Whether you decide to love it or hate it, Vietnam belongs on nearly every traveller’s Southeast Asia bucket list. Travel in Vietnam is, no doubt, a tad more frustrating than elsewhere the region thanks, in part, to the nation’s unique geography and to the hassles & scams that have sullied the experience for many-a traveller.
In spite of its ability to polarize, however, there’s no denying that Vietnam is nothing short of an interesting place to visit. It’s attuned to all the things that make Southeast Asia a favourite region for travellers.
Chow down on its mouth-watering food, escape to its white-sand beaches or marvel at its landscapes and you’ll see why all of its difficulties could slip away in an instant.
Not sure how to start planning your visit? Figure out exactly when to visit & where to go with this Vietnam travel guide…
When to visit Vietnam
Like much of Southeast Asia, choosing when to go to Vietnam is one of the toughest parts about planning a trip here. Despite the region’s reputation as a warm escape, there are certain times of the year when it’s simply unpleasant (if not downright impossible) to enjoy a trip in all parts of the country.
Overall, the best time to visit Vietnam is in spring from February until April and in autumn from August until October. During these seasons, temperatures in Vietnam are more moderate as is rainfall throughout much of the country.
Of course, that’s just the easy answer. In reality, things are a little more complicated.
The country’s long north-south stretch over tropical coastline means that there’s a large fluctuation between destinations. When one part of the country is experiencing relatively dry conditions, another could be drowning in excessive rainfall.
Despite this many would claim that Vietnam is year-round destination. For the most part, this holds true with the exception of the central coast including Hoi An and Hue, which experience heavy rains often accompanied by flooding between October and November.
Looking for ideas on when to go in Vietnam and what to bring along? Check out these travel resources:
Where to go in Vietnam: The top destinations & best places to visit
Like so many destinations in Southeast Asia, Vietnam offers a diverse array of landscapes and cities. The highlights are plenty and depend in large part on what your ideal travel itinerary looks like.
Most classic Vietnam itineraries balance Vietnamese urban life with a dash of nature. In our honest opinion, this approach is spot on.
However you choose to plan your trip know this: visiting Vietnam takes time. If you’re on a time-crunch (which is our speciality around here), you might feel a bit rushed trying to fit in all the top sites.
Distances between many of the best places to visit in Vietnam can be long and the journeys arduous; you’ll rarely regret giving yourself a couple extra days than normal for a little more time to breathe between trips.
Looking for quick ideas on where to go in Vietnam? Check out these travel resources:
Most visits to Vietnam start with the fascinating capital of Hanoi. Not long ago, this ancient city sheltered itself from the modern world, recovering from a war that left much the nation in ruins and demoralized.
Little more than two decades ago, Hanoi opened itself up again, setting off an obsession among visitors that continues unabated to this day.
In Southeast Asia, there’s no city quite like Hanoi. Its colonial past left behind a palette of Chinese and French influences that blend seamlessly into Hanoi’s proudly Vietnamese flavour.
As much as the Hanoi’s cultural attractions and urban buzz will intrigue you, its food is what keeps many on the edge of their seats. Sampling local favourites like pho bo (beef noodle soup), summer rolls, or the French-inspired banh mi (Vietnamese baguette) between sips of beer for mere pocket change is among the truest simple pleasures of visiting the Vietnamese capital.
Planning a trip to Hanoi? Check out these travel resources…
- One Day in Hanoi: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Hanoi: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Hanoi: The Best Hotels & Areas For Travellers
…more awesome Vietnamese destinations to come!
What to eat in Vietnam
Even if the Vietnamese urban life and landscapes don’t get your motor running, the food in Vietnam might. Vietnamese cuisine is unlike any other in the region, drawing influences from French and Chinese cuisine.
Overall, Vietnamese food is lighter and healthier than many Asian cuisines, using plenty of fresh ingredients along with herbs & spices rather than relying on deep-fryers. Here’s a quick guide of what to eat in Vietnam:
- Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup): The most famous export of the Vietnamese cuisine scene is undoubtedly this delicious noodle soup. Available both with chicken (pho ga) and the most common beef variant (pho bo), this soup features a healthy and fragrant broth slow-cooked with select herbs over hours poured over flat rice noodles.
- Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguette): You can’t go very far in Vietnam without seeing these French-inspired sandwiches popping up around you. What separates these baguettes from those you’d find elsewhere in the world is the ingredients. Some common fillings in banh mi include sausage, radish, carrots, cilantro, and Vietnamese-style chilli sauce.
- Bun Bo Nam Bo (Beef Noodles): Like pho bo, this noodle dish features flavourful thinly-sliced beef. The beef is slapped onto a bed of vermicelli noodles and topped with ingredients like peanuts and fresh herbs. It’s usually accompanied with nuoc cham dipping sauce.
Transportation in Vietnam
By air: The easiest way to get to Vietnam is undoubtedly by air. The two major international gateways are Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi for Northern Vietnam and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City for the south.
Some of the most popular airlines operating into and out of Vietnam include VietJet Air, Vietnam Airlines, JetStar Pacific, and AirAsia.
By land: Vietnam shares land borders with Cambodia, China, and Laos. The land borders tend to be far less convenient for entering Vietnam. At the borders, you’ll often experience long delays and be subject to “processing fees” that depend on the mood on the border guard.
By air: With the long distances between most of the top places to visit, air travel is the easiest way to get around Vietnam if you’re on a time crunch.
Popular air routes include Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (2h5m), Ho Chi Minh City to Hue (1h25m), Hanoi to Hue (1h10m), and Da Nang to Hanoi (1h20m).
By bus: If you’re a fan of epic overland journeys than travelling around Vietnam by bus might just be for you! The bus system in Vietnam is extensive and cheap if a little slow.
Most foreigners prefer the more expensive but more convenient open-tour buses over local services. These open-ticket buses operate between all of the main tourist destinations in Vietnam including Ho Chi Minh City, Dalat, Nha Trang, Hue, Hoi An, and Hanoi.