• Population: 88.1 million
• Capital: Hanoi
• Currency: Dong
• Language: Vietnamese
• Religion: Buddhism
Vietnam, the S-shaped country, also commonly likened to the shape of a dragon, is located to the west of the South China Sea. The perfect combination of colonial elegance and rustic charm, it guarantees to satisfy all types of travelers with its rich experiences made all the more special by its charming people.
With cities to explore, temples to admire, and green countrysides to roam, there is plenty to see and do in Vietnam. Known as a colorful and diverse country from the wild mountainous north, with its myriad of ethnic communities, to the sleepless city of Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as Saigon) on the edge of the Mekong Delta, it is difficult to pick just one region to visit when coming to Vietnam.
The charming capital of Hanoi is a fascinating mix of fading colonial buildings and national monuments; the scenery of Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is bound to leave you speechless; Hue, home to the old Kings of Vietnam, appears to have been frozen in time for several hundred years with its ancient atmosphere and architecture.
With a 3260km coastline, Vietnam is home to many top-tier beaches; the country’s most unsung beauties. My Khe beach – “one of the most attractive beaches on the planet” as described by Forbes – offers blue skies, smooth white sand, clear & warm water year-round. Phu Quoc island, boasting several luxury resorts, is also a favorite escape for the rich and famous. The abundance of mountains, rainforests, and natural lakes also makes Vietnam a great destination for trekking, hiking, mountain biking, sea and river kayaking, and classic overland tours.
Asia Trip Deals’ travel specialists can help create the perfect getaway, honeymoon, family vacation, or food adventure, just for you and your party. With over 10 years of research and experience, we can recommend off-the-beaten-path sights and experiences in addition to the must-sees of Vietnam.
Most popular sites of Vietnam
• Sapa & Mai Chau – visit the hill tribe villages and plantations
• Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam
• Halong Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage site
• Hue – the ancient capital of Vietnam
• Hoi An – the kitchen of Vietnam and paradise on Earth
• Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon) – the economic heart of Vietnam
• The Cu Chi Tunnels – walk through the history of the Vietnam War
• Mekong Delta – see the floating markets
Vietnam Pre-trip Information
Asia Trip Deals facilitates your holiday by arranging all the services making up your trip. However, be sure to pack all that you will need before leaving your home!
Packing Checklist – Be sure to check them all 😉
- Travel documents (passport, visas, travel insurance certificate, air tickets, tour voucher)
- Money (cash, credit card, debit card, traveler’s ch, ques and money pouch)
- Daypack for your personal needs during the day
- Camera and extra memory cards and batteries
- Cell phone and cell phone charger
- Laptop charger (if you are bringing your laptop)
- Travel plug/international adapter
- Medication (including a doctor’s letter if you are carrying a large amount of medication)
- Prescription glasses/contacts and if necessary, contact lens solution
Best to bring along
- First aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Refillable water bottle with filter
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Comfortable clothing, either light or heavy options, depending on the season you are traveling
- Clothes suitable for visiting temples (long pants/skirts, long sleeved tops)
- Waterproof jacket / raincoat / umbrella
- Hat & sunglasses
- Bathing suit
- Earplugs & eye mask
- Sleep sheet for home stays/trains
- Lightweight travel towel
- Local language phrasebook
Here are some considerations to ensure that your adventure sets off with a great start:
• Please read our guidelines on responsible tourism so that your trip is beneficial both for you and the communities you visit.
• What interests you? eg. weavings, archaeology, religious art, jewelry, mountain biking, kayaking, etc. Let us know so we can steer you in the right direction.
• Read up a bit about Vietnam before you leave. Your guide will give you a general understanding of the places you visit, but feel free to ask for specifics.
• Learn a little Vietnamese before your trip. The more you know, the more fun you will have.
• Ask your cell phone provider for an international data plan if you will need coverage whilst traveling.
• No data? No problem! Bring a book, journal, postcards, or playing cards with you to occupy yourself when waiting.
• “Take only photos, leave only footprints”, but nonetheless try to be sensitive with the photos and footprints.
• Try to support locally owned businesses, hotels, restaurants, and traditional artisans.
• Let us know at once if you encounter any problems. Don’t wait until the trip is over. Our drivers, operators, guides and hotel staff are there to help you.
• Most of all, relax, be patient, and keep an open mind. Bring your sense of humor and adventure and discover the magic of Vietnam.
Getting Around In Vietnam
Though still a little rough around the edges, Vietnam’s transportation network continues to improve. Land vehicles are sturdy, the domestic flight network continues to evolve, and the prices are reasonable.
Vietnam Airlines and Pacific Airlines are the two main domestic carriers. Fares are very reasonable and the frequency of flights to main hubs is good. Flights can be a handy way to lop off a day of travel for not as many Dongs as you may expect; Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu, and Saigon to Phu Quoc Island are both popular time-savers. Note that it is often cheaper to buy domestic tickets in Vietnam than from online brokers.
Vietnam’s train system is a lot better than it used to be, and while it is not cheap per se, it is comfortable, exceedingly scenic in places, and overall, a very interesting and fun way to travel. If you are traveling during high season or during Tet, book as far in advance as possible. The train railways run primarily on the Vietnamese coastline, with just a couple of spurs out of Hanoi, most notably northwest to Sapa. The coastal line serves many of the key destinations in Vietnam, although the notable exceptions are Hoi An (alight at Da Nang), Qui Nhon (alight at Dieu Tri) and Mui Ne (alight at Muong Man).
Local buses and minibusses
These take about as long as Open Tours but can be overloaded to outrageous degrees. Local buses and minibusses are fine for trips under three to four hours, but longer than that can be a bit grueling. One disadvantage of the local bus system is that the bus station hubs that they operate from are often on the outskirts of town and the transportation to and from these hubs (‘xe om’) will put a significant dent in your wallet, reducing any savings you might hope to achieve.
Rental cars for long distance travel are yet to be popularized in Vietnam, and seeing the state of the traffic it’s easy to see why. For those who prefer to self-cater, it is recommended to do it via motorcycle rather than the car.
Grab a Minsk and hit the road. These bikes can be purchased for as little as a few hundred US dollars and you’ll often find it easy to sell the bike off to another traveler when the time comes to leave Vietnam. These bikes are semi-reliable, but just about any local with a screwdriver should be able to fix it up should you have any minor troubles. For your safety, invest in a helmet which can be easily purchased in both Hanoi and Saigon.
Long, with a scenic flat coastline, Vietnam is a great destination for cyclists. The only grueling part is the northern mountains – even the Central Highlands are not really all that hilly. Every town in Vietnam offers some form of accommodations, so finding a room for the night shouldn’t be difficult. Make sure to pack a good supply of inner tubes and patch kits and if possible, bring your own bike as Vietnamese bikes are not top tier. The country has a good network of secondary roads which are far preferable to the main roads, where cyclists rank just above chickens in the pecking order (pun fully intended); cyclists are expected to yield to all larger vehicles.
This is really only an option in the Mekong Delta, where you can travel in boats for short-haul trips and take freighters for longer trips; the former is usually more comfortable. Boat transport is slow – set aside two days for a trip from My Tho to Chau Doc on the Cambodian border. The most popular routes are the ferry from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau and the boats from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh. Boat travel generally works out to be more expensive than bus travel for the same route.