Where would you like to go with Indochina Pioneer?
Please click on the countries below to read more about your desired destinations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These pages provide first-hand local travel information regarding transportation, accommodation, attractions, food & drink, entertainment ... together with some suggestions on ready-made tours to and from those places.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is frenetic Asian city of markets, street clogged with scooters, street side food stalls, as well as foreig…
The name Nha Trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran means reed. According to the loca…
This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port -- quite picturesque and goo…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc l…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of t…
Taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. eas…
The ancient town of Hoi An is located 30 km south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early western traders, Hoi An was one o…
Siem Reap Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in…
A small market town that has been a gathering spot for many local hilltribes for nearly 200 years. Hmong and Dao people, among others, still come h…
Vietiane With a troubled recent history, Laos has only recently openned to the outsite world and is one of the most untouched countries in Asi…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colon…
The fourth-largest city in Vietnam, is one of the most important seaports in the central region, and the current booming Vietnamese economy has see…
Located 173 kilometres from Saigon, Can Tho is considered as the heart of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The city, regarded as "Western cap…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwel…
Vang Vieng is a tourism-oriented town in Laos, located in Vientiane Province about four hours bus ride north of the capital. The town lies on the N…
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the …
Setting in a green valley, Mai Chau is a wonderful collection of farms, villages and stilt houses surrounded by verdant rice paddies against a back…
Located at one of the many branches of the Mekong river and about Vinh Long is the gateway to river islands and some worthwhile sites, includ…
Extremely mountainous, Dien Bien is one of the newest provinces in Vietnam, having been split off from Lai Chau further to the north. The province …
Phong Nha - Ke Bang is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site which is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves…
Phom Penh Cambodia’s capital city is awakening from a turbulent recent past to become a busy and fernetic Asian city of Southeast Asia. …
Situated 250 km west of Ho Chi Minh City, Chau Doc is a district and town in An Giang province, bordering Cambodia, in the Mekong Delta region of V…
The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels situated in the Củ Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vi…
Built on both sides of Highway 1 and the railroad connecting Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City, Ninh Binh is a fairly uneventful place with only a few mi…
Sihanoukville is all about the ocean, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The pristine beaches, the sparkling clear water, the cooling sea breeze, the…
Shaped like an "S" (or as the Vietnamese proudly say, “a dragon-shaped country”) Vietnam is located to the west of the South China Sea (or Bien Dong – The East Sea – as the Vietnamese name it). With all her hidden charm in culture, history and people, Vietnam has gained her fame in recent years throughout the world as a safe and attractive travel destination. The beauty of this place is that not only does Vietnam offer travelers a valuable insight into her rich culture, her various lifestyles, or being one of the world’s leading rice baskets, but she also offers a fantastically adventurous and educational holiday.
Vietnam is known as a colourful and diverse country from the wild mountainous north with its myriad of ethnic communities to the sleepless city of Saigon on the edge of the Mekong Delta. The charming capital Hanoi is a fascinating mix of fading colonial buildings and national monuments and the spellbinding scenery of Halong Bay is now a World Heritage Site.
Hue offers an insight into the Imperial days, whilst the charming beachside port of Hoi An has an intriguing blend of Japanese, Chinese and European influences. The delicious food and friendly people make Vietnam one of the most rewarding countries to visit in the region.
What to see
Vietnam is a fascinating country of buzzing cities, historic towns, and the magnificent Mekong Delta. Highlights of this region include the fascinating cities of Hanoi and Saigon, the historic pearls of Hué and Hoi An, the Cu Chi Tunnels and the magnificent landscape of Sapa, Mai Chau, Halong Bay and the Mekong Delta. There's no doubt your Vietnam holiday will be a memorial experience of a life time.
What to do:
Three quarter of Vietnam territory are mountains covered with rain forests, dotted with hill tribe villages and plantations, together with some stunning natural lakes. The rest stretches from Red river delta in the north, hugs the central coastline then down to vast Mekong Delta in the south. This typical natural setting, along side with the local communities, make Vietnam a great destination for trekking, hiking, mountain biking, sea and river kayaking and classic overland tours.
