Vietnam Travel Guide

Vietnam is a long, thin strip of land in Southeast Asia that is hugged by the South China Sea to its east, cut by the zigzagging arteries of the Mekong Delta in its south and carved by the rugged peaks that serve as a border between its western neighbors, Laos and Cambodia, and its northern neighbor, China. As it does so, there are bustling cities, remote hillside villages, centuries-old Buddhist temples and skyscraping corporate headquarters. The bustling history of colonialism, communism and war is quite apparent in Vietnam’s architecture, culture and cuisine. The span of Vietnam means the possibilities are truly endless in this vibrant Southeast Asian country.


Vietnam is the central part of a long and taxing history that spans many centuries. It begins with almost 1,000 years of Chinese occupation, followed by short-lived periods of independence interwoven throughout, and ultimately progresses to France’s cultural influence under the guise of protecting Christians.

After World War II, the French lost a lot of territory and Vietnam became undercompeted. In response, Ho Chi Minh’s resistance group, the Viet Minh, fought for and won independence from Japan in 1945.

While in Vietnam, the French were constantly fighting to maintain control of their colonial holdings. In 1946, when they began attacking the Viet Minh again, a new war erupted that is better known as the French Indochina War. Once again, their goal was to end colonial rule by driving out the French.

In 1954, the Viet Minh defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu to end eighty-two years of colonial rule in Vietnam. Once peace talks began in Geneva, the North and South Vietnamese troops agreed to work together for a united Vietnam, but disagreements continued to grow over time and eventually escalated into full-scale war in 1964.

By the mid-1960s, the U.S. had committed hundreds of thousands of troops to South Vietnam after their country’s civil war broke out with the north.

In 1973, the Vietnam War ended after a ceasefire was declared between US and North Vietnamese troops. After two years, in 1975, Saigon’s southern capital fell to Communist forces, causing the majority of fleeing citizens to leave that year and throughout 1976. 

Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979, and China attempted to invade Vietnam but was unsuccessful. So China invaded Laos instead. In response, Vietnam invaded China’s northern provinces.

In 1986, the tides began to turn for Vietnam as a liberal politician was elected. In 1989, Vietnam officially withdrew its troops from Cambodia and in 1992, after the end of the Cold War, a new constitution gave significant economic freedom. However, the Communist Party continued to be the leading force in Vietnamese society.

The United States was the last Western power to reestablish diplomatic and trade relations with Vietnam for 30 years. This marked the end of a trade embargo that had caused much hardship in the region.

Vietnam is an emerging tourism destination that’s experiencing phenomenal growth. Judges the world over love everything about this gorgeous country, including its natural beauty, culture and cuisine.

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After centuries of occupation by foreign powers, Vietnamese culture is a complex blend of Chinese, French and American influence. While Chinese Confucianism colors society and spiritual life throughout the country, the tree-lined boulevards, grand state buildings, and the Vietnamese people’s affinity for coffee and baguettes are not meant to be missed. An imprint only the French could leave behind can be seen in Central Vietnam where glass and steel corporate buildings line the coastline. The most noticeable American influence can be seen along the South Coastline with its distinctly Western business-first mind-set.

Perched on rich volcanic soil, the pagodas of Vietnam can be found throughout the country. These monuments are widely considered to be a symbol of human desire to bridge the gap between earthly existence and heaven.

Vietnamese Folk Art includes woodcuts, paintings, block prints and lacquer art that are predominantly colorful. It also includes entertaining and distinctly Vietnamese water puppet shows.

When to Visit

Vietnamese weather is not predictable, and it can change within a few hours. While there are some seasons that will be more favorable (September to December and March to April), be careful when traveling during May to August. That’s when monsoon rain wreaks havoc in the low-lying deltas. Otherwise, this means nothing more than normal afternoon showers.

To ensure that your trip is as safe as possible, take a few moments to get all the information you need, and then adhere to these safety tips:

Overall, Vietnam is relatively safe for travelers. Muggings, robberies and assaults are relatively rare, but scams and petty crimes can occur in Vietnam. These problems tend to be worse in the major cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang. When going out make sure that you don’t carry unnecessary or valuables around with you. Also keep an eye on your wallet and phone when in a crowded area or on public transport.

The biggest safety hazard when visiting Vietnam is usually traveling on the roads. Traffic tends to be a bit chaotic, and driving practices are not exactly what you would consider safe from a Western standpoint.

Even though it’s unlikely that you’ll find uncapped explosives, you must still watch out for the possibility of undetonated explosives. Stick to the well-trodden paths, never ever take a hike off trail without a guide, and avoid picking up any suspicious metal chunks.

What is Backroads

Backroads was established in 1979 and is a pioneer in active and immersive travel. Now operating over 50 adventure tours worldwide, our passion to discover the world inspires our pursuit of new experiences. Check out all our Vietnam tours, and we hope you find your next great adventure!

Author: admin

Kate loves to travel and write. She has been to many different places and has seen and experienced a lot of different things. This has given her a lot of material to write about, and she enjoys sharing her stories with others. She hopes to continue traveling and writing for many years to come.

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