If you haven’t been to, or considered Vietnam as your next travel destination, I would sincerely encourage you to do so. The memories and horrors of its warring history has long gone, and what has emerged from the ashes is a youthful, thriving culture with an even stronger economy built around tourism. Many locals will know how to speak English, and the low cost of living makes for an economic travel expense as well. There is a wealth of local food offering, but also high-end, French-inspired cuisine that you can enjoy while in its major cities. Furthermore, the beauty of Vietnam is not limited to any one city, but is well distributed throughout the north (Hanoi), central (Hue, Phong Nha), and south (Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City).
Vietnam is unique in that the weather patterns in the north and south are quite different. For example, October to April is the best time to visit Hanoi given those dates are the dry season, but September marks the wet season for Hoi An, and continue through end of January. It is therefore important to consider which part you will visit and plan accordingly.
If you’re a US citizen like me, you will need a visa. The US Dept of State website will indicate the latest visa requirements for US citizens, while the Vietnam Government Website will list out requirements for other countries. A quick Google search will turn up literally hundreds of service providers (often posing as “official” government websites) offering Visa processing services ranging from $35 – $150 (depending on processing times). *PRO-TIP – plan ahead, and ensure you have at least 3 business days to avoid having to shell out exorbitant fees.* My recommendation for you is to visit E-Visa Portal which is the Vietnam government’s initial attempts at trying to establish an online visa processing service. For just $25, the service will provide a printable e-visa that you can take to customs without needing to wait at the airport for issuance. This is key, as other services will provide you with an application, but still requires you to wait 1-2 hours to actually receive the visa once you arrive.
Once you’ve figured out the when and how, you’ll be glad to know you have several options at your fingertips. Check out the links below for my tips and guides on a few of the more popular destinations.