I. HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND VIETNAM?
Travelling inside Vietnam is quite easy. In most of the cities, there are local bus systems with one-way ticket of 7,000VND (about 0.3USD) for one person. Maps with bus routes can be easily found in every bookstore. The bus will follow a fixed route, thus it is necessary to check whether the bus is heading to your target destinations.
Another popular means of transport is the “xe om”, which is simply the motorbike taxi. There are several “xe om” drivers who are sitting on their scooters and wearing helmets. Recently, two big “xe om” systems have been launched by Grab, which offer cheaper prices and better safety. If going with traditional “xe om” drivers, it is better to negotiate the fare beforehand to avoid being overcharged. On the contrary, if travelers use Grab services, they might get a great deal without having to bargain.
Taxis are also plentiful in the cities. For the sake of safety, go with reputable taxi companies such as Mai Linh, Vinasun. Grab and Uber provide taxi services, too. Be careful when going with independent taxis because they often overcharge travelers, especially foreign tourists.
Regarding traveling to other regions within Vietnam, three main options are available: flight, bus, and train.
Vietnam has four domestic airlines: Vietnam Airlines, VASCO (a spin-off of Vietnam Airlines), VietJet Air, and Jetstar Pacific. Vietnam Airlines and VASCO are the most reputable agencies which are renowned for their service and timeliness. The other two are budget airlines offering cheaper tickets. However, their additional services and flight delays have been falling into disrepute.
Another low-budget way to travel around Vietnam is by long-range buses. Sleeper buses are preferable for long journeys (4 hours and more), even though the seats are quite small for foreigners. It might be hard for taller passengers to stretch out completely. Buses are normally affordable, but some people recommend that travelers should not go at night due to road safety issues.
The last option is going by train. Going by train takes the same amount of time as by buses. Trains provide more space and facilities than buses, and more importantly, it is safer to go by train. In addition to the ordinary tickets, some agencies provide privately-run sleeper-car attached to the train. There are luxury services, but it might cost a considerably high expense. Train tickets are sold at the railway stations, via travel agencies, or via your hotels. Visitors can also book the tickets online.
Many adventurous travelers love to rent motorbikes for their trekking trips. They can freely go wherever and whenever they want. Some even choose to buy motorbikes and pass it on at the end of their journeys. Remember that a Vietnamese driving license is required if you want to ride a motorbike in this country.
II. WHERE TO TRAVEL IN VIETNAM?
Vietnam is a beautiful country which offers several interesting destinations for different groups of travelers. Followings are some most recommended tourist attractions in this S-shaped country.
- Halong Bay
Recognized one of new Seven Wonders of the World, Halong Bay has proved itself as a wonderful destination for Vietnam tours.
Halong Bay consists of thousands of majestic limestone islands and islets that are covered by turquoise sea water. Taking a Ha Long Bay trip, visitors will spend their time discovering the sheer beauty of narrow lagoon and grottoes while gliding on the blue ocean.
You can go aboard on tourist boats to travel around the Bay. Not only can you watch the spectacular limestone and caves, you can also visit some floating villages such as Cua Van, Vung Vieng, and Cong Dam to see the life of people there. For more luxury trips, there are high-end cruises available for overnight tours on the Bay. You may catch the glorious sunset on the sea or watch the sparkling night sky while getting served with best services. Also, it is interesting to go kayaking around the Bay. With its significant geological value, Halong Bay has been listed as UNESCO World Natural Heritage for two times.
Of course, Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam cannot be missed in any Northern Vietnam destination lists. The beautiful and peaceful city with a thousand years of history possesses alluring beauty which has been highly appreciated by both local and foreign tourists.
The thousand-year capital of Vietnam still well preserve some tangible and intangible value of a nation with long-lasting history. Here exists the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – the social and political center of Vietnam under Ly, Le, and Tran Dynasties. It was also where French Government worked during their conquest of Vietnam. Hence, travelers can see the cluster of Eastern and Western Cultures, especially through architecture here. Next to the citadel stands the mausoleum of Uncle Ho – the great leader of the country during Vietnam War, who has also inspired millions of people all over the world. Some famous relics like Hanoi Flag Tower, North Gate and D67 Tunnel and House are also situated in this area.
There are many other worth-visiting places to explore in Hanoi such as Hanoi Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, Temple of Literature, West Lake, and Duong Lam ancient village, where you can approach Hanoi’s culture and daily lives. Especially, the specialties in Hanoi Old Quarter will definitely amaze you.
