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Vietnam Travel Guides

    Welcome to Vietnam, A beautiful country with a complexes past. Bamboo-pole skinny and a thousand miles long, invigorated Vietnam packs so much into its mountainous, slithery shape that repeat visitors still find things to shake their heads at.

Hanoi’s prettier, with more cultural history and closer to the mountains, but old Saigon’s food is better and its all-night energy unparalleled.

From Ho Chi Minh City and sampling the Mekong Delta’s chocolate-colored rivulets on boat trips past rice villages or visit war sites like the claustrophobic Cu Chi tunnels is a must do.

Up the coast, Nha Trang is the best beach town, with turquoise water and a growing hotel-filled skyline, but Hoi An, an ancient Chinese trading town with cobbled streets, is a standout for many.

A few hours north, is Vietnam’s former capital, Hue, with royal tombs and the country’s spiciest street food. Near the border with China, take a cruise navigating through the monolithic limestone islands of Halong Bay, named after a dragon; an overnight train ride to the north is Sa Pa, with Indochina’s highest mountains and home to ethnic minorities.

Arrival in Vietnam
All visitors must complete an arrival card. This should be submitted together with passport and visa to the Immigration Department officials, as well as the Customs officers. The Exit portion will be torn off and returned to the visitor, who should retain this for presentation upon departure.

Airport in Saigon:
Tan Son Nhat airport is about 8km northwest of the city center. The best way to get into the city is to take a taxi. Pick a metered taxi outside the terminal and the journey should cost between US$12 and US$15 (VND 200,000 – 250,000)

Airport  In Hanoi:
Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport is approximately 30km north of the city. A taxi into the city center is usually set around US$15 (VND 250,000). This figure is arranged in advance and therefore no meter is necessary. Please ensure you agree the price before setting your foot inside the taxi.

Money
The official currency is Dong. The Dong is non-convertible and at the time of writing trades at approximately 17,800 to US$1. The US dollar, preferably crisp clean bills, is widely accepted among major shops and restaurants. Travelers checks can be cashed at authorized foreign exchange outlets and banks and require presentation of passport. There is normally a 2 to 5 percent transaction fee for cashing Travelers checks. Visa and Master card are becoming more accepted in many of the bigger hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities. 

Credit Cards
Visa is the most common. Master Card and American Express are accepted in the big hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops in the large cities (such as 

Language
The national language is Vietnamese but English is commonly used in major tourist centers. French, Germany, Chinese are also spoken by many educated Vietnamese.

Time
The time in Vietnam  is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +7).

Geography

Vietnam borders Cambodia , Laos and China and stretches over 1650km along the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula . The country's two main cultivated areas are the Red River Delta (15,000 sq. km) in the north and the Mekong Delta (40,000 sq. km) in the south. Three-quarters of the country is mountainous and hilly; the highest peak is the 3.143m high Fansipan in northwest Vietnam.

Although Vietnam lies in the inter-tropical zone, local conditions vary from frosty winter in theds far northern hills to the year-round subequatorial warmth of the Mekong Delta. At sea level, the mean annual temperature is about 27 degrees C in the south, falling to about 21 degrees C in the far north.

Weather and Climate

Vietnam is located in both a tropical and a temperate zone. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences, but has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity. Regions located near the tropics and in the mountainous regions are endowed with a temperate climate.

The monsoon climate also influences to the changes of the tropical humidity. In general, in Vietnam there are two seasons, the cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October.The difference in temperature between the two seasons in southern is almost unnoticeable, averaging 30ºC.  The most noticeable variations are found in the northern where differences of 12ºC have been observed. There are essentially four distinct seasons, which are most evident in the northern provinces (from Hai Van Pass toward to the north): Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

Every year there are 100 rainy days and the average rainfall is 1,500 to 2,000mm. The humidity ranges around 80%. The sunny hours are 1,500 to 2,000 and the average solar radiation of 100kcal/cm2 in a year.

Because Vietnam is affected by the monsoon, that why the average temperature is lower than the other countries which are located in the same longitude in Asia. The annual average temperatures range from 22ºC to 27ºC.

In comparing with these countries, the temperature in winter is colder and in summer is less hotter in Vietnam. Under influence of monsoon, and further because of the complicated topography, the climate in Vietnam always changes in one year, between the years, or between the areas (from North to South and from low to high).

The climate in Vietnam is also under disadvantage of weather, such as typhoons (advantage there are 6-10 storms and tropical low atmosphere in year, floods and droughts are threaten the life and the agriculture of Vietnam).


Best time to Visit

There is no real best or worst time to visit Vietnam with travel possible all year, but the seasons vary across the country and you should be prepared to encounter some rain whenever you decide to travel

Northern Vietnam, (e.g. Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa) can be quite cold, damp and misty from November to March. However, it is also possible to experience lovely 
sunny,cloudless day hear during this period. You might need warm clothing and an anorak or other waterproof in case of rain, but these can be cheaply purchased locally if required.

The central region (Hué, Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang) is at its wettest from September through to December. Traditionally this period sees monsoon rains and occasional typhoons which can cause flooding in the area. Whilst this is rarely of such a level as to seriously affect an itinerary we do advise people travelling in this area over this period that there may be last minute changes to itineraries to accommodate for the weather conditions.

Some people might say that our summer months (June, July, August) are the best time to visit Vietnam. Unusually for Asia the weather in central Vietnam is likely to be sunny and clear during this time, and although there may be short downpours in the south and north, many people see no rain at all and enjoy cloudless sunny skies.

Culture

The Culture of Vietnam, an agricultural civilization based on the cultivation of wet rice, is one of the oldest in East Asia; the ancient Bronze ageDong Son culture is considered to be one of its most important progenitors. Due to the long-term Chinese influence on its civilization, in terms of politics, government and Confucian social and moral ethics, Vietnam is considered to be part of the East Asian Cultural Sphere.

