Vietnam's colour, chaos and natural beauty bring a new adventure every day. Feel your senses come alive as you walk Hanoi's crazy streets, visit the other-worldly villages of Sapa and sail on majestic Halong Bay. Vietnam's food, people, sights and history keep even the most seasoned traveller coming back for more.
Vietnam Tours & Travel
All our Vietnam trips
Articles on Vietnam
Mot, hai, ba… beer in Vietnam
Posted on Fri, 18 Apr 2014 by Tracey Lister
“Half past eight in the evening and it is closing time in the large Bia Hoi behind Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, which locals know by its address, 19A Ngoc Ha, [...]Read more
Early lessons of life in Indochina
Posted on Fri, 03 Jan 2014 by Margie Warrell
“How did people build a temple as big as Angkor Wat 1,000 years ago before machines?” “Why does $1USD buy so much of the local money?” “Why were Americans fighting [...]Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Vietnam, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in Vietnam you may find yourself staying in a:
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Hanoi (population 3 million)
- 90.5 million
- Time zone:
- (GMT+07:00) Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta
- Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type C (European 2-pin)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit Vietnam
Generally, there's no 'best' time for travelling in Vietnam as the seasons are a little vague and vary considerably from north to south, and within regions.
In the south, the dry season generally runs from December to June with March to May being particularly hot and humid. Temperatures usually range from 27°C to 36°C during this time. The wet season brings short and heavy rain showers from July to November, with temperatures averaging between 22°C and 27°C.
Unlike the South, the northern regions of Vietnam have four seasons. Winter is from December to February - it can be extremely cold in Hanoi and the mountainous regions, with overnight temperatures of 4°C and daytime highs between 10°C and 20°C. Summer is June to August - expect hot and humid conditions at this time, with temperatures averaging between 27°C to 30°C and high humidity.
Culture and customs
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Quick to prepare and simple to make, the cuisine of Vietnam relies on fresh produce, fragrant herbs and (quite often) lots of chilli.
Things to try in Vietnam
Gaining international popularity, a steaming bowl of flavoursome pho is one of Vietnam's most celebrated dishes. This noodle soup usually features clear noodles in a broth with beef or chicken and some vegetables and herbs.
2. Banh Xeo
This delicious crepe-like savoury pancake is often served with seafood or pork, onions, oil, lettuce and other condiments.
3. Banh Mi
The French influence in the region is obvious when considering the popularity of the fresh baguette in Vietnam. Take crusty bread and stuff it with pork or ham, coriander, salad and pickled condiments and you've got a favourite lunch or breakfast treat for locals and travellers alike.
4. Fresh Fruit
When in Vietnam, take the opportunity to try exotic fruits not widely available elsewhere in the world. Rambutan, persimmon, mangosteen, dragon fruit, jackfruit and durian are all delicious snacks that can be bought cheaply from markets and roadside stalls.
Geography and environment
History and government
The land now known as Vietnam has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Archaeological finds suggest that structured societies were in existence from as early as the 1st millennium BC. Early society was mostly feudal and agriculture-based, with various dynasties overseeing different parts of Vietnam until the Chinese invasion of 111 BC, which saw the societies of Vietnam and China become intertwined. Various Chinese dynasties dominated the area for hundreds of years, although revolts finally led to Vietnam gaining self-autonomy in 905. By 938, this period of Chinese imperial domination came to a close and Vietnam entered into an age of independence.
During the 19th century, Vietnam came under the influence of French colonisers, who assumed control of Vietnam after the Sino-French War of 1884 and 1885. French Indochina was formed in 1887, and included parts of Vietnam, Cambodia and, later on, Laos. Although the French managed to suppress internal movements towards independence for many years, their control was finally relinquished in 1954 when Vietnamese forces overcame the French during the first Indochina War. Following this war, Vietnam was divided, with separate forces ruling the north (led by Ho Chi Minh) and the south (led by Ngo Dinh Diem, with support from the United States).
