Vietnam Travel Guide
Chances are you've heard of Vietnam one way or another. The country tends to be mentioned or shown in several movies, especially those about wars. But seeing the country in movies or in pictures and videos online isn't enough to prepare you for how stunning the country is.
Vietnam has overcome its tumultuous history to become one of the best travel destinations in Southeast Asia. From white-and beaches to full-tilt cities, sacred temples, craggy mountains, mind-boggling rice fields, vast caves, and beautiful islands looming straight out of the ocean, there's a lot to like about Vietnam. Oh, and the food is niceeee.
I was blown away by the hospitality of the people. As a traveler, it's important that the locals in any place you are traveling to are friendly. And you'll find that the good people of Vietnam are some of the friendliest bunch you'll ever come across.
This article is your complete guide to visiting Vietnam. Continue reading to learn more about the country.
Vietnam Map Base
Capital city: Hanoi
Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND). 1 USD = 23,406 VND
Electricity: Power voltage is 220 Volts. Power socket type A, B, and C.
Languages: Vietnamese the official language, with English increasingly favored as a second language.
10 Handpicked Highlights of Vietnam
Halong Bay is easily among the most popular travel destinations in Vietnam. And it totally lives up to the hype. Here, you’ll see over 2000 limestone islands that dramatically rise out of the emerald-colored waters. The scenery is straight out of a fairy tale. Exploring the islands is fun as many of them have pristine beaches with white sandy beaches, fascinating caves, and lush jungles.
There are several floating villages here that allow you to soak up plenty of cultures. It’s worth mentioning that Halong Bay tends to be crowded especially during the peak tourist season so that’s something you should have in mind. You can visit in the offseason though if you want to beat the crowd.
Lan Ha Bay
Next to Halong Bay is a hidden gem in the form of Lan Ha Bay. While Halong Bay gets all the attention, Lan Ha Bay is just as beautiful. But since Lan Ha Bay receives fewer visitors than Halong, there is a more relaxed vibe on Lan Ha and you potentially get a more authentic travel experience. Most of the fishing villages in Lan Ha are mostly untouched by tourism and you can immerse yourself in the steep culture and history of these villages.
Hoi An old town
Hoi An is an old, clean, little town in Central Vietnam. It’s a classic example of what Southeast Asian trading ports should look like. The architecture of the town is impressive with many of them dating back many years ago. The town is also a fusion of many cultures which makes it even more interesting.
There’s an idyllic beach, nice restaurants, and a chance to see some magical sunsets. And the lovely nightlife is an added bonus.
My Son archaeological site
Ever heard of Angkor Wat? If you have, then you can consider My Son (actually Mỹ Sơn) as the Vietnamese Angkor Wat. My Son is an ancient site that dates back between the 4th and 13th centuries. There, you’ll find the remains of several impressive tower Hindu temples that have been abandoned.
Many of the temples are still impressive even in their dilapidated state. The architecture of the temple complex is impressive and it’s no surprise it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Phong Nha National Park, home to the Son Doong cave, the world’s largest cave
Phong Nha national park is so special. For one, it’s home to the largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong, the third largest cave in the world, Hang En, and several other caves. So, naturally caving is a big deal and tourists flock to the park to explore the numerous caves there. Whether you want an easy caving adventure, an extreme one, or even a family-friendly one, you’ll find a cave that seems to be made for you just here.
You can also hike through lush jungles in the park and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area. Kayaking, rock climbing, and ziplining are also popular activities here.
Tam Coc is a hidden gem because some travelers aren’t aware of it while those that know of it often overlook it for more popular destinations in Vietnam. But those that visited the town never came back with regrets. Tam Coc allows you to relax and unwind at your own pace while soaking up the beautiful landscape that surrounds you.
The most popular activity here is sailing in emerald paddy rice fields and immersing yourself in the incredible scenery. It’s as relaxing as you’ll ever want to be when on a trip.
Ban Gioc Waterfall
Another hidden gem in Vietnam, the Ban Gioc waterfall is majestic, beautiful, and very picturesque. It has multiple terraces which make pictures of it otherworldly. You’d expect the waterfall to be overflowing with visitors but that doesn’t happen.
