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This is a short guide to booking a holiday in Vietnam answering the most common questions and problems.
Most international flights arrive and depart daily from Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to as Saigon locally) and Hanoi. There is also an international airport on the central coast at Danang with about 2 international flights a week. There are now 2 direct flights to Hanoi, Vietnam from the UK - London Heathrow Airport; the two quickest one stop options are usually Cathay Pacific from London via Hong Kong or Singapore Airlines from Manchester or London, via Singapore. There are also several direct flights from Europe to Bangkok and numerous onward connections from there to Vietnam (now less interesting due to the necessity to change airport in Bangkok). From Italy the cheapest and best airline is Turkish, that will stop at bangkok for 2 hours. All airlines will usually allow you a stopover in the city they transit should you wish to break the journey. Alternatively you can access Vietnam from Laos or Cambodia should you be combining these destinations. Flights are frequent but many people enjoy traveling from Cambodia into southern Vietnam via the Mekong River, or overland from Laos into northern Vietnam. Be aware that taxi drivers at Ho Chi Minh airport are expert rip-off artists - read here http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29...
Visitors to HCMC should be aware of the major works which have just started in the main tourist areas of Dong Hoi St, Nguyen Hue St and Le Loi St in connection with the construction of the Metro system. Major demolition, felling of trees and kilometres of hoardings, make access to hotels, shops and attractions extremely difficult, and little concern is shown for safety or convenience of the public at large. Taxis are also restricted as to which areas they ca access. These works are projected to last around 4 years.
One issue to be aware of if you travel on Vietnam Airlines - it will share your e-mail with a company called Optiontown who, if you are flying economy will send you an e-mail offering you the opportunity to buy an upgrade to Business Class - typically seeking $120+ for an upgrade from say Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City. If you buy the upgrade you will discover at the airport that the key amenities on short haul that Business Class includes, for example the use of a business lounge are excluded - the Vietnam Airlines desk has a page with the small print from the Optiontown website highlighted which they show annoyed travellers. In short it is a scam that Vietnam Airlines has lent its name and your e-mail to (Business Class even with the lounge is a waste of money on any short trip anyway).
When to travel and which beach resort?
While the south (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta) is sub-tropical and generally enjoys the best weather from mid October through to April, the north (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa) can get fairly cool at this time and has a much less clearly delineated rainy season. The center of the country (Hoi An, Hue) tends to see the best weather between March and August and can experience floods later in October and November.
The main beach destinations are:
Phu Quoc Island is off the South Coast of Vietnam and is best for a magical and quiet beach escape, with fantastic beaches, great snorkeling and a peaceful laidback atmosphere on a large undeveloped island. It is accessed by a short flight from Saigon or a 2.5 hr boat service from Rach Gia (in the Mekong Delta region)
Phan Thiet/Mui Ne is still in the southern part of Vietnam about 8 hours drive North of Hoi Chi Minh City (Saigon). It is accessible only by a longish drive but is a good southern option with a small beach (windy and no sand during winter months), a good choice of restaurants and a wide range of hotels.
Nha Trang is actually a city and the main part of it is therefore the busiest of the beach resorts with bars and nightlife. Snorkeling and diving is good in the area and there are numerous boat trips available. Outside the city but not far away are way some quiet and lovely beach escapes. Nha Trang has good domestic flight connections, is on the coastal rail route and can also be accessed by road from Dalat.
Hoi An combines the best of Vietnam – the old world Asian charm of Hoi An town, the Cham ruins and peaceful rural life around, with miles of wide sandy beaches and some excellent hotels. The town itself is a charming place and there are numerous great restaurants and little shops along the town’s river. The town lies about 5 miles from the beach, whether you stay in the town or at the beach it’s very easy to shuttle between the two. Danang is very close to Hoi An and has an airport and railway station on the coastal “Reunification Express” route. There are numerous domestic flights as well as twice weekly international flights to Singapore and Siem Reap.
As a rough guide the best time to visit Phu Quoc and Mui Ne is mid October to April and the best time to visit the central region Nha Trang and Hoi An is January through to August. The best prices on hotels throughout the country are generally found from 1st May to October 31st.
Vietnam is much more than a beach destination so try not to rule out a tour of the country at any time of year as the weather can be vastly different from one end to the other. While the south is sub-tropical and generally enjoys the best weather from mid October through to April, the north can get fairly cool at this time and has a much less early delineated rainy season. The center of the country tends to see thebest weather between March and August(but it 's funny contradiction this is lowest season of euroupean tourists because too hot ,hotest is july ,August ,sometime temperater reach more 40 c degrees,since late june to first September is also school holiday,This time a busy national tourists whoses come both sides of country ,seemly all travel services foreigner quite cheap such as Hotel,Restaurant,touring ,,,etc)and can experience floods later in October and November.
The weather is quite difficult to predict or guarantee in Vietnam but if you do want a beach holiday or at least partly a beach holiday, think about the south during the UK winter and the center during the UK spring and summer.
Travel within Vietnam :
Air travel is essential to Vietnam as the distances are so huge and therefore internal flights are quick easy and straightforward. Another great option is train travel. It’s a great way to see the country and meet the people too and many of the journeys are overnight. The Directorate for Roads of Vietnam has announced plans to issue international driving permits to local residents and recognize licenses held by foreign drivers staring in 2015. A great option is to hire a bike driver/guide - again a fantastic way of getting under the skin of this fantastic country. Do not use night buses.