HIGHLIGHTS OF VIETNAM
Vietnam is a country that brings the treasure chest of Asia’s exotic past to the modern world. There, the ancient traditions of the East blend seamlessly with the vibrancy of contemporary city life, as the incense smoke rises over its historic temples, as the aroma of Vietnam’s rich coffee spills out of restored colonial mansions fashioned into high-class restaurants, as the boisterous sounds of the market echo across the frenetic bustle of mopeds coursing through the old lanes of Saigon. Risen from the ashes of war, Vietnam is the Orient’s last delightful surprise, where children sit atop grey oxen treading through lush rice paddies, where old women sit before brightly-painted doorways breaking fresh French loaves, where tropical bays stretch for undiscovered miles, harboring enclosed white sandy beaches and tight enclaves where antique junks with sails of burgundy navigate pillars of rock that stretch from the sea to the sky.
This vibrant, tropical country is located in the heart of Southeast Asia, bordering China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west and the South China Sea to the east. The country stretches between two of Asia’s great river systems, the Red and Mekong, which fan out into broad, fertile deltas, rich in alluvial deposits that feed the country’s burgeoning population. From north to south you will find ‘authentic’ Asia - the fertile plains of the Mekong Delta, majestic mountains in the north, classical pagodas and temples, bustling cities and street markets, and the faded elegance of the French colonial era. You will also encounter a nation rich in culture, tradition and history, and people with a refreshing warmth and friendliness unequalled in Southeast Asia; a people who have put their war torn past behind them and who are clearly focused on a brighter future.
The travel industry in Vietnam is growing at a rapid pace. While the freshness and novelty of travel within Vietnam is still evident, major cities now offer facilities and services at Western standards. Travelling in the more remote areas of Vietnam will, however, involve travel on bumpy roads, in noisy trains, and overnight stays in clean but basic accommodation.
Whilst travelling through Vietnam please also be prepared for possible changes to tour travel plans. Flight and train schedule changes throughout Vietnam are common and are a reality of travelling through this part of the world. TiiM TRAVEL and your tour guide will keep you fully informed of any changes and amendments to the order of sight-seeing. Be aware that if you plan to travel around the time of the Vietnamese national holidays (listed in this guide), you may experience more disruptions than usual to your normal itinerary.
Vietnam’s history may be divided into 8 periods:
One: Pre-history: From circa 400,000 years (Paleolithic) to 4,000 years (Neolithic) ago, cultures in the area included Son Vi, Hoa Binh, Bac Son, Halong and Hoa Loc.
Two: Proto-history: According to legends, Vietnam originated in the seventh century BC when the Hung Kings founded Van Lang. In the third century BC, King An Duong Vuong named founded Au Lac and ruled until 179 BC.
Three: Chinese occupation: Northern Vietnam was occupied by Chine from the first to the tenth century AD.
Four: Independence: Local kings ruled the area from 939 to 1860 AD.
Five: French colonialism: The French colonized Vietnam from 1858 to the August Revolution in 1945, and from 1946 to the victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
Six: Independence: The Socialist Republic of Vietnam was founded after the 1945 revolution, when President Ho Chi Minh declared independence.
Seven: American War: Vietnam fought the Americans from 1954 to Ho Chi Minh’s victory on April 30, 1975.
Eight: From 1975 until now, Vietnam has been working towards development and success.
Vietnam is currently one of South-East Asia's fastest growing economies and joined the WTO in January 2007, following a long negotiation process that lasted over a decade. This is providing an important boost to the economy and helping to ensure the continuation of liberalizing reforms.
There are 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam. The Viet, or the Kinh, people account for 86,2% of Vietnam’s population and are mostly concentrated in the lowlands. By contrast, most of the country’s 5.5 million ethnic minority people live in mountainous areas.
Major spiritual influences in Vietnam include Buddhism, Confucianism, and Ancestor Worship. Christianity arrived in the late 18th century and is now the second major religion following Buddhism. Other religions practiced include Islam and Cao Dai, with higher concentrations in the South.
