Vietnam has surged in popularity since it opened its doors to tourism at the start of the 1990s and is now one of the leading destinations in Asia. One visit is never enough with such a range of attractions and many of our guests like to concentrate on the north or south, often linking together a trip to neighbouring Laos or Cambodia. Vietnam has everything to offer the visitor, from the colourful highland minorities of the north to some of the best beaches in the region in the south, not forgetting the natural wonder of Halong Bay, the charming architecture of Hoi An, the dazzling greens of the Mekong Delta, and, of course, two of the region’s most dynamic cities in the shape of Hanoi and Saigon. A visit to Vietnam is a visit to the best of Asia. 

Vietnam at a Glance

Area: 329,566 sq km
Population: 90 million
Local Time: GMT +7 hrs
Tourist Visa: US$30-60
Int. Tel. Code: +84
Capital: Hanoi
Language: Vietnamese
Money: Dong
Power: 220V, 50C
Departure Tax: US$14

Geography & Climate

Vietnam is an immensely long country, stretching for more than 2000km from top to bottom, bordered by China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west and the South China Sea to the south and east. Vietnam’s climate varies dramatically from one part of the country to the other and is governed by two monsoons. The winter monsoon comes from the north-east between October and March and brings wet chilly weather to everywhere north of Nha Trang but dry, warm weather to the south. From May to October, the south-west monsoon brings warm, wet weather to most of the country except the north. Between July and November, major typhoons can strike the coast between Nha Trang and Hanoi with serious consequences. Average daytime temperatures in Saigon range from 25C to 35C, while in Hanoi it ranges from as low as 10-20C to 30-35C depending on the season.

Population and People

Vietnam’s rapidly growing population is now about 90 million, making it the 13th most populous country in the world. 82% of the population is ethnic Vietnamese, while the remaining 18% is made up of sizeable Cham, Chinese and Khmer communities, as well as a large number of ethno-linguistic minorities such as Hmong, Jarai, Tai, Muong, Dao and Ede inhabiting the highlands of central and northern Vietnam.


Vietnamese is the national language in Vietnam. Chinese (urban areas), Khmer (Mekong Delta) and minority languages are also spoken in certain parts of the country. English is the first language among young students, while French is spoken by some of the older generation.


Vietnamese spiritual life has been influenced by four great religions or philosophies: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. With the passage of time, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have been mixed together to create Tam Giao or the Triple Religion, a sort of Vietnamese Buddhism. Catholicism came to Vietnam with the French and is now followed by about 10% of the population. There are also perhaps one million Muslims among the Cham and Khmer communities. Finally there is the syncretic religion of Caodaism, which blends all the religions above with philosophy and is popular in the south.

Health Precautions

No vaccinations are required to enter Vietnam. However, it is recommended that all visitors be inoculated against typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A and B. It is unwise to drink tap water. Prescription drugs are available in urban areas. Precautions against malaria, such as doxycycline or larium, are not necessary for major towns and cities, but are recommended when visiting remoter areas. Travellers should consult their doctor before leaving for Vietnam.


Vietnamese cuisine is well-known for its delicate flavours and huge variety of traditional regional dishes. Fish and seafood dishes are particularly popular thanks to the huge coastline. Chinese and other Asian cuisine is also common throughout Vietnam, as is a variety of western cuisine in tourist centres. Dining out is a highlight of any visit to Vietnam. With such a long coastline, seafood is abundant. Vietnam is famous for its coffee and is one of the world’s largest exporters. The Vietnamese like it strong and sweet with condensed milk. Beer is another popular drink and includes unpasteurized draft beer in Hanoi, probably the cheapest beer in the world.


All urban areas have minimum electricity, which is usually 220 volts, but can be 110 volts. Rather confusingly, sockets are never marked. Most plug sockets are French two-pin, but hotels can usually supply an adaptor on request.


Vietnam offers some pretty good shopping, but visitors must be prepared to bargain very hard to get a fair price. Some of the more popular items include lacquerware, ceramics, embroidery, silk and oil paintings, jewellery, leatherwork and the elegant local costume known as the Ao Dai. Vietnam is also famous for its burgeoning art scene. There are many ‘antiques’ on sale in tourist centres, but many of these are fake and the few real items might be confiscated by customs. Even for non-shoppers, Vietnamese markets offer a fascinating insight into daily life and culture.

International Flights

There are now three international gateways to Vietnam, Hanoi in the north, Danang in the centre and Saigon in the south. Airlines currently serving Vietnam include local carriers Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific, plus international carriers Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Silk Air, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Dragon Air, Lao Airlines, Air China, China South-west, China Yunnan Airlines, Eva Air, Korean Air, Air France, Lufthansa, Qantas, United and JAL. Direct flights to Vietnam are available from Bangkok, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Guangzhou, Kunming, Macau, Seoul, Taipei, Dubai, Melbourne, Sydney and Paris. 

Domestic Flights

There are extensive domestic services in Vietnam, linking the three principal cities with other regions of the country. The most popular regional airports are Hue, Nha Trang, Dalat and Phu Quoc.

Airport Taxes

US$14 for international flights. 50,000d for domestic flights, but this is usually included in the ticket price. 

Passports & Visas

Tourist visas allow visitors to enter and exit Vietnam at Hanoi, Saigon and Danang airports or at any of its land borders with Cambodia, China and Laos. You’ll need at least one passport-sized photograph to accompany the visa application. Tourist visas are valid for a single 30-day stay. Depending on where you acquire it, prices for single-entry tourist visas cost around US$30 to US$60. Hanuman can arrange a visa on arrival through our travel office in Vietnam. We will need passport details in advance and will send a confirmation for the visa to be issued at the airport of arrival. This is not currently possible at land border crossings.


The Dong is Vietnam’s official currency (US$1 = 19,000d), but US dollars are still widely accepted in hotels, although less so in restaurants, bars and shops. Most hotels accept international credit cards such as Visa and Master Card and travellers checks can be easily cashed. There is an extensive network of ATMs all over the country.

Festivals & Public Holidays

International New Year: January 1
Vietnamese New Year (TET): Late January or early February
Founding of the Communist Party: February 3
Liberation Day: April 30
International Workers’ Day: May 1
Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday: May 19
Visak Bochea (Buddha's Birthday): Late-May to mid-June
Summer Solstice Day: Late-June to mid-July
National Independence Day: September 2
Wandering Souls Day: Mid-September to mid-October
Mid-Autumn Festival: Mid-October to mid-November
Confucious’ Birthday: December
Christmas Day: December 25