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Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Guide

A country of captivating beauty and rich history, Vietnam beckons travellers with its diverse experiences. Explore Hanoi's bustling Old Quarter, cruise through the breathtaking Halong Bay, and get lost in the ancient streets of Hoi An. Immerse yourself in the vibrant city life of Ho Chi Minh City and discover its historic landmarks. From the stunning landscapes of Sapa to the tranquil Mekong Delta, Vietnam offers a range of travel adventures that will leave you spellbound.

We would be amiss to not mention Vietnam’s mouthwatering cuisine. Indulge in iconic dishes like pho and banh mi, and venture into bustling night markets to sample the flavours of Vietnam's street food. Beyond the culinary delights, Vietnam's cultural heritage shines through its ancient temples, imperial citadels, and poignant museums. Immerse yourself in the country's rich history and vibrant traditions as you explore its captivating destinations. Vietnam's charm, diverse landscapes, and cultural treasures make it a must-visit destination for travel enthusiasts.

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Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT+7

Money

Vietnamese Dong (VND)

Dialing Code

+84

  • Vietnam is a great way to see Asia on a shoestring with bargain budget offers galore.
  • Take in a gap year trip moving from Vietnam to Laos, Cambodia and Thailand too for an all-in Asian adventure.
  • With history, culture and beautiful landscapes there is every extreme of excitement to be found in Vietnam. 
  • With an abundance of natural beauty, don’t miss the wild wonders of Halong bay or the manicured magic of the Mekong Delta.

Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, is a fusion of flavours, incorporating old and new Asia in a sublime combination. With majestic architecture and colonial history, all set on some stunning lakes, Hanoi is an exotic treat not to be missed. 

  • Take in the Old Quarter of humming Hanoi and check out its 600 pagodas and temples for some full-on Asian flavour. Romantic lakes and lush greenery make this city a magical experience, where you can combine Asia cultural tradition with colonial French flavour for a fascinating fusion.  
  • Be blown away by the splendour of Halong Bay, a natural wonder where 300 islands rise from a sultry sea and add to the mystery and magic of this mythical place.  Be captivated by the caves, bowled over by the beaches and far-reaching forests at this UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Take a trip into the dark mysteries of Phong Nha Cave and marvel at the vast caverns and underground passageways full of eerie stalagmites and stalactites.
  • Hop across to Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon, and get caught up in the thrill of this ancient and modern metropolis. With markets, spices, silks, skyscrapers, pagodas and much much more, this urban gem is the place to soak up the Vietnam vibe.
  • Go off the beaten track for a flora and fauna extravaganza in Cat Tien National Park. Wildlife is abundant, including elephants, leopards, crocodiles, unusual birds and the rare Javan rhinoceros.  It’s a great place to get away from it all and you can explore by hiking, biking or boating your way around its natural wonders. 
  • Head to the countryside and spot some remote hill tribes in unique Dalat. With its chalets and arty cool, Dalat has a flavour of the French Alps and is a honeymoon hotspot. 
  • Laze away your days drifting through the magical Mekong Delta, roaming down the river through the lush green fields and rural retreats full of rice paddies.  Find fruit in a floating market, hop on and off at culturally rich riverside towns and pop into a pagoda or two en route. 
  • For imperial splendour and picture-perfect moments, make sure you don’t miss the ancient city of Hue.  A cultural treasure which lies along the beautifully named Perfume River, Hue is bursting with pagodas and palaces, temples and tasty treats.  A centre for Buddhism, you really feel as though you’ve stepped back in time if you hop across to Hue.

Rice is the staple food of Vietnam, grown in vast rice paddies throughout the country.  Chicken, pork, beef, fish and seafood are main ingredients, and due to the Buddhist influence, there is plenty of vegetarian food on offer.  Herbs such as lemongrass, mint and coriander go with lime, peanut, or fish or soy sauce to make for some mouth-watering flavour combinations. 

