Shaped like an elongated ‘S’, Vietnam stretches along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. A local metaphor likens it to a long bamboo pole hung with two baskets of rice, represented by the two fertile regions at either end of the country.
Vietnam Travel Guide
The lush Red River Delta and the highlands in the north, known for their magnificent scenery and colourful hill tribes, complement the agricultural plains and floating markets of the Mekong Delta in the south perfectly.
The impact of Japanese and Chinese trade, French occupation and American intervention has had on obvious influence on Vietnam. These influences are readily apparent in the vivid legacy from different cultures evident in the character of its towns, as well as in the architecture and food.
The quaint town of Hoi An, once a major trading port, boasts the perfectly preserved architectural influences of the Asian merchants from the north, while the broad leafy boulevards of the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are reminiscent of France.
Vietnam is known for it’s cuisine and offers an abundance of flavorful options for travelers to choose from. Hue is the old imperial capital of Vietnam with its royal palaces and palatial mausoleums, and nearby the battle sites of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) are reminders of the brutality of war.
Despite rapid economic expansion over recent years, Vietnam’s cultural roots remain strong. Visitors will find ancient temples and colourful pagodas scattered throughout urban centres, interspersed with luxurious hotels and sleek skyscrapers. A country with a complex history, boundless natural beauty and facinating cultural influences, Vietnam provides a wealth of different activities and unique experiences.
Best time to visit Vietnam
There is no clear-cut best time to visit Vietnam. However, spring (February to April) and autumn (August to October) offer temperate weather and are the driest times of year. Travelers may want to avoid Monsoon season: roughly May to September in the southwest and October to April in the Northeast. Nonetheless, most people travel over the December to January period. Travelers should remember that the regions have such varied weather patterns that it ultimately depends on where they intend to visit.
What to pack
Sandals are a must. Travelers should bring padlocks for their bags and should carry or leave valuables anywhere without locking them up. Moisture-wicking clothing is best and modest clothing is essential for visiting pogodas and temples. Basic medical supplies are always useful.
What to buy
Vietnamese silk and Ao Dai (national dress), snake wine, local handicrafts and arts, jewellery and cheap electronics.
Pho (one of many fantastic Vietnamese soups), Banh Xeo (‘sizzling pancake’) and Bun Tom Nuong Xa (shrimp and vegetables).
A final word
Vietnam offers the perfect blend of energetic city life and rural tranquillity. It is one of the most inexpensive holiday destinations, and its tourist culture provides a kaleidoscopic view of this compelling nation.
DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT TO CITY CENTRE: Hanoi: 45 kilometres, Ho Chi Minh City: 8 kilometres
TIME ZONE: GMT +7 hours
CURRENCY: Vietnamese Dong (VND). Credit cards are accepted although small local businesses often only accept cash
LANGUAGES: Vietnamese is the official languages; English is widely spoken in tourist areas
WHEN TO VISIT: Vietnam’s climate is as varied as its geography. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Hanoi and Halong Bay, and promise moderate temperatures with little rain. Spring and early summer months are usually warm and dry in Danang and Hoi An