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Have you come up with the idea of traveling to Vietnam, but don’t know how to plan it? The following travel guide may help your idea to go a bit further.
Many destinations proclaim they are unique in scenery, historical relics, or charming beaches. On the contrary, Vietnam is not so unique in scenery, and has less historic sites than China, fewer beaches than Thailand and Indonesia, and less convenient transportation than Singapore and many other SE Asian countries. So why visit Vietnam?
The answer is that it is a “safe, good-value option”. Without spending too much money, you will be paid back with guaranteed good experiences, such as tasting nice Vietnam cuisine, relaxing on beaches, meeting the friendly locals, and getting a glimpse of Vietnamese culture. All of these will ensure that every penny and every day spent will count.
Although Vietnam does not boast about being unique, it does boast of encompassing everything. Here are six points to convince you:
The period from November to February is the most comfortable to travel. As a long and narrow country north to south, with a long coast, the weather is accordingly milder all year round, with fewer extremes of temperature.
High Season (November–February) — Cool, Dry Season
This season is blessed with quite comfortable weather. You can also get the chance to take part in local holidays, such as Tet (Vietnamese New Year), during January or February. Prices are much higher though.
Shoulder Season (March - April) — Warm, Dry Season
This period is the best time to visit for those wishing to find the balance between the price and the weather. It is hotter than the high season but still comfortable, with a blue sky and fewer clouds.
Low Season (May–October) — Hot, Rainy Season (Monsoon)
The reason for visiting Vietnam during the low season is that the whole country offers much cheaper prices for hotels, restaurants, and transportation. However, bear in mind that it’s uncomfortably hot/humid with rainfall (normally shower in the afternoon).
See more on Best time to visit Vietnam
You can get a rough idea of the cost of the trip by calculating the major costs, which include international flights, hotels, and day trips.
Pay attention to currency exchange rates, having a clear idea of the main exchange rates between US dollars/Euro and the Dong. Read more about how US dollars work in Vietnam.
The prices of international flights are heavily dependent on when they are booked and the travel season. Traveling in the low season may save you at least half the costs of traveling in the high season. There are only a few direct flights between Hanoi City / Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities in the world, and most of them are operated by Vietnam Airlines.
Under such circumstances, connecting flights would be wise choices. Approximately 10 flights operate each day between Hanoi and Bangkok, taking about 1½ hours. Transfer flights from Shanghai or Hong Kong are also good options.
Read more on Get to Vietnam by Air
When it comes to hotels, it is good news that the price for accommodation in Vietnam is under the medium price bracket when compared with other countries. Instead of ranking Vietnam hotels with international hotel star ratings, it would be better to recognize them by ‘Comfort’, ‘Boutique’, ‘Luxury’, and ‘Guesthouse’.
A boutique hotel with 3–4 stars only costs you $50–$100/room for one night, and is set in a great location with good service, a comfortable room, and a wonderful breakfast.
Day trips should be considered after dealing with the international flights and hotels. Coach tours are good options because of the competitive prices. However, if you invest $100–$150/person on a guiding service by hiring a private guide with private transfers, it will pay off as you will have a better experience with unforgettable memories. The guides provide professional exploration tours, are friendly and helpful, patient and able to make adjustments, and pay attention to details during the trips.
If you are expecting a comfortable trip in Vietnam with fun experiences, it is recommended that train and bus options are not included in your travel plans. It is widely known that the railway is the least developed transportation infrastructure in the country. A train ride from Hanoi in the north to Da Nang on the coast in the center takes almost 17 hours, when its price for a soft sleeper is the same as a flight between these two cities.
There are currently seven lines operating for the whole railway network, with an overall length of 2,632 kilometers. The North–South Railway Line, linking Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is the most famous one, which is also known as the Reunification Express. Two types of service are offered: express (SE) and local (TN). All the SE and TN coded trains end with a number. The odd number indicates a train going from north to south, while an even number is for a train traveling from the south to the north. The Hanoi–Lao Cai railway line is the other frequently used one.
Some travelers consider entering Vietnam from China via the Hanoi–Nanning line. The line connects Gia Lam Station in Hanoi and Nanning Railway Station in Nanning. A soft sleeper costs 248 yuan. The following provides details about the train service (the schedule uses the UTC+7 time zone):
|Gia Lam||21:40||Nanning (China)||17:45|
|Bac Giang||22:39||22:42||Chongzuo (China)||19:24<||19:28|
|Dong Dang||02:00||03:00||Pingxing (China)||21:11||22:41|
|Pingxing (China)||03:41||05:41||Dong Dang||23:22||00:22|
|Chongzuo (China)||07:07||07:10||Bac Giang||03:40||03:43|
|Nanning (China)||09:12||Gia Lam||04:45|
The other five railway lines are:
Flying in Vietnam is cheap and fast, making it the best way to get around between major cities. Although it is not big, more than 20 airports are dotted around the country, with frequent flights and good prices. The main domestic carriers are Vietnam Airlines, being the best airline in Vietnam, and VietJet Air as a private low-cost one.
Many flights link the two largest and most important cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It takes approximately 2 hours by plane. Almost all of Vietnam’s main cities can be reached by air, such as Hai Phong, Hue, Da Nang, Nah Trang, Da Lat, Can Tho, and Phu Quoc.
More on Internal Flights of Vietnam
Vietnam’s roads are notoriously narrow and under-developed, often winding through hilly areas. Prepare for motion sickness, and avoid inter-city bus rides, unless really on a budget or wanting to see the countryside. Some short bus rides or private road transport will be necessary to get to local attractions.
The good news is that car ownership is still relatively low, so traffic jams are few outside the cities, which are typically clogged with motor scooters, etc.
Follow the locals’ examples and learn the skill needed to cross the motorbike-filled roads.
A short boat trip is the other way to have a nice trip in Vietnam, making for a fun experience. They are especially popular in Ha Long Bay, the Mekong Delta, and the waterway connecting Vietnam and Cambodia.
For those visiting Vietnam for the first time, 7 days will help you get to see the main sights from north to south (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City), revealing the progression of the country from ancient times to modernity.
Start from Hanoi, take an excursion to Halong Bay, then explore Hoi An, and depart from Ho Chi Minh City. If you have 14 days, it is recommended to add Siem Rep, Bangkok, or Luang Prabang to your itinerary before flying back home. Never just scratch the surface when you make a trip.
Choose your favorite destinations according to your own schedule, instead of covering all the so-called must-see attractions.
Now see Top Things to Do in Vietnam to get some inspiration.
As mentioned before, hotels in Vietnam are numerous with different styles to choose from. Ranging from guesthouses to 5-star hotels, each level offers good options.
If traveling with children, take a second look at the hotel’s location and facilities before pressing the ‘Book’ button.
More on Top Hotels in Vietnam
You must know the best areas and hotel types in order to choose a suitable hotel in the main towns:
|Destination||Recommended Hotel Type/Area|
|Hanoi||Hotels close to or in the Old Quarter|
|Ha Long Bay||Private junks or small shared junks|
|Hoi An||Small boutique Buddha hotels or hostels|
|Nha Trang||Hotels/resorts close to the beach|
|Saigon(HCMC)||Hotels close to the market or the river (Recommendation: the new Continental Hotel)|
Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to Vietnam. Our knowledgeable staff will assist you in selecting destinations, accommodations and activities that best suit your requirements.
Check out the following links to learn more about our tours and get a head start on planning your hassle-free vacation today!