Useful Information for First-time Visitors When Travelling To Vietnam
One of the most attractive features of Vietnam as a destination is that although it is a relatively inexpensive country to explore, it is also one of the safest destinations in Southeast Asia.
Apart from the compelling history and culture, the natural beauty of Vietnam is reason enough to visit. As one of the most beautiful countries that you could ever see, our country boasts of a lot of gorgeous sceneries that nature has to offer; from beaches to rice terraces to mountains and breathtaking landscapes. Mother Nature has been very generous to this land, blessing with some of the most stunning landscapes you could ever imagine. Ignoring the opportunity to visit Vietnam is really a big mistake.
Weather & When to go
What is first question come to your mind when you travel? Undoubtedly, the weather is one of these questions that you wonder. Do you know the best time to visit Vietnam? As a truth, traveling to any part of Vietnam at any season is all possible.
No matter what time you come Vietnam; you are always welcomed with a friendly smile.
Vietnam has a tropical climate with a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity. It is also influenced by monsoon. In general, Vietnam’s climate including 3 main regions: the Northern, the Southern and the Central.
- The Northern: There are four distinct seasons: Summer, autumn, winter and spring. The summer with temperature from 25oC to 35oC, It is rainy season that is hot but is the best time to see Vietnam with blue sky and rainbow.The autumn will give you special moment to see a different Hanoi with yellow leaves fall everywhere on street. At that time the weather gets cool. In the winter, weather becomes cold and dry;the temperature is lowest in December and January. On some mountainous area as Sapa, Tam Dao, Hoang Lien Son, etc, it can be down to 0°C.. The spring gets warmer and drizzles.
Climate in the North is also able to be divided into two seasons: the rainy season from May to September (hot, heavy rain), and the dry season from October to April (cold, little rainfall).
- The Central: The weather in Central Vietnam is kind of a transitionary area climate-wise from the north to the south. There is different between climate in North Central and South Central.
North Central belongs to Hai Van Pass’s North. In the winter, the weather is cold and heavy rain (especially Thua Thien Hue). It is caused by the influences of Northeast monsoon that bring steam from ocean. In the summer, it has dry and hot weather because of Southwest monsoon. The temperature can peak at 40oC, thus the humidity is so low.
South Central Coastal Provinces that belong to Hai Van Pass’s South, is not influenced by Northeast monsoon because this type of wind be weak and prevented by Bach Ma mountain. These provinces have dry and hot weather in the summer by Southwest wind from the Gulf of Thai Lan.
The most typical climate feature of this area is the rainy season and dry season don’t not happen at the same time with the rest climate (The North and the South). In summer all part of country has heavy rain, on the contrary, this is the hottest time in Central.
- The Southern: The South of Vietnam is typical of humid tropical climate. There are two main seasons: the rainy and the dry. The rainy season lasting from May to November while the dry season, it is hot from late February to April. At rainy time time you'll most likely see some flooding in Saigon. This time of the year can be a great time to visit if you don’t mind experiencing a few raindrops.
Thanks to the diverse by terrain in each region that create the different climate between Northern, Southern and Central.You can visit Vietnam at any time of year. Plan you trip to see Hanoi or Sapa in October, November and December, Saigon in February or March .And visit Hue down to Nha Trang is great in the first half of the year, from January through to July.
Breath-taking landscapes, friendly and hospitable locals, affordability, Vietnam is an amazing place to go with it all. When planning your Vietnam itinerary, there are certain places you can’t miss. You may not know, but Vietnam has all the off-the-beaten-path experiences that you are looking for. Every town and city is different so Vietnam will keep surprising you. Here are some most famous destinations that every traveler to Vietnam should visit. Save it and let's come to discover the immemorial charm of Vietnam or join one of our fantastic tours.
The capital city is a great starting point for experiencing all the awesome things that Vietnam has to offer. To say, the city is more traditional and relaxed than Hochiminh City. Wandering down the streets throughout the day you get a feel for what Hanoi is really about. Some of the highlights are the Hanoi’s Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake, Temple of Literature, the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the Ethnology Museum... Beside, street food will a quintessential Hanoian experience. Hanoi is renowned for its street food, with some calling it the best in Vietnam.
2. Halong Bay
The world Heritage Site is probably top of the list of attractions of Vietnam. There are few places in the world that can deliver so completely on promises of excitement and adventure like Halong Bay. Imagine this: kayaking through ancient sea caves, rock-climbing limestone islands, sunbathing on hidden beaches, exploring villages that drift on the ocean, watching the sun sink into the sea as you cruise on a romantic wooden junk ship... These sound like fantastic stories from a favorite novel, but you can do all of these things in Halong Bay. While you could opt for a day trip, we recommend to take an overnight cruise to Halong Bay on one of the cruise ships that offer a neatly tour package.
