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As a country that is usually neglected on the main tourist holiday map, Vietnam is a destination that offers an authentic travel experience. From rice terraces to temples and from beaches to vibrant cities – this untouched country hosts the perfect holiday getaway.
Slowly growing in popularity not just among backpackers, Vietnam offers an affordable adventure to Southeast Asia. The country brings with it undiscovered cultures and terrains offering the ultimate break from your everyday routine.
We want you to discover authentic Vietnam and get the best from your Far East holiday, so we have put together some helpful ideas to get you started. Whether you are a backpacker or have packed a suitcase for the whole family, this dynamic destination on the South China Sea will welcome you with open arms.
Vietnam shares its borders with China in the north and Cambodia and Laos in the west. On the eastern part of the country, you will find some of the world’s best beaches, consisting of close to 30,000 km of coastline facing the South China Sea.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the biggest city in Vietnam. Spend your first couple of nights in Vietnam here so you can dive into the vibrant and dynamic hustle and bustle of city life, surrounded by colonial-style buildings. Pass through the colourful and buzzing Ben Tanh market for great food, souvenirs, basic supplies and an authentic atmosphere. Visit the 19th century Notre Dame cathedral or walk through the wartime tunnels of Cu Chi for a brief history lesson of this once-troubled country.
For party-goers, Bui Vien Street, in district 1, Ho Chi Minh City is party central, frequented by many European travellers and locals. Experience the vibrant nightlife, sample Saigon beer and get lost in the loud music, a great place for young people. Dress up for Lush, a popular nightclub open 7 days a week and celebrate with the locals.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and is characterised by its rich Southeast Asian culture with French and Chinese influences displayed in its centuries-old architecture. Visit the many well-preserved temples and museums in one of the most ancient cities in the world. The popular Hoan Kiem Lake Park features a freshwater lake, a monumental temple and a historic bridge; a perfect way to while away a warm day on your Vietnam holiday. The Temple of Literature, home to Vietnams first university, is a spectacular building designed to tell a picturesque story of the country’s history.
The choice of islands and beaches is unlimited in Vietnam, turn your holiday into an expedition by discovering the hidden gems of this tropical heaven.
Visit the port city of Da Nang in central Vietnam and explore its beautiful beach. It stretches 30 km from Monkey Mountain to Hoi An. The beautiful white sand complements the blue sea to create calm waters perfect for swimming, especially during April and July. Have fun with scuba diving and surfing to complete your ultimate Vietnam holiday.
The coastal resort city of Nha Trang is famous for its long beaches, island escapes and beautiful resorts. Take a cable car to discover Hon Tre Island or a boat to explore the nature reserves of Hon Mun and Hon Tam. For sailing, wind or kite surfing and many other water sports, visit the popular beach resort of Mui Ne, with features red dunes, bamboo forests and relaxing beaches.
Weather-wise, the country can be split into three parts; north, central and south Vietnam. The best time to travel is dependent on when the monsoon season hits your chosen destination. Usually, monsoons visit the north of the country at a different time than the south.
North Vietnam to North Central Vietnam: This region experiences four seasons with winter-like weather usually lasting from December to February. The hot, rainy and humid summer lasts from June to August.
Central Vietnam: Characterised by a tropical wet or monsoon climate, this region is mostly hot throughout the year. From November to April, it is mostly dry but the summer season tends to be subject to floods and storms.
South Vietnam: Temperatures are on average high throughout the year and the seasons are categorised into two: wet and dry. The months between May and November are the wet season and the dry season occurs from November to April
As more travellers have been discovering this hidden gem, the cost of things in Vietnam has slowly been increasing. However, it is still a cheaper option when compared to popular Thailand nearby. If you are travelling on a budget, you can get by in Vietnam on around £30 per day, including food, drinks and hostel accommodation.
As the tourism sector grows, there has been an increase in accommodation options, especially hostels. Opting to stay in a hostel will significantly reduce your expenses. The shared rooms are perfect for travelling with family or as a group of friends. When travelling alone, Vietnamese hostels are an ideal place to meet likeminded individuals.
For a more comfortable or luxurious option on your Vietnam holiday, you can either book a private room or check into one of the many hotels, guest houses or luxury resorts located across the country.
For those on a budget, street food is an amazing experience in Vietnam. Try a Bánh mì sandwich (Bánh mì means bread) filled with different kinds of ingredients usually consisting of pork or pate and cucumber. For a new taste bud experience, get a mouth-watering bowl of Pho for as little at £1 and indulge in this traditional Vietnamese soup with a mixture of herbs, some meat and rice noodles.
For currency, pack both US Dollars and Vietnamese Dong as they are both used in transactions. Items aimed at the tourist market might have to be paid for in US Dollars and more local items in Dong. Usually, paying in Dong is cheaper in most places.
Pirate Tip: Some of the notes look very similar, so sort out your money before making any purchases.
Since March 2020, UK visitors have been required to apply for a visitor visa for Vietnam. The process is online and easy and costs between US$25 – $50. Getting to Vietnam is easy – you can fly to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Airlines offers direct flights from London to Hanoi. If you prefer to fly to Ho Chi Minh City, there are numerous flights available with 1 or more stop-overs from many regional airports.
Vietnam is rich in culture and tradition, something that contributes to making it an unforgettable holiday experience. We have compiled a few of the local practices here to reduce your culture shock while mixing with the locals:
When entering a home remove your shoes
Avoid walking around with lots of cash and try to dress conservatively
Eat all your food! Do not leave any food on your plate, it is considered rude
Avoid touching anyone’s head and show respect for the elderly, traditionally the oldest eats first at the table
Public displays of affection are frowned upon
The best and most convenient mode of transport in Vietnam is by bus. Fares are cheap and you can get to many places across the country. You can even hop on a cross-border bus into Cambodia.
Pirate Tip: If you are trying to save money, take an overnight bus. It might not be the most comfortable bed for the night, but it saves you from paying for accommodation.
The trains offer a better but pricier option for those in need of comfort. A night train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City will take around 35 hours. But sleeper beds, air conditioning and stunning landscapes will make the journey an experience never to be forgotten.
Driving and renting a car might be challenging in Vietnam and if you choose to get around by car, you might want to hire a driver to negotiate the crazy traffic. A good alternative for the adventurous spirit is a motorbike which requires less paperwork and can be rented easily. It will also make it easier to navigate through the Vietnamese traffic.
Within the cities, the best mode of travel is by taxi or motorbike taxi. Alternatively, get your hands on a map of the local bus network.
Vietnam is generally safe and the authorities are active in maintaining it this way. Again, like any other destination, you should be mindful to keep an eye out for your personal belongings and pickpockets.