One of the friendliest, most beautiful, interesting, well organised and affordable South East Asian countries…
In August 2016, we went to Vietnam, starting in Ho Chi Minh City, then onto Dalat and then to Nha Trang, before taking a night train back to Ho Chi Minh city for a plane home. We really liked Vietnam, its soviet style history and organisation meant everything was easier than in other South East Asian countries like Thailand. You can book your own bus tickets on English translated websites, buses (the sleepers or normal seats) and trains (soft berths) were comfortable, and travel was easy. We recommend Futa Bus lines as they provided a free shuttle to your hotel. Hotels were good, streets were cleaner, prices more upfront and honest, everything was cheap (ish), hawkers bothered you less, in fact all of it was felt more open, straightforward, sincere and authentic.
Most people spoke English (or Russian!) and were all lovely and helpful, coffee was to die for, food was varied, tasty and interesting (as long as you moved away from Pho and took some risks!) and there was good night life wherever we went. There was also lots to do and see! We loved it so much, we are determined to make it back and sample some of what the North has to offer, although some people tell us it’s slightly less friendlier than down south.
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From the airport, we suggest you get a shuttle bus from outside, it only costs 40,000 VND and took an hour and a half. However, Vietnamese taxis have helpful drivers, sat nav, advanced (cheap) meters that you can trust and some even took credit cards; although we got scammed with one meter that was clearly running at a higher rate than the others (but it looked different so we should have spotted it).
Hotels are in the $10 area (up or down on this price point, depending on your standards) and we didn’t have a bad experience in any. If in doubt, we recommend (and a good general travel strategy) to book one night and then find somewhere better when you are there, although make sure it’s not a busy period and there is availability, though this isn’t often a problem. A scooter can be a good thing to hire but driving was chaotic, especially at roundabouts, and we think it’s safer to do in Dalat than in the busier places.
Food is less than $10 but more like $1 or 2 if you put some effort in, indeed, you can live for very cheap if you do. We lived like kings and queens for 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 VND a day, which included everything. We recommend trying a hot pot, a clay pot, a Banh Bao, some Pho, and finding some authentic Vietnamese restaurants. The beer is good, wine is excellent and the rice wine, which was also tasty, will get you drunk! We also recommend trying a massage, local yogurt and lots more in our more detailed sections below.
For our focus on Dalat, with some great pictures, click here…
Have a look at our take on Nha Trang, with some good images, by clicking here…