Specialities vary from region to region – the north of Vietnam favours black pepper in place of chilli and is less spicy, and seafood is used often. Central Vietnam delights in spicy, colourful food centred on the city of Hue. The south of the country is influenced more by Thailand and China, using coconut milk and chillies in sweeter tasting dishes. 

Vietnam has a climate of extremes, with occasional snow on the northern mountains and temperatures soaring to a sweltering 40°C in the south during the dry season.  There are two monsoon seasons in Vietnam meaning a lot of heavy rainfall during the winter monsoon (October-March) when the north gets very wet and cold, whereas the south is drier and warmer. The summer rains (April/May-October) make the climate hot and humid with some wet weather.  April, May or October are good times to visit as is November-February in the southern regions. In July, August, over Christmas and at Vietnamese New Year (late Jan-early Feb) tourism peaks and it can get very overcrowded. 

Visa

Visas may be required in order to enter or transit through certain countries depending on your passport nationality, your reason for travel and how long you intend to stay.

Visa, passport and entry rules are subject to change and you should check the most up-to-date information from the relevant embassy or visa specialist.

To make things easier we have teamed up with The Travel Visa Company who are one of the UK’s leading travel visa specialists. You can use their website, alongside embassy websites,  to find out the specific entry requirements for the countries you intend to travel to.

For a fee, their dedicated team of experts can also apply for visas on your behalf, taking away the hassle and streamlining the process for you if you wish. For more details on the services they provide please click here – The Travel Visa Company

Passport

Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel. Most countries will also require at least 6 months of validity on your passport from the time you finish your trip.

Further Entry Requirements

Some countries will require proof of certain vaccines, such as yellow fever or covid, in order to gain entry. Please check with the relevant embassy or a visa specialist before travelling.

The official language in Vietnam is Vietnamese. It is not dissimilar to Chinese or the Cambodian language, Khmer. English is fairly widely spoken and in tourist areas, you should find communication in English possible.

There are several different plug sockets in Vietnam, the two-prong flat-blade socket, the two-pin European style socket and the three-pin socket, but to use British appliances you will generally need a universal adaptor. Type A plugs are the norm in southern Vietnam and type C in the north of the country. British-type G plugs may be found in some more modern hotels. 

If you commit a crime in Vietnam, some crimes, such as sex offences or fraud can attract very long prison terms or even a death sentence. The Vietnamese legal system is not well developed and prisons have very poor standards. If arrested, you may be held without charge and prevented from leaving for an unlimited time.

Please be aware that you should never take photographs near military installations. If you are visiting religious or cultural sites in Vietnam, always respect local customs and dress in appropriate clothing.

On arrival in Vietnam try to dress reasonably smartly to avoid being quizzed at immigration. At religious sites, make sure to dress appropriately and behave modestly in line with local customs. It is not permitted for foreign visitors to take Vietnamese nationals with them into their rooms, so bear this in mind while travelling. 

Do not touch someone’s head as it is considered rude, as is pointing, crossing your arms or standing with your hands on your hips. Avoid public displays of affection and dress modestly. 

We have selected what we believe to be the key points that you should be aware of when travelling in Vietnam.

Please note: Gap 360 follows advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and we recommend that you frequently check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for updated travel advice. You can find the website here: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/  

Crime

Vietnam is a country with a low risk of crime, but take all general precautions when travelling to prevent petty theft and pickpocketing, which can occur among crowds and in main tourist or shopping areas. Thieves have been known to use razors to cut the straps or bottoms of bags.

There have been some violent attacks against tourists reported in towns and popular tourist destinations, with some tourists being attacked while travelling by motorcycle taxi. Although sexual assaults are rare, always take sensible precautions and travel in groups with friends. Arguments over hotel, restaurant or taxi bills can become unpleasant so you should research where you are staying and ensure you are clear about the services provided and any extra charges before you arrive.

