WHY TRAVELLING TO VIETNAM
The Chinese occupation, the French colonialism and the famous Vietnam War highly mark the Vietnamese culture. My Son are some old hinduist ruins that can give you a feeling of what was going on in the area in the 4th century. The Chinese influence can delight your visit to Huế and Hội An. The Vietnam War has a dedicated museum in Ho Chi Minh but the most recommended visit to acknowledge war times are the Củ Chi Chi Tunnels, where a firegun sound as a background makes you feel stressed along your visit.
Its three-star rate is mainly by virtue of Ha Long Bay, one of the 7 new natural wonders. In addition, rice terraces may draw idyllic landscapes in the mountains near Sappa (from September to November would be the perfect time to visit) in the North and the Mekong delta shows the way of living in nature of its inhabitants, mainly fishermen, in the South. Glorious caves in several spots around the country and the Ba Be National park in the North of the country round off this section.
You can feel quite adventurous while travelling through Vietnam because of the comparison with occidental countries. Motorbikes create an incredibly heavy traffic in the main cities, especially the old quarter in Hanoi where dogding scooters on the sidewalk becomes a funny game. English is not mastered by the majority of its population, so you will have to find the right people to talk to or enjoy the language of gestures, which I absolutely recommend. Intrepid travellers must rent a scooter at least from Huế to Hội An (many retailers rent bikes in one city and pick them up in the other).
It is broadly consider a safe country (it ranks #45 out of 160 according to SafeAround), except for certain scams that you may only find if you do not know them. No violence at all was found during my trip there, just a few pickpockets as in most cities and some scams that typically occur in South East Asia. Among the most common scams in Vietnam you may be tricked by someone who swaps bills with the same color (have a look at the digits in the paper to know how many dongs it costs; my taxi driver from the airport unsuccessfully tried on me). Hence, be aware not to be stolen and pay attention to the bills.
If not the cheapest, Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in the world due to their currency (it ranks #83 out of 117 according to Numbeo in 2018). Experience how it feels to be a millionaire, you can have 1 million vietnamese dong in your hands in exchange of less than 50 USD. Therefore, the cost of living in Vietnam becomes extremely cheap. A night might cost 1 USD in a hostel or 3 USD in a 3-star hotel (one dollar per star) if you are a good bargainer. Local food should not require more than 1 USD per meal.
Because of the hot weather, hot noodle soup is the vietnamese main dish. Bacteria frequently appears on the food if there is scorching weather and there are two way to combat that fact: Boiling and spices. Phở is the name of this delicious and economical dish. To complete your traditional Vietnamese meal you must order Gỏi cuốn, which are the common known Vietnamese rolls, and enjoy the distinguished local coffee, which may come along with condensed milk to smooth its intense taste.
What to visit in Vietnam
Hereafter, I sort the spots to visit in Vietnam by its attractiveness and uniqueness:
1. Halong bay
One of the new 7 natural wonders, the descending dragon bay is named like that because its 2000 limestone islets look as a water dragon from distance. Sleep over on a boat in this marvellous spot of the South China Sea, do kayaking, dive from the boat, bargain to buy provisions to the ladies who approach your boat and blend yourself into naturefor a while.
2. Củ Chi Tunnels
One of the best museums I have ever hit which makes you experience what it was like to be in the war. It is a vast outdoor area where the guide shows you the way of living of the Vietnamese people during the war, including the weapons the designed, the food they were used to eat and the network of tunnels that encompassed a length of 121 km. War, creativity and a tremendous amount of free time led locals to design an ingenious way of living to be admired by visitors. Vietnam won the war!
3. My Son
Hinduism remains in Vietnam thanks to this magnificent temple which is dated to the forth century. It can be reached from Hội An and was abandoned for centuries. There are around 20 brick or sandstone temples still standing there after some of them were destroyed by the US during the war. Do not miss this hidden gem!
4. Hội An
Cuteness is the word that defines its old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains such beautiful buildings as the Chinese Fukian Assembly Hall, the Japanese bridge or the performances at the Phung Hung House. I challenge you to find the four Vietnamese sacred animals around the old town: the water Dragon, the noble Phoenix, the wise Tortoise and the Kỳ Lân Lion-Horse. You can celebrate you found them having the cheapest beer of the world… Good luck!
This Vietnam former capital and home of the Nguyễn dynasty is located in the Center of Vietnam. The main attraction to be found in the city is the citadel, which is enclosed by walls in the center of the city. It contains a replica of the Royal Theater, the Imperial City, which is formed by palaces and shrines, and the Forbidden Purple City, were the emperor used to live at.
Rice terraces can be found everywhere around Sa Pả, a city situated in a province where several ethnic groups live in villages. Designed for hiking lovers, the mountain ranges form leafy fresh landscapes and every true backpacker dream of getting lost overthere.
