Overview

Vietnam is one of the most up and coming countries in Southeast Asia today. With ever increasing tourism numbers and a vast country full of food, culture and history, it is no wonder Vietnam has become a favourite of the young backpacker.

With Hanoi its capital in the north and its famous 36 streets of the popular Old Quarter at its centre offering the visitor an out of world experience walking in and down narrow walkways and alleys.

To the cosmopolitan city of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south, with it’s vast array of recognisable branded restaurants, hotels and products, you would feel like a touch of home has hit southeast Asia. Vietnam has it all and we are here to help you get through it.

Information

  • Capital: Hanoi - North Vietnam
  • Other Major Cities: Hue, Danang & Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
  • Currency: VND - Vietnamese Dong (approximately 23,000 VND to US$1)
  • Language: Vietnamese
  • Population: 95.54 million (2017)
  • Area: 331,210 km²
  • Electricity Voltage: 220 Volt at 50Hz.
  • Electricity Sockets: Power plugs – Type A: 2 vertical pins, Type C: 2 round pins,
    Type F (also known as Schuko plug): 2 round pins

CURRENCY

Vietnam accept two currencies in general, the USD & the VND (Vietnamese Dong).

USD is generally accepted in Travel Agents, Hotels and in the airport. But for local shops and restaurants it's probably best to deal in VND.

They will accept on some occasions but then you will not get the best rate when they work out the exchange to VND.

Vietnam Dong comes in varying denominations from 200 VND to 500,000 VND.

You will need to take care when handling this money because a couple of notes are quite similar. Tourists past and present get caught unawares when dealing with it and lose out, so keep an eye out.

Below we will show each denomination so you can stay clear of any mistakes in Vietnam or simply watch the video.

200 & 500

These VND notes are not used so much and cannot really buy you anything in the shops. If an odd number like this is expected in change, usually the supermarkets or restaurants will hand you over a sweet/candy instead.

 

1K, 2K & 5K

These notes are more common in Vietnam and will be issued as change. These are handy to have in your wallet/purse as they can be used to buy lighters, sweets, Bia Hoi (7k VND) or even left in tips jars. The doughnuts you see being carried around by the ladies officially cost between 2k - 3k per doughnut, don't be conned into thinking they are worth more.

 

10K & 20K

Now we are starting to get to the notes that will pay for bigger items and be a loss for backpackers on a budget, if they went missing from their wallets or purses.

10,000 VND can buy you a large bottle of water, small snacks or in some Bia Hois, two glasses of beer, although nowadays the price is usually 7k VND.

20,000 VND used to be generally termed $1 but with the exchange rate changing over the years, its slightly less, but a good way to determine how much you have or how much something costs in the shops.

Now be careful with this note, it is slightly similar to the 500,000 VND note which is worth around $23, so getting a $1 and $23 note mixed up can cause you a heavy loss, especially if grouped together in one payment.

Also, be wary when receiving change from taxi drivers or street vendors, this can be a regular occurrence and many can fall foul of this trick.

50K

This is no doubt the most distinguishable note amongst any in the VND currency, being red in colour and unmistakable when dealing with vendors and getting the right change.

With a value of around $2, this will get you a meal at lunch time with change left over for a drink too. It will also get you a little merry with Bia Hois at 7k VND a pop.

Pho Ga (Chicken Soup) or Pho Bo (Beef soup) for example will cost you in the region of 35,000 - 40,000 VND.

100K

The green note is the 100,000 and another visibly different note from the others. This is actually worth in the region of US$4.30 now, but stick to US$4 when mentally making conversions in your head and you will be fine.

What 100K VND can buy you in Vietnam is quite a lot when you think a lunchtime soup costs around 30k - 35k VND, thats 3 meals. But what it also buys you is  sometimes a night in dorm in a hostel without breakfast.

Do see our scams page before you think 100k VND is a decent price to pay for 6 tiny doughnuts in the old quarter of Hanoi for example, don't make that mistake.

200K

A decent bit of cash is the 200,000 VND note for the typical Vietnam backpacker being that it used to be worth around $10 a few years ago, which was two nights in a hostel dorm bed. Not its worth around US$8 and still a handful to go missing when you are on a tight budget.

This can usually buy you a couple of days of street food, a private room in a hostel in certain cases or pretty drunk on Bia Hoi.

Don't go and buy 12 doughnuts this time from that doughnut lady you saw yesterday...its not cool!

 

500K

Now it's last but not least by any means, this is the big boy of the Vietnamese notes, 500,000 VND, yes thats half a million and is worth ane ye dropping US$21 (ish)...that goes missing and you are crying in your Bia Hoi that night for sure.

Some dodgy taxi drivers will attempt to distract you to try and grab these notes and swap with a 20,000 VND note, being that its a similar colour and folded up, maybe none the wiser. Keep an eye on these and keep them separated from your smaller bills. In fact keep these and your 100k's and 200k's in a separate secret stash altogether...you will thank me for it one day!

 

WEATHER

With such a long country like Vietnam, you are going to have varying climates throughout your time if travelling through the whole country.

You can be cold up in the foothills of Sapa staying in a wooden rustic homestay or in the far south on Phu Quoc island enjoying a cold beer on the hot beach. With a smidgen of rain in between in the central regions you have all bases covered.

Here we will give you a rough idea as to what weather to expect whilst backpacking through Vietnam.

North Vietnam

The best times to visit Hanoi and the northern regions would be between March and May & September to November. The temperatures are still moderate as you will miss the full blown summer of June - August with temperatures up to 36 degrees..

