By Christine Hill
The days of communist strictures and hostile relationships with Western society are at an end for Vietnam. In their wake, we see an awakening country full of friendly locals, breathtaking scenery, rich cultural heritage, growing economy, and great prices for international visitors.
Some General Information about Vietnam
The great prices and safety for travelers is making Vietnam a more and more appealing destination to international travelers. Although the past has been filled with horrors and conflict, 70% of the current population was born after the war, and the overall culture and tone looks forward optimistically towards the future. With its general shift away from state-run businesses and recent landmark entries into free trade agreements with alliances around the world, Vietnam is experiencing an unprecedented economic climb. Unlike some other Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand, it hasn’t been completely inundated with the tourist trade yet. You still get to see a lot of authenticity, friendliness, and untouched culture here.
Full of lush tropical jungles, craggy mountains, and bustling cities, and home to some of the most beautiful stretches of tropical beach that you’ll find anywhere, Vietnam is a world of its own.
Traveler’s Tips for Vietnam
Vietnam as a country, and for tourists, has one of the very lowest rates for violent crime in the world, which is one of the reasons it’s such a desirable destination. However, it also has very high rates for petty theft. Be safe, and exercise common-sense principles.
- Keep your backpack or purse in front of you or on your lap whenever possible.
- Keep a copy of your passport and important documents somewhere safe.
- Lock your valuables in a safe at your hotel or hostel.
- Learn the exchange rates and what you can expect of fair prices for basic goods, food, and water. There will be some who will try to rip you off, but if you know well enough to know the fair price and how to barter for it, you’ll be fine.
- Learn a few basic phrases in Vietnamese and smile at everyone. Unlike some European and Baltic countries where smiling makes you look like a naive idiot, Vietnam is big on positive interaction, and it will smooth your way through a lot of situations.
- Be ready to roll with a few unexpected situations. That’s part of the traveler’s adventure!
Add These Destinations to Your Itinerary
Ho Chi Minh City
Also known historically as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the bustling capital of the southern reach of Vietnam. If you’re curious about the history of the Vietnam war, you can find amazing memorials here, like the War Remnants Museum, where artifacts and stories of the American-Vietnam war are preserved. You can also check out the Co Chi Tunnels, the vast network of underground passages that enabled the National Liberation Front during the war. But don’t stop there. Ho Chi Minh city is so much more. Experience the bustling nightlife and signs of Vietnam’s amazing future growth. Take a short trip out of the city to experience the MeKong Delta, also known as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, an area of floating markets, and terraced villages.
The most common tourist trail will range from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital in the north. Here, you’ll find the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long–a UNESCO world heritage site. Explore the heart of the city in the Old Quarter, where you can buy authentic Vietnamese street food for pennies, see bustling markets, and classic colonial buildings crowded along the narrow streets. Street vendors, pedestrians, motorcycles jumble together, representing years of colonialism’s mesh of people and cultures.
This is the hub of Vietnam’s beachfront resort properties. For excellent tourist resources and activities, white-sand beaches, and a luxurious resort experience, Nha Trang is the place. However, if you want beaches off the beaten path, try Phu Quoc, an isolated island paradise far to the southwest corner of Vietnam.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is Vietnam’s must-see treasure of natural beauty. Located in northeast Vietnam, this UNESCO world heritage site is a breathtaking vista of limestone towering islands and islets. It’s full of classic Karst landforms: towering limestone pillars coupled with coastal caves and arches. A boat tour through the bay is the best way to appreciate the natural untouched beauty of this place.
A hill station established by the French in the early 1900’s, Sapa is now a hub of northern tourism in Vietnam. This is an excellent place to experience the vast mountains of Vietnam, enclosed by towering peaks and dramatically sloping valleys. It’s a prime location for hikers and trekkers looking to explore the vast beauty of Vietnam’s mountainous jungles. You’re also surrounded by terraced rice fields and small quaint villages.
A favorite of honeymooners, Da Lat is also sometimes called “Little Paris” in reference to its widespread french colonial architecture. Its small-town feel is accented by surrounding serene lakes and striking waterfalls. Famous for its temperate climate, it’s also known as the city of flowers.