Over the past 2 years, I have been fortunate enough to visit one of the most diverse and spectacular parts of South East-Asia, from South to North or North to South, which ever way in which you choose to travel, Vietnam is one exquisite country with an abundance of experiences to offer every traveller of all walks of life.
My two experiences in Vietnam, were vastly different for a number of reasons and for this I am grateful, as that is what travelling so rewarding – every adventure is a new and exciting experience. Given that my two experiences were different, and I can’t say one was better than the other, if there is any pieces of advice I can give for travelling to Vietnam, i can suggest the following:
- Do your research. Whilst Vietnam is becoming a popular tourist destination, you must understand what you are getting yourself into. Give particular attention to the first destination you are heading to – North or South? From there see what you can achieve in the surrounding areas and how you can navigate from your base to other major towns and attractions. Then do your research on these places, this just simply helps to eliminate the majority of surprises you may come across.
- Visit your local GP to discuss any health concerns you may have about travelling to Vietnam. Whilst cases are becoming rarer, Malaria can be contracted in jungle areas, so be mindful to mention this to your doctor so that appropriate medication can be prescribed. A stash of a general antibiotic, pain killers and inflammatory tablets are always good to have on hand.
- Organise your Entry Visa. Many people are unaware that you need to apply for an Entry Visa to Vietnam before arrival. Visa’s can be obtained via a number of websites, although be warned about scams. A website myself and friends have used is the My Vietnam Visa (http://www.myvietnamvisa.com). You apply for and pay for a portion of the visa online, and upon arrival at the airport, you present your passport along with a passport photo and US$40 and your Visa will be processed in the airport. If you have more than a few weeks up your sleeve before you go, you can organise to send your passport to the Vietnamese Consulate in Australia who can process your visa before you head off – beware you need at minimum a month for this process.
- Exchange Money. By doing your research, you should know how much you need to put aside for your travels. Money can be exchanged in Australia before you leave or when you get to your destination. Vietnam runs on the Vietnamese Dong which is underpinned by the US Dollar. Ensure you shop around for a good exchange rate as they can change dramatically from place to place.
- Weather. They say the North of Vietnam experience all four seasons, whilst the South will only ever have two. Choose a time of year to visit that is going to suit the experience you want. November through March will be mild to very cold in the North, whilst steaming hot in the South. April through October will test your resilience to humid conditions in the South and Central areas, whilst the North will still be very pleasant.
- Only Take What You Need. I can’t stress this enough! If you are going to shop, then take my advice and shop because it is always worth it. Pack according to the season you are going in, light airy cloths in the summer and a good jumper or jacket for the winter. Always take a pair of jeans – you can never go wrong with jeans.
- Book your airline ticket at least 2 months in advance. With the economy in the spin that it is in, you never know how far prices will increase or decrease. I have always flown with Air Asia, Vietnam Airlines, Scoot and Virgin Australia for each of my trips to Asia for both my International and Domestic routes, as there are always some great deals to pick up with these airlines.
- JUST BOOK IT! My last piece of travel advice, is once you feel as though you are ready to go, book that ticket, pack that bag and get your self on a plane to Vietnam. You can not deny the euphoria of travelling. It single handedly is the most rewarding, eye opening, humbling experience you can ever undertake in your life. Whether it is for two weeks, two months or two years, you will never regret the chance you took to see this beautiful world.
Overall, my mantra for anywhere I am planning on travelling to, is to understand and know the beast! I’m not one for planning my travels to every second – this is not how I like to travel, although this works differently for everyone so I can’t say what is best in that respect. I do prefer the sense of being able to move between places as the weather and overall state of mind you are in, although whether travelling solo, with a partner or taking the whole troop with you, travel can be scary, exhausting and unreliable when you don’t know what is ahead of you so taking the above dot points into consideration is worthwhile.
Travel wide, travel far and enjoy every moment HtH x