When speaking of Eastern culture, people would be most likely to think of China or Japan. But there are many other countries in Asia and their rich culture, history, and landscapes to explore like Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Vietnam is the place of origin of Pho, ao dai, conical hat (non la), and where you can learn about one of the important world events in late 20th-century history, the Vietnam War. This travel guide will help you answer the question “Where is Vietnam?” and other useful travel tips, such as when to visit, how you can visit, and what places are there to tour in Vietnam.
Geography of Vietnam
Vietnam is in Southeast Asia and stretches along the coast of the Indochina Peninsula with almost half of its mainland bordering the sea. Vietnam borders China to the North, Laos in the Northwest, Cambodia in the Southwest, and the Eastern Sea (South China Sea) in the East and Southeast. It is near the sea and close to the center of Asia, so it is an advantageous and favorable location for trading and tourism.
Vietnam’s area is 331,210 square km in total, including 310,070 square km mainland and 21,140 square km ocean. The country has a long S-shaped with a 1,650 km gap between the northernmost point and the southernmost point. The narrowest part of the country is in Quang Binh province, about 50 km in width, and the widest is in the north, 600 km in diameter.
There are 2,800 islands and reefs in Vietnam including the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands. There are also a lot of mountains, hills, highlands, and forests on the mainland. The level of land only accounts for a small part of the area; the Red River Delta and the Mekong Delta are among them and are considered the “rice bowl” in Vietnam because they are the primary places producing rice. There is also rice production in the low-level coastline, but every year the Central and the North of Vietnam’s coasts are usually damaged and flooded as a consequence of typhoons.
Climate of Vietnam
Vietnam’s weather is affected by the monsoon wind frequently. The area from Bach Ma Mountain to the north is affected by the cold, dry northeast monsoon in the winter, and dry, hot southwest monsoon and humid southeast monsoon in the summer. In the south, there is the northeast monsoon in the dry season and southwest wind in the rainy season. The climate is also affected by the Eastern Sea, which brings a lot of humidity to the land during winter and dry season; the average humidity is 84% all year round. The rainy season starts from April to November with light rain to heavy rain due to the effects of the typhoon. There are about 5 – 10 typhoons each year; the typhoons and floods also happen around April to November, and the Central Vietnam and North Coast provinces are severely affected because they are usually in or near the path of the typhoons. The amount of rainfall is about 1,200 – 1,300 mm.
In Vietnam, there are 1,500 – 3,000 hours of sunlight and temperature varies from 5 degrees Celsius to 37 degrees Celsius depending on many factors such as seasons and your location (a high place or low-level place, in the North, the Central, or the South of Vietnam). In the 50-year period from 1964 to 2014, the temperature has increased by about 0.5 degrees Celsius each year.
The four seasons’ distinction is more significant in the north, while the south has only dry and wet seasons. Snowfall is rare in Vietnam; the event just happens for a short period of winter and every few decades. Sapa is the most famous place to see snow in Vietnam; however, in recent years, due to changes in climate, people have been able to witness this rare event in other mountainous areas like Ba Vi in Hanoi.
Is it Safe to Travel in Vietnam?
There are no epidemics, warfare, threats of terror, or civil wars at the moment, so it is quite safe to make a trip to Vietnam. However, you should pay attention to issues like theft, scams, and health risks. Robbery and pickpocketing are common especially in the touristy area so you will need to look after your belongings carefully, especially in crowded places.
Another common annoyance is the scam, even from taxi drivers and sellers; you need to ask for the price before buying or using a service. And don’t take anything from strangers, they might try to drug or frame you into buying something usually at an extremely high price. Even though small budget tours are not always scams, when doing your trip to Vietnam with reliable agencies you will be able to avoid the danger of sitting on cheap fare private bus tours, which usually end up very dangerous as the drivers drive faster than the speed limit, in drowsy state and carry more than the bus passenger capacity to reduce average costs of each trip.
Read more about Scams and Annoyances in Vietnam
Your concern with health risks could include water and sanitation issues; remember to drink only bottled or boiled water because the water supply and treatment in Vietnam still have many problems to fix especially with waste disposal. Electrical safety is also what you may want to check out. The electricity voltage in Vietnam is 220V, and there are uncovered or poorly covered electrical wires on the street, so be aware of electric shock, especially in the rainy season.
Read more on Vietnam travel safety
Vietnam Country Currency
The main currency in the country is the Vietnam Dong (VND). Learn more about the Vietnamese Currency.
Best Time to Visit Vietnam
The best time to visit Vietnam is from November to March because there is less rain, and it is less hot compared to the wet season. Plus, this is the time for many festivals because it is almost Tet holiday all over the country. The peak of tourism is at around the end of the year and on summer school break (from June to September). Many people go back to their hometowns to celebrate on Tet holiday or travel with their families in the summer so it won’t be easy to find cheap flights and train tickets at these times.
Learn more on When to visit Vietnam
How to Travel to Vietnam
There are ten international airports in Vietnam so you can fly directly to the destinations on your Vietnam trip.
