Vietnam – The Ultimate Guide

In 2014, I had my first visit to Vietnam. It was a business trip. I had always wanted to visit this country, but never had the chance until then. Since the, I have many encounters with the land and people. And I am so happy and grateful to write the Vietnam – The Ultimate Guide.

I really liked and enjoyed my stay in Vietnam. It is another really great country, and one of the Best Places to Visit in Asia!

In this ultimate guide, I will share as many details as possible about Vietnam. Details such as where it is located, who are the people there, the culture, the religions.

Also, I will share with you a few of the cities that are popular with tourists. I will cover topics such as what are the places of interest, what Vietnamese food to enjoy, and even recommend hotels to suit your needs.


About Vietnam

When I was a young man in my late teens, Vietnam was a country in transition. Today, the official name is the Socialist Replublic of Vietnam.

The capital city is Hanoi. And the city with more repute and commerce is Ho Chi Minh City. Heard of Saigon? That was Ho Chi Minh City’s former name.

Vietnam is a beautiful country with lush mountains and white sandy beaches. At the same time, there are vibrant cities built alongside ancient landmarks and colonial structures.

Rice terraces on hills call out to hikers. Massive Buddhist shrines invite those seeking peace and quiet. The country has it all.


Where is Vietnam?

Vietnam is one of the many countries on the Indochinese Peninsula. It sits on the eastern side of it. Her neighbors share borders with her, and they are China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west.

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Who Are The People In Vietnam?

There are over 95 million people in Vietnam. Arachaeological findings claim that the country was inhabited as early as the Paleolithic age.

Most of the people are Kinh, also known as the Viet. There are also ethnic minority groups such as the Hmong, Dao, Tay, thai, and Nung.


What Is The Culture In Vietnam?

The culture in Vietnam started with the indigenous ancient Dong Son culture. It has evolved since, with some influence from the Chinese culture. The influences are particularly from Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Taosim.

Vietnames culture is steeped in traditions. And focuses on humanity and harmony. As such family and community values are highly regarded.

I can confirm firsthand of my exposure to the Vietnamese culture, particularly to the family values. My brother’s wife is Vietnamese. And I noticed how polite and respectful my sister-in-law is to my Mother and me.

I am the family’s oldest son. And she treats me with reverence. I am so honored.

Vietnamese has key cultural symbols that you will find immersed in their society. One of the symbols is the popular Vietnamese dragon. Another is the holy bird that represents Vietnam’s national Mother, Au Co.

Travel Tip: Please respect the Vietnamese culture.


What Are The Religions In Vietnam?

In Vietnam, all religions are treated equally, and with respect. Each place of worship is protected under the Vietnamese state law. The religions include Buddhism, Catholicism, Christianity, Caodism, Muslims, and Hindus.


What Is The Common Language Spoken In Vietnam?

The national language of the country is Vietnamese. It is a tonal Austroasiatic language. Many Vietnamese speak French, too. Today, more and more of the younger generation can speak English. If you are comfortable with English, you should be able to travel around Vietnam with ease.


What Are The Festivals and Public Holidays In Vietnam?

What Are The Public Holidays In Vietnam?

January 1, New Year

Usually in January or February, Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnamese New Year)

Tet is the most important holiday in Vietnam. It is the Vietnamese New Year. And it falls on the first day of the first month of Lunar Calendar. It is the longest holiday in the country, lasting officially for five working days. And can sometimes last longer, when any one of the days falls on a weekend.

April 30, Liberation / Reunification Day

May 1, Labour Day

September 2, National Day


What Are The Festivals In Vietnam?

Gio to Hung Vuong Festival (Hung Kings’ Temple Festival)

This festival is the commemoration of Kinh Duong Vuong, Vietnam’s first king. During this celebration, lanterns are released to the sky, and there is a flower ceremony at the Upper Temple.

In addition, there is a long procession from the foot of the mountain to the Hung Temple. The event is attended by pilgrims. And there are also xoan classical song performances, and operas.