7. Mekong Delta
This fishermen heaven, where over 1000 species of animals live together, is filled by floating markets and villages and known as the nine dragon river. An excursion from Hồ Chí Minh to this area is highly recommended.
8. Ba Be National Park
If you love nature, this natural park offers you a halcyon lake which you can cross on a canoe wearing vietnamese typical hats and take some memorable shots with your camera. Only recommended if you have plenty of time.
The capital of Vietnam and one of the most attractive spotsto feel the rush of a city. Enjoy the Old Quarter neighborhood with the chaos of the scooters during the day and the absolute silence at night. Spots worth visiting are the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, Turtle Tower, the Temple of Literature, the Flag Tower and the One Pillar Pagoda.
10. Hồ Chí Minh City
An enourmous city, also known as Saigon, inhabitated by 13 million people and named after a communist revolutionary leader who was Prime Minister and President of North Vietnam before the unification. You should not miss the street market in the evening near the city center and the Vietnam War museum. Besides, the Củ Chi Tunnels can be reach in a morning excursion from this city.
11. Nha Trang
If you desire to lay on the beach, get tan and forget about stress, this is your venue. Calm and relaxing location in order to refuel your energy tank. However, I would personally skip this spot because it is not as unique as others in the country.
RECOMMENDED ROUTES IN VIETNAM
In any of the cases, visiting Cambodia after or before Vietnam is a must. So make sure you save some time for the neighbor country. Buses around Vietnam are cheap and easy to book. I advise to book night buses to sleep on during the transportation time. I designed the routes from North to South, but this is absolutely optional.
7 DAYS IN VIETNAM
I suggest not missing the main spots, so the following route may be a good choice: Hanoi and Halong bay – Huế – Hội An and My Son – Hồ Chí Minh and Củ Chi Tunnels
15 DAYS IN VIETNAM
Half a month should be enough to get around the country. The following route is logical: Hanoi – Sapa – Ba Be National Park – Halong Bay – Huế – Hội An and My Son – Nha Trang – Hồ Chí Minh and Củ Chi Tunnels – Mekong Delta – Hồ Chí Minh
1 MONTH IN VIETNAM
Rent or buy a scooter and get lost. Do it from Hanoi to Hồ Chí Minh or the other way, but spend time in little villages on the way to discoverthe real Vietnam.
GET YOUR BACKPACK READY FOR VIETNAM
Visa for Vietnam
Passport holders from Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea (South), Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand and UK do not require for a visit of 14 or 30 days.
Nationals from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain do not need a visa for visits up to 15 days.
Vietnam has an E-Visa service available that costs US$25 and takes 3 working days.
Tourist visas are good for thirty days and may be extended after your arrival in Vietnam. Fees and requirements vary from embassy to embassy; about $50 in Bangkok and $85 in Washington, for example. A double entry visa is also available for tourists making side trips from Vietnam to destinations in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
Credits to Projectvisa.
Vaccinations for Vietnam
- Recommended vaccines for Vietnam: Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Diphtheria and Tetanus.
- Rarely necessary vaccines for Vietnam: Malaria and rabies.
- Not necessary vaccines for Vietnam: Yellow fever (a certificate may be required if you come from any area with transmission risk).
Most electrical sockets in Vietnam are compatible with type A (two flat vertical pins), type C and type F (two round pins). Voltage in Vietnam electricity supply is 200V. Frequency in Vietnam electricity supply is 50Hz.
Currency in Vietnam
The local currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnamese đồng (VND).
Please, use the currency converter on the sidebar if you want to check the latest exchange rates.
Weather in Vietnam
Since it is a tropical country, there are two main seasons along the year. Dry season runs from October to March and it is the most recommended one to travel to Vietnam, although it gets too cold in the Northern mountains in December and January. Wet season covers from April to September and rains may be too annoying to hike the rice terraces or enjoy the coast views.
It is divided in four regions:
- Northern mountains (Sapa and Ba Be National Park): Temperatures range from 7 to 24ºC depending on the season.
- North of Vietnam (Hanoi and Ha Long Bay): Temperatures range from 14 to 33ºC.
- Central Vietnam (Huế, Hội An and My Son): Temperatures range from 19 to 34ºC.
- South of Vietnam (Nha Trang, Mekong Delta, Hồ Chí Minh and Củ Chi Tunnels): Temperatures range from 22 to 34ºC.
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Recommendations for Vietnam
In order to save money and not to get lost, you must install on your smartphone the free app Maps.me and download the maps of the Vietnamese regions that you plan to visit using wifi before you go. Afterwards, you will be able to use your GPS signal for free over the previously downloaded maps.