VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: Facts About Vietnam
The Landscape of Vietnam is varied. The country is one long strip of land that is bordered by the South China sea. It makes for a mix of opportunities. The coast offers beautiful beaches. Halong Bay is an iconic UNESCO heritage site that has got popular over time. The hilly regions offer people opportunities to hike and trek. If you head to the far north you will also find beautiful rice terrace fields. Vietnam also has a number of caves that are popular among the tourists. We haven’t explored the caves yet but we would love to head that way on our next holiday in Vietnam.
The climate in Vietnam varies from the North to the South. The North of Vietnam is a lot colder than the south. In Sapa and the Halong Bay we had to wear jackets to keep warm. As we traveled to the south it got warmer and we ditched the warm clothes for light cotton clothing. Bear in mind that December and January are the coldest months of the year.
The country also receives a lot of rainfall. So that’s another thing that you need to consider when you are planning your holidays to Vietnam.
The currency in Vietnam is called the Vietnamese Dong and its currency code is VND. The currency is a little confusing at first because of all the zeros that they use. Let me give you an example. You could pay 20,000 VND for a meal. Sounds very expensive doesn’t it? The truth is that at the current exchange rate that would equate to a little less than a dollar.
Getting the hang of the currency is a little difficult. At first you feel like a millionaire and in truth if you count in Vietnamese Dong you are one. The Vietnamese will also accept dollars as payment in some areas. Bear in mind that the places that accept dollars usually over charge you. The trick is to ask them the exchange rate that they are calculating at.
I love Vietnamese food. One thing that I realized while we were traveling is that vegetables are always fresh and they quite literally crunch in your mouth. I’m not a vegetarian mind you but I do appreciate good food. Meat also forms a large part of the Vietnamese diet. Deciphering which dishes contain meat and which don’t was a hard task for me. So if you are a vegetarian I would suggest doing a bit of research on the terminology before heading there.
The delicacies vary from region to region from egg coffee in Hanoi to mutton in Ninh Binh. There is a lot to taste and try. The more time you spend in the region, the more you learn about the differences in cuisine.
WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER PLANNING YOUR HOLIDAYS TO VIETNAM.
I want to share my passion for holidaying in Vietnam in my Vietnam travel guide. That’s why I’m going to point out all the reasons why I think you should plan your holidays in Vietnam. I guess the question that I’m truly trying to answer is: What does Vietnam have to offer that makes it so attractive to tourists from all over the world?
I’ve already spoken about the climate and the landscape. The variety in both gives you so many options in the country and makes Vietnam a year round destination. The options aren’t just restricted to the places that you visit, they are also related to the things that you can do in Vietnam. You can choose an action packed holiday or a quiet peaceful one. You can climb a mountain in Sapa or you can kayak through the iconic Halong Bay. Vietnam quite literally offers something for everyone all year round!
In addition to this, you will find that Vietnam is really cheap compared to most holiday destinations across the world. Even by South East Asia standards Vietnam offers a holiday that is fun and budget friendly. The people are nice, the food is good, the climate is varied and the landscape is gorgeous. What more could you want?
VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: Facts For The Visitor
Planning your holidays to Vietnam requires a bit of information that is catered specifically to the visitor. How to get your visa? What kind of transport is available in the country? Other common questions involve accommodation, currency exchange, travel itineraries etc. I’ve compiled a short list of items that a visitor to Vietnam may find useful.
ENTERING THE COUNTRY
The most popular airports to enter into Vietnam are Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. This is because people usually travel through the length of the country starting either at the north or the south. A lot of people cross over into Vietnam from Laos or Cambodia using the land border. This is particularly popular among people who are backpacking across Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. It is a cheaper way to get around than using the flights.
Visa rules change depending on the type of passport you hold. Please refer to the government of Vietnam site when applying for your visa as there are a number of fraudulent companies and scams that take place. Remember that you need a passport with at least 6 months validity to apply for a Vietnamese visa. You also need to have a blank page in order for them to stamp the passport.
Almost everything is carried on scooters in Vietnam
One of the questions that everyone asked when I said I was writing a Vietnam travel guide was regarding transportation. I am quick to admit that it was also one of my concerns when I was planning my holiday to Vietnam. In order for our Vietnam travel guide to be more comprehensive, I’m dividing it in sections: Intercity and in a city.
Intercity Transport In Vietnam
Getting from city to city in Vietnam is not very difficult. The number of ways in which you can travel are varied. You can go the expensive way and choose a flight. That helps you save time. You could also choose to take the train. I was pleasantly surprised by the Vietnamese trains. They are way more comfortable that Indian ones!
A number of buses ply from city to city. Definitely not the most comfortable mode of transport but it is supposed to make the journey cheaper. Some backpackers rent motorbikes and ride across the country. That makes for a fun experience too.
Transport In Cities
I guess that this really changes from city to city but from my experience the most popular method of transportation are motorbikes. Almost everyone has one and almost every motorbike is loaded up way beyond its capabilities. In fact you can see a large number of queer things being carried on motorbikes.
Public transport in the form of buses and taxis also exists. We preferred to walk or rent a bike depending on the city that we were in.
Exchanging money in Vietnam is simple enough because most of the big cities have numerous money exchanges. If you are heading off the beaten track then I would suggest exchanging money before you head out. We chose to exchange a small amount at the airport first. That helped us get to the city comfortably and gave us a buffer for a day when we were in town.