It would be regretful to travel Northern Vietnam without a trip to Sapa. This stunningly beautiful place, with lush green valleys, is home to hill tribes such as the Black H'Mong, the Red Dao and the Giay... Sapa is always beautiful in four-seasons and best explored by foot – where treks lead to some of the country’s most beautiful sights. It’s a great area for an authentic rural experience, observing how hill tribe people live and visiting local markets. Home-stays can be a good way to support the local tribes and learn about their daily life.
Danang Port City view from above
Da Nang is an extremely ideal choice for any people intending to a luxury trip to Vietnam. Danang maintains its excellent safety, without beggars, drug addicts and mostly no traffic congestions. Most notably, My Khe beach has been voted one of the 6 most beautiful beaches in the world by the US Forbes Magazine. Visitors are not only able to sunbathe on the white sand beaches, immerse in the crystal-clear sea, but also admire the other great masterpieces of Creator and human beings as well as enjoy its purity and peace.
Ancient Town of Hoian
The old town is the most tranquil city in Vietnam with all the traditional beauties which have been maintained for decades with its narrow winding lanes, Chinese-style shops, Japanese teahouses and elaborate temples.... As a small town and thanks to the lack of traffic, in any time, you can always feel so relaxing with your mind free from all stresses. Hoi An owns a very charming beauty and a very delicious cuisine. Coming to town, you will have chance to experience all kind of food from sandwich, noodle or sticky rice with chicken...
6. Hochiminh City (Saigon)
Beautiful Night Views In Hochiminh City
Ho Chi Minh City (also officially known as Saigon) is Vietnam’s most booming up and coming city, a places where the moving never stops. Every bit of space is utilized, making for adventurous wandering within this hidden world of Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is truly an amazing city that you can feel the burgeoning pulse of a new Asian metropolitan city, but still carries with it a lot of tradition. It’s these two sides of the spectrum that make exploring Saigon so amazing. There are plenty of places in the city where you can sample delicious local street foots at little cost. If you’re searching for specific names – take the surrounding area of the Ben Thanh Market.
While you’re on your tour to Hochiminh City, you’ll find there is a place called Cu Chi Tunnels - an extensive network running underneath from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border. This is the place where Viet Cong soliders hid during the Vietnam War. Visitors can now crawl through some of the tunnels, learn the struggle of life for days on end. It is an impressive part of the country’s history and is worth a visit when your travels take you to Vietnam.
Crawl through some of the tunnels
7. Mekong Delta
Floating Market in Mekong Delta
When in Southern Vietnam, you should definitely go for at least one day trip to Mekong Delta which brings visitors an ordinary picturesque scenery filled with coconut palms, fruit gardens and paddy fields... Lush and beautiful, this wonderful water world is best to be explored by boat. Don't miss the chance to make your way to colorful floating markets such as Cai Be or Cai Rang.
How to travel to Vietnam
There are many way to enter Vietnam and you can find the most suitable way for you.
The most convenient and easiest way to come to Vietnam is via planes. Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City are two biggest international airport in Vietnam. A third airport, Da Nang Airport, in Da Nang, contain a smaller number of international flights. You can choose one of airlines to book the ticket to get Noi Bai, Tan Son Nhat and Da Nang airports, but local agents are still worth a try. If you haven't already booked ticket, give your request to Best Price Vietnam.
Vietnam has many international land border crossings. These permit overland travel to Cambodia(via five crossings), Laos(via six crossing) and China (atleast two crossings).
- Vietnam - Cambodia Borders
The most popular border from Cambodia to Vietnam is Bavet - Moc Bai crossing. Besides, there are some borders between two countries are: Kaam Samnor -Ving Xuong;Phnom Den-Tinh Bien; Prek Chak -Xa Xia; Le Thanh-O Yadao crossing.
Moc Bai Border
- Vietnam – Laos borders
Sop Hun -Tay Trang, the border has opened to international travellers. To get into Vietnam, you can take a bus that leaves three times from Muang Khua on Lao side for Dien Bien Phu on Vietnam side. Na Maew- Nam Xoi, from Nam Xoi in Lao, it is a short ride to Na Maev (Thanh Hoa Province). The border, NamCan - Nam Khan offer the road to Vinh city in Vietnam, there are buses from Phonsavan and Luang Prabangleave on weekdays. Some others cross from Lao to Vietnam are: Nam Phao- Cau Treo, Dansavanh - Lao Bao, Bo Y - Ngoc Hoi.
