WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE SENDING YOUR CLIENTS TO VIETNAM
Viet Nam is a cultural wonderland with a vast history influenced by the Chinese, French, and Americans. The country has 1000 miles of spectacular coastline, with topography ranging from mountainous jungles to white sand beaches, and rice paddies to rainforests. Let us give you an overview of
VIETNAM AT A GLANCE
|Size||127,880 sq. miles; 2026 miles of coastline|
English and French are widely spoken
|Time Zone||GMT +7|
|Currency||Official: Vietnamese Dong (VND)|
US dollar is widely accepted at currency exchange services
|Visa||Required. Obtain in advance (eVisa or through consulate) or upon arrival.|
Visa exempted countries and all other information are listed here.
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY
Set along the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula, Viet Nam faces the South East Sea, and borders China, Cambodia, and Laos to the north and west.
A relatively small country (about the size of Italy), Viet Nam’s geography is remarkably varied and complex. The country is S-shaped – broad in the north and very narrow in the center, where at one point (Quang Binh province) it is only 30 miles wide. Three-quarter of the country consists of mountains and hills. The highest peak, Mt. Fansipan, is 10,309 ft. is part of the Hoang Lien Son Mountains in the northwest, and the Truong Son Mountains are the backbone of the country, running almost the length of the country along the border with Laos and Cambodia. Viet Nam has two major deltas – the Red River Delta in the north, which includes Ha Noi, and the famous Mekong Delta that covers the southern portion of the country. Viet Nam is over 1000 miles long, with more than 2000 miles of scenic coastline.
|Three Geographic Regions of Vietnam|
|Northern Vietnam||The most mountainous area of the country, full of small villages accessed only by narrow mountain roads or hiking trails. Home to most of Vietnam’s minorities and hill tribes, as well the bustling capital city of Ha Noi.|
|Central Vietnam||The Central Highlands are also mountainous, lush, and green. The Central Coastal area has beautiful sand beaches and unspoiled islands, and was home to the ancient Khmer and Cham kingdoms.|
|Southern Vietnam||The region is anchored by Ho Chi Minh City, lively and a commercial center. The Mekong Delta makes up the majority of the region and its network of canals make|
it the country’s breadbasket.
CLIMATE & SEASONS
Viet Nam is in a Northern Hemisphere, with a tropical monsoon type climate. October to March, the winter monsoon winds comes from the northeast, bringing chillier temperatures to the provinces north of Nha Trang, but dry and warm temperatures to the south. From April to October, the southwestern monsoon brings warm, humid weather to the whole country except for those areas sheltered by mountains, such as coastal lowlands and Red River Delta. Northern Viet Nam has a cooler season, with occasion frost and snow on the highest northern mountains. In the southern Viet Nam, the lowlands are sheltered from outbreaks of colder northerly air and the dry season is warm to hot with much sunshine. Viet Nam has a single rainy season (May – September) that brings abundant rainfall; with rain infrequent and light during the remainder of the year.
You can visit Viet Nam any time of the year, always finding sun somewhere. The high tourist season is October to March, though disruptive storms can occur in the center of the country from September to December. The best time for the central coast beaches is May and August, and autumn is the best time to find clear sky in Ha Long Bay.
TRAVEL ACCESS & GATEWAYS
Viet Nam is extremely accessible, with three international gateways – Ha Noi in the north, Da Nang in the center, and Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Direct flights are available from major Indochina cities, as well as Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Seoul, Sydney, Los Angeles, Paris, and beyond. The best domestic carrier is the national airline, Vietnam Airlines, offering a network of domestic flights. Internal travel is done by road and train, with boats and ferries also available for transportation and touring.
Viet Nam is an ancient land with more than four thousand years of history – a complex series of kingdoms and dynasties, invasions and resistance, occupation and independence. During the Bronze Age, the Viet people began their modern day history in the northern Red River Delta heartland, moving down from the mountainous highlands to cultivate the plains. They developed a unique and distinct civilization (the Dong Son culture) with a high level of artistic and technical skill. In approximately 200 BC, invaders came from the north, leading to over a thousand years of Chinese domination.
In the 10th century AD, the Vietnamese won their freedom and created the independent state of Dai Viet. Ruling regional feudal dynasties came and went, with threats always looming from invading Chinese and Mongolian forces. By the 18th century, the country was united under the Nguyen Dynasty, the last royal dynasty in Viet Nam. The next invaders came a hundred years later; in 1884, the French established a controlling colonial government over Viet Nam. After another century, local resistance eventually over threw the French colonization, as well as Japanese occupation attempts, to establish the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam on September 2, 1945. French aggression continued until the 1954 Geneva Agreement basically divided the country; with the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam ruling the north, and the pro-French Republic of Viet Nam controlling the south. Fighting continued, with increased international involvement, until the American War ended with the Paris Agreement in 1973. On April 25, 1976, the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam was renamed into the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, governing both north and south as a united Viet Nam. In 1977, Viet Nam became a member of the United Nations.
Beginning with the Dong Son civilization, the Vietnamese have retained a distinctive and interesting culture, rich in diverse local customs, dialects, and ways of life. Viet Nam has its own culture, language and a highly developed agricultural-based civilization, which has absorbed the influences of all its occupiers to truly form something uniquely Vietnamese. Starting with the Chinese, the Vietnamese people incorporated Chinese influence, with Buddhism and Confucianism infusing the cultural base with many popular features and beliefs. Subsequent centuries of foreign invasions and rapidly alternating balances of power served to shape the remarkable pragmatism of the Vietnamese people, and their assimilation of more foreign religions and philosophies. Beliefs, ideas, systems and cultures were absorbed and transformed into something distinctly Vietnamese. French colonialism brought Christianity, development of a written language, as well as forms of artistic expression, architecture, and cuisine. The Soviets brought the value of education, a new language Russian and communism, and the Americans introduced modern western culture and lifestyles.
Though united, today there are still distinct and honored ethnic cultural variations. The north is home to numerous and diverse ethnic tribes; and the Central Highlands area is strongly influenced by the “Montagnards,” and the mysterious and colorful cultures of the Champa-Khmer people. A majority 84% of the population is ethnic Vietnamese, 2% are ethnic Chinese, and the remainder is a colorful mixture of Khmers, Chams and members of the 54 ethnic minorities. As Viet Nam has maintained evidence of these vibrant and diverse cultures, many sites have been recognized as UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites.
Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Over the centuries, these sects morphed to form Vietnam’s Triple Religion, or Tam Giao, practiced today by more than 80% of the population. Missionaries from Portugal, Spain, and France introduced Catholicism into Viet Nam in the 16th century, and today Viet Nam has the highest percentage of Catholics (8-10%) in Asia outside of the Philippines. Other religions including Caodaism, Hinduism, and Islam also add to the colorful religious mix of Viet Nam.