A tip that I would suggest when exchanging your money is to check the current exchange value online. Compare it to a few money exchange stores. You can sometimes negotiate for a better price. Just make sure that you aren’t paying too much above the online exchange rate.
Accommodation in Vietnam is pretty cheap. The interesting part about it is that it forces you to take a step back and consider one of the two options. Take the cheap option (which is pretty good on its own accord) or indulge in one of the few places that allow you to without worrying about how much it will cost.
If you choose the former, then you will find numerous hostels around the country. You can pick from dorms to single rooms depending on your preference. There are also some hotels that come very close to the prices that these hostels offer for their single rooms and those are worthwhile checking out.
Since we were two of us traveling together, checking into a dorm wasn’t our preference since the amount that we would pay for a single room was marginal. We booked our accommodation from Booking.com and earned some genius points as well. The genius benefits come in handy from time to time. A quick tip that we follow is to book accommodation that has a rating of 8.0 and above.
I’m attaching the booking.com link below so you can see how it works.
HOW TO CHOOSE LOCATIONS FOR YOUR HOLIDAYS IN VIETNAM
There are a number of places that one can visit in Vietnam. As time goes on I plan to collaborate with other bloggers and travelers to grow this resource. To start with I would like to remind you of what I said in the very beginning of the Vietnam travel guide. The landscape changes across the country and a large part of where you go should depend on what you want to do.
Do you love water sports or would you like to relax while listening to the lapping of the waves? Head to Vietnam’s extensive coast which offers plenty of opportunities to do just that.
Do you like hiking, caves, rice fields? The North and central parts of Vietnam offer just that. You can head down to the south if you think of visiting the famous Mekong delta. Visit Hoi An to take in the view of the Old town and the remnants of colonization.
We went through so many different locations. Each one was more appealing than the rest. I would suggest marking them on a map and drawing up a route that hits the most number of places that you would want to visit. Make sure that it fits in your time frame and account for the weather conditions too.
SOUVENIRS FROM VIETNAM
The gorgeous hand made cards sold on the street.
I think that buying souvenirs is a very personal thing. People buy things that speak out to them on an emotional note. It is something that will remind you of the time you spent in the country. For us our souvenir is usually a small article for the house and one that goes on our Christmas tree. The later is non-negotiable the former is negotiable.
One of the souvenirs that I regret not buying was the cut paper artwork that is seen on the streets of Hanoi. I thought it would be available in other places but I only stumbled across a few in Hoi An. They weren’t the ones I was looking for. Instead we bought a set of chopsticks for us to use. Vietnam was the first place that we actually learned to use them.
VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: Places To Visit In Vietnam
Like I have said time and time again, the places that attract people to Vietnam are numerous. During our three weeks in Vietnam we managed to explore quite a lot of the country. A large number of places however still remain to be seen and we will head back to discover more of the country eventually. In the mean time we will be collaborating with other travelers and bloggers to grow our resource list.
VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: Money Saving Tips
Many people who plans their holidays to Vietnam are on a budget. This is largely because Vietnam is evolving as a backpacker paradise. We chose Vietnam because well a dollar lasts longer in the country which in turn means that you can stay longer. That being said there were a few tips that we picked up along the way.
Book your accommodation and transport in advance.
If you are one of those people who plan their holidays in advance then you are probably in the same zone that we were in. We knew where we were going and we had booked both our accommodation and transport in advance. While you do get cheap accommodation even when you wing it, we got the best accommodation for the cheapest rates. The same help true for the trains and planes! Buses on the other hand were something that we booked as we went.
Head out of the tourist area to eat food
Eating street food is both fun and cheap but very often you begin to realize that you are being overcharged. We realized this when we noticed that the cost of the meal outside a small restaurant was often almost the same as on the street. A great way to ensure that you get the street food for the price the locals pay is by heading out of the popular tourist destinations. Sit with the locals and enjoy a meal. It is a great way to learn about the people, the food and their cultures.
Learn to bargain when you shop
The prices what you pay for things are often the tourist price. This means that you a paying double and sometimes even quadruple of the original cost. Bargain with the sellers. Move on to other shops and compare the rates. Even the over inflated rates have a range.
Travel at night
One of the best money saving tips that I can offer you in this Vietnam travel guide, is to travel at night. It saves you the cost of one day’s accommodation. It also saves you time. You will find that this particularly useful for long journeys.
VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: Accessories You Should Carry
It would be remiss of me not to include a few tips on accessories that you should carry in this Vietnam travel guide. Since the landscape and climate of Vietnam is varied, a lot of what you carry depends on where you are headed to and in which season you are traveling. The north is pretty cold in December and January so you definitely need something warm to wear. The south is warm so you would need loose cotton clothes. This is a list of accessories that may help people who are planning holidays to Vietnam.
VIETNAM TRAVEL GUIDE: Experiences You Should Not Miss
The country offers a set of experiences that people should consider adding to their list when planning their holidays to Vietnam. Take a look at the list that we have drawn up and see if any of them pique your attention.
Vietnam is one of my favorite countries in South East Asia. While we did get to spend three weeks in the country I really wish we had more time to explore other areas. That is one of the reasons why I know that we will be planning future holidays to Vietnam. Don’t worry we will update this Vietnam travel guide as we gain new experiences.
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