Vietnam Holiday Vacation

Vietnam is a country most people have heard of but until recently few have had the opportunity to visit. It was not until the early 1990s that the first intrepid travelers started arriving. Visitors from all over the world are now discovering what a hidden gem of a country Vietnam is. Brilliant green rice fields, exotic temples and pagodas, grand colonial buildings, bustling city streets, thatched bamboo huts, deserted sandy beaches, breathtaking mountain scenery, conical straw hats, colorful ethnic minorities, graceful women in ao dai tunics, delicious cuisine, great out door activities luxurious hotels, stunning resorts and more, much more. There’s Hanoi elegant with friendly people,  Sapa with colorful-dressed minorities, nestled in the shadow of Indochina’s highest peak, Halong Bay with amazing caves listed by UNESCO for its outstanding natural beauty. There’s also Hue, the capital of the country’s last imperial dynasty, romantic with palace and rain. Da Nang dynamic by Han river. Tranquil Hoi An, recently recognized World Heritage sites, where you can have clothes made in one day. There’s in the sourth, Da Lat, the city of Love in the southern highlands. Nha Trang with  arguably Vietnam’s finest city beach, with best bays of the world, Ho Chi Minh busy and modern like New york, Mekong-delta with fascinating floating market and it’s most memorable food and traditions. The North, Centre, and South of Vietnam all bear a deep cultural trace which remains in tourists’ memories for years. With everything from mountains to seas, from cold to hot weather, from city to countryside,  IT’S ALL HERE IN VIETNAM !!!

When to go?
Vietnam has three different regions – the North, Central and South – each with different weather patterns and different rainy seasons.  This means that there is neither a best time nor a bad time to travel to Vietnam, even during The Vietnamese New Year.   Hot summer or cold weather is not that big a deal. Beaches are always available from North to South. Sapa, Ba Na and Dalat all offer great places for cool temperature. You know you can find your favorite kind of weather all year round.  While you’re at it, you must experience the exquisite food and traditions of Vietnam, and seal your most memorable vacation.

Climate of Vietnam

Vietnam shares borders with Cambodia, Laos and China, and features 3,200 km of coastline bordering the Eastern Sea. With an area of 332,000 square km, Vietnam’s topography varies from coastal plains to mountain ranges

Vietnam stretches over 1,800 km from north to south; therefore weather patterns in the principle cities are very different.

  • North

Hanoi and surrounding

The dry season, from October to May, is divided into three periods. From October to November, it is comfortable and dry. From December to February, it is considerably cooler, and can sometimes be bitingly cold with persistent light drizzle, locally known as ‘mua bui’ – ‘rain dust’. Skies are grey in late January and early February, but warm bright spells do occur. The average temperature is about 20°C but can fall to 6°C or 7°C at night. From March to May, it is much warmer and drier, and can sometimes be quite hot. The rainy season is from June to September – the wettest months are July and August. In the past, violent tropical storms were a regular occurrence. Swimming in Halong Bay is possible from April to September

Sapa – different weather in the Northwest
In the northwest mountainous area, January and February are the coldest months. There are significant amounts of fog at that time, and even an occasional flurry of snow. Sapa is one of the few places in Viet Nam where hotels have fireplaces!

From March to early May, and from September to December, the weather is excellent but from June to August heavy rain makes climbing Mt. Fansipan and other peaks hazardous. Trekking is possible, but heavy rain and thick mud makes it very strenuous and uncomfortable.

  • Central coast

Central Vietnam experiences a transitional climate, with heavy rainfalls between November and December and dry, hot summer months.

Hue
It is notorious for its wet weather. The rainy season lasts longer than the Vietnamese average, from May to December, and even during the so-called dry season, it rains regularly. In winter, it is significantly colder than other parts of the central area further south. Fortunately, the top of the Hai Van Pass marks a demarcation line between Hue and the sunnier weather in Danang and further south because it crosses a range of granite mountains that acts as a barrier.

Danang/ Hoi An
Once over the peaks of the Hai Van Pass, Danang, Hoi An, and the many fine beaches along the shore enjoy much sunnier weather. Danang and Hoi An are at the northern limits of Viet Nam’s tropical zone and boast a pleasant climate all year round. Although dry, onshore winds in autumn can make bathing risky for inexperienced swimmers, they can generate large breakers suitable for experienced surfers to enjoy themselves. In the autumn, the beaches in the Danang area are generally safer than those further south because they are sheltered by mountains, and thus less exposed to the strong onshore winds. Best time for swimming is between March and October. It can be too cold to swim from November to February.

