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Experience Vietnam

Introduction to Vietnam

Vietnam is blessed with breath-taking landscapes, rich history and glorious cuisine. However, the true hidden gems in this eclectic country are the locals. The Vietnamese have a reputation for being people of grace and poise, and they treat visitors almost like royalty. Wherever you go on your holidays to Vietnam and whether you speak the language or not, you can expect to be warmly welcomed and afforded levels of courtesy that are hard to find anywhere else in the world.

Best Places to Visit

If you want to soak up the best of the scenery on your holidays in Vietnam, get down to Halong Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the bay is a collection of limestone islands which have eroded magnificently into peculiar peaks and ragged rock formations. Although it is spectacular by day, there are overnight boat trips available, which allow you to see the islands at their most inspiring.

Vietnam packages would not be complete without visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Offering some of the best shopping in the country and with roads that are a buzzing maelstrom of cars and motorbikes, Ho Chi Minh is as exciting and dynamic as it is cosmopolitan.

Top Landmarks

Package holidays to Vietnam ought to include a trip to Hoi An Bridge (also known as the ‘Japanese Covered Bridge’). Built in the 1500s, it is an elaborately carved piece of workmanship. According to legend, it acts as defence against a mythical Japanese monster, the ‘mamazu’.

If you would like to see how the locals live, the Mekong Delta is the place to go. Here, the busy roads and swarms of mopeds are replaced with the Mekong River and shoals of fish. The Mekong itself feeds a network of streams and channels that, in turn, sustain rice fields and orchards throughout the delta. There is also the chance to buy goods at the floating markets and visit the local bird sanctuaries.

Entertainment in Vietnam

When it comes to entertainment, Vietnam deals offer some superb attractions for families. Hanoi city is peaceful and spacious, with plenty for younger visitors. The Vinpearl Amusement Park is Vietnam’s answer to Disneyland, where your little ones can cool down and burn off some energy on the water slides, get to grips with fun-fair-style rides, and even shoot some aliens in the arcade.

The cities are packed with bars, pubs, and clubs, but a night out in Vietnam doesn’t have to revolve around drinking and dancing; you could also catch one of the Vietnamese Water Puppet Shows where puppets appear to dance on the water. Water puppetry dates back to the 11th century, when villagers would entertain themselves when the rice fields would flood.

If you visit Vietname between late September and early October, you should be in time for Tet Trung Thu (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival) – a spectacular festival of light in which the beauty of the moon is celebrated with lanterns and street parties.

Our best deals in Vietnam

Need to know

Language

Vietnamese is both the national and official language of Vietnam, and is spoken by the majority of its inhabitants. However, if you travel to the rural villages of Vietname, you will likely come across a few minority languages, such as Muong, Cham, Khmer, Chinese, and Nung. However, if you are trying to decide which phrasebook to pack, opt for Vietnamese.

Currency

The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong. This is predominantly a paper currency; the few coins that are in circulation are often refused by traders. To get the best exchange rates, it is best to change up your sterling before flying to Vietnam.

If you run low on cash, it is possible to change GBP at banks, as long as the notes you want to exchange are clean; many institutions will refuse to accept damaged or defaced currency. Alternatively, you will find plenty of ATMs in Vietnam, offering favourable rates.

Travellers’ cheques are hard to change up in Vietnam, so avoid carrying them and instead opt for cash exchange or using an ATM for withdrawal. Credit cards are accepted in larger, more modern outlets, but if you travel into the countryside take plenty of cash with you.

Visas

The rules for travelling to Vietnam from the UK are set to change on 30th June 2017. Until then, anyone taking their holidays to Vietnam who is a British Citizen can do so without needing a visa – as long as their stay is for 15 days or less. For visits longer than that (and up to 30 days), you can apply for an e-visa online.

If you are in any doubt about your travel arrangements, check the website of the Vietnamese Embassy for further details.

Climate

Sun-seekers will not be disappointed as the country is consistently warm, with temperatures up into the late twenties. In the north there are four distinct seasons, whereas in the south there are only two seasons, with the cold season from November to April and the hot season from May to October. Monsoons generally occur when humidity reaches its peak. October and November are particularly wet and around 50 per cent of the country’s annual rainfall falls during these months.

Main Airports

If you are flying to Vietnam for a holiday, you will likely land in one of the three main international airports: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Noi Bai International Airport, or DaNang International Airport. From the major airports, you can get a connecting flight to one of the smaller airports, which are scattered across the country.

Located in Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Son Nhat International Airport is Vietnam’s biggest and busiest, handling around 20 million passengers each year. It has two terminal buildings, divided into sections for both domestic and international flights.

Flight Options

Vietnam is well serviced by international airlines and there are direct flights available from the UK. Depending on where you are going in Vietnam, direct flights can take between 11 and 14 hours. If you are opting for a flight with a stop-over, expect your journey to take much longer.

If you have any specific queries about travelling to Vietnam, contact your chosen airline for further information.

Other Advice

Tan Son Nhat International Airport is around a 20 minute drive from Ho Chi Minh City. There are plenty of taxis to be found at the airport but, if you would prefer to get there on your own, there are a range of car hire companies to choose from. However, foreigners are not permitted to drive in Vietnam, unless they hold a temporary Vietnamese driving licence. If you do hire a car, you will need to subsequently hire a driver.

The airport recommends checking in three hours before take-off, but it is worth contacting your chosen airline as they may operate different hours.

Bus

There are extensive bus routes in Vietnam, covering most of the country. Typically, buses run from eight in the morning until around six at night, so you will need to find another mode of transport for any evening travels. However, travellers do have the option of jumping aboard one of the ‘Sleeper Buses’, which operates overnight.

Bus tickets can be bought from bus stations or from the conductor. If you haven’t been to Vietnam before, it might be worth writing your destination down on a piece of paper and handing it to the conductor to prevent any communication problems.

Taxi

Taxis are a cost-effective and convenient method of getting around the major Vietnamese cities. They can be sorted into two groups: official taxis and unofficial taxis.

To ensure you get a licensed cab, look for those sporting the words ‘Taxi Du Lich’, which means ‘Tourist Taxi’. They should also have a contact number on the bodywork, allowing you to book in advance by phone.

Tram

There are no tram services in Vietnam.

Rail Services

Owned by Vietnam Railways, the Vietnamese rail service is dependable, but very different from western trains. Trains are categorised by age and speed: SE trains are newer and faster, while TN trains are older and slower.

Vietnamese trains have not banned smoking in carriages, so expect a fair amount of smoke if you jump aboard.

MAP

FACTS

  1. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest producer of coffee, after Brazil.
  2. The country is home to the largest caves in the world, Son Doong.
  3. Vietnam is the world’s largest exporter of cashew nuts.
  4. Motorbikes account for 90 per cent of Vietnamese traffic.
  5. Kick-volleyball, known as ‘sepak takraw’ is a traditional Vietnamese sport.

FACTS

  1. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest producer of coffee, after Brazil.
  2. The country is home to the largest caves in the world, Son Doong.
  3. Vietnam is the world’s largest exporter of cashew nuts.
  4. Motorbikes account for 90 per cent of Vietnamese traffic.
  5. Kick-volleyball, known as ‘sepak takraw’ is a traditional Vietnamese sport.

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