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Vietnam Travel Guide

A land of countless stories untold
From the ancient-modern charm of Hanoi to cruising the karst wonderland of Ha Long Bay and sailing down the mighty Mekong River to some of the best shopping in South-East Asia, this is a country that promises plenty of fun and un-pho-gettable times all rolled into one.
To experience the country to its fullest, make sure your Vietnam group tour package includes time in as many regions as possible. 
-- Read more
From the ancient-modern charm of Hanoi to cruising the karst wonderland of Ha Long Bay and sailing down the mighty Mekong River to some of the best shopping in South-East Asia, this is a country that promises plenty of fun and un-pho-gettable times all rolled into one.

To experience the country to its fullest, make sure your Vietnam group tour package includes time in as many regions as possible. 

-- Location --

Vietnam, located in Asia, shares borders with China, Cambodia and Laos, and maritime borders with Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Thanks to Vietnam’s close proximity to India, the flight duration is quite short, and can be as little as 4.5 hours.  This makes it perfect for any travellers thinking about booking last minute holidays to Vietnam. Plus, as most Vietnam tour packages offer quite a variety in terms of length of the trip, dates of travel, and budget, travellers will be able to find a trip that perfectly matches what they’re looking for.

-- Where to go --

You can’t go wrong no matter where you go in Vietnam.  Travellers looking for a vibrant intro to the country need to visit Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An, which thankfully feature on most group tours to Vietnam. These three sites offer insight into life in busy cities, and quieter towns, and also boast a blend of UNESCO world heritage sites. 

Travellers looking for something a little bit more offbeat will enjoy Sa Pa’s green countryside charm, as well as Hue, a city in central Vietnam, which used to be the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and has intriguingly named sites like the Forbidden Purple City.  And those with time to spare will want to stop at places like Dalat, Phu Quoc, Ha Giang, or Bai Tu Long. 

-- Weather --

Travellers can enjoy the charms of Vietnam throughout the year, as the country’s three regions - north, central and south - experience different weather conditions, so you can choose which one to visit based on the type of weather you prefer.  However, in the broadest sense, a good period to visit Vietnam would be from November to April, when temperatures are pleasant and rainfall is less frequent.
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At a glance

Currency

Dong
At the time of posting, the conversion from Vietnamese Dong to INR is 1 VND = 0.0031 INR, making Vietnam a great place for Indian travellers looking to get the most value for their rupees. There’s no easier way to feel like a millionaire.

Weather

Vietnam’s weather is pleasant throughout the year, owing to the varying conditions across the country’s three major regions. In general, the best time to visit Vietnam would be between November to April, when temperatures are pleasant and rainfall is less frequent.

Language

Vietnamese
Vietnamese is, naturally, the official language in the country. However, English is also spoken in cities and sites of interest. Chinese, French, Khmer, and other highlander languages are also spoken.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Take a junk boat cruise in Halong Bay   

Recommended by Travels of Adam

”Stunning and otherworldly landscapes, calm seas and plenty of islands to explore, this is definitely worth a detour from the capital to experience for yourself...Relaxing onboard a sailing ship, floating between the limestone peaks and blue-green waters of the bay is the most iconic thing to do here. You can do it for an afternoon and watch the sunset, or you can also go overnight and explore some of the islands dotted through the bay.”

On his travel blog, Adam shares recommedations, nightlife tips, photos, and all-too-personal essays from his adventures around the world.

Explore the Old Quarter in Hanoi   

Recommended by Goats on the Road

“Historically, each of the 36 streets here specialized in one particular trade. While this is still true to an extent, the Old Quarter is also home to countless travel agents, restaurants, bars, and hotels.”

Nick & Dariece are a 30-something couple from Canada who have been travelling for 8 years. They have visited more than 60 countries around the world. Goats On The Road is a very popular resource for travellers, and has been featured on CNN, National Geographic Traveller, NBC and more.

Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels   

Recommended by Nomadic Matt

“Crawl through the extensive network of nearly 500 km of tunnels utilized by the Viet Cong in the war with the USA in the 1960s. Tours involve a description of the tunnels, after which tourists are allowed to crawl about the maze and fire AK47s at shooting targets. It’s a sobering experience and not one meant for anyone claustrophobic. However, if you want a better understand the terror of the Vietnam War, this is a must-visit.”

Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, has travelled to nearly 100 countries. He shares proven tips and advice on his website which has been featured on major media sites including the New York Times, the BBC, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, The Independent, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and TIME magazine.

Stroll around Hoi An old town   

Recommended by Salt in our Hair

“Hoi An’s Unesco old town is magical, especially at night. When the sun sets, the lights ignite and the old town turns into an almost romantic town. Loads of restaurants open up their doors, from traditional Vietnamese to fusion food.”

This award-winning travel blog features beautiful photography, travel tips and guides by Hannah and Nick.

Drink super cheap beer   

Recommended by Two Tall Travellers

“Grab a glass of bia hoi, which is the locally brewed beer in Hanoi, for around 5000VND/£0.17/$0.22...The places to find this cheap beer are the tiny little corner restaurants with plastic tables and chairs outside. It’s not a fancy night out, and bia hoi tends to only be around 3% but you can have a great time for less than a dollar!”

Jade and Kev are a couple from the UK working and travelling their way around the world. Their website helps travellers discover locations around the world where they can save money & they also provide incredibly detailed guides to help you plan your ultimate trip.

Incredible places to visit in Vietnam

Hanoi

The capital of Vietnam serves as the perfect introduction to the rest of the country.  As you explore the city, you’ll see motorbikes zipping through tangled streets, stalls serving up steaming bowls of pho, and red yellow-starred Vietnamese flags decorating every road and alleyway; try to keep count of them, we guarantee you’ll lose count.

There’s plenty to take in within the city. You can watch a water puppet show or join the locals practicing tai chi in the park. You can (easily) get lost in the marketplace, and sit down for a breather and a bowl of pho almost anywhere. Here’s how to do Hanoi right:

Visit Hoa Lu

Hoa Lu was the capital of 10th century Vietnam. It is packed with palaces, pagodas, tombs and pavilions to explore. Travellers can also enjoy one of the many festivals celebrated in this little town.  Each of these festivals feature coloured lanterns, delicate flower garlands, and traditional performance of folk games.

Explore the Old Quarter

This is a maze of crowded, chaotic and colorful alleys. Here, every street sells a certain commodity; find yourself walking past one stocked with beautiful old lamps, the next selling Christmas merchandise, and the one after, filled with all-natural medical shops, with every kind of herb and spice heaped everywhere in buckets. It’s an explorer’s delight.

Watch a water puppet show

An age-old tradition that originated in the 11th century continuing to date, the show is performed in a pool of water as a stage for puppets.  Watch as wooden marionettes glide effortlessly across the water stage, acting out comedy, history and buffoonery. Live music and singers, theatrical lighting and elaborate props, such as fire-breathing dragons and ducks spitting water add to this uniquely Vietnamese show

Go on an excursion to Tam Coc

Tam Coc is a UNESCO World Heritage site about two hours from Hanoi. It’s a scenically spectacular site, with bright green paddy fields stretching as far as the eye can see, broken only by immense limestone karsts reaching skywards  The Ngo Dong River snakes through the fields, meaning travellers can clamber into small wooden boats and enjoy a quiet ride through the fields and caves. Of particular note are three grottoes: Hang Ca, Hang Giua and Hang Cuoi, which are known for housing immense stalactites.

Eat at Bun Cha Huong Lien

In 2016, ex-president Obama and American celebrity Anthony Bourdain ate at this quaint restaurant, and ever since, it’s been frequented by travellers who want a presidential meal as well. The restaurant is now famous for the Bun Cha that the two celebs ordered - a combination of grilled fat pork served in a bowl of clear but sweet broth and mixed with leafy greens, rice noodles, and fresh herbs.  Bun Cha Huong Lien is about a 15 minutes walk away from the south end of Hoan Kiem Lake.

