Vietnam is full of surprises. While the iconic sights within the country may certainly be found – the intricate beauty of verdant rice paddies, pointed lampshade-style hats and the reminders of a landscape ravaged by war – there is so much more besides to explore. The country’s rich diversity makes luxury holidays to Vietnam particularly satisfying, taking in its natural beauty, ethnic cultures, imperial history, timeless traditional villages, idyllic sea resorts and dynamic cities.
Vietnam stretches along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. Within its borders you will find the lush Red River Delta and the highlands of the north, where magnificent scenery and colourful hill tribes compete for your attention. Further south there are the agricultural plains and floating markets of the Mekong Delta. Amongst all this lie towering mountains, dense forests and some of the most bizarre rock and cave formations in the world – all fringed by miles of white sandy beaches.
The impact of Japanese and Chinese trade, French occupation and American intervention has left a vivid legacy in the character of its towns, both in their architecture and the wide range of fantastic food available. The quaint town of Hoi An has perfectly preserved architectural influences of the Asian merchants from the north, whilst the broad leafy boulevards of the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are reminiscent of the French influence. Hué is the old imperial capital of Vietnam, replete with royal palaces and mausoleums, while the nearby battle sites of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) are reminders of more recent history.
The climate in Vietnam varies greatly. The north has a cool, dry season from November to April and a hot rainy season from May to October. The central coast north of Nha Trang adds into this mix a winter monsoon that delivers cool, wet weather between December and February.
The south is hot and humid all year round, especially from February to May, after which the rainy season lasts till November. Average monthly temperatures in Ho Chi Minh City remain over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) all year round. The central highlands share this southern climate but are markedly cooler, with freezing temperatures in winter.
Vietnamese is the official language but Chinese, English, French and numerous ethnic languages are also spoken.
All visitors will need a valid passport and must have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay and onward or return tickets. The nationals of many countries also require an entry visa. Nationals of Denmark, Finland and Sweden may visit without a visa for up to 15 days; the same applies to nationals of France, Germany, Italy and the UK, though this rule is set to change in 2017. Please check rules around visa requirements before you travel, as they may change regularly.
You will need a spare passport photograph on arrival in Vietnam for use on the immigration form. Make sure you retain the yellow portion of your immigration Arrival-Departure card as this is required for exit.
Travel in Vietnam is generally safe and violent crime is uncommon. Petty crime, however, is rife, so the usual precautions must be taken.
During the monsoon season (usually between June and October) the country is prone to serious flooding and typhoons (until December), particularly in the Mekong Delta and Central Region.
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