From the limestone dreamland of Halong Bay to the enchanting fields of Sapa, Vietnam promises an intriguing and full adventure. With hustling cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and chill beach towns like Nha Trang this South East Asia wonder is a must do!
Sharing its borders with Cambodia and Laos, Vietnam is home to the Mekong Delta as well as rich history from the Vietnam War and French occupation. Vietnam combines traditional temples with fresh french baguettes making it a diverse cultural experience perfect for all types of travellers!
Here is our Ultimate Travel Guide for Vietnam.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VIETNAM
Getting there: Jetstar often has sale fares to several Vietnam cities and takes around 8 hours from the East Coast of Australia. If you are coming from someone other than Australia I would recommend searching on Skyscanner.com for your cheapest route.
We flew from Hong Kong into Danang as it was cheaper than Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh.
On arrival: You will need to obtain a visa to visit Vietnam. A lot of travellers organise their full visa prior to arriving. As long as you obtain an approval letter and carry a couple of passport photos you can actually obtain your visa on arrival. We used this service which was a breeze.
Population: Over 89.71 million
Currency: Vietnamese Dong
Exchange Rate: $1.00 AUD to 17,226 DONG (As of April 2017)
Religion: Vietnam is officially an atheist country, with Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism widely practised.
When to visit: Taking into account the size of Vietnam deciding the best time to visit can be difficult. The south sees the monsoon season around May- September whilst the north experiences it from October to April. The best time to visit Vietnam is during the Spring months of Feb-April. The temperatures are moderate, less humid and rainfall is lighter. March and April have the lowest rainfall across all destinations and temperatures are pleasant and get cooler as you go north.
Getting Around: If you are short on time Vietnam local airlines offer cheap airfares. We flew from Hanoi to Nha Trang with Vietnam airlines which were a decent price and took just under 2 hours. I also recommend travelling through Vietnam on a train, you not only get to see a different side to the epic country but it’s also a more eco way to get around.
Related: 10 Tips for Travelling to Asia
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WHERE TO VISIT IN VIETNAM
Vietnam, measuring over 300,000 square kilometres is vastly different from North to South. Deciding where you want to visit can be tricky considering there are so many wonderful places that are equally diverse and beautiful. A lot of people choose one end to start from and then work their way up or down the coast. Below you will find our top picks for Vietnam destinations.
Related: BEST VIETNAM HOSTELS
Da Nang is located on the central coastline of Vietnam. It is known for its history as a French colonial port and slowly been built up with resorts and tourist attractions like the new waterfront. Here you can visit Marble Mountain, Son Tra Peninsula and My Son Temples.
Located just 45 minutes south of Da Nang, Hoi Ann is most known for its well-preserved Ancient Town and cute colourful buildings. Walk around the old streets that are lined with lanterns, trendy wine bars, coffee shops and yummy restaurants. Hoi Ann is definitely a must do!
Hue is a city in central Vietnam that was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945. A major attraction is the 19th-century Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls, take a local Cyclo (a local means of transport, where a rickshaw is human-powered by pedalling) around the Old Town and get a quick tour from a local. Around 14km northeast of Hue, you will find Thuan An beach, a fairly quiet spot that is lined with local seafood vendors. We stayed at the gorgeous beachfront resort Ana Mandara which was amazing.
Ho Chi Mihn
Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) is a busy city in the south of Vietnam. Lots of French influence here with Notre-Dame Cathedral made entirely of materials imported from France, and the 19th-century Central Post Office. Spend your days wandering the city and cafe hopping or head to the bustling Bến Thành Market. You can also visit the War Remnants Museum which houses retired military vehicles such as “Huey” helicopters, attack bombers and an M48 Patton tank. Tip: Don’t visit between 12PM-1.30PM as the Museum is closed for lunch 🙂 For an in-depth look into Ho Chi Mihn check out this guide!
The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a cultural mix known for its old architecture and a rich diversity of South-east Asian, Chinese and French influences. There are so many things to do in Hanoi, start with a visit the chaotic Old Quarter, where narrow streets are lined with local vendors, or temple hop and get lost. Here you can also visit the famous Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US prisoners during the American War. Hanoi is also the perfect place to organise your trip to the beautiful Halong Bay.
