Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia on the South China Sea known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. It’s a place where handmade water puppets spin elaborate tales, singing kites soar overhead, and markets float on the Mekong River. Vietnam is a land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities. You’ve probably seen it in the background of countless movies, but nothing can prepare you for the epic beauty of Vietnam. From the limestone karsts and natural beauty of Halong Bay to the man-made artistry of the sacred temples and pagodas to the rice terraces and beaches, Vietnam has a lot to offer travelers.

You cannot escape without learning about the history of Vietnam. In the north, Hanoi, the capital, pays homage to the nation’s iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh, via a huge marble mausoleum. In the south, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is known for its French colonial landmarks, plus Vietnamese War history museums and the Cu Chi tunnels, used by Viet Cong soldiers. Today, Vietnam is a young country. Almost half the population is under the age of 30. Fewer people here even remember what they call the American War. Those years were a defining time for just about everyone Vietnamese or American, who lived through them. And though there are still a lot of conflicted feelings on our side, for most Vietnamese these days, the war has become an abstraction, not even a memory. Vietnam is still a poor nation, but the standard of living has improved a lot with the relaxing hard-line communist economic policies. 

Vietnam Tours

Phong Nha National Park

Vietnam Trekking, Kayaking & Caving

13 nights/ 14 days Explore the world's largest caves plus famed Sapa and Halong Bay.
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Articles About Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Information

The best time to visit Vietnam is in the spring (February to April) and autumn (August to October) when temperatures are more moderate, and rainfall is lighter. In spring, March and April have the lowest rainfall across all destinations and temperatures are pleasant, though still cool in the far north.

Eating is a big part of traveling, so we choose to not include all meals as part of the trip price to give you a choice of eating options. This allows for maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat. It also gives you more budgeting flexibility. Our groups tend to eat together, of course there is no obligation to do this. Our guides will be able to suggest favorite restaurants in Vietnam. Please let us know at the time of booking if you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies.

Traditional Vietnamese food is typified by its use of fresh herbs and vegetables and its wide regional variance. Vietnamese food is influenced by its Chinese and Khmer neighbors and echoes of French colonization. Some of the best things to eat in Vietnam are noodle soups (pho, bun mam, bun bo hue), bread rolls (banh mi), savory pancakes (banh xeo) and fresh tropical fruits. A bowl of pho from a street stall will cost approximately 20,000-30,000 VND (about $1 USD). Dinner at a simple restaurant typically costs 70,000-100,000 VND ($3-5 USD) and a nice dinner at a high-end restaurant typically costs 200,000+ VND ($9+ USD).  The best things to drink in Vietnam includes fruit smoothies, fresh coconut juice straight from a freshly cracked green coconut, sugar cane juice, local beers and artisan rice wine.

Vietnam is a skinny, S-shaped country that snakes its way from the southern border of China all the way down to the mouth of the mighty Mekong. To the west, Vietnam shares a frontier with both Cambodia and Laos, while the north is bordered by China. Along the southern and eastern edges of the country is the East Sea, also known as the South China Sea.

While the majority of Vietnam never really gets cold, the northern and southern halves of the country experience two very different weather patterns. Residents in Hanoi and the surrounding region see four seasons throughout the year, though they are not as distinct as North American seasons. Up north, a cold, damp winter and a sweltering hot summer are separated by a few months of mild weather on either side. Temperates in this part of the country fluctuate from a brisk 50°F in January to 100°F in July and August.

To learn more, please visit Moon Travel Guide https://moon.com/2015/11/vietnam-geography-climate/.

The culture of Vietnam is one of the oldest in Southeast Asia. Due to a millennium of Chinese rule, Vietnam was heavily influenced by Chinese culture in terms of politics, government, Confucian social and moral ethics, and art. Vietnam is considered to be part of the East Asian cultural sphere. In terms of religion, Vietnam has historically been largely defined by a mix of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, known in Vietnamese as the Tam Giao (“triple religion”). Catholicism is also practiced in modern Vietnam. Ancestor worship is common in Vietnamese culture and life revolves around the family. The family consists of the nuclear as well as extended family and it’s not uncommon for three generations to be living together under one roof.

Vietnam has a nice mix of interesting markets and small shops, with handicrafts, art and clothing among the best picks. It’s a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you’re able to bring certain items back into your home country.

In Asia, the dress standard is more conservative than back home. When packing, try to pick loose, lightweight, long clothing that will keep you cool in the usually hot and humid climate. In predominately Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim countries, we ask that you dress respectfully and avoid very short shorts/ skirts, crop tops and tank tops.  When visiting temples or mosques or other holy sites, you should always cover your shoulders and knees. Consider bringing a sarong, which conveniently doubles as both a cover-up and a blanket.

