Discover Vietnam, a country full of joy and splendor and satisfy your wanderlust. Vietnam is full of legendary stories that invite you to dream! Enjoy the contrast between the pulsating metropolis and indescribable landscapes. Explore extensive temples, have conversations with people you will never forget. Check out the following Vietnam travel tips and connect with other travel enthusiasts on Travelers.Live to share travel experiences and find travel buddies.
General Travel Information About Vietnam
Where is Vietnam located?
Vietnam is a coastal state in Southeast Asia. It borders on the People’s Republic of China in the north and Cambodia in the southwest.
To the west, Vietnam borders on Laos, the south coast of the country lies on the South China Sea. In the southwest of Vietnam, the country also borders the Gulf of Thailand.
How big is Vietnam?
Vietnam is geographically very narrow and hugs its neighboring countries in an S-shape. The total area is about 331,000 km² which is only a little smaller than Germany. It’s population is about 95 million.
What is the capital of Vietnam?
The capital of Vietnam is Hanoi. It is the second largest city in Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh City with around 7.7 million inhabitants. For comparison: Ho Chi Minh City has a population of around 8.6 million.
What languages do they speak in Vietnam?
The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, which is spoken by a large part of the population. The Vietnamese language itself has been written in a Latin alphabet since 1945.
In addition to Vietnamese, French is often taught as the first foreign language in schools, due to the long French colonial period.
English is now also widespread: although there has been a longstanding hostility between the USA and Vietnam, a large part of today’s tourism comes from English-speaking countries.
What is the best time to travel to Vietnam?
The climate in Vietnam can be quite different: in the north the dry season which is the best time for traveling lasts from October to the end of March, but it can get very cold, especially in the high mountain regions.
In the area around Hanoi, the time between October and April is also ideal: it is rather cool here, but dry.
It is particularly warm between May and October – especially between July and September it can get unbearably hot and humid, especially in the capital itself. I therefore recommend avoiding Hanoi in midsummer.
In the center of Vietnam, the months between January and the end of August offer perfect travel weather, and the south coast has a tropical climate, so you can actually visit it at any time.
What is the currency called in Vietnam?
In Vietnam you pay with Vietnamese dong (VND). One euro corresponds to 28141 VND.
Which documents do I need for entry?
To travel to Vietnam, you need a valid passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months after your vacation.
To travel to Vietnam, most travelers from western countries currently do not need a visa for a stay of a maximum of 15 days. The rules keep changing, thoughm, so it’s best to do your research.
If you want to stay longer, you have to apply for the normal tourist visa, which is valid for a period of one or three months. There is the possibility to get a 30-day e-Visa: You can apply for this on the website of the Vietnamese Immigration Service for a fee of $ 25.
Traveling around Vietnam
There are several ways to get from A to B in Vietnam. We mostly moved on by bus and had also booked a domestic flight. All in all, it is actually very easy to travel within Vietnam.
Every city has a bus station. We were traveling with FUTA Bus most of the time. A very reliable provider who also drives to quite a few cities. You can find it here: www.futabus.vn
Once we were also on the road with the provider An Phu. We booked this provider on site through the hotel. These are minibuses that – when we drove with them – are hopelessly overloaded. That never happened to us with FUTA.
Some cities also have a train station with regular trains to different regions. For example, we took the train from Da Nang to Hue. It was a cool experience. You can get tickets either on site at the train station itself or very easily (with a little extra fee) via the online provider www.baolau.vn (you can also use this to book bus, flight, ferry, etc.; baolau is also valid for Cambodia).
There are various regional providers that offer cheap flights within Vietnam. Many cities also have an airport in the immediate vicinity, which is why this can be very practical for one or the other. For example, we use a domestic flight to get back to Saigon from Hue. Taking the bus would be a lot cheaper, but we’d be on the road for ages … We just don’t feel like doing that.
Airlines in Vietnam are e.g. AirAsia, Vietjet or Jetstar. We wanted to book our flight to Saigon directly via the Vietjet website (it was cheaper than AirAsia or Jetstar), but then we found out that we could get an even lower price by booking with www.baolau.vn (about 50 US Dollars/45 Euros incl. 15 kg check-in luggage per person paid).
The so-called EasyRider can also be found in many cities. These are motorcyclists who either take you on a tour (one-day, multi-day) or bring you from A to B (on a motorcycle!) We had a look at Da Lat and would have been really cool, but it is more expensive compared to going via bus.
Buy a moped
Yes, you read that right! Certainly the coolest way to get around is with your own moped. We met some other treavelers on our tour who bought a moped (with a kind of luggage rack for the backpack) in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and then jet through Vietnam on their own. A moped driving license is not a requirement here – as in many Asian countries.
The advantage of having your own moped is certainly that you can get to very remote areas that you would otherwise only get to with a local bus. The essential thing, though, is to make regular oil changes, etc. Since mopeds are one of themain modes of transportation in Vietnam, there is no shortage of workshops.
Driving and Traffic in Vietnam
Driving in Vietnam is somewhat different from what westerners are used to in their own countries. Traffic tends to be chaotic sometimes and there are some „unofficial“ traffic rules which can complicate things.