Known as a agriculture and aquaculture country, with its tropical climate and variety of local produces, Vietnam is idea for honeymoon tours, family vacation and food adventures.
Meanwhile, the history, the diverse culture also list Vietnam on top of cultural, historical and educational travel lists.
Getting there and away
Airports: Travel to Vietnam mainly rely on two hub international airports, Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. A third airport, Da Nang Airport, in Da Nang city, accepts a far smaller number of international flights. Over a dozen other domestic airports are scattered across Vietnam, enabling your Vietnam vacations the comfort you deserve.
By Train: There are two crossings in Vietnam which involve train travels, both with China, but only one of them has a train on each side of the border. The Dong Dang crossing, just over 160km from Hanoi can be reached by train from Hanoi, with the train line continuing on into China, running north eventually to Beijing. There is a thrice weekly train between Hanoi and Beijing. The Chinese side of the border is the town of Ping Xian. While you can buy a through ticket to Beijing in Hanoi, it is cheaper just to buy the ticket to Dong Dang, take a xe om over the border and buy a new ticket in China (at a reduced rate).
The second train crossing is at Lao Cai railway station (near Sapa) in northwest Vietnam, the Chinese town of Hekou is on the other side of the border. There is no train on the Chinese side though, so you need to arrange alternative transport onwards into China.
Arriving in Vietnam
You will be asked to complete an arrival card which you submit, along with passport and visa, to Immigration Department officials and Customs officers. The exit portion is torn off and returned to you. You will need to present this when you leave the country.
From the Airport to your hotel. If you have not arranged for an Indochina Pioneer representative to meet you at the airport, here’s what to do:
In Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City): You can exchange currency for your taxi fare at the airport, however, some drivers accept U.S. currency. The exchange rate is 18,800 to $1 U.S. Hire a metered taxi outside the terminal. The journey should cost roughly $7U.S. including toll fee. Tan Son Nhat airport is about 7km northwest of Ho Chi Minh city center.
In Hanoi: Go to the Noi Bai Taxi rank outside Arrivals on the left. The fare to central Hanoi for a four seat taxi is about $15U.S. or 250,000 dong. Noi Bai airport is approximately 35km north of the city.
Vietnam's days as a pariah state, cut off from the rest of the world are long gone. Today the country boasts numerous land crossings with all of it's neighbors and international flight connections to Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA (among others). You can also enter by boat from Cambodia and by train from China.
You'll need a passport with at least six months validity to enter Vietnam. Hotels may ask for your original passport when check-in as they will have to report to the local security. Some places such as Sapa, Central Highland, Halong bay overnight cruises and other border towns, your valid original passport is a must.
The vast majority of foreign tourists enter Vietnam on a tourist visa. This visa must be issued before arrival and the typical visa is valid for 30 days. Depending on the consulate that issues the visa it begins to expire from the day it is issued, so it is a good idea to get your visa as close as possible to your intended arrival date. Extension of Vietnamese visas is possible once you are in Vietnam.
In case of your time short or for your convenience, please contact Indochina Pioneer for your Vietnam visa upon arrival.
Nationals of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand do not require a visa if they plan to stay no longer than 30 days in Vietnam.
Nationals of Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden do not require a visa if they plan to stay no longer than 15 days in Vietnam. For more information, see our Vietnamvisa page.
Clothing: We recommend light, comfortable, easy to launder clothing. It can be cool during Hanoi’s winter and the rainy season in the central region, so a sweater or light jacket will come in handy. Thermal underwear is a must you are trekking in winter. You will need good walking shoes and sandals that can be easily removed for visiting temples and private homes. Your knees and shoulders should be covered when you are entering a temple.
Electricity: Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz AC (some 110V, 50HZ AC). Two-pin plugs are in use, however sockets are different from those found in most countries and an adapter socket may be needed. Outlets for 110 volts for small appliances are found in most hotels.
