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Vietnam Photo by Ian Slater
Snapshot | Trip Planning | Things To Do | What To Eat | Places To Stay | Books To Read | Language | Latest

Vietnam is one of those beautiful countries that has so much to offer. Diversity in landscape, cuisine and culture, there is surely something in Vietnam to suit everyone. Whether it is lazing on a beach, trekking through the mountains, cycling in the Mekong Delta, soaking up the history and culture or exploring the hustle and bustle of city life you will certainly have a holiday to remember. And to top it all off, the people are super friendly, helpful and kind.

Trip Planning

When To Go Vietnam's climate is so diverse, it's hard to pinpoint when the best time is to go. There can be frosts and the odd snowfall in the north's mountain area, and high temperatures in the south's dry season.

There are two monsoons dictating Vietnam's weather: the winter monsoon in the north between October and March, and the summer monsoon from May to October in the south. April, May or October are probably the best months to go. If you are only visiting the south, November to February is usually dry and a touch cooler (not as hot or humid).

Electricity Electrical sockets are usually two-pin 220V voltage

Weights and Measures The Vietnamese use the metric system for everything except precious metals and gems where they follow the Chinese system

Insurance Make sure you have your travel insurance as medical expenses can be exorbitant if you are ill or injured in Vietnam. Better to be safe than sorry

ATM's ATM's are widely available throughout Vietnam. Vietcombank has the widest network in the country but many large foreign banks now have a presence in Vietnam so finding ATM's is not too difficult.

Shopping Major outlets, restaurants, some larger shops and even stalls in the markets will accept Visa and Mastercard. Smaller stalls, shops and food stalls will only accept cash. Make sure you have small amounts of the Vietnamese Dong as it may be difficult to get change for larger notes as these places. Some places will accept US dollar also

Tipping Tipping is not expected in Vietnam but it is very much appreciated. Restaurants, drivers, tour guides, hotel staff will all be very grateful for a small tip (5% is sufficient)

Getting There Most major airlines offer flights to Vietnam, arriving in Ho Ci Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi. From these you can either bus or train to your regional destination

Visa Check the official Vietnam Visa site to determine of you will need a visa. The visa process can be very slow if you opt to organise this on your arrival. Companies such as Vietnam Visa Corp can assist with your e-visa application and help you with the processing procedure on your arrival. I highly recommend this option to save time and the hassle when you arrive

Things To Do

Join a cooking class When I travel I love to dive right into the culture and book experiences that allow me to take new skills home with me. Cooking classes are one of the first things I research when I am planning my trip. Here are some great classes you might want to join

Local Guide Consider the services of a local tour guide such as Thien A local tour guide can tailor your tour to meet your needs and instead of being in a large tour group you experience Vietnamese life in your small group or family with a local. See the city and sites through their eyes in a much more personal way

Tailor have some beautiful clothes designed and handmade. The material and workmanship is second to none and they are a great souvenir of your trip. I recommend Tuyetlan Orchdsilk in Ho Chi Minh City. Her designs are beautiful and the silk material is simply gorgeous. She has a range of designs and materials, and can also design a unique outfit just for you. Her staff are super friendly and can help with any questions you may have

Cycling Nothing beats experiencing the local culture and sites quite like traveling round on a bicycle. There are a number of companies that operate cycling tours. I recommend Grasshopper Adventures. The staff we have experienced from Grasshopper Adventures were very knowledgeable, friendly and super helpful. Great experiences and a number of destinations and options to choose from

Beer Pasteur Street Brewing Co Taprooms can be found in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Hanoi, where you can enjoy a fresh brew straight from the source. The Taprooms feature their delicious lineup of year-round beers and newest creations. It’s the perfect family-friendly environment to meet locals, expats and travellers who simply love great beer, cool music and good food! We have only been to the Ho Chi Minh Taproom, but can highly recommend it.

What To Eat

Pho In Vietnam, pho carries two meaning. It is a bowl of soup and flat rice noodles. For westerners we think of pho as the bowl of soup with noodles. Making pho is a long process, but well worth the effort, to ensure the delicious flavours have developed. It is commonly thought of as a breakfast dish to energise and satisfy, but you will find it being served all day in many places. 

