- Halong Bay
- Mui Ne/ Phan Thiet
- Nha Trang
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Can Tho
- Phu Quoc Island
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.