In the North: Noi Bai, Cat Bi, and Vinh.
In the Central: Phu Bai, Da Nang, Chu Lai, and Cam Ranh.
In the South: Tan Son Nhat, Can Tho, and Phu Quoc.
Because Vietnam borders Laos, Cambodia, and China, you can travel through the border – customs in Cambodia and Laos are now easier for Vietnam travel – when you are having a Southeast Asia or Asia exploration. You are allowed to bring up to 400 cigarettes, 1.5 liters of spirits and USD $5000 – any amount of money greater than US$ 5,000 must be declared at the customs checkpoints.
Visa application may hinder you from traveling to places but check out the list of Vietnam visa exemption countries (up to 30 days) here. Note that you cannot have multi-entry and visa extensions when you visit Vietnam on visa exemption, so make sure the exemption days suffice for your exploration. There are many ways you can apply for a Vietnam visa: apply through the Vietnam Embassy and Consulate in your country, apply e-visa online at https://immigration.gov.vn/, or apply through visa/travel agencies.
Read more on How to Obtain Vietnam Visa
Where to Go in Vietnam
When traveling to Vietnam, you will be able to visit different places with different attractions, beautiful landscapes, and cultures.
In the North of Vietnam
There are many things you can do here such as trekking mountains, exploring the forest, and enjoying magnificent views of terraced paddy fields. You may need to prepare your trekking gear because the highest peak in Vietnam, Fansipan, the Heavenly Gate (Cong Troi), and many other challenging mountains are in Sapa.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam with the two highest skyscrapers in Vietnam and an Old Quarter coexisting in one city. When visiting Hanoi, you will get to see many lakes, especially Hoan Kiem Lake – an icon of the capital, or see ancient temples and pagodas like the One Pillar Pagoda, one of the symbols of Hanoi and Vietnam that is printed on the VND 1,000 bill.
This is a beautiful bay with calm tortoise water, peaceful islands, and a breathtaking landscape. Halong Bay was one of the shooting locations of the Hollywood blockbuster Kong: Skull Island.
In Central Vietnam
Hue was the old capital of Vietnam. It is famous for many traditions and old architecture like palaces and shrines from before the 20th century. Besides that, you will also get to enjoy the foods that are significantly different from the north and the south, sometimes a little spicier.
Da Nang is an exciting city with many places to explore like the Marble Mountains, Son Tra Mountain, Non-Nuoc Beach, Ba Na Hills, and Dragon Bridge. This booming city is famous and developed thanks to its urban planning and tourism services.
Hoi An is the most famous ancient town in Vietnam where you can see many old architects combining Western and Asian styles. You can also make a visit to traditional craft villages or try a particular service, ao dai tailor “express,” where you can make an order, design, and pick up your ao dai in only a couple of hours.
This is a favorite location for a vacation to many Vietnamese because of its cool weather all year round and spooky stories. But it would be exciting to visit many attractions like King Bao Dai’s Palace, Truc Lam Monastery, Xuan Huong Lake, and Langbiang Peak.
A beautiful beach city in Vietnam known to have one of the most gorgeous beaches in the country is Nha Trang. You can go to Vinpearl Island by cable car and enjoy many activities in its theme park or visit Hon Tam Island, Hon Ba Mountain, and Long Son Pagoda where a big white statue of Buddha is built.
Mui Ne has beautiful resorts where you can relax after a day enjoying the glorious sun and sand on the beach. There are also many activities to choose from such as visiting and admiring the Poh Sah Inu Cham Tower, an ancient architect of the Chams, watching people in the fishing village in their daily routines, or riding motors on the white dunes.
In the South of Vietnam
One of the most developed cities in Vietnam with famous historical landmarks, such as the Reunification Palace, the Ben Thanh Market, and the War Remnants Museum. Besides, you will get to join in the diverse nightlife and entertainment activities of this one Pearl in the Far East.
Vung Tau is where you can make a nice day trip from Ho Chi Minh City to try seafood, bathing in the sun and beach, hike a mountain, or just enjoy a nice day at the hot spring resort.
Con Dao Islands is where you can have wildlife and marine studies in the Con Dao National Park. This is also the place where many people were captured and tortured during the Vietnam War in the inhumane tiger cages in Con Dao Prison.
Phu Quoc is another remote destination for island exploration lovers. Besides enjoying the beautiful clear water, and delicious seafood, and seeing the fishermen doing their daily work, you can also go to places that manufacture the delightful fish sauce.
Summary of Asia Travel Information: Vietnam
Vietnam is an Eastern country, more specifically, a Southeast Asian country with a tropical climate in most parts of the country. You should visit Vietnam after the rainy season and during the festival season. Traveling to Vietnam has been made easier thanks to the international airports and a few customs visa waivers. There are many places to visit from North to South with different spectacular views and cultures to learn. Make sure to read the safety tips and our local Vietnam travel guides to maximize your fun on your trip to Vietnam.