Come to Vietnam if you like your natural wonders served with a side of urban chaos. Its hundred-mile-per-hour cities will make your head spin with their blend of frantic capitalist development and colonial, war-tinged history, yet the lime-green rice paddies ploughed by farmers in conical hats will soothe your soul. Then there are the jungle-covered national parks begging to be hiked, tropical beaches for basking on and forested mountains in the north, which offer the perfect antidote to the incessant whirl of city life.
You’ll be drawn to Vietnam’s trademark attractions, the limestone karsts of Halong Bay and floating Mekong Delta markets, but it’s the ever-industrious people who’ll guide you through these diverse landscapes and leave the biggest impression. It could be the smiling street vendor who hands you a bowl of steaming Pho while you perch on a pavement-side stool in Hanoi, the highland farmer who’ll show you around his coffee farm or the tailor in Hoi An just waiting to sew you a custom-made suit.
To really delve beneath the country’s surface, talk to our specialists and local guides, they can help you select the best Vietnam tours, destinations and accommodation that the country has to offer.
Time difference: GMT +7
Flight time: London + 11-12 hours
Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Electricity: 110 or 220 voltage
Telephone code: +84
Tipping: Isn’t expected in Vietnam and taxi drivers run strictly to the meter, just watch out for the rigged ones. However, if you receive exceptional service from a personal tour guide or waiter, particularly at a high-end restaurant, tip them 10 percent. When you’re visiting a spa, pay up to 20 percent directly to your masseuse if you’re pleased with the treatment.
Etiquette: Dress conservatively, particularly in temples and remove your shoes before entering a Vietnamese home. Haggling is expected in markets but always keep your cool because causing a public scene is considered losing face. Public displays of affection are also frowned upon in Vietnam. Be careful not to point your feet at any religious sites or touch someone’s head, which is considered the most sacred part of the body.
Religions: Vietnam is officially an atheist state and religious groups must register with the socialist republic government. Despite this, roughly a quarter of the population identifies with a religion and many people practise Vietnamese folk traditions. Exact figures vary but the most popular spiritual beliefs are Buddhism, Christianity and Caodaism, followed by the Hoa Hao faith.
Visas: You can look up the latest advice on https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/vietnam/entry-requirements. Please be aware that this information can change at short notice.
Vaccinations: Health facilities, hygiene and disease vary world-wide and you may choose to take the necessary vaccinations before you depart. You can find out more about Vietnam on the NHS’s Fit For Travel website.