The official unit of currency in Vietnam is the dong. Approximate exchange rates at the time of printing are:
1USD equals 23,300VND
1EUR equals 27,300VND
1GBP equals 30,500VND
1AUD equals 17,000VND
1CAD equals 18,000VND
1INR equals 340VND
You are able to bring your home currency to Vietnam in cash or travelers cheques (AUD, GBP, CAD or USD). All international currency, with the exception of US dollars, must be changed into the local currency, the Vietnamese dong. You can pay for goods and services in US dollars or Vietnam dong, however you will get better value for your money if you use local currency. Most hotels change traveler cheques (with a 1% to 2% commission) and cash at reasonable rates. Credit cards (Visa or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted) can be used in a number of shops and restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi, however they are not always widely accepted outside these cities. ATM’s are now plentiful throughout the country at all major cities and towns. Please note if travelling to remote areas of Vietnam it is advisable to carry dong or USD cash.
Vietnam is essentially a tropical country with a humid monsoon climate. Average temperatures year-round range from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius so there is no particularly good or bad time to visit Vietnam.
In June and July, the average temperature in Hanoi is 29 C., in Hue is 29.3 C., ad in Ho Chi Minh City is 28 C. Lowland areas receive around 1,500mm of rain per year, while mountainous areas receive 2,000mm to 3,000mm. Humidity can reach up to 90% in the rainy season.
South Vietnam has only two seasons: cool and dry from November to April and hot and rainy from May to October. Humidity in the south during the months of June and July ranges between 75% and 85%. The hottest months are from March to May. The South is warm all year round, with seasonal variations in temperature averaging just three degrees Celsius.
North Vietnam has four seasons though conditions can change dramatically throughout the day. Autumn is considered the most beautiful season. The winter months from November to April are usually cold and humid. The months of December and January can be particularly cool with temperatures as low as 8 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can drop to 0 degrees Celsius in Sapa (in the highlands near the Chinese border) in winter. Summer, from May to October, can be quite hot and wet with regular downpours and occasional typhoons. The hottest months are July and August in Hanoi.
Central Vietnam is usually dry from May to October and wet from December to February. October and November may experience unstable weather conditions and flooding.
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and tasty, and one of the many highlights of a visit to the country. Most food presented is well cooked, however some optional dishes may be served cold. Travelers should note that raw, cold food presents a higher risk of stomach upset than well cooked food. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually a mix of buffet and continental style. Lunch should cost around $US5-10 and dinner approximately $US7-20, depending on the restaurant. Drinking local tap water is not recommended, even in hotels. Bottled water is readily available throughout Vietnam.
Insight Guides - Vietnam
The Rough Guide to Vietnam
Lonely Planet Guide to Vietnam
World Food Vietnam - for people who live to eat, drink and travel
A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan
Ho Chi Minh by William J. Duiker
Once Upon A Distant War by William Prochnau
The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, Hell in a Very Small Place by Bernard Fall
In Retrospect - The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam by Robert McNamara
The Living and the Dead - Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War by Paul Hendrickson
The Vietnam Reader Edited by Walter Capps
Fire In The Lake by Frances FitzGerald
Vietnam - A History by Stanley Karnow
Shadows and Wind by Robert Templer
Catfish and Mandala: A 2 Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham
The Trouble with Tigers – the rise and fall of South East Asia by Victor Mallet.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Sorrow of War - a novel of North Vietnam by Bao Ninh
Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong, Phan Huy Duong, Nina McPherson
Earth and Water: Encounters in Viet Nam by Edith Shillue, Kevin Bowen
Novel without a name by Duong Thu Huong
After the Sorrow by Lady Borton
Vietnam time is:
7hrs ahead of GMT
3hrs behind Australian Eastern Standard Time
5hrs behind New Zealand
12hrs ahead of Canada Eastern Time
15hrs ahead of Canada Pacific Time
12hrs ahead of US Eastern Time
15hrs ahead of US Pacific Time
31 Dec 2018: International New Year's Eve: Public holiday.
01 Jan 2019: International New Year's Day: Public holiday.
05 Feb 2019: Lunar New Year’s Eve (Vietnam): Public holiday. [OFF from Sat 02 Feb 2019 to Sun 10 Feb 2019. Resume on Mon 11 Feb 2019]
14 Apr 2019: Anniversary of Hung Kings (Vietnam): Public holiday. [OFF from Sat 13 Apr 2019 to Mon 15 Apr 2019. Resume on Tue 16 Apr 2019]
30 Apr 2019: Independence Day: Public holiday.
01 May 2019: Labor Day: Public holiday. [OFF from Sat 27 Apr 2019 to Wed 01 May 2019. Resume on Thu 02 May 2019]
02 Sep 2019: National Day: Public holiday. [OFF from Sat 31 Aug 2019 to Mon 02 Sep 2019. Resume on Tue 03 Sep 2019]
24 Dec 2019: Christmas Eve: Not a public holiday.
WHEN TO GO
Choosing suitable time for your trip might be the first thing you thought of when you have days off and plan your journey. In Vietnam there are 3 main parts of the country: The North, the Center and the South. The weather in those 3 part is totally different. So the best time to have a trip that could fully enjoy all three parts is from December to March. Why?
