What to do and see in Vietnam is one of the most frequently asked questions by travelers around the world. Vietnam Travel Guide is specially written for all who prefer exploring the offbeat travel destinations. It has something to offer for all kinds of travelers with a variety of holiday experiences like breathtaking Beach Holidays, adrenalin pumping Motorcycle Tours, or a City Tour for the urban traveler, Vietnam War tour for the history buff and Vietnam Train Tour for the off-beat traveler and much more – all customized to suit your needs.
The list of what to do and see in Vietnam is long, so dust up your backpacks, pull out your passports, swimming costumes, glares and sun block cream: to beach hop on a rented bike or walk barefooted on the sandy beaches, or just spend a day canoeing in the pristine emerald waters.
Where to Visit in Vietnam – Tourist Attractions
Marvel at Vietnam’s distinct landscape and energy as you travel from Saigon in the south to Hanoi in the northern region. Explore Vietnam’s turbulent past, meet the resilient locals who are extremely friendly, and get immersed in spectacular panoramas on an unforgettable journey.
Hanoi: Having faced the rigors of Indochina and Vietnams wars Hanoi is a fast paced and charming capital of Vietnam a perfect blend of ancient and contemporary with an almost magical feel to the city. A trip to Hanoi is incomplete without visiting ‘Old Quarter’ packed with charming colonial architecture, Buddhist Pagodas, ancient commercial streets named after businesses dating back 1,000 years.
Hi Chi Min City/Saigon: Vietnam’s largest city boasts of an amazing blend of past and present with the best dining and nightlife.
Hue: A journey through the imperial city of Vietnam with a dynastic past.
Ha Long Bay: Drift your way amongst the beautiful combination of a cluster of limestone rocky peaks and sparkling emerald water at Vietnam’s most famous Ha Long Bay for a perfect beach holiday.
Hoi An: A beautiful old city, rich in culture and history that can be easily seen while on foot. Hoi An is a tourists shopping paradise.
Sapa: Mesmerizing with its pictorial mountain peaks, rice terraces and hill tribes, a quiet town, is a base for Vietnam Trekking Tours with local trekking guides being Hmong tribal women who speak great English.
Nha Trang: Perfect destination for Vietnam Luxury Holiday package Nha Trang is Asia’s most beautiful bay in southern Vietnam – also known as a ‘Seaside Resort City’. Adventure water sports like scuba diving, roller coasters, and wave pools being the main attractions.
Mekong Delta: Quaint villages, colorful floating markets, rice paddies – Mekong Delta is also named “Vietnam’s Rice Basket.” Don’t forget to taste the Vietnamese famous food sourced directly from fish farms.
Ninh Bihn: Is a Hidden Travel Gem in Vietnam with the most majestic and impressive landscape. It is called the “Halong Bay on Land” due to its innumerable limestone cliffs emerging from the ground and spotted across the scenic rice fields. It is the laid back and most serene side of authentic Vietnam travel.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: The world’s largest cave Hang Son Doong also called ‘Mountain River Cave’ is spectacular with a river flowing under the cave, pierced by skylight filtering through mountains of stalagmites called the ‘Cactus Garden’.
A visit to the Dark Cave highly recommended by travelers across the world as well as RoamBabyRoam includes kayaking, zip lining and swimming in the dark accompanied by a bath in the mud pool.
Popular Vietnam Holiday packages to look out for:
- Vietnam Beach Holiday Packages
- Vietnam Treasure Hunt Trips
- Hanoi Tours
- Saigon Tours
- Vietnam Motorcycle Tours
- Vietnam Luxury Holiday Packages
- Vietnam War Tours
Where to stay in Vietnam?
Ha Long Bay: While in Ha Long Bay it is highly recommended to stay as you get a panoramic view of the scenic bay right from your room window. Choose your stay carefully to enjoy the terrace and pool experience if it falls in your budget. Spend your evenings sipping fresh coconut drink while soaking up the magnificence around you. Staying closer to the bay gives you a chance to discover the enchanting town on foot or take a kayaking tour to revel in the stunning rock formations up close. Most hotels here offer Ha Long City Tours as well.
Ho Chi Minh City: Deciding where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City with its 24 districts can be quite a task if you do not make a conscious choice between staying between Downtown or Chinatown.
