Modern day Vietnam is a feast for the senses and the sights, tastes, smells and sounds you will experience during a trip to Vietnam will bring you a profound feeling of peace, optimism and exuberance.
It’s amazing to think that back in 1969 Danang airport was the busiest ‘single runway’ airport in the world. This extraordinary fact highlights the awful scale of one of the 20th century’s most notorious wars.
However today the country’s 3,444 kilometre coastline boasts some of the world’s most luxurious resorts and Danang, along with a handful of other locations, has a gleaming new airport enabling visitors to discover a dynamic land rich in culture with some of the freshest and tastiest food anywhere in the world in a trip to Vietnam.
From the latticed mountains in the North, the dramatic rivers and caves in the Centre and the pristine beaches and tropical islands in the South, Vietnam’s natural landscape has something for anyone wanting to find a revitalizing escape.
In the ancient streets of Hanoi and the jostling alleyways of Ho Chi Minh City – or Saigon as it used to be called – restaurants, art galleries, museums and elegant boutiques sit alongside stylish street side cafés and contemporary bars. Vietnam’s heritage and vibrant culture are finding new life as the country once again enjoys peace and an emerging prosperity.
That is why now more than ever before its exceptionally friendly and youthful people are keen to welcome visitors and tourists alike and share with them the best that this proud nation has to offer.
Click any city on the map to view city’s information and attraction highlights
The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi but the largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), which is the cultural and economic centre with a population of 9 million and the biggest port in Vietnam.
Inland area: 330,991 Km2
Length: 1,650 Km
Width: 600 km at the widest point and 50 km at the narrowest point.
Located on the eastern coast of South-East Asian Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam shares its borders with Cambodia and Laos to the West, with China to the North and the East Sea to the East. Total coastline and borders stretch 2,500 Km. An estimated 66% of the total area is dominated by the rugged, heavily forested terrain of the Truong Son Range stretching North-South between the intensively cultivated and densely populated Red River (North) and the Mekong River (South) deltas. The highest peak in Vietnam is Fan Si Pan (3,143 m) in the extreme North. A long, narrow coastal plain links the two major river deltas. 22% of the land is arable and 40% is forested.
Vietnam has 87, 1 million inhabitants with an average density of 250 inhabitants/km2.
88% of the population is Viet, 2% Chinese and 1.5% Khmer. 51 ethnic group make up the rest of the population of Vietnam: Muong, Nung, Dao, Thai, Cham, Hmong and various mountain-dwellers.
The dominant religions are Buddhism (55% of the population) and Catholicism (8% to 10% of the population). Confucianism, Taoism, Hoa Hao, Islam and Caodaism represent around 35% of the population.
Vietnamese is the official language although English is increasingly spoken by younger Vietnamese in main cities. Some people and especially elderly still speak French, while middle-aged might speak German and Russian. However a guide is duly recommended as language can be a problem outside of main cities for people who have no knowledge of Vietnamese.
The official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) although US dollars and Euros are still accepted. At the time of writing exchange rate is US$ 1 = 22.700 VND (August 2015).
Traveler’s cheques can be cashed only at major banks and usually incur a 2 to 5% transaction fee.
Visa and Master cards are accepted in most of hotels, restaurants and shops in tourist cities of Vietnam, but can also be subject to 2 to 3% transaction fees.
You can also get cash advances with your credit card from automated teller machines (ATM) everywhere (amount generally limited to 5.000.000 or 10.000.000 VND, that is to say around 300 USD to 600 USD depending on the bank).
If you bring either cash in USD or Euro, please note that exchange rates for small and big notes vary. So we would recommend you to bring some small notes in USD dollars to cope with first expenses on arrival then either 100 USD or 100 € bank notes.
Be careful, banks and foreign exchange offices do not usually take old, scribbled or even stained bank notes.
Due to its long shape bordering the South East Sea, Vietnam has a much diversified weather and climate so visitors can come to Vietnam all year round without having many climatic disadvantages.
Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
In Vietnam electric current is mostly 220V in main cities, although you can still find 110V in rural areas. Sockets are both round and flat types.
It is advisable not to drink water from the tap unless it is boiled properly.
International phone call charges from Vietnam have decreased tremendously over the past few years. Today, the cost of an international phone call is 0,75 USD/minute for Europe. If you need to call from a hotel, it is advisable to check first with the reception. The Vietnamese country code is +84.