Hue Arts Festival

Hue has become the place to visit for culture experience. The Hue Arts Festival, a biannual event, is celebrated at the UNESCO-listed Hue City. During the festival there are cultural performances and games.

The purpose is to preserve traditional customs. Some of the activities include Dialogue of Drums and Percussion, Ao Dai Fashion Shows, kite flying, boat racing, street performances, film screenings, and art exhibitions.

Perfume Festival

The Perfume Festival. Such a lovely name, don’t you think? Pilgrims flock to the Perfume Pagoda, and pray for a year of prosperity. At the same time, they offer respects to Buddha. One of the highlights is the dragon dance at Den Trinh Pagoda.

The pilgrims travel by boat across the Yen Vi River, then on foot, they climb the hundreds of stone steps to Huong Tich Cave. At the destination, they submit food offerings and burning incense for the gods.

Mid Autumn Festival

This is a celebration that is held in many Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. Each country celebrates in their own way. And yet, there are similarities. For example, the Vietnamese light up paper lanterns, eat moon cakes, sticky rice, fruits and sweets. The difference is they have lion dance during this time. Just like the other countries, this festival is also known as the harvest festival.

Wandering Souls Day

Another festival that has similar ones in Asia. In Singapore, this is called the 7th Month Ghost Festival. And just like in Singapore, it is held during the 7th lunar month in Vietnam. It is a time when it is believed that the dead return to this world. And the spirits of the ancestors would visit homes.

As such, the people offer prayers, flowers, sticky rice cakes, sugarcane, fruits, paper money, paper clothing, and many other things. The paper stuff are burned with the belief that they would be received by deceased ancestors in the afterlife.

Hoi An Lantern Festival

It is amazing that this festival is held monthly at Hoi An. So much effort to bring life to the city! The lanterns and candles light up this UNESCO World Heritage.

Everywhere, businesses switch off the electricity. And thousands of candles and lanterns illuminate the city. It is an awesome experience. Do not forget the chance to see holy candlelit ceremonies by monks at temples for free.

Buddha’s Birthday

This is celebrated by devotees all throughout Vietnam. Temples are beautifully decorated. Devotees come to offer fruits, flower garlands, and Vietnamese dishes. I realized that this is very similar to Vesak Day or Wesak Day celebrated around the world.

Phu Giay Festival

Every year, the believers pray for good fortune from the Goddes Lieu Hanh at Phu Giay Pagoda. They carry decorated bamboo relics, and wear traditional costumes. Festive fun includes games like capture the flag, lion dance, wrestling, fold dance, and classical songs. This is the time of the year when the town is filled with life and becomes vibrant.


What Is The Dress Code In Vietnam?

When I visited Vietnam for business, I would at least wear a short sleeved shirt, or a long sleeved shirt, or a polo t shirt for my top. And I would have long pants with leather shoes.

After work, when I travel around the country, I would still wear a polo t shirt and a comfortable long pants such as light cotton jeans, khaki pants or even jogger pants.

This is because I find that the Vietnamese are quite shy people, and they prefer visitors to dress at least with a decent top and pants. It is best not to wear revealing clothing such as the singlet or spaghetti string top.

When visiting a temple. holy or official site, please be aware of the dress code and dress accordingly. See the video below to learn how to dress appropriately.


What Is The National Dress In Vietnam?

This would be the ao dai, the Vietnamese formal dress. It is worn for special occasions such as wedding and religious festivals.

There are different styles of the ao dai in different regions of the country. You can see what it looks like below.


What Is The National Sport Of Vietnam?

The most popular sport in Vietnam is martial arts. There are the vovinam, kim ke, and binh dinh. The other popular sport is football, which is known as soccer in western countries. Other sports activities such as badminton, tennis, volleyball, ping pong and chess are also widely enjoyed by the people.


What Currency Can I Use In Vietnam?