+ Avoid storms of July and August that affect your trip (cancel or miss some excursions due to bad weather)
+ Avoid rainy season of the South (from May to October)
+ Avoid superhot summer weather (normally in April)
+ From December to March, it's cold and dry in the north and center, warm in the south.
HOW MANY DAYS
The length of your trip of course depends on how many days do you have to travel. Here are some suggestions for those who come to Vietnam for the first time:
Visit all country in the most basic way: 10 days. Within 10 days you will have enough time to go to main and popular cities of Vietnam like Hanoi, Mai Chau o Sapa, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City or Mekong Delta. You will have chance to meet the culture of this Asian country from north to south or vice versa.
Visit all country combined with beach relax: 14 days. You might have heard of some beautiful beaches in Vietnam that worth a relaxation such as Da Nang beach, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc. Once you are a fan of sand and see, don’t miss this chance to breathe the beach air of Vietnam.
Visit only the North: 6 days. You only interested in the north part? So you can spend 6 days to get deep insight this zone. Spending time in Hanoi, Sapa or Mai Chau for mountainous atmosphere and then go to the sea in Halong Bay. Don’t go in July or August, storms might affect your trip and expectations.
Visit only the South: 6 days. The main places that you might want to experiment is Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi tunnels (for fans of history) and the Mekong Delta zone.
PASSPORT AND VISA
To enter Vietnam, you will need to bring your passport that be valid for at least 6 months on the date you enter.
A valid visa is required for almost citizens of foreign countries to visit Vietnam for any purposes. Citizens of some countries who have a visa exemption agreement with Vietnam do not need to get a visa to Vietnam for a certain period of time. And also not all travelers who require a visa to Vietnam are supported with visa on arrival. Hence, make sure whether you need a visa to Vietnam or not and are supported with visa on arrival.
When you book Vietnam tour with TiiM travel, we always arrange visa on arrival for free of charge.
WHAT TO BRING
Personal papers: Passport/Vietnam Visa if be required/ travel assurance/ flight tickets/ all travel confirmation voucher/ photos of passport in separate place/ last updated information for your trip.
Clothing and luggage: Depend on the period time of travel above you can bring suitable clothes. Light jacket, comfortable shoes, convenient clothes are recommend since you will explore different zones with different weather and temperature. Don’t just bring shorts and too revealing clothes because they are not allowed to enter pagodas and temples.
Money: There are ATM machines available anywhere, so you do not need bring to much cash. You can withdraw cash from them with the good exchange rate. Keep lots of pence in Dong to buy small things or pay for transportation.
Personal items: Travel hair dryer/ bath towel/ shaving equipment…You can bring it from your home, or you can buy it from many shops when you get arrival in Vietnam. These things often set up in most of hotels/hostels in Vietnam. The good idea is always carry toiletries in your daypack when you have an outside day.
Electrical equipment: Smart-phone or iPad is great thing to have. Internet connection and Wi-Fi is available almost anywhere. In Vietnam, the voltage is 220V so you ought to bring electrical adapter if your equipment uses the different voltage. Chargers and pre-charged battery is very necessary when you have a long trip.
WHERE TO VISIT
1 -> Hustle and bustle in Hanoi
2 -> Marvel at rice terraces Sapa
3 -> Find the right angle at Halong Bay
4 -> Get suited and booted in Hoi An
5 -> Look out over Ho Chi Minh City
6 -> Breathe in the Mekong
7 - > Go underground at Cu Chi Tunnels
8 -> Combine with Cambodia Angkor Wat
9 -> Chill out on the beach: Phu Quoc Island, Hoi An, Danang, Mui Ne, Nhatrang...
Information herein is correct at the time of preparation; however, the rapid development of tourism in Indochina has the potential to make some of the information in this guide irrelevant. This information is intended as a guide only and TiiM TRAVEL is not responsible for any inaccuracies. This document does not, in any way, alter our conditions of reservation. Please contact us with your comments if, during the course of your travels, you find that the information in this guide is incorrect or out of date.