Travel Guide Vietnam

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Vietnam
Travel Guide

Where is it?

Vietnam is an s-shaped slice of land located in south-eastern Asia, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia. Bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea. The Vietnamese coast line is 3,260 kilometres in length. (Reference 1)

How to get there:

By plane:

Vietnam has international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. Flights are available from many countries such as,  Australia, Cambodia, China, FranceGermany, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, MacauQatarTurkeyDubai and the U.S. (Reference 2)

By Boat:

Boats can be taken from Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border town Chau Doc. It will take about five hours with brief stops to exit Cambodia and enter Vietnam. (Reference 2)

By Road:

Cambodia has four main entries to Vietnam, Moc Bai/Bavet crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh road. Near the coast is the Xa Xia/Prek Chak border or the Tinh Bien/Phnom Den border near Chau Doc. That leaves Banlung in North Eastern Cambodia is connect to Pleiku in Vietnam by a crossing at Le Tanh/O Yadaw.

China has three main borders crossings, Dongxing – Mong Cai near the coast, Hekou – Lao Cai in the mountains near sapa, and lastly Youyi Guan – Huu Nghi Quan.

Laos has six main entries to Vietnam, they are 1) Donsavanh – Lao Bao,  2) Kaew Neua – Cau Treo (Keo Nua Pass), 3) Nam Can ( Vietnam ) to Xieng Khuang ( Laos ), 4) Tay Trang ( Vietnam ) to Phong Sa Ly ( Laos ). I am unsure of the other two but I have been assured they exist.

(Reference 2)

When to go:

For Vietnam the Best time of year is from November to March or April. You can avoid the extreme heat and the monsoonal rains during these times.

City

Best Season

Wet

Dry

Hot

Cool

Ho Chi Minh

Nov – Apr

May – Sep

Mar – Apr

All year

None

Hanoi

Nov – Mar

May – Oct

Nov – Apr

Apr – Sep

Nov – Mar

Hue

May – Jun

Sep – Jan

May – Apr

May – Aug

Dec – Jan

(Reference 4)

Other times:

There are (sudden) heavy downpours and flooding in some areas from May – October and even up until December in the central region. If you don’t mind getting wet and waiting till the water subsides, you could still go if you really wanted.

Climate:

Vietnam being a long country has a climate varying from Tropics to sub-tropics. In the North there are 4 seasons and in the south only 2 seasons. In the Northern Mountains you can get snow during winter while in the Southern parts it is hot most of the year.

Because the Climate is so vast across Vietnam and would take a few pages to detail (I will not be doing that here in this Basic guide), I suggest for in-depth information about the different areas you may like to visit, you can go to the following websites:

Vietnam good travel guide.

or

Guide Vietnam.

             (Reference 3,5)

How to get around (the basics):

How much by taxi?

Cheap, but I would only use the Mai Linh (green and white) taxis as 99% of the time they are the most reliable, I have also heard that the Vinataxi (bright yellow) is fairly good, I would stay away from the others. Starting fees are usually around 12,000.00 ₫ and then the fare ticks up at about 12,000.00 – 14,000.00 ₫ per 1km travelled.

How much is a motorbike taxi?

xe ôm, pronounced “say ohm” literally translates to  hug taxi (and no you don’t have to hug the drive, well unless you really want to I guess) it is very Cheap and beats being stuck in traffic jam  hell in a taxi. Just negotiate the price before you get on to avoid any issues. 20,000.00 ₫ or maybe less (if you negotiate well) should get you most places within the CBD. Any further, price, will depend on road conditions, weather and distance.

How much by train?

Trains run the length of Vietnam (not used for CBD travel at all) and can be a great way to see Vietnam at a leisurely pace. There are soft and hard seats, as well as soft and hard sleeper options. The price will vary depending on where you want to go, from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi can cost approximately between 1,700,000.00 – 2,200,000.00₫ ($90-110 USD)  but all in all it is fairly cheap and can be a fun way to meet people. (Train tickets can be reserved online on this official site Vietnam-Trains.com)

How much by bus?

As little as 7,000.00 ₫ for travel in the CBD and goes up from there depending on distance travelled.

Where to stay:

Personally I like to stay in cheap places, as long as the bed is fairly comfortable and I feel safe is all that matters. I don’t see the point in paying vast amounts of money for a place you just sleep in. You have come to see a country and its culture, not the inside of a room, so get out there!

Type of accommodation:

City Hostel Hotel
Ho Chi Minh City 429,126.67₫ 1,141,109.25, ₫
Hanoi 379,620.00₫ 770,598.02, ₫
Da Nang 421,800.00 ₫ 738,277.59 ₫

(The above list is of average prices), (Reference 7)

Where to eat:

To get a real feel for Vietnam I suggest you eat at any of the little stands or buy from any of the people walking past selling food. If you see something that catches your eye, try it! One of my favourites is Banh mi, there is even a small chain called Banh mi Hanoi if you can find it! It is a French style Baggett with Vietnamese style fillings; these are great for lunch on the go and are always so fresh. My other favourite is pho, a Vietnamese soup, of which there are as many different types as there are people (ok maybe not that many, but there are a lot of varieties).

In Vietnam there seems to be food everywhere, with many cafes and restaurants it can be very difficult to decide. But do fret the way to choose is easy; if it is full of locals…go in!

Costs of food:

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant average 50,000.00 ₫

Meal for 2, mid-range restaurant, three course 300,000.00 ₫

Combo meal at McDonalds or similar 80,000.00 ₫

(The above list is of average prices), (Reference 7)

Attractions:

Ho Chi Minh:

Many Markets to browse (not just Ben Thanh market)

Street food

Notre Dam Cathedral

See a pagoda or ten!