Some elements generally considered to be characteristic of Vietnamese culture include ancestor veneration, respect for community and family values, handicrafts and manual labour, and devotion to study. Important symbols present in Vietnamese culture include dragons, turtles, lotuses and bamboo.

Money
The official currency is Dong. The Dong is non-convertible and at the time of writing trades at approximately 17,800 to US$1. The US dollar, preferably crisp clean bills, is widely accepted among major shops and restaurants. Travelers checks can be cashed at authorized foreign exchange outlets and banks and require presentation of passport. There is normally a 2 to 5 percent transaction fee for cashing Travelers checks. Visa and Master card are becoming more accepted in many of the bigger hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities.

Post and Telecommunication
The Vietnamese postal system offers you most telecommunications services. You could find herein some special services such as: Fedex, EMS (Express Mail Service), DHL Worldwide Express, UPS, Freight Forwarders.

Email & Internet: E-mail and Internet services are available in most hotels and posts in Vietnam. Other places where you could find the same services are in the Internet Cafes (~95% are using ADSL) located in many streets of the major cities. Normally the post will charge you from 5000 VND to 10,000 VND per hour for internet service (about 0.25 to 0.60 USD) but it could be more in the hotels.

Telephone Booth & Telephone Card: Using a telephone booth is an easy way for you to call home. You can find telephone booths at post offices or in the street of major cities. Telephone cards are on sales at GPO, shops, restaurants, book stores. However, it is getting more popular and cheaper to make phone calls over the Internet. These days many Internet Cafes offer you this option.

International calls: Costs for direct dialed international calls are still high. However, you can make a phone call to talk with your relatives in your country with half of the cost with 178 or 171 services. With these services, cost is about 0.60USD per minute to most of countries in the world. Here is how to do it:

Dial 171 (or 178) + 00 + country code + city code + number

Business hours
Most Vietnamese are early risers, so businesses and shops open early. Government offices are open from Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm. Most businesses are open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm and on Saturdays from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Lunch time is usually between 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Businesses, shops, and all government offices are closed during this lunch period. Shops are open from about 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, some open longer as the shop are their own home.

People
The majority of the population is comprised of the Viet or Kinh (80%); people who speak the tonal Vietnamese. The minority population is made up of over 54 ethnic minority groups that mainly focus in the central and northern mountainous areas of the country. The best-known hill tribes are the Tay, Hmong, Zao, White and Black Thai (both mainly from the North). Each hill tribe has its own unique customs and dialect and some are able to speak Vietnamese.

Cuisine
A typical Vietnamese meal consists of rice or noodles with soup, a stir-fry, and another main dish and is eaten on a communal basis. The dishes are usually not spicy and are accompanied with chili sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce. The traditional Vietnamese breakfast is Pho – a large bowl of rice noodles flavored with sliced beef or chicken and fragrant broth and garnished with fresh coriander and bean sprouts. The countries 3 main regions, the North, the Center and the South each have distinct cuisine. Generally the North is best known for its noodle soups and meat and seafood stir-fries. The central region especially around Hue has some of the most elaborate dishes. In the south, where there is a greater abundance of spices the food tends to be a little hotter. With over 3,000km of coastline the seafood here is both delicious and varied. Crabs prawns, crayfish and squid are in plentiful supply, not to mention hundreds of varieties of fish.

Clothing
We recommend you to bring just light, comfortable, easy to launder clothing is recommended. The temperature during winter months in Hanoi and the rainy season in the central region can be cool; a sweater or light jacket can be handy. Good walking shoes and sandals that can be easily removed are recommended, especially when entering temples and people’s homes.

Language
Vietnamese, the official language, is a tonal language that can be compared to Cambodia’s official language, Khmer. With each syllable, there are six different tones that can be used, which change the definition and it often makes it difficult for foreigners to pick up the language. There are other languages spoken as well such as Chinese, Khmer, Cham and other languages spoken by tribes inhabiting the mountainous regions. Although there are some similarities to Southeast Asian languages, such as Chinese, Vietnamese is thought to be a separate language group, although a member of the Austro-Asiatic language family.

In written form, Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet and accent marks to show tones. This system of writing called Quoc Ngu, was created by Catholic missionaries in the 17th century to translate the scriptures. Eventually this system, particularly after World War I, replaced one using Chinese characters (Chu Nom), which had been the unofficial written form used for centuries.

Public holidays
The most important and widely celebrated public holiday of the year is Tet, the Lunar New Year, which coincides with the cycle of the moon. This public holiday usually takes place in late January or early February and lasts officially for three days, although many businesses are closed the entire week. Other important public holidays include the Liberation of Saigon (April 30), International Worker’s Day (May 1), Ho Chi Minh’s birthday (May 19), and Vietnamese National Day (September 2).

TET

The Vietnamese Lunar New Year
There is no more colorful time to be in Vietnam than during the days leading up to Tet Nguyen Dan, the most important festival of the year for Vietnam’s Kinh ethnic majority.

Since the first day of lunar year is thought to set tone for the next 12 month, everyone strives to plan the perfect Tet.

In Hanoi, the narrow lanes of the Old Quarter buzz with activity. Everyone is in a rush to get a haircut, buy new clothes, spruce up their homes, visit friends, settle outstanding debts, and stock up on traditional Tet delicacies. Businesses hang festive red banners which read “Chuc mung nam moi”(Happy New Year) and city streets are festooned with colored light. Stalls spring up all over town to sell nothing but cone -shaped kumquat bushes. Others sell flowering peach trees, symbols of life and good fortune which people bring in to their homes to celebrate the coming of spring. As vendors pour into the city with peach trees strapped to their bicycles, the streets look like moving pink forests.


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