Vietnam

Vietnam: When to Go

Vietnam has a complicated climate. In the north, autumn (Sept to Dec) is the nicest season. At this time of year it's warm, dry and sunny, though you'll need warm clothes up in the mountains and Ha Long Bay. Winter (Dec to Feb) can be surprisingly cold with temperatures as low as 10°C. Things warm up in March then get hot in May, though the rainy season starts in June and brings heavy downpours and flooding. By mid Sept, it's perfect weather.

The central region has a wet climate, particularly around Hué. The dry season lasts from Feb - May although there are occasional shock typhoons in April and May. After this it gets wetter and hotter (averaging 30°C) until the rainy season in Sept, which eases off from Nov - Jan.

The lower east coast and the south have a dry season from Dec to late April/May, and rain from May - Nov. Most rain falls in brief downpours. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 20°C.

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TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Getting There

Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.

FLIGHTS IN AND OUT OF HO CHI MINH CITY

From Europe:

Vietnam Airlines flies from London Gatwick, Paris, Frankfurt and Moscow.

From Asia:

Vietnam Airlines flies from many places, including Melbourne, Sydney, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur.
Qantas (using Vietnam Airlines) files from Melbourne and Sydney.
Thai Airways flies from Bangkok.
Cathay Pacific flies from Hong Kong.
Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways and Jetstar fly from Singapore.
Japan Airlines flies from Tokyo and Osaka.
Philippine Airlines flies from Manila.
Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia fly from Kuala Lumpur.
Asiana Airlines flies from Seoul.
Eva Airways and China Airlines fly from Taiwan.
China Southern Airlines flies from Guangzhou.
Shanghai Airlines flies from Shanghai.
Lao Airlines flies from Vientiane.

FLIGHTS IN AND OUT OF HANOI

From Europe:

Vietnam Airlines flies from London Gatwick, Paris, Frankfurt and Moscow.
Aeroflot flies from Moscow.

From Asia:

Vietnam Airlines flies from Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Guangzou, Tokyo, Osaka, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Vientiane, Luang Prabang.
Thai Airways and Air Asia fly from Bangkok.
Singapore Airlines flies from Singapore.
Malaysia Airlines flies from Kuala Lumpur.
Korean Airlines flies from Seoul and Busan.
Japan Airlines flies from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya.
Cathay Pacific flies from Hong Kong.
Air China flies from Beijing.
China Southern Airlines flies from Guangzou.
Lao Airlines flies from Vientiane.

Hue Airport which has been closed for refurbishment is due to re-open ahead of schedule on 20th September 2013.

Getting Around

DOMESTIC FLIGHTS

There are 16 domestic airports in Vietnam, all operated by Vietnam Airlines. Most connect with both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi; Phu Quoc connects only with Ho Chi Minh City.

Visa / Entry Requirements

Until 30 June 2017, visitors from Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and France can enter Vietnam for up to a maximum of 15 days without a visa. Passports must have at least six-month validity from the date of entry.

For longer stays, or if you are from a different country, you must apply for a visa (the standard one is valid for 30 days). This is best done through your embassy; processing typically takes 7-10 days, though some embassies offer an express service. You have to fill in 2 application forms and provide 2 passport photos. One form, with the photo attached, will be returned with your visa. Keep it safe because you'll be asked to hand it in at immigration. Be sure to check that your visa is stamped with the correct dates and the correct entry and exit points.

There are also companies that can arrange visas on arrival, but you must organise this before you arrive in Vietnam, and beware that some companies are bogus.

If you need to extend your stay, it is easy to apply for a visa renewal. This will be handled by tour agents / traveller cafés in Vietnam. The first renewal takes approximately 3 working days to process. The maximum period you can ask for is 30 days and it costs the same whether you ask for 1 day or 30 days. A second 10-day extension can be purchased. For this you will be asked to show an air ticket dated after the expiry of your visa.

Other Essentials

It is recommended that you have a diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Yellow Fever injection before going to Vietnam. Malaria protection will also be required. Click here for details.