WHERE TO TRAVEL IN VIETNAM
Scenic natural wonders of SaPa mountains, ancient streets of captivating Hoi An, eccentric lifestyle of Ho Chi Minh City and picturesque sceneries of Phu Quoc Island are only few of many charming places in Vietnam that will surprise you with its intense beauty.
Start exploring Vietnam from north to south and end your vacation with much desired beach relaxation in one of the most beautiful beaches of Vietnam – Phu Quoc.
THE FAR NORTH
Although most of the region is wild and scarcely populated, this mountainous region of northwest contains breathtaking scenery of Red River Valley, and within the shadow of the tallest mountain peak – Fansipan – the area is surrounded by fascinating mosaic of ethnic tribes. Sa Pa and Bac Ha are two famous provinces located on both sides of the river, attracting curious eyes not only for its beautiful landscapes and colorful minority groups, but also for the historic battlefield taken place in 1954 that decided the destiny of Vietnam and French colonization era.
Whether you choose to travel by train, bus or motorbike, bear in mind that to cover the whole northern area will take you about six days. Whilst this trip will give you an unforgettable exploration time of wild north, it is important to remember that during the rainy season the roads may become unpredictable and even hazardous for travelling.
Exotic and squalid yet intimate, Hanoi is home for buzzing motorbikes, colonial architecture, delicate scents and taste of delicious street food. The city center of Hanoi is comprised of the compact Hoan Kiem District, the name of which derived from Hoan Kiem Lake that lies between two famous neighborhoods: endlessly rustic and diverting Old Quarter, and the boulevards of French Quarter. The West Lake harbors a number of historical pagodas and temples and surrounded by small restaurants well renowned for its Vietnamese escargots and prawn rice crackers. Some of the city’s most impressive architectures and monuments occupies the formal Imperial City with Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum on Ba Dinh Square and gardens of the Temple of Literature.
Hanoi is famous for its stunning hand crafts, such as ceramics, lacquer ware and carpentry, which makes a great souvenir, serving as a memory of your trip in Hanoi. One of the to-do-things in Hanoi is to try Trang Tien ice cream with traditional flavors of mung bean, coconut and green rice “com”, which brings nostalgia of the childhood to most of the residents or former residents of Hanoi.
THE NORTHERN COAST
The area of the northern coast holds one of the country’s timeless gems, and one of the foremost attractions of Southeast Asia – thousands of emerald islands in Ha Long Bay, protected by World Heritage Organization. Cliffs of ribbed limestone and needle sharp ridges of the hidden bay gives a mystical feeling while you sailing on the red boat. It is somehow quite romantic to float among pristine moonlight peaks if staying overnight on board. The coast stretches all the way to Chinese border and is separated with Laos by Truong Son Mountains.
THE COASTLINE OF THE CENTRAL REGION
Being the narrowest bit of the country, the central region holds an extremely dense collection of beautiful sights. A stately imperial city of Hue, captivating particularly for its astonishing architecture and culinary delights, is also hugely popular for its wooden merchant houses and handmade lanterns. To experience a more contemporary way of life, Da Nang’s bars, restaurants, modern buildings and bridges will give a more splendid beach feeling and astonish the traveler with its evocative night life. Some sights, such as the marked separation of North and South Vietnam in the Demilitarized Zone during the American War is worth seeing for its historical value.
The best time to visit the central region is spring before both humidity and temperature reaches its highest levels in summer. Hoi An ancient town, besides being the most atmospheric town, is an exceptionally well preserved example of South East Asian trading port, which is famous for its creative patterns of silk and tailor made traditional Ao Dai.
THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
Resembling a mixture of French countryside and Vietnamese rural landscapes, Da Lat is a highlight of the central sceneries, spreading across pine-covered hills with a small lake. It is one of the Vietnam’s premier location of agricultural produces, coffee beans and tea leaves, and, of course, flower gardens reconstructed around traditional colonial villas. Explore natural wonders of Da Lat on picturesque bike rides and markets overflowing with delectable fruits and vegetables. French mountains retreat appears as a very romantic place, especially during the festival of flowers taken place annually in this lovely little town.
THE MEKONG DELTA
A nutrient rich red soil of Mekong Delta, also referred by Vietnamese as “Cuu Long” meaning “Nine Dragons”, offers travelers Vietnam’s most enduring images of farmers harvesting rice, coconut palms, sugar cane coves and fruit orchards, and it is country’s agricultural miracle, giving Vietnam one third of annual food crop. There are few major towns, such as Can Tho, Ha Tien, Ben Tre, where tourists can take advantage of its decent lodging and dining places. But was is so memorable about Mekong region is the diversity in daily life of the villagers, including everyday scenes of children cycling to the school, market vendors bargaining with local women, monks praying in the shadows of old pagodas…
HO CHI MINH CITY
Perched on the banks of Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is a fury of sights and sounds, rapidly becoming one of the South East Asian powerhouses. This effervescent city is the representation of economic development from its fine restaurants, extravagant hotels, flashy bars and clubs, luxury shops adding a shiny veneer to its old time colonial architecture and traditional temples. Saigon is country’s biggest city and center of commerce, which is divided into 24 districts, each having its own perks and charm. District One holds the majority of metropolis’ hotspots and at the same time gives a feeling of old time days of French Era with its Notre Dame Cathedral, Post Office, Reunification Palace, Hotel de Ville in contrast to modern trade centers and banks. And if chaos becomes too overwhelming, escape the city by visiting Cu Chi Tunnels or Botanical Gardens.
