Vietnam Country Info – The compact Vietnam Guide

country info FAQ

What is Vietnam and where is Vietnam located?

Vietnam a socialist state in Southeast Asia next to Cambodia and Laos, below of China. Vietnam is ruled by a communist unity party. With 10% opposition members in parliament, at least a slight change can be seen since the since the millennium toward more democracy.

The country has a similarly large surface as Germany whereby it is clearly longer. The north-south extension is about 1650 kilometers. The east-west extent is about 600 kilometers at the widest point, but only about 50 kilometers at the narrowest.  With about 95 million inhabitants, Vietnam is slightly more populous than Germany.

Which Language is spoken in Vietnam or what is the national language of Vietnam?

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese.

Since 1945 Vietnam has had its own Latin-based script. The script is supplemented by a few squiggles that complement certain sounds.

Many Vietnamese still speak French today due to the long French occupation. However, English is also becoming increasingly important and in many Schools the language is taught obligatorily. However, the spread of English in everyday life is still so low. As a tourist you should bring a translation app with you.

Other languages of the former Eastern bloc countries, such as Russian, Czech, Polish and German are still spoken by some older Vietnamese.

How much of a much time difference does Vietnam have and what time is it now in Vietnam?

Vietnam has no time change between summer and Winter time. 

Vietnam lies in the time zone UTC+7.  Germany lies in winter in the time zone UTC +1 in summer in the time zone UTC +2.

The time difference from Germany to Vietnam is therefore at German summer time + 5 hours and af German winter time + 6 hours

When it is is 12:00 according to German winter time in Vietnam it is already 18:00 in the evening

When it’s is 12:00 according to German summer time, it is 17:00 in Vietnam

What is the capital of Vietnam?

The capital of Vietnam is Hanoi.

During the division into North and South Vietnam, Saigon (today Ho Chi Minh City) was the Capital of South Vietnam. During the Empire of Vietnam, the city of Hue in Central Vietnam was the capital.

Which currency does Vietnam have?

The currency of Vietnam is called Đồng (VND)

Card payment is possible in larger stores, but is not yet as common as in many other Asian countries. ATM withdrawals with foreign credit cards usually cost a fee of 40-50,000 dong (about 2€)regardless of the amount withdrawn.

What do you call the people of Vietnam?

The inhabitants of Vietnam are called Vietnamese

The Vietnamese Flag

The flag of Vietnam

Security in Vietnam

How safe is Vietnam?

Vietnam is considered a relatively safe country to travel. The Vietnamese are not always particularly friendly, but we never had the impression that someone wants us something bad. An alarm signal should be, as everywhere, if complete strangers on the street suddenly become very pushy friendly. In general, the Vietnamese felt to us a bit like the Bavarians of SOA – whom you do not know, you first keep your distance. Of course, it is different with Airbnb hosts and Co, which we were partly experienced as very open-minded and hospitable. An exception are also children who like to wave at you on the street and are happy if you greet back or even give a high 5.

The app Geosure rates Vietnam with scores of 49-50 (0 = safe, 100 = dead, Germany = 34). This makes it even a few points safer than the popular tourist destination Thailand (51-59).

The points that weigh negatively in Geosure that weigh negatively are political freedom and Medical care with 65 points each. Also, the risk of theft is somewhat elevated at 54. On the positive side, however,it scores of 44 on LGBTQ Savety. In contrast to some other countries in SOA, Vietnam does not have laws that criminalize consensual homosexual acts. With a score of 31, the safety of women in Vietnam is also positively rated.

Lets take a look at the assessments of the German State Department now.

