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VIETNAM - THE LAND OF NINE DRAGONS
Vietnam is on a very short list of the most vibrant and exciting countries in the world. And despite the potential difficulties in travel there, it is also one the safest for travelers. Vietnam remains two separate countries, with marked differences between the north and south not only culturally, but geographically. Indeed, travel between Vietnam's many provinces can often seem like passing between countries.
Uncover the hidden charm of Vietnam on a tailor-made tour with Ethnic Voyage
Tours to Vietnam with Ethnic Voyage opens you up to discover a beautiful country with immense geographic and cultural diversity. With varying climates and landscapes that range from four seasons in the mountainous North to year-round tropical temperatures in the lush South, Vietnam is one holiday experience you don’t want to miss. Ethnic Voyage provides amazing Vietnam travel deals for group or family tours. You can choose to travel at various levels of comfort, staying in anything from deluxe to budget accommodation, using various forms of transportation, and dining in fine Vietnamese and international restaurants or in more local style eateries.
Meet the friendly locals and indulge in the delicious cuisine – there’s something for everyone when you tour Vietnam with Ethnic Voyage. Take your pick of our available Vietnam travel tour packages and contact us today to book. We also offer customised tours to Vietnam, so feel free to request a quote from our team and we'll be in touch between 24 - 48 hours with a proposal.
Where you should go and do should at least in part be dependent on the purpose or focus of your trip and perhaps your style of travel (luxury hotels are few), such as interests in outdoors exploration, cuisine, architecture, or markets. Aside from these interests, we do typically recommend you consider visiting all four of Vietnam's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all worthy of that designation. If your trip is short, you should not miss the north, where most cultural, historical, and geographic highlights are centered. The north is intriguing because it is full of unknowns; it is less commercial than the south, and the people have an entirely different mentality. The north feels like a foreign place; central Vietnam seems nebulous; and in the south, everything may seem a little too familiar such as the modern traffic, billboards, and high rises in Saigon.
Also keep in mind some places, such as Sapa, should be visited only during certain times of the year due to weather. But most importantly for your travel plans — toss the guidebooks... Vietnam is exceptional for it's people, and certainly not for it's museums, historical sites, or other attractions that initially draw tourists to a place. Geography and cuisine notwithstanding, almost every one of our travelers over the past sixteen years has been stuck by the Vietnamese themselves. The warmth, easy demeanor, and gregarious nature are unsurpassed and you'll find a welcome smile almost anywhere you venture in the country.
We will help facilitate these many unforgettable, personal encounters, such as home and school visits, but also make sure your trip exposes you to the best of Vietnam's cuisine and other attractions. Below are details on destinations/travel tips to help plan your time with us in this remarkable country. Also peruse our unique, annual trips, such as our photography and arts trips. Let us plan your perfect luxury Vietnam tour.
There are no direct flights as yet from the UK to Vietnam, so flights into Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi from any of the south east Asian hubs; Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. The most popular option is an "open jaw" ticket, flying into one city and out from the other.
Best Time to Visit
Packing for a trip to Vietnam can be difficult, as the climate varies so much depending on when and where you go. When the weather isn't ideal in one area, it's great in another. Vietnam is subject to two monsoon seasons: from April to October, most of the country is affected by south-western monsoons. The rains, which tend to be concentrated in the late afternoons, provide welcome relief to the heat. The cooler northeast monsoon hits the central coast from October until January. North Vietnam is generally warm and sunny in the autumn, cool in the winter and hot in the summer. Halong Bay is perfect in the summer months as the water is warm enough for swimming. The hottest months in Ho Chi Minh City are April and May, although there is generally a decent breeze. The central highland town of Dalat is temperate year-round.
All visitors to Vietnam must obtain a visa prior to departure. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months Alternatively Luxury Travel can arrange a ‘visa authorisation letter’ for the Vietnamese Visa for you, which enables you to obtain your visa upon arrival. For this or any other information, please contact your Luxury Travel consultant. Tourist visas are only valid for a period of 30 days stay. You must specify your exact city of arrival and departure and the respective dates. You cannot arrive even one day earlier and should you change your mind on arrival you will need to contact the Immigration Police or the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Hanoi or Saigon. The cost of visa's vary from country to country. We suggest that you contact the Vietnamese Consulate General in your country to arrange your visa.
For information on vaccinations and health requirements, we suggest you contact your GP or a travel clinic such as Fit For Travel at least 2 months prior to departure for advice and to arrange immunisations. Recommended vaccinations for travel to Thailand and Indochina are polio, tetanus, typhoid, meningitis and hepatitis A. We also recommend you take anti-malarial tablets, but please consult your doctor for his/her advice.
Flying times from UK
Hanoi: 15 hours 15 minutes not direct
Saigon: Approx. 15 hours not direct
Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of GMT
Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. The Vietnamese language (kinh) belongs to the Mon-Khmer stock, which comprises Mon (spoken in Burma) and Khmer (the language of Cambodia), as well as Khmu, Bahnar, Bru and other languages of the highlands of Vietnam. Mon-Khmer, Tai and Chinese elements with many of its basic words derived from the monotonic Mon-Khmer languages. The most widely spoken foreign languages in Vietnam are Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), English, French and Russian, more or less in that order. Popular artistic forms include: traditional painting produced on frame-mounted silk; an eclectic array of theatre, puppetry, music and dance; religious sculpture; and lacquerware. Vietnamese cuisine is especially varied - there are said to be nearly 500 different traditional dishes, ranging from exotic meats such as bat, cobra and pangolin to fantastic vegetarian creations.