- Vietnam – China borders
There are three border crossing, namely Mong Cai - Dong Hung, Dong Dang- Ping Xian, and Lao Cai-Hekou.Mong Cai - Dong Hung,the border gate is located in northeast of Quang Ninh Province, 176km from Halong town. From Halong town, going straight on the highway 18 to Mong Cai Town, then across border gate to China. Dong Dang- Ping Xian, coming from Ping Xian to Dong Dang, you will find the easy way to go to Hanoi by bus or train. Lao Cai- Hekou border, is closest border to get Sapa, one of the must- see destination in Vietnam.
If you want to discover new territory as explorer, travel by cruise ship over sea is a great idea for your journey. There are some ports as: Nha Trang Port, Cai Lan Port, Phu My Port that welcome many foreigner travellers to Vietnam.
Vietnam Sea Port
1. Public transport
- Xích lô (cyclo)
Regrettably, we can only see cyclo in big cities. You will sit in front and the driver will sit behind. Without anything obstructing vision, you'll probably feel a little dangerous. Do not worry, because of the design, we cannot go fast. Furthermore, current, cyclo is only for the tourist In some cases, the old one can be used as a means of goods transporting for local people.
Cyclo will be available near the hotel, large markets or famous tourist attractions. Sometimes, the driver will become free guides for you. Maybe they do not speak much English, but they will show you interesting things along the way. You should bring one map or pre-addressed on the paper (in Vietnamese) to tell the driver where you want to go.
You will pay from 10,000 to 20,000 for a short distance, 20,000 – 35, 000 for long distance and 40,000 for 1 hour. You should ask about the price before going and can bargain a bit. However, as I said, if you are satisfied with the enthusiastic guide, you can tip them.
- Xe ôm (motorbike taxi)
“Xe” means “motorbike” and “ôm” means “hug” or “hold”. Xe om is very popular, so you can see them at all tourist attractions with the hanging sign "xe om". This vehicle is the best option when you want to go to one address with the distance under 10 KM. Roads in Vietnam are not really good and many small roads or lanes will make you feel quite confused. Besides that, sometimes, the driver will go very fast, or running a red light, so if you are one who likes things safe, you should not choose motorbike.
The average price you have to pay is 10,000/KM.
- Xe buýt (local bus)
Vietnam has no completed subway system yet, so the bus is the most popular public transport in the city. Bus services and quality are improving a lot. You may not need to worry about the fare because it is very cheap (for example: 7,000 VND for the trip under 25 KM) and will be printed on the ticket and you can buy it when you are in the bus. If you do not have a bus map, while being at the bus stop, try to ask one person bring monthly tickets (most of them are students and they will hold tickets on hand or wear it), he may give you the instructions. Sometimes you have to stand if there are too many people on the bus, but I think this is the good opportunity for you to get acquainted with local people.
Especially, you should be careful with wallet or your valuables, because even we can lose even one second to as laptop on the bus.
- Xe khách (long way bus):
Except some famous brands such as Hoang Long, Viet Thanh, Sinh Café, Hanh Café and Mai Linh, the quality of other firm is not guaranteed. The best choice for you is buying tickets from the station (every province in Vietnam has major bus stations, such as My Dinh, Luong Yen, Giap Bat... in Hanoi and Mien Dong, Mien Tay in Ho Chi Minh City) or the agent, so you'll definitely know how much you have to pay. Do not catch the car at the roadside for two reasons: firstly, the driver will go around to collect enough visitors, it makes you very tired and take time; secondly, they will ask you to pay overcharge, bargaining a little is very good, but you cannot make sure of your expenses like local people.
In addition, you can choose Open Bus (Open Tour). You just buy a ticket and start, stop at any point you like. This type is used mainly by foreigners. Buying tickets in point-to-point will be more expensive but flexible than the long way.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask the person sitting next to you or the conductor. If he can speak English, I'm sure they will answer all your questions.
An obvious thing to note is that your belongings attention, especially with the sleeping bus.
- Tàu hỏa (train):
You will not be able to save time if you choose train. However, you will have the opportunity to take in the view more. With some races, train will pass through the mountains, valley, forest or shoreline. Your time is a lot, so you can take pictures or shoot video on the traveled distance. I will say more about trains in one other tip, but like any means of the public, some people will take advantage of your carelessness to take away something valuable.
