Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a country in Southeast Asia and the easternmost country on the Indochinese Peninsula.
With a population of 96.2 million, Vietnam was the world’s 15th most populous country in 2019, according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam.
The country has a total land area of over 331,200 square kilometers.
Vietnam shares land borders with China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. It shares maritime borders with China and some Southeast Asian countries through the East Vietnam Sea.
The combined length of the country’s land boundaries is 4,639 kilometers, and its coastline is 3,444 kilometers long.
The capital of Vietnam is Hanoi, located in the north, while the most populous city and commercial hub is Ho Chi Minh City in the south.
Vietnam’s unique geography creates a range of weather patterns, with both tropical and temperate zones, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
While the March-May period offers the best weather countrywide, there is no bad time to visit Vietnam, as there is always some part of the country with clear skies.
Just like the diversity of its landscapes, Vietnam offers a variety of ways to get around. You may favor windswept motorbike rides, flying straight from point to point, or take the overland routes of trains and buses, soaking in the sights along the way.
The official language of the country is Vietnamese, while people also speak ethnic minority languages and English as a foreign language.
The national currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND), which had a reference exchange rate of US$1 = VND23,178 as of September 10, 2020.
Visitors to Vietnam can choose from a wide variety of unique and memorable experiences from amazing cuisine and diverse culture to breathtaking scenery, blissful beaches, and bustling cities.
How to get here
The most common way for international tourists to get to Vietnam is by plane.
The country currently has 22 conveniently-located airports, 11 of which offer international services.
The three main gateways are Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang International Airport in Da Nang — located in northern, southern, and central Vietnam, respectively.
The other eight international airports include Van Don in Quang Ninh Province, Cat Bi in Hai Phong City, Vinh in Nghe An Province, Phu Bai in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Cam Ranh in Khanh Hoa Province, Phu Quoc on Phu Quoc Island off Kien Giang Province, Lien Khuong in Lam Dong Province, and Can Tho in Can Tho City.
Most Asian countries have direct flights to and from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Travelers can also fly directly into Da Nang from destinations around the region, according to the VNAT.
Travelers from neighboring countries, including China, Laos, and Cambodia, can also enter Vietnam by train or bus. However, they are required to prepare their visa beforehand, as there are no visas on arrival at land crossings within Vietnam.
In addition, a boat trip from Cambodia through the Mekong Delta makes for a scenic entry into southern Vietnam.
Visitors can book such a trip from tour agencies in Phnom Penh and Vietnam.
No matter by which way visitors arrive in Vietnam, they are assured of a unique and unforgettable experience.
When to visit
There is no bad time to visit Vietnam. In a country more than 1,600 kilometers long, with the weather varying considerably from north to south, from a temperate to a tropical climate, Vietnam is a year-round destination.
March-April is typically the best time to visit the entire country, when days are generally pleasant, temperatures are moderate, and rainfall is light.
For different regions of Vietnam, in addition to March-April, September-November is the best time to visit the country’s northern part, while the weather between February and August usually brings travelers pleasant experience in central Vietnam. Travel in southern Vietnam is good at any time although some might find temperatures unbearable from March to May.
Visitors to Vietnam must obtain a visa from one of the Vietnamese diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the 13 visa-exempt countries or 80 countries eligible for electronic visas.
Visitors are allowed to get a visa on arrival upon filling in a simple form, on the condition that they have applied for the service online and enter Vietnam by air at one of the international airports in the country.
Travelers can get around Vietnam by plane, train, commercial passenger bus, public bus, car, motorbike, motorbike taxi, bicycle, cyclo, and boat.
Taxi fares in Vietnam usually start from VND12,000 (US$0.50) per kilometer. A round-trip taxi from Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport to the downtown area should cost VND120,000-190,000 ($5-8) and last from 30 to 50 minutes. An airport taxi ride from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport to the city center is fixed at VND330,000 ($14) and may take you about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic.
While you will find motorbike rental services in every city or even right at your hotel, travelers should be extremely careful if planning to travel by motorbike in Vietnam. Rental prices depend on the quality of the bike. On average, most bikes go for VND90,000-280,000 ($4-12) a day.
Northern Vietnam has four distinct seasons. During its winter months between December and February, it may dip down to 5-6 degrees Celsius occasionally, even below zero in mountainous areas. The summer months of June and July are hot, with daytime temperatures reaching 37 degrees Celsius. Drizzling rains and more pleasant temperatures come in fall, from August to November, and spring, from March to April.
Central Vietnam has warm temperatures all year round, with the hottest months coming in the middle of the year, and cooler, drier days prevailing from November to April.
Southern Vietnam has a dry season from November to April and a wet season from May to October.
Cash remains the best way for travelers to pay for things in Vietnam. Credit cards are accepted in many places in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; however, there is usually a charge associated with using them.
1. Tet (Lunar New Year) is the largest, most important festival in Vietnam when many people return home to celebrate the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese lunar calendar with their families.
2. The Hue Festival is a famed biennial international event in the central province of Thua-Thien Hue with a host of alluring artistic and cultural activities provided by performers from Vietnam and many other countries.
3. The Hoi An Lantern Festival is probably one of Vietnam’s most famous and unique festivals. In the ancient city of Hoi An, they turn off the electricity on the 14th day of every lunar month when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. Then, colorful lanterns are lit to brighten up the city, giving visitors a sense of peace and nostalgia.
4. The Da Lat Flower Festival is a biennial event which honors flowers and horticulture in the namesake capital city of the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. It is known for its luscious displays of locally-grown flowers that are a perfect backdrop for a photo shoot.
5. The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Tet Trung Thu in Vietnamese, also known in Vietnam as the Children’s Festival or Full Moon Festival, is observed on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month every year to celebrate the harvest season.
Even though Vietnam does not fare well in global rankings for Internet speed and access, Internet access is widely available and fast in big cities and near tourist attractions; however, it can be harder to locate a stable connection in some remote areas.