Halong Bay

Famed world-over for its spectacular seascape of thousands of limestone karsts rising like dragon's teeth from the sea, Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s crowning glorious. The bay has 1600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of 150 kilometres, and visiting them is a must-do when in Vietnam. There are different ways travellers can enjoy Halong Bay’s unique scenery. Here are a couple:

Drink at the Bai Hoi stalls

If you’re in the mood to unwind with a beer in hand, head to the Bai Hoi stalls on Cat Ba Island. Bai Hoi is a draught beer made in Hanoi, that pairs excellently with Cat Ba’s pretty scenery and sunset.

Go on a cruise

Travellers can climb aboard a traditional Vietnamese junk and set off on a cruise around the bay (most are around 2 nights on average). Cruises offer a variety of activities; travellers can enjoy guided tai chi sessions and a gastronomic set-menu dinner on board, and go kayaking, swimming, trekking, fishing, and snorkelling.

Spend the day kayaking

Led by your tour guide you can paddle your way through concealed caves, lagoons, clean beaches, and floating fishing villages. You’ll also be able to visit beautiful spots in the area include Trinh Nu and Hang Trong, the Virgin Cave and the Cave of the Wind, which is encrusted with stalactites and stalagmites.

Go night squid fishing

Squid fishing is rated as one of the most engaging activities in Halong Bay. Travellers are provided with fake bait and a rod, and with guidance, are encouraged to patiently wait for the squid to bite. Based on your luck, you could catch up to 20 squids - when are then used for cooking. You can celebrate your success on board with some grilled squid and cold beer.

Visit intriguing cave grottoes

You can visit as many as 59 cave grottoes in Halong Bay. Among these, Trinh Nu and Hang Trong, the Virgin Cave and the Cave of the Winds are especially famous. As is the appropriately titled Surprise Cave. It was allegedly named after the sheer astonishment of the French admiral who discovered it, this immense, 30-metre-high grotto is encrusted with stalactites and stalagmites. Guides like to point out rock formations in the shapes of different creatures. Keep an eye out for the tiger, dragon, and penguin formations, and let your imagination run wild.

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh, aka Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam, and is the commercial hub as well. You will find anything and everything here. It’s the site of hard-hitting history, as well as scrumptious food zones. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss while in the city:

Tour the Cu Chi tunnels

The tunnels are a labyrinth of around 200km subterranean passages beneath farming villages that were used as hideouts, living quarters and supply routes for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. You will see a display of traps laid for American soldiers (such as those that drove bamboo spikes into those who stepped on them) which will send a shudder down your spine. Then, climb down and explore this maze of tunnels and underground bunkers. It’s a poignant reminder of the US-Vietnam conflict.

Shop at Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh Market is an icon of the city. Explore this cluttered pocket of stalls and find everything from non la (the traditional Vietnamese hat) to expensive Luwak or Civet coffee beans; there are lots of little treasures to be found. Make sure you bargain like there’s no tomorrow, it’s the norm.  And if you need a snack to refuel energy reserves depleted by shopping, there’s plenty of street food filling the air with the smells of wok-fried noodles, barbecued fish and meats available.

Visit Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai is the 3rd largest religion in Vietnam. It embraces and blends Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Islam, as Caodaism believes that all religions teach the same thing - seek and promote tolerance throughout the world. Jesus Christ, Buddha, Confucius, and Muhammad are all worshipped and honoured in this very unique temple.

Post a letter in the Central Post Office

The Saigon Central Post Office is one of the grandest post offices you will ever visit, and is  located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral. The butter-yellow building is a classic French colonial structure featuring arched windows and wooden shutter doors. Inside, there are intricately designed marble floors and telephone boxes as well as a giant portrait of Communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. 

