Vietnam – The One-Page Super-Guide for Visitors and Long Term Residents

Located in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the north-west, Cambodia to the south-west, the Gulf of Thailand to the south and the South China Sea to the East.

It is well known for its bustling big cities being the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, along with its beaches, rivers,  French colonial architecture, Buddhist pagodas and war history.

 

Major Cities

 

Hanoi (Capital City)

est. pop. 7 million. The capital, and the base for government, most major corporates and NGO’s. As a city that is over one thousand years old, Ha Noi has more cultural and historical sites than anywhere else in Vietnam. Besides being the capital, and the base for government, most major corporates and NGO’s. As a city that is over one thousand years old, Ha Noi has more cultural and historical sites that anywhere else in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City

est. pop. 8 million. The country’s largest city by population and the leader in business and entrepreneurship. The city is the location of the largest Chinese community in the country and is also the economic powerhouse of the country. It’s also the countrys most popular tourist city.

Hai Phong

est. pop. 2 million. Hai Phong is located along the coast of northeast Vietnam, right on the mouth of the Cấm River. It is a by far the most important seaport in the Northern part of Vietnam. Hai Phong is a key city in Vietnam for industry, especially in the food processing, light industries and heavy industries sectors.

 

Other Cities and Provinces

Can Tho – est. pop. 1.2 million. Can Tho is home to the Can Tho bridge, which has been the longest cable-stayed bridge in all of south-east Asia. Located in the Mekong Delta it famous for its river traders and their “floating gardens”.

Bien Hoa – est. pop. 1.1 million. The city is located in the southern part of Vietnam, near to the capital city. In recent years Bien Hoa has become a big industrial center in south Vietnam. The city is also home to the Bien Hoa Military Cemetery and the Văn Miếu Trấn Biên, which is a Confucian temple

Da Nang – est. pop. 1 million. Renowned as one of Vietnams cleaner cities with a peaceful way of life. The city is has a key location near the Hàn River estuary and surrounded by mountains on its east side and the South China Sea on its west side.

Vung Tau – est. pop. 450,000. Once a French colonial town, it’s now a popular seaside resort that draws many visitors from Ho Chi Minh City, who arrive by hydrofoil. Its long, busy stretch of sandy coast, including Front Beach and Pineapple Beach, has the verdant Small Mountain and Big Mountain as backdrop.

NahTrang – est. pop. 392,279. Nha Trang is a coastal resort city in southern Vietnam known for its beaches, diving sites and offshore islands. Its main beach is a long, curving stretch along Tran Phu Street backed by a promenade, hotels and seafood restaurants. Aerial cable cars cross over to Hòn Tre Island, and the nature reserves of Hòn Mun and Hòn Tằm islands, reachable by boat, have coral reefs.

Buon Ma Thuot – est. pop. 340,000 The capital city of Dak Lak province and a leading coffee producing region. There is a coffee festival that takes place every March. Popular nearby attractions include Yok Don National Park, Ban Don Village, and Lak Lake.

Hue – est. pop. 333,715. A must-visit destination for lovers of historic sites and ancient architecture. Located by the Perfume River (Hương Giang) and with the Truong Son Mountains nearby, the city is well known for its rainy weather. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor’s home; and a replica of the Royal Theater. Another attraction is the Tombs of the Emperors and the Thien Mu Pagoda.

 

Major Attractions

Ha Long Bay  – UNESCO World Heritage Site – A simply amazing natural wonder with its aqua-green water and limestone rocks rising from the water. Located about 130 km (80 miles) east of Hanoi.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Unesco-listed site – Hanoi – The old capital of Vietnam which dates back to 1010.

Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum  – Hanoi – Contains the embalmed body of the nation’s iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh.

Cu Chi Tunnels – Ho Chi Minh City – the Củ Chi Tunnels are an extensive tunnel network that during the war, stretched for more than 250 km.

War Remnants Museum – Ho Chi Minh City – It contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists.

