Vietnam Travel Guide

At A Glance

So you’re considering a trip to Vietnam? Congratulations, it’s one of our favorite places to visit! This Southeast Asian country is a delight for travelers thanks to affordable prices, genuine and kind people, untouched beaches, scenic mountains and villages, and an open, accepting attitude to foreigners and people from different cultures. Below, you’ll find some basic facts to help you plan your trip.




Hanoi – pop. 7,588,000

Largest City

Ho Chi Minh City – pop. 8,426,000

Notable Cities

Hai Phuong, Can Tho, Bien Hoa, Da Nang, Nha Trang


Socialist Republic governed by the Communist Party of Vietnam.


Mostly ethnic Vietnamese. 54 officially recognized ethnic and tribal minorities.




  • Vietnamese Words and Phrases

    Hello! = Á-lô!

    Goodbye! = Chào anh!

    Please = Xin vui lòng

    Thank you! = Cảm ơn bạ

    Sorry/Excuse me = Xin lỗi

    How are you? = Anh khỏe không?

    Cheers! = Chúc mừng!

    My name is… = Tôi tên là…

    Where is the toilet? = Cầu Tiêu ở đâu?

    Where is the restaurant? = Nhà hàng ở đâu?

    How much does this cost? = Cái này giá bao nhiêu?

    How do you say … in Vietnamese? = Bạn nói … thế nào trong tiếng Việt?

    Food = Thực phẩm

    Beer = Bia

    Water = Nước

  • Travel Requirements and Visas

    American visitors need a valid passport and a visa (or pre-approval for a “visa on arrival”) to enter Vietnam. You can apply for appropriate visas in person at Vietnamese embassies or consulates, by mail, or with this online form  (in Vietnamese). Tourist visas are valid for either 30 days or 90 days. BEFORE Travel  handles all the paperwork and processing for your Vietnam tourist visa.

  • Money

    Vietnam’s currency is called the dong. Currently, it’s about 22,500 dong to US $1. International access ATMs can be found in most tourist centers across the country. US dollars are relatively popular in Vietnam, and many tourist-oriented activities are quoted in dollars, so get used to switching back and forth. You will be expected to use dong for cash purchases in rural areas, but in larger centers, US dollars are sometimes accepted. Credit cards are also accepted, though small businesses, especially restaurants, may not accept them. It is wise, when travelling in Vietnam, to carry both dollars and dong, but avoid carrying excess amounts of either when going out, especially at night and in the cities.goes here, click edit button to change this text.

  • Food

    Widely considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world and known for its emphasis on fresh ingredients, and colorful presentation, Vietnamese fare is herbal and well spiced. Meats are cooked only briefly, and vegetables are often fresh, or boiled or stir-fried. Herbs like lemongrass, Thai basil, ginger, coriander, and cinnamon are essential to Vietnamese cuisine, and broths and soups are found throughout the country.

    A typical family meal in Vietnam consists of a large bowl of rice, grilled or boiled fish or meat, some stir fry, raw, fresh vegetables, abundant condiments and dipping sauces like fish sauce, soy sauce, salted chili sauce, ginger sauce, and tamarind sauce, small dishes of relishes, like salted eggplant or pickled cabbage, and fresh fruits. A philosophy of yin-and-yang undergirds Vietnamese cuisine, where the people try to strike a balance between hot and cold, spicy and herbal, heavy and fresh in every meal.

    Be sure to check out BEFORE Travel’s guide to 7 must-eat street foods in Vietnam!

  • Climate and Weather

    The winter/dry season runs November through April, and the summer rainy season from June to September. Temperatures in the south — around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta — range between 21 and 28 °C (69.8 and 82.4 °F) over the course of the year. Seasonal variations in the mountains, plateaus, and in the north are more dramatic, where temperatures vary from 5 °C (41.0 °F) in December and January to 37 °C (98.6 °F) in July and August.

  • Festivals and Holidays

    The biggest festival in Vietnam by far is Tết, celebrated during the lunar new year, whose dates vary from year to year. In major cities there are public events and festivities, but this holiday is typically celebrated privately with families. During this week long celebration, the country essentially shuts down, so plan your travel carefully during this time. Generally, if you’re in Vietnam during Tết, it is wise to find a place to settle down in during the celebrations, because transportation, restaurants, and other services will likely be closed.