Banh mi A great lunch time snack that combines french style bread with Vietnamese inspired meats and salad ingredient fillings. It is a real combination of the French and Chinese colonialism

Goi cuon My favourite Vietnamese snack food and you won't find any better than those served on the rooftop bar at the Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. These salad or summer rolls are filled with shrimp and pork wrapped in rice paper, fried and then served for you to wrap in lettuce leaves with rice noodles and herbs. You then dip them in a delcious nuoc cham sauce! Yum

Chao tom Shrimp paste wrapped around sugarcane and barbecued, served with lettuce, cucumber, rice noodles and herbs to wrap and dip in a delicious sauce. Well worth a try

Banh ran vung nhan sen (Sesame seed balls with lotus seed paste) These amazing dessert treats are a must try when visiting Ho Chi Minh City. They are made from a rice dough with lotus seed paste, rolled in sesame seeds and fried. They quickly became my most loved dessert on my last visit to Vietnam

If you would love to learn how to cook your favourite Vietnamese dishes, there are many classes on offer. Sadly the cooking school I went to (which was amazing) is no longer open. You can find many cooking class options here

Places To Stay

Rex Hotel When in Ho Chi Minh City, our favourite place to stay is the Rex Hotel. The hotel is located in District 1, making it the perfect base for walking all around the city. A five minute walk to Ben Tanh Market, the river, Ho Chi Minh City Opera House and much more, it is the perfect place to stay. We love having drinks and goi cuon (Vietnamese Spring Rolls) in the rooftop bar where there is live entertainment and a great view over the city. The rooms and pool area are well maintained, and the breakfast is the perfect start to your days adventures

Hanoi Hilton Opera When in Hanoi, our choice is the Hanoi Hilton Opera. Beautiful hotel with great location, central and within easy walking distance to city sights

Books To Read

Lonely Planet Vietnam Filled with information on all areas of Vietnam, it is the ultimate travellers guide

The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen. When Saigon fell to the Viet Cong in April, 1975, Kien Nguyen was there. He watched the last US Army helicopter leave without him, without his brother, his mother or his grandparents.  More at risk than most in the decimated country, with his odd blond hair and light eyes, he was the most "unwanted" - an American.  This is a memoir by an Amerasian who stayed behind in Vietnam and is now living in America.  Told with stark and poetic honesty, it is a story of survival, a story of hope, and a moving, personal record of this tumultuous time in history.

The Tapestries by Kien Nguyen. Based loosely on the life of the author's grandfather, a professional embroiderer in the court of the last king of Vietnam in the early 1900s, Kien Nguyen has reimagined his grandfather's amazing story to weave a tapestry of his own: this stunning and page-turning novel.  Dan Nguyen is seven years old when he witnesses his father brutally beheaded by the mayor in a bid for power.  Dan's wife, Ven, 20 years his senior, makes him promise to one day avenge his father's death.  In order to protect him until he is old enough to defend his family's honor, Ven hides Dan as a servant in the house of the enemy -- and Dan falls in love with the one person he can never have, the mayor's beautiful granddaughter Tai May.  Dan's journey from slavery into scandal, and finally to the royal court where he has the chance to win Tai May's heart, is a story of spellbinding drama and intrigue, and, ultimately, the story of a great love affair

The Trader of Saigon by Lucy Cruickshanks. In the chaos and corruption of 1980s' Vietnam, three seemingly unconnected lives are brought together by greed, fear and hope.  As a US Army deserter, Alexander is a man without country; trapped in a life he no longer controls and embroiled in the dark business of trading women.  His latest victim is Hanh, a rural girl who moved to Hanoi to escape inevitable poverty and who sees Alexander's arrival as the answer to her prayers.  Neither of them has ever met Phuc - a Vietnamese businessman who backed the wrong side in the war and is now unable to pay his financial and political debts to the Party.  But his struggles are about to change both their lives.  From a society torn apart by war comes a tale of redemption and salvation

Vietnamese Street FoodIf you loved the street food on your travel and would like to reproduce your favourites at home, then this book is for you. Complete with colour photos of each recipe and a glossary of much used rice noodles and herbs, there are also stories of people who run some of the most legendary street stalls, providing a glimpse into their lives and daily routines

The banh mi Handbook Created by Vietnamese street vendors a century or more ago, banh mi is a combination of french bread stick with Delicious Vietnamese flavoured fillings. This book teaches the bread, and then shares over fifty recipes so you can produce the perfect banh mi at home

The Pho CookbookThe much loved pho is featured in this recipe book, giving recipes for quick weeknight cheats to impressive weeknight feasts. If you loved your dose of pho while traveling in Vietnam and don't want to miss out when you get home, then this cookbook is for you

 Hello Xin chao
Goodbye Tam biet
Thank you Cam on
I (don't) understand Toi (khong) hieu
How much is this? Bao nhieu vay?
Yes Vang (North) Da (South)
No Khong



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