Vietnam Travel Tips – Things to know before you go

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Vietnam Travel Tips: Things to Know Before you Travel to Vietnam

  • The name Hồ Chí Minh in the Ho Chi Minh City comes from the communist leader who lead the rebel against the French colonial forces. He is revered as the father of the nation.
  • According to recent amendment in property legislation non Vietnamese are allowed to own property in the country.
  • Culture: Mahayana Buddhism is dominating religion of the country with over 80% of population.
  • Festival: Tết is the biggest festival in Vietnam – which marks the Lunar New Year and takes places between Jan and March.
  • Vietnam Visa: Getting a visa for Vietnam trip is a breeze. You can obtain an e-visa by first applying online and then getting it done at the airport.
  • Drink: Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world. You will find Vietnamese Coffee everywhere, usually drank cold with ice and condensed milk.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is super cheap throughout Vietnam, and can be easily obtained at mini marts.
  • Food: Vietnam is a foodie paradise, if for nothing else travel to Vietnam just for the food. Due to cultural reasons, vegetarians too had decent choices.
  • Traveling within Vietnam: Getting around Vietnam is easy as the country has a north to south train with multiple frequencies throughout the day. Air connectivity is also good and flight prices in budget airlines are very cheap.
  • Getting to Vietnam: Saigon has the biggest airport in the country and is equipped with all the modern facilities.
  • Online Booking: For booking train and bus online in Vietnam use or
  • Hostels: Perhaps one of the biggest expense of every trip is accommodation. Hostels in Vietnam are cheap and usually cost around $5-$7.
  • Major tourist attractions: Saigon, Hoi An, Hanoi, Phong Na, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh are the top tourist destinations in Vietnam.

History Of Vietnam

  • Throughout it’s lifetime, Vietnam has a history of political turmoils. In modern times, the country was ruled by china, French and then divided into two countries – North and South Vietnam.
  • In the year 1954 as Vietnam was freed from French Colonial rule, it was split into two – North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was led by communist government (Ho Chi Minh as the leader) backed by USSR while South Vietnam was declared a capitalist state backed by USA. Perfect way to mess a country!
  • The infamous Vietnam War saw nearly half a million US troops sent to South Vietnam in the year 1966. Among Vietnamese the war is known as American War. The war resulted in a unprecedented of loss of life with more than three million Vietnamese and fifty thousand plus Americans dead.
  • The war finally ended in 1975 with a tank belonging to North driving through Presidential Palace in the southern stronghold of  Ho Chi Minh City.

How to get Vietnam Visa on Arrival

Visa free travel for a limited number of days is allowed for citizens of certain countries – European countries include – England, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Italy. Asian countries – Japan, Russia, Philippines and South Korea. People from the immediate neighboring countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos can stay in Vietnam for upto 30 days.

Vietnam issues visa on arrival for tourism purposes but one needs to obtain letter of approval in advance. You can get the letter from one of numerous online agencies for a small fee of around $15-20. In order to get the letter you need to submit your personal information such as DOB, Nationality, travel dates, and passport details. The agency then applies for the approval at Department of Immigration, Vietnam and forwards the letter through email to the applicant. The whole process take around 3-5 days to complete. Please note that visa on arrival is available only at airports and not at anyone of the border crossings.

Alternatively, you can apply for a Vietnam Visa at the Vietnamese embassy near you.

How to reach Ho Chi Minh City by Flight

Ho Chi Minh city, located in the southern part, is the biggest airport in Vietnam, while Hanoi is main airport in the northern part of the country. If you are planning to visit the central Vietnam then Da Nang is the airport of choice.

The tiny visa free island of Phu Quoc also has an airport, though connectivity is limited to nearby international destinations only.

How to reach Ho Chi Minh City by Land – Crossing the Border

Before making a travel plan please note that visa on arrival are not available at border crossing.

Crossing the Border Between Cambodia and Vietnam

Vietnamese capital Ho Chi Minh City is well connected by road to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. There are several buses which ply between the two capitals, the journey time is usually around 6 hours and the tickets costs about 12-15 USD. Tourists who are coming from or going to Angkor Wat temple can board the direct bus between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap.

If you are coming or going to the beach town Sihanoukville then you can find a bus connecting with Ha Tien and as well as Ho Chi Minh City.

Crossing the Border Between Laos and Vietnam

The bus journey could be quite long and nightmarish. //tripadvisor reference – testimonials/ accounts.

How to Get Around Vietnam

How to Get Around Vietnam by Flight

Vietnam has a decent domestic air network and the flight between the two cities Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi takes two hours.

How to Get Around Vietnam by Train

Reunification Express the popular train runs through the length of the country connecting the Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City. The whole journey takes about 32 hours. It is recommended to travel in sleep, which also can be categorized into soft and hard sleeper. Soft sleeper is preferable over the other. The tickets can be bought on the spot at the station or from agents for an extra fee. It is recommended to buy the train ticket for Reunification Express a few days in advance during the peak season.

Check out the railway website for detailed information:

How to Get Around Vietnam by Bus

The bus travel is painfully slow but at the same time very pocket friendly. E.g A Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh bus ticket will cost you somewhere around US $25. The tickets can be conveniently booked from your guesthouse and include the free pickup as well. However, it is recommended to board the bus at the bus office itself to get the choice of seat.

How to Get Around Vietnam by Motorbike

It is illegal for outsiders to rent and ride a bike without an international licence or without temp Vietnamese permit but people do it anyway as the rules is not strictly enforced. If you do mange to get yourself in trouble, be apologetic and speak softly, you might just escape with a low fine or sometimes even without paying a fine.

Just like Thailand bikes can easily be rented from guesthouses and hostels you are staying in. Be wary of the traffic in the cities as it can be quite chaotic and very challenging for an inexperienced rider.

The local Vietnamese currency is called Dong and US $1 is roughly equivalent to 24,000 Dong.

What to drink in Vietnam

Vietnamese Beer

If you are the beer types there are a variety of locally brewed beers available. Saigon Do in southern Vietnam, and Bia Hanoi in North Vietnam are two most popular ones, while in central Vietnam Bia Huda is quite popular.

Also check out the cheap bia hơi (air beer) which is brewed fresh daily and has a low 3% alcohol. However, it’s manufacturing casts a shadow of doubt as it is not inspected or certified by any health or food agency.

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