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Vietnam guide

Vietnam Guide

Get most updated information when prepare for your trip to Vietnam

GEOGRAPHY

Vietnam is a long, narrow nation shaped like the letter s. It is in Southeast Asia on the eastern edge of the peninsula known as Indochina. Its neighbors include China to the north and Laos and Cambodia to the west. The South China Sea lies to the east and south. The mountains of the Annam Cordillera rise over most of the western side of Vietnam, while a thousand-mile (1,600-kilometer) coastline dominates the east.

At its narrowest point, Vietnam is only 30 miles (48 kilometers) wide. Two of Vietnam's largest rivers, the Mekong in the south and the Red in the north, end at the South China Sea in huge swampy plains called deltas. These regions are home to most of the country's people and provide fertile ground to grow rice and many other crops.

PEOPLE & CULTURE

Most Vietnamese people live in the countryside, mainly in the river delta regions of the north and south. Recently though, people have begun to move to the main cities of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) and Hanoi.

The most popular sports in Vietnam include soccer, table tennis, volleyball, and martial arts.

Vietnamese food is a blend of Chinese and Thai styles and features seafood and homegrown fruits and vegetables.

As a communist country, Vietnam has no official religion. But people are free to worship if they want to, and many follow what's called the "Three Teachings" of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

NATURE

Vietnam's mountainous terrain, forests, wetlands, and long coastline contain many different habitats that support a great variety of wildlife. Some 270 types of mammals, 180 reptiles, 80 amphibians, and 800 bird species reside in Vietnam. Many rare and unusual animals live in Vietnam, including giant catfish, Indochinese tigers, Saola antelopes, and Sumatran rhinos. The government has set up 30 parks and reserves to protect its animals, but their survival is in doubt because much of their habitat has been cleared for lumber or to grow crops. Tropical forests once covered most of Vietnam, but over the past few hundred years, logging has reduced the forest cover to only about 19 percent. The government has launched a replanting program in an attempt to restore these woodlands.

GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY

Vietnam is a socialist state governed by the Communist Party of Vietnam. A president, chosen by the National Assembly, is head of state and commander of the armed forces. An appointed prime minister runs the government. Vietnam's main exports include crude oil, seafood, rice, shoes, wooden products, machinery, electronics, coffee, and clothing. Between 1975 and the late 1980s, Vietnam traded mainly with other communist countries, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, it has expanded trade with other nations.

HISTORY

Vietnam's first civilizations arose in the Red River Valley some 5,000 years ago. These northern tribes flourished until 207 B.C., when their region was conquered by a Chinese lord, who established a kingdom called Nam Viet. In 111 B.C., Nam Viet became part of the Chinese empire, which ruled the north until A.D. 939, when a Vietnamese commander named Ngo Quyen organized a revolt that drove the Chinese out. Later dynasties renamed the country Dai Viet and gradually extended their territory south. By the mid-1500s, Dai Viet was divided between rival kingdoms: the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the south. In 1802, a Nguyen lord, with the help of the French, defeated the Trinh and renamed the country Vietnam. By 1890, however, France had taken over Vietnam. Japan took control briefly during World War II, and when the war ended with Japan's defeat in 1945, Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Vietnamese Communist Party, declared Vietnam an independent nation. French attempts to retake Vietnam led to war with the communist Vietnamese, called Viet Minh. Fighting ended in 1954 with the partition of the country into communist North and non-communist South Vietnam.In 1957, communist rebels in the south, called Viet Cong, rose up. War between the North and South ensued, and other countries, including the United States, Russia, and China, soon became involved. The fighting lasted until 1975, when the communists overran the south and took its capital, Saigon.

VIETNAMESE CUISINE AMONG WORLD'S BEST

Vietnamese cuisine has been praised by many international chefs and prestigious food magazines in recent years. Vietnam has been named among the top 10 countries in the world with the best food, according to readers of Canadian magazine The Travel. Talking about Vietnamese cuisine, The Travel wrote: "The variety of dishes will surprise and confuse visitors. This country is a great place to start to discover food". The dishes that you must try are pho, spring rolls, bread, chicken rice, bun cha...

