Reasons to Visit
There is so much more to do in Vietnam than just the odd city tour and museum. Kite making in Hue, a fisherman eco-tour in Hoi An, an educational talk in Hanoi, cycling through the rice terraces of Sapa - there are many wonderful ways to see the country, experience its culture and meet its people.
Famous for the Vietnam War, you can of course visit the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi tunnels in Saigon. However, the country's history has many other facets to be explored such as the old merchant town of Hoi An or the imperial city of Hue. The imprints of the former foreign rules of the Chinese and French are present wherever you go from iconic buildings to everyday life; past and present existing in harmony.
Vietnam offers great value for money from every angle. From hotels to transport to food, your US dollars or Vietnamese Dong will go far!
Vietnamese food is renowned for its freshness, bold flavours and presentation. It is an integral part of the local culture and each region has its own unique and wonderful dishes. This part of Southeast Asia is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to eat. And if you want to learn the art of Vietnamese cooking yourself, there are also a number of fantastic cooking courses for you to enjoy.
The people of Vietnam are among the friendliest you will ever meet. They are also extremely resilient having survived foreign invasions by the Chinese and French, as well as famine and war with their cultural identity remaining intact. You only have to witness the National Flag Raising ceremony in Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi to witness a nation united not simply by patriotism, but by a very strong sense of community and respect.
From the UNESCO site of Halong Bay with its thousands of limestone outcrops to the Tonkinese Alps and lush green rice terraces of Sapa, Vietnam offers an abundance of stunning scenery and landscapes. Besides natural assets, there are plenty of other man-made photo opportunities such as the colourful floating markets of the Mekong Delta and the bustling streets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi.
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Our Vietnam specialists are experienced and passionate about the country - between them they have spent many weeks a year researching new experiences and ensuring everything is of the highest standard. They know the Vietnam inside out.
Hannah JVietnam Specialist01993 838 133
Mark HVietnam Specialist01993 838 112
LaurenVietnam Specialist01993 838 141
Hannah CVietnam Specialist01993 838 134
LauraVietnam Specialist01993 838 102
JakeVietnam Specialist01993 838 122
JackVietnam Specialist01993 838 118
HollyVietnam Specialist01993 838 132
VictoriaVietnam Specialist01993 838 137
DanielleVietnam Specialist01993 838 147
Vietnam was where Audley first began creating tailor-made trips, and we still have the most upto- date information of any UK operator.
All of our Vietnam specialists have a passion for the country and all have spent considerable time inspecting hotels and researching new excursions. Our guides do not just provide fascinating insights into Vietnamese life: many become lasting friends.
Most of our itineraries are based around a journey from Hanoi to Saigon, taking in central Vietnam en route, although we also include many of the country’s lesser-known sights that are often overlooked by other operators.
To the east of Hanoi we explore the limestone islands of Halong Bay, to the north, the hill tribe communities of the Tonkinese Alps, while south of Saigon we travel through the flatlands of the Mekong Delta experiencing rural Vietnam at its best.
The country stretches for over 1,600 kilometres from north to south so we often travel the longer distances by air, with private vehicles covering the more interesting overland sections. Vietnam also combines well with Cambodia’s Angkor temples or a visit to hidden Laos.
With its French colonial heritage, Vietnam has been quick to use its splendid buildings to good effect and turn them into the finest hotels in the region. Many are located in the heart of the old towns, ideally placed to explore the nearby restaurants and markets.
All the hotels we use have been handpicked by our staff for their location, character or individual appeal. The coast here is much less developed than in nearby Thailand or Malaysia, and there are some wonderful beaches where we use sophisticated resorts or small family-run guest houses.
To explore further afield we can use homestays in the Mekong Delta and the Tonkinese Alps. A night or two in a converted merchant’s house in Hoi An or Hanoi represents an unusual alternative.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Vietnamese is the official language. It is a tonal language and uses the Roman alphabet together with tone and diacritical marks. There are a huge variety of regional dialects and numerous other languages such as Chinese, Khmer and Lao across the country. The older generations still speak French, and Russian is still spoken and understood by the middle aged. European languages have fast become popular with the younger generations of Vietnam with English being widely understood and spoken.
