1. BEST TIME TO VISIT
4 recognized seasons
Spring: Feb to Apr – cool but starting to get warmer. Prone to rainy periods. February can coincide with the Tet (the main lunar new year holiday)
Summer: May to August – hot, intense humidity with periods of high rainfall
Autumn: Sept to Oct – dryer and comfortable warm temperatures and sunny days. For some, the best and prettiest time to visit
Winter Nov to Jan – cooler temperatures, sometimes the temperatures can drop very low
Warm weather all the year round
Dry season: February to July with lots of sun and warmth.
February to April has low rainfall and the comfortable temperatures
Rainy season: August to January at times very heavy rainfall can be expected
June to August has the highest temperatures
Ho Chi Minh City
2 main seasons
Dry Season: December to April
February has very little rain and the least humidity (and can coincide with Tet, the main lunar new year holiday)
March low rain but humid
December slightly cooler
Rainy Season: May to November
2. MUST TRY FOODS
Pho noodle soup (beef or chicken) originally came from Hanoi in the early 20th century. It is made with flat fairly narrow rice noodles, chicken or beef, spring onions and herbs. Infused in a steaming hot broth.
Bun Cha. A grilled pork dish believed to have originated in Hanoi. A morning/lunchtime dish. Grilled pork patties in a sweet broth/dipping sauce with vermicelli noodles and mixed salad leaves. Often accompanied by deep fried spring rolls.
Cha Ca. With white fish seasoned with turmeric, dill, ginger, garlic. Served on a sizzling hot plate. Served with vermicelli noodles, peanuts, chili, and herbs.
Bun Thang. A vermicelli soup dish with shredded chicken, egg and pork.
Banh Cuon. This is a north Vietnamese dish. Made from a thin round rice flour sheet that is steamed and filled with a mixture of ground meats, minced wood ear mushroom, fried minced shallots with a fish dipping sauce
Xoi Xeo. This is a type of yellow sticky rice topped with deep fried shallots and mung beans. Or variations include chicken pate, preserved eggs.
Cao Lau. Hoi An’s signature dish made with the rice noodle, slices of pork and crispy pigskin, raw vegetables, coriander, and soya sprouts in a semi broth.
Mi Quang. Flat rice noodles mixed with shrimp, pork and vegetables, topped with grilled sesame rice crackers, fried shallots, peanuts and a variety of fresh herbs.
White Rose. Little translucent steamed shrimp dumplings
Tam Huu. Prawns and pork are wrapped in water mint leaves grown secured with thin strips of green onion. A special type of Vietnamese fresh roll.
Banh Dap. Means cracked or smashed rice pancake. It combines two kinds of rice. paper sheets. A thin wet sheet sandwiched between two dry brittle ones. To eat, one smashes the ‘sandwich’ creation into small pieces which are then dipped into mam cai, a special fermented salted fish paste.
3. TRIP PREPARATION
Here are some tips regarding preparing for a trip to Vietnam.
This applies throughout Vietnam. Ensure you have appropriate travel insurance to cover loss/theft of personal items and good valid medical cover appropriate for Vietnam. If you need hospital attention you have to show proof payment before treatment starts.
If you are on special medication, ensure you bring sufficient supply. All Vietnamese cities and towns has plenty of pharmacies stocking essential items; over the counter medicine are cheap and easily available
Vietnam is generally a safe country to visit. But as with anywhere in the world you must be vigilant, take care of personal items, especially your passport, and do not put yourself in a compromising situation. Use the electronic safes in hotel rooms to store your personal items. Crime rate against visitors is very low; however, in Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang in particular and certain areas in Hanoi, muggings, pick-pocketing and robberies do happen. Therefore, be streetwise. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and flashing large amounts of cash around.
Hanoi. In general, the city if considered safer than Ho Chi Minh and Nha Trang; however, take care in crowded tourist and public areas such as the Hoan Kiem lake at weekends, nightclubs and bars; at bus stops and other travel terminals.
Hoi An. Considered a safe place. However, petty street crime can happen, while most problems tend to be linked to drunken behavior.
The big cities have supermarkets and mini marts that stock most general items and some well-known brands. The prices may be higher than your home country. Ensure you have sufficient supply of your favorite products.
Hanoi. Hanoi is well serviced with supermarkets and mini marts such as Big C, Fivimart, L’s Place, as well as big department stores and a very large selection of shopping malls
Hoi An. Hoi An only has a few very small local stores and mini marts which are more expensive than supermarkets. So suppliers are more limited
Rain. Depending when you visit Vietnam, come prepared for rain (from torrential downpours and flash floods to light rain and continual drizzle).
Either bring rain gear and umbrellas or these items are also plentiful in shops and stores throughout Vietnam
Hanoi. Heavy downpours and flash floods likely in the summer period June – August/September. During February/March expect some light grey drizzle
Hoi An. Heavy downpours and flash floods likely during the hot summer months
Sun. Bring good UV protection. You will notice that the local Vietnamese tend to cover up and protect themselves well from the sun. Bring sunglasses and sun hat
Hanoi. Around the Hoan Kiem Lake area in particular, there is a plentiful supply of hats and sun glasses
Cooler temperatures. Depending when you visit and your location it is advisable to bring some warm clothing.
Hanoi. Can experience cold winters during the months of January and February in particular. If you use Hanoi as a base for travel to the north, you should bring good thick warm clothing especially when visiting Sapa.
Hoi An. Hot during the summer, warm comfortable temperatures at other times when you may want to bring a light jumper for the evenings
Bring appropriate footwear especially for hiking and trekking. Larger shoe sizes are hard to get
Hanoi. Around Hoan Kiem lake area there is a plentiful supply of shoe shops
Hoi An. Well known for handmade shoes
Usual voltage is 220V. Electrical sockets usually accommodate 2 pin plugs.
Bring sufficient multi adapters
For the major cities, avoid airport and train station taxi scams.
It is recommended you book a hotel car to pick you up. However, if you take a public taxi ensure the following: that you know where you are going, have your location written down in Vietnamese, in a taxi ensure the meter is switched on at the start of your journey.