→ Travel advice from the Foreign Office

We have summarized the trip highlights and safety tips for you below (as of 01/2020)

  • Theft: Especially at train stations and tourist places you should be wary of Pickpockets. Train stations and streets in front of hotels seem to be especially in the focus of thieves, sometimes even in hotel rooms. Handbags and cell phones and cell phones are sometimes snatched by passing scooters. Sometimes also gangs of children are used for thefts or as a distraction. Bicycles and scooters are often stolen. Caution therefore where you park rental bikes.
  • Gambling and false Invitations: It happened in the past that foreigners were approached by locals on the street and invited to dinner. In some cases, however, food or drinks were drugged and people were robbed, or they were involved in fake gambling and blackmailed into paying gambling debts. The Vietnamese are rather reserved towards strangers – should someone approach you too enthusiastically without Reason to approach you, be careful.
  • Ticket forgery: In some cases, tickets are sold by dealers that are not accepted at the attraction. Also online offers can turn out to be a Fraud. Therefore, if possible, use payment service providers where you can, to get your money back if necessary and be especially careful if you have to pay in advance. Cabs should only be used with a taximeter use (or grab).
  • Demonstrations: Are prohibited in Vietnam and are sometimes also dissolved with force. As everywhere abroad, the following applies: avoid demonstrations.
  • Border regions: The stay in border regions and military restricted area is prohibited without permit. In some cases, these regions are not sufficiently signposted. Do not walk around in remote areas without a local guide.
  • Tropical storms: Strong storms and rainfall can lead to flooding or make roads make impassable. Landslides are also possible.
  • Earthquakes and Zunamis: The risk of earthquakes in Vietnam is significantly lower than in many other countries in the region. However, tsunamis can travel long distances and therefore also hit Vietnamese coasts.
  • Road traffic: Scooters driving on the sidewalk or wrong-way drivers are not uncommon. Crosswalks or green pedestrian lights do not mean that you can cross the road safely.

As always it is necessary to turn on the common sense and never leave valuables out of sight; Another problem with thefts is that the police sometimes refuse to acknowledge In that case you have no proof for the insurance.

Prostitution and drug use and sale are strictly prohibited in Vietnam. There is a death penalty for drug possession, which is also enforced on foreigners. The administration of justice does not necessarily follow the standards one is used to in Europe.

All things considered, however, Vietnam is a comparatively safe travel destination. A look at the travel advice of neighboring countries shows that Vietnam does really well here.

We personally found the road traffic very stressful and in terms of theft we are generally very cautious. But our biggest fear in Vietnam was actually being hit by a car or being involved in a traffic accident.

On one occasion a cab driver wanted to rip us off with a completely exaggerated fixed price whereupon we took another cab (therefore always use taximeter or get a price estimate from Grab). Another time a very dubious and pushy guy approached us in the park and wanted to talk us into Mentos or cigarettes. We also gave him a friendly, but certain rebuff.

The Hygiene is often not particularly good in Vietnam. Food is not properly cooled. At times, we also had the feeling that everyone around us was coughing; At airports and in Crowds a protective mask can spare you from unwanted infection. Cooked food is to be preferred in any case. Also a hand disinfectant. certainly helps.

It can be somewhat irritating hat the Vietnamese don’t bother to push sometimes, if they want pass by. Reticence seems to be generally not to be the strength of this culture. You should therefore not be too annoyed and take it with humor, if someone is completely rude by Western standards.

Flights and Travel to Vietnam

Vietnam has a number of international airports. In addition, there are regional airports that also make more remote regions, for example in the mountains, more accessible.

The country’s two largest airports are the airports of Ho Chi Minh City/ Saigon (SGN), the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, and the capital city airport in Hanoi (HAN) called Noi Bai International Airport.

The main airline in the country is Vietnam Airlines. There are also some low-cost airlines in the region such as Jetstar Pacific Airlines, VietJet Air and Bamboo Airways.

The Flight time from Germany to Vietnam is about10h 30min. However, most flights have at least one stopover.

Entering Vietnam

Entry to Vietnam is also possible over Land. There are land borders with three countries: China, Laos and Cambodia.

German travelers can enter Vietnam without a visa for a maximum of 15 days (visa on arrival). For tourist stays of up to 30 days, an e-visa can be can be applied for. Regardless of which option you choose, you must generally have an exit ticket. Professional stays have to be discussed with the respective foreign representation in your home country and must be clarified in advance.

See also Onway Entry

Climate & Weather in Vietnam

Vietnam lies in the northern hemisphere Summer and winter are thus accordingly in the same months as in Europe.

Vietnam is also called bamboo pole with two rice bowls because of its shape.

