I visited Vietnam this year with my family during the month of May. I spent about 2.5 weeks here visiting family in the countryside, eating delicious meals in Saigon, lounging around the beaches of Nha Trang, as well as, Da Nang, and shopping to my hearts content in Hoi An. I hope to come back to visit Ha Noi, but I learned quite a few things for the next time I visit. Below are some travel tips and general information about Vietnam that I believe would be helpful to fellow tourists.
Weather and Climate.
Weather in Vietnam is dependent on region and it is difficult to define a time frame that is “best” to travel to this country. In my opinion, if you want to venture to several regions of Vietnam, it is best to visit during the spring (February – April). One can expect moderate temperatures in the North and warmer temperatures in the South along with some slight rainfall. Journeying to Vietnam during the summer months, one can expect hot, humid days and moderate rainfall, which can put a damper on your vacation plans.
Destinations: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hoi An
Start off your vacation in the largest city of Vietnam, Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City. You will find many locals using the two names interchangeably. Saigon is divided into 24 different districts: 7 named urban districts, 7 numbered districts, and 5 suburban districts. Popular districts often visited by tourists are Districts 1, 3, and 5.
Throughout Saigon, tourists may find a wealth of historical influence from French inspired colonial buildings to Chinese architectural style seen in many of the pagodas and temples. Aside from the historical attributions, Saigon provides tourists with hawker-style Vietnamese cuisine, marketplaces (e.g. Ben Thanh Market, Binh Tay Market), and cafes.
Nha Trang is a beautiful coastal city known for its six kilometers stretch of white sandy beaches and fishing colonies. If you are feeling adventurous, you may want to venture off to explore the impressive Po Nagar Cham Towers that were built between the 7th and 12th centuries. Off the coast of Nha Trang are Orchid Island and Monkey Island dedicated to blooming orchids and monkeys, respectively. These are only a couple of islands of Nha Trang. There are several others that may peek your interest, but I was super intrigued by an island filled with 1,500 monkeys roaming around freely.
Another coastal city of Vietnam is Da Nang, also known for its sandy beaches and clear waters. This city was the highlight of my trip and I recommend stopping here if you are planning on visiting Vietnam. Da Nang is home to Lady Buddha found at Lung Ung Pagoda. Lady Buddha is the tallest Buddha statue standing at 67 m.
Located to the west of Da Nang is Ba Na Hills, a fantasy resort located at an elevation of 1485 meters in the Truong Son Mountains. In order to reach the top of the resort, you will need to ride the world’s longest non-stop single track cable car through the pristine landscape of the mountains.
Before heading home, you may want to fill up on trinkets and souvenirs. Look no further than the well preserved ancient town of Hoi An. Like Saigon, Hoi An has a melting pot of architectural styles from China, France, Vietnam, and Japan seen in the shops throughout the Hoi An marketplace.
The official currency of Vietnam is the dong. During my visit, the exchange rate was ~22,700 dong = 1 USD. USD is accepted in popular tourist areas, but if you want the best bang for your buck, I would stick to dong. You may end up spending more money if you choose not to exchange your currency.
**Please be sure to double check your currency before handing it off to vendors. It is easy to mistakenly mix up the currency (e.g. 2,000 vs 20,000).
Scattered throughout the country are beautifully constructed temples, which can be found high up in the mountains, out in the country, or within city limits.
I am honestly not sure if you are supposed to tip in Vietnam. This seems to be a highly debated topic, but I tipped to remain on the safe side.
Taxi Rides, Uber, and Cyclo.
Vinasun and Mai Linh are a couple of the popular taxi services offered in Vietnam. In my opinion, Vinasun was the better option. Mai Linh was a bit more expensive, but both have fair prices.
Uber is a second option for transportation. There are four modes of Uber transport in Vietnam: Uber MOTO, Uber X, Uber BLACK, and SUV. Uber MOTO is transport via motorbike or scooter if you dare. Uber X is a standard sized four door. Uber Black and SUV are larger vehicles. Unfortunately, in order to use Uber, you’ll need cellular data or Wi-fi, but if you’re fortunate enough, order yourself some car service.
Lastly, the cyclo! The cyclo is a three-wheel bicycle taxi, which is quite popular in dense tourist areas. You have got to try it at least once while you’re in Vietnam! Also, be sure to negotiate your price before stepping on for a ride.
The official language is Vietnamese; however, many locals and tour guides know basic English.
A VISA is required along with your passport traveling from the US to Vietnam. Do not forget to apply in advance!
Hello. – Chào
Thank you – Cảm ơn.
English? – Tiếng Anh?
How much does this cost? – Bao nhiêu tiền?