TOURISM

Tourism contributes greatly to Vietnam’s economic growth. It was voted as “Asia’s leading destination” by the World Travel Awards (WTA) in 2019. Vietnam offers various kinds of attractions ranging from cultural tourism, sea tourism, natural and ecological tourism as well as sports and recreation tourism. In 2019, Vietnam received more than 18 million foreign visitors, an increase of 16.2 percent from the previous year.

When traveling to Vietnam, the following popular destinations you should list on your must-visit list:

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

HANOI, the capital city in the northern delta

The capital of Vietnam and the second largest city in the country, Hanoi is the first stop in many people's Vietnam travel itinerary. We're sure there will be arguments that you should get out of the city and visit the countryside, in fact you'll be pleased to take your time to explore the many wonderful things Hanoi has to offer.

The 18 Best Things to do in Hanoi:

1. Visit the Temple of Literature - Read more

2. Pay Your Respects at the Hỏa Lò Prison - Read more

3. Sip a Cocktail at the Metropole Hotel

4. Drink Bia Hoi

5. Check out St. Joseph’s Cathedral - Read more

6. See a Water Puppet Show

7. Stroll Around Hoàn Kiếm Lake

8. Check out the Old Quarter - Read more

9. Wander Along the Train Tracks

10. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Read more

indochine cruise

HALONG BAY in north Quang Ninh province

Halong is a stunningly beautiful bay in Northern Vietnam where over 1,600 islands and islets rise up from the turquoise waters of the East Sea. Most Vietnam itineraries include a trip to Halong Bay.

As you cruise through the bay in one of the luxury boats, you’ll pass by countless towering limestone rock formations. The bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and is today one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Vietnam. - Read more

sapa rice terraces

SAPA in the Northwest region of Vietnam.

Sapa is located in Lao Cai province of Vietnam and is an area that attracts visitors from all over the world. The town is located on the side of one of the many mountains in the massive Hoang Lien Son range. It overlooks the valley below. The valley floor is filled with rice terraces that change from bright green to yellow depending on the time of year you visit. Most people who visit Sapa to be immersed in the stunning landscape often choose to trek, as there are many small roads leading to the hill-tribe villages that lie scattered among the rice terraces and along the valley. Trekking is definitely the best way to explore the Sapa and its surrounding - Read more

Hang Mua Summit

NINH BINH in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam

Often referred to as “Halong Bay on Land” due to the lush green rice paddies and towering limestone cliffs,  Ninh Binh with Tam Coc and Trang An are areas of Vietnam that are all too often overlooked by travelers. Just an hour and a half south of the bustling city of Hanoi, this is arguably one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

Trang An and Tam Coc are the perfect places in Ninh Binh to relax and unwind while soaking up the landscape and the culture of Vietnam. It’s the perfect retreats from hectic Hanoi and touristy Halong Bay. In fact, it's highly recommended that you spend at least a couple of days in this beautiful location to your Vietnam itinerary. - Read more

hmong_people_hagiang.jpg

HA GIANG in northern Vietnam is less frequented by tourists, but its popularity is increasing. The province is home to nearly 90% of the population are ethnic minorities with their own culture and lifestyle. Ha Giang is a unique place that has so far not been affected by mass tourism. You will see a lot of wonderful mountain scenery throughout the entire area. The furthest and most beautiful place of Ha Giang province is Dong Van Global Geopark, recognized by UNESCO as one of 77 places with important geo-cultural heritage.

Authenticity, nature, beautiful mountains and no tourist crowds!

Ha Giang is still an authentic part of northern Vietnam, giving you unspoiled nature, mountain scenery and fascinating passes, but also areas like it was about 100 years ago - Read more

Old town of Hoi An

HOI AN is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. The old town was a trading port from the 15th-19th century and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. 

Hoi An is the cutest little town in central region that is an absolute must-visit during your trip. Hoi An is famous for its yellow French colonial-style buildings and colorful cloth lanterns that line the streets. Every evening the Old Town is turned into a pedestrian-only zone and the tourists wander the streets, shopping for souvenirs and admiring the vibrant lanterns. - Read more

Nha Trang Beach

NHA TRANG in the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa.

