Do not travel to Vietnam without reading this! Essential information for traveling to Vietnam: map of Vietnam, visa, Vietnamese cuisine, what clothes to take to Vietnam, language, etc. Do you want to enjoy a trip to Vietnam authentic and unforgettable without having to worry about your health, your safety or your budget? It is better to have everything anticipated and avoid surprises when traveling to Vietnam and sightseeing.
Useful information to prepare your trip to Vietnam:
It is a good precaution to inform yourself before traveling to any country and your trip to Vietnam deserves a little previous preparation to be able to enjoy with total serenity of your holidays in this wonderful country.
It is enough to collect some practical information such as the ones shown below and we will take care of the rest so that you can enjoy an unforgettable stay in Vietnam.
Vietnamese population: 90.5 million, divided into 54 ethnic groups
Capital of Vietnam: Hanoi
Currency: Dong or Vietnam Dong (VND)
Time: GMT + 7 or Madrid + 5 in summer and Madrid + 6 in winter
International telephone prefix: +84 (calling from abroad the "0" that appears first in the local numbers is omitted) for example, our offices + 84-24-3828-0702)
Visa: Can be obtained on arrival at any International Airport
Vietnam is a little bit bigger than Italy but its geographical and cultural diversity is immense. In the mountainous north, four seasons stand out although the exuberant south enjoys a tropical climate throughout the year. The cultural diversity of Vietnam comes from its history that goes back 4000 years ago.
Its historical heritage includes more than a century of Chinese occupation, which left a strong cultural influence that is very evident in the architecture of the pagodas, in the local cuisine and in the practice of Confucianism.
In many parts of Vietnam, the remnants of the French colonial heritage are still very visible in particular in the architectural style of pastel-yellow administrative villas and buildings, as well as in bakeries and cafes (did you know that Vietnam is the second exporter of coffee of the world?).
Although a large part of Vietnam has not changed much, you will see infrastructures and technologies in large modern cities. Visitors can choose between different levels of comfort: economic or luxury accommodation, public or private transport, local or gastronomic restaurants.
When doing tourism in Vietnam, it is possible to go through the different historical periods through which this country has passed.
Traveling to Vietnam will allow you to know a country with a rich past and a great future.
THE MOST OUTSTANDING OF VIETNAM
Tourists who come to Vietnam for the first time start in Hanoi and travel south to Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa.
It is the cultural heart of Vietnam and the "Paris of the East", where you can see pagodas next to French colonial style villas.
The most emblematic places of the Vietnamese capital with its cultural and historical riches.
In Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, you will discover the real past of the country. The Citadel and the Royal Tombs represent an era of cultural rebirth. Imperial city located on the two banks of the Perfume River, in the center of Vietnam.
UNESCO World Heritage Site, with thousands of calcareous peaks covered by the jungle that emerge from the Bay. Cruises of one or more nights aboard a traditional reed boat are very successful. Take a cruise on a traditional boat that will take you from its main routes to the remote and beautiful bay Bai Tu Long.
A less tourist alternative to Sapa and is only four hours drive from Hanoi. In this place live several ethnic minorities, and it is also ideal for walks on foot or by bicycle as well as to immerse yourself in the culture. Admire limestone hills covered with jungle, mosaics of green rice fields, tea plantations and waterfalls.
UNESCO World Heritage City, Hoi An was a scale city of Dutch spice merchants. Hoi An consists of magnificent architecture, white sand beaches, hundreds of tailors and restaurants as well as quality cooking classes. It is a quiet and romantic city that can not be missed. Discover a fishing village of the fifteenth century, restored to its former splendor.
Dalat is in the mountainous lands of the center of the country. It is the favorite destination of the Vietnamese newlyweds thanks to a cool climate, flower crops and villas from the French colonial era. It is also a perfect city for excursions, bicycle rides and golf on international terrain. Cross mountain ranges to find wild monkeys. You can spend the night camping at Lake Tuyen Lam.
For travelers who want to rest on the beach during the holidays. Fishing, diving and kayaking are some of the possible activities.
Tour the most famous shores from north to south, pass by Halong Bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Mui Ne.
