Vietnam Travel Tips: A Complete Travel Guide to plan a holiday through Vietnam
Planning a trip to Vietnam but unsure how to start? As one of the most attractive tourism countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has so much to offer. There are many unique differences in terms of beauty, cuisine and culture between the north, the middle and the south region. Get inspired by our Vietnam travel guide then come and fall in love with Vietnam at the first sight.
Population: 96,328,421 (as of May, 2018)
Language: The official language is Vietnamese and English is considered as the second most popular language.
Time Zone: UTC + 7 hours.
Currency & Exchange Rate: Vietnamese Dong (VND) is official currency.
1 AUD = 17,262 VND
1 USD = 22,850 VND
Please noted that the Exchange Rate above is subject to be changed every day.
Electricity: The usual voltage is 110/230V-50Hz. Plug type A, C & F are widely used. You can bring a Universal Travel Adaptor in order to use your own appliances. Also, you will be able to find one at some electrical store nearby.
Weather: Vietnam can be visited year-round. However, vary in terms of season and region, there will be an unstable weather.
- The North has 2 distinct seasons, with the hot temperature/high rainfall and dry winter lasting from April to August and from October to March, respectively.
- Central Vietnam is usually influenced by considerable rains, typhoon and severe storms from August to December.
- The South experiences a dry season, lasting from November to May after its rainy season.
Normally, the best time to visit Vietnam is from October to April. We highly recommend you to refer our Vietnam travel guide and start planning a trip to Vietnam at least 4 months in advance.
Best places to visit in Vietnam
Hanoi – The capital of Vietnam, well-known for its delectable food and well-preserved colonial buildings.
Halong Bay – Halong Bay is described as “a spectacular seascape sculpted by nature” by UNESCO due to its breathtaking caves and limestone pillars sitting on the water.
Ninh Binh – Ninh Binh province is home to the imperial capital Hoa Lu and the UNESCO World Heritage Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex.
Sapa – This mountainous town is inhabited by colourful hill tribes and situated within Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range, which includes Fansipan – the highest peak of Indochina peninsula.
Hue – Used to be the ancient capital of the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 to 1945, Hue now is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Imperial City which is the ruin of the last emperor dynasty.
Hoi An – Hoi An ancient town is a striking UNESCO World Heritage Site with many historic buildings and sparkling decorative elements.
Nha Trang – A beautiful beach city on the South Central Coast of Vietnam, offering wonderful beaches, water sports, vibrant nightlife, and a string of upscale restaurants as well as resorts.
Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is referred as Vietnam’s most bustling cosmopolitan city. Well-known for its fast pace of life, French colonial architecture, memories of war and superlatively dynamic background at night.
Mekong Delta – Belong to the far south of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is a water world that flows into the mighty Mekong River. It offers a vast maze of colourful floating markets, abundant fruit orchards and green rice paddies.
Top things to do
Take a Hanoi Street Food Walking Tour: “Eat like the North, dress like the South”. It would be a huge regret if you visit Hanoi without exploring the artisanal delicacies sold on the street. As the neon lights of the city flicker on, get ready for a stroll around The Old Quarter in Hanoi and taste the most distinctive Vietnamese street food such as Egg Coffee (Ca Phe Trung), Rice Noodle Rolls (Pho Cuon), Pho and Fresh Brewed Beer (Bia Hoi), etc.
Overnight on Cruise in Halong Bay: As one of the best places to visit in Vietnam, Halong Bay is awarded the World Heritage Site for its extraordinary scenery. During a day, the bay is always crowded with tourists, but at night, it is especially peaceful and calm. Apart from exploring the enigmatic islands around the bay, tourists usually prefer spending one or two nights on a traditional junk boat and join a number of thrilling activities in the bay.
Discover the Great Architecture of Hoi An Ancient Town: Hoi An is a lovely little town in the central coast of Vietnam. Well-known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, quaint Hoi An town offers more than 800 great historic buildings as well as sparkling lantern festivals in which you rarely see elsewhere on earth. Hoi An’s highlights include the enchanting Covered Bridge, the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation and Tan Ky House, etc. Moreover, there are numerous enthralling attractions nearby Hoi An such as An Bang Beach, Cu Lao Cham Island, Tra Que Vegetable Village and My Son Sanctuary.
