Diperbarui: 6 Mar 2020
It's perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of traveling to a new country. You may be unsure of everything from visas and local transportation to the local currency, SIM cards, and the language barrier. The good news? Vietnam is an easy place to travel after some basic planning.
Entry and Visas
In the past decade, Vietnam has really opened up to the outside world. Nearly everyone can easily gain entry. If you're from an ASEAN country, you're in luck: no visa required for a 30-day stay! Travelers from other countries can quickly obtain a cheap visa online on short notice. For those needing a visa, we recommend this efficient and professional online service: www.vietnam-visa.com
Getting to Da Nang
Traveling to Central Vietnam has become a simple endeavor, now that Da Nang has a modern international airport. There are direct flights from many cities in Southeast Asia, and several daily flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the two biggest transportation hubs in Vietnam.
Once you have arrived in Da Nang, many opt to get around using Grab, which is cheap, safe and very convenient. In our experience, we have also found local taxi drivers to be honest and helpful.
There are many options for traveling between Da Nang, Hoi An, and Hue. It is easy to arrange a comfortable inter-city bus service, and any place you stay will be happy to help make the arrangements. For those who prefer rail transport, Da Nang and Hue have train stations in their city centers. Although Hoi An does not have a station, it takes less than an hour to arrive from Da Nang by car or bus.
Although you certainly do not need your own transportation while in Vietnam, we believe the most rewarding way to see the country is on a motorbike. It opens up the entire area to exploration and provides great memories. That said, driving in Vietnam is not for the faint-hearted. Drivers tend to be aggressive and many drivers are not very spatially aware. It is advisable to observe the driving techniques for a couple of days before joining in yourself. Always wear a helmet, don't be in a hurry and never assume you have the right of way. The general rule is smaller vehicles yield to larger ones. Once you get the hang of it, driving adds another adventure to your visit!
Vietnam's currency is the đồng, and it is easy to make withdrawals from ATMs with an international bank card. Alternatively, you can exchange money at the airport, banks or jewelry stores. Strangely, the best exchange rates are offered at jewelry stores, where American dollars, euros or British pounds are preferred. Remember that soft currencies cannot be easily exchanged in Vietnam, so remember to trade up before leaving home. The approximate exchange rate is 1 USD ~ 23.000 VND.
You may want to consider bringing your phone and purchasing a SIM card when you arrive. They are cheap, have good coverage and make it a lot easier to travel independently. SIM cards and the internet have made travel immeasurably easier in recent years, and while some prefer to leave their phones at home, you will undoubtedly benefit from the convenience of being wired during your trip.
The three primary wireless providers are Viettel, Mobifone, and Vinaphone. Of these three, Viettel is state-owned by the Vietnamese government and provides the best coverage. SIM cards can be bought at their respective carriers' stores and require a passport to activate.
It is possible to buy a SIM card in the airport, but they are overpriced and offer inferior packages compared to those offered in a store in town. Additional phone credit and data can be purchased at many local shops where the carrier logo is displayed.
Internet service in Vietnam has come a long way. Nearly all accommodation has WIFI, as do most cafes. Mid- and high-end hotels often offer high-speed service if you require a reliable connection.
A lot of travelers worry about the difficulty of communicating in the Vietnamese language. To be fair, it is indeed a difficult language to learn. The easiest solution is to use Google Translate which eliminates much of the challenge of interacting with locals. Bring a phone with a translating tool and you'll be just fine.
When to Visit
Central Vietnam is far enough north from the Equator to effect a large seasonal change in temperature and rainfall. The hottest months are May through mid-September when the monsoon climate brings heavy rain through early December. The weather is ideal from mid-December through April. Although many avoid traveling here during the wet season, the temperature is pleasant and the rain is not constant. Also, accommodation prices are lower during this off-season period.
What to Bring
Vietnam has most things in stores you would expect to find where you live. As a general rule, try to avoid packing too many belongings, as you will likely bring back more than what you left with.
Passport. Make sure it is valid at least six months beyond the duration of your stay. Comfortable clothes. Prepare for hot weather and rain. Comfortable footwear is important, both sandals for the beach and shoes for walking around.
Hard currency. Bring dollars, euros or pounds to exchange even if you plan on using your bank card to withdraw money. There is always a chance your card doesn't work and you'll want a Plan B in case of banking issues.
Phone. Having a local SIM card makes everything a lot easier, like making local calls, checking your email, accessing online banking, navigating a map or browsing the internet.
Sunscreen and mosquito repellent. You can get them when you arrive, but it's one fewer thing to worry about if you've already brought them.