Cosmopolitan center from where you can access the system of the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta. The climate of Saigon is humid and warm throughout the year. Witness the dedication and ingenuity of Vietcong soldiers during the war against the United States.
Spa town four hours by car from Ho Chi Minh City. The climatic conditions are ideal for windsurfing, sailing or descending the giant sand dunes by sledge. Relax in paradise near Ho Chi Minh City, golden sand beaches and riverside lined with palm trees.
The island is one hour by plane from Ho Chi Minh City. Phu Quoc offers tranquility and an ideal climate when typhoons affect the coastal areas of the continent. A cultural trip with picturesque landscapes, hospitality or adventure, Vietnam is your destination! Spend moments of relaxation on the island and its beaches in Vietnam, excellent value for money.
You have to take a train from Hanoi to reach the Sapa Mountains, near the Chinese border. Do not miss excursions to this old French altitude station, where it is cooler than in the city. It will be the opportunity to meet the ethnic communities that live in a splendid landscape and wear a traditional embroidered clothing. Discover fascinating ethnic minorities in the charming mountain town, you will make spectacular hiking.
You can visit the Mekong Delta in one or several days from Ho Chi Minh City. Go in a traditional sampan to Cai Be or visit the floating markets of Can Tho. One night cruise aboard the comfortable Bassac boat, one of the best experiences in the Mekong Delta. Bicycle excursions for the most adventurous and sleep at home with local guests. Also take a boat from Chau Doc to the Cambodian border, near Phnom Penh. Meet Buddhist monks in Sa Dec and customs in the Chau Doc region, through its floating market.
VISA TO TRAVEL TO VIETNAM
For stays of less than 14 days and if you do not plan to leave the country during this period, Spanish visitors do not need a visa. It must have been a minimum of 30 days since the last time Vietnam was visited or otherwise the visa will be mandatory.
For more than 14 days, or any other case, visitors must obtain a visa before arriving in Vietnam.
Passage To Cambodia can process the invitation letter to Vietnam at a reduced price for tourists who book a trip with us.
The process is the following:
ARRIVAL IN VIETNAM
All visitors have to fill in an arrival form. It must be delivered at the same time as the passport and visa to immigration agents and customs agents. The "Exit" part will be torn off and returned to visitors. It is essential that they keep this part to present it on the day of departure.
If you have not hired the assistance of a Passage To Cambodia's representative upon arrival at the airport, we advise you to do the following:
The Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi is approximately 35 kilometers north of the city (45 minutes by car). A taxi to the city center costs about 16 USD (360,000 VND). There is a taxi rank outside the airport with representatives, they agree on the price before sitting in the taxi. We advise Noi Bai taxis, the price is fixed on posters, then the counter is not necessary. Avoid people who directly propose a taxi inside or outside the airport. We recommend that you go directly to the taxi stand.
The airport of Saigon is approximately 7 kilometers northwest of the city center. It is best to take a taxi to the exit of the terminal to the city. The tour should cost between 10 and 15 dollars.
MONEY AND CURRENCY OF VIETNAM
The official currency is Dong (VND). Banknotes are easily identified by colors, and are denominated in 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 500,000 dong. There is no presentation of VND in currency. It is better not to change too much money at one time so as not to run into a huge wad of bills
The Dong is not a convertible currency, and the exchange rate, in the time of writing, is approximately:
You can with foreign credit cards in most of the great restaurants and stores.
Cash checks can be exchanged in cash at banks and currency exchange offices but it is essential to present the passport. Normally, they charge a commission, between 2% and 5%, to change the traveler's checks.
Visa and Mastercard cards are increasingly accepted in many of the large hotels and restaurants, particularly in large cities.
Check the status of the Vietnamese tickets you receive, because if they are torn, most restaurants and shops will not accept them.
Several international banks are present in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City with ATMs available 24 hours a day, such as ANZ Bank and HSBC. You can withdraw money with Visa and MasterCard or others like Cirrus.
In small cities, it is better to carry cash.
Remember that the dong can not be changed outside of Vietnam.
THE CLIMATE IN VIETNAM
The elongated shape of Vietnam gives it its climatic variety, with a tropical zone and a subtropical zone. In general, the best time to travel to Vietnam is during the less rainy months, that is April / May and October / November.
