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Bursting with natural beauty and ancient architecture, this fascinating land is sure to charm the intrepid traveller.

Soak up the atmosphere of its buzzing street markets, sink your feet into the fine white sands of its tropical beaches and let your taste buds zing as you sample the delectable cuisine. Prepare for full sensory overload - Vietnam is both exotic and sublime.

As well as its famously frenetic cities, such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, Vietnam's natural wonders are in plentiful supply. Sail on a private junk boat among the spectacular, rainforest topped limestone islands of Ha Long Bay (Halong Bay),explore the amazing Cu Chi tunnels or gaze across the Marble Mountains. The people too are a force of nature, possessing an energy and dynamism that is contagious.

Culture and history

The main religion in Vietnam is Buddhism and the Vietnamese people are known for being polite, hospitable and sensitive. Speaking in a loud voice with excessive gestures is considered rude and summoning a person with a hand or finger in the upright position is reserved only for animals: to summon a person, you should use your entire hand with fingers facing down. The Vietnamese do not celebrate birthdays or send Christmas cards, although weddings and funerals are extremely important events.

Their delicious cuisine is generally characterised by one of five flavours: spicy, sour, bitter, salty or sweet. The cooking, which uses little oil, tends to use fresh fruit and vegetables and is therefore quite healthy. Noodles are very popular and one of the nation's favourite dishes is pho, a bowl of hot soup.

History-wise, Vietnam had one of the earliest civilisations in the world and there is evidence of habitation in the region going back 500,000 years. The sophisticated Dong Son culture emerged in the 3rd century BC, however, in the 2nd century BC, the Chinese conquered the Red River Delta and went on to rule much of Vietnam for over 1,000 years. There were other civilisations claiming parts of the country during this period, including the Hindu kingdom of Cham in the north, which greatly influenced the art and culture of the region. In the early 10th century, the Vietnamese revolted against Chinese rule and regained some control. However, the centuries that followed saw many battles, with the Chinese, as well as the Khmer and the Cham.

In 1516 Portuguese sailors arrived in the country, closely followed by the Dutch – both proceeded to trade with the Vietnamese. Internal conflict resulted in the country being split in two for nigh on two centuries, until it was reunified in the early 19th century. In 1847 the French attacked Vietnam, but it wasn't until 1859 that colonial rule began to take hold.

Throughout this era there was a great deal of resistance, most notably from a communist group called the Viet Minh. World War II brought with it a great deal of confusion, with the French, the Japanese, the Chinese, the British and the Americans all getting involved, though the French more or less regained control in the end.

But not for long… the Franco-Viet Minh war broke out in 1946, and despite massive backing from the US, who looked to halt the rise of communism, the French never really regained control and the country was again split in two. The second Vietnam War broke out in 1955 with the Americans occupying the country until 1975. With changes in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Vietnam began to embrace the market and capitalism took hold.

Things to do

Discover this captivating country on one of our trips exclusively for solo travellers or join a tour to Vietnam. Stay in a seafront hotel and relax amidst the palm-fringed sands near Danang, a beautiful French colonial port town on the South China Sea.

Hoi An

Visit Hoi An, the UNESCO protected Silk Route city, wander the elegant tree-lined avenues of Hanoi (once you've managed to cross the road that is!) and stop off in Hue, Vietnam's former imperial capital.

Mekong River Cruise

For a different kind of Vietnam holiday how about a cruise down the Mekong River from Cambodia into Vietnam, or instead book an ocean cruise and travel across the Gulf of Thailand visiting Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand too.

Nha Trang

Located in southern Vietnam, this picturesque coastal resort is known for its beautiful long stretch of beach. It has a number of offshore islands with coral reefs, perfect for diving. Hòn Tre Island can be reached by cable car.

Flight time

Stash a couple of books in your hand luggage: it’s 12 hours from the UK to Vietnam.

Currency

Dong -

The currency in Vietnam is the dong (VND). Travellers cheques should be in US dollars which can be exchanged for dong. If you wish to avoid using dong for everyday purchases, take more US dollars in cash as they are widely accepted.

Passports and visas

It’s a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport. You will need a tourist visa to enter Vietnam, but Saga will sort that out for you as part of the service.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Parts of your trip that are booked through Saga are protected by ATOL and ABTA. Read our information about financial protection, covering your holiday and travel services.

Phrases

Here are a few words of Vietnamese to help you get by…

Hello – chao

Goodbye – tam biet

Thank you – cam on

No, thank you – khong, cam on

Yes – co

Please – xinl

Don’t understand – toi khong hieu

Timezone

Vietnam is seven hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity

Mains voltage is 220 volts, 50 cycles, although in some rural areas, this can change to 110 volts. Some sockets take two round pins, while others take three pins. An adaptor is required for most British appliances so we suggest you take one with you.

Language

Vietnamese -

Vietnamese is the official language but English is widely spoken in towns and cities.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected in Vietnam, but it is enormously appreciated. If you stay a couple of days in the same hotel, try and remember to tip the staff who clean your room.

You should also consider tipping drivers and guides – after all, the time they spend on the road with you means time away from home and family. Typically, travellers on minibus tours will pool together to collect a communal tip to be split between the guide and driver.

It is considered proper to make a small donation at the end of a visit to a pagoda, especially if a monk has shown you around. Most pagodas have contribution boxes for this purpose.

Climate

The north of Vietnam can be cold and rainy, particularly in the winter. Spring and autumn bring warmer temperatures of around 15-20ºC. In the summer, periods of hot sunshine and temperatures around 30ºC are interspersed with heavy rain. In the central highlands, it is more likely to rain, especially during April and October.

There are high levels of humidity. In the tropical south, high temperatures and sunshine combine with significant levels of rain between May-June and October-November. From October to December, the south-central coast can be affected by typhoons. The driest period is between January and March although humidity is still high. Temperatures typically vary between 27 and 33ºC.

Health

Flying insects (including mozzies) thrive in this part of the world and we recommend wearing long-sleeve and long-length clothes and carrying a can of mosquito repellent. Beware of food sold by street vendors, which may be contaminated. Also, don’t drink wine that doesn’t carry a recognisable brand name.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before your holiday departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides latest travel advice and important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

An estimated 90 million people live in Vietnam, which is more than the UK and Australia combined. Shaped like an elongated letter ‘S’, Vietnam measures 331,212 square kilometres and is about the same size as Italy.

Smoking

Smoking is banned in public places in Vietnam, although the law is largely ignored.



Climate

Vietnamese New Year (Vietnamese Tet)

Vietnamese New Year

Don’t miss the celebrations during Vietnam’s most important public holiday