Drink lots of Vietnamese coffee

Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world, so you know that a sip of coffee here is going to be superior to all the other coffees you have tasted and will ever taste. A cup is made of dark, roasted beans that are locally grown. These are ground and then brewed in a French-style drip filter. For the sweetness, condensed milk is added and poured in a glass of ice. Once you have a cup, you’ll be addicted.

Hoi An

Hoi An will completely charm you. Paper lanterns line the streets and a small river flows through, with over 100 candle lit lamps floating on the water - it's as beautiful as it sounds. Plus it’s lined with Chinese traders’ homes and wooden houses reincarnated as restaurants, cafés, and outlets for local artists, craftsmen and tailors. Here’s how to get the best of your time in this little town:

Visit the Japanese Bridge

Simple yet elegant, the 16th century wooden Japanese Bridge is guarded by a pair of monkey statues at one end and dog statues at the other. It is pink and pretty and has a pagoda roof. During the day, it’s filled with artists selling their paintings.

Go on a day trip to My Son Sanctuary

My Son Holy land was once the religious and political center of the mighty Champa Kingdom, and is now a World Heritage site. Filled with the ruins of red brick temples, and others covered with decorative carvings, set fetchingly in a lush jungle valley, it’s easy enough to feel like Indy Jones here.

Explore the night lantern market

As the sun goes down, the city glows an amber yellow thanks to the hundreds of colourful lanterns line the streets and shops. The night market has a corner dedicated to these lanterns - you’ll be able to find them in really pretty shapes, sizes, colours, and patterns. It’s a photographer’s paradise, but take note - the vendors usually charge a fee if you’d like to take pictures with their lanterns.

Eat Hoi An's special noodle - Cao Lau M

One does not go to Hoi An and not eat Cao Lau Mi. Unlike other noodle dishes, this one is  made of rice with very little broth. You’ll dig in to soft yellow noodles, smoky pork, bean sprouts and other veggies in a sauce packed with flavour.

Visit a tailor for a customised outfit

Hoi An is home to 300 tailors and leather workers, so make the most of this opportunity to get a perfectly tailored outfit made for you! Choose a craftsman shop, select a piece of clothing or the material you want, and get measured, and you’ll soon be wearing an exquisitely tailored outfit.

Sa Pa

Sa Pa is a small town located in the province of Lào Cai, which is in a north-western region of Vietnam. It is famed for its natural splendour. Here, quintessential terraced rice paddies reign supreme, dotted with mountains and a thin silvery river that runs right through. Here’s how to enjoy your time in Sa Pa:

Heaven’s Gate

The snaking roads of Quản Bạ pass take you up to Heaven’s Gate. Located right in the middle of the majestic Hoang Lien Mountains, this is the best place in Sa Pa for a panoramic view over the valley, and the upland fields.

Go on a motorbike tour

Motorbike is one of the best ways to explore this region. Booking a motorbike tour lets you go offroading and ride over smaller trails and pathways to reach less explored areas and villages.

Muong Hoa Valley

Muong Hoa Valley is probably the valley you’ve seen in all Instagram pictures of Vietnam, thanks to the gorgeous green hues of the terraced rice paddy fields. But besides its obvious beauty, it’s also a place that invites you to appreciate the calm and quiet of the countryside.

Sa Pa Love Market

The Sa Pa Love Market is Vietnam’s answer to speed dating. Only occurring on Saturday evenings, the market is where ethnic locals gather and mingle to find a partner to marry. Men and women dress up in traditional clothing, there’s a lot of singing and dancing, and good times in general.

Climb Mt Fansipan

Mt Fansipan is one of the highest peaks in Sa Pa, and is also called the roof of ‘Indo-China.’ The mountain soars skywards with a height of around 3143 metres. To reach the top you can either trek or simply take the cable cab.  Whatever your choice, the view from the top is surreal - a bed of cloud spreads out below your feet making you feel like you’re flying. Pro tip: Make sure you see the 20-metre  Buddha statue on the mountainside - the largest in the country.

Top things to do & experience in Vietnam

Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
to help you have an authentic and memorable trip.

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