Spectacularly stunning and perfectly exceptional, Vietnam will steal your heart with its natural beauty and unique culture.
Risen from the ashes of the harrowing Vietnam War, the country developed at a rapid pace for the past 40 years. Now, Vietnam is a popular destination with much to give in terms of tourism. And its tragic history, though memories remain, is a thing of the past.
Northern Vietnam is blessed with breathtaking scenery and the stunning Ha Long Bay, surrounding the capital city of Hanoi. Characterised by forest-covered hills and ancient coastal towns, the central region offers endless historical and cultural sites. The south is the economic generator and rice bowl of the nation, with Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) right in the centre of this booming region.
Three conveniently situated international airports serve the country of Vietnam with Hanoi in the north, Danang in the central region, and Ho Chi Minh in the south. With flights from the U.S., Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and other Asian countries, getting to Vietnam by air is very easy. Alternatively, you can take the train from Beijing to Hanoi or enter Vietnam by road at the borders with China, Cambodia, and Laos. You can also take a boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc, the Vietnamese border.
Although prices may be advertised in US Dollars, most establishments only accept the official Vietnamese currency, the dong (VND). Even if US Dollars are accepted, you should only offer to pay in dong or you could be seen as a “naive tourist” and be targetted for scams. A 3% surcharge is usually applied to credit card payments and not all establishments take them. ATMs are easily found in tourist destinations and big cities though some banks do charge for withdrawals. You can also carry any hard currencies (e.g. US Dollars, British Pounds, Euros, and Japanese Yen) with you and only exchange them for dong at banks, money changers, hotels, travel agencies, or even gold shops when needed.
Vietnamese is the official language of the country. In tourist areas, some Vietnamese can speak very basic English but a lot do not. If you plan to head towards remote areas, do not expect to find anyone who can converse in English so it might be handy to pick up a few Vietnamese expressions.
Stretching over 1,000 kilometres from north to south, Vietnam has immense regional diversity. Generally, the best times to visit fall from February to April and August to October, which are the spring and autumn months respectively. The weather during these times is mostly pleasant and sees lighter rainfall. However, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are hot and humid all year round, making them a great destination at any time.
Loaded with an assortment of incredibly fresh herbs, Vietnamese cuisines are often refreshing and flavourful. The national dish, “pho,” is a simple dish of rice noodles served in a hot rich broth of beef or chicken. Accompanied with a plate of fresh herbs, limes, bean sprouts, and chillies which you can add to the dish according to your preference, this is the ultimate Vietnamese fast food that is healthy as it is convenient. The best way to experience Vietnamese food is to sample them in the streets, but high-end restaurants, often serving a fusion of other cuisines too, are available should you prefer a more comfortable dining experience.
Traveling in Vietnam
The fastest and most convenient way to travel long distances in Vietnam is by planes, which is very cheap. Other modes of long-distance transport available are trains and buses.
For short distance traveling, you can hail a motorcycle taxi which is a common mode of transport for both locals and tourists alike. Pedicabs can be found in smaller and less busy cities. For the more adventurous, you can hire a motorcycle or even a bicycle and travel on your own.
Though not the easiest country to travel, Vietnam offers unparalleled natural beauty, distinctive culture, and mouthwatering food. For facing up to the challenges of traveling the country, you will be rewarded with an interesting and utterly compelling experience.