Your Vietnam Travel Guide

Visit Vietnam Q&A: Which destination to visit?

Selecting the right attraction is no easy task for many visitors. It can be a confusing and even frustrating job, and that's probably the last thing anyone wants when planning a trip to Vietnam. That’s why we’ve created this handy Visit Vietnam Q&A to help determine which tourist attraction is best for you.

Note that while there are hundreds of attractions you can visit in Vietnam, we've only detailed the top places that are elected by the overwhelming majority of visitors to Vietnam. Click here for itinerary overview.

Rural adventure

Your purpose is to come to live local experience, learning about local farming practices, tasting authentic local cuisine, how to cook, immerse yourself in a “farmer’s life”? If that is what you want, then SapaHoi An are among the best.

Love and romance

Whether it's your honeymoon or just a romantic trip for you and your significant other, you couldn't have selected a much better choice than Dat LatHa LongHoi An or Phu Quoc. These are the destination of choice for many couples looking to get away for a romantic vacation, and for good reason. If romance is important to you, keep these on your list.

Hiking/trekking

Vietnam are a mecca of trails with excellent trekking. If you're like us, crazy about hiking to see the often unseen, then definitely consider this option. From gorgeous coastal trails, lush rice terraces hikes, to lush jungle, you can do it all in Vietnam: from easy hike in half a day to hard trek of conquering Fansipan summit – the Indochina’s Roof in the trekking hub of Sapa where the scenery is wonderful with majestic mountain, green rice paddies and fascinating tribal villages. A picturesque Bac Ha, exciting Dong Van, evergreen forested National Parks of Hoang Lien, Ba Be through spectacular karst scenery, minority villages, Cat Ba with 18-km hike, Bai Tu Long, Bach Ma, Cat Tien where crocodiles can ben seen while trekking, Phong Nha – Ke Bang combining trek with caving in the world’s largest cave – Hang Son Doong, Cuc Phuongthrough superb forest and past ancient trees and caves to minority village, Yok Don natinal park with dozens of mammals.

Cycling

If you are cycling fans, then Vietnam is the right choice. Cyclying is an excellent way to experience Vietnam. Bikes for rent are available across tourist destinations in Vietnam with 3$-18$ per day depending on bike quality. In Mekong delta, good routes include the country lanes around Chau Doc and quiet road along Combodian border from Chau Doc to Ha Tien, some nice cycling on the islands of Vinh Long. Hue also a great place for cyclists with temples, pagodas and Perfurme River. Dat Lat with moutain trails, Hoi An with flat terrain to explore craft villages, cutting across rice paddies, Mekong delta on backroad along waterwayss under the shade of coconut palms, highland lane in Ba Be national park or Bac Ha with majestic mountain scenery, Phong Nha – Ke Bang national park

Beach

Many of the best beaches on earth can be found right here in Vietnam spreading from the North to the South. If you consider yourself a beach-going person, then you're going to love Vietnam’s choices. Take your pick of white, yellow, smooth, coarse sand and clear, blue sea water from North to the South: Lan Ha, Titop, Cat Ba beaches in the New7Wonders Halong bay, An Bang, Ha My, Lang Co, Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Quy Nhon, Phu Quoc.

Motorbiking

Motorbiking is the most popular mode of transportation in Vietnam. Repair shops and rent service are every where. It is also an unforgettable way to fully experience the country of Vietnam if you are confident to ride. Ho Chi Minh highway from south to north is an option. On the way you will admire wonderful karst secenery, cut through forests, oceanic view, dramatic limestone hills in Phong Nha – Ke Bang, Ninh Binh, glorious mountain scenery, river valleys and tribal villages in Sapa, Dien Bien, stupendous mountain roads in Ha Giang, Dong Van, Bao Lac.

Kayaking

If kayaking is your thing, then you'll certainly have plenty of opportunities to row and explore some of the world’s most beautiful waters in Vietnam: paddle through spectacular limestone outcrops in Cat Ba, sublime view in Ba Be national park, super riverside scenery in Hoi An.

Kite surfing, windsurfing and sailing

Mui Ne beach being windchasers’ hot spot in Asia, Ninh Chu beach being an emerging kitesurfing destination. Nha Trang and Vung Tau are also good options. The cost for 2 hours for beginners is around 100$. Best time for surfing in Mui Ne is between November and April with morning for beginners.

Surfing

Surfing is possible most times of the year in Vietnam but more between November and April when the winter monsoon blows from the north. Da Nang with 30km of beach stretch. Quy Nhon’s beach up to Quang Ngai is also fine. Bai Dai beach, 27km south of Nha Trang, Mui Ne, Vung Tau are also a good place.