The beauty of this modern yet tropical city lies in its endless amount of possible activities, however, the best way to observe and enjoy it is from the seats of the cyclo or a roadside café.
PHU QUOC ISLAND
Famous for its soft-sand beaches, swaying palms and limpid waters, Phu Quoc Island is a natural wonder of Vietnam and, indeed, a gem virtually hidden from outsiders for decades. Being the largest island in Vietnam, Phu Quoc has a very unique topography and vegetation like nowhere else in the country. Challenging many regions for its stunning golden and white sands and pristine beaches, the island only started to develop in recent years with the construction of roads, opening of the International Airport, building of the International Passenger Port, becoming an economic free zone with 30-day visa exemptions for international travelers. It is also well renowned for the only in the country traditionally pure fish sauce production, natural nutty flavored pepper farms, unique color of pearls and astonishingly tasty seafood delicacies.
So, why not end this beautiful trip enriched with memories of wonderful Vietnam on the Pearl Island of Asia in one of the most luxurious resorts of the country – Salinda Resort Phu Quoc Island?
ISLANDS IN VIETNAM
Vietnam is a popular tourist destination in South-East Asia and it attracts a large number of tourists to its long seashore. There are a number of beautiful islands in Vietnam. As it’s a lot to take in, you would do well to factor in time away from the mainland, on one of the country’s beautiful islands that are fast attracting visitors.
In the north, the Ha Long Bay area has more than 2,000 craggy limestone islets, but you need to choose your boat trip carefully as the Unesco-listed region is wildly popular. So it’s worth investing a little time to explore the less-visited, outer islands.
Off the central coast, the Cham Islands are a great day trip from historic Hoi An, while in the deep south, Phu Quoc is developing fast but has a lush interior and unspoilt beaches. For the ultimate escape, however, my pick would be remote Con Dao, with a fascinating history and empty beaches.
PHU QUOC ISLAND – KIEN GIANG
The Phu Quoc Island is the largest island in Vietnam and also the largest one in the archipelago of Gulf of Thailand which consists of 22 islands. This island, also known as the Pearl Island, is a favorite destination among tourists as it has a rich abundance of beaches, streams and amazing waterfalls. In Vietnam’s extreme south, Phu Quoc island is tipped to be the country’s next beach hot spot. A new international airport opened in 2012 (daily flights arrive from Ho Chi Minh City) and dirt roads are steadily being paved.
CON DAO ISLAND – BA RIA VUNG TAU
Con Dao is actually an archipelago that has more than 16 islands and attracts a large number of tourists for its pristine blue beaches and white sand seashore. You can enjoy a variety of food here like different types of snails and fish at very low prices. You can cook the seafood dishes by yourself to save a lot of money. Once hell on earth to thousands of prisoners incarcerated by French colonists and the American military, today the Con Dao are blissfully tranquil. With their ravishing sandy bays, rainforests and healthy coral reefs, their tropical appeal is easy to grasp. Flight connections used to be atrocious, but Vietnam Airlines now offers three daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City.
LY SON ISLAND – QUANG NGAI
Ly Son is the coastal commune which consists of three islands – Big Island, Small Island and Mu Cu. The island was founded almost 25 million years ago and it has a unique 5 mouth volcano. The visitors to this island get charmed by the presence of huge minerals that comes in different shapes and the desert beaches. The food here is very unique and delicious and one must not leave the island without tasting the great food.
CAT BA ISLAND – HA LONG
Rugged, mountainous Cat Ba island is emerging as a great base to explore the wider Ha Long region. Most of the island is a national park, with trails that fringe the habitat of one of the world’s rarest primates, the cherubic-looking, but highly endangered Cat Ba langur.
CU LAO CHAM (CHAM ISLAND) – QUANG NAM
Until a few years ago the Cham islands in central Vietnam were a military zone and off-limits to tourism. Times have changed and the islands are now accessible by boat trips (April to September only) from Hoi An.
During the main Vietnamese holiday season (July and August) local tour groups can swamp the golden beaches, but after they’ve departed (around 2pm) normal service (peace) resumes.
HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND VIETNAM
When it comes to catching local transport in Vietnam, it is important to consider many factors of your travel agenda: whether you would like to cover the whole country in one breath, visit few authentic rustic places or simply go on beach holidays.
