Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Population: 90.5 million
Capital City: Hanoi (7 million)
People: 53 ethnic minorities
Currency: Vietnam Dong (VND)
Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
International Dialing Code: +84
Vietnam is a small yet majestic country, offering travellers an exciting mix of adventure and culture. The country’s captivating natural wonders span from the mountainous north and the fertile plains of the Mekong Delta, to the spectacular coastline of central Vietnam and the magnificent Halong Bay. With an intriguing history spanning back over 4,000 years, including occupations from both the Chinese and French, the country’s architecture and cuisine is a fascinating testament to cultural diversity.
There is not really a right or wrong time to visit Vietnam, as during most months of the year you will experience both sunshine and rain in varying quantities. Welcome to a country with 2000 + miles of coastline and three different weather systems.
Whilst Vietnam is typically warm and humid, the weather can vary significantly from one region to another due to the countries length. At times there has been snow (yes white snow!) in the mountainous far north whilst the beaches in the south enjoyed 32 °C and sunshine.
It pays to imagine the country as three separate destinations when researching weather for your intended visit and the following information will hopefully help you unravel the complexities.
Mountainous Far North
Sapa, Ha Giang, Bac Ha
The climate in Sapa and Vietnam’s far north-west is divided into two seasons: the dry season runs from October to late March with the wet season lasting from April to September. It can get very cold in December and January, especially at night.
The best months to travel in the North East (Ha Giang) are during the dry season, from October to April, although December and January can get very cold. We recommend avoiding travelling in Ha Giang during the rainy season (May to September).
Trekking and adventure:
The best trekking conditions in Sapa and the North West are from September to November and from March to May. Daytime temperatures range from 15-28°C, and night-time temperatures from 10-18°C. Trekking and cycling are possible year round, however the wintertime can be rather chilly, and the summer rather wet. In Sapa and region rice is planted in May so for the best green rice field June and July are recommended. After this period the rice fields turn golden yellow and harvesting start at the end of August and September.
Hoi An, Danang, Hue, Quy Nhon & Nha Trang
Hoi An, Hue & Danang in the centre of Vietnam have hot and dry weather from mid-January to late August, with temperatures often reaching the mid-30's °C. During the winter months the rainfall increases with October and November achieving peak levels, occasionally in the form of typhoons.
Hue is often cooler than Hoi An, especially early in the year. In addition, with each sitting on opposite sides of a small mountain range the weather can often differ between the two greatly on any given day.
Quy Nhon is a six hour drive south of Hoi An and shares a similar weather pattern although the dry season is slightly longer due to its proximity to the southern system.
At the far south of Central Vietnam, Nha Trang benefits from a longer dry season (typically January to September), with high temperatures and little rain. The rainy season runs from October to early December with almost half the annual rainfall falling in October and November.
Hanoi, Halong Bay, Cuc Phuong, Mai Chau & Ninh Binh
Hanoi and North Vietnam has a distinct winter and summer season. The cool but mostly dry winter lasts from November to April when temperatures average 17- 22°C with the coldest months being January - March.
Summer lasts from May to October when it is hot and humid and the region experiences its highest rainfall. July to September is often the wettest months of the year. During these months severe weather can prevent junks sailing in Halong Bay although such weather is rare.
Ho Chi Minh City, The Mekong Delta, Dalat & Phu Quoc
With temperatures remaining constant year round the climate of the south is split into two simple seasons, wet and dry. The dry season begins in November and ends in April/early May with late February to May being slightly hotter and with higher humidity. The wet season lasts from May to early November with the months from June to August receiving the highest rainfall of the year. Throughout much of the wet season rainfall is generally heavy but short lasting, often occurring in a mid-afternoon heavy downpour.
The average temperatures in the south, range in between 25°C to 35°C year round. In the far south, the beaches of Phu Quoc enjoy a monsoon climate with two seasons; wet (late-July to late October) and dry (November to July). Visits to Phu Quoc can be made year-round although the best time is during the dry season (outside of October the chances of sunny days remain high).
Dalat is wet from June to October making outdoor pursuits problematic. From November to May it is far dryer although cold in December & January.
Passport and visa
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. A visa on arrival can only be obtained with a letter of approval. Get Up & Go Vietnam can arrange this easily for you hrough an easy to use online application system - http://getupandgovietnam.com/visa-on-arrival.
