Vietnam, when to go and (many) other useful tips

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Aina Martin

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Returning a few days from her DIY Vietnam, Roberta wrote this post with a lot of useful tips for those who are planning a trip to those parts: when to go, how to move, where to stay, in short, all (and more) information needed to plan the trip before and after departure.

  • Vietnam, when to go?
  • Voli
  • Viewed
  • Vaccines and hygiene
  • Classic itinerary and stages
  • Internal movements
  • Internal flights
  • Accomodation
  • Eating in Vietnam
  • 10 dispassionate tips

Vietnam, when to go?

Ha Long Bay credit Guido Da Rozze

There is no better season than the other to go to Vietnam because due to its length (more than 2000 miles of coastline!) The weather can vary significantly from one region to another.
Essentially, however, Vietnam is divisible into 4 climatic zones:
North of the mountains (Sapa): characterized by two seasons, the dry one (from October to March) and the rainy one (from April to September). The best time to visit this part of Vietnam is during the dry season, although in December and January it can get very cold.
North Vietnam (Hanoi, Halog Bay): here too there are mainly two seasons, the winter characterized by less rain but cooler temperatures and the summer much hotter and humid and often the scene of heavy rains (from April to September).
Vietnam Central (Hoi An): in Hoi an and in this part of Vietnam, the hottest and driest season is from late January to late August. The wettest months are October and November.
South Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City): in this part of Vietnam the temperatures remain more or less constant throughout the year. The wet season runs from May to November with peaks of rain during the month of August.

When to go to Vietnam it will therefore depend on your itinerary and the places you most want to visit.


Vietnam has no direct connections, and any flight departing from Milan or Rome has a stopover, often in Thailand, Russia, China or the UAE. Booked 4 to 6 months in advance, you can find a good flight between 600 and 800 euros a / r, especially by opting for nearby departure airports such as Zurich.


Vietnam visa

A month before my departure, in June 2015, the government of Vietnam decided to exempt from the visa requirement for visitors who are staying for a number of days less than 15. This is legislation that will remain in force until July 2016 but, as you know, it is always better to take a look at the Farnesina website for updates on the matter. I was the lucky exonerated, as my stay lasted a total of 14 days.
For longer stays, the visa is valid for 30 or 90 days and can be requested in two ways:

  • Consulate of Vietnam (Turin), Embassy of Vietnam (Rome): it is possible to apply for a visa by sending the application form (downloadable from the site), passport, passport photo and copy of the payment transfer (approximately 125 € between cost of the visa and shipping costs) to the two bodies mentioned. Documentation return times: 15 days.
  • Invitation letter: the most commonly used procedure, through which an authorization confirmation is requested from specialized Vietnamese agencies via the web, to be presented at the airport upon arrival (at the appropriate “Visa Fee” desk) together with the passport photo. The stamp is then issued on the passport for a cost of approx 50 / 60 euro.

If your itinerary includes more than one entrance to Vietnam (for example you land in Hanoi, then go to Laos or Cambodia and then return) you will have to buy the multiple entry visa, more expensive than the single visa.

Vaccines and hygiene

The only mandatory vaccine to do in Vietnam is there yellow fever, if you come from a country where this disease represents a reality and a problem. If you are not planning to sleep in the Vietnamese jungle for 2 months, with your feet soaked in the Mekong Delta, the local ASL will will advise to do only 3 vaccines: tetanus, hepatitis A, typhoid fever. The choice is yours anti-malarial prophylaxis which, at the moment, already, is still expensive, does not completely cover the risk and often has horrendous side effects. The best solution remains the 50% DEET-based repellent, the long dresses, the less swampy places as possible.
I state: Vietnam is dirty and polluted and the sanitation conditions are not Swiss, but it is enough use common sense. Wash your hands often and do not bring them to your mouth, avoid cutting, scratching or falling on exposed woods and metals, do not eat anything raw or that comes from buffets. DO NOT drink tap water. While I'm there I also put "avoid the ice", maybe I just had ass and no cube was the stable house of a colony of Escherichia coli.

Classic itinerary and stages

Sapa credit Brian Huang

The only real big panic when I plan a two week trip is: oh my! Where I go? What stages do I choose? Which ones do I do first? Isn't it that I'm missing something?
Before going to read endless posts on travel itineraries, like mine, I mention the essential stages of a typical itinerary in Vietnam, starting from the north to the south
-SAPA: North of Vietnam. Unfortunately I didn't have time to go there. Set of mountain villages, rice fields, breathtaking views and overnight stays at the houses of the ethnic minor of Vietnam.
-HANOI: capital, north of Vietnam. The essence of the real Vietnam is a mixture of the new and the old. Unmissable visits to the Old Quarter, French Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake.
–HALONG BAY: Unesco Heritage, North of Vietnam. A natural paradise in soaring water limestone peaks, natural caves and beaches. Famous for the cruises aboard ships that stay one or two nights in baria, for rock climbing and for kayak excursions.
- NINH BINH: North / Central Vietnam. The country province closest to Hanoi, full of parks and nature reserves and adorned with the classic limestone peaks typical of the Vietnamese landscape. Famous for boat trips along rivers (Tam Coc, The Trang)
-HUE: Central Vietnam. Headquarters of the Citadel of Hue, Unesco heritage recently opened to the public, and famous for its numerous Tombs of the Emperors that crowd its surroundings.
-HOI AN: Central Vietnam. The City of Lanterns, a jewel of South East Asia. Famous for its Old City, immaculate historic center, Unesco heritage, for the beautiful beaches and sites of interest in its surroundings (Marble Mountains, My Son Cham Complex).
-NHA TRANG: Southeast Vietnam. Seaside capital of Vietnam, popular among backpackers for its vibrant and vibrant nightlife. Hosts beautiful beaches.
-HO CHI MINH CITY: Southern Vietnam. The modern city par excellence, projected towards the future. An interesting legacy of ancient cultures and tremendous devastation. Famous for the beautiful War Remnants Museum and Capital of Notre Dame.
-DELTA DEL MEKONG: Southern Vietnam. The side of the country suspended between the river and the land. Famous for i Floating Markets, the Intricate Minor Canals of the River, the immense expanses of Orchards and rice fields.
Consider that Vietnam is FULL of other and much less touristic stops, certainly interesting and to consider if you have 3 weeks or even more than a month. Unfortunately I didn't have time to shoot it all, but I would have liked it! The vast majority of these less traveled circuits are an endless series of natural wonders.
And now … from north to south or from south to north? It is exactly the same, and it will depend a lot both on the convenience of the flights you find and on any ancillary stops, such as Laos and Cambodia. Often those who start trekking in Laos then go to Cambodia and in concert to the south of Vietnam, and then finish the itinerary in the north.

Internal movements

internal movements in vietnam

Especially if you have several weeks of time, Vietnam is a wonderful country for adventure travel, with no reservations and no predefined itineraries. For lack of time, I was unable to do it. Hostels are numerous and frequently have rooms available, and there is one bus line very economical dedicated specifically for backpackers, Open Bus, which covers more or less all the stages and leaves often and willingly from the city center, and whose tickets can be booked in the vast majority of hotels, guesthouses and travel agencies.
The trains they are a beautiful and economical solution, which "whizzes" (so to speak, a 50 km times) for the lush landscapes of the lush nature of Vietnam. You can easily sleep there, taking the berths (which is essential if you go to Sapa, for example, by night train), but take into account the extreme slowness. The journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh takes approximately 30 to 41 hours.
It is not possible travel Vietnam with your own car owned nor rent one, because the international driving license is not recognized. The only solution is to rent a car with driver, an expensive and not very recommendable option, because the traffic regulations and the poor state of maintenance of the roads require a limited speed of about 50 km per hour.
On the other hand, it is possible and beautiful to rent one motorcycle. Scooter rental is around from 5 to 10 dollars per day. The bicycles they can be rented anywhere (hotels, agencies, rental offices) and at reasonable prices, but they are not always in good condition.
I taxi they are now numerous and there are also several companies serving a single city. A 10-minute ride costs around 3/4 euros. Make sure you get into licensed and metered taxis. If in doubt, ask for the fare before boarding.
Internal flights they are the fastest, cheapest and safest way to travel around Vietnam, especially if you have little time available.

Internal flights

Domestic flights are the first thing to consider when you have limited time, an average spending budget and an average need for comfort. There are 3 main companies that serve the various Vietnamese stops, almost always included in a classic North - South itinerary: Vietnam Airlines, national airline, whose fare includes checked baggage; Viet Jet, a new private Vietnamese company that does NOT include checked baggage but requires a separate payment; Jet Star Pacific, an Australian company that does NOT include checked baggage but requires a separate payment. If you are a "flight coward", like me, I anticipate that the air fleets of these companies are new and that their rating is not absolutely low, except in the services on board (but ... fuck it, if you want luxury you travel Emirates and that's it). An internal route costs on average from 40 to 100 €, depending on where you are going, when you book, and the rate for checked baggage. Consider that internal flights are often delayed, of about one or two hours.


Vietnam offers solutions for all pockets and needs: large, luxurious and modern hotels, beach resorts, eco-lodges in the countryside, mini-hotels, guesthouses, hostels and also overnight stays in typical houses in the villages of minor ethnic groups, as in the splendid panorama of Mai chau.
I don't have enough information on the camping, but I know that it is not one of the most traveled roads in terms of overnight stays, probably due to the limited number of structures used.
Below I leave you the websites of hotel e guesthouse in which I stayed during the trip. I won't go into describing them, because all the information, much more detailed and updated than my post, is available on the reference website.
My choice was oriented by the fact that each of these was in central position, had conditioned air, breakfast (not always included in the price. If you are interested, inquire before booking), private bathroom. Almost all hotels, on request, carry out the pick-up service from and to the airport, organize excursions and tours and often, they change cash.
Il average cost for these hotels it was 25 $ per night for a double room.
Hanoi Guest House
Camel City Hotel
Overnight on the boat, organized cruise with Indochina Voyages
Kim Lien Guest House
Hue Nino Hotel   
Hoang Trinh Hotel
Ngoc Linh Hotel 
Xoai Hotel          