Cultural relics

If the history of places you visit intrigues you, then this is a category to put on your list. Vietnam has an incredibly rich history that is unique in all the world. Luckily, much of this history has been preserved throughout the S-shaped small land strip in various historical sites: capital city of Hanoi with Hanoi old quarter, Hoa Lo prison, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Military Museum; ancient town of HoianImperial citadel of Hue, My Son sanctuary, Phat Diem unique stone cathedral in Ninh Binh.

Tropical flora and fauna

If you're a big fan of tropical plants and birds, then make sure to put this on your list. Vietnam offers some of the most diverse plant and animal life on the planet, and several species are endemic to this land, meaning they only exist here such as Delacor’s Langur. Places for your choice are Xuan Thuy biosphere reserve, National Parks of Hoang Lien, Ba Be, Cuc Phuong, Cat Ba, Bai Tu Long, Bach Ma, Cat Tien, Phong Nha – Ke Bang.

General or luxury dining

Whether it's a small restaurant or a fast food place, you'll be happy. If you're not as concerned about where the food is, only that it's good and you don't have to fix it, then any place in Vietnam is for you.

You'll have a variety of dining options on any of the seven major regions. However, some are much better equipped to give you an incredible experience than others (for a price), while some regions are better at serving up local produce than others. General dining is the next option, so skip this one if you're not looking for luxury dining.

Parks and recreation

Vietnam is also home to some outstanding National Parks including Hoang Lien, Ba Be, Cat Ba, Bai Tu Long, Cuc Phuong, Xuan Thuy Ramsar, Cat Tien

Nightlife

If nightlife is important to you, then make sure you put Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Hoian on your list. Most places in Vietnam shuts down after dark, but if you're just starting when most are heading to bed - add these destinations to your score.

Seclusion and privacy

If you're looking to escape, and get away from it all, then Phu Quoc, Quy Nhon etc should be on your list. Remoteness isn't always a big thing to come by in Vietnam.

High class shopping

Take your pick from some of the world's best shops. Vietnam offers all big brands in the places you might least expect them. If fine art and high-class merchandise are for you, then Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh cities are where you can shop. General shopping is the next option, so feel free to skip this if you're not a high-class kind of shopper.

Souvenir shopping

If you're more budget oriented and are really looking for some great things to take home with you, choices for you are every where you go in Vietnam. You don't have to break the bank to take home some incredible art, local crafts, or souvenirs.

Scuba diving or snorkeling

Vietnam has fascinating dive sites. The most popular scuba-diving and snorkelling found in Nha Trang, Hoi An, Cham Islands, Phu Quoc. Con Dao islands is the best divign and snorkelling place with diverse marine life, fine reefs and even wreck dive. 1 day snorkelling trip costs between 25$ and 40$. Note: find reputable dive schools with good safety procedures, qualified instructors and well maintained equipment.

Birds watching

If you simply have to see the birds during your vacation, then make sure Xuan Thuy Ramsar (between November and January), Thung Nham, Cat Tien national parks are on your list.

Transportation preferences

When visiting Vietnam, you prefer modes of public transportation like the bus, taxis, etc or want to rent a car, a motorbike or even a bike to fully experience and appreciate Vietnam’s landscape and cultures? Sure, you can do it all. All are available across tourist destinations, from registered public transport to meter taxi, motorbikes, bikes for rent. 

Accommodation preferences

Vietnam has it all, from world class resorts in which you can relax on the beach most of your trip, play golf, enjoy a large pool to hotels with very nice accommodations for a much cheaper rate than the big resorts, condotel - the choice of many budget-oriented travelers, a good way to save some money during your stay in Vietnam (condos often include a kitchenette for fixing meals in your room if you so choose, ideal for families) to a affordable homestay or guest house - the choice of those seeking seclusion and the 'warmth' of a home on their vacation

Weather - when to go where

Vietnam is divided into 2 major parts with the North part having four seasons and Southern part with dry and rainy seasons.

If pleasantly cold weather with bloosoming flowers is of your favorite, then Sapa, Mai Chau, Ha Giang will be your best destination in Spring.

If you are dreaming of swimming white sandy beaches, cruising and kayaking on emerald water on a calm bay with limestone islands in the North of Vietnam, then Cat Ba, Lan Ha will be your best summer vacation, from May to August. Mid May to June is peak time for domestic travellers.

Autumn: Excellent time to tour the whole nation. The coastal resorts are less crowded and there are fewer people on the move

Winter: A fine time to visit HCMC, Mui Ne, the Mekong Delta and offshore islands such as Phu Quoc as sunny skies are the norm.

Family-friendly activities

There is no worry travelling with children in Vietnam. Baby supplies are available almost any cities in Vietnam. Children will have a good time in Vietnam, mainly because of the overwhelming amount of attention they attract and the fact that almost everybody wants to play with them. Big cities usually have plenty to keep kids interested but as parent, you should keep due care of them for traffic safety reason.

Some notes:

  • Watch out for rip tides along the main coastline. Some popular beaches have warning flags and lifeguards.
  • Local cuisine is rarely too spicy for kids and the range of fruit is staggering. International food (pizzas, pasta, burgers and ice cream) is available, too.
  • Breastfeeding in public is perfectly acceptable in Vietnam.

If you're a family with children, and still worried about your kids’ safety, then Phu Quoc, Ha Long will offer an incredible array of activities and sights for families, such as calm beaches, zoo's, aquariums, water parks, and more.

Financial mindset

Whether money is not your concern or you want to save a little or you are a budget oriented traveller, Vietnam has it all, with wide range of travel budge from low, mid- to high-end travel for your selection. With just 25$ per day, you can enjoy your vacation in Vietnam!.

Golfing

Recently, Vietnam is named as the Fantastic Golf Destination. Take your pick of many beautiful world-class golf courses throughout Vietnam. If you're into golf, then

  • The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip, a 18-hole course built among the unique terrain in the sand hills of Ho Tram.
  • Dalat Palace Golf Club is situated in the South-western highlands, 1500m above sea level in the temperate highlands of Dalat makes it a perfect place for playing golf in a tropical country.
  • Laguna Lang Co near Lang Co Bay –  the 30th member of the “World’s Most Beautiful Bays” club (Worldbays Club),
  • BRG Da Nang Golf Resort: a 7,160-yard, 18-hole, links-style layout that was designed to capture the true spirit of the game - blown-out bunkers, firm and fast fairways.
  • Montgomerie Links Vietnam, conveniently located midway between Hoi An and Da Nang, the 18-hole international standard golf course, the Asia’s 10 Most Elite Golf Courses.
  • Vietnam Golf & Country Club: Located 17 kilometers from the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, designed with 36-holes.
  • Van Tri Golf Club, known as the first exclusively private golf course in Vietnam reached the International Championship standard. 
  • Chi Linh Star Golf and Country Club (B & C), a 1-hour drive on the way from Hanoi to Halong Bay.
  • King’s Island Golf Club (Mountain view), situated on a small island in the middle of Dong Mo Lake at the foot of Ba Vi Mountain with 36-hole on 350 hectares of hilly area and 1500 hectares of lakes.
  • Vinpearl Nha Trang Golf Resort, located on Hon Tre Island where is 3 kilometers from mainland Nha Trang, with 18-hole, a Vietnam’s first international standard golf course with ocean view

are definitely top places to take a swing at a game you'll never forget.

PRACTICAL TIPS

Daily living cost

Daily living cost

Daily Costs – low end: ~50$

A glass of draught beer: from US$0.50

One hour on a VIP local bus: US$6–8$

Cheap hotel: US$15–20 a night

Simple noodle dish: US$1.50–2.50

Midrange

US$50 – 100

Comfortable double room: US$25–50

Meal in a restaurant: from US$12

One-hour massage: US$7–20

Ten-minute taxi ride: US$2.50–5

Top end (more than) US$100

Luxury hotel room: from US$80

Gourmet dinner: from US$20

Internal flight: US$30–100

Visa and laws

Visa

Some nationalities need a visa in advance for all visits, some don't. The standard length of stay for tourist visas is 30 days; for visa-exempt nationalities it is 15 days.

Most visitors to Viet Nam need a visa to enter the country. Visas are exempted for the citizens of the countries which have signed a bilateral or unilateral visa exemption agreement with Viet Nam. 

Read more

Visa application

Visa is issued by competent authorities of Viet Nam in foreign countries. Visa on arrival is possibly issued in some special cases. 

Read more

Entry & Exit Formalities

Formalities at Vietnam’s international airports are generally smoother than at land borders. That said, crossing overland from Cambodia and China is now relatively stress-free. Crossing the border between Vietnam and Laos can be slow.

Customs Regulations

Enter Vietnam by air and the procedure usually takes a few minutes. If entering by land, expect to attract a bit more interest, particularly at remote borders. Duty limits:

  • 400 cigarettes
  • 1.5 litres of spirit

Large sums of foreign currency (US$7000 and greater) must be declared.



Health tips

Health Insurance

Health & insurance

Health issues (and the quality of medical facilities) vary enormously depending on where you are in Vietnam. The major cities are generally not high risk and have good facilities, though rural areas are another matter.

Travellers tend to worry about contracting infectious diseases in Vietnam, but serious illnesses are rare. Accidental injury (especially traffic-related) account for most life-threatening problems. That said, a bout of sickness is a relatively common thing.

Insurance

Insurance is a must for Vietnam, as the cost of major medical treatment is prohibitive. A travel insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is the best bet.

Some insurance policies specifically exclude such ‘dangerous activities’ as riding motorbikes, diving and even trekking. Check that your policy covers an emergency evacuation in the event of serious injury.

If you're driving a vehicle, you need a Vietnamese insurance policy.

Before You Go

Don’t travel without health insurance – accidents do happen. If your health insurance doesn’t cover you for medical expenses abroad, get extra insurance – check our website https://www.pjico.com.vn/san-pham/bao-hiem-du-lich for more information or you can email at us yourtravelsupport@vatravel.vn to make sure that you are covered during your visit to Vietnam.

Availability & Cost of Health Care

The significant improvement in Vietnam’s economy has brought with it some major advances in public health. However, in remote parts, local clinics will only have basic supplies – if you become seriously ill in rural Vietnam, get to HCMC, Danang or Hanoi as quickly as you can.

Private Clinics

These should be your first port of call. They are familiar with local resources and can organise evacuations if necessary. The best medical facilities – in Hanoi, HCMC and Danang – have health facility standards that come close to those in developed countries.

State Hospitals

Foreigners are now can be treated by state hostipals officers who are trained abroad and can speak English.

Self-Treatment

If your problem is minor (eg travellers’ diarrhoea) this is an option. If you think you may have a serious disease, especially malaria, do not waste time – travel to the nearest quality facility to receive attention.

Buying medication over the counter is also quite okey but ask your tour guide for translation or help.

Tap Water

Be very careful of what you drink. Tap water is heavily chlorinated in urban areas, but you should still avoid it. Stick to bottled water, which is available everywhere. Ice is generally safe in the cities and resorts, and is often added to drinks and coffee.

Infectious Diseases

Bird Flu

The bird flu virus rears its head from time to time in Vietnam. It occurs in clusters, usually among poultry workers. It's rarely fatal for humans. When outbreaks do occur, eggs and poultry are banished from the menu in many hotels and restaurants.

Chikungunya

This virus is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes that bite during the day. Fever, joint pain and rashes are the main symptoms; paracetamol (do not take aspirin) will ease pain. No vaccine or medicine is available, but most patients feel better within a week.

Dengue

This mosquito-borne disease is a real concern in Southeast Asia. It's more common in urban areas, and during rainy season. Several hundred thousand people are hospitalised with dengue haemorrhagic fever in Vietnam every year, but the fatality rate is less than 0.3%. As there is no vaccine available, it can only be prevented by avoiding mosquito bites. The mosquito that carries dengue bites throughout the day and night, so use insect-avoidance measures at all times. Symptoms include a high fever, a severe headache and body aches (dengue was once known as ‘breakbone fever’). Some people develop a rash and experience diarrhoea. There is no specific treatment, just rest and paracetamol – do not take aspirin as it increases the likelihood of haemorrhaging. See a doctor to be diagnosed and monitored.

Hepatitis A

A problem throughout the region, this food- and water-borne virus infects the liver, causing jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), nausea and lethargy. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A – you just need to allow time for the liver to heal. All travellers to Vietnam should be vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B

The only serious sexually transmitted disease that can be prevented by vaccination, hepatitis B is spread by body fluids, including sexual contact. In some parts of Southeast Asia up to 20% of the population are carriers of hepatitis B, and usually are unaware of this.

HIV

The official figures on the number of people with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam are vague. Health-education messages relating to HIV/AIDS are visible all over the countryside, but the official line is that infection is largely limited to sex workers and drug users. Condoms are widely available throughout Vietnam.

Japanese B Encephalitis

This viral disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. It’s very rarely caught by travellers but vaccination is recommended for those spending extended time in rural areas. There is no treatment; a third of infected people will die while another third will suffer permanent brain damage.

Malaria

For such a serious and potentially deadly disease, there is an enormous amount of misinformation concerning malaria. You must get expert advice as to whether your trip actually puts you at risk.

Many parts of Vietnam, particularly city and resort areas including Danang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang have virtually no risk of malaria. For most rural areas, however, the risk of contracting the disease far outweighs the risk of any tablet side effects. Travellers to isolated areas in high-risk regions such as Ca Mau and Bac Lieu provinces, and the rural south, may like to carry a treatment dose of medication for use if symptoms occur. Remember that malaria can be fatal. Before you travel, seek medical advice on the right medication and dosage for you.

Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The most important symptom of malaria is fever, but general symptoms such as headache, diarrhoea, cough or chills may also occur. Diagnosis can only be made by taking a blood sample.

Two strategies should be combined to prevent malaria – mosquito avoidance and antimalarial medications.

Malaria Prevention

Choose accommodation with screens and fans (if not air-conditioned).

Impregnate clothing with permethrin in high-risk areas.

Sleep under a mosquito net.

Spray your room with insect repellent before going out for your evening meal.

Use a DEET-containing insect repellent on all exposed skin, particularly the ankle area. Natural repellents such as citronella can be effective but must be applied frequently.

Use mosquito coils.

Wear long sleeves and trousers in light colours.

Malaria Medication

There are various medications available. Some drugs are not effective in southern regions of Vietnam so always consult a health professional before travel.

Chloroquine & paludrine The effectiveness of this combination is now limited in Vietnam. Generally not recommended.

Doxycycline A broad-spectrum antibiotic that has the added benefit of helping to prevent a variety of tropical diseases, including leptospirosis, tick-borne disease, typhus and melioidosis. Potential side effects include a tendency to sunburn, thrush in women, indigestion and interference with the contraceptive pill. It must be taken for four weeks after leaving the risk area. Effective across the nation.

Lariam (mefloquine) Receives a lot of bad press, some of it justified, some not. This weekly tablet suits many people. Serious side effects are rare but include depression, anxiety, psychosis and seizures. It’s around 90% effective in Vietnam.

Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil) Side effects are uncommon and mild, most commonly nausea and headaches. It is the best tablet for scuba-divers and for those on short trips to high-risk areas.

Measles

Measles remains a problem in Vietnam, including the Hanoi area. Many people born before 1966 are immune as they had the disease in childhood. Measles starts with a high fever and rash but can be complicated by pneumonia and brain disease. There is no specific treatment.

Rabies

This uniformly fatal disease is spread by the bite or lick of an infected animal – most commonly a dog or monkey. Seek medical advice immediately after any animal bite and start post-exposure treatment. Having pre-travel vaccinations means the post-bite treatment is greatly simplified (but you'll still need to seek medical attention). If an animal bites you, gently wash the wound with soap and water, and apply an iodine-based antiseptic. If you are not vaccinated you will need to receive rabies immunoglobulin as soon as possible.

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis (also called bilharzia) is a tiny parasite that enters your skin after you’ve been swimming in contaminated water. If you are concerned, you can be tested three months after exposure. Symptoms are coughing and fever. Schistosomiasis is easily treated with medications.

STDs

Condoms, widely available throughout Vietnam, are effective in preventing the spread of most sexually transmitted infections. However they may not guard against genital warts or herpes. If after a sexual encounter you develop any rash, lumps, discharge or pain when passing urine, seek immediate medical attention.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is very rare in short-term travellers. Medical and aid workers, and long-term travellers who have significant contact with the local population should take precautions. Vaccination is usually only given to children under the age of five, but it is recommended that at-risk adults have pre- and post-travel TB testing. The main symptoms are fever, cough, weight loss, night sweats and tiredness.

Typhoid

This serious bacterial infection is spread via food and water. It gives a high, slowly progressive fever and headache. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers spending more than a week in Vietnam, or travelling outside of the major cities. Be aware that vaccination is not 100% effective so you must still be careful with what you eat and drink.

Typhus

Murine typhus is spread by the fleas of rodents whereas scrub typhus is spread via a mite. These diseases are rare in travellers. Symptoms include fever, muscle pains and a rash. You can avoid these diseases by following general insect-avoidance measures. Doxycycline will also help prevent them.

Zika

This virus is rare but spreading in Vietnam. Many infected people have mild to no symptoms (fever, rashes, headaches and joint pain) that last up to a week. It's spread primarily by mosquitoes and sexual intercourse. Infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. There's no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika.

Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Travellers’ diarrhoea is by far the most common problem affecting travellers – between 30% and 50% of people will suffer from it within two weeks of starting their trip. In more than 80% of cases, travellers’ diarrhoea is caused by a bacteria, and therefore responds promptly to treatment with antibiotics. It can also be provoked by a change of diet, and your stomach may settle down again after a few days.

Treatment consists of staying hydrated, or you could take rehydration solutions.

Loperamide is just a ‘stopper’ and doesn’t get to the cause of the problem. It is helpful if you have to go on a long bus ride, but don’t take loperamide if you have a fever or blood in your stools.

Amoebic Dysentery

Amoebic dysentery is very rare in travellers. Symptoms are similar to bacterial diarrhoea (eg fever, bloody diarrhoea and generally feeling unwell). Treatment involves two drugs: tinidazole or metronidazole to kill the parasite and a second to kill the cysts.

Giardiasis

Giardia lamblia is a parasite that is relatively common in travellers. Symptoms include nausea, bloating, excess gas, fatigue and intermittent diarrhoea. ‘Eggy’ burps are often attributed solely to giardiasis, but they are not specific to this infection. The treatment of choice is tinidazole.

Environmental Hazards

Air Pollution

Air pollution, particularly vehicle pollution, is severe in Vietnam’s major cities. If you have severe respiratory problems consult your doctor before travelling.

Food

Eating in restaurants is the biggest risk factor for contracting travellers’ diarrhoea. Ways to avoid it include eating only freshly cooked food, and avoiding shellfish and buffets. Peel all fruit and try to stick to cooked vegetables. Eat in busy restaurants with a high turnover of customers.

Heat

Many parts of Vietnam are hot and humid throughout the year. Take it easy when you first arrive. Avoid dehydration and excessive activity in the heat. Drink rehydration solution and eat salty food.

Heat exhaustion 

Symptoms include feeling weak, headaches, irritability, nausea or vomiting, sweaty skin and a fast, weak pulse. Cool down in a room with air-conditioning and rehydrate with water containing a quarter of a teaspoon of salt per litre.

Heatstroke This is a serious medical emergency. Symptoms come on suddenly and include weakness, nausea, a temperature of over 41°C, dizziness, confusion and eventually collapse and loss of consciousness. Seek medical help and start cooling treatment.

Prickly heat A common skin rash in the tropics. Stay in an air-conditioned area for a few hours and take cool showers.

Bites & Stings

Bedbugs These don’t carry disease but their bites are very itchy. Move hotel, and treat the itch with an antihistamine.

Jellyfish In Vietnamese waters most are not dangerous, just irritating. Pour vinegar (or urine) onto the affected area. Take painkillers, and seek medical advice if you feel ill in any way. Take local advice if there are dangerous jellyfish around and keep out of the water.

Leeches Found in humid forest areas. They do not transmit any disease but their bites can be intensely itchy. Apply an iodine-based antiseptic to any leech bite to help prevent infection.

Snakes Both poisonous and harmless snakes are common in Vietnam, though very few travellers are ever bothered by them. Wear boots and avoid poking around dead logs and wood when hiking. First aid in the event of a snake bite involves pressure immobilisation via an elastic bandage firmly wrapped around the affected limb, starting at the bite site and working up towards the chest. The bandage should not be so tight that the circulation is cut off, and the fingers or toes should be kept free so the circulation can be checked. Immobilise the limb with a splint and carry the victim to medical attention. Do not use tourniquets or try to suck the venom out. Antivenom is available only in major cities.

Ticks Contracted during walks in rural areas. If you have had a tick bite and experience symptoms such as a rash (at the site of the bite or elsewhere), fever or muscle aches, you should see a doctor. Doxycycline prevents tick-borne diseases.

Skin Problems

Cuts and scratches Minor cuts and scratches can become infected easily in humid climates and may fail to heal because of the humidity. Take meticulous care of any wounds: immediately wash in clean water and apply antiseptic.

Fungal rashes Common in humid climates. Moist areas that get less air, such as the groin, armpits and between the toes, are often affected. Treatment involves using an antifungal cream such as clotrimazole. Consult a doctor.

Sunburn

Even on a cloudy day, sunburn can occur rapidly.

Always use a strong sunscreen (at least factor 30).

Reapply sunscreen after swimming.

Wear a hat.

Avoid the sun between 10am and 2pm.

Women’s Health

Supplies of sanitary products are readily available in urban areas. Birth control options may be limited, so bring adequate stocks.

Pregnant women should receive specialised advice before travelling. The ideal time to travel is in the second trimester (between 16 and 28 weeks), during which the risk of pregnancy-related problems is at its lowest. Some advice:

Rural areas Avoid remote areas with poor transportation and medical facilities.

Travel insurance Ensure you’re covered for pregnancy-related possibilities, including premature labour.

Malaria None of the more effective antimalarial drugs are completely safe in pregnancy.

Travellers’ diarrhoea Many diarrhoea treatments are not recommended during pregnancy. Azithromycin is considered safe.

Zika Pregnant women are recommended not to travel to Vietnam because the disease (if rare) can cause serious birth defects.

Culture tips

Bargaining

Bargaining is essential in Vietnam, but not for everything and it should be good-natured – don’t shout or get angry. Discounts of 50% or more may be possible; in other places it may only be 10% – or prices may be fixed. Haggle hard in marketplaces and most souvenir stores, and for cyclos and xe om (motorbike taxis). Many hotels offer a discount; restaurant prices are fixed.

Etiquette

Meals When dining with Vietnamese people, it's customary for the most senior diner or the host to pay for everyone. It is still polite to offer to pay at least once.

Homes: Remove your shoes when entering a private house.

Heads: Don't pat or touch an adult (or child) on the head.

Feet: Avoid pointing your feet at people or sacred objects (eg Buddhas).

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Vietnam is a relatively hassle-free place for gay, lesbian and transgender travellers. There are no official laws prohibiting same-sex relationships, or same-sex sexual acts in Vietnam. There's very little in the way of harassment.

Vietnam has more progressive governmental policies than many of its Asian neighbours. In January 2015, a Law on Marriage and Family was passed that officially removes a ban on same-sex marriages (though these partnerships have not yet been legally recognised). Transgender people were granted the right in November 2015 to legally undergo sex reassignment surgery and have their gender recognised.

Hanoi and especially HCMC both have gay scenes. That said, gay venues still keep a low profile and most gay Vietnamese choose to hide their sexuality from their families.

Gay travellers shouldn’t expect any problems in Vietnam. Checking into hotels as a same-sex couple is perfectly acceptable, though be aware that Vietnamese people don't react well to passionate public displays of affection, by heterosexual or nonheterosexual couples.

Interestingly, the former US Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, is openly gay and he often attended official government events with his husband and their children.

Utopia (www.utopia-asia.com) has useful gay travel information and contacts in Vietnam. The gay dating app Grindr is popular in Vietnam.

Tipping

Hotels Not expected. Leave a small gratuity for cleaning staff if you like.

Tipping recently becomes a practice.

Restaurants Not expected; 5% to 10% in smart restaurants or if you're very satisfied. Locals don't tip.

Guides: A 5-10 dollars on day trips is sufficient, more for longer trips if the service is good.

Taxis: Not necessary, but a little extra is appreciated, especially at night.

Bars: Never expected.

Opening Hours

Hours vary little throughout the year.

Banks : 8am–3pm weekdays, to 11.30am Saturday. Some take a lunch break.

Offices and museums 7am or 7.30am–5pm or 6pm; museums generally close on Monday. Most take a lunch break (roughly 11am–1.30pm).

Restaurants 11am–9pm

Shops 8am–6pm

Temples and pagodas 5am–9pm

Vietnamese people rise early and consider sleeping in to be a sure indication of illness. Lunch is taken very seriously and virtually everything shuts down between 11.30am and 1.30pm. Government workers tend to take longer breaks, so figure on getting nothing done between 11am and 2pm. Many government offices are open till noon on Saturday, but closed Sunday.

Photography

Camera supplies are readily available in major cities.

Avoid snapping airports, military bases and border checkpoints. Don’t even think of trying to get a snapshot of Ho Chi Minh in his glass sarcophagus!

Photographing anyone, particularly hill-tribe people, demands patience and the utmost respect for local customs. Photograph with discretion and manners. It’s always polite to ask first and if the person says no, don’t take the photo.

Public Holidays

If a public holiday falls on a weekend, it is observed on the Monday.

New Year’s Day (Tet Duong Lich) 1 January

Vietnamese New Year (Tet) January or February; a three-day national holiday

Founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party (Thanh Lap Dang CSVN) 3 February; the date the party was founded in 1930

Hung Kings Commemorations (Hung Vuong) 10th day of the 3rd lunar month (March or April)

Liberation Day (Saigon Giai Phong) 30 April; the date of Saigon’s 1975 surrender is commemorated nationwide

International Workers’ Day (Quoc Te Lao Dong) 1 May

Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday (Sinh Nhat Bac Ho) 19 May

Buddha’s Birthday (Phat Dan) Eighth day of the fourth moon (usually June)

National Day (Quoc Khanh) 2 September; commemorates the Declaration of Independence by Ho Chi Minh in 1945

Smoking

Smoking Vietnam is a smoker’s paradise (and a nonsmoker’s nightmare) despite recenently the government  issued ban on public place smoking. People spark up everywhere, despite an official ban against smoking in public places. It’s not socially acceptable to smoke on air-conditioned transport – so those long bus and train journeys are usually smoke-free.

