Population: 90.5 million
Capital City: Hanoi (6.5 million)
People: 53 ethnic minorities
Currency: Vietnam Dong (VND)
Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
International Dialing Code: +84
Passports should be valid for six months from the date of entry into Vietnam. We recommend you make a photocopy of your passport and keep it somewhere separate, or scan it and keep it in an accessible email account.
Visitors must have a visa before entering Vietnam, and a visa on arrival can only be obtained with a letter of approval. A visa on arrival is granted to many nationalities for stays 15 days or less. Buffalo Tours can arrange this for you. Otherwise, you must apply online or at the embassy for all 30-90 day single or multiple entry visas.
The Vietnamese postal service is reliable and there are also courier services widely available. Do not put postcards into letter boxes; give them to your hotel to post or go to a post office.
Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available, however they aren’t cheap. A Vietnamese SIM card is a less expensive way of calling other countries. However, your phone will need to be unlocked in order for it to work. 200,000VND ($10) worth of phone credit can last for up to 45 minutes to the UK.
Internet access is available in all major hotels and WiFi can be found in most cafes in developed areas.
Vietnam’s vast and lengthy terrain has a diverse regional climate, making it difficult to specify a ‘perfect’ time to visit. Instead, it provides good flexibility for any itinerary.
In the north of Vietnam, from April to October, temperatures can reach up to 38°C with occasional bursts of heavy rain from July onwards during the rainy season. Winter is from December to March. The weather is damp and overcast and temperatures drop as low as 10°C, so be sure to pack a sweater! The best time to visit sights of the North such as Sapa and Hanoi is between September through December.
Generally sunny year round, the climate in the central region is more consistent. Visiting Hue, Hoi An or Da Nang can be lovely any time of year. However, be wary of autumn as cooler temperatures do usher in from September till December, and occasional typhoons bring heavy rains.
In the south, it is generally hot year round, with the dry season running from December to June. The wet season lasts from July to November and is hot and humid with short, heavy bouts of rain. The ideal season to see Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta is from December until March when temperatures are more mild. Vietnam’s weather can be unpredictable, so it may be a good idea to carry an umbrella or raincoat with you. You can purchase these from most supermarkets and general stores.
The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet, is the most important time of the year in Vietnam. To celebrate, most Vietnamese return to their hometowns to visit relatives, exchange gifts and li xi, or “lucky money”, take part in family feasts and hold traditional ceremonies. For visitors, the lead up to Tet is a visual collage of vibrant traditions, exotic foods and festive markets. Locals flock to banh chung stalls for cakes made of glutinous rice, pork, fermented bean paste rolled with banana leaf. Street markets overflow with elegant lanterns and calligraphy. Brave motorcyclists can also been seen balancing pots of bright peach blossoms or ornamental kumquat trees as they zip through the traffic. Tet generally lasts three days, taking place at the end of January or the beginning of February, and usually coincides with a public holiday. Buffalo Tours can advise you on how this may affect your travel plans in Vietnam.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is another exciting and bustling time to visit Vietnam. Generally considered a festival for Vietnam’s children, it also has ties to ancient myths and legends. Large swathes of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and popular areas in big cities throughout the country, become closed to traffic and are, instead, dedicated to lion dancing and night markets selling decorative masks and toys. Delicious moon cakes are sold in sweet and savoury varieties that can take up to 3 months to make. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on different dates every year in September.
Other important holidays include:
Liberation of Saigon: 30 April
International Worker’s Day: 1 May
Hung King’s memorial day: 10 March (lunar calendar)
Vietnamese National Day: 2 September