With stunning scenery, world class beaches, ancient monuments, bustling cities together with Vietnam War memorials, Vietnam is one of the world’s best destinations.
As a long-haul destination, Vietnam is very affordable with good value hotels and resorts and very cheap, high quality, food, drink and internal travel. If you want a cheap, high quality suit then Vietnam, especially Hoi An, is the place to go.
We have also looked at the current travel situation throughout South East Asia in our article South East Asia Travel, What are the Options?
Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon is often the gateway to Vietnam, with a diverse mix of districts all with their own characteristics, markets and food.
Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam has an incredible mix of eastern and western architecture, friendly people and wonderful food.
Ha Long Bay – one of the most photographed locations in Vietnam if not South East Asia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that will take your breath away.
Hoi An – wonderful countryside, incredible Old Town, riverside living, stunning beaches…
Da Nang – the third largest city in Vietnam with stunning picture postcard beaches, French colonial buildings, mountains, incredible viewpoints and temples.
Hue – Sitting on the Perfume River Hue is just a short bike ride from magnificent beaches and is home to incredible attractions including Hue Imperial City and a multitude of temples.
Nha Trang – wonderful beaches, exceptional cultural sites, seafood and stunning resorts.
Phu Quoc – increasingly popular with foreign and Vietnam visitors who love the beautiful beaches, wide range of hotels and wide range of resorts.
Mui Ne – popular with Vietnamese and foreign tourists due to the incredible beaches and seafood.
Con Dao – Incredible beaches for the more adventurous traveller.
Sa Pa and the North West of Vietnam – Mountains, forests and traditional Vietnamese tribal villages.
When to Visit
Vietnam is a long thin country and so climate can vary quite widely between different parts of the country.
South Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Mui Ne, Phu Quoc, Phan Thiet and Con Dao
The south is an excellent option all year round, especially Phu Quoc and Con Dao, with average temperatures between 25 – 35°C. November to April is dry season with the hottest and most humid months being February to April. Wet season runs from May to October with June to August being the wettest months although rain throughout the wet season tends to be in heavy, short, downpours.
Hot and dry from mid January to August (even later in Nha Trang) with temperatures often in the mid 30’sC (often lower in Hue). Wet season runs from September to mid January and can be very heavy especially during October and November.
North Vietnam – Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Ninh Bin
Dry season in North Vietnam lasts from November to April with temperatures averaging only 17-22°C, with temperatures sometimes becoming quite cold at night. The coolest months are January to March. Temperatures increase during the wet season with the wettest months usually being July to September when sailing in Halong Bay may sometimes be restricted.
Far North Vietnam – Sapa and mountainous north
Dry season is November to March although temperatures can drop very low at night in December and January. Wet season is April to September. The area is most suitable for more adventurous travellers and as long as you are suitably dressed there is no bad time to visit. Other travellers may find March to May the best time to visit.
How to Get to Vietnam
Vietnam Airlines offer direct flights from London to Hanoi and Tui has flights to Phu Quoc (seasonal).
Most people will take a connecting flight from one of the local hubs which serve a number of airports throughout Vietnam. airlines with good connections to various Vietnam airports include Singapore, Thai Airways, Emirates and Qatar.
Language and Currency
The language is Vietnamese and like it’s cousin, Thai, is not easy for westerners to learn due to it being a tonal language, very similar words will have very different meanings depending on the tone used. English is spoken in bigger cities and tourist areas as is French in some areas.
Vietnamese Dong is the official currency. A few years ago it was recommended to take US Dollars as these were preferred by many in the tourist industry. This has been discouraged by the government and Dong should now be used. Be careful with understanding the exchange rate as the large denominations can be confusing, at the time of writing £1 was 25,252 Dong.
Not all UK currency exchange services offer the Dong so you may need to shop around. In Vietnam there are plenty of places to exchange money in cities and other tourist areas, cash machines are also common that will accept major cards.
Visa and Passports
Please note that this guidance is not currently valid due to COVID-19 restrictions. Vietnam has closed its borders to foreign travel and suspended issue of visas.
British passport holders must have at least six months remaining on their passport on the date you enter Vietnam. Ensure that your passport is in good condition as some people have been refused entry due to damaged passports.
British passport holders can visit Vietnam for up to 15 days without a visa. You will need a visa for periods of 15 days and longer and if you wish to re-enter Vietnam within 30 days of your departure.
Visas can be obtained through your local Vietnamese Embassy. Guidance and online visas are available on the official government website.
Non British passport holders should check their countries individual requirements. Wikipedia do publish a list of visa free countries however this should be used with caution and only as a guide – we suggest you always check with your own countries advice or through the Malaysian Embassy.
Health and Vaccinations
Unless you are arriving from a Yellow Fever zone there are no compulsory vaccinations to enter Vietnam. Travelers should ensure that they are up to date with routine vaccinations. We recommend checking the latest information available for your country at least two months prior to departure.
Malaria is prevalent in some areas and you should check if Malarial medication is required.
Additional care should be taken if you have underlying health conditions or are planning on undertaking a number of higher risk activities, for example getting a tattoo, unprotected sexual intercourse with a new partner etc.
We recommend only drinking sealed bottled water and not tap water.
Food and Drink
Vietnamese food is becoming more and more popular throughout the world for a very good reason, it’s wonderful. There is a real mix of influences, of course Asian themes are common throughout but there are also European, especially French elements. Dishes and tastes can vary throughout the country, the south has many fried dishes with sweet and spicy sauces while the noth tends to have more subtle flavours. Dishes to look out for include Pho, noodle soup usually with chicken or beef, Nem Nuong Xa, grilled meat on lemongrass skewers and Bahn Mi Thit, a baguette filled with a variety of fillings.
Vietnam is famous for its coffee and can be made with egg, coconut and even yoghurt and is often sweetened with condensed milk and can be served hot or iced. Local beers are excellent and there is a growing craft beer community offering even more choice of flavours, imported beers are readily available but much more expensive. Local wine is available but can be an acquired taste, which can be also the case for some of the local spirits.
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