Our trip to Vietnam was somewhat an unplanned visit. Initially we were due to travel to Ho Chi Minh (I still prefer the name Saigon) for 5 days in 2013, however after booking flights and accommodation, Aida was refused a visa. No reason given and no big announcement that Iranians were now allowed. Secondly, we had planned for this holiday to visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives but due to Air Asia cancelling flights to and from Male, Maldives we changed to Vietnam.
So, am I glad we chose Vietnam instead?? Hell yeah! A lovely place, lovely people, easy to travel either up to down the country and its cheap!! I had been to Vietnam previously but only to Hanoi and Halong Bay but with having 15 days it allowed us to see much more of the country. As per usual Aida allowed me to take sole responsibility for creating the itinerary, booking accommodation/excursions etc. A sneak look on other tour agencies itineraries allowed me to see how much we could see in the time scale, making the best use of our time on our budget.
The cost of Air Asia flights dictated that we started in the North from Hanoi and worked our way down to Saigon. The next step was choosing a hotel in Hanoi. Most hotels are pretty similar in Hanoi so for us location is key. The Old Quarter is favoured by many and personally I would recommend it also. Looking at the search engines, Hotel 3B was booked and a great choice it proved to be. Mrs Phuong at the hotel assisted in booking all our hotels and transport as well as visa invite letter (Iranians need to get a visa before travelling, most nationalities is on arrival but you do need this letter which costs about $15). When on a set timescale, in my experience I think it is best to plan and book in advance so you are not wasting time sat in travel agencies/train stations etc. The actual costs charged and what I saw quoted on the websites (hotel prices/trains etc) where minimal and the time and hassle saved was well worth the extra cost.
The biggest pain for me with travelling to Vietnam is the visa. $15 for the invite letter and then $45 on arrival plus taking up nearly a page and a half in my passport whereas Thailand is free and two small stamps makes travelling there more than once a somewhat harder task. However I think the difference in cost when there soon see’s the $60 become irrelevant. Why these passport stamps need to be so big is the question. Surely there is no need, make them smaller like Egypt and Indonesia please, especially as Iranian travellers need one for most countries so there passport lasts only a few years if travelling frequently.
Anyway, back to the good bits. Hanoi
TOTAL SCORE FOR VIETNAM – CHRIS 8.5/10 AIDA 9/10