Perched on a pristine stretch of the southern coast, Nha Trang is a playground for sun seekers. Days here are spent dining on delicious seafood, snorkeling around stunning islands, and partying on the sand after dark. Nha Trang lays claim to some of the country's finest luxury resorts and thrilling water sports. Despite the development boom, colorful fishing villages and serene riverside restaurants are just a stone's throw away... - Read more

Notre dame cathedral

SAIGON (officially “Ho Chi Minh City”) is a bustling metropolitan city in the South of Vietnam. The city has a large international airport. It is often a starting point for exploring other areas of the country. You can easily see the highlights of the city in just one day. No need to spend a lot of time here.

There are a number of tourist attractions in HCMC, including the Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum, and Notre-Dame Cathedral, but we think the best things to do in Saigon involve coffee, food, beer and shopping! - Read more

Floating Market in Mekong

VIETNAM'S MEKONG DELTA is an area in Southern Vietnam that covers more than 15,000 square miles. It is where the many rivers that provide ideal farming conditions. Many of the fruits and vegetables sold in markets across Vietnam come from the Mekong Delta.

Travelers love to visit the delta to see the famous floating markets, where locals buy and sell fresh produce. You can also row a boat through the zigzag canals on the river. Most people visit the Mekong Delta for a day trip. However, since this place is not only famous for its floating market, but also an interesting place to learn about local culture and the rustic life of Mekong Delta farmers, you should definitely spend at least a couple of days here! - Read more

Phu Quoc Beach

PHU QUOC ISLAND, located off the coast of Cambodia, is perhaps most famous for its pristine beaches with white sand, calm seas and warm waters. It is a sunny paradise.

Coming to Vietnam, visitors should not miss Phu Quoc Island - one of the most beautiful islands - and certainly the largest in Vietnam.

It would be great if you could arrange a few days to relax on a sunny white sand beach in the last few days of your Vietnam Discovery Journey. - Read more

VN map

Vietnam at Glance

 

Capital: Hanoi
Time Zone: UTC+07:00
Visa Required: Yes
Currency: Dong (VND)
Tel Code: +84
Population 2022 estimate: 103,808,319
Official Language: Vietnamese
Main Religion: Folk
Largest City:  Ho Chi Minh