The currency for Vietnam is Dong. The US dollar virtually acts as a second local currency and all hotels, airlines and travel agencies quote prices in US dollars. However, you should pay in Dong. Vietnamese law requires all transactions in dong, though in practice many people will accept dollars. Visa and MasterCard credit cards are accepted in the major cities and towns popular with tourists. Getting cash in advance is also possible but you will be charged between 2% and 4% commission plus any charges levied by your bank. Travellers cheques in US dollars can be exchanged and only at certain banks. Most hotels and airline offices do not accept travellers cheques as payment. Lost or stolen cheques are not replacable in Vietnam.
Domestic Air Services: All air travel within Vietnam is handled by Vietnam Airlines. All reservations can be made by your agent or the airlines directly.
Buses: Most foreigners do not use local buses. It is advisable to use Taxi's, private buses or hired rentals with a driver.
The Vietnamese drive on the right-hand side of the road. You can hire a motorcycle to drive yourself if you have an International Driver's Permit endorsed for motorcycles. Travelling through Vietnam by bicycle is worth considering, though the traffic is still a hazard on highways without wide shoulders. Trains and buses will carry your bike when you want a break.
Hitching: Though it is practised it is not recommended. You are expected to pay the driver for picking you up and he will negotiate the fee prior to letting you on board.
Boats: are widely used in the Mekong Delta area and Cantho is accessible by this method from Ho Chi Minh City.
Culture & Customs
Etiquette and cultural differences
Experiencing different cultures is one of the joys of travelling, and it is important that these differences are respected. Knowing a few important customs of the Vietnamese people will help make your visit more enjoyable:
• Try not to get angry. Showing any frustrations or annoyances by shouting or becoming abusive is extremely impolite and unlikely to achieve a positive outcome.
• Pointing your finger is seen as offensive. Try to gesture using your whole hand instead.
• Refrain from public displays of affection, they are considered offensive. It is extremely rare to see couples holding hands.
• Wear shorts to the knees and cover your shoulders, particularly at religious sites.
• Always remove your shoes when entering a temple or somebody’s home.
• Nude sunbathing is considered completely inappropriate, even on beaches.
• Remove your hat when entering a religious site, addressing the elderly or encountering esteemed people such as monks.
• It is improper to pat children on the head.
• When using a toothpick, it is polite to cover your open mouth.
• Don’t leave chopsticks sitting vertically in a rice bowl as it looks very similar to incense sticks that are burned for the dead.
• When passing something to another person, use both your hands together or just your right hand. Never use just your left hand.
Food and drink
Vietnamese food is fragrant, exciting and healthy. Around the country, you will find a delicious variety on offer, influenced from France, Thailand and even India.
The most popular dish is called Pho and is often referred to as the "soul of the nation". It's quite simply a noodle soup dish eaten every day, predominantly for breakfast. It is served in most Vietnamese restaurants and street food vendors. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, there are plenty of options, including:
• Nem Ran or Cha Gio (fried spring roll)
• Banh Chung (sticky rice cake)
• GioLua (lean pork pie)
• BanhCuon (rice flour steamed rolls)
• Banh My (pate and egg rolls)
• Mivoithitbo/ga (noodles with beef/chicken)
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Vietnam. Bottled water is cheap and widely available.
• TET (Vietnamese New Year): generally takes place at the end of January or early February and lasts for three days.
• Liberation of Saigon: 30 April
• International Worker’s Day: 1 May
• Hung King’s memorial day: 10 March (lunar calendar)
• Vietnamese National Day: 2 September
TET Travel Recommendation: Ethnic Travel discourages travel over the TET period. Transport is often booked or expensive. Lots of places are closed including restaurants, shops and key tourist sites.
Donations and gift giving
Although there is poverty in certain areas of Vietnam, please read the following points about donations and gift giving.
• Do not give money to people begging, especially children. This reinforces the belief that begging is an acceptable way to make a living. If children make money from begging, their parents are less likely to send them to school. Children working on the streets are also vulnerable to abuse.
• However in many places, it is considered acceptable to give to money to disabled people or the elderly.
• Giving money and goods to beggars can accentuate an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely money givers.
• Do not give sweets to children in villages that we visit.
• Do not feel that you necessarily have to give material things. Sometimes, giving your friendship, time and interest to locals can be the best gift of all.
Tipping Tipping is a personal matter and travellers are encouraged to tip any amount they feel is appropriate. For your convenience, we have included a suggested tipping guide below:
• Bellboy: $1-$2 per room
• Chambermaid: $1 per day
• Guides: $5-$10 per day, per person (depending on group size and performance)
• Drivers: $2-$5 per day, per person (depending on group size and performance)
• Restaurants: in smart establishments, you may find that the tip is already included in the bill. In local restaurants, tips are not expected but you may wish to leave loose change on the table.
Things are generally cheap in Vietnam. Here is a rough guide of how much things cost in main cities. Bear in mind that outside of the cities, things will be much cheaper.| Food, drinks & other items
• Street food: from 10,000 VND
• Restaurants: Western food: from 100,000 VND, Vietnamese dishes between 40,000 – 100,000 VN
• Soft drinks: 8,000 – 15,000 VND,
• Beer: 8,000 – 20,000 VND
• Fruit juice: 30,000 VND
• Water: 10,000 VND
• Spirit and mixer: 60,000 VND
• Shorts/t-shirts: 80,000 – 200,000 (always haggle when buying clothes)
• DVDs: 15,000 – 30,000 VND
• SIM card – 50,000 VND
• Cheap phone – 200,000 – 300,000 VND