Vietnam has a wonderful array of culinary delights making its food and drink one of the many highlights of any visit to this fascinating country. The most famous dish must be Pho rice noodles. Extremely popular, this dish is happily eaten at anytime of the day though is especially popular for breakfast as it provides a hearty meal to keep you sustained throughout the day. Spring rolls are another popular snack and come in many guises. Local specialties include fish cooked in banana leaf and white rose (steamed prawn dumplings) in Hoi An, Pork cooked with caramel in a clay pot in Saigon and the spectacular elephant ear fish in the Mekong Delta. Vietnamese dishes are not complete without nuoc mam (a potent fish sauce) or mam tom (shrimp sauce).
Coffee is served strong and is sweetened with condensed milk, a guaranteed pick me up. Local and imported beers are popular and widely available at relatively inexpensive prices. Rice wine is also very popular and cheap, though extremely potent. Imported wines are often available at up market restaurants though at a premium.
Tipping is very much a part of Vietnamese culture especially in the service industry and you should be prepared to tip guides, drivers and porters who assist you during your stay. As a guideline if you are travelling alone we would recommend that you tip your guide between $7-8 per day, if travelling in a couple then allow $8-10 per couple per day. When travelling in a group of 3-4 then tipping in the region of $10-15 per group per day is appropriate, when travelling in groups larger than four then allow an increase roughly equating to 10% more for each additional person in the group.
The currency of Vietnam is the dong. Notes in circulation are in denominations of 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 50,000, & 100,000. It can be difficult to change high denomination notes in some of the smaller places.
The US Dollar is the most favoured foreign currency. British pounds and Euros can usually be changed in the larger cities; great difficulty may be encountered in trying to exchange any other currencies.
Allow £10 - £15 a day for basic day-to-day expenses (drinks, meals, etc). A local beer will normally cost around £1, a 2 course lunch £3 and a 2 course dinner £6, but this depends on where you choose to eat. Places with higher prices will usually accept credit cards.
In general the Vietnamese dress standards are very conservative especially in areas away from the main towns and cities. When visiting temples and religious sites it is best to avoid shorts and sleeveless t-shirts to be respectful.
It is considered very unlucky to leave chopsticks sticking up in a bowl of rice, as they resemble incense burned for the dead and is considered a powerful omen.
Do not take photos of people without asking permission first.
'The Girl in the Picture' by Denise Chong is a moving and extremely harrowing account of the Vietnam War. The books follows the story of Kim Phuoc who featured in possibly the most famous and poignant photo documenting the Vietnam War, running from a napalm strike.
US-based Khanh Ly, a contemporary pop music icon.
'The Deer Hunter' (1978), 'Apocalypse Now' (1979) and 'Platoon' (1986). Although not offering much insight into the Vietnamese perspective they do give a brutal introduction into the violence and devastation caused in more ways than one during the War.
Vietnamese cuisine has strong influences from the country's former Chinese and French colonists and the balance or 'harmony' of tastes in food is crucial. One of the most iconic dishes is 'pho', a delicious local noodle soup dish usually served with beef or chicken. 'Pho' is ubiquitous in Hanoi and Saigon.
Vietnam is now the world's second largest coffee producer. For the more adventurous, try a cup of Civet Cat Coffee.
Xin chao, pronounced "sin jow" (Hello), Cam on, pronounced "gaam ern" (Thank you), Gia bao? pronounced "zaa bow" (How much?).
Hectic, facinating, scooter gridlocks, silk shops, conical hats, rice paddies, limestone cliffs.
Visit one of the numerous tailors and get a whole new wardrobe made, buy paintings or beaded jewellery.
Start planning your tailor-made holiday to Vietnam by contacting one of our specialists...
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Further reading:Tours in VietnamWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationCountry Guides
Other countries in Southeast Asia:BorneoBurmaCambodiaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaPapua New GuineaThailandThe Philippines
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