Flying saves traveler’s precious hours and even days of journey! Vietnam national’s carrier – Vietnam Airlines – is reasonably priced and efficient, connecting all domestic flights from Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, including Phu Quoc Island. The company maintains booking offices all around town and cities of Vietnam, where the traveler can easily get recommendation on flight booking and itineraries, while their official website remains one of the easiest and fastest ways to book tickets.
An “open-tour” buses with air-conditioning and fixed timetables are privately operated services, allowing the voyagers to travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and to hop on/off in the major points en route – Da Lat, Mui Ne, Hoi An, Da Nang and Hue. National bus services links major cities and minor towns of Vietnam, which compared to private services is much faster as they do not stop in any other points. Bus tickets can be bought at bus stations, where prices are clearly indicated on the cashier windows. For long journeys it is better to buy tickets in advance as there are limited seating and many routes are over booked.
Consider traveling by rails as it allows the traveler to avoid major traffic congestions along the way and to see beautiful countryside. One of the most famous railing network is Vietnam Railways, comprising of around 2,500km of lines, stretches from Ho Chi Minh City to the Chinese border. When it comes to choosing classes, it is recommended to purchase higher fares: more comfortable seats and compartments, newer berths, better carriages with air-conditioning. Booking ahead would be a wise decision, especially during public holiday affairs, and could be purchased at the station or with the help of local agencies and hotels.
Travelling by car would give the traveler a more economical and independent means of transportation, where you can customize the trip to your own taste. However, the prices vary from one rental to another, depending on the size and age of the vehicle, it is important to clarify with the agency the liability of each party in terms of fuel, parking fees, tolls, etc.
It is indeed an excellent way to experience Vietnamese daily life and to sightseeing around various provinces. One of the most popular choices is to go mountain cycling, long-distance cycling, and there are even few specialist cycling tours. You can also combine it with other means of transportation if the ride is too tiring: hop on the bus or train, but check if there are any additional charges for carrying your bike with you.
One of the most time efficient methods of enjoying sightseeing between or within towns and cities of Vietnam. Although the road network and conditions are improving, be aware that the traffic discipline of the fellow drivers are not well controlled, which means that the risk of an accident is very real in Vietnam. The motorbike rental is relatively reasonable, however, it is essential to double check all technical aspects (breaks, lights and horn). The international driver license is not valid in Vietnam, and you will need home driving license and motorbike registration papers. Overall, for traveler’s own safety and security, it is not recommended to travel by motorbike, especially when infrastructure and driving regulations are not well maintained. Either way, do not forget to wear a helmet!
In the weather permitting conditions, travelling by ferry or boat is also an exciting experience. A boat tour around Ha Long Bay is worth seeing for its indigenous natural wonders, whilst ferrying to southern islands such as Phu Quoc or Con Dao is also one of the most enjoyable trips.
BY LOCAL TRANSPORT
A number of major cities in Vietnam has a quite decent bus network, though most common by far are motorbike taxis “xe om”. It also has completely replaced ancient mode of transport – cyclo – a three wheeled rickshaw fitting one to two people at most, nowadays found in a more touristic areas. Regular metered taxis are very popular choice that are a common sight in busy cities with not so expensive fares. Generally speaking, the most reliable taxis are those standing outside the hotels or major trade centers, such as Mai Linh or Vinasun taxis.
VISA TO VIETNAM
You will need a visa to enter Vietnam. Make sure you get the correct visa for the purpose and destination of your trip.
The safest option is to get a visa from the Vietnamese Embassy before you travel. If you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country make sure you get a multiple visit visa. All visitors must hold a passport valid for 6 months.
Vietnam allows nationals of 22 countries to enter Vietnam without a visa for varying time periods, most of the countries being members of the ASEAN. Citizens of the following 22 countries do not require a visa to visit Vietnam (allowed length of stay in days is shown in parentheses):
|Brunei (14)||Kyrgyzstan (30)|
|Cambodia (30)||Laos (30)|
|Denmark (15)||Malaysia (30)|
|Finland (15)||Myanmar (14)|
|Indonesia (30)||Norway (15)|
|Japan (15)||Philippines (21)|
|Russia (15)||Singapore (30)|
|South Korea (15)||Sweden (15)|
|Thailand (30)||UK (15)|
|France (15)||Germany (15)|
|Italy (15)||Spain (15)|
GET VIETNAM VISA ON ARRIVAL AT VIETNAM AIRPORT
Landing Vietnam visa (or Vietnam Visa on arrival) is most likely the legally easiest way to obtain your visa to Vietnam. Instead of applying visa through Vietnam Embassy, all you need to do now is just to send them details of your passport and flight. Within 2 working days, or in urgent case, 4 working hours after receiving your request, they will send you ”Visa Approval letter” via email for picking up visa upon arrival at any international airports in Vietnam (Tan Son Nhat, Noi Bai or Da Nang). Thus, it is applicable to air travelers only, not land or sea travelers. However, you are free to exit at any port. You can find more information at HERE.