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Things to See and Do in Vietnam

Hanoi Food Tour

Take a Food Tour in Hanoi

There are plenty of things to do in Hanoi, but in our minds, eating tops the list and Vietnamese food is where it’s at! A crusty Banh Mi or streetside Pho, Seafood Cu Lao hotpots and condensed milk coffee — there’s no shortage of options for diving in tasted buds first and discovering the delights of Vietnamese cuisine.

sapa

Hill-tribe Trek in Sapa

Sapa is northwestern Vietnam’s premier trekking area and is hugely popular with all sorts of travelers. Sapa is famous for its images of rice terraces and scenic mountain valleys, as well as its hill-tribe villages.

kayaking halong bay

Junk Boat Cruise & Kayaking in Halong Bay

Halong Bay is recognized as one of the Natural Wonders of the World by UNESCO and is famous for thousands of islands, beautiful beaches, and historical monuments.  Because of the wonderful view, it is an ideal place to explore the marvels of nature.

Hoi An

Rest-up in Hoi An

Hoi An is a city in Vietnam’s central coast, and is one of the most popular destinations for tourists traveling to the country. The former port city’s melting-pot history is reflected in its architecture, a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shop-houses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda. It’s not unusual to find travelers using Hoi An as a resting ground while they recharge from constant traveling.

mekong delta

Tour the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a 60,000km long, vast maze of interconnected waterways, which span across three Vietnamese provinces. The area is filled with rivers, swamps and islands, home to floating markets, Khmer pagodas and villages surrounded by rice paddies. Boats or bicycles are the main means of transportation, and tours of the region often start in nearby Ho Chi Minh.

cu chi tunnels

Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi Tunnels are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underline much of the country. Crawl through the extensive network of tunnels utilized by the Viet Cong in the war with the USA in the 1960’s.  It’s a sobering experience and not one meant for anyone with claustrophobia.

Phong Nha

Visit Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, the remarkable Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha is a speleogists’ heaven on earth.

nha trang scuba

Scuba Diving in Nha Trang

Nha Trang is a coastal, high-rise resort city in southern Vietnam known for its beaches, offshore islands, and clear water, making this the main area for scuba diving in Vietnam.

Responsible Travel

Our philosophy of travel is one of respect towards the local people we encounter, their culture, local economies and the environment. It’s important to remember that what may be acceptable behavior, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while traveling.

Top Responsible Travel Tips

  1. Be considerate of the customs, traditions, religion and culture.
  2. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
  3. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It’s meant to be fun!
  4. Learn some local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple greetings will help break the ice.
  5. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
  6. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
  7. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
  8. When on community visits or home-stays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
  9. Admire coral while diving and snorkeling, but never remove coral from a reef or buy coral items from markets. Coral belongs in the sea.

FAQ

Most countries, including the US, require a visa for Vietnam. Contact your local embassy, or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements. It’s your responsibility to have the correct travel documentation. If you require a visa for Vietnam, they need to be arranged ahead of time, BEFORE your trip, as the processing time varies, and they are not available upon arrival. When obtaining your visa, you should allow at least 3 weeks for processing. An eVisa is available for passport holders from France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Spain, UK, and the USA. This is a single-entry visa, valid for stays of up to 30 days. Visit the immigration website for more information.

We take the safety and security of our travelers seriously and we take every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that you check your government’s advice for the latest travel information before departure.

From US? http://travel.state.gov/ (If you’re from the US, we also recommend that you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so you are kept up to date with important safety and security announcements.)

From Canada? http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From Australia? http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand? http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From UK? http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

Adventure activities and water based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in activities when accompanied by guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any of our planned activities, and we take all prudent measures in relation to your safety, but please use your own good judgement. Participating in adventurous activities is always at your own risk. Please note that any optional activities you undertake that are not part of the itinerary, are at your own risk. We offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them.

While most of the cities we visit are generally safe, there can be risks when wandering through a major city at night and it is our recommendation that you stay in small groups and take taxis to and from restaurants or other night time excursions. We also advise staying away from any protests and demonstrations. Even those that are well intended have the potential to turn violent with no warning.

In Vietnam, the local currency is the Vietnamese Dong, abbreviated as VND. As currency exchange rates do fluctuate, we ask that you refer to the following website for the most up to date daily exchange rates, http://www.xe.com/. Major credit cards and debit cards are accepted at most hotels, large shops, and restaurants, but may not be accepted by smaller vendors such as small family restaurants, market stalls or in remote towns and rural areas. You should advise your card issuer of your travel plans, in advance. Banks and credit card companies are safe, convenient, and generally offer good exchange rates, but will charge a fee for overseas transactions. You should check with your bank before departure.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are found widely throughout Vietnam, so withdrawing cash shouldn’t be a problem in most areas. Some smaller villages and rural areas may not have ATM access, so prepare for this before venturing too far from a city or major town.

