OfficIal language: Vietnamese, with English being a widely spoken language as well
Currency: Vietnamese Dong
Vietnam is the majestic country located on the South China Sea, this is a gem waiting to be discovered by tourists from all walks of life. From the floating markets on the Mekong River to the endless rice fields, the sacred temples of Hanoi and the island paradises of Halong Bay and Nha Trang, this is fast becoming a country well worthy of awe-inspiring travel opportunities. Filled with captivating natural surroundings and tranquil village life, some of the most pristine beaches in all of Southeast Asia and some of the best cuisine you’ll ever taste, Vietnam has come a long way and healed all of its wounds to become one of the best travel destinations in Asia.
Vietnam might be known for its rather horrible war ridden history, but there’s a much more intriguing reason for why it has become such a famous destination today. The country offers a little something for everyone and will appeal to the nature lovers out there, the history hunters and even the individuals who prefer and island getaway. Rich in spectacular scenery and a thrilling culture, Vietnam showcases some of the most diverse ethnic groups, all brought together by the love of hospitality. Why is Vietnam so unique? Well, it might be thanks to the breathtaking landscapes or the friendly Vietnamese people. It might be because of the fact that it’s a really budget friendly travel destination, or the fact that they have some exquisite cuisine on offer. It could also be the fact that they have some world famous beaches, or the fact that there’s so much natural beauty on offer…but we think it’s a combination of all of the above that come together to make Vietnam a traveling experience unlike anything else.
Must see places in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City
This city will probably provide you with one of the best introductions to Vietnam. This buzzing city has somewhat of a seductive charm to it and seamlessly integrates traditional life with modern technology. Office buildings and colonial edifices coexist side by side to bring you the best of both worlds that still exist throughout the country.
It’s been the capital of Vietnam for over a thousand years, which explains why it’s lined with pagodas and dynastic temples, French-era villas and national monuments. But it’s not just the “old” on show here, as Hanoi is drifting into an era of change, which sees many flashy restaurants and hotels springing up almost daily.
Ha Long Bay
With over 2000 islands scattered in the Gulf of Tonkin at Halong, this is also known as the place where the dragons descend into the sea. On offer here is an abundance of caves and deserted bays which makes for a great day trip destination.
If there ever was a nerve center of the indigenous Cao Dai region, this city would be it. It allows you the opportunity to peek into some of Vietnam’s religious background. Once there, make sure you stop by the Cu Chi tunnels to see how the Vietnamese stayed safe and out of reach of US bombs.
Here you get to really witness the might and splendor of the temples and palaces of this highly cultured city. There are also the imperial mausoleums showcasing magnificent architectural refinement among the pine-shrouded hills.
This is where the powerful Mekong river offloads into the South China Sea, and the area is lined with tributaries, waterways, rice paddies and lush orchards. Make sure to visit one of the floating markets either at Cai Be or Can Tho.
At an altitude of 1500m, this is the gateway to the central Highlands. From here you can visit the montagnard villages in Buon MaThuot, Pleiku or Kon Tum, where you can peek into the local village lifestyles and traditions.
This former seaport town with its weathered-down buildings truly is an enticing destination. From here you can take a trip to go see the war battered ruins of My Son in the forest filled valley
Looking for a real market town? Sapa is the place to be! Located in the far Northwest near the Chinese border, this buzzing town is the perfect departure point for visiting nearby minority villages.
If you’re looking to explore what life on the Mekong is like without the touristic vibe, this is the place to be. On offer here is the charming old Coconut Candy Factory, for which the area is famous for.
Things to do in Vietnam
Relax in a Mud Bath at Nha Trang
If you need a soothing experience, check in for a little soak in the mud baths in the central city of Nha Trang, or catch their party boat and dance the night away.
Spend your dongs in Hanoi
This is a great city if you want to purchase some souvenirs. You’ll be overwhelmed by the masses of markets…oh and there’s the Hanoi Hilton, the in(famous) prison which housed prisoners of war. A sight not to be missed.
Eat some Vietnamese Noodles
Seriously, you’re only there once, which is why you have to try some great Vietnamese cuisine. You also have to sample some Vietnamese coffee. Most major cities have pop-up cafes in plentiful supply who will be more than happy to see you sample some local snacks.
Explore Ha Long Bay
Located in the northwest of Vietnam near the Chinese border, Ha Long Bay is one of the natural wonders of the world. Dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets, the bay covers an area of 1,500 square kilometers, which makes for a great exploration destination.
Go kite-surfing in Mui Ne
Just south of the fishing village of Mui Ne has some pretty strong sea breezes blowing by daily, which is why it’s a great spot to go kite or wind-surfing. Also make sure that you check out the massive sand dunes just north of the town with its panoramic sunset views.
Best time to visit Vietnam
Tourists visit Vietnam September through March
You should know that the climate in Vietnam varies greatly from North to South and it has three distinct climate zones. In the central regions, they have monsoon season from October through to April, and in the North and South the monsoon season runs from May to September. The rest of the year sees dry climates, with exceptionally hot weather all over the country throughout the rest of the year, except for the North that has a cooler climate between the months of October to April. Vietnam’s high season runs from September through March, but if you want to visit the beaches, the best time to travel would be between May and August.
Did you know?
In Vietnam they have a special drink called Ruou Ran (snake wine), containing pickled snake, which can apparently cure any disease
Vietnamese people usually greet each other by joining hands and bowing slightly, and if you want to greet the locals, a phrase Chào ông! like is perfect!
Tet Nguyen Dan - This is probably one of Vietnam’s biggest and most important festivals, and marks the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. This festival lasts for three days and is a lively showoff of Vietnamese culture at its best.
Quan The Am
This festival sees a lot of folk song, lion dances, floating lamps on the river and handicrafts being exhibited. It is a celebration honoring an Avalokiesvara Bodhisattva statue, located within a cave in the Marble Mountains.
Truong Yen- This festival celebrates the remembrance of King Dinh Tien Hoang, who united the country. It also celebrates King Le Dai Hanh who saw off foreign invaders. You can witness a mock battle, the lighting of incense sticks and the exhibition of some Chinese characters at this festival.
Do Sun This is the Vietnamese Buffalo Fighting Festival and is one of their more extreme events, and takes place in Haiphong.
Oc Om Bok - This is the festival where Khmer residents pray to the moon goddess to bless their crops and bring them good fortune. Although the praying isn’t much of a sight, the wooden boat race is the main attraction of this event.
- Congee - this is Vietnamese rice porridge that is usually served for breakfast
- Nem - We know these beauties as spring rolls. Vietnamese Nem is made from a mixture of pork mixed with noodles, eggs and mushrooms that is wrapped in rice paper before being fried and served hot.
- Banh Chung - This is a meal made with glutinous rice, pork and onions that gets wrapped in large leaves and is then cooked for about 48 hours. It is served cold and can be eaten any time of the day.
- Bun Cha - This dish consists of grilled pork, rice noodles, deep fried rolls and salad leaves.
- Vietnamese Coffee - Grown in the Central Highlands and served thick, strong and black through a drip filter, this is a drink you have to try when you’re there.
- Avoid wearing very short pants, and keep your clothing simple, informal and discreet.
- Whenever you enter a temple you should always remove your shoes
- Never touch the Vietnamese people on the head, as this is considered an insult
- Always ask permission to take photos of the locals and make sure that you are allowed to take photos at ports, airports and harbors, as some restrictions may apply.