IS THE VIETNAM VISA ON ARRIVAL ONLINE LEGITIMATE?
Yes, it is. It is issued by Vietnam Immigration Department and recognized as a legal document by the Vietnamese government. The IATA (International Air Traffic Association) has recognized Vietnam Visa on Arrival. Check out the visa information sections on the following airline websites: Sky team, Oneworld and Star Alliance.
“Vietnam Visa on Arrival” is stated in the Immigration Laws of Vietnam Article 24, 1999, clause #6, Chapter II. Other governments also recognize Vietnam Visa on Arrival as a legitimate travel document, such as the U.S. Department of State & the British Embassy in Hanoi:
“In order to enter Vietnam, you will need a valid passport with at least six months validity remaining and a Vietnamese visa, a visa exemption document, or a written approval letter for a visa upon arrival. To obtain a written approval letter to enter, you must contact a travel agency prior to departure.”
WHY VIETNAM VISA ON ARRIVAL ONLINE IS PREFERRED?
Obviously you can apply Vietnam visa directly at Vietnam Embassy. However, in case there is no Vietnam Embassy or Consulate in your country, or you just want to make Vietnam as one part of a multi-destination trip, we recommend Vietnam visa upon arrival as your best option since it saves a lot of time and money.
VIETNAM VISA APPLICATION
Vietnam Visa – Vietnam visa on arrival is required for most foreigners to enter and exit Vietnam at one of 3 international airports: Hanoi/ Ho Chi Minh city & Da Nang. Travellers are advised to arrange Visa Vietnam before their departure by applying online for the Approval Letter first, receive the letter by email, then get Visa Stamped on their passports at Vietnam Airports upon arrival. This is called: Vietnam Visa On Arrival.
Visa Approval Letter is a letter issued and confirmed by Vietnam Immigration Department. By showing the approval letter at Vietnam Airports upon arrival, travellers can pick up Visa and get visa stamped on their passports. At the airport, the corresponding authority will verify the details on the approval letter based on your passport and travel documents. As long as you make sure you input the correct details when applying, you will surely be granted entry VISA upon arrival in Vietnam with the approval letter. Without the approval letter, travellers CAN NOT check in the international flights to Vietnam.
Vietnam Visa Application
Click HERE to apply >> Vietnam visa on arrival
Fill all required information for online application form
Make online secured payment by Credit Card for service fee showed clearly in accordance with your request
Receive the approval letter via email (after 2 working days for normal processing & 1 day/4 hours/1 hour for super urgent processing)
Show your approval letter to check in your international flight and get Visa Stamped at Vietnam Airports upon arrival
Visa Procedure At Vietnam Airports
At the ARRIVAL HALL inside the airports, there is a Landing Visa Counter in front of the check – in point counter, you have to prepare required documents to get visa stamp: your original passport ( valid for at least 6 months and left pages ), 2 ( 4×6 cm) passport photos, entry/ exit form and cash in USD/VND.
Following is Circular No.190/2012/TT-BTC dated November 09, 2012 of the Ministry of Finance (Vietnam Government) stipulating the regime on collection, remittance, management and use of fees at Vietnam international airports upon arrival, THE STAMPING VISA FEE is applied from 23 November, 2015 as follows:
1 month & 3 months single entry: 25 USD
Less than 1 month/ multiple entries: 50 USD
1- 3 months to less than 6 months: 95 USD
6 months: 155 USD
IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR TRAVELLERS TO VIETNAM VISA APPLICATION
Vietnam Customs Clearance Officers will arrange Visa Stamp at the arrival airport for clients enter Vietnam by plane. If you do NOT enter Vietnam by plane, you should contact the nearest Vietnam Embassy to get visa.
The most important thing is that you bring up the Vietnam Visa Approval Letter when you enter Vietnam. Without this letter you cannot be on board the airplane and get visa when you arrive Vietnam.
Normally, it takes around 15-30 minutes to get the visa stamped at Vietnam airports upon arrival. However, sometimes it may take longer than expected due to the large number of arrivals. To shorten your Customs Clearance time, you can use our Vietnam Visa Fast Tracking Service.
The Visa Counter at Vietnam airports are 24/7 open. So if you already have the approval letter, you can still pick up your visa at Vietnam airports at weekend.
HONEYMOON IN VIETNAM
A honeymoon in Vietnam will be a truly unique experience. With endless white sandy beaches, dotted with tiny fishing villages, you will find plenty to explore whilst on honeymoon in Vietnam. You can also take in the beautiful mountain landscapes that border this amazing country and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. If you want to really experience the Vietnamese culture then make sure you take a trip to the capital city of Hanoi where you will see a unique blend of historic Asian culture mixed in with new Asian culture, unlike anything you have ever experienced before. If you are looking for relaxation then why not sample the amazing food and take a stroll along one of the unspoilt many beaches. Vietnam is a truly stunning country and the perfect place to have an unforgettable honeymoon.