Downtown offers a variety of accommodation options from five-star hotels to budget guesthouses all within the reach of the backpackers on the street of Pham Ngu Lao. The area offers easy public transportation, with a wide range of restaurants and sightseeing opportunities clubbed with a buzzing nightlife for all budget levels. Be warned this area can get very crowded with heavy traffic at times.
Chinatown is just a 20-minute drive from the city center (District 2) that is home to expats and affluent locals best if you are looking for an escape from the madding crowd. Along the Saigon River is a variety of cafes, restaurants, parks and boutique shops with a vibrant environment especially for artists – an attraction for tourists.
District 2 area is best suited for moderately wealthy travelers with options of international cuisines with an elite neighborhood vibe. Be warned the nightlife is limited and choices of accommodation too being scanty yet worth researching.
Chinatown in Ho Chi Minh (District 5) is easily spotted with the architecture showcasing its oriental style, with a variety of authentic Chinese restaurants and colorful street markets and Buddhist temples being the main attraction. The most famous are the cyclo services for easy access to some of the largest markets in Vietnam a delight for the shopping freaks.
This area is suitable for the budget-conscious travelers and history buffs especially the ones who want to explore Buddhist culture. There are innumerable choices between budget and mid-range hotels with street food and affordable restaurants to make your stay comfortable. Public transport like buses, cyclo, and taxis are available in plenty.
Be warned that the traffic can be overwhelming during peak hours. For the party goers, there is limited choice of bars and pubs.
Airfare to Vietnam:
Hanoi is the top flight destination in Vietnam. The 5 biggest airport being Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City Airport, Da Nang Airport, Can Rahn Airport and Duong Dang Airport.
In Hanoi – Noi Bai International Airport the capital of Vietnam is the largest and busiest airport. It has Terminal 1 that serves domestic flights and the newly-built Terminal-2 (2015) that serves all international flights from Hanoi. It is located 35 kilometers (21 miles) northeast of downtown Hanoi with a capacity of 25 million passengers per year.
Ho Chi Minh City Airport alone offers non-stop flights to more than 67 cities worldwide.
With hundreds of flight options, if you book well in advance you are sure to find a flight that falls in your budget range. Airlines like Air Asia, Singapore Airlines, Malindo, Jet Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Thai Airways and Malaysian Airlines are few of the names where you can book air tickets with the airfare to Vietnam ranging between INR 25,000 to INR 40,000.
Vietnam Visa FAQ’s:
Where to download Visa Form?
It is simple to get a tourist or business visa to Vietnam. Indian’s get a visa to travel to Vietnam on arrival in Vietnam. One can save time to fill p the form entry/exit form before you arrive to Vietnam’s International Airport. Click here to Download the form https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/.
How much do I have to pay for the Visa Fee?
The form for Visa can be filled online only after you have the air tickets booked. After filling the form online in which make sure you write the arrival date and name of the airport you will arrive at. The Visa Servicing fee is $17. Within two days you will receive an email from the Vietnam Immigration department with your official Vietnam Visa Approval Letter.
What do I do with the Approval Letter?
Take a print out of the Approval letter along with 2 of your photos (4cmx6cm) and the Government Stamping fee, passport or any other document specified along with you on your trip to Vietnam. Keep these documents handy as you will need them at the arrival destination in Vietnam at the Immigration Counter.
Do I still need a Visa if I do not hold an Indian passport?
Vietnam Visa exemption is granted to citizens of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and much more. Check if you fall under the category of exemption few weeks before you travel.
BE CAREFUL: Check out the Vietnamese Public Holidays for the year you travel in. Make a note that the Vietnam Immigration Department closes and Vietnam Visa Approval Letters are NOT issued until the next business day. Remember business days are Monday through Friday ONLY (exclude Saturday and Sunday).
Tourists love to exchange money at Vietnam as they feel like millionaires. The Vietnamese Dong (VND) 10,000 is the smallest bill on the street ever found. One tends to get lost in all the zeroes and can be challenging for some.
Where and How to Exchange your Money/Currency?
Major currencies are easily exchangeable almost everywhere in Vietnam. The banks and airports charge high rate – therefore avoid them. Best is to ask around before trading your Dollars to Dong. Banks will normally charge a commission rate of 0.5 to 2 percent for the change in foreign currency. Make a note to bring new Notes (Dollars) as they charge an additional 2 % on damaged or dirty notes.