  • Central Highlands

Inland, the weather on the Central Highland plateaux is usually at its best in November, December and January. The landscape is green and verdant, flowers bloom profusely and the temperature hovers between 10°C and 15°C, on the chilly side, but comfortable. February and March are good as well, but hotter.

Dalat
It is located 1,530m above sea level in the mountains on the southern edge of the plateau, and is therefore much cooler than other places in the central and southern areas. The average temperature ranges from 15°C to 20°C. Its dry season is short, only the few months from December to March, whereas the rainy season last from April to November.

  • South

Saigon & the Mekong Delta
The difference in precipitation between the two seasons (dry from November to May and rainy from June to October) is more obvious than elsewhere in Vietnam. However, the rain in the wet season is often limited to heavy showers at the end of the afternoon, and the weather is warm throughout the year. Annual rainfall in the south is approximately 65 inches and temperatures remain relatively constant –between 30°C and 35°C during the day and from 20°C to 25°C at night – throughout the year.

Nha Trang
The best time to visit Nha Trang is between January and October when air temperatures are between 25°C and 35°C, and water temperatures between 20°C to 25°C. Diving is pointless from late October to mid–December because the water is badly muddied by sediment ‘run-off’ caused
by heavy rain and storms.

Phan Thiet/Mui Ne
In Phan Thiet and Mui Ne it is hot throughout the year. Its monsoon season (April to October) is not as wet as that of the south and central area to the north. Swimming is possible all year long whereby it can be a bit windy in December and January.

Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc has a monsoon sub-equatorial climate with two seasons. The dry season lasts from November to July while the rainy season is from July to October, with the heaviest months of rain in July and August. During the rainy season, it is still possible to visit Phu Quoc, although you
should expect daily and often heavy rain. The most popular time to come to Phu Quoc is during the dry season, so it is recommended to book in  advance. The average temperature throughout the year is 27oC.

Your holiday weather – Overview

The following table is a rough guide to the best and worst months for visiting various places in Vietnam:

Location Activities
Jan Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Sapa mountain scenery,ethnic groups,trekking
Hanoi culture, craft villages, city tours
Halong bay scenery, culture,
heritage, kayaking
Hue area heritage, culture, war
relics, beaches
Hoian / My Son heritage, culture,
beach, Cham relics
Danang area

beaches

Nhatrang beaches, diving,Cham relics, mud
baths
Centre highlands scenery, ethnic
groups, trekking
Da Lat mountain scenery,
culture, golf
Phan Thiet / Mui Ne beaches, golf
Ho Chi Minh City culture, city tours
Mekong Delta scenery, environment, culture,
cruises
Phu Quoc beaches, scenery,
environment, diving
. Good time to visit
Ok, but with some limitations
Good time to be elsewhere

Vietnam Public and National Holiday Calendar

These are public and national holidays of Vietnam.  Holidays that fall on the weekend are moved to the next Monday.

  • 01 January: Tet Duong Lich (New Year’s Day) (National Holiday)
  • January or February:
    (3 days) Tet / Tet Am Lich (Chinese New Year) (National Holiday)
  • 03 February: Anniversary of Founding of Vietnamese Communist Party (National Holiday).
    (Thanh lap Dang Cong San Vietnam – which was founded in 1930)
  • 8 March:International Women’s Day.
  • 30 April: Giai Phong Saigon (Liberation Day – the day Saigon surrendered – 1945) (National Holiday).
  • 01 May: Quoc te Lao Dong (International Labour’s Day) (National Holiday).
  • 19 May: Ho Chi Minh’s birthday (1890) (National Holiday).
  • Eighth day of the fourth moon (usually in June): Phat Dan (Buddha’s birthday) (National Holiday).
  • 1 June: Children’s Day.
  • 8th Lunar Month: Mid-Autumn Festival. September/October: 15-day of the 8th lunar Month. Street Children parade with lanterns and portions of “Moon Cakes” (sticky rice and lotus seeds with the yokes of duck eggs and sugar) are eaten.
  • 02 September: The National Day of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Commemorates Vietnamese declaration of independence from French on 2 September 1945 in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi. Excellent day for photography throughout Vietnam. (National holiday)
  • 20 November: Teacher’s Day. Teachers of Vietnam are honored on this day with gifts from students.
  • 25 December: Christmas Day. Vietnam is 10% Christian. (National Holiday)

Vietnam Travel FAQs

1. Do I need Visa to visit Vietnam?

Yes/ No. It depends on which nationalities you are. Read who need Visa on our Visa section for more information

2. When is the best time to travel in Vietnam?

Vietnam lies in the Southeast Asia inter-tropical monsoon zone. When one region is wet, there is always somewhere else sunny and warm. Its varied climate and landscape range from the four seasons of the mountainous north to the year round tropical temperatures of the lush south. The average temperature ranges from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius (68- 90 degrees F).

The best time to travel in Vietnam is when there is a reduced chance of rain:
October – January ( Hanoi ),
February – April (Hue and Danang ),
December – March ( from Dalat to the Mekong Delta).

3. Is this safe to travel in Vietnam?

Vietnam is one of the safest countries for traveling. Women and independent travelers have found it relatively hassle-free and easy to travel throughout the country. Petty theft, such as pickpockets and drive-by bag snatchers, is more rampant in Ho Chi Minh than elsewhere in the country. Visitors are advised to avoid wearing extravagant jewelry or carrying large amounts of money when walking in the streets. If you do choose to drive a motorbike or ride a bicycle, always wear a helmet.

4. What are the World Heritages in Vietnam?

1. Ha Long Bay – UNESCO World Heritage (Dec. 1994)
2. Hue City – UNESCO World Heritage (Dec. 1993)
3. Hoi An - UNESCO World Heritage (Dec. 1999)
4. My Son Sanctuary – UNESCO World Heritage (Dec. 1999)
5. Phong Nha Cave – UNESCO World Heritage (Jul. 2003)

5. What to bring?

Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable. Lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season.
Winter months in Hanoi and the rainy season in the central region can get cool so a sweater or light jacket will come in handy. Good walking shoes and sandals that can be easily removed are recommended especially when entering temples and people’s homes.

Outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City you will have trouble finding sunscreen, tampons, mosquito repellent, multivitamins, and prescription medicines. So make sure you got all sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, personal first aid kit, personal toiletries.
Shirts and long pants is needed when visiting religious buildings including temple and pagoda or at formal events.

6. Do I need any vaccinations?

No vaccination is required to enter Vietnam. However visitors are advised to have up-to-date inoculations for Cholera, Hepatitis A and B, Malaria, Typhoid and Tuberculosis. Malaria is prevalent in the remote mountainous regions. Please ask your doctor regarding immunizations and for the best preventative measures.

7. Do I need travel insurance?

Insurance is not included in the tour cost. Passengers are strongly advised to have full travel insurance by their own before leaving their country. Being a local handler, VnTripGuide.com will follows your every steps and assist you to insure yourself comprehensively for the full tour duration. Should there be any affects to the schedule of itinerary caused by airlines and / or local condition, VnTripGuide.com will substitute for a suitable arrangement of similar value.
Nevertheless, we are not responsible for any loss, injury or damage sustained by clients, including those occurring outside the tour program. The clients must cover additional expenses incurred due to delays, accidents, natural disaster, political actions and unrest.

8. Which currencies and credit card are accepted in Vietnam?

The official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Although US dollars are widely accepted, you should have local currency for use in taxis and shops. It is sometimes the best currency to carry due to its easy exchange to dong. Approximately 1 USD is equal to 17,000 Dong. Traveler’s cheques can be cashed at only major banks and usually incurred a 2-5 % transaction fee.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted in almost hotels, restaurants and shops. ANZ and Vietcombank have automated teller machines (ATM) for cash advance (in VND).
*Do not accept old, faded or ripped bills (dong or dollars), as you may have trouble spending them.
Banks are open Monday to Friday and some are open Saturday morning. In the major cities there is bureaus to change and most hotels will change US Dollars. When departing, change any Dong back to US dollars. (see working hours in Vietnam)

9. How about laundry facilities?

It is rather cheap in Vietnam and generally available wherever you go. Don’t hand in your laundry to the hotel if you stay for only one night because this service may take longer than one night, especially when the weather is wet. In the main cities of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) or Hanoi, clothes are machine dried and can be done in a day.

10. Tipping?

Tipping is not expected in Vietnam, but it is anyway, highly appreciated. A 5-10% tip for a meal is a very small amount of money. Avoid tipping too much, as it will set a precedent for others. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped. Tipping when eating is probably the most asked question. In the large cities when dining in large hotel restaurants, if you feel the service was good you can tip around 10,000 – 20,000 Dong (around 0.80 – 1.50 USD). As you travel and eat on the roadside it is not required that you tip.

11. How much for airport tax?

International Flights: 12 USD (if from Danang, HCMC), 14 USD (if from Hanoi)
Domestic Flights: None
Children under two are exempted

12. Things to remember when traveling in Vietnam?

- Do not drink tap water.
- Dress modestly and appropriately when visiting local dwelling and religious sites, etc.
- Leave your valuables behind before a night out on the town, or going to the beach.
- When crossing the road- especially in Ho Chi Minh City – always keep looking to the left and right and walk slowly!
- Do not offer money directly to minority people – instead donate to a local charity or offer a small gift, such as pens
- Try and sample at least once the delicious, local street food.
- Always ask permission first before talking photograph, especially in minority areas.

Things To Do or Not To Do in Vietnam

Vietnam is a friendly and safe place to travel. With a sprinkling of common sense, your trip should be smooth and trouble free. Tourists usually complain about over-aggressive street vendors, tour operators with a bad attitude and dangerous driving. However, with a cool head and sensible planning, one can avoid these problems.

DO

  • Greetings are no different to western countries, there are no cultural formalities that as a foreigner you would be expected to know or practice.
  • Store your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place. Most 4-star hotels have in-room safes, otherwise ask the reception to –keep your valuable things in their deposit facility.
  • Take a hotel business card from the reception desk before venturing out from your hotel. This will make your return to the hotel in a taxi or cyclo much easier.
  • Carry a roll of toilet paper in your daypack on long excursions from your base hotel. You never know when you might need it!
  • Dress appropriately. Not only for the prevailing weather, but also not to cause offense to the local people. Vietnamese have conservative dress codes, and it is only in larger cities that these codes are a little more relaxed. Do not wear revealing clothing.
  • If invited into a home, always remove your shoes at the front door when entering.
  • Ask for permission when taking a photograph of someone. If they indicate that they do not want you to, then abide by their wishes. DO NOT offer money or push the issue.
  • Drink plenty of bottled water. During the summer months you should be drinking a minimum of two liters per day. If you drink tea, coffee & alcohol you should increase you water intake accordingly as these will help to dehydrate you.

DON’T

  • Never carry more money than you need when walking around the streets. Do not wear large amounts of jewelry. There are two reasons for not doing this:
    (1) It is considered impolite to flaunt wealth in public;
    (2) It is more likely that you may become a victim of a pickpocket or drive-by bag snatcher.
  • Don’t be paranoid about your security, just be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t wear singlets, shorts, dresses or skirts, or tops with low-neck lines and bare shoulders to Temples and Pagodas. To do this is considered extremely rude and offensive.
  • Avoid giving empty water bottles, sweets and candies or pens to the local people when trekking through ethnic minority villages. You cannot guarantee that the empty bottles will be disposed of in a correct manner, and the people have no access to dental health. If you want to give pens, ask your guide to introduce you to the local teacher and donate them to the whole community.
  • Never sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar when in someone’s house.
  • Never lose your temper in public or when bargaining for a purchase. This is considered a serious loss of face for both parties. Always maintain a cool and happy demeanor and you will be reciprocated with the same.
  • Do not try to take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security.
  • Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages. They are considered to be too intrusive by the local people.

* The above advice is meant to help you have a perfect trip to Vietnam. Do not be overly paranoid though. Generally, Vietnamese people are very appreciative if they see you trying to abide by the customs, and very forgiving if you get it wrong or forget. If you make the effort, you will be rewarded.

Map of Vietnam

Vietnam Map – The Map of Vietnam


Vietnamese Foods

One of the delights of visiting Vietnam is the cuisine, and there are said to be about 500 traditional dishes. Eating is such an integral part of the culture that a time-honoured Vietnamese proverb, ‘ hoc an, hoc noi’, dictates that people should ‘learn to eat before learning to speak’.

Vietnamese cuisine is sum of many parts. Vietnam has an enviable natural prosperity, and the cooking techniques showcase the bounty from land and sea to great advantage. Colonialism and foreign influences led to a marrying of techniques and ingredients. The result? The Vietnamese table.