Thien Mu Pagoda Hue – The tallest pagoda in Vietnam. The pagoda overlooks the Perfume River and is regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital. The temple was built in 1601 during the rule of the Nguyễn Lords.

Complex of Hue Monuments – Hue – Established as the capital of  Vietnam from 1802 until 1945.

Khai Dinh Tomb – Hue – the final resting place of Khai Dinh, Emperor of Vietnam from 1916-1925.

My Son Sanctuary – Hoi An – My Son is a ruined Cham era temple city that dates from the 4th century.

Hoi An Ancient Town – Unesco listed site – Hoi An – A trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century that has a unique fusion of foreign colonial and local culture and architecture.

Mekong River – Can Tho – Can Tho is the most popular town to use as a base to visit the floating markets of Phong Dien and Cai Rang.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – World Heritage-listed – Quang Binh – a dramatic karst mountain formation honeycombed with huge caverns, which are home to superb stalactite and stalagmite displays. The most popular destination within the park is the 31 km deep Paradise Cave.

The Sand Dunes of Mui Ne – Mui Ne – Located a mere 10 km from the coastal resort strip along Mui Ne Bay, you’ll find be surprised to find Sahara-like desert sand dunes.

Con Dao Islands – Con Dao –  a group of 16 islands with the largest being Con Son, and a place of immense natural beauty with forested hills, deserted sandy beaches and extensive coral reefs making for some excellent diving.

Sa Pa Terraces – Sa Pa – Home to picturesque rice terraces which can be found in the Muong Hoa valley between Sa Pa town and the Fansipan Mountain. Home to ethnic minorities including the Hmong, Giay, and Red Dzao people.

Phu Quoc – Located in front of the Cambodia coast, Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam. The island features pristine tropical forests, undamaged coral reefs and great beaches.

Nha Trang Beach – The well-maintained beach trundles for six kilometres along the shoreline of central Nha Trang city and during summer is jam-packed with local families on vacation as well as foreign visitors.

 

Currency

The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).

Vietnamese Dong comes denominated in bills of 500000, 200000, 100000, 50000, 20000, 10000, 2000, 1000 and 500. Coins come in 5000, 2000, 1000, 500 and 200.

Some places accept US dollars, but the local currency is always preferred.

Most cities have ATM’s accepting Visa and Mastercard, and most charge around $1USD withdrawal fee.

Typical Exchange Rates

From   Vietnam Dong (VND)
1 Australian Dollar (AUD) 17,104
1 Canadian Dollar (CAD) 17,300
1 Euro (EUR) 24,299
1 British Pound (GBP) 28,560
1 Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) 2,910
1 Japanese Yen (JPY) 199
1 U.S. Dollar (USD) 22,589

 

Demographics

Median age: 30.1 years

Ethnic Groups: Kinh (Viet) 85.7%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.8%, Muong 1.5%, Khmer 1.5%, Mong 1.2%, Nung 1.1%, Hoa 1%, other 4.3%

Vietnam’s GDP per capita is $2,111.14 which is $3,915.99 lower than the world median ($6,027.13). On the national level, GDP is $194B which is 7.3 times higher than the world median ($26.4B).

Vietnam has an adult literacy rate of 94.51% which is about the same as the world average (94.02%).

Customs and Culture

 

Whilst having a very unique culture You will find there are many similarities to Chinese culture.

The teachings of Confucius influence the Vietnamese describe the position of the individual in Vietnamese society. Confucianism stresses duty, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority, and sincerity.

Life revolves around family, as it does in most Asian cultures. The concept of ‘face’, which is tricky to describe but pertains to how one is viewed by others in terms of hierarchy, dignity and respect, is very important in Vietnamese life.

Vietnamese like Chinese, rate unity quite highly and nationalistic sentiment is strong.

Further reading on culture
http://www.commisceo-global.com/country-guides/vietnam-guide
http://www.everyculture.com/To-Z/Vietnam.html

Long-established religions in Vietnam include the Vietnamese folk religion, which has been historically structured by the doctrines of Confucianism and Taoism from China, as well as a strong tradition of Buddhism. Vietnam is one of the least religious countries in the world.

Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Vietnam

Climate and Seasons

Vietnam stretches itself from north to south across two temperate zones. The north subtropical and the south tropical.

In general, the country is characterised by strong monsoon influences, but has a considerable amount of sun, together with a high rate of rainfall and high humidity.

There are two distinguishable seasons. The cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October. The difference in temperature between the two seasons in southern Vietnam is almost unnoticeable, averaging 30c year-round. In the north, the seasons are quite distinguishable with the weather cooling off between January and March.

 

 

Transport

 

Public Transport

Taxi
Taxis with meters, found in most major cities. Average tariffs are about 12,000d ($.70AUD) to 15,000d (.90AUD) per km. Look for reputable companies two nationwide companies are Mai Linh (http://www.mailinh.vn) and Vinasun (http://www.vinasuntaxi.com).

Bus
Public buses cover most major cities. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh also have open tourist buses which do circuits of the city, you can buy a ticket which lasts a few days and hop on and off as you please.

Xe Om
The xe om (zay-ohm) is a motorbike taxi. Negotiate the rates before travelling. Be aware that many trac=vel insurance companies won’t cover accidents on motorbike taxis.

Cyclo
The cyclo is a bicycle rickshaw. Like the motorbike taxi, negotiate rates upfront.

 

 

Intercity Transport

Bus
Each province in Vietnam has its own major terminal, especially in big cities.

In Hanoi
• Luong Yen Station – No.1 Nguyen Khoai –  Tel: 043.9877.225
• Giap Bat Station – Giai Phong Road – Tel: 043.6644.391

In Ho Chi Minh City
• Mien Dong Bus Station – Tel: 3898.4442

In Danang
• Central Bus Station – 168 Ton Duc Thang – Tel: 0511.3680.966

Hoang Long Transportation is the biggest bus company in Vietnam.

 

Trains
The main train route in the country runs between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with several stops along the way.

Train booking site: http://www.vietnamtrain.com

Train reviews: http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm

 

Another APP for trip planning and ticket booking is https://www.baolau.com where you can search, and book, trains, planes, buses and ferries for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

 

Airlines & Airports

Vietnam Airlines https://www.vietnamairlines.com
Jetstar Pacific http://www.jetstar.com/vn/en/home
VietJet http://www.vietjetair.com

 

Location ICAO IATA Airport name Coordinates
INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS
Cần Thơ VVCT VCA Can Tho International Airport 10°05′07″N 105°42′43″E
Chu Lai VVCA VCL Chu Lai International Airport 15°24′22″N 108°42′20″E
Da Lat VVDL DLI Lien Khuong International Airport 11°45′02″N 108°22′25″E
Da Nang VVDN DAD Da Nang International Airport 16°02′38″N 108°11′58″E
Hai Phong VVCI HPH Cat Bi International Airport 20°49′09″N 106°43′29″E
Hanoi VVNB HAN Noi Bai International Airport 21°13′16″N 105°48′26″E
Ho Chi Minh City VVTS SGN Tan Son Nhat International Airport 10°49′08″N 106°39′07″E
Huế VVPB HUI Phu Bai International Airport 16°24′06″N 107°42′10″E
Nha Trang VVCR CXR Cam Ranh International Airport 11°59′53″N 109°13′10″E
Phú Quốc VVPQ PQC Phu Quoc International Airport 10°10′18″N 103°59′28″ECoordinates: 10°10′18″N 103°59′28″E
Vinh VVVH VII Vinh Airport 18°44′12.21″N 105°40′15.17″E
DOMESTIC AIRPORTS
Buôn Ma Thuột VVBM BMV Buon Ma Thuot Airport 12°40′05″N 108°07′12″E
Cà Mau VVCM CAH Cà Mau Airport 09°10′32″N 105°10′46″E
Côn Đảo VVCS VCS Co Ong Airport 08°43′57″N 106°37′44″E
Dien Bien Phu VVDB DIN Dien Bien Phu Airport 21°23′50″N 103°00′28″E
Đồng Hới VVDH VDH Dong Hoi Airport 17°30′54″N 106°35′26″E
Pleiku VVPK PXU Pleiku Airport 14°00′16″N 108°01′02″E
Qui Nhơn VVPC UIH Phu Cat Airport 13°57′18″N 109°02′32″E
Rạch Giá VVRG VKG Rach Gia Airport 9°57′35″N 105°8′2″E
Sơn La VVNS SQH Nà Sản Airport 21°12′53″N 104°02′07″E
Tuy Hòa VVTH TBB Dong Tac Airport 13°02′58″N 109°20′01″E
Vũng Tàu VVVT VTG Vung Tau Airport 10°22′0″N 107°05′0″E
Sao Vàng VVTX THD Tho Xuan Airport 19°54′6″N 105°28′4″E

