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Vietnam Travel Guide

Vietnam Travel Guide

VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: THE BASICS

Vietnam Basics

Vietnam was an extremely memorable destination for us. When I think of Vietnam, I think of amazing food (and healthy too!), chaos on the streets, motorbikes, natural beauty and friendly locals with a drive to achieve more. Vietnam holds a special place in my heart as we took my Dad on his first overseas holiday here. It’s a very long country, so it can take some time to travel in between each city or town. But Vietnam is definitely a country worth exploring!

Below you will find information to help plan your trip; from when and where to go, what to pack and things to do.

Map Of Vietnam

THINGS TO SEE & DO IN VIETNAM

  • Take a boat down the Mekong RiverStreet Food in Vietnam
  • Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Discover Ho Chi Minh City on the back of a bike
  • Relax on the beaches of Nha Trang or Mui Ne
  • Walk the streets of UNESCO site Hoi An Old Town
  • Spend a few days exploring by bicycle around Hoi An
  • Taste delicious Vietnamese street food
  • Trek the hills of Sa Pa
  • Spend a night or two sailing through Halong Bay
  • Discover the beauty of Hanoi

 

VIETNAM PLANNER & FAQ

Where To Go In Vietnam?

There are so many different destinations to visit in Vietnam, from city to beach to countryside. The big cities are Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, beach areas include Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Hoi An. Hoi An also has an old town which is beautiful. Beautiful scenery can be found in Ninh Binh, Sa Pa and Halong Bay. Here’s some more information on  Where To Go in Vietnam.

When To Go?
Weather: Due to the length of Vietnam, weather varies greatly between north, central and South areas.

North (think Hanoi): The cooler, drier months are November to April and the warmer months are May to October, although there is also more rainfall.

Central (think Hoi An and Danang): Hot and dry months usually run from January through to August.

South (think Ho Chi Minh City): The south remains warm all year round, but they experience both the wet and dry seasons. Wet season runs from May to October, whilst the dry season runs from November through to April.

Our Experience: We visited Vietnam in April and found the south, north and Central Vietnam to be pleasant. Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Hoi An were hot but bearable, and Hanoi whilst warm, was notably cooler. We chose April as it seemed to be a happy medium in terms of weather. We have also visited Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang and Hoi An in February/March and this was also nice.

How Long To Go For?
Vietnam may not be a huge country but it is very long. For this reason, leave a little extra time for travel in between destinations. Most people work there way from south to north or vice versa. Depending how many places you choose to stay, I would say 2 weeks is a great length for a first trip, up to a month if you want to explore more or take it slower.
Visa
If you are going to Vietnam for a holiday, you will need to apply for a visa prior to arriving in Vietnam. Your passport should have 6 months validity from your time of arrival in Vietnam. You can fill out a form online via a Vietnamese Government Visa Website, print and take to your nearest Vietnamese Consulate or Embassy. Fees will vary depending on length of stay. Length of stay for a tourist visa for Australian citizens is one month or three months.
Sim Cards
We have used Vinaphone sim cards when travelling around Vietnam for internet on our phones. For 120 000 VND we got 1 month of unlimited internet.
Printable Packing List
Find a printable packing list to make life easier here.
Tipping
Tipping in Vietnam is not required however it will be appreciated for good service.
Scams
Whilst we haven’t had anything happen to us (except the Cylco one), these are some things we have heard or seen. Phone snatching by motorbikes is apparently common (we saw this happen in Ho Chi Minh City) so be mindful. If you get you’re shoes shined, you may get the full treatment, including repairs, and before you know it the price will be a lot more than you expected. Cyclo’s may try and take advantage of tourists and will try and charge you more than what you agreed to. Either agree to a price and write it down or just avoid them all together. With Taxi’s, stick to Vinasun or Mai Linh.
Getting There
Vietnam has three International Airports, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang and Hanoi, however it’s most common to start either in the North (Hanoi) or South (Ho Chi Minh City) and make your way in the one direction. Otherwise, if you are combining your Vietnam trip with other Asian countries, you can reach Vietnam easily from Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Bus, boat or flight), Laos (bus or flight) or China (train or flight), as well as other destinations via flying.
Getting Around Vietnam
We have used trains, plane, buses and boats to get around Vietnam on past trips. Flying between big cities like Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang and Hanoi is a good option if you are pressed for time (we were happy with Vietnam Airlines). However, if you have the time to spare, we’ve loved taking the train. It may be a fair bit longer, but it saves going to the airport, and you also get to see more of the countryside. As for buses, I’d use as little as you need to, but then again these are just our preferences. We have been on boats down the Mekong River and around Halong Bay, both of which were amazing.

Getting Around Each Destination

By Foot | Walking around the streets is one of the best ways to take in the local culture.

By Bicycle | This is a great way to get around in quieter places, such as Hoi An and Ninh Binh.

Taxi | Taxi’s are readily available and one of the easiest ways to get around cities. Mai Linh or Vinasun are best.

Cyclo | A 3-wheeled bike with a seat on the front that can usually fit one or two people. Pushed by the locals, this is not the most convenient way to get around. More of an attraction within itself.

Motorbike | I wouldn’t recommend hiring a motorbike yourself, unless you’re an experienced, licensed rider with travel insurance to cover. However, locals may offer you a ride on the back to get from A to B for a small fee. We did a tour on the back of a motorbike and it was a fabulous way to see the city. Even if you aren’t driving yourself, travel insurance is a must.

Travel Resources
Find all the travel resources we use to plan and book our travel here.We also check the Australian government site SmartTraveller for current advice, warnings and other information.

Accommodation Highlights

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