Part 1: Introduction
This was my first trip to Vietnam. Despite having toured extensively
South East Asia since 1999, I've always skipped Vietnam, because I've
been skeptical about whether the country is worth visiting.
a touristic point of
view Vietnam does not have too many impressive sites. Hoi An is nice,
Son is interesting, although there is too little left here (probably a
result of US bombings during the Vietnam war). Saigon is a bit messy
and does not have that much to see, also considering that it's a big
city. Hanoi however is more interesting.
I suspect that the interesting
parts of Vietnam lie in the areas off the tourist track. Haven't been for instance
in the northern highlands and I haven't visited the Mekong
delta and the islands in the southwest of Vietnam.
Halong bay is nice, although at the time of visiting the weather was bad. In December it's better
spending the time in Phang Nga bay in southwestern Thailand which has
the same scenery in a tropical setting and has good weather in winter.
Part of the problem of Vietnam is the high population density. Not so
many open, undeveloped spaces in Vietnam.
This time I leave without a precise idea of when I'll be where. I'm
rather planning to make a stopover in Dubai, then continue to Malaysia,
spend two days in KL getting the Vietnam visa there, then fly to Siem
Reap, do Angkor and then travel to Phnom Penh, Saigon and from there go
north to Hanoi, before heading back to KL.
||Siem Reap-Phnom Penh
|Dec 29-Jan 3
Travelling in Vietnam is still relatively cheap. I spent US $16-37 for
hotel rooms in Vietnam, meals were US$ 3-10, a car with driver costs
between US $25-60 per day depending on the distance you travel, cheap
tours can be booked everywhere.
/ Exchange rate (December 2006)
1 Euro = 21500 dong
the Universal Currency Converter.
It's easy to get cash with a Maestro/Cirrus ATM card in Vietnam, as
there are plenty of ATMs. You can pay with US dollars, but people in
Vietnam use mostly Vietnamese dong. No need to carry travellers cheques
or large amounts of cash.
phones and prepaid cards
I bought a prepaid card in Saigon for 100000 dong. Recharges are
available in 50000 and 100000 dong. I had to recharge it a few times -
I guess phone calls to Malaysia are not cheap. I had coverage in all
places where I've been.
Internet cafes are everywhere and are cheap. I used however mainly the
Internet line in the hotel room (I chose hotels with Internet access in
the rooml). After December 27th Internet access became very
slow, because an earthquake off Taiwan severed some submarine cables.
In December Saigon is tropically hot, while the centre and north of
Vietnam are noticeably cooler. The biggest surprise was Hue, only 600km
north of tropical Saigon, where it was really fresh (and overcast and
rainy by the way). Hanoi was cooler than Saigon too, but you could walk
around in shorts during the day. From what I've been told in December
it is very cold in Sapa, with temperatures around 5°C (which is why
I skipped it). December is the dry season in the north of Vietnam.
No idea, but I'd guess that you'll need the usual set of "tropical"
immunisations. I didn't do any
immunisations specifically for this trip, relying instead on the
protection gained through the immunisations of the previous years.
VISA / Entry
A VISA is necessary for citizens of most countries, except ASEAN
countries. I got mine in 10 minutes at the Vietnamese embassy in KL for
the steep fee of RM 240 (= 51 Euro). VISAs on arrival are not
available, except in some very specific situations (you have to book it
in advance through a travel agency in Vietnam, based on what I've read).
According to the Footprint Vietnam guide you have to be very careful in
Vietnam, not carry valuables with you, leave the passport in the hotel,
watch your belongings etc. Personally I didn't experience any problems
or hear of people who experienced problems.
I used flights to cover the large distances, which I
easily booked once there, either in the hotel's travel agency or in
other travel agency short term (the most short term booking was in Hue
at 6pm for a flight leaving just three hours later at 9pm). Flights are
Locally I relied on taxis and rented also in Saigon and Hue a car with
driver for one day. I also booked two tours in Hanoi.