Here are some handy tips for planning your visit to Vietnam, a wonderful country that I visited in December 2017.
- Vietnam international airports have a fairly smooth visa on arrival process. I applied for our visa on this website: https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/. The basic one-month visa application cost us USD 17 per person, as of December 2017. Upon successful processing (ours took 2 days), you should receive a Visa Approval Letter via email. You will need a printout of this letter, passport sized photos, a filled in arrival form NA1 and of course, your passport when you land. There will be an additional wait time at the airport for your application to be processed and a USD 25 stamping fee per person needs to be paid in cash.
- Stay in Hanoi was at the Flower Garden Hotel, 46 Nguyễn Trường Tộ. The room was very comfortable, fairly deluxe in amenities, courteous staff, fabulous breakfast spread and located close to the Old Quarters (walking distance of 15 – 20 minutes).
- All the major sights in Hanoi – such as Ba Dinh Square, Citadel and the Night market – are reachable on foot.
- Weather in Hanoi (at least around new year’s eve ’17) was dull with the occasional light shower and a nip in the air. A light jacket would be needed.
- Street food is available in road-side stalls pretty much everywhere, but one can also get similar fare in restaurants that are more tourist oriented (those will of course be a bit more expensive).
- Stay in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) was at the Aristo Hotel, 3A Vo Van Tan St District 3. A very comfortable hotel with the works, and a great breakfast spread.
- This hotel is within walking distance of all major sights such as the Independence palace, War Remnants museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and Post Office.
- In hindsight, there was no need for an organized city tour in Saigon because all the important landmarks were within walking distance of the hotel. Go for an organized tour if you would like a tour guide to explain the history of these sites.
- I didn’t see the Củ Chi tunnels near Saigon. For history buffs, these are a must see but as I had seen a number of war artifact-related places already, I gave it a miss.
- Weather in Saigon was much warmer than Hanoi and luckily bright and sunny.
- Saigon appears to be more “touristy” than Hanoi with a lot more options for global cuisine.
- USD can be exchanged easily for VND. Certain establishments also accept USD payments. Exchange rates seemed reasonable everywhere, and for small sized exchanges (less than a 100 USD) the variations only amount to a few cents.
- The Vietnamese script (written language), unlike other Asian languages, is Latin-based so you will see English like characters in it. That makes it fairly easy to read.
What they don’t tell you on travel websites:
- When travelling light, choose a traveller compadre who you know will never leave country without packing sunblock, moisturizers and perfumes. One can then scavenge on their kit. In the tropical heat of Asia, women’s perfumes and men’s colognes smell the same.
Read the full Vietnam travel diaries detailing all my adventures here: Vietnam Diaries Day 0 – Minor Panic
Picture taken with my Apple iPhone SE