Travelling in Vietnam
long and narrow country, Vietnam shares its borders with China, Laos and Cambodia and has tall mountains, rice paddy terraces on rolling hills, white sandy beaches and beautiful waterways. Most travellers decide to start off their Vietnam trip in the capital city of Hanoi and then end their trip with a few days at the beach. It’s also possible to fly into the country’s former capital, Saigon. These days the city is known as Ho Chi Minh City, after the people’s hero ‘Uncle Ho’.
More than 86 million people live in Vietnam and most live in the larger cities, however there are still quite a few mountain tribes, especially in the far north. We recommend spending some time in the mountainous area of Sapa to meet the locals on a Sapa trip. If you’d like to get a taste of Vietnamese culture you could visit the town of Hué. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a fun time in Vietnam, you can visit Hoi An- a town oozing with character. During our Hoi An trip you’ll get a chance to explore this charming tailor town at your own pace. You can bike through the surrounding rice paddies, visit a nearby beach or take a cooking class to learn how to make traditional Vietnamese dishes.
Sound good? You can build your own Vietnam trip with our bite-sized Vietnam tours or choose from our range of suggested holidays in Vietnam. Have a look below for more Vietnam travel tips, or contact our friendly Vietnam travel specialists.
Travelling in Vietnam – Useful information
Time difference: It’s 6 hours later in Vietnam than here in the UK. An additional hour is added to that during our winter time.
Best time to travel: Generally the best time to travel to Vietnam on a Vietnam holiday is from December through May, though you can travel at any time really. Click here for more information about when to travel to Vietnam.
Language: Vietnamese is the official language, however many people understand English as well. When a guide and driver are travelling with you they will also speak English. Menus and books are also available in English. In some areas you may even hear people speaking French, since Vietnam was once a French colony.
Currency: The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong, though many places accept and quote prices in US$. The exchange rate fluctuates on a daily basis, but to give you some indication £1 is about 25,450 VND (Vietnamese Dong).
Telephone calls: You shouldn’t have any problem using your mobile to call back home during your Vietnam trip, but depending on your provider this could be quite expensive. It’s possible to buy an international phone card that you can use from a telephone box. If you would like to call our local agent using your mobile during your trip, you’ll need to dial the Vietnamese country code +84 first.
Internet: You can find Internet access almost anywhere in Vietnam. At times you’ll have Internet access from your hotel room, in other hotels you’ll have access to an Internet lounge, otherwise you should be able to find an Internet café in larger cities. Keep in mind that the connection may be a little slower than you’re accustomed to back home.
Photography: Most Vietnamese are honoured to have their pictures taken (especially in less touristy areas) – but don’t forget to ask their permission and keep in mind that you might not be able to take pictures all over Vietnam.
Voltage: Electricity in Vietnam is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you’re travelling in Vietnam with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. The electrical sockets are different from what you’re accustomed to, so it’s best that you bring along a universal plug adaptor.
January 1-2, 2012 – New Year’s Day
January 22 – 26, 2012 – TET Festival
January 27, 2012 – Vietnam Day
February 3, 2012 – Communist Party of Viet Nam Foundation Anniversary
March 31 – April 2, 2012 – Hung King Festival
April 30, 2012 – Liberation Day
May 1, 2012 – Labour Day
May 19, 2012 – Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday
September 2, 2012 – Independence Day
Travelling in Vietnam: Vietnamese food
The traditional use of fresh vegetables and herbs can create mouth-watering flavours in Vietnamese cuisine. When travelling in Vietnam, you’ll find that rice (Com) and noodles are generally the foundation for a main course, but you’ll also find a number of other dishes such as traditional Vietnamese soup, fresh fish and meat on Vietnamese menus.
You can of course also enjoy the famous Vietnamese fried egg rolls ‘Nem’ along with the daily staple of broth ‘Pho’. We recommend, during your Vietnam holiday, that you try some ‘Elephant Ear Fish’ which is a popular dish along the Mekong Delta. This somewhat dangerous looking fish is served in a spectacular upright position on your plate and tastes delicious. If you’re travelling in Vietnam during the TET Festival, you should also try the ‘Square cake’ or ‘Thí í’. Delicious.
Travelling in Vietnam safely
Vietnam is one of the safest countries in the world. Despite its large population, there’s very little crime and you’re unlikely to have any problems walking across the street at night even in the larger cities. However, it’s always important to remain vigilant and watch your belongings to prevent theft. We recommend that you leave your valuables behind in the hotel safe or baggage depot when going out into town. Beware of people posing to be taxi chauffeurs that want to take you to your hotel. Keep in mind that if we’ve arranged an arrival transfer for you, our local agent will be waiting for you carrying a sign with your name on it and the local agent’s logo. This logo can also be found on your voucher. Check to make sure it’s the same logo to make sure you’re leaving with the right person. If you plan on arranging your own taxi cab to your hotel, be sure to take a taxi with a metre in it and agree on a set price per kilometre with your driver. You may also run into sales people, taxi drivers or rickshaw drivers telling you they don’t have any change. Let them find change for you or check to see if you have smaller change, but never pay more than the agreed price. You’ll notice that if you decide to walk away, they’ll suddenly have plenty of change for you.
Travelling in Vietnam: Meet the local people
During your Vietnam trip you’ll discover how friendly the Vietnamese people truly are. When you meet our local partner in Hanoi, it will almost seem as if the hotel is a living room and that you’re being welcomed like a long lost relative. That’s just the way the Vietnamese are, very warm, inviting and accommodating. Family and traditions are very important to them and the people in the mountain tribes still live according to ancient traditions.
These days however, western lifestyle is slowly influencing Vietnamese day-to-day life, especially in the cities and in Southern Vietnam. You’ll see French and American influences here resulting from the occupation by France and the Vietnam War. You’ll also see Chinese and communist influences in Vietnamese architecture or for instance in the Vietnamese flag (red and yellow). The people of Vietnam have become increasingly socialist-orientated.
Travelling in Vietnam: What to pack?
Vietnam has quite a lot of rainfall so an occasional shower can be expected all year long. Don’t forget to bring along a light rain coat if you’re travelling in Vietnam during the rainy season. You’ll also want to bring along some sun cream as during our summer months, Vietnam’s temperatures are around 30 degrees Celsius and in between tropical rain showers, the sun can get pretty bright. During December and January it can be quite cold, especially in the north so you’ll probably want to bring along a warm sweater for the evenings.
Take a look at some of our other tips on what to take when travelling in Vietnam:
• visa (you need to have a visa before you arrive in Vietnam)
• passport/ international travel document
• universal plug adaptor
• rain mac
• thick sweater (December – February, especially when travelling in Northern Vietnam)
• First Aid kit
• charger for your mobile phone, camera and any other electrical devices
• insect repellent
• walking shoes with a good tread
• daypack (during several of our modules you’ll leave behind the bulk of your baggage in a storage room at your hotel)
Did you know….
• That Vietnamese often transport anyone or anything on the back of their mopeds?
• That the typical Vietnamese cone-shaped hats are called ‘non la’?
• That Vietnamese women in larger cities cover their arms and legs as much as possible so that they don’t get a tan?
• That Vietnamese women are in charge at home, even though the man is supposedly the head of the family?
• That snake is commonly eaten in some areas of Vietnam?
• That bull’s penis stew is a common street-food dish?
• That the Vietnamese are crazy about laughing cow cheese?
• That the Vietnamese in Can Tho drink snake wine because they believe it gives them strength?
Click here to see our bite-sized Vietnam tours
Click here to see our suggested holidays in Vietnam
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