There are two major heavily agricultural areas – the Mekong Delta in the south and the Hanoi hinterland to the north with the Red River, which in turn are connected by a narrow land bridge.

The North of Vietnam has subtropical climate. The winters are dry, but cold. In the coldest months of December and January the temperatures are only 17° C on average. But the summers in the north of Vietnam are very hot. Thus, the daily maximum temperatures on some days can also rise to rise to over 38°C. Especially from July to September it rains a lot in the north of Vietnam.

In Central Vietnam, temperatures are less extreme. Here, too, there is a distinct wet and dry season, though the winter months – especially October and November – are rainier. Sometimes there are even heavy typhoons.

The south of Vietnam has tropical climate. In November to January it is on average the coldest, with daytime temperatures of 28-30°. For this it is relatively dry at this time. From February to May temperatures climb up to 35°C, it is quite hot, but still dry. From June to October is the rainy season in the south of Vietnam. It is very hot, humid and rains more often than in the rest of the year.

Sights in Vietnam

Because of the diversity of the country, you almost can not decide what you want to look at. Below we have collected some typical tourist destinations for you. These are exemplarily however for innumerable further places.

Cities

Nature and National Parks

  • Halong Bay: UNESCO World Heritage Bay with famous karst rocks.
  • Bản-Giốc-Detian Waterfalls: Picturesque waterfalls on the border with China
  • Hai Van Pass: Pass at the weather divide of North and South Vietnam. Great view when not in the clouds.
  • Fansipan: With its 3143 meters the highest mountain in Vietnam. It is located in the National Park Hoàng Liên Sơn
  • National Park Cúc Phương: 100km from Hanoi with mountains and river delta
  • National Park Hoàng Liên Sơn:
  • National Park Hồ Ba Bể: lake landscape with caves and waterfalls north of Hanoi.
  • National Park Cát Bà: On Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay.
  • Phong Nha Cave: One of the most beautiful caves in the world with river and lake
  • Hang Son Doong: Largest cave in the world. Book tours early since booked up quickly

Islands

  • Phu Quoc: Touristic island in southern Vietnam
  • Côn-Đảo: island with beaches in the Marine Protected Area of the Côn-Đảo National Park. (Caution.) Turtle breeding area.
  • Cat Ba: Largest. Island of Halong Bay, Partial national park

Transportation in Vietnam

Rental cars and scooters in Vietnam

There are rental cars in Vietnam. You can also find the international big car rental companies. The Prices for a rental car are, however, compared to many other Countries enormously high (150€ per day).

Vietnam has in contrast to many other states in SOA right sided traffic- like in Germany. This does not mean however, that things are nearly as well-ordered on the roads.

The only traffic rules, that are sometimes obeyed to in Vietnam is traffic lights. There seems to be no Right of Way rules to exist. People change lanes without warning even in intersections, and scooter riders in particular pose an omnipresent danger, as they try to squeeze through everywhere. They seem to have no awareness whatsoever of the blind spot. In the end, our impression was that Vietnam is a country where there are no good drivers and everyone drives freely. But the locals also have only in exceptional cases any kind of driving training. Even children take part in traffic on scooters.

Seeing it this way, Vietnam is a country where you can experience a lot in road traffic and have to reckon with everything. We would rather avoid driving in big cities, especially during rush hour.

The larger roads around metropolitan areas are in relatively good condition. In rural areas however, roads can become so bad that villages can be completely cut off from the outside world.

For scooter riders there is a helmet obligation in Viet Nam. German citizens need during a temporary stay in Vietnam the international driver’s license conjunction with a national driver’s license. Note that for scooters with more than 50cm³ the class B driving license is not sufficient. In case of accidents this can course a lot of trouble up to custody.

Trains in Vietnam

Vietnam has six train lines. The longest of them goes from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Tickets can be purchased online in advance.

→  Train Tickebuy ticks

Trains are only partially modern and rather slow. There is only one cross-border service to China at the Đồng Đăng border crossing.

More info on train travel in Vietnam can be found here

Taxi in Vietnam

Taxi driving in Vietnam works smoothly and is cheap, as long as you make sure to exclusively use official cabs with taximeter to take. Drivers who take their rides in tourist places (e.g. train stations) for a fixed price, are usually many times more expensive.