Bitexco Financial Tower sky-deck, see the city in all its glory

Ho Chi Minh square, nice architecture of the buildings

Cao Dai temple, it’s big and you may be able to see a service being held.

Book a tour of the Mekong Delta

 Hanoi:

Walk the old quarter

Walk around the lake of the restored sword (Hoan Kiem lake)

Cổ Loa citadel, is an 18km long spiral shaped fortress

Red River Delta

Street food

St Joseph’s cathedral

Old city gate

Highlights and noteworthy places to visit in surrounding areas:

Sa Pa trekking and the markets at Bac Ha or Can Cau

Dalat, mountain region with a cooler climate

Tet, Luna calendar New Year celebrations

Hoi An, a slower pace of life, older style merchants

Ha Long Bay, a romantic place to cruise in a boat for a week

Phu Quoc Island, they say here are the most friendly people in all Vietnam

Nice old architecture in most cities

Eat Pho! (pho 24 is a good place to start)

Festivals and events:

Ho Chi Minh:

TET, Vietnam Luna New Year: Late January early February

Saigon Cyclo Challenge: 9 March, money raised is donated to charity.

Hanoi:

Going Festival:  Between the 6th– 8th of 1st Lunar month for Soc Temple and the 8th– 9th of the 4th Lunar month for Phu Dong temple. To commemorate Saint Giong, at both Soc temple and/or Phu Dong Temple.

Huong Pagoda Festival (70kms from Hanoi): 6th of the 1st lunar month is the start. Buddhist festival

Tu Xa commune, Lam Thao district, Phu Tho province:

Tro Tram Festival: 11th midnight of 1st lunar month. To promote human vitality.

Sa Pa:

Roong Pooc Festival:  1st dragon day after 1st full moon. Show gratitude towards their guardians.

Bay Nui, An Giang province:

Cow racing festival: 29th day of 8th month to the 2nd day of the 9th month in the Lunar Calender. Celebrate the last day of the year according to Khmer calendar.

Danang:

Danang international fireworks competition: 29 – 30 April (can change but usually around March or April)

Across Vietnam:

International New Year Day: 1 January

TET, Vietnam Luna New Year: Late January early February

(Reference 6)

Tips:

Always negotiate and confirm the price of the motorbike taxi before you get on, even before you put the helmet on. Also have the address written down clearly to make sure you get to the right place.

Don’t use smartphones etc. near roadways or they could disappear very quickly, even locals have told me off saying “be careful”, it could get snatched.

Always use VND, yes you can use USD but that is lazy. If you use USD you will add 10-15% sometimes 50-100% to the price of everything you buy. Why? Well remember they will have to convert is to VND anyway and for that there will be a commission on exchange. Secondly, they will think you just got off the plane from the USA and will use that to their advantage, I can’t blame them.

When crossing the road, look at oncoming traffic. Most of the time they will go around a walking pedestrian but it helps to keep an eye out. Some (local) people wave their hand above their head or towards the oncoming traffic.

Vietnamese dress conservatively, despite the heat you will notice that most Vietnamese do not show too much skin. This goes for both Men and Woman, most men will have a shirt with a collar and some places like pagodas, temples or government offices will not let you in wearing shorts.

Do what the locals do?

Go to a café and get a coffee or fruit smoothie, sit back and relax as you watch the world go past at high speed.

Play badminton in the park, mostly in the early morning or late afternoon/evening, when it’s cooler.

Got to the park near Notre Dam cathedral and sit down on the gutter in the park (covered with a supplied sheet of newspaper by one of the vendors) then get yourself an ice cold drink and eat some snacks from the vendors who stroll by, they won’t speak English but hey that’s half the fun!

Dangers and safety:

Vietnam is a friendly and safe place but in saying that, the crime rate in Vietnam is moderate ++. Don’t be paranoid but you should be aware of your surroundings, and larger male groups. At night try not to walk alone, if you have to walk along choose well lit streets. Taxis and motorbike taxis are so cheap you should use them.

You should not flash around smartphones or ipad etc close to road ways as opportunistic motorbike riders called “cowboys” will wiz past and snatch “out of your hand” what you have before you realise it is gone. And YES! I have seen this first hand; my friend had his ipad taken while we were sitting at a road side restaurant using said ipad.

Most crime is petty crime or as I like to call it opportunistic, if you give them the opportunity they will take it, so it is your own fault.

Safety walking alone during daylight 67.97

Safety walking alone during night 45.31

The closer to 100 the safer it is.

(Reference 7)

Other internet sources for information!

Official tourism guide:

http://www.vietnamtourism.com/e_pages/news/index.asp

Fodor’s travel:

http://www.fodors.com/search/results.html?search=Vietnam&submit=

Map:

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Reference list:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Vietnam
  2. http://wikitravel.org/en/Vietnam#Get_in
  3. http://vietnamgoodtravelguide.com/vietnam-weather-climate.html
  4. http://vietnam.sawadee.com/climate.htm
  5. http://www.guidevietnam.com/travel/weather.html
  6. http://www.holidaysvietnam.com/travel-guide/vietnam-festivals-and-events/
  7. http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Vietnam

For more festivals and events:

http://www.holidaysvietnam.com/travel-guide/vietnam-festivals-and-events/

http://www.vietnamtourism.com/e_pages/tourist/festival.asp

http://www.diethelmtravel.com/Pages/festivals_vietnam.aspx

Other references:

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Vietnam

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population

http://www.threeland.com/vietnam-festivals-events.html

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