Top Up Your Tan at the White Sand of Nha Trang Beach: Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most dynamic coastal city. With pristine beaches, vibrant streets along the seaside and high biodiversity, Nha Trang is home to a myriad of stunning scenes and interesting recreational activities. Also, considered the best scuba diving centre in Vietnam, Nha Trang is a must-visit place for snorkelling and diving lovers.
Crawl through the eminent Cu Chi Tunnels: Located close by Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels had become legendary during the 1960s as a strategic military base and community life centre. The site has over 120km of underground tunnels, with innumerable trap doors, living areas, storage facilities, classrooms and weapon factories. Tourists will have a chance to squeeze in these tight tunnels and discover how the residents can survive during the severe carpet-bombing.
Enjoy bustling Saigon nightlife: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is Vietnam’s most lively tourism hub with a lot of clubs, bars, lounges and rooftop venues. There is a huge difference between Saigon’s daytime and nightlife. Usually, during the daytime, tourists will explore the historical landmarks, museums or many ancient pagodas. And when the sun goes down, get ready to grab a drink and witness the whole city transforms into Southeast Asia’s most hectic underground with a wide variety of fun activities.
|Accommodation: USD10-15 per night for a cheap hostel, guesthouse room or dorm.
Transport: USD0.30 per bus route.
Food: USD1.50-2.50 for a simple street entree.
|Accommodation: USD20-50 for a convenient double room.
Transport: USD0.50-0.75 per kilometre for Taxi (Grab maybe available).
Food: from USD10 for a meal at a decent restaurant.
|Accommodation: From USD80 for a luxury hotel room or resort.
Transport: USD0.50-0.75 per kilometre for Taxi (Grab maybe available).
Food: From USD20 for a buffet or a meal at a high-end restaurant.
Cash – Cash is accepted pretty much anywhere in Vietnam. Furthermore, paying in Vietnamese Dong will get you better value than any other currencies. The best place to exchange money in Vietnam is at banks. Some of the biggest banks in Vietnam are Vietcombank, Vietinbank, BIDV and Techcombank. You might be required to show your passport and fill out a form to complete the currency exchange process.
Credit/Debit Card/ATMs – Credit cards are accepted at major hotels, large tourist souvenir shops and restaurants. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the best choices due to their popularity. The credit card company may charge service fees for credit card transactions, so please try to double check with your credit card provider about the fees. However, when travelling to rural areas in Vietnam such as Sapa and Mekong Delta, it is wise to carry cash, as cards are not usually accepted and ATMs are rarely found there.
Remember to check with your card issuers and inform them you are travelling overseas before you go, as they may block your cards due to fraud risks.
There are three main domestic airlines in Vietnam including Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and Vietjet Air. Vietnam Airlines is the biggest domestic airline in Vietnam and was rated 4-star for its service. Both Jetstar Pacific and Vietjet Air are low-cost airlines, providing budget flight tickets. Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon and Da Nang Airport in Da Nang are the 3 biggest international airports in Vietnam.
Having a long coastline and many rivers inland, Vietnam is able to offer travellers great adventures on the water. In Northern Vietnam, boarding a scenic Halong Bay cruise trip or a hand-rowed sampan boat along Trang An Eco-Tourism Complex is a must-try experience for visitors. Cu Lao Cham Island (depart from Hoi An), Nha Trang province’s islands in central Vietnam along with Mekong Delta and Con Dao Island in the south are also popular destinations for boat trips.
Motorbike – As the most convenient mean of transportation in Vietnam, you can easily find a place to rent a motorbike for your journey. Usually, the rent costs from USD9-15 per day. If you rent for more than 1 month, the price can be greatly reduced. Always wear a motorbike helmet and ride slowly for your safety, as Vietnam’s traffic can be chaotic and overwhelming. Also, if you are an adventure experience seeker, driving motorbike is the best way to travel around Vietnam. You can stop wherever you want and capture a host of majestic scenes along the way. However, it could be dangerous if you are not proficient in driving a motorcycle.
