Vietnam Guide

 

I wrote about my trip herehere and here on my blog, so you have an idea of the basis of the trip, what I wore and what we did.

 

Hanoi: Oldest city in Northern Vietnam, super populous and full of history. Not exactly my favorite place in Vietnam, but worth spending a few days. Like Bangkok in Thailand, or say, Times Square in New York City. Can be too much at a point.

Ha Long Bay: Insanely gorgeous, and when you see Vietnam photos you probably see some from here. Ominous islands inside a bay full of jungle animals and overnight yachts. A must see.

Hue: Love hue (pronounced whey). It’s a tiny village, that’s super welcoming and has lots of interesting things to see.

Hoi An: A beach town that’s growing pretty rapidly and has a lot of architecture that’s French/American. Lots to do here and I LOVED the city. Tourists and shopping felt super comfortable. Here you can relax by the water and under a palm tree.

Da Nang: Another good one, super close to Hoi An on the beach.

Ho Chi Min City (previously known as Saigon): Most populous city in Vietnam, it’s south and gets pretty hot at all times. There’s everything you need in a big city here, every type of food, clubs, shopping and things to do. Lots of traffic, too.


// places to go //

In Hanoi:

Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole

Melia in Hanoi

In Hue:

Indochine Palace Hotel

In Ha Long Bay:

On the yachts in the bay, there are a variety of good options, such as: Indochina Junk tours. 

In Hoi An:

Boutique Hotel Hoi An

In Da Nang:

Hotel Novotel Danang Premier Han River

In Ho Chi Min City:

Hotel Sofitel Saigon Plaza

Hotel Majestic


// places to eat //

In Hanoi:

Press Club Hanoi

Da Paolo Westlake

Seasons of Hanoi

Namaste

In Hue:

Nina's Cafe

Les Jardins de la Carambole

HANH Restaurant Local Food

Elegant Restaurant and Lounge

In Ha Long Bay:

Here, you can only do yachts and boats, really. So you'll eat on your boat! Food is not my favorite, but mostly traditional Vietnamese. 

In Hoi An:

Nocturnal Artist

Good Morning Vietnam

Morning Glory Restaurant

Bazar

In Da Nang:

Lam Vien

Sofia Restaurant

In Ho Chi Min City:

Hum in Saigon

Noir (where you dine in the dark!)

Bun Cha 145

Baba's Kitchen

4P's Pizza


// things to see //

The old quarter in Hanoi, which is a tourist spot for shopping and stores

The Citadel in Hue

The ethnic markets, in each of the areas

Bia hoi, a type of Vietnamese beer

Temples and pagodas, which are Buddhist centers that are ornate and beautiful 

The beaches in Hoi An

Downtown Hoi An, which is a tourist's dream, filled with shopping and amazing restaurants

Halong Bay, the mystical looking islands in the mist - it's famous for a reason

Cu Chi Tunnels in Saigon, famous from the war, these are historically important

Backpackers' Alley in Saigon

An Quang Pagoda, a beautiful Buddhist center


// places to shop //

Shopping is best in the major cities, like Saigon and Hanoi. There are the major designer stores and small shops alike, and pricing is fairly similar to the States at the major stores. The prices at smaller, family-owned shops are really cheap, but they don't appreciate negotiation.


// tips //

  • You need a visa into Vietnam, one that you apply for before you get into the country. It’s super important because you won’t be let in if you don’t get it. I got mine through an organization called CIBT that helps you acquire a passport much easier than doing it on your own. It costs around $250 dollars, and you should work to get it months in advance.

  • Bring sunscreen and bug spray. Especially in southern Vietnam, it’s super hot out and the sun can be very intense. Always wear your sunscreen, and use bug spray to keep bug bites to a minimum.

  • Don’t drink the water. Watch out for your fruits and vegetables if they are raw, too.

  • You’re safe almost everywhere you go. I never felt so safe in a foreign place, and there’s a real sense of community there that seems to keep you safe. Even as a tourist, I never got sketchy vibes. I did hear that in Ho Chi Min there are people on motorbikes that snatch your phone. But that can happen anywhere really.

  • The currency is the dong, and there are roughly 22,000 dong per every U.S. dollar. So you buy things for millions on dong.

  • Things for the most part are a lot cheaper there. We had meals for around $20 dollars, three courses and wine. Clothes and other things are cheaper, depending on where you go. I went to the spa 3 times because it was so cheap there.

  • You need to fly from the north to the south part of the country - driving and public transportation aren’t possible.

  • There are taxis, but most people drive motorbikes because there is such traffic.

  • Food is mostly Vietnamese and they eat things like Pho for breakfast. Outside of big cities there aren’t many options for different types of food.

  • The city isn’t clean. I don’t know how to say it, but they don’t have a trash system in the city at all. They burn or bury their trash and you’ll never find trash cans. They sell meat in the street and things don’t get refrigerated or sanitized like in the States. It was jarring actually, and I didn’t eat a lot of things because, from the perspective of an over-clean culture such as America, it was ‘gross’. But it’s a country coming out of poverty and newly thriving from the war.

  • The issue of the Vietnam War is still prominent and understanding the culture and history there would be important for your trip. I personally don’t know as much about the war as I would have liked, and I found myself confused at times about what was going on. I wish I would have studied up about issues such as the Vietcong, Vietnam, and its relationship with the United States. There’s a lot to know but even enough to ‘get’ things would be valuable.

  • A lot of people speak English or understand it enough to converse with you, which is really nice. Their main language is Vietnamese, of course.

  • The weather varies from North to South Vietnam and you’ll need to pack for colder if you’re in the North and much warmer if you’re south. The best time to go is between January – March, when it’s not too hot out.

  • You can do a tour with a company like we did - BackroadsVBT or Tauck Tours are good options.