HA LONG BAY
Embark on a 3-day journey around this majestic place that is made up of around 2,000 limestone islands and emeralds waters. The tours range but usually include all meals, a cooking class, day tours to caves and of course free time to relax! Book a traditional Junk Boat tour, we went with Blue Dragon Tours who were just amazing!
A popular trekking base, Sapa is located inland in northern Vietnam. Overlooking the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, this place is not to be missed! Hill tribes, such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao, make up much of the town’s local population, so rich culture will definitely be experienced!
Nha Trang is a lovely little coastal town in southern Vietnam known for its beaches, diving sites and offshore islands. Its main beach is surrounded by a lovely park front, restaurants and shops. Take an aerial cable car over to Hòn Tre Island and explore Vin Pearl and the neighbouring islands.
Dalat located on the Lang Biang highlands is situated in central Vietnam. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its distinctive temperate climate, take in the relaxing waterfalls, nature hikes and beautiful architecture. The area was developed as a resort by the French in the early 1900s, and many reminders of its colonial heritage remain.
Related: “20 Photos To Inspire You To Visit Vietnam“
FOOD IN VIETNAM
So much amazing food to try in Vietnam. The Local cuisines are full of fresh vibrant flavours. lots of noodles soups and exotic infusions with remnants of the French influence in pastries and bakeries. Head to the beach town of Nha Trang where you can get fresh seafood on the beach and don’t forget to try the famous Vietnamese coffee made with condensed milk.
MY FAVOURITE VIETNAM DISHES? DEFINITELY THE PHO, BANH MI AND RICE PAPER ROLLS! See Below, some of my favourite restaurants in Vietnam. AND REMEMBER TO CHECK TRIP ADVISOR FOR TOP PICKS OF EACH PLACE YOU VIST!
+Sailing Club, Nha Trang
Amazing place to enjoy a meal and a cold drink whilst admiring the beauty of Nha Trang Beach. We went here on two occasions the first time ordering the Seafood Platter for two, which was amazing! My boyfriend even called it as the ‘best meal we have had whilst on this trip’. It came with a whole fish, mussels, squid, prawns and was accompanied by wedges and a salad! It was fresh, delicious and filling, we finished our meal off with some ice cream :). On our next visit, we got wraps, they were good. I also got a Berry Smoothie which was delicious! The staff are friendly and efficient, the view is amazing, and the food is great! Definitely, a must do whilst in Nha Trang.
+Bread Of Life, Da Nang
Da nang was not as I imagined. So after a terrible first lunch, we checked trip advisor before venturing out again and decided on Bread Of Life.There were only a couple of others in the cafe when we arrived for lunch but the staff were very warm and welcoming. I got the Mexican chicken dinner- it was a great size and so tasty! I loved all the little elements- the chicken was a little dry but it was so yum I barely noticed. My boyfriend got the chicken burrito- he didn’t seem to enjoy his as much as me haha ( I think he was jealous) but said it was good. They also have a delivery service which I thought was great!
+Hoi Ann Roastery
Excellent rest stop! We needed a pick me up coffee and to have a little sit down. The coffee was delicious- excellent cappuccino. We also ordered shrimp rice paper rolls, they were fresh and tasty. They had a little too much mint and other greens for my liking but just meant I had to put extra sauce on :). Definitely a great place to grab a coffee if your in Hoi An!
+ Morning Glory, Hoi Ann
We were recommended this restaurant by a friend and also by our tour guide and was so glad we took their advice on board. It’s the best meal we have had so far in Vietnam ( been here for a week). It serves street food in a stylish yet authentic way. The atmosphere was great (probably because everyone had a happy belly), the service was good and the meals were a great portion. My partner ordered the pork ribs in 5 spice that came with rice and Vietnamese salad- the ribs were beautifully cooked with a sticky sweet sauce that was accompanied well by the freshness of the salad. I had the roasted Vietnamese chicken which was huge and delicious. It had an incredible spice and the chicken was cooked to perfection – it also came with rice and salad. We highly recommend this place! And if we return to Hoi An I’m stopping in to get that sensational chicken again!
+Halong Bay 3 night Cruise
For more information check out “Best Halong Bay Cruise for Backpackers“
+Explore the old city of Hoi Ann
If you want more info on the Tunnels head to Kerri’s post here–> “Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Cu Chi Tunnels“
+The Mekong Delta
Check out “A Day Trip to Mekong Delta with Kids” for more Information
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