Bus – There are different kinds of the buses including short-range buses (city buses) and long-range buses.
- City Buses: it costs USD0.3 for a ride and the waiting time is typically 5-10 minutes depending on the traffic.
- Long-range Buses: they are available throughout the country. For example, there are bus routes from Hanoi to Sapa, Hanoi to Hoi An and Saigon to Hanoi. You can ask a hotel staff to book the long-range bus ticket or go directly to the bus stations to purchase. The price will vary depending on the distance of the route, usually from USD9-25. Some of the reputable bus companies are Sinh Tourist, Hoang Long, Phuong Trang, and Kumho Samco.
Train – Vietnamese trains are clean and safe, but not too fast. Trains are classified into SE trains and TN trains. SE trains are faster and better quality than TN ones. There are two options of air-con and non-air-con, and four main ticket classes including Hard Seat, Soft Seat, Hard Sleeper and Soft Sleeper. To buy train tickets in advance, refer to Vietnam Railways booking site https://vietnam-railway.com/
Taxi/Grab – Taxi rates in Vietnam are reasonable and always have meters starting automatically once the trip starts. Most taxi companies charge from USD0.5 to 0.75 per kilometre. Mai Linh, Vinasun, Taxi Group and ABC are highly recommended taxi companies in Vietnam. Remember to make sure the meter is on whenever getting on the cab.
Grab are popular in big cities like Hanoi and Saigon. They are similar to taxi except you need a smartphone to use it since they operate based on mobile application. You just need to install Grab application on your mobile devices then follow the instructions in the app.
FOOD & DRINKS
Vietnamese cuisine is usually boiled, steamed or stir-fried, containing the brilliant balance between aromatic herbs and spices. Chopsticks–handling skill is necessary to fully taste Vietnamese food in the traditional way. Also, the culinary culture varies in terms of different regions. Pho and Goi Cuon in Hanoi are the most delicious and sophisticated, while Nem Lui is the speciality of Hue, Banh Mi is the perfect food choice in Hoi An and Com Tam is a special gift of Saigon. Here are a list of top 8 most popular Vietnamese dishes you should not miss.
Pho (Rice Noodle Soup) – As a special gift of Vietnam, Pho does need a skilful preparation process of simmering beef bones, beef sirloin or chicken, ginger and lots of aromatic spices such as pepper, chilli, scallion and water mint, etc.
Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls) – An easy-make and fresh healthy dish in Vietnam, including boiled pork and shrimp, rice noodles and herbs wrapped and rolled in rice paper then served with fish sauce.
Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguette Sandwich) – A ubiquitous Vietnamese street food made of a crispy crust sandwich filled with pork, Vietnamese paté, butter, mayonnaise, coriander and some special sauces.
Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Sizzling Cake) – A thin pancake containing shrimp, pork and bean sprouts is fried and wrapped in rice paper, served with fish sauce.
Bun Cha (Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork) – A popular Vietnamese dish contains charcoal-grilled pork meat, herbs, rice noodles and fish sauce.
Banh Cuon (Vietnamese Rice Crepe) – A traditional dish similar to a regular crepe except being made by rice flour and the filling is a mix of minced pork, mushrooms and dried onions. This dish is served with fish sauce and herbs (Vietnamese mint, coriander and marjoram).
Nem Lui (Vietnamese Lemongrass Skewers) – A speciality of central Vietnam with pork wrapped around lemongrass sticks and grilled on high-heat charcoal then rolled in rice paper with water mint, marjoram, sliced cucumber. This dish is served with hot dipping sauce.
Com Tam (Broken Rice) – A traditional dish made from rice and topped with barbecued pork, beef, fried egg, stir-fried vegetables.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Vietnam’s health system is quite advanced and there are a number of international standard hospitals in big cities such as Hanoi, Saigon and Da Nang. Some common diseases, especially in rural areas, are malaria, rabies, typhus, bird flu and diarrhoea. The best solution is to quickly get transferred to the nearest medical centres for treatment and advice.
We highly recommend that all travellers should have travel insurance for a peace of mind. You may want to review your health insurance plan to determine which medical services should be covered during your trip. Please refer to our brief description of a Travel Insurance package.
