Most people planning to travel to Vietnam are attracted by images of the country’s natural beauty. The green rice fields are dotted with the conical hats of the local farmers; there are 3,000 Kilometres of picturesque coastline; the bustling pace of Ho Chi Minh City; the relaxing atmosphere of the Mekong Delta.
The best time to visit Vietnam will depend on what areas you are interested in seeing, and when you are available to travel. It is so much more than just a beach destination. The climate in the North (Hanoi, Halong Bay) is cool from October to April while the South (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta) is sub-tropical and enjoys its best weather at this time. The central regions of Hoi An and Hue experience their best weather between March and August, and is prone to flooding in late October and November.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and features a blend of Chinese and French influences. Explore art galleries in the Old Quarter, soak up the atmosphere of the French Quarter and relax at the Hoan Kiem Lake area. The InterContinental Westlake Hanoi is an extremely affordable five star luxury hotel located in the heart of Hanoi.
Halong Bay is one of the most popular beach areas offering magnificent views of the bay with its thousands of limestone islands rising from the ocean. Explore the hidden caves and secret lagoons by kayak. Take an overnight junk boat cruise on Halong Bay and view this spectacular UN World Heritage Listed site.
Hue is the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam. The city has been regocnised as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site. Packed with cultural and historical monuments and architecture. Visit the ancient citadel and imperial palace. The adventurous can hire motorbikes to ride out and explore the surrounding scenery.
The charming, old-world atmosphere of Hoi An is preserved in the car-free area of Old Town. The city is also known for its architecture, cheap tailors and quaint restaurants along the town’s river. The beach is short ride away and there are some amazing resort hotels, so it is easy to shuttle between the city and beach. The shopping here is excellent – you can have shoes and clothing hand made. The Hoi An Beach Resort is located between the De Vong River and Cua Dai Beach. The accommodation offers ocean views across to the Cham Islands or hillside views across the De Vong River to the lush green rice paddy fields.
Phan Thiet is accessible by a four hour drive north of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), but is a beautiful southern beach area and worth the effort to get to. A long, wide stretch of beach is lined with boutique hotels and restaurants. Slide down the bright red sand dunes on cardboard toboggans. The afternoons can get windy and is the best time for surfing – board, wind or kite!
Nha Trang is a bustling city and one of the busiest beach resorts, packed with bars and nightlife. The area is known for great snorkelling and diving and there are a variety of boat trips on offer. For total over the top indulgence, stay at the Six Senses at Ninh Van. This five star resort is accessible only by boat, through the Cam Ranh Airport. The property is beautifully located on the unique and dramatic Ninh Van Bay.
Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) is the commercial centre of Vietnam. Hire a bicycle and ride along the Saigon River exploring the myriads of rivers and canals. Take a tour towards the Cambodian border and explore the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War (known in Vietnam as the American War!)
Most international flights arrive and depart daily from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi. There are smaller airports in Danang, Hue, Nha Trang and domestic flights within Vietnam are quite cheap. You can access Vietnam by flight from most Asian cities – Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur etc. The Reunification Express railway runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and is also known as the Vietnam North-South Railway. History, culture, shopping, meeting friendly locals and relaxing on the beach are all highlights of a trip to Vietnam.