Vietnam's sole currency is Vietnam Dong - VND, which comes in notes and coins though the latter is barely seen today. Vietnam Dong notes come in denominations of:
VND 500; 1,000; 2,000;
VND 5,000; 10;000; 20,000;
VND 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000
At present the exchange rate is about VND 21,000 for 1 USD.
US dollars can also be used for your purchase while you are in larger cities' tourist areas but try to avoid doing so. Since late 2011, Vietnamese government has banned all price listing in dollars. Adding to that, Vietnamese sellers will charge you unfavourable rate if you pay in dollars.
Vietnamese currency is not common beyond Vietnam and Asia, so your banks will not have them in stocks if you are in North America or Europe. You can always get some as you land at one of the Vietnam's airport.
It’s hard to answer exactly when is the best time to visit Vietnam because the country’s climate is very diverse. From the North to the Central then the South, ones may go through chilly mountaintops, sunny coastline, cool highland and steamy jungle. Thanks to this diversity and opposing monsoon pattern among the three region, there is always a high season somewhere in Vietnam throughout a year.
The North is the coolest region of Vietnam where its seasons are clearly divided into four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Amongst which, rainy season occur from summer to autumn while dry season falls between the other two. Winter in Northern Vietnam usually bring extremely cold but dry weather, especially in the Northwest altitudes like Spa, Dien Bien or Lao Cai where snow falling occasionally in sub-zero condition. Hanoi and its surrounding province like Ninh Binh, Hai Phong or Quang Ninh has a milder climate in winter but much hotter and wetter with high humidity (80% on average) in rainy season (May-October) should worry things.
Best time to visit the North: from October to April
Reason: when this area of Vietnam having its driest days and most favored temperature. This also includes your opportunity to enjoy the most festive time of a year in Vietnam when Tet Holiday takes place.
The central coastal area occupies the most beautiful beaches of Vietnam where monsoon season is opposed to that of the North. Hence, while the North having its dampest month, from June to October, this area going through its driest days and vice-versa. During its damp season, the area suffers from severe flood which damage uncountable properties and money annually. In general, although the Central Coast has both hot and cold season, its climate more likely to resemble steam climate of the South.
In opposite to the great heat of the Central Coast, the Central Highland, expanding from the inland to Southern end of Truong Son Mountain (Annamite Range), possesses temperate climate with its precipitation double fold of the country’s average. Highland areas like Da Lat and Pleiku are the two best representative of this kind of weather. Dry months seem to be more favored by travelers, lasting from November to March.
Best time to visit the central: from June to October
Reason: to avoid constant rainy days and enjoy sunshine on beaches.
The area includes Ho Chi Minh City and the vast Mekong Delta Zone is freaking hot with only one dry and one rainy season occurs between December-April and May-November respectively. Average temperature recorded in this steamy hot zone has been recorded is from 21 to 32 Degree Celsius. February and March should be ideal to visit Southern Vietnam since its heat is not too high while the rainfall stays at its lowest rate.
Best time to visit the South: February - April
Reason: dry and warm weather and many festivals will take place
Read more: Guide to Best time to visit Vietnam
If you have a family and want to visit places with little noise and traffic, you may take your family to museums, historical relics or traditional music theaters because these places barely have local people visiting so there are not too many people around. Below are some suggested popular places that you might consider:
- Thang Long Imperial City: This is a group of various historical relics in Hanoi with from Ly Dynasty a thousand year ago. The remained parts of these relics reveal many aspects of the lives inside royal palace in the past, and also information about the development of each dynasty in the history of Vietnam. Most of these relics such as Doan Mon Gate, The Flag Tower or 18 Hoang Dieu Relic are located in the central area of the city at Hoang Dieu or Dien Bien Phu Street.
- Ho Chi Minh Complex: This destination is the attractive complex, including some of the most fascinating attractions in Hanoi like Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where Uncle Ho is resting, Ho Chi Minh Museum and also the famous One Pillar Pagoda. You can take a cab and arrive at the complex’s entrance at Ngoc Ha Street to register and get in.
- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: the destination exhibits numerous information about lives, belief and culture of Vietnam’s ethnic groups. The museum is also quite interesting to children with various activities like museum tours, painting or watching movies about Vietnam ethnic communities and traditional games. The museum is truly a haven away from the noise of Hanoi, with green open space and very few people.
Family Travel Advice
Question: Hi, I am planning to stay in Vietnam for 2 months on business. For the convenience, I want to buy a Vietnam Simcard. Could you please suggest me where to buy and which one should I choose?
Answer: Currently, there are many mobile network providers in Vietnam, however, for the best coverage, you are suggested to choose Viettel, Mobifone, or Vinafone network. The market share of these providers accounts for approximately 90% of Vietnam mobile market. In addition, they offer great coverage throughout the country.
Referring to places to buy Simcard, it is very easy to buy a simcard in Vietnam. From the moment you land in Vietnam, you can buy simcard everywhere, in stalls, stores, booths, or even if in and around the airport. You just need to take a few steps around your place, find the lines “Viettel”, “Mobifone”, or “Vinafone” and walk in the store to buy.
Question: Hi, I’m planning to visit Ha Giang in April. Can I see Buckwheat Flower Season in this month?
