Located in the southeastern extremity of the Indochinese peninsula, spread over an area of about 331,210 km2, Vietnam shares a border with the Gulf of Tonkin, Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea alongside China, Laos and Cambodia. What makes Vietnam’s geography really remarkable is its S-shaped coastline that runs for as long as 3,260 km.
The geography of Vietnam can be divided into four sections that range from rugged mountains to marshy fertile flatlands. Towards the south you’ll find the Gulf of Thailand, while towards the east and southeast there is the Red River Delta. Vietnam shares its northern border with China, where mountains extend up to 3,143m at Fansipan, also known as the highest peak in Vietnam.
Tropical lowlands, hills, densely forested highlands and deltas are some of the major geographical features of Vietnam. The Red River Delta is a triangular region covering 3,000 km2 and is more densely populated than the Mekong River Delta. Owing to its low level, which is just 3 km above sea level, the entire delta region is often subject to flooding.
Vietnam is spread over an area of approximately 331,210 km2 in the southeastern edge of the Indochinese peninsula and comprises a unique S-shaped coastline that runs for 3,260 km.
Vietnam has several distinct climate zones:
The south has three somewhat distinct seasons:
March – May: Hot and dry
- April is the hottest month, with mid-day temperatures of 33°C (91°F) on most days.
June/July – November: Rainy
- During the rainy season, short downpours can happen every afternoon and occasionally streets can flood. Temperatures range from stifling hot before a rainstorm to pleasantly cool afterwards. Mosquitoes are everywhere in the rainy season, so be sure to pack along mosquito repellent!
December – February: Cool and dry
- December to February is the most pleasant time to visit, with cool evenings down to around 20° (68°F).
In the central regions, the Hai Van pass separates two different weather patterns of the north starting in Lang Co, which is hotter in summer and cooler in winter, and from the milder conditions south starting in Da Nang.
September – February: The central regions have northeast monsoon conditions with often strong winds, large sea swells and rain.
- The conditions during this period can make it a difficult time to travel through central Vietnam. Summers are normally hot and dry.
The north has four distinct seasons with a comparatively chilly winter (temperatures can dip below 15°C/59°F in Hanoi), hot and wet summers, and pleasant spring (March-April) and autumn (October-December) seasons. However in the Highlands, both extremes are amplified, with occasional snow in the winter and temperatures hitting 40°C (104°F) in the summer
Vietnam’s days as a pariah state cut off from the rest of the world are long gone. Today the country boasts numerous land crossings with all of its neighbours and international flight connections to Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA (among others). You can also enter by boat from Cambodia and by train from China.
Vietnam has two international airports, Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. A third airport, Da Nang Airport (in Da Nang) accepts a far smaller number of international flights. Over a dozen other domestic airports are scattered across Vietnam.
Vietnam Airlines is Vietnam’s national carrier. It has a comprehensive domestic network and a growing international one. Jetstar is the second domestic carrier with a more limited network.
Vietnam’s local currency is the Dong (VND). Vietnamese use both coins and paper notes. In recent times, Vietnam has begun updating its money system. As such, two different money systems (old and new) exist today. Coins include VND 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500 and 200. These values have paper note equivalences. The following values: VND 500,000; 200,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000 exist both in the new polymer form and the old normal paper notes.
The current rate of exchange versus the US Dollar is approximately US$1 to 21,000 VND. Money can be exchanged at the airport, banks and official exchange centres in Vietnam. We strongly advise against exchanging money on the black market.
Method of payment
Direct payment of cash is most common in Vietnam. Small shops, restaurants and markets usually do not accept any other payment. Credit cards of the major credit card companies (such as Visa, Mastercard and sometimes American Express) are increasingly being used, especially in big cities and tourist places; but mainly in restaurants, hotels or big shopping malls and always with a transactional fee (3-5%). Traveller’s checks are an easy method of carrying money around, and can be cashed at major banks (but not at small banks in small towns).
You can withdraw money at ATMs (mostly in cities) in Vietnam and over-the-counter at most banks. Most banks offer this service and the registration for an account is simple and fast. All ATMs are locally interconnected.
Banking hours may differ from bank to bank. Generally, banks are open from Monday to Friday: 8am – 11.30am and 1pm – 4pm. Some large banks also open through lunch or on Saturday mornings. Banks are closed on public holidays.
- Nationals of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand do not require a visa if they plan to stay no longer than 30 days in Vietnam
- Nationals of Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden do not require a visa if they plan to stay no longer than 15 days in Vietnam.
- The vast majority of foreign tourists enter Vietnam on a tourist visa. This visa must be issued before arrival and the typical visa is valid for 30 days. Depending on the consulate that issues the visa, it starts to expire from the day it is issued, so it is a good idea to get your visa as close as possible to your intended arrival date. Extending your visa is possible once you are in Vietnam.
- To obtain your entry visa, you have to apply to any Vietnam Embassy and/or Consulate worldwide. You need a passport with at least 6 months validity. If there is no Vietnam Embassy or Consulate in your country, or if you just want to make Vietnam part of a multi-destination trip, then a Visa on Arrival is your best option.
What is a Visa on Arrival?
This is most likely the easiest way to obtain your visa without having to chase down embassies, consulates and the like prior to your trip. The entry Vietnam visa will be stamped on your passport at the Visa on Arrival Desk at the International Airport in Vietnam. After this, you can pass through the Immigration checkpoint. With this type of visa, you only can enter the country by air. This service is available for both tourism and business purposes.
How to get a Visa on Arrival?
We can help you get a Visa on Arrival Approval letter from the Vietnam Immigration Department. After obtaining the approval letter, we will forward you a copy by email. Copies of the same document will be forwarded on your behalf to the Vietnam Immigration checkpoints (International Airports only).Upon your arrival in Vietnam, the Immigration officers will have those documents on hand and will be able to issue your entry visa at once. Please remember to bring at least 2 photos of passport regulation size (2in x 2in or 4cm x 6cm) and cash (US dollars) for the stamping fees.
- Normal processing to get visa on Arrival Approval letter: 3-4 working days
- Urgent processing to get visa on Arrival Approval letter: 1-2 working days
- for passengers 18 years of age and older:
a. tobacco products:200 cigarettes, or 20 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco;
b. alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages:
– liquor at 20% volume and above: 1,5 litres; or
– liquor below 20% volume: 2 litres; or
– other alcoholic beverages (excl. wines) and soft drinks: 3 litres;
c. tea, max. 5 kg; coffee, max. 3 kg;
- a reasonable quantity of perfume and personal belongings;
- other goods, total value of which is not exceeding 10 million VND (Vietnamese Dong).
Arms and Ammunition regulations:
- Import and export of firearms and ammunition is prohibited. Transit transportation of firearms, ammunition, explosives and highly dangerous goods is subject to prior approval from the government of Vietnam.
Currency Import regulations:
- Local currency (Vietnamese Dong-VND): no restrictions. Amounts exceeding 15 million VND must be declared on arrival.
- Foreign currencies: no restrictions. Amounts exceeding USD 5,000.- (or equivalent) must be declared on arrival. Amounts under USD 5,000.- (or equivalent) to be deposited in credit institutions and branches of foreign banks must also be declared on arrival.
Currency Export regulations:
- Local currency (VND): no restrictions. Amounts exceeding 15 million VND must be declared on departure.
- Foreign currencies: no restrictions. Amounts exceeding USD 5,000.- (or equivalent) must be declared upon. Proof of expenses is required.
We advise you to visit your doctor at least a month prior to departure to discuss vaccinations for the following: polio, tetanus, yellow fever, typhoid and Japanese encephalitis.
For more information, refer to this website.