It’s kind of baffling but I guess it’s a good thing for those travel there as their experience will be more authentic which is about experiencing nature and the local life. The falls is located on the border of China and Vietnam and can be visited from either sides. On the Vietnamese side, you can go on a raft to have a closer look at the falls.
Golden Hands Bridge, Da Nang
To understand why there’s a lot of buzz about the Golden Hands bridge, you need to see some pictures of the bridge. The Golden Hands bridge is a pedestrian bridge built among the lush Ba Na Hills. Two giant hands that are seemingly made from stone (they are actually made of metal and fiberglass) support the bridge. It’s creativity at its finest and the bridge is an architecture spectacle.
Located in the Sun World resort, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to gain access to the bridge. While the fee can be expensive at times, you gain access to all of Sun World after paying it and you can use that opportunity to see other parts of the resort.
Trekking in Sapa
Amidst beautiful mountains and emerald-green rice fields is Sapa, a place renowned for its unbelievable beauty and intoxicating cultural makeup. It can be a pain to get to the town due to its remote location but that’s what has been preserving its beauty. Guess we can’t have it all.
One of the most rewarding things to do in Sapa is to trek to the local villages. You’ll be released with gorgeous scenery on your trek and have an insight into the daily lives of the locals. You can also visit the lively Sapa market or hike up the Radio Tower for panoramic views of the area.
Ba Be Lake and Ba Be National Park
The Ba Be National park is a haven of extraordinary scenery, impressive biodiversity, and rich culture. There are many hamlets scattered across the area filled with locals offering you the opportunity to learn about their culture and history.
The park has everything a keen explorer wants. You can hike through the dense jungles, explore nearby cave networks, or kayak down the rivers. There is also the tranquil Ba Be Lake which is surrounded by Karst mountains. The scenery here is stunning and you can even take a dip in the lake.
Vietnam's Geography & Landscapes
Vietnam has a diverse landscape that can be divided into the following geographic regions:
- The central mountains.
- The Highlands and the Red River Delta.
- The Coastal Lowlands.
- The Mekong River Delta.
Best Time To Go To Vietnam
Vietnam has a tropical climate but the diverse and varied landscape means the seasons will vary across the country. This means the best time to visit Vietnam depends on the region you intend to visit. The Southern part of the country experience their rainy season between May and November and the dry season runs through December to April.
Along the central coast, rainfall lasts between September and February. In the North, the dry season is between October and November. Despite these variations, September-December and March-April are the best time to visit for relatively fair conditions across the country.
Traveling in Vietnam
Vietnam is a relatively safe country and violent crime is rare. You’ll have to watch out for common scams such as traders ‘mistakenly’ giving you the wrong change. So, always count your change to avoid being ripped. If you want to rent a bike, take pictures and videos of the bike before you take it out to avoid being charged for preexisting damages.
The standard safety tips apply here such as keeping an eye on your valuables, not accepting drinks from strangers, staying away from drug and sex tourism, and purchasing good travel insurance.
Getting to & Around Vietnam
Three international airports serve Vietnam and they are the Noi Bai International Airport, Tan Son Nhat International Airport, and Da Nang International Airport located in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang respectively. Most travelers fly into the capital city of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Domestic flights within Vietnam are cheap and are recommended for those pressed for time. Road travel remains the most means of getting around and road networks are steadily improving.
Buses are readily available, especially for long-distance journeys. There are many bus operators catering to tourists and pricing depends on the route and operator. However, they are generally very cheap.
Trains are convenient, safe, and affordable. They also offer the opportunity to see more of the countryside. But trains are not popularly used among tourists.
Taxis are the preferred option for getting around in the major towns. They are metered and affordable.
Cyclo (a bicycle rickshaw) and ze om (a motorbike taxi) are one of the cheapest ways to get around in some towns and cities.
Accommodation is cheap in Vietnam and the quality is usually excellent. From budget hostels to guesthouses, budget and luxurious hotels and resorts, you’ll find accommodation that’s within your budget.