KEY FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Flight time: 12 hours from London
WHEN TO HONEYMOON IN VIETNAM
The climate varies across different parts of Vietnam. However, the best times to visit are September to December and March to April when the weather is at its least humid.
TOP 5 DESTINATIONS IN VIETNAM FOR YOUR HONEYMOON
Halong Bay a World Heritage
A cruise on Ha Long Bay — or the Bay of the Descending Dragon — for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. Easily one of the most popular destinations in the country, UNESCO World Heritage – listed Ha Long Bay is both mystical and magnificent, an incredible feat of nature that almost never fails to impress.
Yes, it really is that good.
Last time we counted, UNESCO had picked out 830 World Heritage sites around the world, chosen for their cultural and historical importance, and also for their geological uniqueness. Ha Long Bay offers a little of all three.
It’s not the cliffs themselves that make Ha Long Bay unique, but rather their sheer number. A huge bay, dotted with nearly 2,000 mostly uninhabited limestone cliffs, the breathtaking scenery is very similar to that of the Andaman coast of Thailand, Vang Vieng in Laos and Guilin in China.
Created over millions of years, tectonic forces slowly thrust the limestone above the water-line. During this process waves lapping against the stone carved out a number of vast, striking caverns, as well as other geologically interesting formations, such as tunnel caves and uniquely shaped massifs.
Over the ages, Vietnamese fishermen with too much time on their hands began to see shapes in the stone massifs atop many of the islands, and named the islands accordingly — Turtle Island, Human Head Island, Chicken Island and so on.
In what constitutes one of the most fascinating cultural features of the area, some of these fisherman still live on the bay today — on floating fishing villages, where houses are set atop barges year round, the inhabitants catching and cultivating fish throughout.
Ha Long Bay cruises mostly run out of Hanoi or the coastal town of Halong City (which faces out and over the bay). There are hundreds of agencies selling tours on the bay, but very few actually run their own boats — instead most are consolidators or resellers. Organizing a tour is very much a buyer beware scenario — talk to other travelers and shop around — if you’re paying $15 a head for a two day tour of Ha Long Bay rest assured it will be pretty dodgy. Try to include a stay on Cat Ba Island if you can.
Mui Ne Beach
One of southern Vietnam’s prime slices of beach real estate, Mui Ne is a kilometers-long sweeping bay boasting a huge range of guesthouse and resort options, with the actual village set at the far northern end of the bay.
The accommodation and services scene, heavily influenced by its proximity to Saigon which is a mere four hours away, has developed rapidly in recent years and now offers some outstanding mid-range resort options, and while the options for budget travelers have dwindled somewhat, there are still some get budget haunts worth seeking out.
The beach itself is yellow sand with a semi-fine grain. While the central stretch of the beach through to the northern end is poorer quality and dominated by the fishing industry (ie there’s a fair amount of refuse, netting, dead fish and other fishing paraphernalia), the southern stretch is better suited to swimming, sun-baking and deck-chair reclining. Obviously the bits of beach right out front of individual resorts are better kept than the more deserted stretches.
Famous for its wind- and kite-surfing, in season, the winds here are as reliable as clockwork; though if you’re planning on spending a prolonged period of time doing either, bring your own gear as the prices are not cheap.
Away from the beach, the key attraction of Mui Ne are its sand dunes, of which there are three sets which can easily be visited from Mui Ne, either independently by bicycle or motorbike or by motorbike taxi or jeep.
While not of Lawrence of Arabia proportions, they are nevertheless very photogenic and with a bit of trick photography, you too can be Lawrence.
Best visited in the late afternoon when the light is sublime, you can also catch the sunset from above Mui Ne village which, with its bevy of fishing boats, is particularly scenic.
Nha Trang has a split personality. One takes the form of a smaller Danang – a bustling Viet names city humming with commerce but blessed with access to a beautiful beach. The other is a Western resort town encompassing several blocks of hotels, tourist shops, bars and international restaurants. Entering this sheltered enclave you could be anywhere in the world, if it weren’t for the constant hassling from xe om drivers, many of whom seem to moonlight as pimps and dealers.
The city is indisputably beautiful, bordered by mountains, with the beach tracing an impressive long swoop along a bay dotted with islands. Topiary and modern sculpture dot the immaculately manicured foreshore. The only blight on the horizon is the Hollywood-style sign for the Impearl complex – an ugly scar dominating nearby Hon Tre Island.
Nha Trang offers plenty to keep tourists occupied – from island-hopping boat trips and scuba diving, to mud baths and historic sites. But the main attraction for most visitors is lounging around on deckchairs at a beachfront bar and drinking cocktails in comfort.