Health: A yellow fever certificate is required from travelers over one year of age arriving within 6 days of leaving or transiting countries with infected areas. For the latest immunization requirements please contact your GP.
Language: Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn. Based on tonal variations, it is difficult for a short term traveler to speak easily. It comes from the Chinese, although the two languages have diverged. Vietnamese has six tones, so a word can be said six ways, imparting six different meanings.
There are also regional variations, so what is polite in Saigon may be just the opposite in Hanoi. In the 17th century, Alexander de Rhodes. Jesuit scholar and missionary, created the Romanized script which was used only by the educated. In 1954, under Ho Chi Minh, the Romanized script became the official written script for the Vietnamese language. Today, English and French are the most common second languages in Vietnam, so someone is sure to help you out. And, even though it is a difficult language, give it a try. your efforts will be appreciated!
Money: The local currency is the VND (dong). Bank notes come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000d and 500,000 dong. Coins come in denominations of 200, 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000 dong. The exchange rate is 19,500 dong to one U.S. dollar (Dec 2010).
You can exchange currency and traveler checks, preferably in U.S. funds, at banks, hotels and authorized money exchangers. Ask for bills in small denominations. Credit cards are generally accepted only in major hotels, and some up-market shops and restaurants in major cities.
There are several international banks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with 24 hour cash withdrawal facilities, including ANZ Bank in Hanoi and HSBC in Ho Chi Minh City. You can use Visa and Master cards and debit cards (e.g. Cirrus). Please note that the Vietnamese Dong is non-convertible outside Vietnam, so change it or spend it before you leave!
Tipping: If you are happy with services provided by your local guides and drivers, a tip, though not compulsory, is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, it inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across destinations. Here are our suggestions;
- Meals (restaurants): the average amount is $1
- Guides: We recommend $2-$5 per day for local guides (depending on group size),
- Drivers: You will have a range of drivers on your trip. Some will be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for few days. We would recommend a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of $1 to $2 per day would be appropriate (depending on group size).
- Bellboy: the average amount is $1
- Chambermaid: the average amount is $1 per day. For larger groups and adventure trips you may want to increase this. But please remember that it’s totally up to you, these are guidelines only.
Places to see
Ho Chi Minh City(Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It’s a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the largest city in the country, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. The streets, where much of the city’s life takes place, is a myriad of street markets, shops, pavement cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. The city churns, ferments, bubbles and fumes. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture. Sights include the Giac Lam Pagoda, Reunification Palace, Jade Emperor Pagoda, the neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, the beautiful Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Thanh market and the War Remnants Museum, and more…
The Mekong Delta is a green expanse of rice paddy, thick orchards and an intricate pattern of streams and canals. Water is the focus of life and the main means of transportation. Floating houses and markets and fishing boats abound.
The Mekong has traveled 4500 km from the Tibetan Plateau by the time it arrives in the delta where it splits into the tributaries which gives the area its name Song Cuu Long – The River of Nine Dragons. The rich soil and silt distributed by the river make the region agriculturally rich – growing predominantly rice and fruits. Close to the Chinese trading communities of Cho Lon and long claimed by Cambodian the region is one of ethnic diversity; Vietnamese, Khmer and Chinese – most apparent in the variety of distinctive temples and pagodas.
The city of Dalat is the jewel of the southern Central Highlands region. The cool climate and park-like environment (often with Vietnamese style kitsch), makes it one of the most delightful cities in Vietnam. Dalat is also a good base for trips into the surrounding highlands, which remain tranquil. In Dalat, make sure you visit the Hang Nga Guesthouse & Art Gallery, nicknamed the Crazy House by locals. It’s a counter-cultural gem created by artist and architect Mrs Dang Viet Nga (known as Hang Nga).
Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace is stuffed with interesting art and artifacts, and is well worth a look. It’s also interesting to stroll around the old French Quarter, which is little changed since the French departed. The Valley of Love, 5km (3mi) north of the city centre, is a bizarre place with a carnival-style atmosphere where you can hire a paddle boat on the lake, or a horse from one of the Dalat Cowboys (no relation to the Dallas Cowboys), who are, indeed, dressed as cowboys.
