“Comfort is better than pride.” – Vietnamese Proverb
- Visas for foreign nationals to Vietnam are complicated and constantly changing. Check here for up to date information on obtaining tourist visas. A 3-month multiple entry Visa will cost $70, and is your ideal choice for exploring.
- Major cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are serviced by International airports. Many regional airports will service cities in between.
- There are multiple bus routes that will make land border crossings with Cambodia and Laos.
- Vietnam is a budget travelers dream. Extremely cheap and affordable, there are few things to worry about in terms of price.
- Reasonable accommodation can be acquired for $10 a night, and even extravagant lodging will rarely rise above $100.
- Vietnam uses the Dong. Bills are different sizes and colors, but all carry the image of Ho Chi Minh. Be careful when paying in cash that you hand the correct bill. 20,000 and 200,000 Dong bills look very similar.
- ATMs exist in tourist areas, but can be sporadic elsewhere. With limited acceptance of credit cards, be sure to have enough cash on hand.
$1 USD = 20,000 VND (Dong)
A local bowl of pho will cost 40,000 VND
A high range 3 course meal for 2 will cost 200,000 VND
A 1 bed apartment in the city center will cost $390 per month
- The climate of Vietnam differs considerably region to region due to differences in elevation and latitude.
- Vietnam is affected by monsoon winds. The winter tends to be dry in comparison to the wet summers.
- The north experiences more dramatic changes between the seasons than the south.
- Temperatures range between 98F in the summer and 45F in the winter in the north, while in the south you can expect temperatures to stay in the 80s even during the winter.
Vietnam has a long history, influenced heavily by invasion and dynastic rule. Vietnam underwent multiple Vietnamese dynasties, each of which fought off invasion by the Chinese, Khmer, and Mongols. In the 16th century, the Nguyen lords unified Vietnam into a single state.
Beginning in 1859, Vietnamese independence was eroded by French colonization. This colonization period led to a development of a plantation culture, with a heavy focus on tobacco, indigo, tea, and coffee; and a trade of cultural items – particularly with cuisine.
The French maintained control through World War II. However, revolutionaries such as Ho Chi Minh began a movement that would later result in independence. After the first Indochine war, Vietnam was partitioned into two countries to later be unified in 1957.
This never happened, instead fighting erupted between the north and south. In 1964, the USA used the Gulf of Tonkin incident as reason to interfere with the war, and began the Vietnam War which came to a conclusion of US loss in 1973 and the unification of Vietnam under communist rule.
With the nation reunified, Vietnam interfered in Cambodia in 1978 with the Khmer Rouge. Vietnam was successful and installed a new Cambodian government. President Bill Clinton of the USA sought diplomatic relations with Vietnam and today the USA and Vietnam are allies.
Vietnam remains under communist party rule, however is increasingly opening itself to capitalist and free-market trade.
Need to Know
- Vietnam is a communist country. Propaganda is very real. Be aware that it is illegal to criticize the government. In general, keep your political opinions to yourself.
- There is significant pollution within the cities. Consider wearing face masks to reduce smog intake while traveling within Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
- Vietnamese cuisine is delicious – and often times it is best from a street stall. Look for where the locals are eating, and be sure to eat from places you can visibly see the food being cooked.
- Vietnam has excellent coffee – some of the best in the world. Try cafe su da, egg coffee, coconut coffee, the list goes on.
- If you are looking for vegetarian or vegan food, look for the word “Chay”. As well, look for Buddhist or temple food – as this will always be vegan.
- Vietnam is a safe country for travelers. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution and beware of petty theft and crime.
- Motorbike accidents are the leading cause of deaths amongst expats. Be as safe as possible when riding by wearing safety gear and helmets.
- Crossing the street can be daunting. Hold out your hand and slowly and steadily make your way across. Don’t suddenly stop or run – the bikes are anticipating your movements and should flow around you.
- Be wary when in the jungle – old land mines from the Vietnam War still kill people every year.
We recommend reviewing safety guidelines by various state departments: – we make no guarantees to your safety!
US State Department – Moderate to High bias, with moderate levels of broad information. We advise checking against other sources to confirm veracity of statements.
British State Department – Low bias, and very thorough information. We recommend checking with the FCO for tourist warnings.
Canada State Department – Low bias, with thorough information. We advise using as an additional resource for tourist warnings.
We spent a little over 3 weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, 3 weeks in Hanoi – broken up in 1 week and 2 weeks – and 10 days on Cat Ba Island in January-March 2016.
Ho Chi Minh:
Popular Downtown Saigon Attractions: Notre Dame Cathedral the Post Office, and More
Tran Hung Dao Temple
Jade Emperor Pagoda
The Pink Cathedral
Le Van Tam Park
Museum of Vietnamese History
ICHI Cat Cafe
Mariamman Hindu Temple
Motorbike To Cu Chi Tunnels
Reunification Palace Saigon