Dalat – The City of Love
Known as “Le Petit Paris” by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwellers and tourists tired out from trudging along sultry coastal Vietnam. In Dalat you can play golf on one of the finest courses in Indochina, visit beautiful temples, and enjoy the town’s honeymoon atmosphere with delightfully hokey tourist sites.
At 1,500m (4,920 ft.), Dalat is mercifully cool year-round — there’s no need for air-conditioning. The town is a unique blend of pastoral hillside Vietnam and European alpine resort. Alexander Yersin, the Swiss geologist who first traipsed across this pass, established the town in 1897 as a resort for French commanders weary of the Vietnamese tropics. In and around town are still scattered the relics of colonial mansions, as well as some serene pagodas in a lovely natural setting; you’ve escaped from big-city Vietnam for real. A few ethnic minorities, including the Lat and the Koho, live in and around the picturesque hills surrounding Dalat, and you can visit a number of rural villages on local tours.
Dalat is a top resort destination for Vietnamese couples getting married or honeymooning. If the lunar astrological signs are particularly good, it’s not unusual to see 10 or so wedding parties in a single day. Many of the local scenic spots, like the Valley of Love and Lake of Sighs, pander to the giddy couples. The waterfalls are swarming with vendors, men costumed as bears, and “cowboys” complete with sad-looking horses and fake pistols. A carnival air prevails. It’s a “so bad that it’s good” kind of tacky that is definitely worth the trip. There are also some picturesque temples and hillsides lined with the crumbling weekend homes of French colonials. Emperor Bao Dai, the last in Vietnam, had three large homes here, one of which is now the Sofitel Hotel; the other two can be visited on tours.
Phu Quoc Island
This peaceful tropical paradise, floats in the warm turquoise waters in the Gulf of Thailand, 50kms from the Vietnamese mainland and a 50 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City.
In one day, visitors can experience the culture of Vietnam at the local market in the morning, relax on a remote and Map of Phu Quoc stunning beach in the afternoon, enjoy a delicious dinner and drinks at one of the restaurants and enjoy accommodation at the variety of hotels and resorts on this superb island getaway. Open year round with a peak season from November to March, Phu Quoc is becoming well known for stunning beaches, untouched natural environment, the easy going and relaxed atmosphere, friendly locals, and fantastic scuba diving and snorkeling.
The majority of Phu Quoc Island is dedicated to National Park and protected marine environment, providing a memorable experience, with plenty of exciting activities and places to visit to keep you and the family entertained during your stay.
HOTELS AND RESORT IN VIETNAM
The standard of accommodation in Vietnam is, by and large, excellent. In the main tourist areas the range caters to all budgets, and though prices are a little expensive by Southeast Asian standards, the quality is generally quite high. Competition is fierce and with the construction boom still ongoing rooms are being added all the time – great for the traveller, as it keeps prices low and service standards high. There has been a massive increase in the number of luxury resorts along the coast (mainly aimed at the Asian package tour market), while budget travellers and those travelling off the tourist trail will find good budget accommodation throughout the country.
Another consequence of the number of new hotels springing up in recent years is that getting a reservation is no longer the nightmare it once was, and even among international-class hotels there are some bargains to be had, particularly at weekends; however, booking in advance is a must around the TET festival in early spring.
Vietnam is not short of grand hotels if you want to enjoy your trip in an extravagance accommodation. In addition, beach resorts in Vietnam offer you your best experience in traveling to Vietnamese gorgeous coast line. Even Phu Quoc as a rising beauty of Vietnam destination, which still has its rusty and natural atmosphere, is now ready to give you 5-star quality for your stay in newly established luxury resort – Salinda Resort Phu Quoc Island.
Tourist booth staff at the airports in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi will phone to reserve a room for you, and it’s increasingly simple to book online. Be wary of asking advice from cyclo or taxi drivers, as travellers are often told that their hotel of choice is full or closed. It’s also important to note that Vietnam is full of copycat establishments – to avoid being taken to a similarly named hotel, write down the street name and show it to your driver.
When you check in at a Vietnamese hotel or resort, you’ll be asked for your passport, which is needed for registration with the local authorities. Depending on the establishment, these will be either returned to you the same night, or kept as security until you check out. If you’re going to lose sleep over being separated from your passport, say you need it for the bank; many places will accept photocopies of your picture and visa pages. It’s normally possible to pay your bill when you leave, although a few budget places ask for payment in advance.
Room rates fluctuate according to demand, so it’s always worth bargaining – making sure, of course, that it’s clear whether both parties are talking per person or per room. Your case will be that much stronger if you are staying several nights.
All hotels and resort charge 10 percent government tax, while top-class establishments also add a service charge (typically 5 percent). These taxes may or may not be included in the room rate, so check to be sure. Prices are often quoted in dong, which have been converted to dollars at the rate as it was at the time of going to press. However, because of the extreme volatility of the exchange rate (which can change by hundreds or thousands of dong each week), these prices are subject to constant change.