GSM phone coverage is also good in Vietnam, although you may have no network connection in remote areas. Since 2010, Vietnam has an extended GPRS and 3G networks.
Internet cafés are common in every city. Wi-Fi is widely available and free in most bars and restaurants. However, some hotels may charge Wi-Fi connection.
Health & medical facilities
No vaccination is required, but visitors are advised to receive inoculations against hepatitis A and B, typhoid and tetanus. Inoculation for yellow fever and tablets for malaria are not necessary although doctors still usually recommend them.
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have good hospitals staffed with foreign medical personnel, however for life threatening injuries it can be necessary to be evacuated to Bangkok or Singapore and we therefore strongly recommend medical travel insurance.
There are five international airports in Vietnam: Noi Bai in Hanoi located 45 minutes from the town centre, Cat Bi in Hai Phong, Danang’s airport at 4 km from the heart of the town, Cam Rang located 40 mn driver from Nha Trang and Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City located 20 minutes from the town centre.
The road network has improved but still needs to be upgraded in some areas. To cover a distance, it is reasonable to count an average speed of 50 km / hour.
By train, it takes a minimum of 32 hours from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Although we can now find carriages with soft sleepers and air-conditioning, it is rather slow and not particularly comfortable but for a short journey, it is an interesting way to see Vietnam.
Helicopter sightseeing has become available using safe helicopters flown by qualified pilots.
In Vietnam, we drive on the right side.
An international Driving license is not valid. Only owners of a Vietnamese driving license are allowed to drive a car or a motorcycle.
Without talking about insurance matters, renting a motorbike is possible although not recommended due to the dense traffic in main cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Traditional Vietnamese cuisine boasts over 500 specialties varying from the famous spring rolls to tamarind crab. Meals are generally not spicy but make use of a wide array of interesting sauces. For vegetarians, Vietnam offers a unique Buddhist-style fare created from combinations of an unending selection of vegetables and tofu. Beyond the delights of the street stalls and culinary wonders of Vietnam, main cities now offer an increasing selection of international restaurants.
All sorts of goods and manufactured products can be found. From high-tech products to local handicraft products (lacquer ware, painting, silk, wood and stone art works…), main cities have an abundance of small shops and even big shopping centers. Those who plan to bring back souvenirs are therefore advised to travel light.
Prices displayed are usually fixed, but in other cases, bargaining is a fact of life in Vietnam!
Tipping is not mandatory although it is appreciated. Note that prices in hotels and restaurants usually include 10% for VAT and 5% for service charges.
Please find below a list of carriers offering services into Vietnam:
Note that the main hubs for connecting flights are Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Visa And Passport
A visa is compulsory to enter Vietnam except for citizens of:
– Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand if the length of the stay is not exceeding 30 days.
– The Philippines if the length of the stay is not exceeding 21 days.
– Korea, Japan, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Russia if the length of the stay is not exceeding 15 days.
To obtain a visa, you must first ensure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months after your return date.
There are 3 options at the moment to obtain a visa for Vietnam:
In that case, just provide us with the following details: Full name, date and place of birth, citizenship, occupation, passport number, date and place of issue, expiration date, date and port of entry into Vietnam.
We will forward these particulars to Vietnam immigration, which will in turn issue and send by telex an approval letter to the relevant embassy by telex.
In our turn, we will send you one copy of the approval letter. Just bring it or send it to the embassy together with your passport, 2 passport photos and two fully filled out application forms to get the visas stamped.
In that case, provide us with the same information as mentioned above and we will send you an approval letter issued from immigration.
This approval letter will be required at the time of boarding.
Visa stamping fees can be either pre-paid to our agency or paid at immigration on arrival.
Note that in all cases visas cannot be delivered upon arrival without a visa authorization from immigration.
If you are travelling in the north or the centre from October to March warm clothes are recommended and especially appropriate all year long in the northern and highlands area (Sapa, Buon Ma Thuot and Dalat).
In the south, light clothing is a must all year long.
Although you can find all these products in Vietnam, we recommend you take products for mosquitoes and for the sun, a cap or a hat, sunglasses, a raincoat and a small bag to carry a few things in case you have to leave your big suitcases at the hotel for a few days.
Finally, Vietnam is considered a safe country but we recommend you leave your gold jewellery at home.
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