Here are a few tips:
- It is possible to turn right at any time, even when the traffic lights are red (same as in the US)
- It is also of essential importance that if you want to turn left, you start driving before the traffic light turns green. Why? On the one hand you will be honked at if you wait tfor too long, on the other hand you can still cut the curve nicely before the oncoming traffic comes.
- Almost every Vietnamese wears a respirator mask when driving a scooter. In big cities this is mainly because of the smog and all the exhaust fumes. In smaller cities and in the countryside, people also want to protect their faces from unwanted sunlight and the tan that may result.
- When you take a walk in the city, you immediately notice something: The sidewalks are not there for you as a person to be able to walk safely outside of the traffic. No. Sidewalks are there to park the scooters right in front of the shops. So you walk in serpentine lines from sidewalk to street and back again.
- Crossing a street as a pedestrian is another risky endeavor (especially in cities like Ho Chi Min). First you have to wait for a gap in the traffic, and the cross the street at a constant speed. Tip: Never stop, especially not suddenly. Not even when drivers honk at you (they always will). For car and scooter drivers, it is more comfortable to swerve than to brake.
Vietnam Travel Tips You Should Know
A peculiarity of most toilets in Vietnamese restaurants and public areas is that they are mostly under water. But don’t be disgusted now, because that is solely due to the water hoses, which a) clean the entire toilet rooms and b) are also intended for intimate cleaning. There is no toilet paper in many toilets (mostly the public ones). No tiny little fuzz. That’s why there are these water hoses, which you first have to familiarize yourself with so that you don’t get yourself wet from top to bottom. I have to admit that I have never tried it. I think I’m too much of a Westerner here. My tip to the women of this world: Always take paper handkerchiefs with you to the toilet and then dispose of them in the trash can.
Food & Shops
Contrary to most visitors’ expectations, there are hardly any small snack stalls on the streets in Vietnam, such as those in Thailand. The well-known food streets that are known from Thailand are also not found here. There are a lot of markets, but they mostly sell raw food. Grilled, fried noodles or rice dishes are hard to find. You have to go to a (street) restaurant.
If you go to a street restaurant or café, there are usually only small chairs and tables. Especially tall people will have a lot of trouble with it. Nevertheless, they have an enormous advantage: When the street restaurant is being set up, it is easy to arrange, move, tidy or lift the small furniture.
What goes hand in hand with a street restaurant or a traditional Vietnamese restaurant is that rubbish and leftover food go directly under the table. Nothing is properly set aside here. On the contrary: Everything that bothers the table is thrown on the floor. All the rubbish, including often cigarette butts, crown caps, serviettes and of course leftover food such as bones and the like, is then cleaned up by the waitress.
What we also noticed is that Vietnamese people either gobble their food down audibly or eat the food so slowly that it gets cold. The latter is mostly the case when they are talking or drinking with friends or just surfing the Internet. In addition, different dishes are always ordered, from which everyone simply takes what they like.
If there is no supermarket nearby, all you have to do is walk a few meters down the street. There are numerous small private shops that sell everything from chips to shower gel and drinks. You can also find the vegetable and meat sellers almost everywhere.
Accommodation & Hotels
During our trip we found accommodation in various accommodations and hotels. We were more than enthusiastic about some of them, others were OK if it was just about sleeping.
We always booked most of the accommodations online a few days in advance. In general, you don’t need to worry about finding some place to stay in touristy places like Ho Chi Minh, Mui Ne, Da Lat or Hue. In remote locations it depends, so make sure to research places before actually going there.
Here are a few more Vietnam travel tips when it comes to staying in hotels:
- In hotels you usually have to put the key card in the card slot at the entrance to the room in order to switch the electricity on or off for the entire room. This can be a problem: Without electricity the room’s refrigerator or the water boiler in the bathroom won’t work.
- In many hotels (except the more fancy ones) bathroom have hardly any or no storage space for the toilet bag. If you’re lucky, there are towel racks, but you won’t find any shelves. Sometimes you have to improvise a bit.
- Another important tip when staying in low to medium budget hotles: Everywhere, really everywhere, there are ants. Even if you don’t see them at the beginning: They are still there! Therefore, under no circumstances leave anything sweet lying around. Unless you want to share it!
No matter where we have been in Vietnam up to now (of course that also applies to other countries …), the garbage is simply thrown away wherever people are standing, walking, sitting or driving. And it doesn’t matter what kind of garbage it is. Stuff is simply thrown away. Luckily, there are plenty of garbage men and women around who clean up the streets. Also, a lot of garbage is simply burned on the street.
Dealing with people
Whenever I went to Vietnam I only met friendly people. I gave the feeling, though, that the more rural you move and the further you are away from the tourist trails, the more friendliness the locals show you. And I am also firmly convinced that you can always please people (no matter where) if you can address them in their language. And a hello or thank you in the local language is just part of the good form for me. This in turn also ensures that the locals show you more respect. Especially in an Asian country whose language can only be found here. This is usually a cause for surprise but also puts a smile on peoples faces.