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Vietnam - Travel Information

Vietnam will always be remembered for the famous Vietnam War, but beyond this painful history there are a lot of things to see in Vietnam. The geographic diversity of the country allows the traveler to go in a relatively short distance from sunny beaches to foggy mountains. From rice fields where women who wear traditional hats work to lively cities.

Vietnam's Geography

Vietnam is situated in South East Asia. It borders with the sea in the east and south, with China in the north and with Laos and Cambodia in the west. The country is actually a long narrow strip, which dictates the nature of the travel in it.

Vietnam's size is about 330,000 sq km, and the population is about 81 millions.

Technical information

International phone code: 84
Electric current: 220V

When to travel to Vietnam

Because of Vietnam's geographical diversity there isn't only one good season to travel in it.

The dry season in South Vietnam is during December-April, which is also the hot and humid season. The problem is that this is the wet season in central Vietnam.

To those who are interested in visiting the mountains, it is advisable to do it during May-October (the hot season) since it could get very cold in the mountains in the winter.

To summarize - there is no one particularly best season for traveling.

In and Out

The entrance to Vietnam requires a pre-issued visa. It is feasible to issue a visa through a travel agency, but the costs are high and the issuing takes a long time.

Therefore, those who don't intend to fly directly to Vietnam, can stop on their way in Bangkok and issue a visa there. The cost will depend on the amount of time prior to the issuing. The regular time for issuing a visa is 4 days and the cost is 2500-2800 Baht ($60-$70).

It is also possible to issue a visa in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) in a much shorter time (24 hours) and at a lower cost ($28). It might be possible to issue also in Laos.

The visa is valid for 30-day stay, only one entrance and for up to 3 months from its issue date. Pay Attention: at your visa requirement form you will be asked to put down your entrance and exit point to and from Vietnam. If you arrive by flight, you will need to put down the flight number, date of flights and landing place. Switching entrance or exit points involves heavy fines.

There are 3 ways to enter Vietnam:

  • Flight - to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City
  • Crossing the border from Minah Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City
  • Crossing the border from Laos to Hanoi or Hue

Travel costs in Vietnam

The local currency of Vietnam is called Dong. $1=15,880 VND (updated for July 2006).

Vietnam is not an expensive place to travel. $500-$700 per month will be sufficient for most backpackers.

It is best to exchange your money in Vietkong Bank if you change traveler cheques or in jewelry shops, where the exchange rate is the best.

It is worthwhile knowing that the exchange rate for high denominations ($100) is better then for small bills ($20).

How to travel in Vietnam?

The communist government in Vietnam is not interested in westerns wandering around. Therefore
it is not possible to get to all the places in Vietnam. Since the country is narrow and long,
most of the destinations where tourists arrive to, are along the route that passes between
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Sinh Café is a Company that operates a daily bus that goes from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh
City (and the opposite direction) using one bus ticket. The traveler can get off the bus in
several destinations, and catch the next bus later on.

Sinh Café's web site:
E-mail address:

A bus ticket costs $29 (with stops in all the destinations). It is possible to purchase
separate tickets for specific parts of the journey.

The stops along the bus's route are:

  • Hanoi
  • Ninh Binh - not meny stop here
  • Hue
  • Hoi An
  • Nha Trang
  • Da Lat
  • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Other tours that many travelers take:

  • a tour to the mountains, to Sapa town
  • a tour to the former demilitarized zone (DMZ)
  • a tour of the Mekong Delta.

(Last update: August 2006)