Vietnam Travel Tips from Telegraph's readers



Some Vietnam Travel Tips from Telegraph's readers you should read before your trip:


Head for the hills
Escape from the traffic chaos and heat of Hanoi by taking the overnight train to Sapa, up in the mountains towards the border with China. This was the alpine region fought over by the two countries in a brief but bloody war in 1979 which everyone apart from the Vietnamese seems to have forgotten.
The ride is bouncy and the train noisy and slow. Take earplugs and lavatory paper, and book a four-person compartment just for yourself (it's not expensive). Do not let the train attendant remove the (thin) mattresses from the two unused bunks – you are going to need these.
It's worth the trip. Sapa is great for trekking and has a fascinating market. January/February is a good time to visit but avoid the period around Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year holiday, when the whole of Vietnam seems to be on the move. For Europeans travelling in our winter, it's best to start a Vietnam tour in the cooler north since it will get hotter, and the food better, as you move south.
Unless you're desperate to shoot an old M16 or see holes in the ground, I'd give a miss to the Cu Chi tunnel trip and instead take a Bassac (tributary of the Mekong) cruise and end up with a few days of snorkelling and swimming on tropical Phu Quoc island off the Cambodian coast.
Peter J Griffiths, from Cornwall

Two-man job
I still think of my Vietnam holiday as the most exciting one I have ever had. It was an organised trip beginning in Hanoi, and we travelled the length of the country through the seasons in two weeks: they were planting rice in the north and harvesting in the south.
Hanoi was austere and drab, but the people were fun, taking us around the city on their bikes. It's the first time I have seen two men using one shovel. Travelling through the countryside you see the amazing ways they carry animals on their bicycles. The markets are fabulous places with all the produce you can think of.
Ho Chi Min City was a bustling colourful modern place, full of scooters and mopeds. But beware pickpockets – they were rife.
Neville Meeker, by email

Cool welcome
Don't miss the ancient port of Hoi An with its wooden houses, market and Japanese covered bridge. We stayed in the Pacific View Hotel, and on arrival were greeted with cool towels and welcoming drinks before being taken to a large airy room with a balcony view across the treetops – and a neighbour far below with a pig in the back garden.
Lunch at Wonton restaurant cost about £4 and in the evening we visited a silk workshop which measured us for bespoke outfits that were ready within 24 hours. Afterwards we ate at an amazing riverside caf√© and had a five-course meal for about £7 sitting outside around a huge table next to the Thu Bon River.
Rosemary Wyeth, Wiltshire

Perfect view
My tip for a visitor to Saigon is to head for the Rex Hotel in the evening and go to the famous bar on the roof. Try for a seat near the edge and a stunning view of this vibrant neon-lit city, while enjoying an excellent Singapore Sling at a fraction of the price of one in Singapore.
Sally Higgins, West Sussex

Green peace
We'd booked a fortnight's tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, including a week's cruise along the Mekong. Our flight to Ho Chi Minh City arrived early on Sunday, giving us a free day before the formal tour programme began. As keen gardeners, we decided to explore the Botanic Garden. Walking there gave us a lesson in a necessary local skill; how to cross roads teeming with unbroken streams of motor scooters. (Stride out and look confident.)
Arriving unscathed, we found a garden full of exotic tropical plants and trees, including a zoo that boasts rhinos, colourful birds and much else. We sat for a while in front of the bandstand, watching a charming show featuring music and performing dogs. Spending an afternoon among families enjoying peaceful outings added a soft perspective to the sightseeing programme, which inevitably included allusions to the country's turbulent past.
Olga Leapman, London

Streetwise
Exploring the back streets of the cities and checking out silk shops, street food, family parties, old buildings and general chaos is one of the best experiences in Vietnam. Inevitably one gets lost. Top tip: shops and businesses display their name and street address with other information over their doors. Look up! Instant orientation. A little tourist map and it's all sorted.
Clodagh Veale, by email

Local knowledge
One of the highlights was our stay in Nha Trang at the new Novatel. Lanterns restaurant is within walking distance and it's not to be missed. The food was delicious, and on Mondays they give free food to local people in need.
We booked a tour to Ninh Hoa, about an hour away, and our guide took us to her village home. We made incense sticks, watched rice wine being made (and tasted it), went to a market, had lunch with a local family, took a ride on a bull and cart and watched the fishing boats going out and coming in with their catch.
Alex Gould, West Midlands