    Other major holidays include New Year  (on January 1st), Hùng Kings’ Festival (Giỗ tổ Hùng Vương) on the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month, commemorating the first kings of Vietnam, Liberation Day  (Ngày giải phóng miền Nam) on April 30th, marking the fall of Saigon in 1975, and, the very next day, International Workers’ Day  (Ngày Quốc tế Lao động) on May 1st, the traditional socialist labor day. Also, the National Day  (Quốc khánh) is on September 2nd. Around those times trains and planes tend to be sold out, and accommodations at holiday destinations can be hard to find. It’s best to book far in advance.

  • Religion

    Despite being one of the least religious countries in the world, and legally atheist, a plurality of Vietnamese (about 45%) practice some form of local folk religion, which are influenced by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and veneration for ancestors. Other groups include Mahayana Buddhists (16%), Christianity (8% – mostly Catholicism), and 30% unaffiliated. There are also small pockets of Muslims and Protestants across the country. Religious diversity is tolerated well in Vietnam, and there is very little tension between religious groups in the country.

  • Health and Medical

    Vietnam’s healthcare system is more advanced than in neighboring Cambodia or Laos, but Westerners may still consider it to be rudimentary. For serious injuries, you’ll want to be evacuated to Singapore or Thailand. Travel insurance with evacuation coverage is an affordable way to cover this unlikely contingency, especially for travelers engaging in rigorous outdoor activity.

  • Safety

    Vietnam is a relatively safe and secure place to visit – tourists are often surprised at the warm reception they receive from locals — but it’s always wise to take common sense precautions. Carry your passport, travellers’ cheques and other valuables in a concealed money belt. Don’t leave anything important lying about in your hotel room: use a safe, if you have one. A cable lock, or padlock and chain, comes in handy for doors and windows in cheap hotels, and is useful for securing your pack on trains and buses.

    Street crime and snatch-and-grab robberies exist in the big cities, particularly around bars and tourist spots. Travelers should always use caution when carrying large amounts of cash. Avoid wearing flashy clothes or jewelry. It’s wise for women travelers to dress modestly to avoid unwanted harassment, and topless sunbathing, even around hotel pools, is never acceptable. Be careful about taking motorbikes after dark, and women should avoid walking alone at night. Single men, on the other hand, are a particular target for “taxi girls,” many of whom also double as thieves. And if you’re riding on a motorbike, you may be susceptible to snatch-and-grab robberies, so avoid wearing cameras, using your phone, or wearing expensive sunglasses, and keep a hold of easily-snatchable items.

    However, crime levels are far behind that of Western countries, and serious and violent crimes against tourists are extremely rare.

  • LGBTQ+ Travel

    Homosexuality is not illegal and it is increasingly recognized in Vietnam. Although same-sex marriage is not yet legalized, many Vietnamese, especially young people, have a more accepting attitude towards gays and lesbians with more and more people willing to admit that they are LGBT. In fact, there have recently been several award-winning movies on the theme made by Vietnamese producers and studios. City dwellers tend to have more open-minded views towards sexual orientation and most queer-friendly bars and clubs are located in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Solo Female Travel

    Vietnam is a generally safe destination for lone female travelers. There is not a specific dress code for woman and travelers should free to dress as they please. As with traveling anywhere in the world, it be best to use common sense and to avoid situations that put you at unnecessary risk.

  • Disabled Travel

    Many historical sites and tourist areas in Vietnam do not have elevators or handicapped access. Most corporate hotels will have an elevator or escalator.

  • Cultural Customs

    The culture of Vietnam is one of the oldest in Southeast Asia, with the ancient Bronze age Dong Son culture being widely considered one of its most important progenitors. Due to a millennium of Chinese rule, Vietnam was heavily influenced by Chinese culture in terms of politics, government, Confucian social and moral ethics, and art. Vietnam is considered to be part of the East Asian cultural sphere.

  • Tipping

    In Vietnam, the culture of tipping in its early phases. The Vietnamese rarely tip in restaurants or bars. It’s your personal choice – if you would like to tip to reward excellent service, a polite manner or service that exceeds expectations, then 10% is acceptable. If you’re on a tour with a guide and driver, and you feel they’ve really done a good job of making your trip memorable, then a tip of $10 per day is reasonable.


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