 

Top 15 Places to Stay

 

These accommodation options are selected based on their high review scores from past visitors, overall value, and central location.

 

The top places to stay in Hanoi

Hilton Hanoi Opera 5-star hotel Hoan Kiem, Hanoi (0.4 km from centre) – $140AUD and up

Conifer Boutique Hotel 4-star hotel Hoan Kiem, Hanoi (0.1 km from centre) – $80AUD and up

Thang Long Opera Hotel 4-star hotel Hoan Kiem, Hanoi (0.3 km from centre) – $60AUD and up

Hanoi Bella Rosa Suite Hotel 3-star hotel Hoan Kiem, Hanoi (0.7 km from centre) – $60AUD and up

Golden Time Hostel Hoan Kiem, Hanoi (0.2 km from centre) – $24 and up

 

The top places to stay in Halong Bay

Alisa Cruise 5-star hotel Ha Long (cruise ship hotel) – $350AUD and up

Wyndham Legend Halong 5-star hotel Ha Long – $90AUD and up

Paradise Suites Hotel 4-star hotel Ha Long – $80AUD and up

The Light Hotel 2-star hotel Ha Long – $18AUD and up

Halong Cheers Hotel 2-star hotel Ha Long – $13AUD and up

 

The top places to stay in Ho Chi Minh

Liberty Central Saigon Centre Hotel 4-star hotel District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (0.6 km from centre) – Metro access – $105AUD and up

Nhat Ha 1 Hotel 3-star hotel District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (0.8 km from centre) – Metro access – $77AUD and up

Nguyen Shack – Saigon 1-star hotel District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (1 km from centre) – $65AUD and up

Little Brick Saigon Hotel 2-star hotel District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (1.2 km from centre) – Metro access – $28AUD and up

Huy Hoang Hotel 2-star hotel Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City (6.7 km from centre) – Metro access – $19AUD and up

 

The top places to stay in Nah Trang

Alana Nha Trang Beach Hotel 4-star hotel Nha Trang – $110AUD and up

B&B Hotel 4-star hotel Nha Trang – $70AUD and up

Dendro Hotel 3-star hotel Nha Trang – $46AUD and up

Carpe DM Hotel Nha Trang – $29AUD and up

CR Hotel 2-star hotel Nha Trang – $20AUD and up
 

Long Term Rentals

Rental properties are easily available. Here are a selection of agent websites to view current listings.

VN Renting – mostly for Ho Chi Minh – http://www.vnrenting.com

Nha Toi Real Estate Hanoi http://hoianhouse.com

Central Vietnam Realty http://www.cvr.com.vn/

 

Retreats

 

Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa – Hue – booking.com – Luxury hotel/retreat offers meditation, Jacuzzi, sauna & steam bath, tai chi or yoga classes.

Visspana in Vietnam – http://www.vn.dhamma.org/en/ucenlist-vma-hnc/ organized by UNESCO Center for Life Skills Training & Vipassana Meditation Application

Truc Lam Zen Monastery, The Meditation Center in Dalat

 

Living in Vietnam

You can choose to live how you like, it really depends on what you do for work and where you need to do it.

