Vietnam Travel Tips – Places to visit in Vietnam
Vietnam Travel Guide
My dream of visiting Vietnam finally happened after almost seven years of planning. And although it was a short trip, I had several memorable experiences. I fell in love with the natural landscape which took me through forests, national parks, beaches, rivers, and the terraced rice fields. I visited ancient historic towns and old temples and shrines while listening to the terrible war stories. I got high on Vietnamese coffee and hung out in cafes and coffee shops while walking around markets and indulging in street food. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam this year, especially with your families, then here are some Vietnam travel tips for you. I have recommended some places to visit in Vietnam, along with some recommendations in this Vietnam travel guide.
Places to visit in Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the most popular destinations for travellers from India, be it families, couples or solo travellers. The destinations here have so much to offer from cruises to beaches, shopping to street food, temples to caves. Some of the attractions in these towns cater to kids, be it shows and performances, museums and theme parks. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam with your family, then here are some places to visit in Vietnam. My Vietnam travel guide recommends the five popular destinations that you must include in your itinerary.
Ho Chi Minh City
The largest city in Vietnam, which was earlier known as Saigon is known for its historic museums and monuments and its association with the Vietnam war. But the city has its nooks as well. The sprawling Ben Thanh market is a haven for shopping with souvenir shops and local street food. There are also several pedestrian streets lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants. One of them is the colorful Bui Vien, also known as Backpacker’s Street and the other is the bustling Nguyen Hue which is in the city center and connects the city to the river.
Lined with monuments that are beautifully lit up at night, it is a favorite haunt among tourists. Ho Chi Minh City also has old buildings from the French colonial era and there are tours that take you to several underground tunnels and war sites which give you a dose of history. If you are in Ho Chi Minh City for just a day, then I would recommend Cu Chi Tunnels as a part of my Vietnam travel tips.
However, if you are looking for some fun experiences for families, then you must go to the below places which are part of my Vietnam travel guide.
- Attend the Water Puppet Show,
- Go on a cruise along the Saigon River,
- Visit the Artimus 3D Art Museum,
- Spend an afternoon at the Botanical Gardens and zoo,
- Head to the Dam Sen Water Park and
- The Suoi Tien Cultural Amusement Park among others.
Surrounded by oceans and the mountains. Da Nang is a coastal city in Central Vietnam and is the gateway for quaint and charming towns like Hoi An, Hue and Bach Ma National Park , the Marble Mountains and My Son.
However, Da Nang itself makes for a great stay as you can just relax with your family at the beaches here, especially the below:
- My Khe Beach,
- Non Nuoc Beach and
- Lang Co Beach
The beaches are great for water sports and along the coast, you can also do fishing or if you are interested you can also indulge in jet skiing and sailing.
Da Nang’s famous Dragon Bridge is a spectacle by itself and is the longest bridge in Vietnam and in the night, the lights of the dragon come alive as you can see it spitting fire. You can also drive up the Bana Hills and see the magnificent Golden Bridge which is held by two giant hands.
The capital of Vietnam is an experience by itself with its Old Quarter, a labyrinthine network of streets and lanes, the colonial architecture, the old temples and museums. While the city beckons the cultural traveller, it is great for families as well. The Old Quarter is fascinating with several cafes, restaurants and markets. My recommendations for Vietnam travel tips include a combination of Temple of Literature and Thang Long Imperial Citadel.
Egg coffee seems to be the traditional beverage of Hanoi while coconut coffee is another favorite. However, the cold coffee sweetened with condensed milk and served with ice is preferred by most tourists who sit in the many coffee shops and watch life pass them by. The water puppet show is a delight to watch as well. You can take the Hop On Hop Off Bus to explore the city or just walk around the Old Quarter and the Hoan Kiem Lake and enjoy the flavours of Hanoi. These are definitely part of my Vietnam travel guide.
Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island
The UNESCO Heritage Site is a must do when you are in Vietnam and you can customise your trip to Halong Bay based on your time schedule. A surreal and dreamy experience, you need at least a minimum of a couple of days to appreciate the beauty of the landscape as you sail around the archipelago and gaze upon the giant limestone rocks. My Vietnam travel tips include a cruise that takes you to the caves as well.
There are day trips from Hanoi which will take you on a ferry from Tuan Chau Harbour and you can visit caves and islands along Halong Bay. However, the ideal holiday is also a cruise from Cat Ba Island which will take you through some breathtaking landscapes as well. Halong Bay has over 1500 islands and it is recommended to spend more time here.
One of the most popular destinations in Vietnam today, this resort city surrounded by beaches is often dubbed as the Riviera of South China Sea . You can visit over 19 virgin islets by boat rides and the adventurous can try scuba diving and snorkeling as well. The main attractions here are the resorts and theme parks with the Vinpearl and Diamond Bay being one of the most popular. One of the best Oceanography Museums is located here as well. The other family attractions include islands like Bamboo Island which can also be accessed with a cable car. There are several pagodas and temples here, dedicated to Buddha for those who like a bit of culture and history.
