented by asparagus and potatoes, courtesy of the French influence.
  1. Eating Vietnamese Style
As in many countries in Asian, people tend to eat “family style”, sharing dishes. Each person has a plate or bowl with rice, then shares the bowls of food set in the middle of table.
  1. Drinking Vietnamese Style
Green tea is the most common drink, and is offered as a courtesy to guests or visitors. The two most popular local beers are Saigon Export and Saigon Lager, but imported beers are available, at roughly double the price. Vietnam produces several varieties of rice wine, known as Ruou. Often, bottles of Ruou contain a pickled snake, the inclusion of which is thought to impart health-giving elements.
SENSES'S PICKED DESTINATION
  1. Wander around Hanoi – Vietnam’s capital. Hanoi combines French colonialism with Eastern influences.  Enjoy an afternoon exploring the narrow streets of the Old Quarter or visit the countless temples and galleries dotted around this bustling city.  Do not miss the History Museum which showcases artifacts from Vietnam’s colorful past and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Hanoi is also a good base for multi-day tours to Halong Bay, Hua Lu and Tam Coc.
  2. Hike and Cruising in Halong Bay. More than 3,000 islands sit within the emerald green waters of Halong Bay, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Cat Ba Island has great hiking and many tourists find themselves taking one of the cave tours.
  3. Visit the caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang. Hang Son Doong is reputed to be the world’s largest cave, and is located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. It was discovered by a local in 1990, and “rediscovered” by a British caving team in 2009.
  4. Hang out in Hoi An. Hoi An is one of the most popular destinations for tourists traveling to the country.  The place is packed with historical homes, buildings and quaint cafes.  It is small and great for walking, buying suits (they have a huge fashion and tailor market), eating, lazing on nearby beaches and relaxing by the river.
  5. Dive in Nha Trang. This area is full of seaside resorts, and has a distinct urban feel. However, the beautiful sand and clear water make it a prime spot for scuba diving in Vietnam. The city is also renowned for its mud baths which are a great place to spend a day relaxing.
  6. Get Active in Mui Ne. Despite being a fishing village, Mui Ne has a significant tourism scene, due to its popularity as a wind and kite-surfing destination, plus the huge sand dunes that lie nearby.
  7. Tour the Mekong Delta. The delta is an over 40,000 square km web of interconnected waterways, which span three provinces. The area is filled with small craft villages, Khmer Pagodas, mangroves, orchards rice fields and the trademark floating markets.
  8. Crawl Through the Cu Chi Tunnels. You crawl through the extensive tunnel network of nearly 500 km utilized by the Viet Cong in the war with the USA in the 1960s.  Tours involve a description of the tunnels, after which tourists are allowed to crawl about the maze and fire AK47s at targets.
  9. Explore Ho Chi Minh City. Also known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city and is definitely worth exploring. Like most cities in Vietnam, you will be met with the roar of motorbikes speeding through colonial streets.  Ben Thanh Market is a must-see for amazing food, clothes and all manner of goods and there is a great buzz of activity within the place.
HEALTH and SAFETY
  1. Health
Healthcare in Vietnam varies in quantity and quality. Big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have very good private and state-owned hospitals and clinics, while it is often hard to find a doctor in rural areas. Vietnam is a tropical country, which entails many kinds of dangerous bacteria and insects. Mosquito repellents are essential. Malaria is uncommon and only found in some isolated locations in the central highlands, but Dengue Fever is widespread, particularly during the rainy season and is spread by a daytime mosquito.
  1. Safety issues
Emergency contact number: Police (113) - Fire (114) - Ambulance (115) Vietnam is generally a safe place for tourists and pick-pocketing is reported to be decreasing significantly. If you are robbed, do not hesitate to contact the local police. Leave valuables and passports in your hotel and only take as much cash as you think you will need and it is sensible not to wear gold chains.
FESTIVAL CALENDAR
  1. Spring festivals (Jan–April)
    • Tet  - This is the most important date in the Vietnamese festival calendar and celebrates the Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan). After an initial jamboree, Tet is largely a family occasion when offices are shut, and many shops and restaurants close for the seven-day festival. Officially only the first four days are public holidays, though many people take the whole week.
  1. Summer festivals (May–Aug)
    • Phat Dan - Lanterns are hung outside the pagodas and Buddhist homes to commemorate Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and the attainment of Nirvana on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month; May.
    • Trang Nguyen (or Vu Lan) - The Day of Wandering Souls is the second most important festival after Tet. Offerings of food and clothes are made to comfort and nourish those unfortunate souls without a home, and all graves are cleaned.
  1. Autumn festivals (Sept–Dec)
    •  Kate Festival - The Cham New Year is celebrated in high style at Po Klong Garai and Po Re Me, both near Phan Rang.
    • Trung Thu - The mid-autumn festival, also known as Children’s Day, celebrates with dragon dances and children are given lanterns in the shape of stars, carp or dragons. Special cakes, banh trung thu, are eaten at this time of year. These are sticky rice cakes filled with lotus seeds, nuts and candied fruits and are either square like the earth (banh deo), or round like the moon (banh nuong) and contain the yolk of an egg.
    • Christmas - There midnight services at the cathedrals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with much revelry in the streets. Christmas is becoming an increasingly popular festival even amongst non-believers.
DOS & DON'TS
DOs
  1. Vietnamese dress conservatively. Despite the heat, it’s best not to show off too much skin. If you do, especially girls, you’ll only draw stares from the locals.
  2. Dress appropriately when visiting pagodas. No shorts or tatty beer t-shirts. Shoes are fine, and rarely will you have to remove them. If unsure, just follow what the locals do.
  3. Drink plenty of bottled water, especially when walking around sightseeing.
  4. Keep your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place.
DON’Ts
  1. Wear a lot of jewelry or take a bag with valuables.
  2. When taking a ride by motorbike taxi (xe om) make sure your bag, if any, is not on display or easy to grab.
  3. Don’t wear singlets, shorts, skirts or dresses, or revealing clothes to temples or pagodas.
  4. Physical displays of affection between lovers in public are frowned upon.
  5. Losing your temper in Vietnam means a loss of face. Keep a cool head and remain polite, you’ll have a greater chance of getting what you want.
Journey Planner

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – St. Augustine. People read the book in different ways, some only glance at the cover; some skim through the pages; and some read between the lines to find hidden meanings… My personal thought, “read the book” then use senses

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