Note well that the high tourist season is between November and March while the low season is between April and October.
The South (from Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet)
In the South, it is hot all year round and there are two seasons.
Between May and October, it is the wet season with daily showers, but they are brief and easily predictable.
In November and April, it is the dry season that is usually sunny and with humidity.
The Center (from Nha Trang to Hue)
Nha Trang enjoys a sunny climate almost all year round but between November and December, abundant rains irrigate the region.
In Dalat, located at an altitude of 1500 meters, it is cooler than in the littoral region, particularly between November and March. Typhoons affect the regions of Hue and Danang when the climate becomes colder, covered and wet.
The North (from Hanoi to Sapa)
In this region, between May and October, it is summer and temperatures are between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius with occasional heavy showers.
In winter, that is from December to March, the temperatures are between 10 and 15 degrees. The months of February and March can be humid because of the drizzle and a covered sky.
SECURITY IN VIETNAM
Vietnam was chosen as one of the safest destinations in the world. According to women and lonely travelers, it is a country where you can go easily and without problems. However, there are some isolated cases of petty crime and pickpocketing in Ho Chi Minh City and to a lesser extent in Hanoi.
Rice or noodles with soup, sautéed and other main dishes constitute a typical Vietnamese meal. Generally, the dishes are not spicy and are accompanied by hot sauce, nuoc mam (fish sauce) and soy sauce.
The Pho is the traditional Vietnamese breakfast. It is a large bowl of broth flavored with fresh coriander and bean sprouts in which they add noodles with thin slices of beef or chicken.
The three main regions of the country, the North, the Center and the South have their own culinary specialties.
Globally, the North is famous for noodle soups and sautéed meat or seafood dishes.
The region of the Center, in the vicinity of Hue in particular, has the most elaborate cuisine in the whole country.
In the South, where a great variety of spices are found, the food tends to be more spicy.
Thanks to its 3000 kilometers of coastline, the seafood is varied and delicious. You will find crabs, shrimp, lobsters and squid in bulk, not to mention the hundreds of varieties of fish.
CLOTHES FOR YOUR TRIP TO VIETNAM
We recommend that you wear light, comfortable and easily washed clothes. It can get quite cold in Hanoi during the winter, as well as in the Center during the rainy season. Therefore, wearing a jacket could be a good idea. It is also recommended to wear walking shoes and sandals that are easily removed, especially to visit the temples and private houses.
POPULATION AND DEMOGRAPHIC DATA OF VIETNAM
The majority of the population consists of the Viet or Kinh (85%) who speak the Vietnamese language. The minority population is composed of 50 ethnic communities that live mainly in the mountain regions of the North and the Center. The best-known tribes are the Tay, the Hmong, the Zao, the White and Black Thai (both come mainly from the north) and the Hoa. Each tribe has its own customs and its own dialect although Vietnamese is the language of instruction in local schools.
LANGUAGE IN VIETNAM
The official language, Vietnamese, is a tonal language that can be compared to Cambodian khmer. Each syllable can be written with six different tones that determine the meaning of the word. It is the reason why foreigners have such difficulty in learning it.
In the communities of mountain regions, they also speak other languages such as Chinese, Khmer or Cham. Although Vietnamese has similarities with Southeast Asian languages such as Chinese, Vietnamese belongs to another language group.
The Vietnamese is written with the Roman alphabet and the accents define the different tones. It was Catholic missionaries who, in the seventeenth century, created this writing system called Quoc Ngu, to translate sacred texts. But in the end, and particularly after the First World War, this system replaced the old one that had been used unofficially for centuries.
HOLIDAYS IN VIETNAM
The most important and most celebrated day of the year is the Tet, or lunar new year, which coincides with the cycle of the moon. The celebrations officially last three days, although many shops close their doors the whole week.
Travel recommendation during the Tet:
Buffalo Tours does not recommend the trip during the Tet (usually a week before and after the day of the Tet).
During that period, although the country is lively, trains, buses and flights are full or expensive, restaurants, shops, tailors and some important tourist sites close. The floating markets of the Mekong are not celebrated during the week that follows the Tet.
