The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi but the largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), which is the cultural and economic centre with a population of 7 million and the biggest port in Vietnam
Other Things to See and Do in Hanoi
As the headquarters for the Vietnam Central Buddhist Congregation, Quan Su is one of the most important temples in the country. If you’re going to visit any of Vietnam’s pagodas, this 15th-century one is the one you should see. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.
2. Visit One Pillar Pagoda
Built in 1049, One-Pillar Pagoda sits on stilts over a lake and is a miniature reproduction of the original temple built by the Ly Dynasty. A prayer at this little wooden pagoda is said to bring fertility and good health.
3. Watch a water puppet show
Water Puppetry as an art form that dates back over a millennium. Puppets are carved from wood, and the shows are performed in a waist-deep pool, which makes the puppets look like they’re walking in water. Near the lake, you can see a show at the Water Puppet Theatre. Admission is from 100,000 VND ($4.30 USD) for adults (depending on the seat) and 60,000 VND ($2.60 USD) for children.
U.S. POWs named Hao Lo “the Hanoi Hilton” and this is where many U.S. soldiers were tortured (former Sen. John McCain from Arizona is its most famous prisoner). What remains of the building is a small museum, complete with the guillotine used to execute detainees. It’s super morbid but a good look at how the Vietnamese whitewash their history. The entrance fee is 30,000 VND ($1.30 USD) per person.
5. Shop at Dong Xuan Market
Hanoi’s oldest market is located in the Old Quarter. The market is a bit of a Hanoi institution and probably the best place for low-cost shopping in the city.
6. Go to the Army Museum
The museum has an excellent collection of planes, tanks, and guns supplied by the Chinese and Soviet armies, alongside dozens of captured French and US made war machinery. Admission is 40,000 VND per person ($1.40 USD) plus an extra 20,000 VND ($0.85 USD) for photography.
7. Visit the Vietnam Women’s Museum
The Vietnam Women’s Museum offers some insight into the contribution of Vietnamese women to the country’s culture and society, including their roles during wartime. It’s a fairly small museum but it includes an interesting collection interviews and historical memorabilia. Admission is 30,000 VND ($1.30 USD).
8. Explore the Museum of Ethnology
The Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology is contains exhibits on the different ethnic groups that reside in the country and will give you a much better understanding of Vietnamese history. Admission is 40,000 VND ($1.70 USD) for adults with discounts available for children and students.
9. National Museum of Vietnamese History
This museum has a collection of antiques (and some replicas) dating from around 1000CE all the way to 1945. Here you’ll find bronzes from the Dong Son culture, jewelry from Vietnam’s imperial times, sculptures from the Khmer and Champa kingdoms, and more. Admission is 40,000 VND ($1.70 USD) for adults, with discounts available for students and children.
- Inland area: 330,991 Km2
- Length: 1,650 Km
- Width: 600 km at the widest point and 50 km at the narrowest point.
Located on the eastern coast of South-East Asian Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam shares its borders with Cambodia and Laos to the West, with China to the North and the East Sea to the East. Total coastline and borders stretch 2,500 Km. An estimated 66% of the total area is dominated by the rugged, heavily forested terrain of the Truong Son Range stretching North-South between the intensively cultivated and densely populated Red River (North) and the Mekong River (South) deltas. The highest peak in Vietnam is Fan Si Pan (3,143 m) in the extreme North. A long, narrow coastal plain links the two major river deltas. 22% of the land is arable and 40% is forested.
Vietnam has 84, 2 million inhabitants with an average density of 250 inhabitants/km2.88% of the population is Viet, 2% Chinese and 1.5% Khmer. Numerous ethnic minorities make up the rest of the population of Vietnam: Muong, Nung, Dao, Thai, Cham, Hmong and various mountain-dwellers.The dominant religions are Buddhism (55% of the population) and Catholicism (8% to 10% of the population). Confucianism, Taoism, Hoa Hao, Islam and Caodaism represent around 35% of the population.
Vietnamese is the official language although English is increasingly spoken by younger Vietnamese in main cities. Some people and especially elderly still speak French, while middle-aged might speak German and Russian. However a guide is duly recommended as language can be a problem outside of main cities for people who have no knowledge of Vietnamese.
The official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) although US dollars and Euros are still accepted. At the time of writing exchange rate is US$ 1 = 22337 VND (October 2016). Traveler’s cheques can be cashed only at major banks and usually incur a 2 to 5% transaction fee. Visa and Master cards are accepted in most of hotels, restaurants and shops in tourist cities of Vietnam, but can also be subject to 2 to 3% transaction fees. You can also get cash advances with your credit card from automated teller machines (ATM) everywhere (amount generally limited to 5 or 10.000.000 VND, that is to say around 230 USD to 450 USD depending on the bank). If you bring either cash in USD or Euro, please note that exchange rates for small and big notes vary. So we would recommend you to bring some small notes in USD dollars to cope with first expenses on arrival then either 100 USD or 100 € bank notes. Be careful, banks and foreign exchange offices do not usually take old, scribbled or even stained bank notes.