Located in the Southeast of Asia, Vietnam is a country of timeless charms, which always invite travelers with its magnificent landscapes, a colorful culture, and amazingly friendly people. You have heard about Hanoi, the Capital of a thousand-year culture, Halong Bay, the one of a kind natural heritage, or Saigon, the Pearl of the Far East? Vietnam still has many other amazing attractions that make it deserve to be on top of any traveler’s bucket list. To make it easier for you to travel in Vietnam, in this article I would like to share with you some useful information to organize your trip here, with some suggestions and advice.
1. How to get to Vietnam?
Nowadays, there are plenty of international flights that connect all countries over the world to Vietnam. For Western countries, there is no direct flight you need at least one transit in Europe, the Middle East or more popular is Bangkok or South Korea. For the flights in the Middle East, I suggest using the United Arab Emirates.
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Vietnam has two international airports, Noi Bai Airport (HAN) in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam. A third airport, Da Nang Airport (DAD) at Da Nang in central Vietnam, has fewer international flights.
Who flies directly to Vietnam?
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
How long is the flight to Vietnam?
The flight time from Frankfurt to Vietnam (Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi) is approximately 10:45 hours.
2. Getting around in Vietnam
The distances between important cities in Vietnam are relatively long, so it would be quite slow if you decide to travel by road (the average velocity is 40km/h). I also advise you not to use the train, because the train in Vietnam is even slower than traveling by road, and it usually has an unreliable time.
According to my experience, domestic flights are the most convenient option. There are several low-cost airlines that suitable for budget travelers such as Jetstar Pacific or VietJet Air, but they are not as reliable as traditional airlines, since the possibility of delay or cancellation. Hence, the best option is Vietnam Airlines, the national airline of Vietnam, also a member of Star Alliance, which is reliable and punctual. If you book early, the rates will be as reasonable as low-cost airlines.
Ground transfer: For transfer with closer distance, such as from Hanoi to Halong or Hue to Hoi An, which takes about 4 hours, you can choose shuttle bus or coach, but I suggest that DCAR Limousine vehicle is the best and most convenient option for this kind of transfer with only $10 one way. Or you can also book a private car, with a price range from $35 to $70.
Urban transport: taxis are the best mean of transportation to get around the city and even major centers that do not have public transportation, except for some buses. The trustable taxi brands are Taxi Group in the north, Vinasun taxi in the south (both white color) and Mai Linh taxi (green color) in both regions. These taxis have a taximeter and the price are very reasonable, for a transfer of 4-5 kilometers within the city center, it only costs around $2. There are also some alternative options, especially in Hanoi, with cheaper rates. However, before getting on these taxis, you should always check the name and fares on the outside of the car and make sure that the driver has reset the taximeter.
3. Applying Visa to Vietnam
At present, Vietnam is applying a visa exemption policy for over 30 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. for every stay less than 15 days, etc. For visitors who stay longer than 15 days, a visa is required. The most convenient and least expensive way to receive a visa is to request a pre-registration through authorized travel agencies. One travel agency that I can suggest is Asiatica Travel, an experienced travel agency in Hanoi that has been organizing tours to thousands of international tourists for 18 years. With on $15, you will receive the letter of pre-authorization within a very short time.
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Upon arrival at the airport, do not go directly to the immigration counters but to the VISA office, where you will deliver the letter with a completed form (you should ask Asiatica in advance to save time), a recent passport photo and your passport with at least 6 months of residual validity.
Notice: The letter should be printed because they won’t accept pdf copies on your phone. Everything will be done in approximately 20 minutes and you will be called to pick up the passport on which visa is pasted and the cost is $45. Pay your attention because sometimes it is not easy to realize your name called by Vietnamese staff.
4. Climate in Vietnam
Southern Vietnam has a tropical climate with little difference between summer and winter and during summer, the rain is usually short but intense. In the north, the climate is more temperate with very hot and humid summer and cold winter. In August, the combination of a hot and humid climate is so intense that will make you tired to move. Thus, you should dress cool and short clothes and always bring water with you.
Let me show you the difference between Hanoi and HCMC. In Hanoi, it may rain heavily in one day and the other days will have clear skies with high temperatures. In Ho Chi Minh City, it rains every day but for only a short time, maybe only half an hour and the sun will come back.
5. Where to visit in Vietnam
The major attractions in Vietnam are located from North, Central to South. So for a complete itinerary, you should divide it into different trips. For the best arrangement, you should ask a local travel consultant in Vietnam, like Asiatica Travel, who knows very well the best time to travel and are able to advise you on how to optimize your available time.
Divided into 3 different regions, each one has its own unique landscape and beauty. From north to south you can realize your own dream vacation with these destinations:
– Northern destinations: Hanoi the capital, Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay, Sapa, Ha Giang, Mu Cang Chai, Cao Bang, Mai Chau, etc.
– Destinations in Central: Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue
– Destinations in the South: Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc Island.
