The main reason why so many tourists are attracted by Vietnam is the spectacular natural beauty that can be found here. From the charming bustle of the Mekong Delta in the south to the green rice fields in the north, the country unveils surprising gems that instantly conquer your heart. Its history, tradition, cuisine, people and culture are one of a kind. There are endless possibilities for what you can see and do in Vietnam. If you are ready for the experience of your lifetime then dare to discover this wonderful tourist destination.
Top tourist attractions in Vietnam
- Ha Long Bay.
Ha Long Bay can be translated as “Bay of Descending Dragons” and it is a splendid location in North Vietnam along a 120 kilometers coast line. It is one of the most visited places in Vietnam, a collection of a thousand islands with an amazing seascape of limestone pillars and thick jungle vegetation. Only a couple islands are without vegetation, only with huge caves. Other islands have floating villages of fishermen and deep blue lakes.
- Thien Mu Pagoda
The tallest pagoda in Vietnam is the Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue which is seven stories high. This tourist attraction is considered the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital and it overlooks the Perfume River. The initial temple was built in 1601 during the reign of the Nguyễn Lords and it was very simply constructed. Over the years, the original building was improved with more complicated features.
- Hoan Kiem Lake
One of the most important scenic spots in Hanoi, the Hoan Kiem Lake is the favorite leisure spot for the locals and an amazing tourist experience for travellers. Its name can be translated as “returned sword” and its origin is represented by a legend which claims that King Le Loi received a magical sword from the gods. This sword was used to fight and prevail against the Chinese invaders. After the battle was won, King Le Loi returned the sword to the Golden Turtle God by throwing it in the lake.
- Venice of Vietnam
Hoi An is located on the cost of the South China Sea and it is a fishing village that was turned into one of the most adored tourist attractions in Vietnam. Since the 16th century, it has been an international port even though nowadays all the important shipping activities take place into the city of Da Nang. The Old Town is still considered the heart and soul of Hoi An where Chinese-style shops blend in with winding lanes. Due to its narrow canals that go across many different parts of the town, it is called the “Venice of Vietnam”.
- Phu Quoc
The largest island in Vietnam is Phu Quoc which is located in front of the Cambodia coast. Phu Quoc is what Phuket would have probably turned out to be if it wasn’t for the rapid developments that overrun it over the last decades. The island is simply mesmerizing due to its great beaches, undamaged coral reefs and tropical forests. Bai Dai(Long Beach) is one of Phu Quoc’s most appreciated beaches. In fact, it has been selected by ABC News as one of the five most clean and beautiful beaches. The best fish sauce ( nuoc mam) in the world is being produced here, on Phu Quoc.
Top things to do in Vietnam
- Relax on a beautiful beach.
There is nothing more surreal than the exotic beaches of Vietnam. If you want to indulge yourself on a gorgeous long white sandy beach under the lush palm trees or spend unforgettable nights out on the town then Nha Trang is the perfect choice. Plus, there are numerous boat tours available for exploring the nearby islands or diving centers that offer you the opportunity of discovering the wonderful coral reefs. Southeast of Ho Chi Minh City there is Vung Tau where you can try snorkeling next to the numerous offshore islands. Heading to the sand dunes of Mui Ne which are miles long, east of Phan Thiet, is also a terrific way of spending your time.
- Take Vietnamese cooking lessons.
Vietnamese cuisine is rich, colorful and unique. Learning the secrets of Vietnamese cookeries is an opportunity that you can take advantage of in the ancient Hoi An where regular classes take place. Before trying your recent acquired cooking skills you should visit the vibrant market stuffed with some of the most delicious local flavors.
- Go hiking.
Vietnam has endless long distance hiking trails that feature a very good infrastructure designed for tourists that need a very detailed and comprehensive hiking guided tour. One of the most charming hiking trails can be found south of Hanoi. It is called Cuc Phuong National Park and it represents a tropical forest rich in limestone- covered mountains where numerous rare species are found.
- Take a Ho Chi Minh Trail history tour.
By walking part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail you can see some of the Vietnam War sights. These routes were used during the war by the North Vietnamese. The network of tunnels dug by the Viet Cong will captivate even the most pretentious tourist as these were used to launch regular attacks on the US army. Some of these narrow tunnels were widened so that Western visitors can have a taste of the underground life.