Is Sapa on your bucket list? April/May or August/September are great times to see the luscious green & yellow rice terraces, although August can be damp and slippy on the local treks so its advisable to bring good walking shoes and a walking stick along with a mac.

During the summer months (June - August) can bring the high and humid temperatures but also the rains. It's also the peak holiday season for the locals, with the school holidays in full swing, you would be advised to book domestic transportation in advance to avoid disappointment.

Between November - January can bring the cold weather to Hanoi and the northern regions, so definitely bring a jacket and jumpers and maybe spend your times in the museums, souvenir shops or sitting in the corner of a cozy cafe sipping hot chocolate or coffee.

Late January or early February is TET (Lunar New Year) for Vietnam and most Vietnamese will travel home to their villages with transportation links taking a hit so again, plan in advance to book trains, buses or flights.

Average temperature in Hanoi:

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Low °C 15 15 18 21 24 25 26 26 25 22 19 15
High °C 19 19 23 26 31 32 32 32 31 28 24 21
Rainfall (mm) 16 30 37 87 196 240 312 338 252 116 40 20

*courtesy of Travel Agent Hanoi

Central Vietnam

The central region covers Hue, Hoi An & Danang and can experience hot sunshine and heavy downpours depending on when you come.

Hue has a wet season between September and December, with the heaviest of rainfall in October & November. January to August is dry season and can expect high temperatures although the occasional rainfall can be seen in the afternoons.

Danang & Hoi An are the beach destinations and you certainly don't want to be hitting these areas during the heavy rains. This tends to be from August through to November with the odd typhoon thrown in to boot in this season. But the dry season lasts from February through to July with temperatures peaking at around 38 degrees towards the end, definitely bring your sun cream and hat for this time of the year.

Vietnam is an all year round destination but the weather is very different from the north to the south, so be prepared whichever time you do come.

*courtesy of Travel Agent Hanoi

South Vietnam

The south of Vietnam actually covers quite a vast area so there will be varying temperatures and climates between Nha Trang and Phu Quoc.

The first 8 months of the year in Nha Trang will be dry and hot with the wet season starting in September and best to avoid. Feb/March is the best time with temperatures not so high at around 26ºC - 27ºC. Mui Ne is in its wet season during the months of April - October but dry during November to March.

Dalat is a great place to escape the heat and head in to the mountains for cool, fresh air. The dry season is between November and March and the wet season April - October.

Down to the climate in Ho Chi Minh City and you will be hot and wet or hot and dry with two distinct weather climates. December to March is probably the best time to visit when it is dry but even during the wet months, it can only be a short shower and be glorious after. Wet season is between May - September.

Phu Quoc is beach time again and you must be sure of when to travel here as its the whole point to sit on the beach in lovely sunshine, not downpours! Most of the rainfall will fall during July to September so try to avoid booking your flights here for that period. November to March would be a great time to plan on being on Phu Quoc but ensure you book with us in plenty of time as resorts get fully booked quickly.

Approximate HCMC climate below

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Low °C 22 23 24 26 26 25 24 25 25 24 23 22
High °C 32 33 34 34 34 32 32 32 31 31 31 31
Rainfall (mm) 10 10 10 40 140 180 190 170 190 160 120 40

 

*courtesy of Travel Agent Hanoi

LANGUAGE

Vietnam has a very difficult language to master and travelling for just a few weeks or months you are not going to get to grips with it totally.

However, there are some handy phrases which we have compiled together to help you in a few situations whilst backpacking through Vietnam.

Check out some of them here below!

Greetings

The Basic Hello

Say "xin chào" as a usual greeting. If you only learn one Vietnamese greeting, "xin chào" would likely be the best.

  • Pronounced "xin chào" as: sin jow

Say "chào bạn" when you're close in age, the most accurate way to say "hello" would be "chào bạn."

  • Pronounced "chào bạn" as: jow bahn

When speaking to people older than yourself use "chào anh" or "chào chị". If the other person is an older male, use "chào anh." If older female, use "chào chị."

  • Pronounced "chào anh" as: jow ahn
  • Pronounced "chào chị" as: jow jee

Not that this would be usual as Vietnam Backpackers are all generally young. But, use "chào em" to speak to younger people.

  • Pronounced "chào em" as: jow ehm

The Basic Goodbye

"Tam Biet" is a more formal goodbye in Vietnamese

  • Pronounced "Dam Bee - et"

A less formal way and usual within Vietnamese friends is "Hen Gap Lai" - See you again

  • Pronounced "Hen Gap lie"

Saying thank you

This would be a simple “cảm ơn.” literally thanks.

  • Pronounced “gauhm uhhn”

Apologies

A simple "Sorry" - Xin Loi will go a long way here in Vietnam

  • Pronounced "Sin Loy"

Other phrases you may use

A "No Problem" can be useful and would be said as follows - "Khong co gi"

  • Pronounced "Kong koh zi"

No, Thank You - very useful in the streets of Hanoi or Saigon from street sellers - Khong! Cam On.

  • Pronounced "Kong - gauhm uhhn"

Numbers

  1. một
  2. hai
  3. ba
  4. bốn (also: tư)
  5. năm
  6. sáu
  7. bảy
  8. tám
  9. chín
  10. mười

100,000 VND - một trăm nghìn - mut cham neen

200,000 VND - hai trăm nghìn - hi cham neen

500,000 VND - năm trăm nghìn - nam cham neen

How much? - bao nhiêu?

Expensive - đắt