Pristine beaches. Vibrant cities. Sweeping mountain vistas. Vietnam is an ideal spot to experience nature and culture, indigenous people and exotic cuisine. More than 1,600 kilometres from top to toe, Vietnam’s landscapes offer something for everyone. The biggest challenge is deciding where to visit first!
A guide to Vietnam: Dream destination for nature and culture
Where to go
Broad, tree-lined boulevards and French architecture have earned capital city Hanoi the nickname ‘Paris of the Orient’, and it remains a lively and charming place. The Old Quarter teams with restaurants and stores housed in charming old shop houses, with vendors selling everything imaginable—hill tribe costumes, sneakers, art, housewares, jewellery, clothing and more.
A two-hour drive east from Hanoi to the coast lands you at one of Asia’s natural wonders: Ha Long Bay. A World Heritage Site, the Bay comprises a cluster of more than 3,000 monolithic limestone islands rising dramatically from the ocean, several of which have giant caves ripe for exploration by intrepid travellers.
Midway between Hanoi and Ho Chin Minh is Hoi An, a UNESCO-listed town that served as a major trading port from the end of the 16th century. Now known in part for its abundance of affordable tailors, the city has become a favourite destination for travellers who appreciate its narrow backstreets and historic buildings in styles influenced by Japanese, French, Chinese and Vietnamese traders. At night, many streets are closed to cars and motorbikes, and the city springs to life with brightly coloured lanterns.
Venture another 300 kilometres south for some of the country’s softest sands and clearest waters in the Bay of Quy Nhon. Small, uninhabited islands are within kayaking distance from mainland shores, making it a perfect place for exploration and discovery.
Further south, Mui Ne also offers pristine and sweeping beach, plus access to charming village life as well as hiking trails that meander through rolling sand dunes.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City sits 700 miles south of Hanoi and is the commercial hub of Vietnam. This increasingly cosmopolitan city encapsulates the energy driving Vietnam forward and is an excellent launchpad for ventures to the coast.
When to go
Vietnam’s weather is diverse with frosts and occasional snow in the north and temperatures reaching 40 degrees in the south. Much of the country is hot and muggy from May to October, but the best time to visit depends on your destination and personal preferences. High seasons are from November to March and July to August, and travel prices spike over Christmas and New Year.
How to get there
Planes, trains and automobiles link all major cities, and taxi services are readily available to get you to out of the way destinations. Don’t be afraid to bargain for car service—a good haggler can lower the cost of a taxi fare considerably!
How to pay
In recent years, the exchange rate for Vietnamese dong (VND) has hovered steadily around VND 21,000 to USD 1. Many major hotels and high-end shops also accept US dollars.
Things to know
In Vietnam, touching someone’s head is frowned upon, as is passing anything over someone’s head or any touch of the shoulder. Public displays of affection are considered offensive. If invited to someone’s house, a gift of fruits, sweets, flowers or incense, preferably wrapped in colourful paper, will receive a warm welcome.
Where to stay
A short stroll from the bustle of the town, Club Escape at Anantara Hoi An Resort makes it easy to get in on the action, retreat and relax or experience local culture with a private boat tour through local fishing communities or Vietnamese cooking class.
Whether travelling for business or pleasure, Club Escape at AVANI Hai Phong Harbour View is the perfect base for taking meetings in Hanoi and excursions to Ha Long Bay.