Vietnam Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Dong (VND)
🕙Time Zone: +7 GMT
📞Phone Code: +84
✈️Best time to visit: Feb - Apr
🍴Eat: Vietnamese Spring Rolls / Seafood and Fish
🍷Drink: Green tea
🗺️Don't miss: A walk down the Old Hanoi Quarter at night / Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City.
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Vietnam has come a long way in under just a few decades; its tourism industry has boomed and now represents a major part of its economy. Also its rice production, agriculture and textile industries are stronger than ever. Vietnam, makes a long country shaped like an "S" in located in Asia. The lush Red River Delta and the highlands in the north, known for their magnificent scenery and colourful hill tribes, complement the agricultural plains and floating markets of the Mekong Delta in the south perfectly.
The impact of Japanese and Chinese trade, French occupation and American intervention has had on obvious influence on Vietnam. These influences are apparent in the culture of the big cities and give character to the towns, as well as in the architecture and food. The quaint town of Hoi An, once a major trading port, boasts the perfectly preserved architectural influences of the Asian merchants from the north, while the broad boulevards of the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are reminiscent of France.
Vietnam is known for its cuisine and offers an abundance of flavorful options for travellers to choose from. Hue is the old imperial capital of Vietnam with its royal palaces and palatial mausoleums, and nearby the battle sites of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) are reminders of the brutality of war. Much of the tourism in Vietnam however, is still much focussed on the war, with many museums, tunnels and reconverted buildings which house memorabilia from past war history.
Despite rapid economic expansion over recent years, Vietnam's cultural roots remain strong. Visitors will find ancient temples and colourful pagodas scattered throughout urban centres, interspersed with luxurious hotels and sleek skyscrapers. A country with a complex history, boundless natural beauty and fascinating cultural influences, Vietnam provides a wealth of different activities and unique experiences.
❗Attention: Vietnam is still quite rudimental when it comes to leaving the big cities and popular tourist locations along the coast. Travellers should be aware if going off the beaten-track and venturing into smaller towns and specially if backpacking. There can be issues when when staying in hostels and other shared dormitories, and sometimes even in hotels. Seek help at the nearest clinic if you're suffering from the bites of fleas, bed bugs, and/or lice. Be on the lookout for rabies when in contact with animals, wild or domesticated. Avoid the monkeys on Cat Ba Island when touring Ha Long Bay. When jungle trekking, be wary of ticks, leeches and poisonous snakes lurking in the undergrowth. Seek medical assistance immediately if bitten.
Arriving to Vietnam is only possible by plane when travelling from Europe or America. Even travelling from neighbouring countries it's also recommended to take a flight. Vietnam's major gateways are Hanoi (HAN) and Ho Ching Ming City (SGN) . The national airline being Vietnam Airlines flies across to Europe and America and has many flights to the south East Asian continent.
Alternatively other airlines offering good connections are Thai Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Emirates, Turkish Airlines amongst many more.
Within the country, getting to bigger cities is still advised to go by plane as distances are large. The road infrastructure is not developed enough to be safe in case of any breakdowns.
Travelling to smaller towns and to mountainous terrain is possible by local busses. But going solo can be very hard to organise trips without local guides as the lack of English speaking in the whole of Vietnam is quite common. Only workers in the specific areas of Hotels and tour companies are able to hold some fluent conversation in English.
Vietnam's Climate can be divided a tropical and a temperate zone. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences, has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity that makes it sometimes feel quite uncomfortable. Regions located near the tropics and in the mountainous regions have a slightly cooler, with a more temperate climate.
The annual average temperature ranges from 22°C to 35°C year-round. There are almost no significant differences in temperature in the southern parts of Vietnam, while the northern regions can be quite cold in the winter. There are essentially four distinct seasons, which are most evident in the northern provinces. However there are two distinguishable seasons in the southern areas. The cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October.
The best time to visit Vietnam in any case is from November to April. Taking warmer clothes if you are visiting Hanoi or the northern areas.
Perhaps the Vietnamese food is one of the most shocking cuisine's ever found, both in the preparation and the ingredients used. Despite from past tendencies where Vietnamese would eat "anything alive" the Vietnamese dishes have evolved, and come into civilisation with high quality ingredients to the point that it's one of the most famous international cuisines around the globe now for its flavours and variety in products. Vietnamese dishes are boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, and a huge importance is placed on herbs and seasoning.
Buddhism introduced a vegetarian tradition to Vietnam, while later the French brought bread, dairy products, pastries and the café culture.
The quality and variety of food is generally better in the main towns than away in the towns and villages. Restaurants in Hanoi are very abundant, you will find them in every corner of the streets and many are often in the open air on the street, making it a true experience to have dinner mixed with the locals. You’ll never go hungry. There’s always some stall selling a noodle soup or rice platter and plenty of fruit and juices to refresh on.
Main food used: The centre of Vietnamese meals is rice, with noodles, vegetables, at breakfast or as a snack. Seafood and fish flavoured either fresh or dried with shallots, coriander and lemon grass. Vietnamese food tends not to be over-spicy; instead chilli sauces or fresh chillies are served separately. Spring rolls, combination of minced pork, shrimp or crab, rice vermicelli, onions, etc are rolled in rice-paper wrappers, and then eaten fresh or deep-fried.Soups and noodles, the basic bowl of soup consists of a light beef broth, flavoured with ginger or coriander, to which are added flat rice-noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef. Meat, pork, chicken, beef and even Dog meat can be found in the Vietnamese dining table. Snake is supposed to improve male virility. Dining on snake is surrounded by a ritual, which, if you’re guest of honour, requires you to swallow the still-beating heart! Duck Eggs, Another one strictly for stomach strong,, embryo-containing eggs boiled and eaten only five days before hatching!
Vietnam’s national drink is green tea, which is the accompaniment to every social gathering or business meeting and is frequently drunk after meals. As for Alcoholic drinks, there’s also rice wine, together with some local beer.
Since 2015 Vietnam has been made more accessible thanks to the elimination of visa requirements to enter the country.
It's one of those destinations waiting to be discovered, as a lot of the infrastructure away from the big cities is still very basic. Cities and the scenery has been left intact over decades of political unrest and opposition.
However, now Vietnam is flourishing to become a must see destination for tourists visiting the south-east part of Asia. A hot climate, exotic cuisine, sun kissed sand beaches and incredible scenery is what is waiting for you.
The north and the south is very different, with a clear cultural difference and mind set of its people. The north is still a more traditional Vietnam and keeping some original values, mentality and traditions. The south is more cosmopolitan, giving a more open minded feel, open for business and a better infrastructure. But many visitors, often come to the two sides to explore as much as possible, doing this really gives you a true flavour of Vietnam.
After my first visit, it's was a true eye opener to a different way of life and culture. An incredible experience which gave me fond, curious and even shocking memories!
For the second time coming, discovering Ho Chi Minh City and the coast at Nha Trang was a great experience to be able to effectively contrast that north and the south. A country of much potential, a little chaos but beautiful indeed, which makes me want to come again and continue exploring more than anything else it's nature and scenery.