Telephone

A mobile phone with a local SIM card (and an internet-based calls and messaging app) will allow you to get online and make phone calls in Vietnam.

Domestic Calls

Domestic calls are very inexpensive using a Vietnamese SIM.

Phone numbers in Hanoi, HCMC and Haiphong have eight digits. Elsewhere around the country phone numbers have seven digits. Telephone area codes are assigned according to the province.

International Calls

It’s usually easiest to use wi-fi and a calling app such as Skype. Mobile phone rates for international phone calls can be less than US$0.10 a minute.

Mobile Phones

If you have an unlocked phone, it’s virtually essential to get a local SIM card for longer visits in Vietnam. 3G and 4G data packages are some of the cheapest in the world at around 150,000d for 3GB and will enable you to use the net if wi-fi is weak; some packages include call time, too. Many SIM card deals allow you to call abroad cheaply (from 2000d a minute).

Get the shop owner (or someone at your hotel) to set up your phone in English or your native language. The three main mobile-phone companies are Viettel, Vinaphone and Mobifone.

Phone Codes

Most regional phone codes (59 of Vietnam's 63 provinces) changed in 2017. Inevitably, many publications and web pages have yet to update numbers using new codes.

Time

Vietnam is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time/Universal Time Coordinated (GMT/UTC). There's no daylight saving or summer time.

Toilets

The issue of toilets and what to do with used toilet paper can cause confusion. In general, if there’s a wastepaper basket next to the toilet, that is where the toilet paper goes (many sewage systems cannot handle toilet paper). If there’s no basket, flush paper down the toilet.

Toilet paper is usually provided though it’s wise to keep a stash of your own while on the move.

There are still some squat toilets in public places and out in the countryside.

The scarcity of public toilets is more of a problem for women than for men. Vietnamese men often urinate in public. Women might find roadside toilet stops easier if wearing a sarong. You usually have to pay a few dong to an attendant to access a public toilet.

Travel and flights

Getting around by air

It’s hard to get reservations for flights to/from Vietnam during holidays, especially Tet, which falls between late January and mid-February. So dont forget to book your domestic flight in advance.

Dangers & Annoyances

All in all, Vietnam is an extremely safe country to travel in. Vietnam is the 43rd safest country in the world (see https://safearound.com/danger-rankings/)

The police keep a pretty tight grip on social order and there are rarely reports of muggings, robberies or sexual assaults.

Scams and hassles do exist, particularly in Hanoi, HCMC and Nha Trang (and to a lesser degree in Hoi An).

Be extra careful if you’re travelling on two wheels on Vietnam’s anarchic roads; traffic accident rates are woeful and driving standards are pretty appalling.

 

Travel with Children

Children will have a good time in Vietnam, mainly because of the overwhelming amount of attention they attract and the fact that almost everybody wants to play with them.

Big cities usually have plenty to keep kids interested, though traffic safety is a serious concern.

Watch out for rip tides along the main coastline. Some popular beaches have warning flags and lifeguards.

Local cuisine is rarely too spicy for kids and the range of fruit is staggering. International food (pizzas, pasta, burgers and ice cream) is available, too.

Breastfeeding in public is perfectly acceptable in Vietnam.

Baby supplies are available in major cities, but dry up quickly in the countryside. You’ll find cots in most midrange and top-end hotels, but not elsewhere; antibacterial hand gel is also a great idea.

Travellers with Disabilities

Vietnam is not the easiest of places for travellers with disabilities, despite the fact that many locals are disabled as a result of war injuries. Tactical problems include the chaotic traffic and pavements that are routinely blocked by parked motorbikes and food stalls.

That said, with some careful planning it is possible to enjoy a trip to Vietnam. Find a reliable company to make the travel arrangements and don’t be afraid to double-check things with hotels and restaurants yourself.

Some budget and many midrange and top-end hotels have lifts. Note that bathroom doorways can be very narrow; if the width of your wheelchair is more than 60cm you may struggle to get inside.

Train travel is not really geared for travellers with wheelchairs, but open tour buses are doable. If you can afford to rent a private vehicle with a driver, almost anywhere becomes instantly accessible. As long as you are not too proud about how you get in and out of a boat or up some stairs, anything is possible, as the Vietnamese are always willing to help.

The hazards for blind travellers in Vietnam are acute, with traffic coming at you from all directions. Just getting across the road in cities such as Hanoi and HCMC is tough enough for those with 20:20 vision, so you’ll definitely need a sighted companion!

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