Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. Hanoi, the capital, pays homage to the nation’s iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh, via a huge marble mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) has French colonial landmarks, plus Vietnamese War history museums and the Củ Chi tunnels, used by Viet Cong soldiers.
Visa: The (very complicated) visa situation has recently changed for many nationalities, and is fluid – always check the latest regulations. The government has relaxed visa-exemption rules to include more countries and reduced visa fees in a bid to stimulate tourism. Click here to read more on Vietnamese Visas.
Currency: Dong (₫)
Currency Exchange: Check your credit cards as some have free/cheaper exchange rates compared to getting cash at the airports. ATMs can be found throughout Vietnam, even in small towns. In general cash is king, though credit and debit cards can be used in many hotels.
Weather: Low Season (Apr–Jun, Sep–Nov): Perhaps the best time to tour the whole nation. Typhoons can lash the central and northern coastline until November.
Shoulder (Dec–Mar): During the Tet festival, the whole country is on the move and prices rise. North of Nha Trang can get cool weather. Expect cold conditions in the very far north. In the south, clear skies and sunshine are the norm.
High Season (Jul & Aug): Prices increase by up to 50% by the coast; book hotels well in advance. All Vietnam, except the far north, is hot and humid, with the summer monsoon bringing downpours.
Electricity: Canada’s electrical supply and electrical outlets (sockets, wall plugs) are the same as those found in the United States. The electrical supply is 110/220 Volts and 50 Hertz (cycles per second). Remember to grab a universal power plug adapter converting from EU, UK, CN, AUC to North American like this.
Transportation: Two nationwide companies with excellent reputations are Mai Linh (www.mailinh.vn) and Vinasun (www.vinasuntaxi.com). Some hotels can help you to book a safe, competitively priced Grab (www.grab.com) car or xe om (motorbike taxi) through a smartphone app.
Things to remember: All in all, Vietnam is an extremely safe country to travel in. The police keep a pretty tight grip on social order and we rarely receive reports about muggings, robberies or sexual assaults. Sure there are scams and hassles in some cities, particularly in Hanoi, HCMC and Nha Trang (and to a lesser degree in Hoi An). But perhaps the most important thing you can do is to be extra careful if you’re traveling on two wheels on Vietnam’s anarchic roads – traffic accident rates are woeful and driving standards are pretty appalling.
Both Heather and Rebecca Hunt have travelled to Vietnam on separate occasions. Click here to read about Heather’s experience and click here to read about Rebecca’s experience in Vietnam.