Vietnam Travel Advice

Unlocking the Charms of Vietnam: A Comprehensive Travel Guide

Nestled in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is a country of breathtaking natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. From bustling cities to serene countryside, from lush mountains to pristine beaches, Vietnam offers travelers a diverse range of experiences to discover.

Entry Requirements: Before planning your trip to Vietnam, it’s essential to understand the entry requirements for travelers. According to BAGLIB, most visitors to Vietnam need a valid passport with at least six months’ validity and a visa to enter the country. However, citizens of certain countries may be eligible for visa exemptions or visa on arrival arrangements.

  1. Visa exemptions: Citizens of certain countries, including many European countries, South Korea, Japan, and ASEAN member states, are eligible for visa exemptions for stays of up to 15 days or 30 days, depending on their nationality. Travelers should check the latest visa exemption policies with the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in their home country before traveling.
  2. Visa on arrival: Travelers from eligible countries can apply for a visa on arrival through a reputable travel agency or online visa service. The visa on arrival allows travelers to obtain a visa approval letter before arrival in Vietnam and receive the visa stamp upon entry at one of Vietnam’s international airports. It’s essential to apply for the visa on arrival in advance and carry the necessary documents, including the visa approval letter and passport photos, to present upon arrival.
  3. E-visa: Travelers can also apply for an e-visa online through the official website of the Vietnam Immigration Department. The e-visa allows for a single entry into Vietnam for stays of up to 30 days and must be applied for at least three days before the intended arrival date. Applicants will receive an electronic visa approval letter via email, which must be presented upon arrival along with the passport and other required documents.

Safety Tips: Vietnam is generally a safe destination for travelers, but like any country, it’s essential to take certain precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some safety tips for travelers to Vietnam:

  1. Be cautious of traffic: Traffic in Vietnam can be chaotic and unpredictable, especially in major cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Exercise caution when crossing the street, as traffic may not always stop for pedestrians. Use designated crosswalks when available and follow the lead of locals when crossing busy intersections.
  2. Protect against scams: Be aware of common scams targeting tourists, such as overcharging for goods and services, fake taxi drivers, and counterfeit currency. Only use reputable taxi companies or ride-hailing services, agree on fares in advance, and use caution when exchanging money or making purchases from street vendors.
  3. Avoid petty theft: Keep your belongings secure at all times and be vigilant in crowded areas, tourist sites, and public transportation. Use a money belt or anti-theft bag to carry valuables such as passports, cash, and electronics, and avoid displaying expensive items or carrying large sums of money.
  4. Stay hydrated: Vietnam’s climate can be hot and humid, especially during the summer months, so it’s essential to stay hydrated to prevent dehydration and heat-related illnesses. Drink plenty of bottled water, especially when spending time outdoors or engaging in physical activities, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption, which can dehydrate the body.
  5. Respect local customs: Familiarize yourself with Vietnamese customs, traditions, and cultural norms, and be respectful of local customs, etiquette, and social norms during your visit. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites or rural areas, and remove your shoes before entering temples, pagodas, and private homes. Ask for permission before taking photos of people, particularly in rural or ethnic minority communities, and respect their privacy and wishes.
  6. Be cautious of natural hazards: Vietnam is prone to natural hazards such as typhoons, floods, and landslides, especially during the rainy season from May to October. Stay informed about weather conditions and any potential hazards in the area where you’re traveling, and follow the advice of local authorities and tour operators. Avoid traveling to areas prone to natural disasters, such as coastal regions during typhoon season, and be prepared to change your plans if necessary.

Transportation Options: Getting around Vietnam is relatively easy, with a variety of transportation options available to travelers. Here are some transportation options for getting around Vietnam:

  1. Motorbikes and scooters: Motorbikes and scooters are a popular mode of transportation in Vietnam, especially for short distances and exploring rural areas. Renting a motorbike or scooter gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and venture off the beaten path. However, it’s essential to exercise caution when riding, wear a helmet, and follow local traffic laws and regulations.
  2. Public buses: Public buses operate extensive networks of routes connecting cities, towns, and tourist destinations across Vietnam. Buses are a budget-friendly option for long-distance travel, with comfortable seating and air conditioning on some routes. However, be prepared for crowded conditions, long travel times, and limited English signage and information.
  3. Trains: Vietnam’s railway network connects major cities and tourist destinations, offering an affordable and scenic way to travel between destinations. Choose from a range of classes and accommodations, including soft sleeper berths, hard sleeper berths, and seated carriages, depending on your budget and comfort preferences. Book tickets in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, and enjoy panoramic views of the countryside along the way.
  4. Domestic flights: Domestic flights are a convenient option for traveling long distances within Vietnam, especially between major cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Hue. Several domestic airlines operate regular flights between major airports, offering competitive fares and frequent departures. Book flights in advance to secure the best deals and avoid last-minute surcharges.
  5. Cyclos and xe om: Cyclos (pedicabs) and xe om (motorbike taxis) are popular modes of transportation for short distances and sightseeing in cities and tourist areas. Negotiate fares in advance, and agree on the price before starting your journey to avoid misunderstandings or overcharging. Cyclos are a fun and leisurely way to explore city streets, while xe om provides a quick and convenient option for getting around.

Accommodation Choices: Vietnam offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference, from luxury hotels and resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels. Here are some popular accommodation choices in Vietnam:

  1. Luxury hotels and resorts: Experience luxury and indulgence at five-star hotels and resorts in Vietnam’s major cities and tourist destinations. Luxury accommodations offer world-class amenities, impeccable service, and opulent surroundings, including spacious suites, infinity pools, spa services, and gourmet restaurants. Enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline or pristine beaches, and unwind in style and comfort during your stay.
  2. Boutique hotels: Discover charming boutique hotels tucked away in historic neighborhoods, cultural districts, and scenic countryside settings across Vietnam. Boutique hotels offer stylish accommodations, personalized service, and unique design features, such as art deco furnishings, rooftop terraces, and tranquil garden courtyards. Immerse yourself in the local culture and ambiance, and enjoy a memorable and intimate stay.
  3. Homestays: Experience authentic Vietnamese hospitality by staying in a homestay with a local family in rural villages or ethnic minority communities. Homestays offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture, traditions, and daily life, and learn about Vietnamese customs and cuisine from your hosts. Participate in traditional activities such as farming, cooking, and handicrafts, and enjoy homemade meals made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
  4. Budget guesthouses and hostels: Budget-conscious travelers will find a range of affordable guesthouses and hostels in cities, towns, and tourist areas across Vietnam. Budget accommodations offer clean and comfortable rooms, communal facilities such as kitchens and lounges, and a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for backpackers, solo travelers, and budget-conscious families. Look for properties with dormitory rooms, private rooms, and amenities such as free Wi-Fi and breakfast included.
  5. Eco-lodges and sustainable resorts: For travelers seeking eco-friendly and sustainable accommodations, Vietnam offers a growing number of eco-lodges and sustainable resorts in natural settings such as national parks, forest reserves, and coastal areas. Eco-lodges and sustainable resorts prioritize environmental conservation, responsible tourism practices, and community engagement, offering guests a unique and eco-conscious travel experience. Enjoy activities such as nature walks, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting, and support local conservation efforts during your stay.

Must-Visit Attractions: Vietnam is home to a wealth of attractions and landmarks, from ancient temples and historic sites to natural wonders and cultural treasures. Here are some must-visit attractions in Vietnam:

  1. Halong Bay: Explore the stunning beauty of Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Vietnam’s most iconic natural wonders. Cruise along emerald waters dotted with limestone karsts and islands, and admire breathtaking scenery of towering cliffs, hidden caves, and secluded beaches. Take part in activities such as kayaking, swimming, and island hopping, and witness spectacular sunsets over the bay.
  2. Hanoi Old Quarter: Discover the historic charm of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, a maze of narrow streets, ancient temples, and colonial-era buildings dating back over a thousand years. Wander through bustling markets, artisan workshops, and traditional eateries, and soak up the sights, sounds, and flavors of daily life in Vietnam’s capital city. Visit landmarks such as Hoan Kiem Lake, the Temple of Literature, and the iconic Long Bien Bridge, and experience the vibrant energy and rich culture of Hanoi.
  3. Hoi An Ancient Town: Step back in time in Hoi An Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Vietnam’s most enchanting destinations. Explore narrow alleyways lined with preserved merchant houses, ancient temples, and colorful lanterns, and marvel at architectural influences from Chinese, Japanese, and European cultures. Visit bustling markets, artisan workshops, and riverside cafes, and sample local specialties such as cao lau noodles and banh mi sandwiches.
  4. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): Experience the dynamic energy of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city and economic powerhouse. Explore bustling markets, vibrant neighborhoods, and iconic landmarks such as Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, and the War Remnants Museum. Take a stroll along Dong Khoi Street, the city’s main boulevard, and indulge in shopping, dining, and nightlife in trendy districts such as District 1 and District 3.
  5. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: Discover the natural wonders of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the world’s largest cave systems and karst landscapes. Explore underground caverns such as Son Doong Cave, the world’s largest cave, and Paradise Cave, known for its spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. Take part in adventure activities such as caving, trekking, and zip-lining, and experience the pristine beauty of Vietnam’s natural landscapes.
  6. Cu Chi Tunnels: Learn about Vietnam’s wartime history at the Cu Chi Tunnels, a vast underground network used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Explore narrow tunnels, hidden bunkers, and booby traps used by guerrilla fighters, and gain insight into the hardships and resilience of the Vietnamese people during the conflict. Take a guided tour to learn about the tunnels’ construction, strategic significance, and cultural importance, and pay homage to the soldiers and civilians who lived and fought underground.
  7. Mui Ne Sand Dunes: Experience the otherworldly beauty of the Mui Ne Sand Dunes, a surreal landscape of red and white sand dunes stretching along the coast of southern Vietnam. Explore rolling dunes, wind-carved formations, and picturesque oases, and enjoy activities such as sandboarding, dune buggying, and sunset camel rides. Visit nearby attractions such as Fairy Stream, a natural waterway flanked by colorful rock formations, and the fishing village of Mui Ne, known for its fresh seafood and vibrant culture.
  8. Sapa Valley: Journey to the highlands of northern Vietnam and explore the stunning landscapes of Sapa Valley, home to terraced rice fields, misty mountains, and vibrant hill tribe cultures. Trek through picturesque villages such as Cat Cat, Lao Chai, and Ta Van, and interact with ethnic minority communities such as the Hmong, Red Dao, and Tay. Experience traditional customs and rituals, and admire breathtaking views of the valley below, making Sapa Valley a must-visit destination for nature lovers and cultural enthusiasts alike.

Local Cuisine: Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its fresh flavors, vibrant colors, and diverse ingredients, reflecting the country’s rich culinary heritage and cultural influences. Here are some must-try dishes and culinary experiences in Vietnam:

  1. Pho: Sample Vietnam’s national dish, pho, a flavorful and aromatic noodle soup made with clear broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced beef or chicken, topped with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime. Pho is typically enjoyed for breakfast or as a comforting meal any time of day, and is often served with condiments such as chili sauce, hoisin sauce, and sriracha for added flavor.
  2. Banh Mi: Indulge in banh mi, a delicious and satisfying Vietnamese sandwich made with crispy baguette, savory fillings such as grilled pork, pate, and pickled vegetables, and a variety of condiments such as mayonnaise, chili sauce, and cilantro. Banh mi is a popular street food snack and a favorite among locals and visitors alike for its bold flavors and crispy texture.
  3. Bun Cha: Delight in bun cha, a traditional Vietnamese dish consisting of grilled pork patties served with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, lettuce, and dipping sauce. Bun cha is typically enjoyed as a lunchtime meal, with diners assembling their own bowls by dipping the noodles and herbs into the savory broth and pairing them with grilled pork and dipping sauce for a burst of flavor.
  4. Goi Cuon: Try goi cuon, fresh spring rolls filled with shrimp, pork, herbs, and vermicelli noodles, wrapped in translucent rice paper and served with peanut dipping sauce. Goi cuon is a light and refreshing appetizer or snack, perfect for hot summer days, and is a popular choice among health-conscious diners for its fresh ingredients and low-fat content.
  1. Cao Lau: Taste cao lau, a regional specialty from the ancient town of Hoi An, made with thick rice noodles, tender slices of pork, fresh herbs, and crispy rice crackers, served in a savory broth infused with local herbs and spices. Cao lau is a unique dish with complex flavors and textures, reflecting the cultural influences of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisines in the Hoi An region.
  2. Banh Xeo: Enjoy banh xeo, Vietnamese savory pancakes made with a crispy rice flour batter filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and herbs, and folded into half-moon shapes. Banh xeo is typically served with lettuce leaves, fresh herbs, and dipping sauce, allowing diners to wrap the pancakes and create their own flavor combinations. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, banh xeo is a delicious and satisfying dish that’s perfect for sharing with friends and family.
  3. Com Tam: Savor com tam, Vietnamese broken rice served with grilled meats such as pork chops, shredded pork skin, and grilled prawns, topped with a fried egg and accompanied by pickled vegetables and fish sauce dressing. Com tam is a popular street food dish enjoyed throughout Vietnam, known for its hearty portions, bold flavors, and affordable price.
  4. Cha Ca: Experience cha ca, a specialty dish from Hanoi made with marinated fish fillets, typically catfish or snakehead fish, cooked with turmeric and dill and served with rice noodles, peanuts, fresh herbs, and dipping sauce. Cha ca is traditionally cooked at the table on a portable stove, allowing diners to savor the aroma and flavors of the dish as it cooks, and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike for its fragrant and flavorful taste.
  5. Bun Bo Hue: Try bun bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup from the central region of Vietnam, made with thick rice noodles, tender slices of beef, pork hock, and pig’s blood cubes, simmered in a spicy and aromatic broth infused with lemongrass, shrimp paste, and chili oil. Bun bo Hue is a beloved comfort food in Vietnam, known for its robust flavors and rich texture, and is often enjoyed for breakfast or as a hearty meal any time of day.
  6. Ca Phe: Conclude your culinary journey with ca phe, Vietnamese coffee, a strong and aromatic brew made with finely ground coffee beans brewed through a drip filter and served with sweetened condensed milk. Ca phe is a beloved beverage in Vietnam, enjoyed hot or iced, and is the perfect way to start your day or enjoy a leisurely break while exploring the sights and sounds of Vietnam.

Health and Safety: Ensuring your health and safety during your travels in Vietnam is essential for a memorable and worry-free experience. Here are some health and safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated, especially in hot and humid climates such as Vietnam. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and refill it regularly, especially when spending time outdoors or engaging in physical activities. Avoid drinking tap water or ice cubes, and opt for bottled or boiled water to prevent waterborne illnesses.
  2. Protect against mosquitoes: Vietnam is home to mosquitoes that can transmit diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, especially in rural and coastal areas. Protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothing, using insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, and sleeping under mosquito nets, especially in open-air accommodations. Consider taking antimalarial medication if traveling to high-risk areas, and seek medical attention if you develop symptoms of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as fever, headache, and body aches.
  3. Practice safe food and water hygiene: Be cautious of consuming raw or undercooked foods, especially seafood, meat, and eggs, to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. Choose reputable restaurants and food vendors with clean and hygienic food preparation practices, and avoid eating street food or uncooked dishes that may be contaminated. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, especially before eating or handling food, and avoid drinking unpasteurized dairy products or untreated water.
  4. Protect against sun exposure: Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays by wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat, especially during peak hours of sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Seek shade whenever possible, especially during the hottest part of the day, and wear lightweight, breathable clothing to stay cool and comfortable. Reapply sunscreen every few hours, especially after swimming or sweating, and stay hydrated to prevent dehydration and heat-related illnesses.
  5. Practice safe swimming: If swimming in the sea or pools, be aware of potential hazards such as strong currents, rip tides, and underwater hazards such as rocks and coral reefs. Swim in designated swimming areas with lifeguards on duty, and follow safety guidelines and warning signs posted at beaches and recreational facilities. Supervise children closely when swimming, and avoid swimming alone, especially in remote or unguarded areas.
  6. Adhere to COVID-19 guidelines: Stay informed about COVID-19 guidelines and regulations issued by local authorities in Vietnam, and adhere to health and safety measures such as wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, and washing hands frequently. Follow any travel restrictions, quarantine requirements, or testing protocols implemented by the Vietnamese government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself and others.

By following these tips and recommendations, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on an unforgettable journey through Vietnam, experiencing the beauty, culture, and hospitality of this enchanting destination. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Vietnam, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime.