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With its long coastline, lush forested hinterland and world heritage sites, it's not hard to see why Vietnam is one of the fastest growing destinations in the Asian tourism market.


All About Vietnam

Vietnam is an exotic country that's easy on the traveller with accessible World Heritage sites, stunning scenery, value-for-money accommodation and fine dining experiences.


For many travellers, Vietnam is picture book perfect. Limestone Karsts rise up from the waters of Halong Bay and the rice paddies of Ninh Binh. In the northern highlands, the different minority ethnic groups are recognisable by their colourful clothing and unique crafts.  While in the cities there are ancient temples, age-old street vendors and of course that eclectic swarm of scooters.


But Vietnam doesn't have to be a country viewed at arm's length. While Vietnam offers excellent hotel services at all budget levels as well as well-organised group tours, there are also a substantial number of locally run guesthouses, guides and activities, allowing visitors an opportunity to truly get to know the locals. 

Travelling 'off-the-beaten-track' in Vietnam is somewhat harder as there are few 'hidden secrets' given the sheer number of tourists (particularly domestic tourists). But even in the most well-tramped tourist spots there are ways of avoiding the hordes and finding a quiet connection to culture and the serenity of the stunning environment.


From 111BC to 923AD, Vietnam was part of Imperial China. After re-gaining independence, it reverted to successive royal dynasties until colonised by the French in the 19th Century. Nationalist movements continued to oppose foreign rule, eventually culminating in the expulsion of the French in 1954.  


However, independence did not bring unification.  The Communist North was politically divided from the Western-backed South. in 1965, the United States sent in troops against the North Vietnamese. After 10 years, and under intense anti-war outcry at home, the United States withdrew, resulting in the Fall of Saigon and the communist takeover of the South.  


Estimates of the death toll from the US-Vietnam war vary wildly from 800,000 to 3 million, many of them civilians.  In Vietnam, hardship continued after the war. Farms were nationalised and hundreds of thousands of individuals - particularly the South Vietnamese middle class and intellectuals - were executed, sent to re-education and labour camps, or fled the country. Additionally, many civilians continue to be affected by the unexploded ordnances and chemicals dropped on their country by the U.S. 


Today, Vietnam is a single-party communist state, meaning only organisations affiliated with the Communist Party can contest elections. Since the 1980s, Vietnam has instigated the Doi Moi "Renovation", a series of free-market reforms and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the world. Currently, Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world going from one of the poorest nations to a middle-income nation in a generation and hopes to continue its upward progress to become a high-income country by 2045. With this wealth has followed a corresponding uptick in living standards with access to healthcare, clean water and infrastructure services such as electricity improving dramatically. In turn, life expectancy has risen and infant mortality has fallen significantly. 


Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina peninsula. Most of Vietnam's 3000km coastline faces the South-China Sea, while its inland borders are with China, Laos and Cambodia.  Forests and mountains cover 80% of the country with the Red River Delta and Mekong Delta each supporting large populations and agriculture. 


Vietnam is the world's second-largest rice producer after Thailand. However, the country has successfully diversified its economy away from agriculture to manufacturing, oil production and the services industries, including tourism. While the country's economic growth has resulted in environmental degradation as well as facing global issues like climate change and automation, Vietnam is working towards being carbon-neutral by 2050.


Vietnam has a high level of biodiversity with 16% of the world's species found there. The country has two World Natural Heritage sites: Ha Long Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang as well as a number of national parks. Although these areas may be protected from development, the fragility of the natural heritage against a booming tourism industry is a growing cause for concern.



Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in Vietnam.  In 2016, 10 million international tourists visited Vietnam (1). This is up 26% on the previous year (1), and 3 times the number of 10 years ago. Re-establishing relations with the US has certainly increased the flow of western tourists. However, the country is also a popular place for tourists from other parts of Asia. Chinese and Korean tourists accounted for half of Vietnam's total international visitor numbers in 2016. There is an increasingly strong domestic travel market amongst Vietnam's growing middle class.


Much of Vietnam's tourism revolves around visits to natural and man-made World Heritage sites. Managing and preserving these sites in the face of exponential tourist numbers is critical to sustainability. A number of these sites are located in, or within a day trip of, a major city meaning tourists can be largely accommodated off-site. Other areas such as Sapa and Mekong have, in part, coped with the influx of tourists by accommodating them in locally run guesthouses, making that part of the experience and benefiting the local community directly.  


However, the top visitor site,  the World Natural Heritage site of Ha Long Bay, is proving more difficult to manage sustainably. Although visits to Ha Long Bay require accessing an overnight boat tour, millions of tourists still visit the site each year.  The high number of diesel-fuelled boats with poor waste management has put substantial stress on the site.  So far, the government's efforts have been in improving access to the landing site and removing local fishermen, rather than spearheading a collaborative effort with tour operators to preserve the integrity of the region. But it isn't all bad news. There are an increasing number of individual operators providing sustainable options in Halong Bay, as well as the nearby (and just as beautiful) Cat Ba National Park and Bai Tu Long Bay. 



Vietnam is affected by conflicting climates. Central Vietnam (Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang) feels the weight of the South Asian Monsoon season from September - February with the potential for Typhoons from August - December.  The South and Central Highlands experience their heaviest rainfalls during May - October. The Northern winter (December - March) can get very cold with potential snow in the inland Highlands.  The best times to visit are March and April which has fine weather and festivals.  September, just before harvest, is a popular time to visit the rice terraces of the northern highlands and Ninh Binh to view them in their sublime, instagramable green.


Vietnam has several international airports, all within close proximity of major tourism centres. The main airports are Hanoi (Noi Bai), Ho Chi Minh City (Tan Son Nhat) and Da Nang.  


Getting around Vietnam is easy.  The country has a comprehensive domestic airline, rail and road transport network. Sleeper trains are a popular option for long-distance travel - they are basic but comfortable. Bus transport is best avoided at night due to high accident rates on Vietnam's roads.  Self-drive, motorcycle and biking holidays are considered better along the inland routes where it is more scenic and there is less frantic traffic.  Since 2016, the Hanoi - Sapa highway has been improved making a morning bus from Hanoi a faster and more convenient option than an overnight train (which arrives at 5am and requires a further bus transfer).  

Vietnam is notorious for tourist scams. Travel agencies can be found all over tourist zones but not all are legitimate. Seemingly reputable shopfronts and websites will sell fake transport tickets and tours.  Although they have correct product information and branding, they are not authorised resellers and your tickets will NOT be honoured.  Fake agencies will also use the names of legitimate agencies and it is difficult to tell them apart.  To avoid being scammed, it is best to buy direct from the operator than an 'agent'. 

History & Culture
Sustainable Tourism
When to Go
Getting There & Around

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