Located in the mountainous Northwest of Vietnam, Sapa is perhaps the most haunted destination for adventurous trips in northern Vietnam. The exquisite scene of the natural settings with dense jungle and the colorful rice terraces is an undeniable allure to travelers. Sapa is also home to many ethnic minority groups such as H’Mong, Tay, Dao, and Thai. Coming to Sapa, travelers can discover the incredibly beautiful landscapes as well as the culture of the tribal people. Visitors can try on the colorful traditional clothes, do farming in terraced rice fields, or participate in Bac Ha traditional market. Additionally, they can pay a visit to Fansipan Peak – the summit of Indochina at the height of 3143 meters, coming across jungles and climb up the mountain to get a unique wilderness experience while taking a bird’s eye view of the whole area.
Not only does Sapa displays Vietnamese’s culture, the small town also shows the influences of the West. Travelling around Sapa town, visitors can easily find French-style villas and homes, as well as some modern public buildings.
- Ha Giang
With rugged mountains, spectacular terrace fields, deep valleys, and dense forests, Ha Giang is an ideal place for northern Vietnam tours.
The majestic landscapes flanked by high mountains (Tay Con Linh and Kieu Lien Thi), mighty rivers (Lo and Mein Rivers) and detailed with waterfalls, valleys, forests, and distinct limestone formations have made Ha Giang an irresistible destination for nature lovers. The province offers spectacular views that are exceptionally suitable for the intrepid escapade. Paying a visit to Ha Giang will enable travelers to experience as a local. You can stay with local people and trek through colorful terraced rice fields and villages of the ethnic minority in most isolated areas, where has not been influenced by mass tourism.
Some must-stop tourist attractions in Ha Giang are Dong Van Rocky Plateau Geopark, the Palace of Vuong Family, Lung Cu Peak, Meo Vac, Khau Lai Love Market, Quan Ba Valley, and Happiness Road.
- Ninh Binh
Located just about 3 hours driving from Hanoi, Ninh Binh Province is famous for its spectacular landscapes and cultural values. Trang An Landscape Complex has been recognized as the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage. With marvelous limestone peaks and caves surrounded by rice paddies, Trang An is one of the best destinations in Vietnam for foreign travelers.
In addition to tranquil landscapes, Trang An has high cultural values. Caves’ archaeological deposits represent human occupation and utilization lasting for more than 30,000 years. There also stands Hoa Lu Citadel – the capital of Vietnam under Dinh Dynasty. Many historical vestiges still remain today. Moreover, Bai Dinh Pagoda, the biggest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia with many world and regional records, is situated in this beautiful province.
To explore the beauty of Ninh Binh travelers can pay a visit to Trang An, Tam Coc – Bich Dong, Bai Dinh pagoda, Hoa Lu Citadel, etc. These attractions are located closely and will offer you unforgettable experiences.
- Quang Binh
Quang Binh is favored with marvelous landscapes. Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is a renowned tourist attraction recognized by UNESCO as the World Natural Heritage. The complex of Phong Nha – Ke Bang consists of several marvelous caves and grottoes with fantastic stalactites and stalagmites such as Phong Nha, Tien Son, Toi, Thien Duong, and Thuy Cung. Son Doong – the world’s largest cave is also located in this region. With mysterious scenery insides, the caves and grottoes have attracted a huge number of local as well as foreign tourists. Quang Binh is also home to famous beaches such as Da Nhay and Nhat Le beaches – which are perfect for summer escape.
Additionally, Quang Binh includes several historical and cultural relics such as Hoang Phuc pagoda, Dao Duy Tu rampart, and Dong Hoi citadel. The cultural archaeological site of Bau Tro, Phu Luu bronze Drum, which existed in the same era as Dong Son Drum is also found in this province.
Once the capital of Vietnam during Nguyen Dynasty, Hue remains its ancient looks and loyal customs. The complex of Hue Citadel and the Imperial Court Music have been recognized as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The complex consists of the Imperial Citadel of Hue, royal tombs, and monuments of Nguyen dynasties such as Tu Duc, Minh Mang, and Khai Dinh. Moreover, Hue is the city of pagodas and temples. The most famous pagoda is called Thien Mu pagoda nestled to the north of the poetic Perfume River.
Cuisine and costume are also the attractions of Hue. Visitors may have chances to sample the special delicacies in Hue and buy home some specialties as souvenirs such as Me Xung and Tom Chua. More interestingly, you might catch the sight of Hue’s girls in their traditional “Ao Dai” and “Non Bai Tho” who are cycling their bikes on their ways to school. The tranquil and peaceful atmosphere of Hue will definitely leave visitors in awe!
- Da Nang
Da Nang is a dynamic city in Central Vietnam. The city is renowned for its modern lifestyle, cleanliness, and safety. Da Nang is among the most popular destinations in Vietnam thanks to its richness in natural landscapes as well as cultural values. Non Nuoc Beach in Da Nang is listed one of the most beautiful seashores in the world, which is indubitably suitable for swimming and sunbathing. Marble Mountains – the five limestone hills named after five elements of the ancient oriental philosophy, which are metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, is another attractive place to visit. These mountains are also home to several temples and pagodas in mysterious caves.