Yes. Travel insurance is mandatory to participate on any of our trips – not just by us, but by many of the tour operators we work with. You will not be permitted to join a trip until evidence of travel insurance has been presented. The minimum requirement must provide coverage of $200,000USD for medical expenses including repatriation and emergency rescue. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. Some credit card companies offer travel insurance, but proof of coverage will be required. Contact your provider for details.

Inoculations may be required or recommended for Vietnam. It is your responsibility to consult with your travel doctor for up to date medical travel information well before departure. The World Health Organization also provides useful health information: http://www.who.int/en/

We also recommend that you carry a First-Aid kit and hand sanitizers/ antibacterial wipes as well as any personal medical requirements. Diarrheal illness is common, but travelers can diminish risk through scrupulous washing of hands and use of hand sanitizers, especially before food preparation and eating. The greatest risk of traveler’s diarrhea is from contaminated food. Eat only food that is cooked and served hot; avoid food that has been sitting out on a buffet. Eat raw fruits and vegetables only if they have been washed in clean water. Drink only beverages from factory-sealed containers, and avoid ice because it may have been made from unclean water.

We have adventures for people of all ability levels and each itinerary is given a rating to help adventurers get a general idea of the physical activity level required for each trip. The rating system should help you in choosing a trip that is appropriate for you and one that you will enjoy. Some adventures are definitely a bit more difficult than others and require a higher level of fitness. Others are designed for beginners or those looking for a more leisurely holiday. It is important that you are aware that, as a minimum, an average level of fitness and mobility is required to undertake any of our trips. Travelers must be able to walk without the aid of another person, be able to climb 3-4 flights of stairs, step on and off small boats, and carry their own luggage, at a minimum. You must inform us at the time of booking if anyone in your party has a disability, medical or behavioral condition which could affect their participation in the trip or other people on the trip.

Trips rated difficult and travelers with pre-existing medical conditions are required to complete a short medical questionnaire, which must be signed by their physician. This is to ensure that travelers have the necessary fitness and mobility to comfortably complete their chosen adventure. While your organizer and guides work hard to make sure that all our travelers are catered for equally, it is not their responsibility to help individuals who cannot complete the day’s activities unaided.

Drinking tap water isn’t recommended in Vietnam. It’s also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit and vegetables before eating.

It is customary in Asia to tip service providers such as waiters, approximately 10%, depending on the service. Tipping is expected, though not compulsory, and shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you. There are times on the trip where there is also the opportunity to tip the local guides or drivers we use. You may do this individually, or your trip leader will offer to collect the money and tip as a group. Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides range from $2-$4USD per person per day, depending on the quality and length of the service. Also, at the end of each trip if you felt your Trip Leader did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $20-25 USD per person, per week can be used.

ATMs are found widely throughout Vietnam, so withdrawing cash shouldn’t be problematic in most areas. Some smaller villages and rural areas may not have ATM access, so prepare for this before venturing too far from a city or major town.

Major credit cards are widely accepted by large shops, hotels and restaurants in Vietnam. However, they may not be accepted by smaller vendors such as small family restaurants, market stalls or in remote towns and rural areas. Make sure you carry enough cash for purchases, since credit cards aren’t always an option everywhere in Vietnam.

Internet is widely available in tourist areas and big cities, which have many internet cafes. Internet access is less frequent in rural and remote areas.

You’ll be able to use your mobile phone in most urban areas, although remote and mountainous areas may not have network coverage. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your mobile carrier before you leave home if you wish to use your cell phone in Vietnam.

power plugs

Vietnam uses the standard European non-grounded type C outlet, as well as the Type A and Type B that we use in the US. The voltage is 220 volts/ 50Hz. In the US, we use a voltage of 120 volts/ 60Hz. For using your electronics in Vietnam, we recommend that you bring a voltage converter in addition to a plug adapter. Many modern electronics have this built in already, but you should check with the manufacturer to be sure. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit. For more information, see our blog post for Essential Travel Gear.

City bus ride = 4,000 VND
Local-style coffee at a cafe = 15,000 VND
Bowl of pho from street stall = 20,000-30,000 VND
Dinner at a simple restaurant = 70,000-100,000 VND
Dinner at a high-end restaurant = 200,000+ VND

You’ll have to adjust to different standards of hygiene and sanitation while in Vietnam. The standard toilet is of the squat variety and this may take some getting used to, although western style toilets can be found in large hotels and some tourist areas.

For a current list of public holidays in Vietnam, please visit https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/vietnam/2018