You can live amongst the local Vietnamese or choose to live in expat communities such as district 2 and district 7 in Ho Chi Minh City. Many of those communities, which of course exist only in major cities, feature western style schools, health, dining and grocery shopping.

For many, this is a preferred way, there is less cultural adaptation required while you are there, and less reverse culture shock when you return home.

One tip for living in Asia is to have a goal, whether that be to help others, learn culture and language, career goals, or entrepreneurial goals as it’s an easy-living place where you can end up trashing your life. Have a long-term focus and let it pull you back on course when need be.

 

Food and Cuisine

Vietnamese cuisine is renowned for its freshness and considered to be one of the world’s healthier cuisines.

Similar to Chinese in that it aims to balance the five flavours of bitter, sour, sweet, salty and pungent but with it’s own style and local ingredients making it uniquely Vietnamese. Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruit, vegetables, lemongrass, ginger, mint, pepper, coriander, Saigon cinnamon, lime, and Thai basil leaves.

 

Popular Dishes

Pho
The national staple. Flat rice noodles combined with nutritious chicken or beef broth.

Bánh cuốn
Steamed rice rolls filled with seasoned pork, wood ear mushrooms.

Gỏi cuốn
Also known as ‘summer rolls’. Filed with crispy salad, prawns and pork.

Quang Noodles
Mi Quang (Quang noodles) is a popular traditional dish originating from Quang Nam province in central Vietnam.

Bun Bo Nam Bo
Bun Bo Nam Bo (beef noodles in the south) is also known as stirred beef vermicelli.

Cao lau
Thick rice-flour noodles, bean sprouts and pork-rind croutons in a light soup flavoured with mint and star anise, topped with thin slices of pork and served with grilled rice-flour crackers or sprinkled with crispy rice paper.

Bun cha
This dish is typically a mix of flavourful barbecued pork, fresh noodles and fish sauce, as well as handfuls of sliced papaya, carrot and herbs.

Bánh mì
The star of Franco-Vietnamese cuisine, featuring a locally unique style of a baguette filled with, as an example, meat, fresh vegetables and sweet sauce.

 

 

Typical Living Expenses

(based on average prices for Ho Chi Minh City – 2016)

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Furnished one-bedroom apartment VND 12,000,000
Unfurnished one-bedroom apartment VND 10,000,000
Furnished two-bedroom apartment VND 20,000,000
Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment VND 18,000,000

Groceries

Milk (1 litre) VND 35,000
Dozen eggs VND 30,000
Loaf of white bread VND 26,000
Pack of chicken breasts (1kg) VND 90,000
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) VND 26,000

Eating out

Big Mac Meal VND 87,000
Cappuccino VND 50,000
Local beer VND 25,000
Three course meal at a mid-range restaurant VND 400,000

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile) VND 1,700
Internet (uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month) VND 350,000
Electricity (average per month for standard household) VND 800,000
Hourly rate for domestic cleaner VND 60,000

Transport and driving

City centre bus fare VND 12,000
Taxi (rate per km) VND 14,000
Petrol (per litre) VND 16,935

Source: http://www.expatarrivals.com/vietnam/cost-of-living-in-vietnam

 

 

Visas

Australian passport holders need a visa to enter Vietnam. Visitor visas are available for 30 or 90 days. You can apply by post or in person at the embassy in Canberra or at the consulate in Sydney.

Some countries are visa free.

 

Forums and useful websites

Danang Hoi An Expats https://www.facebook.com/groups/79917573655/

Hoi An Expats https://www.facebook.com/groups/1466462266936378/

Hoi An Now http://hoiannow.com/

In Danang – local expat and travel guide – site http://www.indanang.com

Wikitravel features detailed guides covering most of Vietnam – http://wikitravel.org/en/Vietnam

Expat services – https://expat.vn

TA’s Vietnam Travel Forum – https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowForum-g293921-i8432-Vietnam.html

Vietnam on expat.com http://www.expat.com/en/destination/asia/vietnam/

Saigon Expats – forum – http://saigonexpats.net/

 

Language

The official state or national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt), a tonal Mon–Khmer language. Originally Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters; however, in-part due to missionaries in the mid-13th century, the Vietnamese people developed their own set of characters, referred to as Chữ nôm.

