Vietnam travel facts

Spoken language: Vietnamese (majority of population).

Official unit of currency: dong (VND ₫).

Population: 95 million. Around two-thirds live in the countryside (one of the highest rural population densities in Southeast Asia), yet the country has a literacy rate of around 95 percent.

Tourist numbers: two million in 2000; fifteen million in 2018.

Politics: The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (capital Hanoi), is one of the world’s last surviving one-party Communist states. It shares land borders with China, Laos and Cambodia and comprises over 330,000 square kilometres, with more than 3400km of coastline.

Vietnam Currency & Exchange Rate

The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese “Dong” or in the shorter way, Dong. At this stage, there are two versions of Vietnam currency are in use: the Polymer note (500,000 VND, 200,000 VND, 100,000 VND, 50,000 VND, 20,000 VND, and 10,000 VND) and Cotton note (5,000 VND, 2,000 VND, 1,000 VND, 500 VND, and 200 VND). However, the last two cotton notes are rarely used since the value is too small.

Where to Exchange Vietnam Currency

Foreign currencies are often exchanged into Vietnamese dong at almost banks, currency exchange establishments, jewelry stores and ATMs in Vietnam, especially in big cities. Although it takes you a great deal of time to show your passport for identification and fill in the form, exchanging for VND at banks or currency exchange establishments will give you a slightly better rate of return. Alternatively, you can exchange instantaneously at currency exchange booths when you are in a hurry. However, it is not highly recommended because currency exchange establishments around tourist destinations may charge a higher fee.

Use Credit Cards in Vietnam

Credit cards are widely accepted in tourist sites and places like hotels, pricier restaurants, and shops (expect a 3–4% surcharge). You can also now pay by credit card for the larger taxi companies. Everywhere else, cash is still king. Therefore, ensure you carry some cash all the time.

Visa, Master Card, JBC and American Express are the most common credit cards honored in Vietnam and widely accepted across the country, especially in typically touristy or expat areas. For a cash advance using one of the above cards, you can visit most major branches of foreign banks in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other big cities.

Use ATMs in Vietnam

You can exchange money at the airports but ATM appears to be a proper choice when traveling abroad. Currently, ATMs are located everywhere in big cities like Saigon, Ha Noi, and Da Nang, especially around the tourist areas. ATMs in Vietnam operate 24/7 so you can go to one anytime you need more cash. Use Google Maps to locate the nearest ATM to you.

Vietcombank has the best ATM network in the country with hundreds of locations, Agribank, Vietin Bank and Sacombank are also well linked across Vietnam. The amount of money you want to withdraw will be automatically changed from your home currency to VND based on the bank quoted rate at that time. For the ATM associated fees, the withdrawal fee is usually around 20,000VND (about $1).

Best Time to Visit Vietnam – Good Seasons to Travel

The best time to visit Vietnam is the beginning of summer (April and May) because they are the only two months which not to be rainy and too hot across the country. However, the climate changes according to the landscapes. You can rely on other aspects to choose the best time to organize your Vietnam vacation, such as the time of Vietnamese traditional festivals or place you visit.

Best Time to Visit Northern Vietnam

The best months to visit northern Vietnam are October and November because the temperatures are pleasant and it is also the harvest period. The period between March and June is also a good time to visit.

January – February

In the plain of the Red River Delta, it is cool for this latitude (average 5°C on Hanoi) and there are some small rains for sometimes of the day. Therefore, there is very little sunshine, but it’s a good time for travelers who do not like the heat and the sun. In the mountains, it can be cold, about 8°C in 1500m above sea level and snow is appearing on the highest peaks.

Trek around Sa Pa

On a clear day the views around Sa Pa in the far north of Vietnam are breathtaking. Lush terraced rice fields line the steep valley and mountains loom from all sides. It’s the gateway to fantastic trekking country and the reason most visitors come here. Explore the Hoang Lien Son Mountain range, home to Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest mountain, and visit the small ethnic communities still living a traditional way of life.

July – September

It is the rainy season, marked by alternating clearings in a very hot and very humid atmosphere with big monsoon showers falling at the end of the day most of the time. These showers can last as long as 5 minutes or up to several hours.

Little Hoi An has an almost bewildering selection of mouth-wateringly good restaurants, offering up specialities, such as Cao Lau – rice-flour noodles in soup flavoured with mint and star anise, topped with slices of pork, bean sprouts and pork-rind croutons. The elegant restaurant Morning Glory is one of the best places to try it, along with other superbly prepared dishes, for a reasonable price. You can also try your hand at Vietnamese cooking by taking one of many cookery classes available in town.

June – July

A very high temperature of up to 40°C on a sunny day. However, if you are located in the seaside resorts of Vietnam (Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang), the beach will be your greatest ally to refresh you.

The risks of rain and flood come into play. Hoi An, which is often affected by the floods, is given the name “Venice of Vietnam” during this period.

Inland, the weather is milder thanks to the hills and mountains. The winter is pleasant and sunny, and from May to November, monsoon rains occur with a peak between August and October.
Hue

Travel to the engaging city of Hue and take a day-long boat trip along the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda and Hon Chen Temple, the Imperial City, and the Tu Duc mausoleum. At the end of the day have a wander through the lively Dong Ba Market.

The next morning take a bicycle, or tour by cyclo, along the north bank of the river to tranquil Kim Long village, where mandarins and other Imperial officials built their houses surrounded by lush gardens, in the late nineteenth century.

Nha Trang

Cosmopolitan Nha Trang combines cultural highlights with stylish restaurants and lively bars, and 6km of glorious sandy coastline offering prime opportunities for swimming, snorkeling and other watersports.

Visit the wonderful Po Nagar Cham towers, built between the seventh and twelfth centuries by the Hindu Cham people, and then take a look around the Long Son Pagoda.

Then head for one of the city’s gorgeous beaches, such as Tran Phu beach, closest to the city action and backed by a great promenade, the quieter Hon Chong beach, or the more secluded and pristine Bai Dai beach.

Best Time to Visit Southern Vietnam
The best time to travel to southern Vietnam is between December and mid-February, but the weather is warm throughout the region and throughout the year. There are two clear seasons.

September – April

In the dry season, it hardly rains with a dry heat and the degrees around 39°C at highest in Ho Chi Minh City. It is also the most favorable season for sunbathing on the beaches of Phu Quoc Island on the coast.

Ho Chi Minh City

Embrace the bustle of the metropolis and see some of city’s main sights: the Notre Dame Cathedral, the History Museum, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum. Take a wander around Cho Lon, the city’s Chinatown, sample street food at Ben Thanh market and, come sundown, stroll along pedestrianized Nguyen Hue.

Take a day-trip from Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi tunnels at Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc, a system of tunnels created by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war.

An alternative day-trip is to the wonderful countryside around Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta. Explore by boat the many creeks along the Ben Tre coastline and stop off at rice-wine and sugar processing workshops.