Dalat is famous for its cafes and is a paradise for people who love fresh vegetables. It’s extremely popular with domestic tourists and honeymooners, so there’s a wide range of accommodation options. You can fly to Dalat from Ho Chi Minh City, but the airport is 30km (19ml) from town; express buses also link the two cities.
Although it has the potential to develop into a flashy resort such as Thailand’s Pattaya Beach, Nha Trang is still a good place to go for sun and partying. But see it while it lasts. With very clear turquoise waters (except for the wet season), snorkeling, diving and fishing are prime activities, and just lazing on the town beach is an experience in itself. You’ll be offered everything from lunch to a manicure.
When you tire of the beach, there are some interesting sites nearby, such as the Long Son Pagoda, and 2 kms to the north of town are the Cham towers of Po Nagar, built between the 7th and 12th centuries on a site that had been used for Hindu worship as early as the 2nd century.
Nha Trang’s dry season runs from June to September, different from Ho Chi Minh City’s. To cater for the growing influx of visitors, many new hotels have been built in town. Nha Trang is a major fishing port, so excellent seafood is available. The exotic dragon fruit (thanh long) grows only in the Nha Trang area. It’s about the size and shape of a small pineapple, but tastes something like a kiwifruit. The fruit is in season from May to September, when you can find it served as a drink.
An important, picturesque and enchanting river port 30 kms south of Danang, Hoi An is rich in history and has a unique character. It was a contemporary of Macau, attracting Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese trading vessels, and it retains the feel of centuries past. Its magnificent collection of almost 850 older structures and intact streetscapes just beg to be explored. They include merchants’ homes, pagodas, public buildings, a Japanese covered bridge and a whole city block of colonnaded French buildings.
Traditionally, Hué has been one of Vietnam’s main cultural, religious and education centers. Its Thien Mu Pagoda is one of the most famous structures in Vietnam. The remains of the huge, moat Citadel (Kinh Thanh), constructed by the Emperor Gia Long from 1804, contain many interesting sights, such as the Ngo Mon Gate, Nine Holy Cannons, Thai Hoa (the Palace of Supreme Harmony), Nine Dynastic Urns and the Halls of the Mandarins. Sadly, the intriguing Forbidden Purple City was largely destroyed during the Vietnam War. About 15 kms south of Hué are the splendid Royal Tombs, of the Nguyen emperors. Hué has many other places of religious and dynastic importance, and some good museums.
You can do sampan trips up the Perfume River, which include visits to some of Hué’s main attractions. If you want to get out of the city for a swim, head 13 kms northeast to Thuan An Beach, where there’s a lagoon and a hotel. It can be reached by sampan or bus.
Hué is about 700 kms from Hanoi and 1100 kms from Ho Chi Minh City. The Reunification Express train running between those cities stops here, and there are frequent flights and buses to both cities.
MagnificentHalong Bay, with its 3000 islands rising from the clear, emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, is one of Vietnam’s natural marvels. The tiny islands are dotted with innumerable beaches and grottoes created by the wind and waves. The most impressive of the grottoes is the Hang Dau Go, a huge cave of three chambers, while the Thien Cung Caves are also very impressive. The name Ha Long means ‘where the dragon descended into the sea’, and refers to a legend about a dragon who created the bay and islands with its flailing tail. There’s even a modern legendary creature, the Tarasque, said to haunt the area.
Hanoi, capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, has shaken off its unwelcoming attitude to travelers and has become one of the most beguiling cities in Asia. It is slow-paced and pleasant, while its lovely landscape of lakes, shaded boulevards and verdant public parks is home to beautiful and diverse architectural treasures, colonial French homes and astounding modern skyscrapers. Its bustling markets, thriving nightlife and excellent food are attracting visitors of every stripe to this ancient city.
