“A feast of culture and history”
Shaped like an elongated S, Vietnam is a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life. The blend of historical, cultural, political, and religious forces makes Vietnam one of today’s most enthralling places. Most travelers though, are more than content with the extraordinary physical beauty of the land and the energy and resilience of the people who live there.
Whether as a source of relaxation, activity, contemplation, or history, Vietnam has moved into the forefront of world travel destinations. Its highlands and rainforest regions, far from being devastated, continue to yield new species and team with exotic wildlife. Its islands and beaches are among the finest in all of Southeast Asia.
Beyond nature, the curious and open-minded visitor will find in Vietnam a feast of culture and history.
When to Visit
North Vietnam -The best time to visit the north of Vietnam is from September to December when it isn’t so humid. The weather turns quite cold and wet in January and this continues until March. The humidity can prove oppressive from May to the start of September and there’s a danger of flooding.
South Vietnam – December to April is the best time to visit the south of Vietnam. There are short downpours during the wet season from May to November but they tend to only last a short time so you can still enjoy a visit during these months (just go for lunch when you see the black clouds developing). The Mekong Delta can experience severe flooding during this period making travel very difficult.
Central Vietnam – December to March is a good time to visit the Central Highlands when conditions are usually dry and cool. We visited the region in late November when the weather was beautiful with fine, warm days and pleasant evenings. We had a few light showers as we headed north towards Hoi An. Along the central coast there is a rainy season from December to February. June to October tends to be very dry and hot.
VIETNAM’S INTERESTING PLACES
HALONG BAY - is located in northeastern Vietnam, in the Quang Ninh providence. This area is simply breathtaking and an absolute “must see” if you are anywhere in Asia. This bay is surrounded by jutting limestone cliffs and countless islands waiting for you to explore them. It is no surprise that Halong Bay was one of the nominees for World’s 7 Natural Wonders in 2009.
HOI AN - is a charming little riverside town famed for its beautiful old buildings, its narrow, quiet streets and its history as a merchant trading post. It is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam,The architecture in the town is beautiful, the atmosphere relaxed and the food fantastic. There is a long beach not far from the town and plenty of shops and tailors within the town that encourage travelers to stay for a while.
HANOI- is Vietnam’s capital and the country’s second largest city. The city is a fascinating blend of east and west, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past.
HUE – .is a small, peaceful and countless romantic city, full of lakes, canals and lush vegetation. Hue was chosen to be the capital of Vietnam in 1802 under the Nguyen dynasty and continued its role until 1945. Hue was created on the model of the Forbidden city in Beijing with many palaces, temples inside. More recently the French culture has left a strong impression in the city.
HO CHIN MINH CITY - is still Saigon to many, a mesmerizing gateway for visitors to Vietnam where traditional and modern influences live side by side. Imagine incense-filled pagodas filled with a constant stream of worshipers; streets buzzing with the engines of countless motorbikes and pavements teeming with street vendors, barbers, dentists and cafes selling steaming bowls of noodle soup by the roadside.Amid this vibrant Asian backdrop are gleaming shopping malls, skyscrapers, coffee shops and bars that would not look out of place in the west. Ho Chi Minh City is the face of the new Vietnam.
DA LAT - is a lovely little town set in the Southern Highlands of Vietnam. A short flight from Ho Chi Minh City, the town is a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities and is a favorite destination for Vietnamese honeymooners.
SAPA - is in the north west of Vietnam close to Chinese border and about 340 km north west of Hanoi. Sapa town is located at the altitude of about 1600m and dominated by Hoang Lien Son range of mountains. Probably, no other place in the world could compare to the spectacular scenery of Sapa and its terraced paddy fields formed by multi minority groups near thousand years ago. Besides the natural beauty, you have chances to discover different cultures of 7 colorful ethnic groups living here.
MEKONG DELTA - Vietnam’s most fertile region, the Mekong’s rive side environment is simultaneously unique and beautiful. From Vinh Long, travel by sampan along narrow canals to tropical fruit orchards and bonsai gardens; sample freshly-picked fruits and the local delicacy, fried elephant ear fish; and navigate though the waterborne bustle of the area’s famed floating markets.
DA NANG - is the country’s fourth-largest city. The French named the city Tourane after it succeeded Hoi An (Faifo) as a vital deep water trading port in the 19th century. More recently, Danang was made famous in the Hollywood film “Good Morning Vietnam”. A short drive from downtown Danang takes visitors to the splendid beaches of Non Nuoc, My Khe and Tien Sa. Danang is also the gateway to nearby World Heritage sites such as My Son, Hoi An and Hue.
NHA TRANG – is bordered by a long beach of white sand and coconut trees, Nha Trang is considered as the most charming coastal town of Vietnam. The city having a fairly well-planned layout used to be the home town of French Governors General at that time. The most favourite spot may be the main street of the town, which runs parallel to the 6-km long beach, offering cool breezes to the large colonial-styled buildings, villas and hotels on the other side.
PHU QUOC ISLAND – lies in the Gulf of Thailand, Kien Giang Province, 45km from Ha Tien and 15km south of the coast of Cambodia. Phu Quoc Island, the largest island in Vietnam, covers an area of 567sq.km (about 62km long and between 3km and 28km wide). Phu Quoc Island is endowed with lush tropical forest and mountain zones; this emerald island is perfect for beach vacationers with its unspoiled beaches. There are many activities to take advantage of including swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and hiking.