Answer: Buckwheat Flower or Tam Giac Mach in Vietnamese is a special flower growing in northern mountainous provinces of Vietnam. It is noted that this flower doesn’t grow naturally, it is planted by farmers, therefore, the time of buckwheat season really depends on these farmers.
Normally, buckwheat flowers are in blossom in October & November in Ha Giang Province and in March & April in Bac Giang Province. Hence, if you want to see buckwheat flower season, you should visit Bac Giang Province in April, instead of Ha Giang as your planning. In addition to admiring the beauty of buckwheat flowers, you should try wine and cake made from them, it is very special.
Some shopping venues that you should check out: Personally, I highly recommend Saigon Square (77-78 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street) which is the heaven for shopping with good prices. The shopping center is just a step away from Ben Thanh market. Yet, where to shop also depends on what you want to buy. For example, for camping facilities, you could only find at Dan Sinh market.
In terms of spa, Spa Tropic is great place that provides you the best mind-healing treatment. (http://www.spatropic.com/). Happy Ending Massage Yuan is also a good choice for travelers with tight budget (about $10-15 for food and body massage) and it is quite central ( on Le Thanh Tong street). Good luck !
A camera store can be easily found in the city center. Just walk along Le Loi street, Nguyen Hue Street or Le Thanh Ton street, you can find what you need to shoot a perfect image such as: lenses, films, chargers, battery, tripods.
If you use traditional cameras which use Fujifilm and need a lab to process, you can find one at 82 Nguyen Hue or 114 bis Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. Kodak process labs are more popular and easily found on these two streets also. For digital cameras, please be aware of having the adapter or outlet conversion for the chargers. These can be found on Huynh Thuc Khang Street. Some camera stores have the adapters also.
Do not hesitate to bargain unless you want to be overcharged. Lenses cannot cost you much more than what you are supposed to pay in your home country. Charger, depending on its brands and authenticity, has various prices but cannot cost you more than $15. Adapters or outlet conversions are available at less than $5 in some stores. It costs you 15-20 cents on average to develop a 10cm*15cm (6in*9in) image at a lab.
If you are travelling away from the city center, limited camera accessories may be found at camera stores at the place you are visiting. Batteries and films can be found there but lenses might be too costly to sell at these places.
There are a number of good coffee shops in Hanoi though music is a frequent offer like those in Ho Chi Minh City. You can browse through our listing page of coffee shops in Hanoi and try them out one by one.
Align Café (1B Ma May and 10A Khuc Hao), for example, is an ideal place to relax. Align has drawn customers ‘attention by its luxurious appearance of a wooden house with windows looking out on to old streets. Coming to Align, consumers are able to enjoy the cozy atmosphere offered by yellow light, old style furniture and trees with changing colour leaves. The music here is nice and soft, with classic rock, blues, souls and sometimes country/funk. It will easily take away your stresses and brings you relaxing moments. Drinks here vary from regular ones like tea, coffee, fruit juice to special drinks like cocktails, mocktails and alcohols. You can order sandwiches, French fries, salad or soup if you want some snack and the most famous food here is the unique takoyaki (octopus meat balls) of Japan.
You need a place to hang out with friends, you yearn for somewhere to rest, or you just want some privacy with your favourite books? The Bookworm cafe at 44 Chau Long street can fulfill all of your demands. This cafe also functions as a bookshop with the largest collection of English books in Hanoi.
Near Westlake area- the expats district of Hanoi, there are also many options: the Donkey Bakery (8 Nguyen Hoang Ton), Joma Bakery and Cafe (54 To Ngoc Van), Le Pub (9 Xuan Dieu) are all worth not one but many visits.
The short answer is: YES, you totally can.
The not-so-short answer is: Yes, you can, but it also depends on where you go in Vietnam.
To your relief, most foreigners visiting Vietnam know barely any Vietnamese words but "Xin Chao - Hello" and "Cam On - Thank you". That is quite enough vocabulary for a 2 or 3 week trip to Vietnam. English is the most popular language in Vietnam after Vietnamese, and in the cities, even when you try to communicate in Vietnamese, the local younger people will just respond to you in English.
If you plan to take a break from the metropolitan areas and all the touristy places, you will have a harder time communicating your thoughts, ideas and needs. Body languages still work but a little bit more Vietnamese will save you tons of time and frustration. The good news is that, most Vietnamese people are very friendly and even when they do not know a word of English, they will try to help you out in all circumstances.
By Bus: The most convenient way you can get from Hoi An to Hue is to by an open tour bus ticket in the ancient town. The trip lasts about 3 hours and you can request for a drop-off at your reserved hotel. Note that the route from Hoi An to Hue is one of the most mind-boggling one in Vietnam.
After passing through Da Nang, you will arrive at Hai Van pass. A new tunnel has been built to reduce traffic accidents and travel time and it is the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia.
By Train: Since there is no train station in Hoi An, you need to go to Danang to catch the train to Hoi An. Travel time is 30 minutes from Hoi an to Danang and 2.5 hour by train from Danang to Hoi An by train.
Note: Before and after the tunnel, you will be blown away by the breathtaking natural landscape of mountains and oceans, sky and trees so get your camera ready!
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