In addition,in most larger cities also mobility apps like Grab work. These however, are not necessarily cheaper than regular cabs. Meanwhile Grab also offers Grab Taxi. With this, you can also call a conventional taxi via the app and then pay by taximeter.

Buses and public transport in Vietnam

Vietnam has a system of public buses. However, these are not particularly comfortable. Alternatively, however, there are increasingly private transport companies that operate with partly more comfortable buses or vans.

We recommend for a current overview a short search with an online search machine, since many of the providers have websites. We also found the apps Rome2Rio and Easybook very helpful in organizing transportation.

Flights within Vietnam

As some regions of of Vietnam are very mountainous and therefore poorly accessible, and the country also has a large north-south extension, domestic flights also play an important role. The machines of most flight providers meet European standards – perhaps apart from the legroom. In addition, even with checked baggage, flights are often cheaper than train rides and bus trips.

Hotels in Vietnam

Vietnam is a very affordable travel destination. Whether one decides for Airbnbs or hotels, one can with search already make great bargains. Who is dependent on good Internet on the road, should, however, inquire beforehand at the accommodations, since some have only rudimentary Internet connections. Alternatively, buy a mobile WIFI hotspot, as the mobile network coverage is often better than the actual cable coverage. Internet data rates are very reasonable.

Backpacker can in some places find a bead for about 3€ in a hostel including breakfast.

Eating in Vietnam

The Vietnamese cuisine reminded us a little of what many Germans commonly think about Chinese cuisine – namely, everything ends up in the Cooking pot.

Whoever is on a market will discover frogs, snakes, turtles, sharks, snails and numerous other creatures for consumption. Also dogs end up in the cooking pot from time to time. Food hygiene has no western standards.

A typical national dish in Vietnam is Phu, a kind of noodle soup with Vegetables and meat or fish chowder.

Furthermore. influences from French cuisine have persisted. As Ban mi baguettes with sausage, cheese and salad can be bought at the roadside.

Generally we recommend especially people who are not so keen on experimenting to always take a look at Google Maps (or Happy Cow) before they spontaneously visit a restaurant to be able to estimate what to expect.

What is absolutely recommended in Vietnam is the coffee. Whether hot or cold, Vietnamese coffee is very tasty. Especially the classic Ca Phe sua da made us fall in love . It consists of coffee brewed directly on the cup and a kind of sweet condensed milk. The coconut coffee is also very tasty. We found it somewhat unusual in Vietnam that many of the cafes don’t offer any kind of food.

By the way, tipping is usually not expected in Vietnam.

Conclusion: is a trip to Vietnam worth it?

Vietnam is a country that can still give experienced travelers a culture shock. The Vietnamese are quite impatient and boorish compared to many cultures in the Asian region that are very concerned with politeness. This can be a little disconcerting at first. However, when you have the chance to get to know people a little better, the Vietnamese are also a very warm people – hard shell, soft core. But even with this knowledge, we occasionally had to get ourselves together a bit in order not to freak out. People who cut you off with the scooter on the sidewalk, only to park it in front of your nose, people who shamelessly block a complete aisle in the supermarket or train, or unfriendly hotel staff – sometimes you have to swallow, because you are so used to completely different manners and consideration.

Also the kitchen can be a little irritating at first – especially when you see on the markets, what ends up in the pots. But even here you can make very positive experiences with a little patience. We also became true coffee junkies in Vietnam.

The landscape in Vietnam is very beautiful and is gives numerous natural wonders, which one cannot visit unfortunately at all in the duration of a tourist visa. In addition, Vietnam has very much history, with which to deal is absolutely worthwhile. Much of what happened here also gives you a completely different impression of the role of Western countries in the world. Of course, Vietnam can also package vacations. But for package tours Vietnam is actually much too good.

Vietnam is not a “Quickly 14 days of relaxation country”. It is too exhausting for that and has too little “recreational tourism” infrastructure. Vietnam is rather a country of up-close cultural experience and blunt self-experience, the untamed natural wonders and unvarnished history – You could call it Full Contact vacation.

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