No matter how many countries have you visited so far, once you come to Vietnam, you’ll have to admit that it’s amazing with its vibrant chaos in big cities and beautiful landscapes among rice fields and rivers.
Quick Overview of Vietnam
If you take a look at a map of Vietnam, you’ll notice that you can go either north-to-south or south-to-north. No matter which way you choose, you’ll need at least 2 to 3 weeks if you want to see the whole country.
Means of Transport
A bus – You can either buy a multi-stop ticket in advance or book each bus when you need it. Multi-stop tickets are cheaper than the individual ones, but you won’t have the flexibility to explore the country on your own.
A train – Vietnam has a good railway network. Taking a night train during long distances is particularly convenient if you want to get some rest.
Car & Motorbike – It’s impossible to rent a car without a driver. If you want to drive by yourself, you should try renting a motorbike instead.
Things to Do and Places to Visit
Cities and villages to visit
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the first place you’ll probably see if you start your trip from north of the country. If you’ve never been in a city like this, try spending some time people-watching – a street chaos of Hanoi will amaze you. On one side, there are people rushing everywhere on their motorbikes, and on the other side there are the ones who are spending their day outside – they eat, drink, read newspapers and even get their haircut on the street.
Ho Chi Minh City was once the south’s capital and it will be the first place you’ll visit if you go from south to north.
Hue is the city worth visiting even though everything at it was bombed at war. Most people come to see the Imperial Citadel, but you should also spend a day visiting some of the nearby Tombs of the Emperors.
Mui Ne is an old fishing village. Its concrete beach won’t impress you, but you might enjoy its colorful fishing boats or a river canyon and white sand dunes nearby.
Hoi An is a quiet and pleasant town with a couple of interesting sites and a beach nearby. It’s ideal place for tourist to rest for a few days. And when you’re here, you should visit one of its tailors and buy a custom-made suit or a dress.
Nha Trang is a beach place, ideal for people who are looking for a party. It has many bars with more than reasonable prices.
Ha Long Bay is the UNESCO world heritage site. It’s a bit crowded place, so if you have the time, you should also see the Bai Tu Long Bay. But you should know that its tours are three days minimum.
Sa Pa (or Sapa) is a place for hikers and people who want to spend some time with local families.
Local markets – If you’re a street market lover you should definitely visit Vietnam! Its markets offer so much more than the other ones. With their unfamiliar spices and herbs and fascinating food stalls, they are the heart of every city. And in the Mekong Delta, you can see some amazing floating markets where people in boats sell all sorts of fruits and vegetables.
Restaurants and street food – You should try Vietnamese cuisine not only in the restaurant but on the streets, as well. There are plenty of various Vietnamese dishes to try. And something you should definitely try is coffee. Even if you don’t like it, you can’t say that the taste isn’t unique. They put sweetened condensed milk mixed up with a raw egg in their coffee.
Vietnamese war veterans as tour guides – Is there a better way to learn about the Vietnam War than from a Vietnamese war veteran? Whether you’re interested in history or not, you should try visiting sites around the former DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) near Da Nang and Hoi An with one of this guides. With their stories, even the biggest ruins will seem like a place worth watching.
War museum – You can learn about Vietnam War in an old-fashioned way, as well. There are so many different museums to visit. The one you shouldn’t miss is The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
Hostile Attitude and Scams
Once you come to Vietnam, you’ll notice that the attitude of some Vietnamese towards tourists is quite hostile.
And there are scammers pretending to be collecting donations for the Red Cross, cab drivers who try to charge more than the ride had cost, or even restaurants where your menu gets switching so you’d be overcharged.
Try not to let these scams and irritations affect you. Vietnam is an amazing country and so much more than those unpleasant occasions that might happen to you. Don’t allow them to spoil your mood. It would be good if you inform yourself about most common scams before you start your travel.