Traveling In the Northern Vietnam

The north of Vietnam is full of thrilling natural scenes and thousand-year culture.  While spectacular mountainous destinations are great for trekking, the energetic cities in delta are ideal to explore the fascinating daily life of the locals. There are absolutely tons of interesting things to do!




Recognized as a World Heritage site, Ha Long Bay is a magnificent unspoiled landscape, where multitude of limestone islands and islets in a variety of sizes and shapes rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Beside the beach, you can take a cruise trip, get on a helicopter to take a spectacular view from above, visit floating fishing villages and discover tons of beautiful natural caves. In additions, you’ll find delicious fresh sea food as well as other recreational services throughout the city.





Ninh Binh, which is famous for breathtaking natural scenery embracing delightful pagodas, is a top tourist destination. Imagine yourself boating through the waterways among vast limestone cliffs rising out of endless rice paddies Tam Coc or passing through naturally gifted caves in stunning Trang An. Not so far from that, you can also visit Cuc Phuong National Park, a well preserved rainforest with many of Vietnam’s endangered species.


Consider the best time to visit each destination to enjoy your trip:

  • Mountainous North, including Sapa and Ha Giang, is considerably cool around the year. You can either choose between Green Rice Season (March – May) or the Golden Rice Season (September – November).
  • In other parts of the north, including Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ninh Binh, the best time is in autumn (September – November) when it’s rather dry with clear sky and gentle cool breezes.

The Vietnamese trace their beginnings to legendary kings that ruled nearly 5000 years ago, making the Vietnamese culture one of the oldest distinct cultures on Southeast Asia. Over thousands of years, this distinct culture has been influenced by neighbouring and ruling cultures as well, including the Chinese, Cham, Khmer and French, among others. Visitors to Vietnam can see an overall unifying Vietnamese culture throughout the country, with regional unique features in different areas.

Some of the most interesting Vietnamese festivals are unique to small localities. When planning to travel to Vietnam, contact your travel consultant to see if any local festivals will occur during your itinerary. Some of the larger festivals in Vietnam are celebrated nationwide:

Tet: Also known as the Lunar New Year, Tet usually falls between mid-January and mid-February. This is the largest and most important Vietnamese holiday when people travel to their hometowns and many businesses close for several days. There is a special festive atmosphere in the air during Tet.

Vu Lan: This festival is when Vietnamese people honour their parents, especially their mothers, whether living or deceased. The date is on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month.

Mid-Autumn Festival: The hallmarks of this festival, called Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam, are colourful paper lanterns, mooncakes and lion dancing. With such exciting activities, children especially enjoy this holiday. It falls in the middle of the 8th lunar month, and is also a time for families to spend time together drinking tea and eating sweet mooncakes.

In general, there are no serious health or safety risks when traveling in Vietnam. However, it never hurts to take precautions. Please consult your healthcare provider to see if they recommend any vaccinations or other medications when traveling.

In large cities and other crowded areas, be mindful of your belongings such as cameras, mobile phones and wallets/purses.

The Vietnamese Dong (VND) is pegged to the US Dollar and the current exchange rate is 1 = 22,200 (as of January 2016). ATMs are widely available in all cities and many of them work with overseas ATM cards. Some larger hotels and shops accept credit cards, and this method of payment is becoming more common. Keep in mind that some merchants may charge small fee and that international transaction fees may apply.

The Vietnamese Dong (VND) is pegged to the US Dollar and the current exchange rate is 1 = 22,200 (as of January 2016). ATMs are widely available in all cities and many of them work with overseas ATM cards. Some larger hotels and shops accept credit cards, and this method of payment is becoming more common. Keep in mind that some merchants may charge small fee and that international transaction fees may apply.

Updated . . .

A visa is required for entry into Vietnam and the regular tourist visa is valid for up to 30 days from the date of the first arrival date in Vietnam.

Tourist Visa exemption is available for passport holders from some Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Laos are exempted from visa when entering Vietnam. Vietnam also has a visa exemption for Japanese, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish citizens. Passport holders from these countries can travel to Vietnam up to 15 days without applying for tourist visas.

There are two kinds of tourist visas. The first, Vietnam Associates (VNAS) for Australians can assist and expedite obtaining, or, you can contact direct to the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra or the Consulate in Sydney. The cost whether you obtain a tourist visa from us or direct is AU$95.00 per person per visa for a Single Entry Tourist Visa, however if you are stopping in Vietnam more than once then a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa is required and costs AU$150.00.

The second is a Tourist Visa on Arrival which can be obtained at the international airports (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang) on arrival in Vietnam provided that it has been pre-approved by the Immigration Office. VNAS offers visa procurement services for individuals and groups. Approval Letter costs vary and may depend on how long before date of arrival - from US$25.00 pp to US$45.00 pp. To board your flight you must show this Approval Letter before you will be allowed to fly. On arriving at the Vietnam international airport you will need to take your Approval Letter to a "LANDING VISA" counter to fill in a form (a passport photo is required) and obtain your tourist visa (cost approximately US$35.00 pp) before proceeding to Immigration. Please be aware that if there are numerous flights arriving at the same time this process may take one hour or so - as reported by clients. Please be patient.


The basic principle of customs policy in Vietnam is that visitors should enter and exit with the same goods and personal possessions with the following exceptions:

  • Cash amounts greater than US$ 7,000 (formerly US$ 3,000) should be declared upon entry or exit.
  • 1. Souvenirs: Visitors are free to buy products in Vietnam for personal use. The exception to this principle is antiques. Antiques considered of "national interest" will be confiscated without refund or recourse. In general this applies to articles of ancient (over 50 years old) or religious nature. "National interest" is interpreted by an expert at the airport. In cases where a visitor is unsure of the acceptability of the export of any goods purchased, they can check with the Customs Office in either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi for prior ruling without risk of confiscation.
  • 2. To avoid confiscation of goods not purchased, visitors must be sure an accurate description appears on the Customs Declaration form upon arrival. Particular note should be taken of antiques purchased in other countries in the region which might possibly be deemed of Vietnamese origin. Also, extra care should be taken to declare loose gemstones and jewelry.
  • 3. Firearms, narcotics and other internationally prohibited goods are banned and those found in possession of such items are liable to prosecution. Items that you cannot bring into Vietnam include weapons, munitions, explosives and inflammables, firecracker of all kinds, opium and drugs, toxic chemicals, and cultural materials unsuitable to Vietnamese society (pornographic seditious publications, films and photos), harmful child toys.

If you break these rules you will be subject to Vietnamese law.


Airport tax is already included in the air ticket effective from 1 November 2006.


On exiting the Arrivals Hall, passengers will be met, greeted and welcomed by our partner VIDOTOUR whose guide will ne holding holding a VIETNAM ASSOCIATES / VIDOTOUR sign. Guests will then proceed to an air-conditioned vehicle for the trip to the hotel.

When traveling to Vietnam, remember to be flexible and keep an open mind. Many traveler frustrations begin with differing expectations and miscommunication. If there is an issue, try to stay pleasant, smile and enjoy the experience. Vietnamese people are very proud of their country and culture and are proud to showcase their nation to international visitors.