If you’re planning to pack up your bags and have the ultimate vacation of your life, then a trip to Vietnam is all it takes to fulfill your every wish. This beautiful travel destination truly has it all: an astonishingly breathtaking coastline, interestingly vibrant cities, naturally verdant parks, mouth-watering cuisine, and a unique culture all its own. There’s simply nothing else you will want to add to this amazing list of Vietnam’s qualities. So are you ready to take the soonest flight to this country? Then, here is everything you need to know for this trip of a lifetime:
Traveling in Vietnam
Before you set out for this Southeast Asian country, you need to make a few arrangements ahead of time. A Vietnam visa is required to enter this beautiful haven, but procuring one shouldn’t be much of a problem. There are various travel agencies who’ll be glad to take this task off your shoulders and even offer you tour packages that will make traveling even more hassle-free. On the other hand, if you prefer taking care of things on your own, you could also obtain a visa from the nearest embassy.
Once you have the necessary travel documents and made other essential preparations, it’s time to get down to the serious business of booking a flight to Vietnam. There are several deals you can check out to save on your ticket costs, but if there are no available bargains to Hanoi (the country’s capital) or to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), then there are other options you can take. You can hunt for a cut-price ticket to Hong Kong or Bangkok, and buy a ticket to Vietnam there. If Vietnam is one stop of your Asian holiday, then it might be possible to enter the country by land transportation from the bordering countries of Laos, Cambodia, and China. The train ride from China into Vietnam is a spectacular experience, while a boat ride from Cambodia might be equally refreshing. That being said, the red tape at the international airports is typically easier to get through than at land borders.
Another essential matter to settle is the issue of money. Find out what the exchange rate is between the Vietnam dong (d) and your own currency. Once you arrive, you can change your cash into dong at any of Vietnam’s leading banks. If you’re planning to do some extensive traveling into the more remote areas, stock up on dong. The exchange rates worsen as you go farther from the usual tourist route. Also, if you’re planning to just stick to the major cities, your Visa or MasterCard will be graciously accepted. Try to check what kind of commission percentages the establishment charges, though. It may be more than what you’re willing to pay for.
Now that that’s settled, you’ll want to know how you can get around Vietnam. There are various ways to get from one place to another. The fastest method to travel the distance of the country is, of course, to ride a plane. Buses, trains, motorcycle taxis, motorcycles, and boats are your other alternatives. The most convenient way, and sometimes the cheapest, to sidestep the task of making the travel arrangements yourself is to book package tours.
Best Time to Visit Vietnam
It’s hard to pinpoint what exact months are best for a trip to Vietnam. The country’s climate conditions can vary significantly depending on the region. Even though the entire nation can be found in the tropics and subtropics, you might find the far northern hills in the grip of a frosty winter while the south is enjoying the typical warmth of a sub-equatorial country.
Since the months between October and March may give way to frosty winters to any place north of Nha Trang and dry weather to the southern areas, anyone who plans to roam only the south can visit the country from November to February. However, if you’re an energetic tourist planning to traipse around the entire nation, you’d best stick to traveling in April, May, or October.
The highly crowded season from November to March, along with July and August, is best avoided if you aren’t keen on vacationing amidst throngs of people or paying astronomical rates. If you fancy a quiet and tranquil trip, then the months of May, June, and September may be right for you. Also, some people may love the idea of visiting the country in late January or early February for the New Year (Tet), which is Vietnam’s most major festival. Throw the idea out the window right now. You won’t like the notion of cramped transportation, closed businesses/shops, or shut-down trains at all. The country’s entire population travels at this time so better stay put and choose another time to visit.
Vietnam Tourist Attractions
The list of Vietnam’s tourist attractions may be longer than your arm. The country has been blessed with a lot of natural wonders, and the Vietnamese have added to their nation’s fame by creating a few amazing man-made structures as well. Here are some of the attractions that have pulled thousands, if not millions, of tourists to this region of Southeast Asia:
Ha Long Bay
Literally meaning “Bay of Descending Dragons,” Ha Long Bay is far from scaring tourists off. In fact, this bay, located in North Vietnam, is considered to be one of the most popular sites. With its collection of thousands of islands crowned with lush folia, along with the massive caves and scenic lakes, Ha Long Bay sure lives up to its reputation of being a must-visit spot for locals and foreigners alike.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Located in Hue, this seven-story pagoda is Vietnam’s most towering pagoda. Constructed in 1601 during the reign of the Nguyễn Lords, the temple used to have a simple design. As the years passed, however, it was revamped, and more complex features were added. Now, this Perfume River-overlooking pagoda serves as the informal icon of the former imperial capital.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Anyone planning to step foot in Vietnam should definitely add Cu Chi to his list of sights to see. The Cu Chi Tunnels, situated approximately 40 km northwest of former Saigon, is a vast assortment of underground tunnels that connect to one another. This tunnel system played a huge part in the Vietnam War and the 1968 Tet Offensive as a hiding place for Viet Cong guerillas and operations base, respectively. Now a renowned tourist spot, travelers are enticed to explore the tunnel network’s safer portions.
As the Venice of Vietnam, some parts of this little fishing town on the South China Sea coast are cut through by narrow canals. As if that isn’t enough to lure hundreds of visitors to this village, Hoi An also boasts quaint and interesting Chinese-like boutiques in the city’s center, the Old Town. If you’d like a change from the usual hustle and bustle of a modern city, then come on down to this village by the sea.
