In 2014 we travelled around Vietnam, we loved our time there and would highly recommend adding it to your list when travelling through South East Asia. Below is our guide to spending 16 nights in this amazing and varied country.
Organise before leaving home. Visit the Vietnam Visa Centre website, and the process is easy- input your personal details, passport details and payment details. You will get confirmation within 24-48 hours via email. For a one month visa this part costs US $20 pp (£12) / or for a three-month visa is US $35 (£27). Upon landing in Vietnam, you will follow signs for visa control, hand over passport to receive printed stamp in passport, you will also need a passport photo and another US $25pp (£20) / US $50 (£40) for government tax.
Many airlines- we chose Vietnam Airlines from Hong Kong to Hanoi (1hr 35 flight) At approx. £200 pp one way. And Vietnam Airlines from Saigon to Jakarta (3hr flight) costing around £150 pp one way.
Choosing the length of stay:
Minimum 16 nights, recommend if you have more time to boost this to 3 weeks at least.
When to go:
July and August are the high season, prices can rise by 50%, book hotels well in advance. Apart from far north, the country is hot and humid with summer monsoons bringing rain. December to March is the shoulder season, north will be cool weather and south clear sunny skies. The best times to visit is between April and June or September and November where the temperatures are moderate and less rain.
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip about her childhood during the Vietnam War, her escape to the United States, and her return to visit Vietnam 16 years later.
'Indochine' set during the uprising in Vietnam against French colonial power
Pho, a noodle soup, with spices. Cao Lau in Hoi An which is a flat noodle broth spicy pork. Try street food from 50p
Vietnamese beer. As cheap as 5000 VND (14p!!)
Air fares are comparable, but we recommend taking a sleeper bus or sleeper train. This maximises the amount of time you have in each destination, and you get to see the gorgeous landscapes, and it saves a night’s fare in a hotel.
Getting to Hanoi: 1-hour taxi ride from the airport
Accommodation: Hanoi Golden Palace hotel £19 per night
How long: 3 nights
Top things to do:
Ngoc Son Temple located in the middle of the Hoan Keim Lake. The lake is named so because legend has it that in the mid-15th century heaven gave Emperor Le Loi a magical sword that he used to drive the Chinese out of Vietnam. One day after the war he was on a boat in the lake when a giant golden tortoise appeared and grabbed the sword and returned it to its divine owners. Hoan Keim means 'Lake of the Returned Sword'. See the embalmed remains of a giant tortoise in the Temple amongst shrines and statues and look out for real turtles that swim in the lake.
Address: Dinh Tien Hoang St. Hanoi 100000
Entry: 30,000 VND (95p)
Hoa Lo Prison best known by its nickname ‘The Hanoi Hilton’. The prison was where the US POW were detained after they were caught by the Vietnamese. The prison was also used decades before, during the French rule.
Address: 1 Hoa Lo St, Hoan Kiem Hanoi 10000
Entry: 30,000 VND (95p)
St Joseph’s cathedral iconic church not bombed in the war
Address: 40 Nha Chung St, Hoan Kiem District Hanoi 100000
Open: 8am-noon & 2-6pm
Sunken US B52 bomber
Address: Ngo 55, Hoang Hoa Tham, Hanoi 10000, Vietnam
Visit the nightly markets and shops that are full of fake goods.
Hanoi Garden Restaurant
Address: 36 Hang Manh Street | Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi 10000, Vietnam
Watch the crazy traffic from a (chain) coffee bar called Highland Coffee, which was situated a few floors up and had an outside decking area
Address: 1- 3 - 5 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hanoi, Vietnam
The kitchen BBQ Buffet
Address: 3B Le Thai To Street, Hang Trong Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi 100000
Watch out for the crazy traffic. Be aware of pickpockets especially at the market. The Vietnamese seem so sweet and friendly but also be aware they will want your sale, even hotel workers. Visit 'Highland Coffee' for the best views over the busy streets
Getting to Halong Bay: Tour, 4 hours on mini bus
Accommodation: 5*Emeraude. Buffet food included. £200pp
How long: 1
Top things to do:
Set sail amongst the the thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes. Visit 'Sung Sot Grotto' a large, deep cave, which on the cliff face offers stunning views across the islands. Visit a floating market which is a pearl farm, and watch men working at producing pearls from oysters. On deck take in the breath-taking scenery and at night enjoy an outdoor movie
There are many companies with a range of class of accommodation expensive to cheap, arty to relaxing