The official currency is the Dong (VND). Many places where tourists frequent like cafes, retaurants, shops, malls and hotels accept the US dollar.


How Is The Weather In Vietnam?

The country’s climate varies from zone to zone. I have seen photos and videos of snow in the northern parts of Vietnam. I was surprised to learn they have quite a severe winter there. Spring is pleasant though. And summers and autumns can be hot and rainy.

The southern regions climate is mostly hot and sunny. The exception would be in June and July when there would be frequent rain. And from December to February, there is the dry and cool season.

Central regions of Vietnam have mostly hot and sunny weather all year round. The hottest months are during the middle of the year. And cooler days are from November to April.

Overall, Vietnam’s climate is mild tropical or subtropical. There are two distinct monsoon seasons. Just take note of the monsoon period for the city you are visiting, and bring an umbrella.


When Is The Best Time To Go Vietnam?

Due to the fact that different regions of Vietnam have different climate, there really is not a single overarching period that is best to visit Vietnam, as in the country itself. Consider where you are traveling to, and note the climate in that region. Then decide when is the best time to visit that particular city.

I will share the best time to travel for each city in future blog posts. To get updates, please join my I Love Travel Community.


How Is The Haze Situation In Vietnam?

Just like many of the countries in the ASEAN region are affected by the haze, so is Vietnam. Do take note of the period when the haze strikes. It is no fun traveling when that happens. Plus, the haze does obstruct views of places of interest.

Travel Tip: If you have chronic heart of lung conditions, or simply do not want to suffer unhealthy pollution situation, then avoid this period.


Where Are The Best Places To Visit in Vietnam?

The magnificent Mekong river flows through this country giving life to the natural wonders, from the green rice fields to the lush emerald mountains to the pristine sandy beaches. Vietnam is wondrous.

Hanoi

From what I have heard from friends, Hanoi is a less friendly city than Ho Chi Minh City. Perhaps it is because of the way people are reserved and have a no-nonsense attitude. Whichever it is, this French-colonial city is worth a visit.

It is known for its delectable cuisine, silks, handicrafts, fast and exciting nightlife. And if you need some fresh air, simply take a short drive to the tranquil countryside with greenery and traditional villages.

Some of the sights you might like to catch are the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Perfume Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake (also known as Turtle Lake where the Ngoc Son Temple is found, Hanoi Opera House, and the Temple of Literature.

For you shopping pleasure, there are the markets and malls. Do not miss the Dong Xuan Market. And you must not miss the shows at the Thang Long Puppet Theatre.

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More travel posts about Hanoi coming soon. Join my I Love Travel community to get updates.


Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh city truly is the business and financial hub of Vietnam. When my partners decided to explore business opportunities in Vietnam, this was the city we first engaged.

As the commercial heart of the country, the city is metropolitan with tall buildings alongside classic French architecture. Many of the skyscrapers have popular rooftop bars to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the landscape. With its long history and culture, there are beautiful ornate temples and pagodas such as the Jade Emperor Pagoda and Cao Dai Temple.

Places of interest include the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, Cu Chi Tunnels, Central Post Office, and the Reunification Palace. There are many markets, shops and malls. One of the popular markests is the Binh Tay Market.

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More travel posts about Ho Chi Minh City coming soon. Join my I Love Travel community to get updates.


Da Nang

Travelers visit Da Nang to enjoy nature. There is the My Khe Beach, Lang Co Beach, Hoi An, My Son, Marble Mountains, and the Son Tra (Monkey Mountain. The lovely white sandy beaches tempts anyone with their cool and crystal clear waters. The mountains towers with magnificence and awe.

Aside from the natural beauty, the city itself has many sights to enjoy. Some of them are the famous Dragon Bridge, Phap Lam Pagoda, Cham Museum and Da Nang Cathedral.

Shopping is fun too with its many markets and malls.

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More travel posts about Da Nang coming soon. Join my I Love Travel community to get updates.


