Escorted Tours to Vietnam
Language: Vietnamese Language
Currency: Vietnamese Dong
Time Zone: ICT/GMT+6
Tipping: In Vietnam tipping is not expected but is normally appreciated. Service charges can be added in some restaurants but it may never get to the staff so it is at your discretion if you choose to leave an additional tip.
Vietnam - an introduction
Previously out-shadowed by its more touristy Southeast Asian neighbours, Vietnam is fast becoming a popular destination for those wanting to do something a little out of the ordinary.
Emerged from the ravages of war, things are now looking up. Incredible mountains, dramatic coastlines and endless rice terraces is the fortune cookie that is Vietnam, along with limestone islands and heaving cities where chaos reigns. Move yourself away from the hustle and bustle of city life on a Vietnam tour and you'll find peasant women wearing traditional conical hats, kids riding buffalos through country roads and locals trying to salvage a living whilst working in the most awkward locations.
Most Vietnam escorted tours will involve heading to the vibrant streets of Ho Chi Minh City, situated right down south. Known locally as Saigon, this metropolis oozes energy from its ancient pagodas and street markets to designer shopping malls and sleek city skyscrapers. The French nicknamed Saigon the rather serene sounding 'Pearl of the far East', making it hard to imagine the relentless hustle and bustle that now clogs its streets. That said, the city has got a name for having the best food in the country and the pho in particular is not to be missed.
Escorted tours to Vietnam will take in other highlights of this frenetic country both on and off the beaten track, where you can trishaw or cyclo your way around the streets of capital Hanoi, enjoy a guided bicycle ride into the surrounding countryside of Hoi An, visit the Cu Chi Tunnels used during the Vietnam War, journey deep into the Mekong Delta or take in the dramatic limestone islands of Halong Bay. There's nowhere quite like this mystical vista with its mountains rising from the water, vivid hues, unforgettable sunsets and boats weaving in and out of the formations. You can even set sail and sleep over on a traditional wooden junk.
As well as offering all the benefits of a tour guide, Vietnam touring holidays include return flights from the UK, transfers, internal and accommodation as stated as well as some meals. Tours will usually incorporate nearby Cambodia and Laos.
Things to do
With its incredible mountains, dramatic coastlines and endless rice terraces Vietnam is a fortune cookie waiting to be explored. Here are some of the most frequented destinations to take in on a touring holiday:
The capital city of Vietnam is a great mix of East meets West and there is a definite French influence in the city. Hoan Kiem Lake is a focal point in the city and this pleasant park is within easy reach of the Old Quarter. Around the lakeside is a great place to people watch, especially the tai chi in the morning. As with any large city there are various museums to visit, one of which is the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum complex complete with presidential palace, stilt house and one pillar pagoda. The city is also used by a majority of people as a base to do a boat cruise from Halong Bay.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, often referred to as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam and in this extremely busy city crossing the road is an experience in itself! Don't let that put you off this fascinating city though - visit the Reunification Palace (the former South Vietnam's presidential palace), which may not be as grand on the outside but gives you an insight into the 60s decor on the inside. The War Remnants Museum is also a very moving place to explore, showing the stories and photos of Vietnam during the war. Take note though that some of the images are very graphic and may not be suitable for children.
Hue is located on the banks of the Perfume river and a great way to see all of the tombs, temples and pagodas is by taking a boat trip. Most of the trips include Garden House, Thien Mu Pagoda which has great views, Minh Hang tomb complex which is very impressive and very much like the citadel and finally Khai Dinh tomb which is more French influenced than the other tombs and has fantastic mosaics. The Imperial Citadel (Đại Nội) is an amazing complex of temples, pavilions, museums and galleries amongst others and is a great place to get away from the bustling crowds in the city.
The beautiful city of Hoi An is a lot more relaxed than other cities in Vietnam. The Old Town is packed with well-preserved historic buildings and ranks as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best (and maybe only) way to visit the sights of the old town is to buy a historic sightseeing pass which allows you entrance to five places of your choosing. Hoi An is also a mecca for tailor made clothes - nearly every shop is a tailor shop where you can have suits, coats and dresses either designed or have copies made just to fit yourself. The city is also located close to some formidable beaches so if the weather is nice why not hire a bike and cycle the few kilometres.
Thinking of travelling to Vietnam? Check out the average temperatures for when you plan to visit courtesy of BBC Weather
Tips & Advice
One of the benefits of travelling in an escorted tour is that you'll be in the safest hands when it comes to holidaying in foreign lands. However, to help you have an enjoyable holiday in Vietnam, take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
It is advisable to check with your GP prior to travelling to Vietnam to check whether you need any preventive medication or vaccinations. Health care is adequate for minor injuries but anything more severe may result in you being evacuated to a different country.
Before leaving the UK make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance in addition to access to more funding should you require it for the cost of treatment or repatriation. Most tours offer the chance to purchase one-trip travel insurance at the time of booking.
Ensure the back page of your passport is complete also.
Carry any prescribed medication in your hand-luggage with a copy of your prescription.
The FCO advise against it, but if you are eating food from side street vendors beware that food could be contaminated. There have been cases of avian flu (bird flu) and hand, foot and mouth disease in recent years so take necessary precautions to avoid this.
Should you need an ambulance whilst abroad dial 115 and inform your insurance company immediately if you are taken somewhere for treatment.
Vietnam is a poor country so take sensible precautions when in tourist areas as petty crime can occur. Protect all valuables where necessary and avoid wearing jewellery. Always carry a photocopy of your passport and keep the passport itself safe.
Several scams have been identified to trick tourists which have been associated with fake charities, taxis and gambling.
Local Laws and Customs
Drug offences can be extremely severe in Vietnam and if you are found to be possessing drugs you could face the death penalty. Avoid using drugs which have become increasingly available; they are much stronger that what is available in the UK and Europe.
Access to social media sites may be restricted as there are some restrictions on internet usage.
Never take photos near military bases or installations.
Always respect local customs and beliefs by dressing appropriately when visiting religious or cultural sites (for women this means covering legs and shoulders).
To enter Vietnam you will need a visa which you can get from the Vietnamese Embassy prior to travelling. Entry into Vietnam could be refused if your passport has only 1 month of validity left.
When you check in to hotels you will have to surrender your passport so your presence can be registered with the local police. Make sure it is returned to you. Some tour operators offer this service but may charge an administration fee. If unsure, check at the time of booking.
If you are entering Vietnam from a country associated with yellow fever you will need to have had the vaccination.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) will be accepted for entrance, transit and exit from Vietnam.
Any other nationality looking to visit Vietnam must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
Should you want to discover more about Vietnam, visit the tourist board at vietnamtourism.com.