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Vietnam is known for its bustling and energetic cities, delicious food – think pho and banh mi, breath-taking natural landscapes and beaches. A backpacking paradise and slowly becoming a tourist hotspot. Here is my guide covering what you need to know before going to Vietnam.
Visas and entering Vietnam
Nationality, the length of stay and single/multiple entries are factors in the visa process and determine which type of visa you need. As the official website doesn’t explain the requirements of when you need a visa in detail, I suggest having a look at one of the companies I mention below or check out Lonely Planet before applying. For example as a UK passport holder, you can enter the country for 15 days before needing a visa. As an Australian, I need a visa no matter the circumstance.
If you need a visa there are two options:
- Apply at the embassy before your trip.
- Use a visa company to obtain an entry letter – this was the cheapest option.
The process of using a visa company:
- Apply for a letter of admission from the one of the visa companies
- Once received, print the letter
- Print the visa application form online and fill it out
- Prepare two recent passport photos. I used UK passport size for my application
- You will need USD to pay for the visa, make sure you exchange this before arriving in Vietnam and provide the latest fee with your visa documents
- Provide all of the above to the visa department in the airport.
Vaccinations are recommended, the usual Typhoid, Hep A & B and up to date tetanus etc. Take into account where you are travelling as you may need malaria tablets. A nurse or doctor will advise appropriately what you need, just take a list of cities and areas you are visiting.
Travelling by bus, train and plane around Vietnam are the easiest options. Most backpackers will use the bus as it’s the cheapest option and the sleeper buses look pretty comfortable. The Vietnam train network makes it easy to travel down the coast, it is a little more expensive than the buses.
Vietnamese Dong is the local currency and I suggest exchanging currency on arrival or make withdrawals from ATM’s. ATM’s come with their own challenges, depending on the bank some will only let you withdraw 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 which is 35 to 70 gbp. Look for Citibank or HSBC ATM’s to get out more money as they allow you to withdraw more money at a time and means less bank fees!
Vietnam does accept USD for accommodation and tours but I mainly paid in Vietnamese Dong.
1. Hanoi Kids it’s a student-run organisation by taking travellers on city tours of Hanoi including food tours. They volunteer themselves to improve their English with travellers to provide cross-cultural experiences.
2.Try an egg coffee it is a meringue on top of a black coffee and speciality of Hanoi
3.Hoa Lo Prison get an interesting perspective on the prison and to make your own mind up about ‘hilton’.
4.For a view of communism in Vietnam head to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
5.Bai Hoi, sit on a cart enjoying a local beer.
Ho Chi Minh
1.Remnants museum gives an overview of the Vietnam War. Prepare yourself for some really shocking and sad photos of the war. It’s hard to believe that was only 40 years ago and still affecting the country.
2.Pasteur street brewing company is a microbrewery in Vietnam, get the tasting plate!
3.Cu Chi Tunnels immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District.
4.Mekong Delta River
5.Ben Than Markets is a bustling marketplace offering food, clothes, drinks and fresh produce.
Ha Long Bay features a wonderful network of 3,000 islands displaying towering limestone pillars, emerald waters and evergreen forests. It also has a surprising selection wildlife living in the bay, including elegant eagles and monkeys swinging around in the forests.
Read more about Ha Long Bay here…
1.Explore the old town
2.Hoi An is famous for it’s tailors and if you are in the market for some new clothes and suits it’s the best place to have them made in Vietnam.
3.Cycle to the nearby villages passing through the rice paddies to An Bang Beach & Cam Thanh coconut palm village.
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng is a picturesque park surrounded by mountains, a vast network of caves, tropical forests and underground rivers. I highly recommend adding this to your Vietnam tour!