Birthplace to so much of Vietnam’s traditional culture, Hanoi, more than any other city in Vietnam, is a unique fusion of old and new. It personifies the spirit of historic Vietnam in the temples, monuments and pockets of ancient culture along the narrow streets of the Old Quarter, yet perfectly reflects the rapid changes sweeping the country as Hanoian yuppies sip cappuccinos in roadside cafes and compare cell phones. The attractive centre of Hanoi is built around Hoan Kiem Lake. Sights to check out include One Pillar Pagoda and Van Mieu (Temple of Literature).
Located at an altitude of 1650 m (5400ft) in the remote northwest, Sapa entrances most visitors with the spectacular scenery that exists nearby. Built as a hill station for the French in 1922, Sapa went into a long decline from which it has only recently recovered. More and more travelers are braving the bad (but improving) roads and flocking here for the climate (cold in winter, though) and to visit the hill tribes (mostly H’mong, Dao and Kinh people) who live in the area. The Saturday market is the best place to buy handicrafts. Accommodation can be tight, especially on weekends when tour parties visit. Just 9 kms from Sapa is Fansipan (3143m/10,309ft), Vietnam’s highest mountain. A hike to the top and back takes about four days, and you’ll need a guide and decent equipment, as it is usually wet and cold. You can get to within 30 kms of Sapa by train from Hanoi.
Other places of interest such as the North West and Central Highland for adventurers/ explorers who love trekking, mountain biking and cultural discovery, meanwhile Vietnam nature reserves some stunning island for beach holiday makers like Cat Ba Island in the north, Phu Quoc, Con Dao island in the South, Wales Island in Nha Trang.
Travelers staying in budget accommodation and eating in small cafes should be able to get by on around US$30 to US$50 per day, plus long-distance transport costs. Those wanting to stay in mid-range hotels, eat out at moderate restaurants, charter occasional taxis and enjoy the nightlife should budget on around US$75 a day.
Until recently, many up market hotels insisted that you pay in US dollars, but now all businesses (except Vietnam Airlines) must accept payment in dong. In practice, many still display their prices in US dollars. It’s advisable to bring traveler’s checks in US dollars as well as a little US currency.
- Budget: US$10-20
- Mid-range: US$25-50
- Top-end Hotel: $US80 and upwards
In the early 1990's, when Vietnam first reopened its doors to foreign visitors, the transportation infrastructure was creaking at best and totally dysfunctional at worst. A product of a few generations of war followed by a punitive and punishing economic embargo, the nation's transport was unreliable, expensive and uncomfortable. The grandiose-sounding Highway One was dotted with rusted-out ferry crossings in place of bombed out bridges; the rail system was glacially-paced and expensive. Budget airlines were unheard of and domestic carrier Vietnam Airlines was double priced, unreliable and equipped with vintage Russian aircraft.
How things change.Today's traveler has a far better range of options than in the early 90's - read on to find out all about them.
Plane: Vietnam Airlines and Pacific Airlines are the two main domestic carriers. Fares are very reasonable and the frequency of flights to main hubs are good. Flights can be a handy way to lop off a day of travel for not as many dong as you may expect -- Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu and Saigon to Phu Quoc Island are both popular time-savers. Note it is often cheaper to buy domestic tickets once in Vietnam rather than buying them from online brokers..
Train:Vietnam's train system is a lot better than is used to be, and while it's not all that cheap, it's comfortable, exceedingly scenic in places, and an overall very interesting and fun way to travel.
If you're traveling in high season or especially over Tet, book as far in advance as possible. On the downside it serves only the Vietnamese coastline along with a couple of spurs out of Hanoi (most notably northwest to Sapa). The coastal line serves many of the key destinations in Vietnam, notable exceptions are Hoi An (alight at Da Nang), Qui Nhon (alight at Dieu Tri) and Mui Ne (alight at Muong Man).
Automobile: Rental cars for long distance travel are yet to be much popularized in Vietnam, and seeing the state of the traffic it's easy to see why. Most who opt for self-drive transport do it via motorcycle rather than car.