- Try motor-biking.
Most travelers adore renting a motor bike and ride it from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. The most preferred make is the Russian 125cc Minsk. This is one of the most adventurous ways to see the country due to all sorts of dangers associated with the vast number of bikes in the cities.
Tourist accommodation in Vietnam
Vietnam offers a diverse choice of accommodation options for all tastes and budgets. Generally the quality is decent although the prices are a bit high by Southeast Asian standards. The tourism is still booming so the competition is quite fierce. New villas, hotels and resorts are being constructed as we speak. Along the coast has been noted a huge increase of the number of luxury accommodation units whereas the more affordable options can be found throughout the country.
All hotels in Vietnam charge a standard 10% government tax and some high class units apply a 5% service charge. Usually these are not included in the price of the room so be sure to keep in mind these costs as well when you are planning your holiday. The good news is that due to the high competition, now almost all hotels have started including breakfast in the price of the room.
Types of accommodation
There was a time when Vietnam was considered an inexpensive exotic tourist destination, but these days things have changed a lot. Hotel prices have increased and during the peak spring travel season the accommodation prices can rise as much as 60%. Also, there is no secret that the country has a shortage of international standard hotel rooms.
What is considered luxury in the Western world is considerably different in Vietnam. The rooms range from the standard fan-cooled room with iced-water to the ones equipped with air conditioning, satellite TV and a mini bar. Even the definition of a tourist resort is different here. It is not the all-inclusive accommodation units we are used to. These are some pretty landscaped hotels close to the beach that offer free breakfast. The rest of the meal and services can be purchased separately. Also, the newer the accommodation unit is the better the staying conditions are.
If you are looking for the cheapest accommodation in the country then you are definitely looking to get a bed in a dormitory. At the moment, just a few cities offer this option. Usually these are particular hostels in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Hué. A bed here costs about $6. The conditions are pretty decent and the advantage is that these are located in colorful parts of the cities, like the De Tham enclave in Ho Chi Minh City and the Old Quarter in Hanoi. In Hanoi you will find a chain of youth hostels that are certified by Hostelling International. When staying in one of them you will need to buy a Youth Hostel card when you check-in.
If you prefer to stay alone in a room then you can opt for a plain fan room in a hotel or guesthouse. The price for this accommodation choice starts around $10. The catch is that in some warmer parts of the country, for this price you won’t even get hot water. If you want to enjoy the lux of satellite TV, air conditioning or decent furniture then you will be asked to pay about $20. For $20-$30 you will get a more spacious room, superior furniture, a mini-fridge, bathtub and even a balcony.
For those travellers that are willing to pay about $30-$50 per room per night the accommodation options are considerably better. For this price you can stay in a decent room at a 3 stars hotel. The room will be quite spacious, comfortable and equipped with nice furniture, hot water, air-conditioning, fridge, satellite TV and phone. The thing is that the conditions we are used when staying at a 3 stars hotels are totally different than what we will find in a Vietnamese 3 stars hotel. Usually, most accommodation units in Asia that have this number of stars are luxurious, elegant and very comfortable, but in Vietnam you could barely call it decent. Take Koh Samui accommodation prices as an example. A double room at a nice 3 stars hotel on the famous Thai island costs about $40 per night while one in a 3 stars hotel in Vietnam will be about $50 per night, but the services, amenities and room conditions will be inferior. Thailand is renowned for the extravagance and modernity of its villas, hotels and resorts while Vietnam is still an amateur at this chapter. Most of its villas and hotels can barely be called decent.
If you are willing to pay over $50 for accommodation then you will get the chance to stay at a reputable Vietnamese hotel that has its own restaurant and bar, offers a booking office and even room service. Don’t expect over the top luxury and amenities. These are usually very modest.
Vietnam real estate
Vietnam is truly a very beautiful country. Its natural treasures are invaluable, the local culture is simply charming and the people are very friendly and welcoming. It is the kind of place that gets to you, that you could easily call your second home. It’s no wonder that so many tourists were so thrilled by its vibrant life style that they decided to buy a property here where they could spend very long vacations or even move in and adopt the locals’ pure love for life.