Offbeat Places to see in Vietnam
While most of these cities make it to the itinerary of a traveller visiting Vietnam, there are several offbeat destinations as well which form a part of my Vietnam travel guide. Here are some of the places that you must visit in Vietnam, if you like something that gives a different experience.
Hoi An is one of the most colourful and vibrant cities and the night markets along the river banks lit by thousands of lanterns are an experience. It is personally one of my favourite towns and I would recommend at least a couple of nights here as a part of my Vietnam travel tips. The imperial city of Hue is another offbeat destination and can be visited along with Hoi An from Da Nang.
While tourists head to Halong Bay from Hanoi, most itineraries recommend Ninh Binh, often referred to as Halong Bay on land. The surreal destination combines river cruises, mountains, temples and rice fields. It is believed that the film Kung Fu Panda was shot here. However, if you are headed to Halong Bay, then a visit to Bai Tu Long Bay is recommended as well.
The Mekong Delta is another historic and popular destination and is a great place for families. An Binh Island is an idyllic destination if you love cycling and losing yourself in the scenery. For those who love lush fields and rustic landscapes, the rice fields of Sapa and Mai Chau beckon them.
The Ban Gioc Waterfall in Cao Bang Province is one of the most magnificent and massive cascades in Vietnam, set amidst breathtaking scenery. The spectacular Tiger Cave also called Nguom Ngao cave with its stalactites and stalagmites is located closeby as well. The Central Province is known for its coffee plantations as it is the second-largest exporter of coffee today. Da Lat with its verdant greenery is one of the best places to visit in this region. There are many more offbeat places to visit in Vietnam and these are some of my recommendations as a part of Vietnam travel guide
Vietnam Travel Tips
- Food and coffee
Several travellers visit Vietnam only for its food. While rice is a staple diet along with rice noodles, there are varieties of sea food, meat and vegetarian dishes too. The traditional Vietnamese noodle soup is called Pho and it is essentially rice noodles served with either chicken or beef and herbs.
Cha Ca is a favourite among sea food lovers where tiny morsels of fish are cooked with spices. There are vegetarian options as well today, especially delicious noodles with spicy sauces and salads. In Vietnam street food is extremely popular along with local cafes and coffee shops. My Vietnam travel guide recommends that you visit some of the fascinating cafes and coffee houses which have a distinctive flavour. As part of my Vietnam travel tips, I suggest that you try the Vietnamese version of cold coffee.
You will find locals sitting on small stools with a glass of Vietnamese coffee, munching local delicacies and chatting away. There are also exclusive coffee shops where Vietnamese coffee is served in a traditional way with sweetened condensed milk and topped with ice. In Hanoi however egg coffee is a local favourite as this is where it is believed to have originated
- Indian Food In Vietnam
There are several Indian restaurants in Vietnam, in all the main cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi which serve both North Indian and South Indian cuisine. They are all located in the heart of the city centre and in tourist areas like the Old Quarter in Hanoi. They also include both vegetarian and meat dishes as well. Some of the Indian restaurants are also found in Hoi An as well in the Old Town.
- Where to stay
There are several luxury and five-star hotels in all the big cities besides resorts in cities like Da Nang. However, there are also homestays, serviced apartments and bed and breakfasts which are reasonably priced and are in the heart of the cities in the tourist areas.
There are several markets in Vietnam in every city and you can shop till you drop here. In some cities, there are vibrant night markets as well. While you can shop for souvenirs, you can also buy coffee here besides local arts and crafts. Hoi An is also famous for several tailors who will stitch a dress for you in a day. You can even choose the fabric and the design and you will not be disappointed.
The currency used here is Vietnamese Dong or VND as it is called. It can get a bit confusing initially as the denominations are in millions. However it is easy to understand once you start travelling here. You can also carry USD with you and exchange it in the banks here.
- Safety tips
Vietnam is largely safe. People are very friendly and helpful and will even book a cab for you through mobile applications and assist you with directions as well. However please be careful of pickpockets as well in crowded markets and streets.
Indian travellers can opt for either evisa or visa on arrival. It is, however, better to opt for the former as immigration can be very long and crowded. You need to initially fill a form online and submit the same a few days before travel. For an evisa, the standard processing time is about five working days and it costs about 45 USD. It is, however, valid for only 30 days and is single entry only. You can also opt for a visa on arrival but you have to submit the details and documentation online prior to travel.
- How to reach Vietnam
Indigo Airlines has launched a direct flight to Vietnam from India and there are daily flights from Kolkata to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi as well. While most airlines have a halt in one of the hubs in South East Asia, this is one of the first airlines from India that is flying to Vietnam directly. When you think of Indigo, you think only of on-time performance and you can always be assured of reaching your destination on time, without any delays. When it comes to efficiency and service, Indigo does not compromise at all. The polite airline staff, both cabin crew and the ground staff will ensure that your flight is smooth and comfortable. Go ahead and start your new year with a trip to Vietnam. And #ThankyouIndigo for taking us places as always.
Have you been to Vietnam ? What are the destinations and places to visit in Vietnam ? Please leave your suggestions regarding Vietnam travel tips.
This post is written in collaboration with Indigo Airlines.