Local buses and minibuses. These take about as long as Open Tours but can be overloaded to outrageous degrees. On the upside -- you'll be the only foreigner on board -- on the downside, it won't take too long to figure out why. Local buses and minibuses 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 stations they operate from are often on the outskirts of town and the transport to and from the bus station (mainly xe oms) will gouge you heartlessly given the opportunity, thus reducing your saving in traveling this way.
Motorbike: 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 not have too many troubles selling the bike off to another traveler when the time comes to leave Vietnam. The bikes are only semi-reliable, but just about any local with a screwdriver should be able to fix it up should you have minor ailments. If you don't want to listen to us, listen to your Mum -- invest in a helmet -- easily purchased in both Hanoi and Saigon. For more information and experience, see Top Gear on Vietnam Motorbike Special.
Bicycle:Long, with a scenic flat coastline, Vietnam can be a great destination for cyclists. The only really grueling part is the northern mountains -- even the Central Highlands are not really all that hilly. Most nearly every town in Vietnam will have some lodgings, so you shouldn't struggle for a room. Things to pack -- a good supply of inner tubes and patch kits -- and of course, your bike -- but you probably knew that already. Vietnamese bikes are not of a very high standard, so BYO bike is a very good idea. The country has a pretty good network of secondary roads which are far preferable to cycling on the main road, where cyclists rank just above chickens in the pecking order ... get it ;-) -- you will be expected to yield to all larger vehicles.
Boat: This is only really an option in the Mekong Delta, where you can travel in both tourist boats for short haul trips and take freighters for longer trips. The former are comfortable, the latter can sometimes be comfortable, other times less so. Boat transport is slow -- figure on two days for a trip from My Tho to Chau Doc on the Cambodian border. The most popular tourist service are the ferries from Saigon to Vung Tau, and the boats from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh. Boat travel generally works out as being more expensive than bus travel over a similar route.
The list of bargains is endless, but to whet your appetite, here are a few examples: Silk painting, silk sheets, silk shirts, t- shirts, coffee filters, ground coffee, tea, ceramics, embroidered pictures, and table cloths, marble carvings, lacquer-ware, rattan furniture, beaded bags and shoes, a new season wardrobe tailored in Hoi An and so much more…….!
Food and drinks
Travelers to Vietnam love the food! It's style is unique, relying on quality and seasonally fresh ingredients rather than added spice. The traditional Vietnamese breakfast is Pho – a bowl of rice noodles flavored with sliced beef or chicken and fragrant broth, garnished with fresh coriander and bean sprouts. Excellent and well priced seafood is available throughout the country. Duck, chicken, beef, and lean pork are also featured on most menus, as well as fresh salads and vegetable dishes and delicious legacies from the French colonial period.
The Buddhist influence also means lots of vegetables. Bottled mineral water, soft drinks, and Vietnamese tea and coffee are readily available. Beer, usually a light larger style, is the main alcoholic drink. The local rice wine (ruou gao) is popular with many Vietnamese.. Just remember, do not drink (or even brush your teeth) with tap water. Use bottled water instead. It is safe to have ice in your drinks, and there is no need To avoid fruits and vegetables. Strict vegetarians should make it clear that they do not eat meat and fish as either may be included in vegetable dishes.
The Vietnamese climate is variable and differs widely from north to south and within regions. Flooding may cause minor alterations to trip itineraries.
The North (from Hanoi to Sapa):
Winter spans December through February. It can be cool in Hanoi and mountainous regions, with overnight temperature of 4 Celsius and daytime highs between 10 and 20 Celsius. Summer is from June to August and brings hot and humid conditions. The average temperature range is 27 to 30 Celsius.
The Center (from Nha Trang to Hue):
For most of the year Nha Trang is bathed in sunshine but in November and December there is heavy rain. Dalat, at an altitude of 1,500m, is cooler than the coastal area, particularly from November to March. Danang and Hue both experience typhoon activity from mid October to mid December when the climate becomes cooler, more overcast and wet.
The South (from Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet):
The dry season is from December to June with March to May being particularly hot and humid. The temperature ranges from 27 to 30 Celsius. The wet season with short and heavy rain showers is from July to November.