Vietnam is a country in Asia that has a lot of variety to offer. The long coast gives you a lot of different beach spots (although there are not as nice as in Thailand or Cambodia!), national parks with green nature to explore, old cities with temples around, a lot to learn about the Vietnam war and the Mekong Delta with floating markets and hidden nature in South Vietnam.
- When to go: Between December and April (a lot of people say October and November is okay, too, but I still had a lot of rain and flooding at beginning of December), the other months is monsoon season – but rain can be all year around because of the rough coast
- Visa: Free for Germans for two weeks – if you want to visit longer you need to apply before
- Getting there: Flights with AirAsia are very cheap, bus from Cambodia (Phnom Phen to Ho Chi Minh City, $12) or train/bus from China to get to the north e.g. Sapa (nice mountains in the north) directly
- Public transport: in Vietnam you can organise everything with your hostel, book the bus or train tickets for cheap and get a free pick-up included (of course online booking is possible, too but it is a bit difficult to find the stations), but be careful on the bus with your belongings. And it is a very common thing that the bus just stops in a city (e.g. Hue or Nha Trang) and you have to change buses without knowing before at 6 a.m. in the morning! They say the next bus comes in 30 minutes but mostly you have to wait about two hours… and don’t trust the motorbike drivers around who say they bring you to the next bus but just drive you somewhere and want your money. But at least you have to do this night bus experience once – it is crazy how they squeeze in so many people (sleeping!) in one bus!
- Money: the Vietnamese are almost the worst in setting prices for tourists, sometimes I got a price offer with an eight-times-higher price than I actually paid in the end. So always try the best deal and bargain! Be prepared that there are different prices for Vietnamese and tourists!
WHERE TO GO – my tour in 15 days:
- Hanoi: 2 nights in Ga Hostel, beautiful busy capital with relaxing areas like the Hoan-Kiem-Lake with Jade Island and the turtle in the temple
- Halong Bay / Cat Ba Island: with different tours like 2 days/1 night or longer you can explore this beautiful bay with limestone rocks and caves, with transfer from Hanoi and kajaking, visit of a pearl farm and food included (about US $85 for 2 d/1 n e.g. with Lemon Cruise but always try to get lower price!), you can book at your hostel 1-2 days in advance and get a free shuttle included. Cat Ba should be even nicer for nature, rock climbing and hiking with a view on the bay. but I had not enough time for that.
- Hoi An: the MUST-SEE-DESTINATION of Vietnam, a little historical town with a cute old city, markets and colourful lanterns everywhere. A trip to My Son Temple 50km out of town is absolutely recommandable – in a half day trip for $6 (130.000 VND) + $8 entrance fee you can see this beautiful old temple of the cham culture
–> Best hostel in Vietnam in Hoi An: Golden River Hotel for $7 you get a comfortable double bed in a three-bed-dorm (no crowded dormitories, no bunk beds!) with breakfast and indoor pool and great location near the river
- Mui Ne: great beach spot, backpacker life and watersports! There are giant sand dunes in red and yellow around – sunset tour to the dunes, natural fairy stream and fishing village by jeep for $4 (100.000), the party hostel for all backpackers is Mui Ne Backpacker Village with $2 for moquito and $4 for a night!
- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): I went there by train from Phan Thiet station (red bus no. 9 for 18.000 VND from Mui Ne and 130.000 for train) which was a great experience. HCM is really busy and in my opinion only worth for the cu chi tunnel from the Vietnam War nearby and the good bus connections to Mekong Delta and Cambodia.
- Mekong Delta from HCM – Can Tho – Chau Doc (self-organized): Bus to Can Tho (100.000 VND) to see Mekong Delta area and do the floating markets tour the next morning (good price is 300.000, starts at 5 a.m. to lunch time), then take bus to Chau Doc – maybe you arrive early enough to catch the sunset from Sam Mountain. Next day take a motorbike to see Tra Su Forest (entrance about 80.000 VND), beautiful mangrove nature!
More places to go:
- Sapa: beautiful green hiking area in the north right next to the Chinese border
- Ninh Binh: nice stop on the way from Hanoi to Hue with Van Long and Tam Coc nature reserve, lots of pagodas and caves
- Hue: the city of the emporor with many historical buildings and temples from the Vietnamese dynasties
- Danang: third largest city with a nice beach if the weather is good – great connection to trains and buses to north and south and airport connection
- Dalat: famous nature and hiking destination with plantations everywhere in the Highlands
BEST THING ABOUT VIETNAM: The food and street markets
Crazy experience of Vietnam: Driving in the back of a motorcycle with my huge backpacker, watch the video here on my YouTube Channel!
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