- Máy bay (air plane):
Currently, Vietnam has opened routes and builds airports in all major cities and some popular transshipment points. You can easily book flights directly with the airline or online with agent.
There are 3 main airline brands in Vietnam are Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and Jeststar Pacific. The ticket price of Vietnam Airline is the highest, the delayed flight was quite popular, but their customers will meet cases at least. In case you cannot book a direct flight, if possible, you should select 2 flights in 2 different days. If not, please confirm at least 4 hours before your departure time about the initial information you received before.
Vietnam Airlines Plane
- Taxi (cab)
The fact that, the taxi in Vietnam was divided into two types: official and unofficial.
- Official: taxi of one group with good quality, secure and affordable (usually from 11,000-15,000 / km)
- Unofficial (in Vietnamese: taxi dù): belong to individual owners. They will not pay attention to service quality. It is unreliable because maybe they will take you to go the longer way to get more money or even, they do not have the car meter.
The official taxi firms in Vietnam are Mai Linh (white and green), Vinasun (white, red and green lines), and Taxi Group (white). However, you should be very careful because surely there will be fake taxi firms with nearly the same logo, colors or phone numbers. There are a few tips if you want to use taxi as follows:
- Call directly to the operator to book taxi if possible, or ask the hotel staff, restaurant,... to help you
- Record the car number, if possible, or make sure get the bill. If you asked the hotel staff, restaurant to call it, when there is any problem occurred, they can help you contact the operator based on the information you have.
- Please keep calm when make the payment. You should check carefully the amount. When you see the number 0 on the meter, you may be confused so let’s count it and use computer applications on the phone if necessary. If you feel it is not the right rate, please refuse to pay. The driver can raise your voice and make you feel uncomfortable, but as I said, ask the hotel staff or restaurant solve for you.
2. Personal transport
- Xe đạp (bike):
This is not the most preferred vehicle. You can ride a bike if participating in some tours which are organized in the suburbs. They will ask your height and your weight before to select the appropriate one for you.
- Xe máy (motorbike):
Motorbike is the best choice for the adventurous travelers.
It is not difficult to catch a foreigner motorcyclist in Vietnam. You have to make sure the one you need, otherwise you will feel very confused before dozens of vehicles at dealers: from semi-automatic one like Wave, Dream to automatic one like Lead, Vespa. Even, you can find something was popular for backpackers like Simson or Minsk.
If you do not have a plan before, ask the hotel staff and they will show you the reliable rental.
- Ô tô (car):
It is impossible if you would like to rent a car and drive by yourself some days in your holiday, you just can book car with the local driver. The rate will is different from kinds of car. Any travel agency can suggest the transfer service for your tour.
To enter Vietnam, you need a valid passport with at least 06 months validity remaining beyond the date of your arrival and a Vietnam visa, a visa exemption document or a written approval letter for a visa upon arrival, entry fee and of course, a blank page on your passport.
A valid visa is required for almost citizens of foreign countries to visit Vietnam for any purposes. Citizens of some countries who have a visa exemption agreement with Vietnam do not need to get a visa to Vietnam for a certain period of time. And also not all travelers who require a visa to Vietnam are supported with visa on arrival. Hence, make sure whether you need a visa to Vietnam or not and are supported with visa on arrival.
Nowadays, there are two available ways to obtain a visa to Vietnam: apply for visa at Vietnam Embassy or apply for Visa on arrival. Of course, visa on arrival is more convenient and less time-consuming, but please notice that, it is only applicable for those who travel to Vietnam by air. By applying Vietnam visa online, you can receive your Approval Letter before you leave home, which will simplify your arrival and save time.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months on the date you enter Vietnam for you to be eligible for the 15 day visa exemption.
For periods of stay longer than 15 days, entry into Vietnam may be refused if your passport has less than 1 month validity from the date your Vietnamese visa expires.
Currency & Money
Currently, Vietnam is using the official currency, denoted as Vietnam Dong (VND). Coins are no longer in circulation, Vietnamese only use banknotes.
Banknotes in Vietnam have the following denominations: 500 (less appearance), 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000 with colors and images in different currencies. However, you should pay special attention to 20,000 note because its color is similar to 500,000 one. The best way is for you is take the 500,000 notes separately to easily distinguish. There are a lot of number zero, so you should check carefully before payment. The calculator app on your phone will be very useful when you travel here.