OFFICIAL NAME: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
COUNTRY CODE: +84
More than 86 million
Vietnam occupies the eastern and southern part of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia, with the South China Sea along its entire coast. China is to the north and Laos and Cambodia are to the west. Long and narrow on a north-south axis, Vietnam is about twice the size of Arizona. The Mekong River delta lies in the south.
Vietnam is located in the tropical zone characterized by sunshine, high rainfall, humidity and monsoon. Most mountainous regions are temperate. The annual average temperature is from 22ºC to 27ºC with two distinguished seasons in general: the cold and dry one from November to April and the other hot and wet from May to October. Especially the North has four distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The best time to visit the country is from October to April.
Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There’s no daylight saving time in Vietnam, meaning that in the summer months, it’s 12 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, in winter months 11 hours ahead; it’s 14 or 15 hours ahead of the U.S. West Coast, and 3 or 4 hours ahead of Sydney, Australia.
Vietnamese (official); English (increasingly favored as a second language); some French, Chinese, Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
85% ethnic Vietnamese, 3% ethnic Chinese, also Khmer, Cham (a remnant of the once great Indian Champa Kingdom) and members of some 55 ethno-linguistic groups.
Buddhist 9%, Catholic 7%, Hoa Hao 2%, Cao Dai 1%, Protestant, Islam, none 81%
A multi-cultural country with a long and proud history of 4,000 years, Vietnam is a fascinating blend of the Orient and the Occident, the old and the new.
Despite the modernization process taking place day and night, villages with traditional customs, festivals, farming methods, folk arts and ancient monuments still play an important role in Vietnam’s present-day society. Visitors can discover the idyllic charm of varied scenes of everyday life, from simple peasants in conical hats tilling their paddy fields with rudimentary tools to innocent children riding and tending water buffaloes at sunset or sunrise.
Vietnamese Dong (VND) in denominations of 500,000; 200,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000 banknotes. Coins include VND 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500 and 200. These values have paper note equivalences.
Most shops, banks and businesses open from 8am to 4 or 5pm with a 1-2 hour lunch break
GOVERNMENT - Communist state.
Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet.
Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung
PROVINCES – 61
Free market orientated economy with ongoing industrialization and building programs. The country is very rich in national resources.
Vietnam’s electricity carries 220 volts, so if you’re coming from the U.S., bring a converter and adapter for electronics. Plugs have either two round prongs or two flat prongs. If you’re toting a laptop, bring a surge protector. Big hotels will have all these implements.
PASSPORT & VISA
A visa is required of all foreigners visiting Vietnam.
Only citizens of certain countries can visit Vietnam without a visa, they are:
Nationals of most ASEAN countries: No visa is required if they plan to stay less than 30 days
Nationals of South Korea, Japan, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland: No visa is required ifthey plan to stay less than 15 days
Citizens of other countries 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. You need a passport with at least 6 months validity.
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.
In general, Vietnamese visa is inexpensive in comparision to any other countries. The visa fees are ranging from US$65 – 85 if an application is sent directly to the Embassy or or US$25-55 if your visa has been pre-approved.
Getting to Vietnam by means of air is the best way to reaching the country. Several countries offered direct flights to and from Vietnam. However flights from long distance destinations are limited. Vietnam has four international airports that take care of all air travel.
One can get to Vietnam by trains also but only from China. There are two rail route connections between these two countries, twice a week, one from Beijing to Hanoi Vietnam, via Nanning and Lang Son and another from Kunming to Hanoi and passing through Lao Cai.
You can travel to Vietnam by road from China, Laos and Cambodia. There are road crossings between these countries and Vietnam and the roads will take you past scenic locales so that you also get to have an enjoyable journey.
Late January to mid-February: Vietnamese Lunar New Year ( 04 days off ).
03 February : Vietnamese Communist Party Foundation.
30 April : Saigon Liberation Day
01 May : International Worker’s Day.
19 May : Birthday of the president Ho Chi Minh.
02 September : National Day.
Police: 113. Fire Brigade: 114. First Aid: 11
- Greetings are no different to western countries, there are no cultural formalities that as a foreginer you would be expected to know or practise.
- 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.
- Dress well 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.
- Drink plenty of bottled water, especially when walking around sightseeing. No need to carry huge bottles around with you, a vendor is never far away and no doubt they will find you before you find them.
- Keep your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place.
- Travel with recommend tour agencies. Even if you plan to buy tickets when in country, research your journey a little first on the Internet. A good resource is Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum, where fellow tourists discuss travel in Vietnam. This way you avoid unreliable tour agencies and badly run hotels.
- Wear a lot of jewellery or take a bag with you. Violent crime is highly unusual in Vietnam, but petty crime is more apparant. If you have a bag, or tout a digital camera around your neck, you are a potential target.
- When taking a ride by motorbike taxi (xe om) make sure your bag, if any, is not on display or easy to grab. Bag snatches, although still rare, are probably the most likely crime a tourist would encounter, and it raises the probability immensely if you are tailing a camera or a laptop in the wind.
- Don’t wear singlets, shorts, skirts or dresses, or revealing clothes to temples or pagodas.
- Physical displays of affection between lovers in public are frowned upon. That’s why you may come across couples holding hands but not hugging or kissing.
- 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.
- Remember, this is Vietnam, a developing country, and things don’t quite work as you are maybe used to. Don’t be paranoid about your safety, just be aware of your surroundings.