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  • Is Cambodia safe for travelers?
    Yes, Cambodia is generally considered safe for travelers, but it is important to exercise caution and common sense while traveling. Like any destination, there are risks associated with travel, such as pickpocketing, scams, and occasional reports of violent crime. However, these incidents are relatively rare, and most visitors to Cambodia do not encounter any safety issues. It is also advisable to check travel advisories and stay informed about any potential risks or security concerns in the country. Overall, with necessary precautions, Cambodia is a safe and welcoming destination for travelers.
  • What is the best time of year to visit Cambodia?
    The best time to visit Cambodia is during the dry season, which extends from November to April. The weather is generally warm and sunny, making it an excellent time for sightseeing and outdoor activities. The peak tourist season is from December to February, so expect larger crowds and higher prices during this time. The shoulder seasons of November and April can be a good option if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy lower prices. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, can bring heavy rains and floods, making some areas inaccessible. However, the countryside is lush and green during this time, and it can be a good option for those who don't mind the rain and want to experience a quieter Cambodia.
  • Do you need a visa to visit Cambodia?
    Cambodia is a popular tourist destination that requires a visa for most foreign visitors. Visitors can obtain a visa upon arrival at the airport or border checkpoint, or apply for an electronic visa online prior to their trip. It is important to check the visa requirements before planning your trip to Cambodia as they may vary depending on your nationality and the duration of your stay. If you have any questions or need assistance in obtaining a visa, you can contact Custom Asia Travel at info@customasiatravel.com.
  • What should I pack for a trip to Cambodia?
    When packing for a trip to Cambodia, keep in mind that the climate can be hot and humid year-round, with a monsoon season from May to October. Here are some essential items to consider: Lightweight and breathable clothing: Pack light, loose-fitting clothes that will keep you cool and comfortable in the heat. Sun protection: Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the intense sun. Insect repellent: Mosquitoes are present in Cambodia, so it's wise to bring insect repellent. Comfortable walking shoes: You'll likely do a lot of walking, so make sure to have comfortable shoes that can handle uneven terrain. Swimwear: Don't forget to pack swimwear if you plan to visit beaches or swim in a pool. Lightweight rain jacket or poncho: If you're visiting during the rainy season, it's advisable to bring a lightweight rain jacket or poncho. Medications: If you take prescription medications, make sure to bring enough for the duration of your trip. It's also advisable to pack basic over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers, stomach remedies, and antihistamines. Travel documents: Bring your passport, visa (if required), and any other important travel documents. You can contact Custom Asia Travel at info@customasiatravel.com for assistance with your trip to Cambodia.
  • What are the must-visit destinations in Cambodia?
    Cambodia has many must-visit destinations that showcase the country's history, culture, and natural beauty. Here are some of the top destinations to visit in Cambodia: Angkor Wat: This iconic temple complex located in Siem Reap is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and is a must-see for any traveler in Cambodia. Phnom Penh: The capital city of Cambodia offers a blend of modern and traditional attractions, including the Royal Palace, the National Museum of Cambodia, and the Killing Fields. Siem Reap: In addition to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap offers many other ancient temples to explore, as well as a vibrant nightlife scene and lively night market. Kampot: This peaceful riverside town in southern Cambodia is known for its beautiful landscapes, including Bokor Mountain National Park and nearby pepper farms. Sihanoukville: This coastal city in southern Cambodia is renowned for its white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a popular beach destination. Koh Rong: This idyllic island off the coast of Sihanoukville offers a secluded retreat with pristine beaches and abundant marine life for snorkeling and scuba diving. These are just a few of the many must-visit destinations in Cambodia. At Custom Asia Travel, we can help you create a personalized itinerary based on your preferences and interests, to make the most out of your journey in this fascinating country.
  • What is Cambodian cuisine like?
    Cambodian cuisine is known for its flavorful and aromatic dishes that reflect the country's history and cultural influences. Food in Cambodia is a blend of flavors from Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and French cuisine. Here are some popular dishes to try: fish amok, a steamed fish curry with coconut milk and spices; lok lak, a stir-fried beef dish with peppers and onions; and kuy teav, a noodle soup with pork or beef. Street food is also a must-try in Cambodia, with vendors offering a variety of delicious snacks such as fried noodles, spring rolls, and grilled meats. Vegetarians will find plenty of options in Cambodia as many dishes highlight fresh vegetables and herbs. It's also worth sampling some tropical fruits from Cambodia, such as mangoes, pineapples, and dragon fruit, which are widely available in markets.
  • What are the customs and cultural norms in Cambodia?
    Cambodia has a rich culture and history, and it is important for travelers to be aware of the customs and cultural norms in order to avoid offending the locals. Here are some key points to keep in mind: Dress modestly, especially when visiting temples or religious sites. This means covering your shoulders and knees. Remove your shoes before entering a temple or someone's home. Use your right hand to pass or receive objects, as the left hand is considered impure. Avoid touching people's heads, as it is considered disrespectful. When greeting someone, it is polite to use the Sampeah gesture, which involves placing your hands together in a prayer-like position in front of your chest and slightly bowing your head. It is customary to remove hats and sunglasses when entering a temple or religious site. Public displays of affection are not common in Cambodia and may be seen as inappropriate. Tipping is not common in Cambodia, but it is becoming more prevalent in tourist areas. If you decide to give a tip, a small amount is appreciated. When giving or receiving something, use both hands as a sign of respect. Lastly, respect the tragic history of Cambodia and the impact it still has on many Cambodians. Avoid making insensitive comments about the Khmer Rouge or the country's political situation. For more information on customs and cultural norms in Cambodia, it is always wise to consult a local travel agency like Custom Asia Travel, which can provide additional advice and support.
  • Are there any specific health concerns I should be aware of before traveling to Cambodia?
    Yes, there are some health concerns that travelers should be aware of before visiting Cambodia. Malaria is present in certain regions of the country, so it's important to take preventive measures such as using mosquito nets and repellents. Dengue, another mosquito-borne disease, is also a risk. Travelers should also be cautious about what they eat and drink to avoid food and waterborne illnesses such as traveler's diarrhea. It is recommended to drink bottled water, avoid ice in beverages, and consume only thoroughly cooked food. Vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and tetanus are also recommended. It is best to consult a healthcare professional or travel medicine clinic before traveling to Cambodia to discuss any specific health concerns and the necessary vaccinations or medications.
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