Destinations

Vietnam

"Without Ho Chi Minh there is no Vietnam. Without Vietnam there is no Ho Chi Minh."

Vietnam (Cộng ha x hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam) is the easternmost and major country in Indochina. For a tourist, it can be divided into three major regions, North, South and Centre.  The Centre is visited only for trips longer than 8 nights.

Before Travel

Vietnam Visa process


Visa requirements

Flying In

The North is usually accessed through Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport.

The Central region's main airport is the very modern Da Nang International Airport. The other (mainly) domestic airport in the region is Phu Bai Airport which is the access point for the historic city of Hue.

The Southern region is best accessed from the busiest of all, Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).

The country is S-shaped, and the distance from north to south is about 1,650km, so distances are very great.

Da Nang is usually considered the main city in the central region, and specialises in MICE Tourism. The now decrepit old aircraft hangers where sorties were flown from to spray Agent Orange, can be viewed along the marina.

Land Transport

Distances can take a long time to travel by land, even by Sri Lankan standards. This is because the general speed limit is 40km in the city, 60km out of the city, and 100kmh on designated freeways only. There are many police in and out of the city, and will fine the driver quite a large amount (about $70) for speeding.

Best Times for a visit

The best times for a visit by Sri Lankans, when the weather is not too hot would be either April (during the Avurudhu holidays), or in mid-September. This time would be ideal to avoid the heavier monsoon weather.

Major Sights

The major attraction in Vietnam is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay. This is 160km from Hanoi, which means that an overnight stay here is mandatory for a comfortable, morning visit.

The north western hills has the city of Sapa, located 1,650m above sea level, which may be considered Vietnam's Nuwara Eliya.

In Ha Noi city, the main attraction is the famous Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Presidential Palace and museum, which is closed for two months during the year, when the body is under maintenance.

The beauty of the coastline and five hills of the central area near Da Nang is on a par with many fine beaches such as Krabi, Phuket and Langkawi.

Another historic and scenic spot is Hue, which is a central city which was the ancient capital. The highlight here is the imposing Imperial Citadel.

The centre also has the historic trading centre of Hoi An, where many hotels have been built since the "opening" of the country in 1995.

The commercial capital of the country is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Sai Gon). The main sights here include the Reunification Palace and the old centre, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and the Opera House.

Outside HCMC, the main attractions are the Me Kong Delta area and the Viet Cong tunnel at the Cu Chi village.

Can I manage by myself if I am just Shopping?

In Vietnam, only Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and to a limited extent Hanoi seem to be manageable for brand-name shopping and city sightseeing without a tour guide. HCMC is a modern city, with a good taxi service and easy to read road signage. Hanoi has limited shopping opportunities, though there are many bargains to be found (through bargaining!) near the Hoan Kiem Lake, in the Hai B Trưng urban district. Beware of US$1 T-shirts.

However, for tours out of the major cities such as Ha Long bay, the Me Kong Delta and Cu Chi tunnels, in order to avoid the crowds before they arrive it is best to take an organised tour.

Currency

The currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).  The notes are in the denominations 1000,2000,5000,10000,50000,100000,200000 and 500000. The latter four are the most commonly used, due to their low value.

USD/VND> middle exchange rate

Minimum Visits


Here are the minimum recommended visiting times, to see each part of the country with a tour group. The hyperlinks give you direct access to articles on the destinations.

North
Hanoi 2 nights
Halong Bay 1 night
Sapa 2 nights

Centre
Hue 2 nights
Danang 1 night
Hoi An 1 night

South
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC/Saigon) 2 nights

There are other major sights which are a little out of the way.

Day Trips

Here are the major day trips that could form the essentials of your tour.

Me Kong Delta (from HCMC)
Cu Chi Village and Tunnels (from HCMC)
Cao Dai Temple (from HCMC)
 

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