Travel Notes > Vietnam Travel Notes
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam hotels – Search for discount hotels in Vietnam with Agoda.
Visit Vietnam – The official tourism website of Vietnam.
Money Matters: How much does it cost to travel Vietnam? – A budget breakdown from a 45-day backpacking trip in Vietnam.
Books About Vietnam
When to visit
This guide by inspitrip lists the best time to visit Vietnam.
Lonely Planet Vietnam (Travel Guide)
Vietnam Photo Gallery – Photo gallery of my visits to Vietnam.
Don’t mention the war?
For many people in the west, Vietnam is only known of as a war. Growing up in the post-war years the only time I heard about Vietnam was when yet another Vietnam war movie was released. Some American I’ve met when I tell them I live here have even asked if it’s safe for Americans to visit.
I’ve spent over a year in Ho Chi Minh City and no one has ever mentioned the war or spoken badly about Americans (or Australians) with regards to the war. Vietnam has a young population and with the last North Vietnamese tanks rolling into Saigon in 1975 most people weren’t even born then.
87% of the population of Vietnam are under the age of 54 so most people weren’t even born when the war ended.
I have asked locals (once I have become friends) what their family experience was of the war and most people will just say it was bad but that’s history and its time to move on.
In Ho Chi Minh City there are few war monuments, though you do see posters of Uncle Ho commemorating significant dates in the war.
A visa is required for most visitors to Vietnam and for arrivals at SGN Airport will need to have a visa approval letter arranged in advance. There are a number of online agencies that arrange this, where you submit your details and they will email you a letter of approval which you then show at the visa desk upon arrival. Visas are available for 1 or 3 months, for single or multiple entry.
There are a number of visa letter processors online that process visas.
You have to pay a approval letter fee online, and then at the airport pay for the visa. Depending on how many flights have arrived, there can be a wait of up to 40 minutes for your passport to get the visa stamp.
It is a bit of a circus to get the visa letter online and then queue up to get the stamp, so if you are somewhere near a Vietnamese consulate before you arrive I would recommend getting the visa stamp in your passport beforehand, thus saving you the time to queue up at the airport.
If you are arriving overland (e.g. the bus from Phnom Penh in Cambodia) there is no visa on arrival option so you need to have a visa before you arrive. This can be arranged at any travel agency in Phnom Penh where you can get a 1 or 3 month visa. The visa takes up one page and once you have paid you won’t need to pay anything else at the land border crossing.
Once you are in Vietnam it is possible to extend your visa within the country. You can take your passport to a recommended visa agent and they will have your visa extended. The price for this is less than getting a new visa, so it is more economical than doing a visa run. I have heard that people have had problems if they extend in country continually, so if you are here long term it would be advisable to plan international travels as part of a visa run.
In Vietnam the currency is the Dong, which gets you about 20,000 VND for 1 USD, which means you will be a millionaire in no time. ATM’s are everywhere but the local banks may not accept your card or only dispense small amounts, so stick with the international banks like Citibank, HSBC, or ANZ.