Eating in Vietnam

Eating in Vietnam credit Guido Da Rozze

This is a section that is particularly close to my heart because, I admit, when I travel, the avenue of memories is made up of a good 40% of food.
I love to experience local food and, in the vast majority of places I've been, I've always recognized it as one real experience, as a way of approaching the culture and values ​​of a people. I firmly believe that the essence of a population is very much reflected in the way it feeds. Appearance which, at the same time, provides a flood of information on the culture, on the religion, on the economic situation and on social welfare.
In Vietnam, even more than in other places, the food is CULTURE AND TRADITION. The Vietnamese people love to eat, which is where they have the opportunity to offer food and hospitality, give rise to occasions for conviviality and, especially, share. In Asia, and Vietnam is no exception, create solid bonds with the community of belonging and sharing resources is the key to success: in a densely populated land, shaken by invasions, wars and natural disasters, it represents the antidote to isolation and destruction: in other words, keeping good friends and enemies pays, especially when we are… many!
Well, if you go to Vietnam, try NOT to fall into the following mistakes:
- SHIFT: Does street food seem unhygienic to you? Then don't go into the maze of the modern place, where the exact same stove, worktop or refrigerator of the street food corner, is simply covered by beautiful colored signs. It doesn't seem like it, but having a cook and kitchen in sight, on the road, pays and reassures, because you will always be able to verify that the food is fresh e cooked on the spot, the only two variables to look out for.
And always keep one thing in mind: we will also have different antibodies, but it is not that 90 million Vietnamese eat in the street to play who gets the cheer first. If everyone, but all street food places overbooked, there must be a reason.
- DO NOT TASTE: the dress does not make the monk, especially in Vietnamese kitchens. The Spring Rolls they look like oily and charred blocks of rice paper: instead they are like cherries, you start with the first and take 125 kilos of goodness. The Bhan Mi it looks like a poor baguette, but it is one of the best filled sandwiches you will ever taste. The Bun cha of pork, here ... this is like the pilgrimage to Mecca for Islam: you have to taste it, once in a lifetime.
- "PAYMENT, PRETENDO": not always! The more modern places, where you pay more, certainly have nice facilities and excellent services, but forget about the superior quality of the food. In Vietnam the opposite rule applies, almost always: the more Spartan and cheaper the place, the better you eat. Because? Because the city wholesale market is always the same and the tourism industry is still in its infancy: if the merchant has to pay more for a nice and welcoming dining room, he will necessarily save on the excellence of the food, because the economic situation, yet, does not allow to skyrocket the prices of dishes and present a Pho to 20 euros.
In conclusion, Vietnamese cuisine is fresh, good, varied and delicious. It also represents a real culture, a ritual and a tradition. Maybe you can avoid taking the cone hat home with you (maybe ... but I wouldn't swear it), but you can't escape the charm of one of the best street food in South East Asia.

10 dispassionate tips


  1. The sun beats, burns, burns, burns! Bring and wear sunscreen often;
  1. In August, it's just not hot. The goal is to induce you to sublimation and evaporation, then always bring bottles of water e stop for a drink some fresh juice;
  1. The heat tired, tired, tired. It exhausts and exhausts, therefore unscheduled 24 visits in the afternoon and 5 excursions in the morning. Enjoy this earthly paradise and face it with the necessary dose of calm.
  1. Il inhabitants-scooters ratio is approximately 1: 25.000. The mopeds NO they stop at the pedestrian crossing e NO you don't have to do it either: sometimes you will slow down and the moped will pass, other times the moped will slow down and you will pass. Simple, isn't it?
  1. Il coffee it's really good! I know that nothing and no one beats espresso, but Vietnam is a coffee producing country and there are 5 different ways to prepare it! Taste it and enjoy it like the locals: on the side of the road, watching the world go by!
  1. Buy yourself the cone cap! Not only is it typical and unique of Vietnam, but, under the sun, it is equivalent to a head umbrella J guaranteed protection and no sunshine, especially by bike, by boat and by the sea.
  1. Rent a bicycle and a moped, even if the last time you saw the bike was the XNUMXth century. There is nothing more beautiful than exploring Vietnam by these two means.
  1. Be kind. In Asia, community is everything and interpersonal relationships are the foundation of society. Talk to people and ask for information, you will make the interviewee happy. Refuse firm and convinced an insistent sale. Smile, greet the children in return and help the elderly ladies if they ask you for a hand to lift a basket.
  1. If you happen to meet groups of children (often accompanied) in the most touristic places, it is very likely that they will stop you to ask for the courtesy of speak, in English, for a few minutes. They do not want to sell you anything, but only to practice the language, an essential requirement, in Vietnam, to avoid being farm laborers and have a more prosperous future.
  1. ... let yourself go. Program the essentials, do not follow the maps, exchange 2 more words. Vietnam is a SAFE and beautiful country, and you will never feel in danger.
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