Hoi An

For authentic history of Vietname, Hoi An is the place to see. It showcases a well preserved Southeast Asian trading port that dates as far back as the 15th century. In addition, there are the Hoi An Ancient Town, Hoi An Riverside, Cua Dai Beach, Van Duc Pagoda, Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, An Bang Beach, and the Chuc Thanh Pagoda.

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More travel posts about Hoi An coming soon. Join my I Love Travel community to get updates.


Phu Quoc Island

There are numerous beaches and islands in Vietnam. All truly beautiful and worth a visit. Phu Quoc Island is one of the many I will mention here. It has idyllic beaches that promises romantic sunsets. It is an ideal holiday destination for travelers looking to relax and simply just enjoy all this island has to offer.

But if you seek a little adventure, explore the Phu Quoc National Park, Suoi Tranh Waterfall, Ham Ninh Fishing Village, and even the Phu Quoc Prison. For some spiritual experience, go to Dinh Cau Rock (Cau Temple), Sung Hung Pagoda, or Su Muon Pagoda.

Should your kids get bored, then bring them to the Vinpearl Land Amusement Park. The whole family can also get some memorable souvenirs at the Duong Dong Market.

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More travel posts about Phu Quoc Island coming soon. Join my I Love Travel community to get updates.


Halong Bay

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay is an awesome sight to behold. Close to the Chinese border, and located in Northern Vietnam, it is a magnificent natural wonder of the world. There are about 1,600 limestone island topped by forests. And the mystical golden Thien Mu Pagoda overlooking the land.

Do not forget to visit the other islets there such as Cat Ba Island, Dau Be Island, Dau Go Island. Also, do visit the floating villages, fish farms, and caves such as the Hung Sung Sot Cave, the Pelican Cave and the Virgin Cave.

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More travel posts about Ho Chi Minh City coming soon. Join my I Love Travel community to get updates.


Which Hotels To Stay At In Vietnam?

can find accommodation to suit your tastes, from budget hotels to luxury five star to hostels and lodges to beautiful resorts and beachfront villas, all known for exceptional service, complete facilities and amenities as well as rooms with breathtaking views

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What Are The Food And Drinks in Vietnam?

Vietnamese food is made with the philosophy of balance, balance of the elements, give good health to all who eat it. there is the spicy which is the metal element. Sour is the wood element. Bitter is fire. Salty is water. And sweet is the earth element.

Most dishes are cooked with these five elements in mind, combining them into a delectable delight. The common ingredients used are fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables.

The herbs often used are lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime and basil.

Street food culture is strong, and they are also served at restaurants. Some dishes include the salad roll, rice noodle roll, rice vermicelli soup, and pho. The latter is Vietnam’s national dish. It is a rice noodle soup served with beef or chicken.

Learn to make pho. Watch video below.

Vietnamese drinks are uniquely flavored. One drink that I particularly enjoyed was the Vietnamese iced coffee. Few places outside of Vietnam serve the coffee so well as in the country. When you are in Vietnam, you must try the Vietnamese coffee.

Other drinks that are delicious are the egg coffee, salted pickled lime juice, glutinous rice wine, sugarcane juice, and the Vietnamese lotus tea.


How To Get To Vietnam?

By Airplane

There are two international airports in Vietnam. There is the Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. And the Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Da Nang has an airport but it accepts mostly domestic flights, and only a few international flights. There are many more domestic airport all over Vietnam.

The airlines that now fly to Vietnam are plenty. There are the Vietnam Airlines (national carrier of Vietnam), Jetstar, Air Asia, Air China, Bangkok Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and more. When flying to Vietnam, check with the airlines available in your country that travel there.

By Train

You can choose to enter Vietnam by train from China. The train between Hanoi and Beijing corsses the Dong Dang border.

By Boat / Ferry

Take the scenic route via boat from Cambodia, down the Mekong Delta, and into Southern Vietnam. Along the way, you get to see the beautiful landscape of the country.