The official currency in Vietnam is the Dong (VND) which is a non-convertible currency. American dollars are widely accepted in larger stores and supermarkets. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in many hotels, restaurants and large stores, especially in the bigger cities. ATMs are widely available throughout the country, and there are a number of international banks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Phones & Internet service
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. For example, 200,000VND worth of Viettel credit ($10) can last for up to 45 minutes to the UK.
Internet access is available in all major hotels and you will find WiFi in most cafes in developed areas.
Traffic & Transportation
The traffic in Vietnam is busy, but slow. It may look like chaos but don’t be frightened to cross the road. Simply make your way shaking your whole hand at waist height. You’ll soon see other people doing the same.
Taxis are a popular way of getting around Hanoi but make sure you use a reputable company such as Taxigroup and Mai Linh taxis. A typical 10-minute journey should cost around 50,000 VND but prices tend to increase at night.
If you are in a developed area, a cyclo is a fun form of transport and should cost no more than 100,000 VND per journey.
Motorbike taxis: Travel by motorbike is not safe and under no circumstances is this sanctioned or recommended by Get Up & Go Vietnam. Please note that this form of transport is not usually covered by insurance. Please check the fine print of your travel insurance policy to be sure of your cover.
Vietnam has a diverse climate that varies significantly from region to region:
The North (Hanoi to Sapa)
The Centre (Hue to Nha Trang)
The South (Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet)
Please note: The weather can be very unpredictable so it may be a good idea to carry an umbrella or raincoat with you. You can purchase these from supermarkets and general stores.
Health and Safety
Health and well-being
Please be aware that your health can be at risk in Vietnam due to poor sanitation and lack of effective medical facilities. Rural areas may not have pharmacies and hospitals so make sure you travel with a full supply of any prescribed medicine you take. If you need medical assistance, we suggest The Family Medical Practice in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Every traveller is responsible for his or her own health.
First and foremost, make sure that you have travel insurance for your trip. You should also consult your doctor or local travel clinic for the latest information and advice on travelling to Vietnam before departure.
If you have a medical condition or allergy of which requires particular attention, carry a doctor’s letter with you that describes the nature of the condition and treatment needed. We also recommend you pack a medical kit, including Paracetamol and a diarrhea remedy.
Before travelling, please ensure you have adequate protection against disease. Contact your doctor for the latest medical advice on the vaccinations you need, no less than two months before your departure. Be aware that there is a malaria risk in rural parts of Vietnam.
Travel insurance (recommended)
Get Up & Go Vietnam does everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. However, travel inevitably involves some unavoidable risk. Travel insurance is a cost effective way of protecting yourself and your equipment should any problems occur such as cancelled trips, delays, medical emergencies, baggage loss or damage. Please also make sure your travel insurance covers all activities planned on your trip so you can enjoy peace of mind during your journey.
Culture & Customs
Etiquette and cultural differences
Experiencing different cultures is one of the joys of travelling, and it is important that these differences are respected. Knowing a few important customs of the Vietnamese people will help make your visit more enjoyable:
Vietnamese food is fragrant, exciting and healthy. Around the country, you will find a delicious variety on offer, influenced from France, Thailand and even India.
The most popular dish is called “pho” and is often referred to as the "soul of the nation". Simpy put, it’s a noodle soup dish eaten every day, predominantly for breakfast. It is served in most Vietnamese restaurants and street food vendors. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, which is often the best food in the country. There are plenty of options, including:
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Vietnam. Bottled water is cheap and widely available.
TET Travel Recommendation: Get Up & Go Vietnam discourages travel over the TET period. Transport is often booked or expensive. Lots of places are closed including restaurants, shops and key tourist sites.
Donations and gift giving
Although there is poverty in certain areas of Vietnam, please read the following points about donations and gift giving.
Tipping is a personal matter and travellers are encouraged to tip any amount they feel is appropriate. For your convenience, we have included a suggested tipping guide below:
Things are generally cheap in Vietnam. Here is a rough guide of how much things cost in main cities. Bear in mind that outside of the cities, things will be much cheaper.|
Food, drinks & other items
Please note: Domestic airlines do impose restrictions on baggage at approx 20kg maximum, so travel lightly where possible. Train cabins around the country, and boat cabins in Halong Bay have limited space so consider this when packing.