VIETNAM TRAVEL AND TOURS - VIETNAM TRAVEL INFORMATION
This long, thin country curves in an elegant S-shape down the eastern side of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, stretching almost 2,000 kilometres from the Gulf of Tonkin down to the Mekong Delta,, with an almost unrivalled run of sandy beaches. The northern Red River Delta is the cradle of Vietnamese culture and home to the ancient city of Hanoi with its combination of broad tree lined boulevards and narrow alleyways packed with goods. To the east of Hanoi, on the Bay of Tonkin, is Halong Bay, where limestone outcrops soar out of the morning haze to create breathtaking vistas. Along the northwest border with China and Laos, there are lush, mountainous areas such as Sapa where many of Vietnam's colourful indigenous tribes live. The mountains widen out to form the Central Highlands, often referred to as the backbone of Vietnam. The colonial town of Dalat is on a plateau in the highlands, surrounded by lakes, forests, waterfalls and an abundance of flora. Much of the coast is fringed with white sandy beaches, beautiful bays and fishing villages. Hoi An is a dreamy backwater port on the central coast, full of peaceful wooden shophouses, and further inland over the Hai Van Pass is Hue, the Nguyen imperial city. The beaches of Vietnam along Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and the beautiful island of Phu Quoc are perfect for relaxation. The Mekong Delta in the south of the country is the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam and is home to women in conical hats, floating markets - where fruit and vegetables are piled high on wooden boats - and brilliant patchworks of rice paddy. Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) buzzes with energy; it is a city that never sleeps, where French colonial buildings and modern skyscrapers jostle for space. Vietnam is moving forward; the north and south reunified in 1986 and the government began to relax its rigid centralist control, although both regions still tend to preserve their distinct identities.
Vietnam has become one of Southeast Asia's most popular destinations. The cities of this vibrant country present dramatically different faces: Saigon throbs with an economic renaissance while Hanoi maintains its image as the center of Vietnamese culture, intellect, and tradition. The countryside is equally varied, from the rock formations at Halong Bay to the rural villages and lush tropical landscapes of the Mekong Delta. Northern Vietnam is also a favorite for many travelers, offering hill tribe villages and dramatic mountain scenery. Throughout the country, travelers relish stunning landscapes and superb cuisine.
Most of Vietnam is made up of mountains. The main parts of Vietnam that you should visit are Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Haiphong, North-West & North-Est Vietnam, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and Dalat. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are enormous cities that have such attractions as museums, markets, parks and pagodas, many restaurants and bars and an exciting nightlife. Halong Bay has beautiful emerald green waters and thousands of islands and caves that you can explore. North-West & North-Est Vietnam's breathtaking mountain scenery and colourful hill tribe minorities should not be missed. When visiting Hue you absolutely must visit the ancient citadel and take a 'Dragon Boat' trip to the majestic Royal Tombs. Hoi An has a charming atmosphere and while here you must see the extraordinary Cham ruins, located at nearby My Son. Nha Trang & Phan Thiet has crystal clear turquoise waters and offers great island-hopping and scuba diving. Dalat is made up of pine-forested hills, cultivated valleys, lakes and waterfalls.
There are no direct flights as yet from the UK to Vietnam, so flights into Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi from any of the south east Asian hubs; Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. The most popular option is an "open jaw" ticket, flying into one city and out from the other.
Best Time to Visit
Packing for a trip to Vietnam can be difficult, as the climate varies so much depending on when and where you go. When the weather isn't ideal in one area, it's great in another. Vietnam is subject to two monsoon seasons: from April to October, most of the country is affected by south-western monsoons. The rains, which tend to be concentrated in the late afternoons, provide welcome relief to the heat. The cooler northeast monsoon hits the central coast from October until January. North Vietnam is generally warm and sunny in the autumn, cool in the winter and hot in the summer. Halong Bay is perfect in the summer months as the water is warm enough for swimming. The hottest months in Ho Chi Minh City are April and May, although there is generally a decent breeze. The central highland town of Dalat is temperate year-round.
All visitors to Vietnam must obtain a visa prior to departure. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months Alternatively Luxury Travel can arrange a ‘visa authorisation letter’ for the Vietnamese Visa for you, which enables you to obtain your visa upon arrival. For this or any other information, please contact your Luxury Travel consultant. Tourist visas are only valid for a period of 30 days stay. You must specify your exact city of arrival and departure and the respective dates. You cannot arrive even one day earlier and should you change your mind on arrival you will need to contact the Immigration Police or the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Hanoi or Saigon. The cost of visa's vary from country to country. We suggest that you contact the Vietnamese Consulate General in your country to arrange your visa.
For information on vaccinations and health requirements, we suggest you contact your GP or a travel clinic such as Fit For Travel at least 2 months prior to departure for advice and to arrange immunisations. Recommended vaccinations for travel to Thailand and Indochina are polio, tetanus, typhoid, meningitis and hepatitis A. We also recommend you take anti-malarial tablets, but please consult your doctor for his/her advice.
Flying times from UK
Hanoi: 15 hours 15 minutes not direct
Saigon: Approx. 15 hours not direct
Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of GMT
Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. The Vietnamese language (kinh) belongs to the Mon-Khmer stock, which comprises Mon (spoken in Burma) and Khmer (the language of Cambodia), as well as Khmu, Bahnar, Bru and other languages of the highlands of Vietnam. Mon-Khmer, Tai and Chinese elements with many of its basic words derived from the monotonic Mon-Khmer languages. The most widely spoken foreign languages in Vietnam are Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), English, French and Russian, more or less in that order. Popular artistic forms include: traditional painting produced on frame-mounted silk; an eclectic array of theatre, puppetry, music and dance; religious sculpture; and lacquerware. Vietnamese cuisine is especially varied - there are said to be nearly 500 different traditional dishes, ranging from exotic meats such as bat, cobra and pangolin to fantastic vegetarian creations.
The currency for Vietnam is Dong. The US dollar virtually acts as a second local currency and all hotels, airlines and travel agencies quote prices in US dollars. However, you should pay in Dong. Vietnamese law requires all transactions in dong, though in practice many people will accept dollars.
Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted in the major cities and towns popular with tourists. Getting cash in advance is also possible but you will be charged between 2% and 4% commission plus any charges levied by your bank.
Travellers cheques in US dollars can be exchanged and only at certain banks. Most hotels and airline offices do not accept travellers cheques as payment. Lost or stolen cheques are not replacable in Vietnam.
Domestic Air Services: All air travel within Vietnam is handled by Vietnam Airlines. All reservations can be made by your agent or the airlines directly.
Buses: Most foreigners do not use local buses. It is advisable to use Taxi's, private buses or hired rentals with a driver.
The Vietnamese drive on the right-hand side of the road. You can hire a motorcycle to drive yourself if you have an International Driver's Permit endorsed for motorcycles. Travelling through Vietnam by bicycle is worth considering, though the traffic is still a hazard on highways without wide shoulders. Trains and buses will carry your bike when you want a break.
Hitching: Though it is practised it is not recommended. You are expected to pay the driver for picking you up and he will negotiate the fee prior to letting you on board.
Boats: are widely used in the Mekong Delta area and Cantho is accessible by this method from Ho Chi Minh City.