The second Indochina War created wide-scale devastation and turmoil for the people of Vietnam, leading to mass migration to other parts of the world as asylum seekers tried to escape the conflict that ravaged their homeland. By the 1980s Vietnam's economy had all but collapsed, leading to further waves of migration out of Vietnam. More recently, Vietnam has benefited from the free market economy that was set up in 1986. Vietnam's economy continues to expand, with agriculture and industry providing the backbone, and the tourism sector also contributing. Although many Vietnamese people live below the poverty line, there have been widespread improvements in literacy and health which hopefully will continue to improve in the years to come.
Top 10 Iconic Landscapes of Vietnam
1. Halong Bay
There's nothing quite like Halong Bay first thing in the morning. As the mists clear, hundreds of huge karst towers appear, looming high above the boat. In the soft morning light it's like waking up in a watercolour painting of a mythical land.
Motorbikes piled high with people, produce and even animals zip through the streets. It's crazy, haphazard and somehow it works. The best way to take it all in is from a rooftop cafe. Order an extra strong coffee and watch the chaos unfold below.
3. Mekong Delta
This massive area of floating markets, emerald rice paddies and lush islands is home to some of the friendliest people on earth. Take a boat trip to one of the sleepy islands to get a front row view of life on the Delta, and meet the people who call it home.
Head to the hills and see the colourful villages of Vietnam's minority groups - the Zay, and the Blue and Black H'mong. The area is remote so the best way to experience it is on an overnight trek, spending the night as a guest of a local family.
5. Qui Nhon
Quaint Qui Nhon is a sleepy beach town off the main tourist trail. It's worth coming here just for the drive. The road hugs granite cliffs that plunge into the South China Sea, and islands, lagoons and sand dunes slowly give way to sugar plantations and rice fields.
Jam-packed with imperial sites, Hue is one for the history buffs. Explore the Citadel with its ruined Forbidden Purple City before embracing your inner emperor and taking a dragonboat cruise down the Perfume River.
7. Hoi An
This shoppers' paradise is home to more boot makers, tailors and handicraft than you could visit in a lifetime. While you wait for your suit to be made, hire a bicycle and explore the Old Town - the streets are blissfully car free.
8. Ho Chi Minh City
Still known as Saigon to most, HCMC is a city on the go. It's fast-paced, exciting and full of amazing sites. Temples and markets collide with churches and skyscrapers for a heady mix of traditional, colonial and modern.
9. Mai Chau
Mai Chau feels a million miles away from the bustle of Hanoi. Misty mountains and emerald rice paddies contribute to the air of peacefulness. Be sure to look out for the traditional fabrics woven by the White Thais that call this area home.
It's spring all year round in Vietnam's 'honeymoon capital'. Soak up the French-inspired atmosphere, spot the quirky local artists and explore the surrounding lakes, waterfalls and forests. C'est fantastique!
Vietnam has a nice mix of interesting markets and small shops, with handicrafts, art and clothing among the best picks.
It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in Vietnam
1. Tailored Clothing
Hoi An is one of the best places in the world to get tailor-made clothing at a great price. Find a tailor, choose your fabric, get measured and return later to collect your custom-made fashion.
2. Hilltribe Handicrafts
Some of Vietnam's hilltribe people make excellent woven bags, clothing and jewellery which make meaningful souvenirs for friends back home.
As one of the world's largest coffee exporters, Vietnamese coffee is among the world's best. If you’re a coffee fan, why not take a little taste of Vietnam home with you.
The time consuming, intensive process of creating Vietnamese lacquer art results in a beautiful, smooth and polished finish that adorns everything from bowls to paintings and jewellery boxes. While not the cheapest of souvenirs, authentic lacquer art is worth spending a bit more on.
Festivals and Events in Vietnam
Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year)
As the most important date in the Vietnamese calendar, Tet is a time of traditional ceremonies, special foods and paying respects to ancestors (which lasts for 3 to 7 days). Visitors will be able to see streets, shops and homes decorated with trees, fruit, paper flowers, calligraphy and lanterns.
Tet Trung Thu
Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, this popular festival belongs to the children of Vietnam, but is still fun for adults too. With ancient-roots and rich in myth and legend, travellers will delight in seeing kids performing lion dances and participating in street processions.