Hotels or Jewelry shops
Exchange rates at bigger hotels are fair – yet the smaller hotels offer an additional fee for the exchange services. Surprisingly the gold and jewelry stores are fair unlike those in the airport or hotels. Remember shops in areas like Ha Trung or Hang Bo offer better deals in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Before you venture inland into smaller cities withdraw from the ATM’s as these become sparse in smaller towns.
The big question is what should one choose – ATM or Bank or Shop?
Well, if your stay is longer than a few days, the risk of carrying too many Vietnamese Dong becomes high. For peace of mind, one would withdraw every few days from ATM’s – that is if it suits you. The charges and fees vary from place to place. ATM’s near Pham Ngu Lao a backpacker’s area has a high rate of 3 percent over the usual bank charges. A reasonable fee is 1-1.5 percent per transaction.
Banks have a maximum limit of VND 9 Million that can be withdrawn and dispense 50k-100k notes (do check the bank policies may change when you land in Vietnam).
Visa, American Express, Master Card, and JBC are the most commonly accepted cards in Vietnam. Remember cash rules in Vietnam as most people are happy to accept cash while you are shopping or sightseeing. For every credit card transaction, you may be charged 3-4 percent.
Use of USD is illegal. Use it only for an emergency purpose.
Tipping in Vietnam
I would suggest avoiding Tipping unless you really want to, as all hotels and restaurants will add 5% service charge to your bills. A small amount to boost the morale of the waiters, drivers, and guides is always a nice gesture.
To Haggle or not to Haggle?
Haggle to your heart’s content at most tourist shops. The prices listed are normally 300% higher than what you should be paying so haggle hard. The Vietnamese are not very happy bargaining. The best method is to let a Vietnamese friend haggle for you, that is if you have one.
Travel Mode within Vietnam:
TAXI: A combination of 6 Travel modes is what I would suggest to a traveler to Vietnam. Hiring a taxi is cheap especially if you want air conditioning to be turned on. Stick to the bigger chains who operate taxis to avoid getting ripped off. Meters are used everywhere and make sure that you have data on your mobile to track for an easy route on GPS. Language is often an issue and is difficult to communicate with sign language.
BUS: For traveling from one part of Vietnam to another- take a bus and that too sleeper ones if you have to travel to relax and nap. AVOID night travel as it is unsafe and the roads are rough with drivers pushing their way through busy streets.
TRAIN: For overnight travel – Train is a good alternative. Train services are available from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi and even goes to Hong Kong. Moreover, it is much faster than a bus and you e4nd up saving money on accommodation by traveling overnight. Try and book a 4 berth sleeper cabins. The rates are very reasonable and a 4 sleeper berth is softer than a 6 berth sleeper. 6 Sleeper berths can be crammed with Vietnamese co-passengers travelling with their kids and a lot of luggage.
FLY: Use this mode of travel only if you book ahead as you get air fares as cheap as $25 a seat. Skip airplanes unless it is a long distance like Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Try airlines like Jetstar Asia, VietJet, Air Asia or Vietnamese Airlines.
CYCLOS: are weird and funny looking bikes with a seat in the front and a driver pedalling on the back. It’s fun and safe as long as you have your hotel arrange a reliable driver for you. Cyclos are best to explore a fun ride to the nightlife in Vietnam.
BOAT: Travel on Water can be done by cruisers or dragon boats to travel from one Vietnamese attraction to another tourist spot. Taking a cruise is not cheap yet I would recommend them rather than taking a cheaper junk cruise as they may not be safe. A cruise for a few days on the stunning Ha Long Bay is high on the to-do list.
Even though some tourists club Vietnam with Cambodia together when they travel, I would suggest since Vietnam is so diverse with a range of incredibly beautiful travel gems hidden in its deep waters and land should be visited separately. No matter how long one travels to Vietnam – there is so much to see and do in Vietnam that one always ends the trip with a nostalgic note and promise to return on a holiday yet again.
If you have questions on Vietnam Travel or any experiences to share with us – would love to hear from you. RoamBabyRoam’s team just got back from our travel trip to Vietnam last month and are already planning other trips to Vietnam. Check out our customized range of Vietnam Holiday Packages here www.roambabyroam.com