Located near the Cambodian border, the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam not only serves as a tourist magnet, but also as the producer of half of the country’s total rice yield. Blessed with such fertile ground, you can definitely expect to sample the freshest of fruits and the greatest tasting vegetables in this region. Bring along your sense of adventure, explore the waterways, and interact with the friendly locals. Now, that’s an authentic Vietnam experience!
Things to Do in Vietnam
Since Vietnam has a lot to offer in the way of exquisite natural attractions and admirable artificial structures, you will never run out of things to do in this country. Below are just some of the best activities you can engage in while you’re in this particular pocket of the globe:
Sample the culture.
One of the most enjoyable things to do in Vietnam is to get a taste of its culture. After all, you can go swimming in just about any other country; what you can’t accomplish elsewhere is to sample authentic Vietnamese culture. So, how do you go about doing this? For a relaxing morning, you could pick any one of the roadside cafes and order a glass (yes, a glass) of hot coffee. While sipping this heartwarming drink brewed using a traditional technique, feast your eyes on the hordes of locals. Better yet, try engaging them in a conversation. The language barrier may present a challenge, but the experience will surely be a rich one.
You can also get a feel for what the Vietnamese are like by examining their past. Visit the various museums, particularly the War Remnants Museum. The Vietnam War may be over, but you’ll discover that its effects on the country are kept alive in the memories (and museums) of its people. Of course, you shouldn’t forget to add visiting the temples to your list. The Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue is a fine piece of architecture that will surely be worth your while. Lastly, if you still have the luxury of time, travel to the rich hills near Sapa where ethnic tribes still abound. Your cultural pursuits can’t get any better than a cup of tea shared with the villagers within the confines of their cozy mountain abodes.
Enjoy the fantastic sights.
Vietnam’s plethora of wonderful sights is sure to keep all your senses busy for the entire trip. To start the adventure with a bang, be sure to leave your claustrophobia at home and prepare to squat-walk a few thrilling meters in Ho Chi Minh’s Cu Chi Tunnels. Once you’ve had your fill of this war operations base turned into a tourist spot, check out the city’s Ben Tahn Market, and shop for local handicrafts and souvenirs to your heart’s content. Vietnam’s capital isn’t the only sightseeing haven in this country. You can also visit the seaside towns like Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Hue. The latter’s Imperial City is another fascinating stop to be added to your itinerary. Ha Long Bay’s awe-inspiring collection of islands in North Vietnam shouldn’t be missed, either.
Get crazy– for once!
If you’ve ever had the urge to cross a street even as motorcycles whiz past, then Vietnam is the best place to try it. Saigon’s major streets are brimming with several motorcycles coming right at you at considerable speed. At first, crossing to the other side may cause your heart to stop for several seconds, but later on, it will get easier. Just muster up enough confidence, cross the street slowly to give the bikers a chance to maneuver around you, and before you know it, you’re safe on the other side. Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Here’s another gut-wrenching adventure for you try: consuming alcohol from a snake-laced bottle. Although the sight of that bottle could cure anyone of alcohol addiction, it’s generally safe to drink from. The poisonous venom is denatured and rendered inactive by the ethanol. These antics should be crazy enough for one trip.
Foods to Try
The gastronomic experiences you can have in Vietnam are so mouth-watering that they deserve a section all their own. There are plenty of dishes and treats in store for you at this country. First off, never fail to sample Pho, which is practically the staple noodle dish of the Vietnamese. Anywhere you’ll go, you’ll find throngs of locals and tourists ordering a delicious and inexpensive bowl of Pho at a rustic Pho stand. Another must-try is the crispy roll stuffed with meat, shrimp, fresh herbs, and bean sprouts called a banh xeo. Cut the roll up into bite-size pieces, roll it up in rice paper, dip it into the delectable sauce, and you’ll be devouring it like any of the locals. Cha Ca, which is basically fried bits of fish, is another famous culinary treat. In fact, it is considered to be so excellent as to deserve a street dedicated to selling them. For a remarkable taste of Cha Ca, try the version served by Cha Ca La Vong.
Best Places to Visit in Vietnam
Aside from all the other sites previously mentioned, Vietnam has a few more to add to the list of the best places to visit. One can’t forget to travel down to Vung Tau, which is approximately 125 kilometers from Saigon. This famous weekend destination has a lighthouse from which you can enjoy an incredible panoramic vista of the entire city. Vung Tau also has several other attractions, such as the 28-meter statue of Jesus on a mountain top, the Thắng Tam Temple, lovely pagodas, and lots more. Ho Chi Minh’s Notre Dame Cathedral also deserves a mention as the wonderful design is bound to remind you of the country’s history under French rule. While you’re in the city, don’t forget to check out the Jade Emperor and Giac Lam Temples as well. Hanoi’s various French-influenced structures will also delight the everyday architectural buff.
Popular Vietnam Beaches
For the beach lovers, it seems that this article has saved the best for last. Vietnam is teeming with highly rated and popular beaches. For starters, there’s the Mui Ne Beach, about 22 kilometers away from Phan Thiet. Visitors who have been to this beach insist that it’s one of the best you can ever hope for. With Mui Ne’s crystal-clear waters, soothing palm trees, and pristine sand, it’s no wonder that tourists go the extra distance to get to this beach. The China Beach, situated between Hoi An and Da Nang, is most renowned for its lengthy stretch of luxurious and fine sand. Those who want to put their feet up and revel in upscale amenities and services should head to any of the resorts in this beach destination. Other beaches worthy of your attention include Nha Trang Beach, Long Beach on Phu Quoc Island, and Lang Co Beach.
Whether your trip is a pursuit for cultural experiences, a shopping extravaganza for unique crafts, a sightseeing expedition, or a combination of them all, Vietnam is the place to go. Book your tickets now!