Ba Na Hills – an amusement complex in Truong Son Mountain Range is a must-stop destination in the city. It used to be a resort founded by French colonizers in early 20th century with more than 200 Western-style villas, but only a few of them remains today. Ba Na attracts travelers with dense rainforests, waterfalls, and its bio-ecological diversity. Additionally, a notable attraction in Ba Na is the Southeast Asian’s biggest indoor amusement center. The Fantasy Park opens a lively and attractive entertainment world with many fascinating games for all ages. Also, Ba Na consists of many alluring places such as Le Jardin D’Amour Flower Garden, Debay Wine Cellar, Linh Ung Pagoda, and French Village.
- Hoi An
Once the major trading port of Asia, the ancient town of Hoi An is the place where visitors can discover the long-lasting culture of Asia in general and Vietnam in particular. The foreigners came from all corners of the world but most of them were from China and Japan. Many have settled in permanently and etched their marks into the history of Hoi An.
A tour to Hoi An will offer you an enlightening journey to the past. The well-preserved hundred-year-old houses and buildings enable travelers to take a closer look at the influences of Chinese, Japanese, French, and Spanish cultures in the region. Also, it is great to explore the cluster of different cultures via Hoi An festivals and cuisine. Taking a boat alongside the Thu Bon River, visiting significant historic vestiges, watching the colorful lanterns at night, or catering to the flocks of tourists on its narrow streets to sample the foods would bring about unforgettable moments.
- Nha Trang
Nha Trang consists of one of the most famous Vietnamese seashores which has been listed as one of the best beaches in the world. Located in Southern Vietnam, Nha Trang is a dynamic city which stands by the sea. The city has several stunning white-sand beaches such as City Beach and Hon Chong Chenh. Not only can travelers dive into the cool turquoise sea water, sunbathe in the long sandbank, they can also participate in modern water sports such as wakeboarding, kite surfing, and banana boat rides. What’s more, in Hon Chong Chenh beach stands a rock formation that stretches towards the sea, which is an ideal place to take photos.
- Mui Ne
Recently Mui Ne has attracted huge attraction from tourists thanks to its marvelous beaches and sand dunes. There exist enormous white and golden sand dunes sloping gently to the ocean – the exquisite scenery of natural settings that is rarely seen in tropical countries. It is regarded as “the little Sahara desert” of Vietnam.
Additional to swimming and participating in water sports, travelers can have some other interesting outdoor activities in the dunes such as kite-flying, jeep-driving, and sled-riding. Also, watching the glorious sunset with lovers on the sand dunes is an exceptionally romantic experience.
- Ho Chi Minh City
Regarded as the Pearl of the Orient, Ho Chi Minh City (also called “Saigon”) was the center of economics and entertainment of Indochina. It was named after the great leader of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Modern skyscrapers amidst Oriental-style pagodas and significant relics create a dynamic urban area in a very special sense.
The architecture, along with the lifestyle of Saigon, is the reconciliation between American and Chinese influences, with many dots of modernity yet without losing traditional traits. The Independence Palace, which marks the reunification of the North and the South in 1975 and the end of Vietnam War, is a must-visit destination. Other relics such as Cu Chi tunnels, Dragon House Wharf, and Notre Dame Cathedral are also amazing to explore.
- Mekong Delta
Nestled in the southernmost of the country, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is considered the country’s breadbasket. This region provides more than half of Vietnam’s rice. It is also the land of tropical fruits.
Coming to Mekong Delta, travelers can take on a boat gliding along Mekong River to come across enormous rice paddies and explore the life of friendly Southern people. You can also take time to visit the floating markets such as Cai Rang and Phong Dien to buy fresh flowers and fruits, or to listen to “Don Ca Tai Tu” – Southern Vietnam’s traditional music.
- Phu Quoc Island
Nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc – the biggest island in Vietnam has been increasingly popular with travelers. Phu Quoc Island is famous for its big tropical forests, beautiful white sand beaches, and colorful coral reefs. The island remains intact from human’s influences as more than 70% of it belongs to Phu Quoc National Reservation Park. Here travelers can spend your holidays on exploring the forests, the blue-green sea, or visiting the traditional villages.
There are many stunning beaches in Phu Quoc such as Long Beach, Thom Beach, Sao Beach, and Ong Lang Beach. Some are perfect for swimming, while some are ideal for sightseeing. These are extraordinarily suitable for honeymoon or couple tours. Also, Phu Quoc is home to some specialties such as fish sauce, pepper, and pearl. Many fish sauce factories, pepper plantations, and pearl farms are available to visit.
Plenty of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and café bars have been opened to serve the increasingly high number of both local and foreign tourists.