– Beach in Vietnam: Nha Trang, Phu Quoc Island, Mui Ne
In the North, after visit Hanoi on a city tour, you can either take an excursion to Halong Bay or Tam Coc in Ninh Binh, two indispensable attractions in this area.
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In the Central, you can visit Hue with the renowned Imperial City or Hoi An Ancient Town, the pearl of the country, which attracts plenty of tourists for its fascinating beauty.
Besides, Danang is also worth visiting the city because of its alluring beaches and modern architecture. The city is emerging as a new tourist destination in Vietnam. Another beach city is Nha Trang, which has long popular with local people for long and lively beaches. For the whole itinerary, you should spend at least two weeks, but it is recommended for a 3-week trip to savor all the beauty of each place.
My advice is to participate in a private tour organized by a local tour operator with a tour guide and private transport. Especially for your trip to Halong Bay, you should pay attention to the quality of cheap price tours. I have heard quite a lot of negative comments from people who go on a trip with a discounted price. I recommend you to book tours via Asiatica Travel, as I experienced, the service was excellent, my room on the cruise was clean and comfortable. Moreover, the staffs and guide were very attentive with a good attitude.
6. Health Insurance in Vietnam
For all trips, even in Vietnam, it is absolutely necessary to take out medical insurance before departure that covers the entire duration of the trip. My advice is to never save on travel insurance, do not stipulate medical insurance would mean exposing yourself to the risk of very high bills in case of need. Do not risk!
I have trusted Travel Safe, which has a clear and immediate site for booking and customer service is fast and. In a medical policy, it is important to check the ceilings, some insurances offer cheap rates but with limited benefits, or worse they ask to prepay all medical services, which means anticipating a lot of money. Others do not include civil liability, which means that if you cause material damage to someone during the journey, you will not be covered and you will have to take full responsibility.
I have chosen the Safe Travel Silver policy which guarantees high benefits, assistance abroad, civil liability and much more. Medical insurance is not a cost but an investment in the tranquility of the trip!
7. How to make payment in Vietnam
What is the name of the currency in Vietnam?
Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Can I pay with dollars in Vietnam?
Yes, you can but you can not pay in euros in Vietnam. So you should exchange cash in Dong (VND). The bills, however, must be clean and impeccable.
8. How much does a holiday in Vietnam cost?
The exchange rate to VND is below (updated in May 2019 on xe.com):
1 Euro about 26,100VND
1 dollar about 23.300VND
Food and drinks: Typical Vietnamese food (usually for breakfast):
Pho (noodle soup with beef and herbs): 30,000 – 50,000 VND (1.1 – 2 Euro)
Bun Cha (noodle with BBQ & fish sauce): 25,000 – 50,000 VND (0.8 – 2 Euro)
Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich): 10.000 – 30.000 VND (0.3 – 1.1 Euro)
Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls): 20,000 – 30,000 VND (0.7 – 1.1 Euro)
9. Do I have to tip?
The modern restaurant often has a service charge of 10 percent on the total price. This amount should normally be shown on the invoice. If you are not sure whether the service is already included in the invoice amount, please contact the service personnel directly.
In simple restaurants and taxi rides, etc., no tip is required. Tipping for your tour guides and drivers accompanying you during your trip to Vietnam can also be a good gesture if you are satisfied with your service (helpful, informative, always punctual, etc.). A guideline can be $5 per day for a driver. For your tour guide, you can give them 10 USD per day if your tour group has 2 to 4 people. It’s just your hospitality to show their good service.
10. How to dress in Vietnam?
For Vietnam travel, clothing is not very different from western standards. You can wear everything that suits you. If you plan many outdoor activities, such as trekking and hiking, bring comfortable shoes and outfits with you. Short clothing should not be used if you want to visit pagodas, temples and other religious sites.
If you do not want to bring the whole wardrobe, you will not be disappointed with a large selection of night market and shopping mall. You can certainly find the perfect outfit for your Vietnam trip.
From the purse and outfit of the local minority in the area to the famous traditional Ao Dai (Long Top) that can be tailor-made for you, especially in Hanoi, Hoi An and Hue. Vietnam will be a paradise for fashionist.
11. The best travel time and travel months for Vietnam in detail:
It is well known that the weather in Vietnam is divided into 4 different seasons. Spring is from late January to March, summer from May to August, autumn from September to November and cold winter from December to January.
September to December – dry, mild and the high season
March to June – a few rainy days, pleasant climate and few tourists
September to November – pleasant temperatures, little cooling at night
May to October – pleasant climate, few tourists
November to April – dry season, pleasant temperatures
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Every season in Vietnam has its own unique features and beauties. The best travel times must, therefore, be determined by each tourist for themselves. It depends on which region you would like to visit and which travel wishes you have. Personal preferences are crucial for a memorable and enjoyable vacation in Vietnam that you will not forget.