WEATHER IN VIETNAM
When deciding on the best time to travel to Vietnam, consider the country’s complicated weather picture of tropical monsoon seasons.
The northern Vietnam is overall warm from October to December, after which the cold winter sets in. After March and especially between May and August, the temperature rises to its peak of 40°C, accompanied by heavy downpours of rainy summer. The mountains share the same climatic pattern, however, the temperature is considerably cooler than in Hanoi with occasional layer of frosts on the highlands.
Being under influence of northern monsoon, the central coast experiences wet season from September to February, so the most convenient time to enjoy Da Nang, Hue and Nha Trang is during spring between February and May. Though it is extremely hard to predict, the typhoon will most likely hit the coastal region of central Vietnam with hurricane winds and heavy rains from August to November.
The rainy season in southern Vietnam starts from June to November with dry season lasting from December to May. Daytime temperature rarely drops below 20°C at night, reaching its peak during the hottest months (April and May) up to 40°C. Since the wet season is followed by heavy afternoon downpours, it can make transportation around Mekong Delta quite challenging.
In the end, there is no particular season to recommend as the best time to visit in such a vertically long country as Vietnam. It is advised to travel from September to May, as it is considered to be the most favorable time to explore cultural side of the country, wrapping up the tour with an ultimate beach relaxation on southern islands of Phu Quoc.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR VIETNAM
Vietnam is a friendly country that is generally safe to travel to. Here’s all you need to know for a trip to Vietnam, so what’re you waiting for?
The art of bargaining is practiced widely in Vietnam both by locals and tourists. Remember that negotiating is not rude but expected, however, the key is to remain friendly and amused, but also realistic.
CROSSING THE STREETS
Remember that motorbikes are trying to anticipate the crossers movements to avoid hitting you, so keep a steady pace and look both sides of the street. It is also advisable to hold out your arm to let the motorcyclists know that you are actually crossing the street.
CULTURE AND ETIQUETTE
Vietnam remains a fairly conservative country, paradoxically, with a high demonstration of tolerance. Nevertheless, as a visitor, it is essential to avoid any marks of disrespect by following few simple rules.
Shorts and short sleeves are acceptable for the beach and general sightseeing, however, when it comes to visiting pagodas and local religious sites, the best is to cover up with light scarf. Broadly speaking, it is recommended to dress modestly and appropriately.
Due to various hot weather conditions throughout the country, light fabrics, such as cotton and linen will be the most comfortable outfit for traveling.
Upon arrival to Vietnam, shall scan their luggage through customs and even open their belongings upon request of customs officials. Generally speaking the passengers over 18 years old are allowed to bring the following:
1. Tobacco Products: 400 cigarettes, 100 cigars or 500 grams of tobacco
2. Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic beverages: liquor at 22% volume and above: 1.5 liters; or liquor below 22% volume: 2 liters; or other alcoholic (excl. wines) and soft drinks: 3 liters
3. Tea maximum 5 kg and coffee maximum 3 kg
4. A reasonable quantity of perfume and personal belongings
5. Other goods, total value of which is not exceeding five million VND (Vietnamese Dong)
The electricity supply in Vietnam is 220 volts. Plugs generally have two round pins, though you may come across sockets requiring two flat pins and even some requiring three pins.
Accessing internet became much easier in Vietnam, available in the majority of dining outlets, hotels and even malls.
The official currency is Vietnamese Dong, coming in 1,000VND; 2,000VND; 10,000VND; 20,000VND; 50,000VND; 100,000VND; 200,000VND; 500,000VND.
The currency exchange can be done in International hotels and banks with a comprehensive network of ATM machines (some available 24/7). Major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are accepted in major tourist spots.
The simplest and most economical way to use your phone in Vietnam is to buy a SIM card or pre-paid phone card in local phone operator companies.
MONEY AND VALUABLES
It is advised to leave all important documentation, papers and large sum of money behind in the hotel’s safety box. Try to keep your phone, expensive jewelry and wallet out of sight, as large cities of Vietnam as in the rest of the world have its own fair share of pickpockets.
Banks usually work from Monday to Friday from 08:00-16:00 with lunch break from 11:30-13:00.
Post offices have longer hours from 06:30-21:00.
Markets work until late afternoon, while shops stay open until late around 21:00 or 22:00.
Museums has one day off a week, usually Mondays.
Sensitivity in taking pictures is highly advisable, especially in a country that honors respect. Ask permission before taking anyone’s photograph. Most people in Vietnam love having their photo taken and will ask to have one with you, but it is always polite to ask. Also note that there are some places like Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum or military buildings where taking photos is prohibited.
Vietnam is +7 hours GMT Time.
TRAVELERS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
It is important to contact airlines, hotels and tour companies in advance to make sure that they will be able to accommodate your requirements. Vietnam’s new luxury hotels and resorts usually offer specially adapted rooms.