Starting with 1st of July 2015, the Vietnamese Government has made some proposals meant to change the foreign property ownership laws. Potential foreigner property buyers and investors should consider all these changes very carefully before investing here. For instance, foreign companies or individual ownerships of units in an apartment building must not represent more than 30% of the number of total units in that particular building. When it comes to housing project that include several separate houses, the foreign company or individual ownership must not possess more than 10% of the total number of separate houses available in that project.
Condominium and Serviced Apartment
At the moment, there is a high demand among foreigners for condominium units and serviced apartments. They are looking for high quality apartments where they can enjoy the same luxury and comfort they had back home. The quality is very important. Until recently, it was incredibly difficult for foreigners to find a locally build apartment that was well constructed, nicely designed and decently furnished. Now, there are numerous building complexes that offer the superior quality that most expats are looking for.
Foreigners can choose to either rent or buy one of these modern condominiums. The rental fees for a Vietnamese condominium built locally for expats are about $800 to $1,500 per unit per month while the price of buying a 100 m2 condominium is about $100,000. As a comparison, the same type or property in Koh Samui costs $115,000, and in Bangkok it can be as high as $600,000.
There are numerous Vietnamese or foreign investors that are initiating numerous new hotels, complexes and apartments projects designed to bring a change in the scenery. These are all high-quality and modern buildings that will be decorated with elegant furnishing and feature lush amenities. In the years ahead, Vietnamese tourism will finally be able to offer International standard hotel rooms, luxury and superior services for the Western traveler.
Pros and Cons of Hotel vs Short Term Apartment
When you are travelling to a new city, it is essential to find a nice place to stay. The array of possibilities is really endless especially when you are dealing with a big city or even a capital. Any country c Capital is a really impressive tourist destination. Usually it has a little of everything. It is rich in historical monuments, cultural sites, gorgeous parks, endless entertainment possibilities and a vibrant social life. For all these reasons, it deserves to be explored to its whole potential and everything starts by finding the right accommodation option.
Basically, when you are travelling to a big town you have two main accommodation choices. The first one is staying at a hotel and the second one is renting an apartment on short term. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The key is to know what those are and to make the best possible decision according to your budget and needs.
When you are staying at a hotel you get to enjoy all the highlights of a comfortable and worry free holiday. Room service, free parking, mini-bar, complementary products, spa and gym are just a few of the services and amenities offered by most hotels. Of course, the standards and level of excellence varies according with the number of stars and the prices available for each accommodation unit. The city offers numerous budget hotels with less than 3 stars that offer a nicely furnished room with cable TV and air conditioning. These are usually fair-priced, about $20-$50 per night, depending on the location and available services. Whereas for the hotels that have more than 3 stars you need to pay about $50-$150 per night, depending on its number of stars and prestige. The disadvantages are that when you are staying at a hotel you don’t get to enjoy any privacy, there’s no intimate feeling, you are constantly depending on a restaurant to serve your daily meals and the final costs of your trip will turn out to be more than estimated.
Renting an apartment on short term has become an increasingly popular choice for many tourists. After all, it is just as easy as booking a hotel room. There are numerous online sites that host offers for these types of rental apartments with prices, pictures and rich descriptions. You can place the order over the Internet in a few minutes. And the advantages don’t stop here. An apartment offers the same highlights as your own home- it is comfortable, intimate and modern. Most of these locations are recently furnished with modern furnishing and high-end appliances and electronic devices. Plus, you have a fully equipped kitchen where you can prepare your own meal and eat whenever and whatever you want. Even though these apartments are quite spacious and elegant, the prices are usually less than what you would normally pay at a 2 or 3 stars hotels. Renting an apartment on short term tends to cost about $20-$40 per night depending on the size, number of rooms and location. The disadvantages are that you don’t enjoy the same services like in a hotel. You don’t have the option of airport transfer, room service, security at the entrance of the building, wake-up call, free parking, spa, pool or gym.
As all things in life, nothing is perfect. Each good thing comes with its advantages and disadvantages. The same thing goes for the accommodation we choose when we are planning a trip. The important thing is to consider very carefully the pros and cons and choose the one that offers us the most benefits.