Travel the length of Vietnam from top to tail and you’ll be treated to an experience in one of Southeast Asia’s most affordable and affable countries. Holidays in Vietnam encourage you to explore with Hanoi and Ha Long Bay just a couple of northern highlights to get you started. Flying south is ideal if you’re inclined for comfort and convenience whereas travelling overland lets you get to grips with the culture and landscapes, at ground level.
With the historic towns of Hue and Hoi An on the central eastern coast and the beaches of Nha Trang further south, Vietnam’s snaking shape is as rich and varied as the cuisine. Of course, you can’t go on holiday to Vietnam without falling in love with the food. From Pho soup noodles in Saigon’s Ben Thanh night market to freshly wrapped spring rolls overlooking the Mekong River – Vietnamese dishes are as intricately woven into the national tapestry as Taoist temples and motor scooters.
Hanoi flows along the west bank of the Red River to leave travellers captivated and more than a little confused by the organised chaos of the Old Quarter. Vietnam’s capital city has been created over eons with Chinese and French influence offering all manner of historical insight. Highlights will always include the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the turtles in Hoan Kiem Lake although attempting to cross the road while hundreds of scooters whizz by is an experience in itself.
Head to Ha Long Bay – three hours east of Hanoi – and you’ll find an immediate antidote to the hustle and bustle of the capital. This is somewhere that’s become an Vietnamese icon with myriad limestone karst rocks jutting out of the peaceful waters like knobbly giant’s knuckles. Staying overnight on an old-fashioned junk boat is definitely the best way to dodge the crowds. And nothing beats a night under the stars followed by breakfast onboard and a paddle in a kayak to start the day.
As you can fly or take a train to Da Nang on the central coast it’s a convenient point of entrance for anyone wishing to visit the historic towns of Hue and Hoi An. Hue was once the imperial capital of Vietnam and still retains an air of fortified authority within its Forbidden Purple citadel. Hoi An, on the other hand, is far more humble and best known for its ancient town that’s criss-crossed with waterways and aligned with traditional shophouses, ornate pagodas and Japanese covered bridges.
Stretching out across southern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta has long been one of the best ways to cross the border into neighbouring Cambodia. This has been the lifeblood of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) since time began with rural riverside villages using the canals and waterways to transport the produce from the rice paddies and fruit orchards. Day trippers can travel on the Mekong Delta by converted rice barge and visit the floating markets and riverside workshops.
The flight time from the UK to Vietnam is approximately 12 hours.
You will need an up-to-date passport and a completed tourist visa when travelling to Vietnam from the UK. Please visit GOV.UK for entry requirements to Vietnam or, alternatively, visit CIBT visas for more information.
The north of Vietnam is more inclined to wet weather and colder temperatures in the winter. Summers can be stifling although humidity is quickly cleared by an afternoon downpour. Spring and autumn are usually quite comfortable times of year to visit Hanoi and the central highlands. The south-central coast is slightly more tropical with higher temperatures and more chance of typhoons during the autumn.
Vietnam is seven hours ahead of the UK.
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. English and French are both widely spoken in and around the tourist areas and beach resorts.
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