Famous dishes such as Pho (rice-noodle soup) and fresh spring rolls are but the tip of a gastronomic ice berg. In addition to a myriad of foods and preparations, there are a staggering number of sauces and dips limited only by the imagination of the cook. If cooking were a painting, Vietnam would have one of the world’s most colourful palettes. The Vietnamese have no culinary inhibitions and are always willing to try something new. When you combine these two tendancies,nothing is ruled out.

As you travel up or down the country, you will notice sharp differences in both main dishes and snacks eaten by locals. Its one of the joys of traveling in the country, and it’s a good idea to ask your guide to point out interesting things to eat.

THE NORTH

With the weather so cold for so much of the year, soups play a large part in Northerncuisine. Pho, Vietnam’s ‘chicken soup,’ is made with white vermicelli noodles, sliced beef or chicken, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, hot broth and mint leaves that is served piping hot and at all hours of the day. Pho stalls can be found all over Hanoi (and Hanoi style Pho can be found all over Vietnam, catering to homesick Hanoians) and a bowl can cost between 5,000 and 10,000 dong, depending on the location.

Once the bowl is put in front of you, spice it up with bean sauce and chili sauce and squeeze in a few lime wedges; then dig in with a pair of chopsticks in one hand (to lift up the noodles to cool them off) and a spoon in the other (to lift the noodles to your mouth). Other soups include Chao, a kind of rice porridge, and it’s often prescribed as a remedy for common colds.

By far the favorite food in Hanoi is ‘Bun Cha’ grilled meat eaten at makeshift restaurants serving patrons on the street. It’s a great way to fill up for just a few thousand dongs, and when walking around the city it may be impossible to resist the smell.

Bia Hoi is a Hanoi invention, and ‘Bia’ comes from the English word ‘beer.’ Its freshly brewed and served in plastic jugs; its cheap, and it’s a great way to soak up Hanoi’s ambience at night and you might even make some friends along the way.

Hanoians may be a reserved bunch, but they are downright adventurous when it comes to exotic food: fried silk worms, cobra meat, dog meat among others are eaten by people in the capital to cure sickness, increase virility or just because it’s the right season.

THE CENTER

Most of the food eaten in Central Vietnam has some link to the imperial kitchens of the Nguyen Emperors in Hue. Many of the spices, techniques and vegetables come straight from the tables of the emperors themselves.

Imperial spring rolls are commonly eaten, as is Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef soup that is not for the faint hearted; you may need a bottle of water nearby to wash down the chili peppers.

Perhaps the most famous is Banh Khoai, a pancake like food that is eaten with nuoc leo, a rich peanut sauce. The pancake includes eggs, shrimps and bean sprouts (much like Banh Xeo, in the south, discussed later)

A popular snack is Banh Beo, tiny ceramic dishes with a boiled rice cake topped with pork bits and eaten with a spoon; Drop a small amount of fish sauce (Nuoc Mam) on top and dig in.

A lot of seafood is eaten here as well, and boiled crabs are a specialty.

Perhaps the most exotic food eaten here is Com Hen, a cold rice dish flavored with juice from clams that live in the river near Hoi An. Other ingredients include white vermicelli noodles, chili and shrimp sauce. Its quite a difficult dish to prepare and is not for those who worry about healthy shellfish.

THE SOUTH

The South of Vietnam is considered to have the best food in the country, namely because Saigon, with its increasingly wealthy inhabitants, demand the highest quality vegetables fruits meats etc, and foreign foods (even American Fast Food giants KFC are here) are increasingly common from French to Mexican to Indian.

With the lush Mekong Delta so close, the fruit is very fresh and durians, pineapple, mango and star fruit all come into play in dishes as they come into season.

Banh Xeo is perhaps the most famous Southern Dish, like Banh Khoai, it too is a pancake, but the dish Banh Xeo is much larger, and uses more green beans, shrimps and coconut milk. It serves more than one person, and is dipped in nuoc mam,( fish sauce), after being wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves.

Freshly cooked spring rolls are famous in Saigon, but the most specialized are Goi Cuon, the fresh spring rolls combining sliced cold shrimp, mint leaves, cold vermicelli noodles, and rice paper that is dipped in nuoc mam.

Some Southern exotics include Hot Vit Lon, or fertilized duck egg, that is eaten with a spoon and is usually available in markets and street stalls.