Vietnam is a long, thin country in Southeast Asia. Its neighbouring countries Laos and Cambodia are neighbours of Thailand, putting all these countries on the list of a round trip around Southeast Asia. Vietnam wasn’t known as a tourist destination for a long time, but in recent years it’s getting much more popular with travellers.
For most of its history Vietnam was occupied by China and later colonised by France. Both the Chinese occupation and French colonisation have left a lasting impact on Vietnamese culture. After World War II and Japanese occupation, the country was divided into two – communists led North Vietnam with the capital Hanoi and US backed South Vietnam with the capital Saigon (current Ho Chi Minh City). Fighting between these two countries escalated into the Vietnam War (known as the American War in Vietnam) which ended with the conquest of South Vietnam after US armed forces failed to help them win the war. Since then Vietnam is united and ruled by communists.
Places to visit in Vietnam
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, located on the banks of the Red River in the northern region of the country. Vietnam’s second largest city is one of the most ancient capitals in the world, which is now rapidly developing. In Hanoi you can find a nice combination of Sino-Vietnamese and French influences as the city boasts spiritual ancient pagodas and well-preserved colonial buildings.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. The former capital of South Vietnam nowadays is the main economic centre of Vietnam. You can find a combination of old and new attractions in Ho Chi Minh City with well-preserved colonial buildings, various temples, and Vietnam War relics mixed with skyscrapers, shopping malls and other attributes of modern metropolis.
Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved traditional trading port in central Vietnam, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hoi An is known not only for its ancient buildings and streets but for hundreds clothing shops found in the town too. The ruins of My Son are nearby as well.
Hue is the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Located in central Vietnam, the ancient city of Hue was home of the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th Century. Hue is recognised as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site which is famous for its spectacular royal tombs of the emperors and for Hue Citadel which is Royal Palace of the Imperial City.
Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most famous beach resort town, offering a six-kilometre stretch of beautiful coastline with white sandy beaches. Nha Trang is livelier than other country’s beach destinations as there are plenty of sightseeing and recreational activities in the town and around it. The waters are clear with an abundance of marine life and thriving reefs, making Nha Trang the scuba diving centre of Vietnam.
Mui Ne is a nice resort area in southern Vietnam, about 200 km east of Ho Chi Minh City. The charm of a traditional fishing village and a long serene beach makes Mui Ne a very popular holiday destination. Nearby town of Phan Thiet has a beautiful beach too, making a choice of activities in the area even wider.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay, also known as the Bay of Descending Dragons, is a beautiful natural wonder, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in northern Vietnam, about 170 km east of Hanoi, Ha Long Bay is famous for its unearthly scenery which is created by 1,600 limestone islands and islets scattered in the bay.
My Son is a set of ruins featuring impressive ancient Hindu temples and various beautiful stone sculptures of ancient Champa civilization which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by tropical jungle, the ruins of My Son are located in central Vietnam, not far from historical town of Hoi An.
Mai Chau is a district and town in northern Vietnam, about 135 km from Hanoi. Mai Chau is famous for its verdant mountainous scenery as the town situated in a valley between tall cliffs and surrounded by rice paddies. Mai Chau attracts visitors with its tribal culture too as you can visit villages of minority groups here, Lac village White Thais and its stilt houses being the top choice.
Sapa is an incredibly picturesque town in northern Vietnam close to the Chinese border. This quiet town is located at 1500 meters above sea level in the Hoang Lien Son range of mountains, about 350 km northwest of Hanoi. Sapa is famous for its mountainous scenery with Vietnam's highest peak Fan Si Pan, rice terraces and many hill tribes.
Visa Free Stay
Visitors from specific countries do not require a visa for stays in Vietnam from 14 to 90 days, depending on the country. Citizens of Chile can stay in Vietnam with no visa up to 90 days; Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan – up to 30 days; Philippines – up to 21 days; Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom – up to 15 days; Brunei, Myanmar – up to 14 days.
All other nationalities require a visa in advance to visit Vietnam.
You can get a visa in advance at any of Vietnam’s embassies and consulates worldwide. If you want to get your Vietnamese tourist visa in Thailand, you should visit Vietnam Embassy in Bangkok which is located on Thanon Witthayu (Wireless Road). There’s also the Vietnamese Consulate in Khon Kaen.
At the embassy or consulate you can get a 30-day single-entry visa, 90-day single-entry visa or 90-day multiple-entry visa.
Citizens of 40 countries can apply for E-visa at Vietnam Immigration Department website. E-visa is valid for a single entry and a maximum stay of 30 days.
Visa on Arrival
Visa on Arrival is available only for travelling by air. Before arrival you need to obtain a letter of approval, which can be handled by on-line agencies for a charge, usually within three working days. After arriving at one of Vietnam’s international airports you need to show the letter, fill in an additional form, provide one passport photo and pay a visa fee (in cash and only USD or VND).
Visa on arrival is not valid for arrival to Vietnam at the land crossings.
Getting to Vietnam
From Thailand you can get to Vietnam by plane or by land via Cambodia.
Flights to Vietnam
Vietnam has three international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Direct flights are available from Thailand to all these airports.
Most international flights land at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh City which is the busiest airport in Vietnam. There are directs flights to Ho Chi Minh City from Bangkok and from Phuket.
From Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City you can fly directly with low cost airlines AirAsia, Jetstar, Vietjet Air, Nok Air as well as full service carriers Vietnam Airlines, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways. Phuket – Ho Chi Minh City route is served by Vietjet Air.
Another airport in Vietnam which is easy to reach from Thailand is Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi. Direct flights from Bangkok to Hanoi are offered by full service carriers Vietnam Airlines, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Qatar Airways and low cost carriers AirAsia, Vietjet Air, Thai Lion Air.
Da Nang International Airport (DAD) in central Vietnam also receives direct flights from Bangkok. Low cost carrier AirAsia serves this route as well as Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines.
Traveling to Vietnam Overland
The main border crossing which is usually used when traveling overland from Thailand to Vietnam via Cambodia is the Moc Bai/Bavet crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City - Phnom Penh road. From Thailand you need to take a bus to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh in Cambodia and then get a bus going to Vietnam. A bus between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City usually takes around 6 hours.
Weather in Vietnam
Vietnam is large and has three distinct climate zones.
Northern Vietnam has four seasons: chilly winter, pleasant spring (March-April), hot and wet summer, and nice autumn (October-December).
Monsoon arrives at Central Vietnam in September and lasts until February with strong winds and rain. Summers are usually hot and dry.
The weather pattern in Southern Vietnam is like in central and eastern Thailand as it also has three seasons: cool and dry season from December to February, hot and dry season from March to May and wet season from June to November. Cool season is the most pleasant time to visit Southern Vietnam.