Fish tank
Leave behind busy Ho Chi Min City and board a cruise boat at My Tho on the Mekong to explore Vietnam in a relaxed and leisurely manner. The dry season is best as there are no mosquitoes. The Pandow Line boat RV Mekong Pandow was clean, the food and accommodation were excellent and the staff very attentive.
The scenery is ever-changing, from mangrove swamps to forested areas with villages on stilts and temples to explore along the way. Smaller local boats take you to villages, floating markets with the wares advertised on the end of bamboo poles, to small family businesses making rice paper and hand-rolled sweets, and to the liquor brewer who matures his wine with snakes in the bottle.
Visit the attractive floating bungalows tethered together to form villages and accept the invitation to look inside. The typical living space, with table and chairs, sofa, pictures on the walls and carpet on the floor, is suddenly transformed when the carpet is rolled aside, a wooden trap door is lifted and thousands of fish can be seen thrashing in a cage below. The bungalows are all fish farms. Just one of the many delights and surprises of Vietnam.
Davena Lawrence, Hampshire

Wartime memory
Any trip to Vietnam must include a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels built by the Viet Cong. Contrast these with the splendour of the neoclassical, French colonial architecture less than 25 miles away in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. Watch the hustle and bustle of Hanoi city life from a rooftop restaurant, experience the tranquillity of Ho Chi Minh's stilt house in the middle of the city and enjoy the sheer beauty of Halong bay: all examples of the diversity of Vietnam.
Despite the historic conflicts, the resolve of the people to try to please everyone can be summed up in their Cao Dai religion, which combines Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam and various local beliefs, so a visit to the splendid Great Temple at Tay Ninh should be on any traveller's itinerary.
Richard Williams, by email

Taxi scam
A visit to Vietnam would not be complete without a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. Pay only for the bullets and fire any gun of the period, including the AK47. Marvel at the ingenuity of the Viet Cong over a vastly superior enemy.
Return to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) by riverboat. Visit one of the factories run for the benefit of people born with birth defects associated with the use of the defoliant Agent Orange.
Be aware of a scam in Saigon where a taxi will quote a fare and then demand more money halfway through the journey. My travelling companion and I fell into this trap on the way to the railway station. Use only a reputable taxi firm such as Vinasun.
Francis Horton, by email

On your bike
Hoi An is a wonderful place to spend a few days relaxing and exploring. If you can steer yourself away from the tempting tailors, there are some beautiful areas to explore just outside Hoi An. For about $1 a day you can hire a bike (with lock) and cycle down to the beach through the paddy fields, passing grazing water buffalo.
Book a cookery class, and you'll get a guided tasting tour round the local market with the vibrant stalls of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, and a masterclass on how to choose a good fish. You can learn about the health benefits of Vietnamese cooking, and how to make banh xeo (crispy Hoi An pancakes) and turn out the perfect rice-paper summer roll. Better still, you get to eat the product of your labours.
Gill Whitelegg, London

Motorcycle memories
Travelling through Vietnam by motorcycle may not be to everybody's taste, but for me it was the best ride of my life. I met a fellow solo traveller from Norway on my first night in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), having travelled there from Cambodia. The following night I bought Max, a Honda Win 100 which was to be my ride for the next three weeks.
Our first of many challenges was to ride safely out of HCMC. However, once on our way to Mui Ne, the feeling of freedom and pure exhilaration largely outweighed those of trepidation and uncertainty.
We saw white and red sand dunes in Mui Ne, the My Son ruins, the most incredible, surreal caves at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, islands rising from the waters at Halong Bay and enough coffee shops along the way to keep caffeine levels at a dangerous high. But the best moments were riding along the Ho Chi Minh trail through the mountains. Every winding road took your breath away as you were faced with incredible landscapes.
The children who ran out of their houses in villages we rode through, just to wave and say hello, were humbling. The same was true of the hospitality of the locals who invited us for coffee or pho bo (beef noodle soup).
Vietnam is one of the most surprising and beautiful countries I have ever visited, heightened by travelling on motorcycle.
Joella Sandstra-Bennett, Essex

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