If they have no other option than to travel during this period, it is possible that the services received do not correspond to those they would receive during other periods of the year.
Other important holidays are:
The Liberation of Saigon → April 30
International Labor Day → May 1
Anniversary of Ho Chi Minh → May 19
National Day of Vietnam → September 2
About the Tet:
The Tet Nguyen Dan is the most important festival for the Kinh ethnic majority. In Vietnam, it is believed that the twelve months of the year depend on the first day of the lunar year, so people strive to organize a perfect Tet.
In Hanoi, the narrow streets of the old neighborhood are animated. Everyone hurries to go to the hairdresser, buy new clothes, clean the house, visit friends, pay their debts and store traditional sweets. The shops hang red flags where you can read: "Chuc Mung Nam Moi" (Happy New Year) and the streets of the city are illuminated. Many booths open throughout the city to sell only "kumquat" bushes. Others sell peach trees, a symbol of life and happiness, that people take home to celebrate the arrival of spring.
As sellers roam the city with their peach trees tied to their motorcycles, the streets look like living, pink forests.
In the south of the country, people decorate their house with branches of yellow apricots and place a coconut, a papaya, a mango and a chirimoya on the family altar. The names of these fruits in the southern dialect form a prayer that brings success and satisfaction.
During the Tet, it is said that there are three crucial meetings
The day begins with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where we can learn more about the man who led Vietnam towards the independence of French colonialism. After having dedicated his life to the liberation of his country from colonialism, Ho Chi Minh died in 1969 and his body was preserved for posterity. Later we can walk through the gardens to see the unique pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace. Later, we will visit a relic of the 11th century, the Temple of Literature, which was built as a tribute to the Chinese scholar Confucius.
We will leave the capital and its effervescence, taking the route of Halong Bay for approximately four hours. Arriving at the coast, you will board a boat to embark on Mon Cheri, a beautifully restored luxury rush. You will eat there, admiring the jade green waters of the archipelago. In the afternoon, the boat will take you to one of its secluded areas, ideal for swimming and kayaking around the karst monoliths.
Welcome to Vietnam! You will meet your guide at the airport and you will be taken to the hotel to cool off. At nightfall, he will make his first explorations in Hoan Kiem, the historic center of the capital, of gastronomic nature with street food. It will be a great opportunity to taste dishes as strange as they are wonderful. This culinary tour of Hanoi will start at the corner of Bia Hoi Corner, where you can taste the local beer on tap.
You will leave Hanoi in the morning, after meeting with your guide and driver, to go to the region of Ninh Binh, often nicknamed "the Halong bay on land". In fact, this amazing province can be proud to have a topography similar to that of the famous calcareous sugar loaves of the coast. Here, instead of rising above the sea, these karstic rock formations rise from the emerald green rice fields and sinuous rivers.
You will meet your guide at the hotel in the morning, and walk south of Sapa to the lively town of Cat Cat. You will visit one of the less crowded areas of the region through some of its most picturesque valleys, surrounding the town by Y Linh Ho. Then you will follow a gentle slope through emerald green rice paddies, dominating the throat of a deep river. Arriving at its shore, you can wet your feet in cold mountain waters and watch children fishing with nets.
You will spend the day exploring the mythical Mekong delta, land of meandering water courses, lush rice fields and floating markets. Life is governed by the ebb and flow of the most iconic river in Southeast Asia. You will get up very early to take a cruise aboard a small boat to the famous Chau Doc river market, where many merchants and farmers from the region meet.
The legendary Halong Bay is truly one of Vietnam's most impressive scenic sights. We embark a traditional boat for a five hour trip around Halong Bay. The exciting cruise provides us a fantastic view of the picturesque scenery blending with the sky and some 3,000 limestone islands, which rise amazingly from the clear and emerald water.
The incredible underground network in Cu Chi stretched over 200 kilometres and became legendary during the American war. The extensive tunnels have been specially constructed with living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, filed hospitals, command centres, plus accommodation. Today we have an excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels to visit an exposition hall and a widened section of the tunnels to get a feel of the underground life.