Typical scams to watch out for include fake charities, gambling and taxis. One scam involves renting you a motorbike, which is then ‘stolen’ by the rental company, forcing you to pay up for a new bike, or a taxi driver telling you that your hotel is full and taking you somewhere he profits from. Begging is also a real problem, as is a high incidence of prostitution so be aware of this, especially in urban areas, and don’t hand out money.

Passports

On arrival in Vietnam, you will need to register with the local police and show your passport. This is usually done for you by your accommodation, but make sure you are registered as you can be fined for failure to do so. You should carry a photocopy of the personal details from your passport with you, and a photocopy of your visa for ID. Make sure that you keep the original documents in a secure place.

Drugs

Drugs are a problem, and involvement with them can lead to severe consequences as Vietnam still carries the death penalty for drugs and other crimes. Illegal drugs are increasingly available in major cities and may have been tampered with or spiked. Drugs in Vietnam are strong and of high potency and tourists have suffered fatal overdoses in the past after taking very small amounts.

If you commit a crime in Vietnam, some crimes, such as sex offences or fraud can attract very long prison terms or even a death sentence. The Vietnamese legal system is not well developed and prisons have very poor standards. If arrested, you may be held without charge and prevented from leaving for an unlimited time.

Transport

Travelling by motorbike taxis can be dangerous and fatal accidents are reported daily. Motorbike accidents may not be covered by your insurance, which can result in expensive medical bills. It is illegal to be on a motorbike in Vietnam without wearing a helmet, but be aware that the safety standards of helmets can vary.

We do not recommend hiring motorbikes, scooters, ATV vehicles, quad bikes or other types of motorised vehicles whilst abroad. Safety and quality of vehicles vary considerably and the traffic conditions can be much more dangerous than what UK travellers are used to. Should you wish to go against this advice, you should ensure you are hiring for a reputable company and that your travel insurance covers you for such activities.

You should use metered, reputable taxis from larger firms, and where possible get your hotel or a restaurant to book you a reliable taxi. Taxi meter costs vary, but meters should start at around 8,000 to 20,000 VND. Some taxis will overcharge for journeys from airports, so check the published fare near taxi stands before you begin your journey.

Buses and coaches in Vietnam are often badly maintained and crashes are not unusual. This risk increases if travelling at night. Be vigilant against petty theft when travelling by bus, and don’t accept ‘free’ transfers to hotels unless you have organised it in advance, as these are usually scams.

Rail travel in Vietnam is generally safe, but petty theft can be a problem, with reports of theft of personal belongings on the Sapa to Hanoi train, while travellers are asleep.

Boat safety regulations and standards vary in Vietnam and are not as strict as in the UK, and a number of fatal boat accidents have been reported, some involving foreign nationals in Halong Bay, so take care when on overnight trips and always consider safety. Check with your tour guide about the safety record and registration of boats, and the certification of personnel before setting off and make sure you get a safety briefing when on board a boat.

Natural Disasters

Eastern coastal regions of Vietnam can be affected by tropical cyclones, and the peak cyclone season is between May and November, although they can also occur outside this period. Approaching storms can be monitored on the Japan Meteorological Agency website and you should always follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders.

Health

Make sure you have visited your GP before travelling to South-East Asia to ensure all your vaccinations are up to date. If you are entering Vietnam from a yellow fever country, you will need to show a yellow fever vaccination certificate to prove you are protected. There have been incidents of malaria, dengue fever, cholera and rabies reported so make sure you receive all the necessary medication and travel advice from your GP before you go.

Avoid street food as this can be contaminated, and don’t drink wine that does not carry a recognised brand name. Drink only bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Make sure you have full medical insurance as healthcare in Vietnam is extremely expensive. Make sure you take your required prescription medications in your hand luggage, with your prescription or a doctor’s letter explaining your requirements, and don’t buy medications in Vietnam as they can be counterfeit.

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