Crossing the Street in Vietnam is an adventure. The chaotic streets with the noisy honks may panic you but don’t worry. Keep your eyes open and walk slowly. If you are too nervous to cross the street alone, one of our Vietnam travel tips is to wait for a local and walk beside him or her.
Pickpockets and snatch theft: To avoid becoming a victim, only carry small cash amounts, do not put your purse or wallet in the back pockets and stay cautious when entering crowded areas.
Food safety: Vietnamese street food is amazing. However, it is not always safe as they look, and this may lead to the thread of your stomach problem. Here are some of useful Vietnam travel tips on how to stay healthy during your time in Vietnam:
- Avoid drinking tap water.
- Steer away from raw meats. However, some high-quality sushi restaurants are acceptable.
- Be cautious of fruits. Wash them carefully before eating and don’t eat peeled fruits unless you are the one who peels them.
- To improve digestion and strengthen immunity, prepare Probiotics, Digestive Enzyme and Ginger Tea or you can easily find them at any pharmacy in the cities.
Women travelling alone at late night: is relatively safe in Vietnam. However, you should come back to your hotel before 11 pm, be cautious of socializing with strangers and limit your alcohol consumption for travelling safely at night.
Currency Confusion: The 20,000 note looks mostly similar to the 500,000 note but the value differs significantly and that also applies to the case of 10,000 note and 200,000 note. We recommend you to separate these notes to avoid any confusion.
In an emergency, call one of these authorities for help: Police (113), Firefighter (114) and Ambulance (115).
Lunar New Year (January to February) – As the most expected festival of the year in Vietnam, Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan) is celebrated on the first day of the Lunar year and usually lasts 5 days. This is a special occasion for Vietnamese people to reunite, pay respects to their ancestors and enjoy many fun Tet activities. During this time, houses and streets are decorated with peach blossoms, apricot blossoms and red couplets. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam during Tet holidays, there will be many advantages such as a wide range of choices for accommodation as everyone has a tendency to go home during these days, fearless of crazy traffic and a great chance to fully enjoy Vietnam’s most important festival. However, you may encounter some problems including almost tourist attractions will be closed, service prices could be higher and it’s difficult to find restaurants as well as shopping malls opening.
Perfume Festival (Mid-February to March) – As the longest festival in Vietnam, Perfume Festival takes place in three months every year. Perfume Pagoda is about 70 km from Hanoi capital and it usually occurs right after Tet Holidays in Vietnam. During this festival, thousands of people will visit Perfume Pagoda (Chua Huong), a religious place believed to have the magical powers in every single statue, stalactite and stalagmite. A 2000-year-old Huong Tich Cave in Chua Huong is the most sacred place for people to pray for health, happiness and prosperity.
Hue Festival (April to May every two years) – This is an international cultural festival held in Hue every two years to honour the priceless heritages of Hue. Normally, thousands of artists from all over the world and a diversity of the international art companies will participate in this festival. There will be also many exhibitions, conferences, competitions and fairs are held consecutively during this time.
Mid-Autumn Festival (Mid-September) – A traditional celebration for Vietnamese children. It is usually held from the 15th to 18th Lunar month (usually in late September or early October in Western Calendar). On this day, the adults will prepare many traditional foods such as moon cakes, candies, biscuits and fruits, designed in various funny shapes for children. At night, streets will be crowded with sparkling lantern decorations and fantastic lion dances.
Hoi An Lantern Festival (14th day of every month) – The festival is usually celebrated on the 14th day of every Lunar month along Thu Bon River, Hoi An Old town. During this day, streets are filled with thousands of illuminated lanterns and Thu Bon River is brightened up with lots of sparkling candles. You can take a sampan boat ride cost from 100,000VND and buy a lantern with prices from 10,000 to 20,000VND to set it afloat on the river while making a wish.
Vietnam has so many other attractive destinations that we could not show you just by words. Refer our detailed Vietnam travel guide and imagine your dreaming Vietnam holiday. As an expert travel agency specialized in offering Asia tour packages, Asia Vacation Group will help you customize an unforgettable Vietnam trip!