By Bus

It is recommended that you take the international bus service that runs from Savannakhet or Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi, Hue, Vinh or Da Nang, Vietnam. This is to avoid any issues that may arise with local bus agents.

Alternatively, if you are traveling from Cambodia, take the route from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. The buses are modern and fitted with air conditiong for comfort.

By Car

There does not seem to be rental cars available for tourists. Please do not use this option. This in case you get scammed.

By Foot

Not recommended.

Do You Need A Visa To Enter Thailand?

It depends on the country you are from. Citizens of ASEAN countries, like me, do not need a visa. If your country is not part of ASEAN, please do check with the Thai Immigration Bureau or the Thai Embassy or Consulate at your home country if you need a visa to Thailand.

If you do need one, you will need to apply before you travel there. Most visitors get a 30 day stay.

Another thing to note is that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months before you can enter Vietnam.


How To Get Around Vietnam?

By Airplane

With many domestic airports and flights, you can travel easily within Vietnam. Some of the airlines that fly domestic are the Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar, and VietJet.

By Train

Travel within Vietnam by train is safe, comfortable and not too expensive. The rail network is extensive, and can bring you to most destinations of interest.

There are seven rail lines. There is the main north-south line that runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. For more on the other rail lines and all the train schedules, check with their official rail service.

The classes on the train are hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper, and soft sleeper. The hard seat is like the cheapest of the class where you literally get a hard seat to sit on for your ride. The soft sleeper is the most expensive and most comfortable class. It gives you soft beds with or without air conditioning. This is the only class with a door, and that offers more security for you.

By Boat / Ferry

This is the choice when you decide to travel along the Mekong. There are tourist boats for short haul trips, and freighters for long ones. Do note that this mode of transport is slow. It can take two days to travel from My Tho to Chau Doc. The price can eventually be more costly among the choices here.

By MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)

This will be available in 2021, and only in Ho Chi Minh City.

By Bus

Not a good choice of transport. One reason is that the buses can be overloaded. Another is that when they know you are a foreigner, they may charge you more. In the end, might as well travel by train or flight.

By Car

There does not seem to be rental cars available for tourists. Please do not use this option. This in case you get scammed.

By Motorcycle

Travel around on a motorbike can be very convenient. In fact, when you are in Vietnam, you will see this is a very common mode of transpor. There are motorcycles being driven everywhere!

You can rent at a very cheap rate. But please do be careful. Wear a helmet, and ride safely.

Beside going about in your own motorbike, there is also the choice of getting a Xe Om. These are motorbike taxis. They are convenient, and can move about in places that buses and cars cannot. Negotiate and agree on price before getting on.

By Taxi

Taxis are relatively inexpensive, and very convenient in the popular towns and cities. The drivers may be reluctant to use the meter. Some even tamper the meter to rack up charges. Look for reliable taxi companies like Mai Linh.

By Grab

Grab is popular in Asia, and works like Uber. Many people prefer this transport service because it is convenient. Simply use the Grab app, state your destination, get a ride that will pick you up wherever you are.

By Cyclo

These are bicycle rickshaws, and are available in most cities and many towns. In some cities, it has been banned though. Negotiate for a reasonable price before you board.

Private Driver and Tour Guide

If you choose to explore Vietnam or any of her cities by car, then this is the best option. That is, rent a care with a private driver who will also be your tour guide. You can travel at your own pace. And spend as much time as you please at every stop.

Make sure your driver known enough English. And also, knowledgeable in many popular as well as off the track places.

By Foot

Only to nearby destinations. Mostly, best to travel by car. See above.


Going To Vietnam? Book Your Hotel Room With Our Best Partner And Get The Best Rates

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If you have ANY questions about Vietnam – The Ultimate Guide, ANY at all, please submit your questions as comments below. I will be happy to help you out.

Thank you for reading this.

Wishing you and your loved ones safe and happy travels,

Timotheus