These minority languages include:

Tày
Mường
Cham
Khmer
Nùng
H’Mông
Chinese

Learning Vietnamese

Duolingo is one of the best (and it’s free) language learning resources out there https://www.duolingo.com/course/vi/en/Learn-Vietnamese-Online

 

Here is a popular resource from YouTube

 

Basic Words

Hello – Xin chào
Goodbye – Tạm biệt
Thank You – Cám ơn
I am sorry – Xin lỗi
No problem – Không sao
I, me – Tôi
I am – Tôi là
You – Bạn
She, her – Cô ấy
He, him – Anh ấy
They, them – Họ
We, us Chúng – ta
It – Nó
Like – Thích
Want – Muốn
Eat – Ăn
Drink – Uống
Like to eat – Thích ăn
I like to eat – Tôi thích ăn
What – Cái gì
What do you like to eat? – Bạn thích ăn cái gì?
I’m hungry – Tôi đói (bụng)
I’m thirsty – Tôi khát nước
Go straight – Đi thẳng
then turn left/ right – sau đó rẽ trái / phải

Word lists with audio
http://www.vietnamesepod101.com/vietnamese-word-lists/

 

Making Friends in Vietnam

Vietnamese are friendly people, perhaps can be shy at first but very hospitable and kind. Many young people will be quite interested in foreigners, mostly to practice or learn English and maybe learn a little foreign culture. It will impress and please them to no end if you also want to learn their culture and more so if you can speak or at least want to learn their language.

The three most popular social sites and chat apps are Facebook, the local Zalo, and Wechat.

 

Medical

Hoan My Hospital
161 Nguyen Van Linh St, Thanh Khe Dist, Da Nang
http://hoanmy.com

Family Medical Practice in Danang
50 Nguyễn Văn Linh, Dương Nam, Hải Châu, Đà Nẵng
Website: http://www.vietnammedicalpractice.com/en/our-medical-services/danang/

Pacific Private Hospital
6 Phan Đình Phùng st. Hội An – foreign ward and an English interpreter.
Website: http://pacifichospital.com/tbd/

Hanoi Family Medical Practice
Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound, 298I Kim Ma Street, Hanoi
24hr emergency: 0903-401-919
Website: http://vietnammedicalpractice.com

International SOS Clinic
51 Xuan Dieu Street, Tay Ho District, Hanoi
Hotline: 08-3829-8520 (for whole Vietnam)
Website: http://internationalsos.com

Hanoi French Hospital
1 Phương Mai Road, Dong Da Distrist, Hanoi
Emergency: 04-3574-1111
Website: http://hfh.com.vn

VINMEC International Hospital
458 Minh Khai Street, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
Emergency: 04 3974-4333
Website: http://vinmec.com

Franco Vietnam Hospital
6 Nguyen Luang Bang St, District 7, Ho Chi Minh
Website: http://www.fvhospital.com

Victoria International Healthcare
79 Dien Bien Phu, Da Kao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh
Website: http://www.victoriavn.com

 

Power

Vietnam’s power supply is 220/240 volts, 50Hz, but this varies from region to region. Round two-pin type-c plugs are most common.

Power sockets: Type A / C / G

 

 

 

 

Mobile, Wi-Fi and Internet

Free Wi-Fi is readily available at cafes and restaurants.

Get a 3G sim and enjoy cheap mobile data. Viettel has the largest mobile coverage network http://vietteltelecom.vn with a SIM card and a 3GB/30 day package costing around $11 AUD.

 

Dialling codes

Vietnam’s country code is +84

For calls to Vietnam from Australia dial: 00+ 84 + area code + telephone number.

For calls from Vietnam to Australia dial: 00 + 61 + area code + telephone number.