Best time to visit: December, January, February, March, April
Average high: 28˚C
Average low: 21˚C
Price of meals: 1/5
Holiday type: Adventure / Beach / Culture / Party / Romantic
As one of the countries around the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, Vietnam has become a right of passage for thousands upon thousands of backpackers from all of the world, along with Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. But while Vietnam is still very cheap and a great party nation for young travellers, it offers so much more besides and is more than worthy of satisfying those looking for culture, nature, relaxation, and luxury.
Vietnam has some of the most impressive and even otherworldly landscapes on the planet, from the rainforest-covered islands in Halong Bay, some as tall and thin as skyscrapers, to the 8-kilometre-long cave network beneath Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. But not all the natural beauty needs to be explored by tour, and many of the hundreds of emerald and azure-blue lagoons, beaches, and waterfalls across the country can be enjoyed via your own exploration or from one of the luxury cabin beach resorts.
Culture is ready to be soaked up in all corners of Vietnam. Many still associate the country with the wars and atrocities of the 20th century, and the Vietnamese make no attempt to hide their past, but to share it with others, so all may learn from it. Interested visitors should not miss Ho Chi Minh City Museum, where one can learn about the nation’s colonial past and its fight towards eventual independence, as well as its more recent history. Families and individuals alike may enjoy exploring the old Cu Chi Tunnels that were dug during the Vietnam War, although tours don’t shy away from the sombre, gritty reality of why they were built. Or travel even further back in time by visiting the ruins of My Son Sanctuary and the impressive, varied architecture of Hue City.
The Vietnamese are friendly people who delight in sharing their customs and festivities with travellers. Don’t be afraid to interact with locals as you shop for goods upon the river market boats, or take part in the Hoi An light festival to celebrate the full moon. It’s the best way to enjoy the heart of this warm nation.
While the north of the country enjoys a largely subtropical climate, the rest of the nation has a monsoon-tropical savanna climate. Consequently, the north has a spring, summer, autumn, and winter, like the UK, while the rest of the country has a wet and dry season. The wet seasons occur at various times of the year, but most start mid-to-late spring and end late summer to early or mid-autumn.
Consequently, European tourists should consider booking their trip in the winter or early spring. Temperatures are slightly colder during the winter/dry seasons, but the sun is still warm enough to enjoy the beaches and water and the humidity is much more manageable.
Despite its growing popularity, Vietnam is one of the cheapest to travel, which is great news as the food is varied and the flavours powerful. A full meal for one will only cost £1 to £2, while a three-course meal for two will almost never exceed £20. Alcohol is cheap, which is why so many partygoers enjoy visiting, and beer is available from 40p to £2, depending on where you go. Coffee averages £1.50 and bottled water is rarely more than 30-40p.
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