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All you need to know about Vietnam

Vietnam is the first country in South Asia that we have traveled to since we settled semi-permanently in Thailand. We enjoy a week long visit, split in two between the cities of Danang & Hoi An. We really wanted a taste of Vietnamese culture and we found just that at some awesome spots, including the Hoi An Lantern Festival, Hoi An Memories and Marble Mountain. Stay tuned as we bring you the best of our time here and as much information (we hope) as you need to plan your stay in Vietnam.

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Introduction to Vietnam
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Here are a few facts about Vietnam that may surprise you!

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✓ In Chinese, 'Viet' means 'people outside China' and 'Nam' means south. While we use them both combined today, they were also separate words in ancient Vietnamese. 'Viet' actually referred to fairies and dragons, and as such many people in Vietnam believe they have descended from these mythical creatures.

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✓ Vietnam is known as the 'King of Cashews', given they produce a staggering 55% of the world's supply, to the tune of a cool $2 billion per year. 30% of the world's supply of black pepper also comes from Vietnam and the country is the second largest exporter of coffee behind Brazil.

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✓ New Year's is celebrated on the same day as the Chinese New Year in Vietnam. It is known as 'Tet' and is one of the most popular festivals in South Asia.

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✓ People in Vietnam really like motorcycles. In fact, there are over 60 million in the country, with 2 out of every 3 households owning one. In comparison there are just 2 million cars!

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✓ Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's very first president, can be viewed at his mausoleum in Hanoi. Since his death in 1969, he was embalmed and is on display from January to September every year. 

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✓ Snake Wine is a hugely popular drink in Vietnam said to have many health benefits, although most claims are unproven. It is usually made by drowning the snake alive and we are yet to try it. Would you?

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✓ The largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong, is in the Quảng Bình Province of Vietnam. It stretches for almost 6 miles and it is said that it is so big inside that a Boeing 747 could fly right through it!

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✓ The star on the Vietnamese flag represents the five main classes in society: intellectuals, farmers, workers, youth and military personnel. The red background represents the blood lost during the years of conflict in the country.  

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Things to know when visiting Vietnam

Things to know when visiting Vietnam

Here are a few stats and tips that we picked up in our time here. Let us know if there is anything we should add!

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Total Population: 97.4 million

Capital City: Hanoi (6.4 million)

Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND)

Driving: Right Side

Measurement Standard: Metric (km)

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✓ Visa Requirements:

Check the visa requirements for your nationality before traveling to Vietnam. Some nationalities may require a visa to enter the country, while others may be eligible for visa exemptions or visa on arrival. For British and Canadian citizens, you can apply online, for up to 30 days visa-free single entry. 

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✓ Weather and Climate:

Vietnam has a diverse climate, varying from north to south. The weather can range from hot and humid in the south to cooler temperatures in the north. It's important to pack accordingly and be prepared for the weather conditions during your visit. 

 

The wet season lasts from May until early November with the months from June, July & August receiving the highest rainfall of the year. Throughout much of the wet season rainfall is generally heavy but does not usually last long. The best time to visit Vietnam is from March to April when rainfall is low and temperatures are milder.

 

✓ Currency:

The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). It's advisable to carry some local currency for small expenses, but major credit cards are widely accepted in most tourist areas. Cash is one of the most popular payment methods in Vietnam however. Many businesses accept Visa or Mastercard but be prepared for contactless not to work. If you like to try street food, cash is a must. Convert your currency here.

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Speaking of cash, it is worth noting the extreme values of it. For example, at time of writing, $1 USD will get you around 24,000 Vietnamese Dong. To put that in perspective, the average coffee will set you back around 60k Dong. It does take a while to get used to all the zeros on everything!

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✓ Language:

The official language is Vietnamese. While English is spoken and understood in major tourist areas, it's useful to learn a few basic Vietnamese phrases to help with communication, especially in rural areas.

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✓ Transportation:

Vietnam has various modes of transportation, including buses, trains, taxis, and motorbike taxis. Traffic can be chaotic in major cities, so exercise caution when crossing the roads. Ride-hailing apps like Grab are popular for convenient and safe transportation. 

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The sheer volume of motorcycles is something you should be very prepared for before visiting Vietnam. Crossing roads can be quite the challenge, so it is vital you keep your wits about you! Also you will hear honking a great deal here. Perhaps because of the sometimes erratic motorcycles, and blind spots, honking is used by drivers as a form of warning rather than as a sign of irritation. The use of indicators is also not very common