FAQs on Vietnam
Local-style coffee at a cafe = 15,000 VND
Bowl of pho from street stall = 20,000-30,000 VND
Dinner at a simple restaurant = 70,000-100,000 VND
Dinner at a up-market restaurant = 200,000+ VND
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Feb 9 Tet (Lunar New Year)
Apr 19 Gio to Hung Vuong Day
Apr 30 Liberation of Saigon
May 1 May Day
Sep 2 National Day
Many Vietnamese holidays are timed according to the lunar calendar so are celebrated on different dates each year, therefore the dates above are an estimate only. The above dates are for 2013. In addition to the above holidays, there are also many other holidays celebrated regionally throughout Vietnam.
For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/vietnam/public-holidays
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
When obtaining your visa you should allow 3 weeks for processing, the cost is approximately US$60 to US$100. Check with your embassy or consulate for further details. Some nationalities are exempt from requiring a visa if their stay is less than 15 days, but if you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance.
Keep the customs and immigration form you receive on arrival, as you need it to complete exit formalities on departure.
If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: Intrepid Vietnam 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu St, Hanoi, Vietnam Ph +84 4 3715 0996. VIETNAM:
Australien: Ja – im Voraus
Belgien: Ja – im Voraus
Kanada: Ja – im Voraus
Deutschland: Ja – im Voraus
Irland: Ja – im Voraus
Niederlande: Ja – im Voraus
Neuseeland: Ja – im Voraus
Südafrika: Ja – im Voraus
Schweiz: Ja – im Voraus
Großbritannien: Ja – im Voraus
USA: Ja – im Voraus
Bei Beantragung Ihres Visas sollten Sie für die Bearbeitung drei Wochen einplanen. Kosten bewegen sich zwischen USD60 und USD100. Weitere Informationen erhalten Sie bei Ihrer Botschaft oder Ihrem Konsulat. Besitzer einiger Staatsangehörigkeiten benötigen bei einem Aufenthalt von weniger als 15 Tagen kein Visum. Sollten Sie sich aber länger als 15 Tage in Vietnam aufhalten, müssen Sie eine Visa Verlängerung im Voraus beantragen und erhalten.
Behalten Sie das Zoll- und Einreiseformular, welches Ihnen bei Einreise ausgehändigt wird, da Sie es für die Ausreiseformalitäten benötigen.
Falls Sie bei Beantragung Ihres Visums eine Kontaktperson angeben müssen, so geben Sie bitte folgendes an: Intrepid Vietnam 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu St, Vietnam, Telefon +84 4 3715 0996.
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Vietnam Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Vietnam
1. Be considerate of Vietnam’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.
3. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.
4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
5. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
6. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
7. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
8. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
The Intrepid Foundation
The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.
In Vietnam, The Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:
Cuc Phuong Conservation Projects
The Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Centre works to protect the many species of endangered turtle that live within the Cuc Phuong National Park. Breeding programs, research and habitat conservation all help to reverse the population decline of turtles that are endemic to this region.
Image supplied by The Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Centre.
Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
This organisation supports some of the most vulnerable children in Vietnam. Homeless, disabled and poverty stricken kids are greatly assisted by the health, education and social development programs run by this worthy organisation.
Image supplied by Blue Dragon Children's Foundation.
Children's Hope in Action
Caring for some of Vietnam's neediest children, this grassroots organisation provides life-saving medical treatment, therapy programs and education opportunities to families without means.
Image supplied by Children's Hope in Action.
KOTO Saigon Training Centre
This not-for-profit restaurant and vocational training program changes the lives of disadvantaged youth in Vietnam. Providing hospitality training, English language education and life skills, the KOTO cafe not only serves up great food, but also changes people's lives in the process.
Image supplied by KOTO.
To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org
|Catfish and Mandala||Andrew X Pham|
|The Quiet American||Graham Greene|
|Peace is Every Step||Thich Nhat Hanh|
|The Girl in the Picture||Denise Chong|
|The Sorrow of War||Bao Ninh|