Drink lot of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Avoid drinking tap water and choose only reliable mineral water brands stocked away from direct sunrays.
WHAT TO EAT IN VIETNAM
Light and subtle in flavors and astounding in their variety, Vietnamese traditional dishes involves many ways of cooking and an incredible amount of fresh herbs and spices thanks to its diverse climatic zones. Especially in the south, Thai and Indian influences add curries and spices to the menu, whilst central region has developed their own array of flavors. Buddhism has brought vegetarianism to Vietnam, while on later stage French colonists introduced cheese, bread and wine to coffee culture of the country. Generally speaking, there are two common types of dining options in Vietnam – delicious street food stalls packed with locals and tourists and Western style Vietnamese restaurants and cafes with diverse menu selections. To indulge into the freshest fruits de mer such as locally caught clams, prawns, mussels, fish and squid visit coastal cities of Vietnam, predominately Phu Quoc Island – very famous for its organic and clean daily catch.
VACATIONS AND HOLIDAYS IN VIETNAM
WHY TRAVEL TO VIETNAM?
Vietnam is a truly hidden gem that only those visiting the country themselves will be able to tell. To put it correctly, Vietnam is not short of World Heritage Site: Halong Bay, PhongNhaKe Bang caves, Hoi An Ancient Street and Cham Islands are all recognized for their intense beauty. However, it is the bits and bytes of the non-heritage site that will surprise you further. Da Lat, for example, is too picturesque to miss. French style villas sitting next to a pine forest, bordered by strawberry garden- you feel like Europe but the market scenes speak otherwise. Whether a must-see site or an off-the-beaten-path attraction, you will not be disappointed.
Friendly and hospitable Vietnamese
Like many other neighbour countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has a precious treasure: its people. Everywhere you go, you will be welcomed by smiles and kind helps from the locals- whether they know Vietnamese or not. You can also tell the difference in the lifestyle of people from each region if you stay long enough to find out. People from Ha Noi, give out a cool and stylish aura. Those from Hue are famous all over the country for their royal-like attitude: elegant and sweet. If you have time to spend in the Mekong delta of Vietnam, you will even be more surprised and inspired by the amity you are received by local farmers. They treat stranger as friendly as close friends or member in the family. Get impressed!
Vietnam is a well-known destination among budget travellers. Though the price is climbing monthly at a daunting rate, it is still much cheaper than travelling in other continents. There is almost every price for every wallet: a 5 star resort in Da Nang will cost you an equivalent amount to a 3 star hotel near JFK airport. For lower end market, there are a plenty of hostels and guest-houses in most cities. Food costs even lower and street foods are among the best in the world. That says, even in biggest metropolitan areas like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can get by a day with $15.
Have you always been a fan of Vietnamese food? Foods replicated in foreign countries can never be as authentic as the food served in their homeland, and in this case Vietnam’s a vivid proof. Vietnamese food goes beyond pho and spring rolls and the tastes vary by regions. Fresh vegetables are the distinction and continue to dominate the tables, while meat and poultry are rising in popularity. Cultural foods such as fish sauce, cha ca or mam ruoc are world-known signatures of Vietnamese culinary. Not to mention, exquisite cuisine in Vietnam comes with an unexpectedly cheap price. Near the beach such as NhaTrang,Da Nang and Phu Quoc, you can find plenty of fresh seafood caught in the morning and served in your dinner at very affordable price. A big size king crab costs about $8 and can be shared between 2 people.
Thanks to its long history, rich tradition and Buddhist influence, Vietnam has festivals organized all year round- many of which are unheard of in the West and really fun to learn about. Tet holiday, for example, is an ideal time to see how families celebrate their love for their ancestors and for each other. Tet should not be mistaken or called Chinese New Year, which may even be an insult to some nationalists. It resembles the Lunar New Year in many ways, but modified with a Vietnamese feel in it. For example, in the countryside, people stay up all night and make chung cake- over a bit of fire and some end-of-year gossips. In HaiPhong, the buffalo fighting festival is a well-known occasion: the winning buffalo will get killed and presented to the village god. Even public holidays in Vietnam are worth joining: come to Vietnam on the 2nd of September and you will see nation-wide parades. The whole streets will be lighted by the red flags- and fireworks take over the sky at night.
World famous beaches
What is more relaxing than spending time in the blue water under the shining sun? Let the waves of Da Nang, Nha Trang, Mui Ne or Phu Quoc relieve all the stress of the busy day-to-day life. Vietnam has several of the world’s top beach listing. Most of them are safe to swim and there are opportunities for water-sport activities as well. In Nha Trang, for example, you can do kite-running and wind surfing. and in Phu Quoc, enjoy the fresh atmosphere of the World Biosphere Reserve with hospitable natives and authentic local culture, while relaxing on the most famous beaches of Vietnam in world-class resorts. For beach fans, Vietnam should really be on your list.