Practical and general information about Vietnam. Read about the currency, the time difference, travel time, the types of plugs, and the safety of the tap water in Vietnam.
Vietnam is a rising holiday destination. Primarily ‘discovered’ by adventurous backpackers, it is becoming increasingly popular with the larger public. Many instantly recognize the mysterious photos of Halong Bay in the mist, and the ricepads in Sapa. But aside from its lovely sights, Vietnam also has a rich history, much of what can still be seen and discovered today. The imperial city Hué alone can keep travellers busy for several days.
A rising country
Aside from being an ideal holiday country, Vietnam is also a rising economy. The communist country has one political party which decisively controls the nation. As is the case with other communist countries, this has advantages and downsides. An advantage of a long-standing party is the consistent long-term policy that has been in place for years. Vietnam seems to be reaping the fruits of this. The export of goods and services has been growing with double digits for several years in a row, and the economy is flourishing. A consequence of this is that Vietnam was allowed into the World Trade Organisation ten years ago. A downside is that persistent problem of corruption and few efficiently working state companies.
Facts and Numbers
|Time difference||7 hours (winter) or 5 hours (summer)|
|Travel time||11 to 16 hours|
|Electricity||220 or 110 Volt|
|Plugs||Type A, C and D (travel plug required)|
|Tap water||Not safe to drink|
|Visa||Visa is mandatory|
Due to its distinctive form, Vietnam can be easily found on a map. The country is narrow but long, which gives it a massive coastline. From a historic perspective, the most well-known city is probably Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. On the map of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City can be found in the south. However, it is not the capital of the country, that would be Hanoi in the north. Vietnam shares its borders with China, Laos and Cambodia. Although the border with China is relatively short, Vietnam shares much of its history and culture with its northern neighbours.
Tourist highlights of Vietnam
The most famous attractions of Vietnam are Halong Bay, Hoi An and Sapa. But the country has much more to offer. Below, an overview of sights that you cannot miss during a holiday in Vietnam:
A holiday in the north of Vietnam
Many holidays in Vietnam start with a visit to Hanoi, the capital. This fast growing city has roughly eight million inhabitants. The city thus provides a peek into the life of many Vietnamese people. Hanoi is a diverse city, with many different architectural styles. You can find both cathedrals in the European style as well as temples in the Chinese style and buildings reminiscent of communism, as seen in the former Soviet Union. If we look at the map, it shows that Hanoi is the ideal starting point from where trips can be made to both the ricepads of Sapa and the chalkstone rock formations in Halong Bay.
Tourist attractions in Central Vietnam
Backpacking from the north downwards, tourists pass the five most visited places in Vietnam. First on the route is Phong Nha Ke Bang. This national park offers phenomenal views and plenty of activities for adventurous tourists. A journey on a mountain bike, climbing through a cave, ziplining, anything is possible. Tourists that would rather experience more of the culture and history of Vietnam are better off continuing onward to Hué. This imperial city, formerly the capital, is an important attraction primarily due to its beautiful citadel. Although it isn’t even that old (about 200 years) it appears to be from another world. From Hué, it’s a short trip to southern Da Nang. Da Nang is the perfect example of a rising economy; in a few decades it has grown from a fishing village by the sea to a massive city. Aside from modern architecture, you can also find luxurious resorts here. About 20 kilometers to the south lies Hoi An. This small, traditional city is a world heritage, in part because of its unique blend of architecture, history, and a lovely beach. Those that like the beach can travel even further south: Quy Nhon is a relatively unspoiled beach paradise.
High points in the south of Vietnam
If you’ve had your fill of fishing villages, a trip to Vietnam can be complemented with a visit to Ho Chi Minh City. This worldly city once more shows that this country matters internationally. But despite its many skyscrapers, the Vietnamese atmosphere can still be found aplenty. Don’t forget to try out the local cuisine; this can be done at both local street tents as well as the most high-end restaurants. From Ho Chi Minh City, trips are often made to Mui Ne (luxurious resort and cozy hostels), Dalat (nature and sporting activities), Nha Trang (beaches, parties, and classic buildings), Doc Let (white palm tree beaches, and Cam Ranh (even more undiscovered beaches).
Climate and best travel period
The most optimal travel period with regards to the climate in Vietnam cannot be unequivocally stated. In July and August, especially, temperatures can reach very high numbers. Those two months are also the rainy season. This makes summer a less than optimal time to visit the north of the country. A visit between November and March has the least chance of rain, but the temperatures are also lower in those months. Most travellers agree that a visit between October and April is the most ideal. It can, however, get exceedingly cold if you plan to climb the mountains in Sapa (especially in January and February).
Climate in the north
The north of Vietnam has a warmer climate than the south. In July and August, the temperature can reach very high numbers. These two months are also the rainy season. This means that summer isn't the best time to travel to the north of the country. Visiting between November and March has the least chance of rain, but those months also have lower temperatures. Most travellers therefore agree that October to April is the best period to visit. By wary though; it can get very cold in the mountains of Sapa during these months
Climate in the centre of the country
The rainy season in central Vietnam does not occur at the same time as the northern one. The centre of the country sees most of its rainfall from September up and to December. Aside from rain, the central area of the country also experiences hurricanes; these most frequently happen between August and November. The best travel dates are therefore in the remaining months, primarily from February until July. The temperature in the day is between 25 and 34 degrees celsius in those months, and the chance of rainfall is small.
Climate in South Vietnam
From May to October, the southern parts of the country experience heavy rainfall. Compared to the central and northernmost parts, the amount of rain isn’t that bad. Still, it is a substantial amount. The temperature in the south of Vietnam does not fluctuate too heavily, meaning it does not have any impact on the best travel time. The best time to visit would therefore be December until April, as these are the driest months.
The beautiful nature of Vietnam; a famous view are the typical mountain shapes
The local currency in Vietnam is the Dong. One pound is worth roughly 29.000 Dong. The cheapest way to pay in Vietnam is by occasionally withdrawing money with a debit card. This is because a lot of banks charge fees for each transaction (sometimes also a percentage). By occasionally withdrawing money the number of transactions is limited, and with it the added fees. However, it is still wise to bring your credit card along on your trip, just to be sure. Some banks have safety measures in place with regards to making payments abroad, to prevent fraudulent payments. Be sure to check with your bank if any such restrictions are in place and if so, how to remove them.
The time difference between Vietnam and the United Kingdom is +7 hours. During summers, this becomes +6 hours, as Vietnam does not observe daylight saving time.
Vietnam visa application
To enter the country, a Vietnam visa is required. This can be easily arranged through the online application procedure. The tourist visa for Vietnam has a validity term of 30 days.
Submit a visa application for Vietnam
Meandering through the Vietnamese landscape
Safety and health in Vietnam
For a safe vacation, it is recommended to read the travel advisory for Vietnam. This also contains a number of health tips to reduce the chance of any illnesses as much as possible.