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I specialize in creating combination tours with multiple destinations e.g. Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam combo, within a region, all inter linked smoothly, convenient and affordable routing. Of course, I will also book a single destination of your choice. My formal background is a BS in Biological Science, and MA in education/administration and an MFA in Fine Arts, UCLA. I have held several Assistant Professorships, as well as a career Painter and Writer of Plays which have been produced and represented in Hawaii and Asia. In my spare time, I enjoy sailing and Oh Yes...TRAVEL!
Best Time of Year to Visit VietnamExplore > Travel Planning Articles > Best Time of Year to Visit Vietnam
Rice paddies near Sapa, northern Vietnam, photo courtesy Angela Hogan.
Vietnam has had a tumultuous background, with many different governments from imperial Chinese rule, to independent dynasties, to French Colonial rule then the brutality of the Vietnamese War until 1975 decided the victory of communist governance. Yet, Vietnam has really transformed into the ultimate destination. It has the best of both worlds with a relaxing lush countryside and dynamic cities to rival anywhere else in the world.
You won't find any animosity towards Americans, whether you're in the north or the south. It feels like they see what we would call the Vietnam War as their own war between the North and the South, and Americans were just there helping one of the sides.
Fishing boats in the harbor, Danang, Vietnam, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
Weather in Vietnam
The weather in Vietnam is very dependent on the region, as the southern coast may be very warm while the northern region is freezing. The best time to visit Vietnam really depends on the destination.
In Northern Vietnam (Hanoi and beyond), most people prefer November to April when it is dry and cool in the low 60-70's Fahrenheit. Central Vietnam can be very hot and rainy so spring and autumn are the best times to go before temperatures frequent the mid 90's and there is constant rainfall.
Summer thunderstorm on the Mekong Delta, southern Vietnam, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
In southern Vietnam, the climate is split into a wet (May-November) and dry season (October-April). The temperature usually remains in the 77-95F year round. Also relevant: the rains tend to be intense but short, making travel possible in the wet season if one does not mind short afternoon rainstorms.
Imperial City, Hue, Vietnam, Vietnam, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
Things to See and Do
Vietnam has gorgeous natural landscapes to enjoy for the outdoor adventurer. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a UNESCO heritage site in central Vietnam, and is renowned for large caves and limestone grottos, including the the largest known cave in the world.
Sapa village square, northern Vietnam, from Hotel le Coupole, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
In the northwestern corner of the country, you'll find the charming town of Sapa, with incredible views, rice paddies, markets, and great hiking.
Unlike Thailand (where people drive on the left side of the road), in Vietnam you'll drive on the right hand side of the road. If you plan to rent a car or motorcycle, and you're American, you won't have to make a mental adjustment--if you're from Australia, New Zealand, or the UK you'll probably find that you adapt pretty quickly.
Having said that, traffic in Hanoi and in Saigon is insane by North American standards. There's no such thing as a left turn lane--oncoming traffic that wants to turn left simply weaves in between the oncoming traffic. And, 90% or more of the vehicles on the road (and on the sidewalk, by the way!) are scooters.
Thien Duong Cave, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam, photo courtesy Tinker & Rove on Flickr.
Ecotourism tours, extreme rock climbing, and hiking are all tourist activities offered by the park.
Halong Bay, Vietnam, from Heritage cruise ship Binh Chuan, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
Another UNESCO heritage site to visit in northern Vietnam is Halong Bay. It is a beautiful place to rent a kayak or junk boat to explore the over 700 islets and limestone cliffs.
A fabulous way to explore Halong Bay is by luxury small cruise ship. Most of these boats have only 15-20 staterooms, with restaurants onboard, some with a pool, spa, cooking classes, etc. These boats will work their way through the bay's some 1,600 islands, stopping for kayaking, exploring caves, or visiting Viet Hai Village on one of the only occupied islands.
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Typical airfares from LAX to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Airfares vary by season, but also day of week, and are definitely affected by holidays.
The chart above shows the typical average fares for a economy class ticket from Los Angeles (LAX) to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), by month.
Market, Hoi An, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
One of the top places to visit in Vietnam is Hoi An, a well-preserved 15th century port city still inhabited today.
It has lovely architecture and four museums to explore the history of the region.
It is also a great place to explore regional cuisine while enjoying the vista of the canals or the Thu Bon River.
Vietnam also has huge ultra modern cities--the largest are Hanoi in the North, and Ho Chi Minh City (sometimes called Saigon) in the South.
Outdoor dining in the old quarter of Hanoi, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and sometimes called Paris of the East with its picturesque tree-lined roads and colonial architecture. Hanoi is also known for its many shopping centers, and as a foodie destination, with many traditional Vietnamese dishes believed to have originated in Hanoi, perhaps most famously Pho.
Vinh Trang Pagoda, near Mỹ Tho city, southern Vietnam, photo courtesy Michael Cottam.
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam with many amusements for tourists. It is well known for hundreds of cinemas and theaters, museums, art, football clubs among other activities.
Water temperature and SCUBA diving in Vietnam
You can dive year-round in Vietnam, but the primary diving season is March through October for the southwest coast (before the monsoon season), or November through March for Phu Quoc Island and the Con Dao archipelago. Water temperature is typically around 82F. It's a relatively new destination for divers, but it's growing in popularity with both new and seasoned divers. Undersea life you might see includes black frogfish, sting rays, eagle rays, manta rays, bamboo sharks, barracuda, and dugongs.
For a list of the top dive sites in Vietnam, check out PADI's page.
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