What is there for me?
In Vietnam, there is everything you need for a relaxing, interesting, exotic, fun and tasty vacation. Tropical sandy beaches, hectic big cities, ancient culture, historical sites, beautiful nature, kind local people, great shopping and delicious food. This all can be experienced with a reasonable budget, compared to traveling in western countries.
For us who were born in the 50’s or 60’s the war is often the first thing that comes in mind when thinking of Vietnam. This terrible era has left its marks to the country and its people, for sure, but today Vietnam is one of the most rapidly developing country and growth economy. The tourist services are developing fast, and new resorts are built along the coastline. Big department stores and shopping malls have been opened in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. However, Vietnam is still a very genuine and original travel destination. Somebody said that Vietnam is what Thailand was in the 80’s – in a very positive sense.
When and where to travel?
Vietnam is a large country and the climate is different in the North, the Central and in the South. Hanoi has hot and rainy summers and cooler, dry winters. In Ho Chi Minh City, the temperature is around 30 degrees all year round. The wet season lasts from May to November and the dry season from December to April. Read more about different travel destinations in Vietnam in my post here.
Where to stay?
There is nice, clean and safe accommodation for every taste from small family-run boutique hotels to big luxury hotels of international chains. In every city, you will find a decent double room for 50 – 90 euros, including breakfast. There are also so called serviced apartments with a kitchen and more living space, and some of them also include breakfast.
Hotel room rates usually include a free WiFi connection, some bottles of drinking water and some fruit or other snack. There are hair dryers, toiletries, tea/coffee makers and cable TV. Laundry services are fast and inexpensive. Many bigger hotels have their own fitness centers. In the central and southern parts of the country, hotels often have an swimming pool and spa.
We make most of our hotel reservations here through Booking.com, but it is perfectly safe to reserve the room directly from a hotel.
Do they speak English there?
English is not widely spoken in Vietnam and there is a huge lack of English speaking employees in the tourist industry. The most popular tourist resorts, biggest hotels and tourists restaurants have English speakers but their language skills are often very limited. They know how to handle in basic customer service situations, no more. In addition to this, their pronunciation of English is sometimes very difficult to understand.
Taxi drivers and employees in local restaurants, shops and museums don’t usually speak English at all. They may understand a word or two. When taking a taxi, have your destination address written on a piece of paper and give that to the driver!
The menus are translated in English in the most international parts of cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An but in the local restaurants there are only Vietnamese menus.
However, despite of all this, you will manage through your trip in Vietnam without knowing a word of Vietnamese. You will probably spend your time mostly in areas where English is spoken. And those Vietnamese without English skills usually find a way to deal with the situation. Don’t worry!
Money and credit cards
The Vietnamese currency is called dong (VND) (1 USD = 20 937 VND and 1 VND = 0,000048 USD, Oct 2017) .
So, you use almost 210 000 dong for a purchase worth of 10 dollars.
Be aware that the note of 10 000 dong and the note of 100 000 dong look very similar. The color is almost the same, and the both (and in fact all the other notes, too) have a picture of Ho Chi Minh, the father figure of the Vietnamese people.
For a taxi driver or in the small restaurant, a note of 500 000 dong is usually too big. Notes of 100 000 dong and 200 000 dong are the most convenient in everyday use.
Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels and almost every shop and restaurant aimed for tourists. But you can’t pay with cash in taxis or at some of the ticket counters of museums. Have some dongs in your wallet when taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel! There are ATMs in the arrivals halls at airports and almost everywhere in city centers.
Passports and visas
All visitors arriving to Vietnam must hold a passport valid for the next 6 months. Citizens of some countries are not required visa if they stay in Vietnam for a short time. The visa policies vary a lot for different countries and it is always best to study them carefully before traveling.