Acceptable exchange rates is 1 UDD approximate to 22,000 VND. When you check on Google, the exchange rate is only the average price. Each stores, hotels will have their own rate. The par value of the common notes will be:
20,000 VND approximate to 1 USD
50,000 VND approximate to 2.25 USD
100,000 VND approximate to 4.5 USD
200,000 VND approximate to 9 USD
500,000 VND approximate to 22.5 USD
Vietnamese Backnotes from 100,000 to 500,000 dongs
Please be careful that after the payment, you receive the note which must remain intact, not torn and too dim. Additionally, with your dollars, you have to make sure one more thing that there is no stain or text on it. The bank will not accept or exchange it with lower rates from the store or the hotel so you cannot make the payment with them.
In case you do not like using cash, you should still exchange a little because we still preferred it over and only smart restaurants and hotels equipped with the new imprint. You have to pay the bank fee is 3 - 3.5% for using the credit card. Visa, Master Card is the most common type of cards in Vietnam. In addition, you can use Amex or JCB. Maestro, Cirrus and Plus will be more diffcult to make the payment. It is better if you can check with the seller before buying or using service that they accept credit card or not or exchange rates they will use.
What to Pack to Vietnam
“Must bring” and “shouldn’t bother” to bring always are anxieties of each visitors who will have long vacation to one country. If you have a trip in Vietnam, we would love to suggest some tips for what to pack to Vietnam. We hope these tips will be helpful for you to prepare all things before your trip. Keep in mind that preparing more carefully, your trip more pleasant.
1. Travel documents: It’s one of the most important things to bring: Passport/Vietnam Visa if be required/ travel assurance/ flight tickets/ all travel confirmation voucher/ photos of passport in separate place/ last updated information for your trip.'
A long, narrow country – Vietnam is a tourist destination with the variety of landscape and climates zone. The weather is so different between four seasons and geographical location. You ought to search for the weather at the time you travel before deciding to pack clothing. During the trip, you can use many type of transportation, the lightweight luggage can be the good idea when you travel by bus, by train… Keep in mind to bring only one or two items for each type of clothes. Even though your trip last one month or more than in Vietnam, it’s no problem because the laundry service in Vietnam always available in big cities like Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Hanoi, Nha Trang… Especially, it’s very quick and cheap in Hoi An. You can give the clothes to the laundry shop in the morning and get it in the afternoon whether it is sun or rain.
- Short & T-shirt in Ho Chi Minh, also in Hanoi & Hue, Hoi An in summer.
- Swimming suit in some nice beaches likes Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Phu Quoc and Ha Long Bay.
- Light jacket for mountain areas Sapa Town, Da Lat and for Halong Bay in night.
- Long trouser, long-sleeved shirt for many visiting places: Ho Chi Minh Complex, pagodas, churches, Cai Dai temples…
- Flip-flops and sneakers for casual walking, special shoes for biking, trekking or climbing.
- The sun in Vietnam very powerful in summer, so keep in mind to bring a scarf for keeping off the sun, big hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Warm anorak, sweater, micro-fleece is indispensable when traveling to northern of Vietnam in winter.
- Raincoat & small umbrella should be in daypack as the rain can come and go in a flash.
Don't try to bring everything. Keep your backpack light.
There are ATM machines available anywhere, so you do not need bring to much cash. You can withdraw cash from them with the good exchange rate. Keep lots of pence in Dong to buy small things or pay for transportation.
There is variety of medicines that you should bring such as: personal medication, lip balm, aspirin or rehydration powder, travel sickness tablets. Don’t forget bringing first aid kit, especially when you travel to remote places. Keep in mind bringing antibacterial gel and insect bite cream due to the tropical weather in Vietnam.
5. Personal items
Travel hair dryer/ bath towel/ shaving equipment…You can bring it from your home, or you can buy it from many shops when you get arrival in Vietnam. These things often set up in most of hotels/hostels in Vietnam. The good idea is always carry toiletries in your daypack when you have an outside day.
6. Electrical Equipments
Smart-phone or iPad is great thing to have. Internet connection and Wi-Fi is available almost anywhere. In Vietnam, the voltage is 220V so you ought to bring electrical adapter if your equipment uses the different voltage. Chargers and pre-charged battery is very necessary when you have a long trip.
In a word, Vietnam is BEAUTIFUL, no matter how you look at it. Vietnam is not a famous tourism country, not yet at least. Hence, there’re still many hidden charms that you may get interested, surprised. Many of landscapes are not so touristy, and thus may well suit your discovery trip.
“Just choose your suitable time and let us plan journey for you”
Image Sources: Internet