Essential Travel Tips for Vietnam First-Timers
Bordered by Laos, Cambodia, and China, Vietnam has a coastline of over 3,444km by distance, excluding the islands. With a population of over 89 million people and a rapidly modernising economy, modern Vietnam is a beguiling mix of the old and the very new. Those visiting Vietnam for the first time will find the following guide very useful. Hotels in Vietnam, like Malaysia hotels or hotels elsewhere offer a high level of luxury and enjoyment for visitors.
Vietnam is shaped like a long ‘J’, with four major regions.
- Northern Vietnam, which covers Hanoi, Cuc Bang, Dien Bien Phu, Ha Long Bay, and Sapa.
- Central Coast, which includes the Cham Islands, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Thanh Hoa.
- Central Highlands, which includes Ngoc Hoi, Kontum, Dalat, and Buon Ma Thuot.
- Southern Vietnam, covering Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh, My Tho, Phan Thiet, Tay Ning, and Long Xuyen.
With its diverse range of destinations and stunning beachside towns, Vietnam is a very popular destination for tourists.
- Hoi An – one of the most untouched seacoast towns in Vietnam, with striking beach sights and lots of traditional relics and experiences.
- Hanoi – with remnants of Vietnam’s colonial period in the Old Quarter and the French Quarter, the capital is a bustling and charming city to visit.
- Halong Bay – an amazing coastal area with limestone islands and stunning sights.
Getting Around in Vietnam
Transport tends to be inexpensive and plentiful. There are various ways to get around in Vietnam.
- Planes – the fastest way to travel Vietnam, with two hour flights for Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. There are three major domestic carriers.
- Trains – cheaper than planes, trains are a comfortable and enjoyable way to get around and see more of Vietnam, with the Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi journey at around 30 hours.
- Bus – Long distance buses are available in most area of Vietnam, as are public buses for short local trips and day tour buses.
- Taxis – taxis are very cheap in major cities.
The national language is Vietnamese and most locals speak little English. However, locals are extremely helpful towards foreigners. A phrasebook or a list of everyday words will come in handy if you’re expecting to stay longer. As in major Doha hotels or hotels anywhere else, staff in hospitality industries will speak English.
Vietnamese cuisine can vary from region to region, with the national dish being pho – broth soup with beef or chicken and rice noodles. Local versions of coffee, baguettes, and pastries have been developed and perfected for local palates since the colonial period. Seafood is very cheap and fresh. Both restaurants and the numerous hawker stores can provide a filling and delicious meal.
While it’s impossible to list all the wonderful dishes Vietnam offers, some notable dishes to try include Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake with pork and prawn) and Bun Bo Hue (spicy noodle soup). Banh Mi Thit — bread roll with Vietnamese ham, roast pork, pate, and fresh vegetables – is great for a snack or a quick meal on the run.