12. Vaccinations in Vietnam
No vaccinations are required, but you should still update your vaccination status (Diptheria, tetanus, typhoid, polio, hepatitis).
Recommended vaccinations for Vietnam
Measles (alternative immunity to disease)
For longer stays (more than 1 month) vaccination against rabies and Japanese Encephalitis are recommended.
With regard to malaria in Vietnam: There is a low risk of malaria only in some restricted areas. Malaria-free are larger cities, tourist coastal towns, as well as the central highlands of Da Lat. If you travel to these places, it is not necessary any protection
Do not forget to have your teeth examined before traveling.
It is advisable to have a small first aid kit, consisting of drugs for diarrhea, pain, disinfectants, etc. If you have any questions, please contact your doctor.
The regular medication should also be taken.
13. How many days to visit Vietnam?
To explore all corners from north to south, we recommend you to make a classic Vietnam trip in 2 weeks or 3 weeks. For beach lovers, you should spend at least 3 to 5 days to enjoy your rest days on the beach.
More importantly, you can combine a Vietnam with other neighboring countries like Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Thanks to their similarities in religions and the ease of transport, a combined trip in the Indochina is more than possible.
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14. Vietnamese gastronomy
It is apparently not skeptical about the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine. We, ourselves are unable to recognize and remember all Vietnamese dishes. Normally, your trip takes two weeks (or less). You seemingly try the most typical dishes such as nem, pho, bun, etc which sound the lightest and easiest food for foreigners to enjoy. In this article, I will introduce to you some of the most significant dishes in Vietnam and their nutritional values.
14.1. Fish sauce
It is the only type of sauce that exists in Vietnam. It has been called the essence of Vietnamese gastronomy. Like Chinese soy sauce, we use the fish sauce with all the daily dishes. Fish sauce is served not in its pure form but is diluted with water, lime, chopped garlic, sugar and small slices of chili pepper to reduce the saltiness and have the balance. Derived from fermented fish, it is rich in protein and iron, fish sauce is definitely healthy for the blood circulation. It can pretty be intimidating for the very strong for the first time trying but you can’t easily forget it in a lifetime.
Rich in calcium and vitamin E, tofu is the vegetarian choice to replace meat. Soybean and its extracts are known to prevent cancer and osteoporosis. Do you know that eating tofu in large quantities can cause impotence? Monks eat it regularly and want to avoid unwanted emotions instead of eating meat.
14.3. Tropical fruits
Rich in fiber, many vitamins for good digestion, is just too good to be true. Thus, there is no doubt that fruit always is seen as the most favorite thing on the table. Vietnamese people eat any fruit when they feel a little clogged. Fruits are also a perfect medicine without any side effects. For example, papaya brings a great source of natural laxative and banana is high in potassium and guava gives a good feeling in the stomach since it is so rich in fiber.
Pho becomes Vietnam’s national dish and is not only a favorable beef broth but also excellent food when winter arrives. In general, noodle soup is considered healthy. Pho is filling and not loaded with calories. It is full of fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, add a few pieces of chili pepper and you will get a good sweat. Pho seems great treatment for avoiding a cold or even a fever.
It is a rice porridge that unforgettable for most Vietnamese as their first meal when they were children. Besides, porridge is a perfect food for those who are sick. It is easy to eat, to digest, and to absorb. Similar to Pho, you can add a little pepper and some slices of ginger. Get a good sweat and warm your body temperature.
Morningglory or so-called water spinach grows in any swamp area. It is an exotic dish and often a favorite in all North to South. It is the water spinach that is stir-fried with garlic. Especially, such incredible vegetables and garlic are known for bringing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essentials for every part of your body. Rau Muong is solely used as food in Vietnam. Remember!
14.7. Crabs and snails
Crabs and snails are noticeably high in calcium. In the mountain, you probably eat crab and snails welcomed by brook and field. They are very few and very tiny but very tasty. Grancho and snails are packed with extra calcium and essential nutrients that the human body needs to function normally, especially for children.
14.8. Fish braised in a clay pot
In Vietnam, clay pot fish and clay pot pork are two of the most common dishes. Clay pots have the ability to absorb heat and cook food evenly. The clay also interacts with the acidity in the food and helps to neutralize the pH balance. In addition, the food will take on some natural sweetness when cooked in a clay pot and you don’t have to use extra sweetener.
14.9. Pumpkin soup
Instead of soft drinks or cold beer, many Vietnamese enjoy the dishes together with the soup. Pumpkin soup is the most popular type of meal for foreigners. If you don’t like it or don’t want to interrupt your meal, you can eat it at the end of the meal. Pumpkin is rich in vitamins C and E, best known for relieving headaches.
Rice is a must when mentioning about Vietnamese cuisine. The Vietnamese consider Pho as your fiancée and Com as your wife. It is almost impossible for local people to imagine a meal without rice. Unlike pasta or pizza, it is a great food for those wanting a gluten-free option. Last but not least, rice completely offers good health benefits galore and provides a great source of energy.