Why you need to go to Vietnam this year beginning with the fact that I’m hosting a delicious Vietnam Cuisine and Culture Tour in July-August and there are brilliant flights deals with Vietnam Airlines right now. Then there are the new boutique hotels and restaurants, some of Asia’s best street food, and fantastic shopping.
Vietnam is always a good idea but there are lots of new reasons why you need to go to Vietnam this year, as well as some old ones, so I thought it time I shared some of them with you: brilliant flight deals, beautiful new hotels, brave new restaurants, and the extension of the Vietnam e-visas to even more nationalities.
One of the best reasons why you need to go to Vietnam is the prices of the flights. I spotted some cheap flights to Vietnam (and Cambodia) from Australia, the UK and Canada this morning and I wanted to share those with you, as the offers end soon for Australians and soon-ish for our British and Canadian friends.
I also wanted to let you know that, at our readers’ request, we added a new and more affordable ‘boutique’ accommodation level to our Vietnam Cuisine and Culture Tour. As a result we’ve had loads of enquiries and a few bookings, but we still have some spots left. There’s a reason to nab those flights – along with five more reasons why you need to go to Vietnam this year.
Why You Need to Go to Vietnam – Cheap Flights and Fab New Hotels and Restaurants
Vietnam Airlines Has Some Bargain Flights on Offer
Vietnam Airlines recently announced some bargain flights to Vietnam flying into Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi from Australia, departing from Sydney and Melbourne, starting from A$728 return (must be booked by 28 February 2019) from the UK, flying out of London, from UK£533 (book by 31 March), and from Vancouver in Canada from CA$927 (book by 31 March). As far as I’m concerned discounted flights are always a good reason to go somewhere. And Vietnam is a no-brainer. And we love Vietnam Airlines. They have a fleet of beautiful 787 Dreamliners, which, with their comfy seats, loads of leg room, lovely lighting, and great entertainment system, are a real delight to fly in. Staff are incredibly sweet, too, and the food is just fine, which is more than I can say for most airlines these days. Worth noting: Vietnam Airlines also has great deals on flights to Cambodia from those countries as well.
Entering Vietnam Has Got Easier
Late last year the Vietnamese announced they were extending their pilot Vietnam e-visa programme until 2021 and were now allowing nationals of 46 countries to apply for a 30-day single-entry e-visa online. Eligible countries include Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, the UAE, and USA among other countries (full list of eligible nationalities here). The online e-visa fee is US$25 paid online and non-refundable, and takes three working days for applications to be approved (or not). Successful applications can then print off their e-visas to present when they arrive at any of Vietnam’s eight international airports, including Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai in Hanoi, and Da Nang in Central Vietnam, via land at 13 international border gates, and via sea at seven ports across the country. Visa agents can still process visa letters faster – for an additional fee, of course. Handily, those agents can also provide fast-track services to whisk you through immigration. Earlier, Vietnam approved visa exemptions for visitors from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K.
There’s a Tantalising Cuisine and Culture Tour
Old town strolls, street food tours, cooking classes, river cruises, beachside sundowners, mouth-watering restaurant meals… yes, that means I’m hosting another slow, local and experiential small-group, all-inclusive Vietnam Cuisine and Culture tour over 12 days in July-August, starting in Ho Chi Minh City and taking in Dalat, Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi. Optional extensions include a 3-day luxury cruise in an off-the-beaten part of Halong Bay and a 3-day side-trip to Sapa and the surrounding mountains. There are two levels of accommodation: ‘boutique’ in stylish 3- and 4-star hotels for US$3,828pp single occupancy and US$3,228 for a second person in a twin/double room (must be booked by 15 March to get these rates and paid in full by 30 May), and ‘luxury’ in grand 4- and sumptuous 5-star hotels (like the Sapa property above) for US$5,910pp single occupancy and US$4,967 for a second person in a twin/double room (U$$500 early bird discount if booked and paid in full by 30 April). You can peruse the full Vietnam itinerary here, read about our first epic Vietnam tour here, and follow us on Instagram on @grantourismo and @terence_carter_photography to see the Vietnam pics we’re sharing.
From Boutique to Luxury, Vietnam’s Hotels Just Get Better
I remember the days when Ho Chi Minh City didn’t have any decent boutique lodgings and now there are half a dozen stylish boutique hotels in Saigon, plus luxurious hotels such as the Park Hyatt and The Reverie. Hanoi was the same and that atmospheric capital now has a handful of chic sleeps (we’ll be posting a guide soon), while all over Vietnam the luxury hotel market has exploded, however, with lavish resorts opening in destinations you’d expect, such as Central Vietnam and Phu Quoc – and in surprising places, such as Sapa. Bangkok-based American designer Bill Bensley, who is really having his moment right now, is responsible for some of Vietnam’s most sumptuous new properties, including the flamboyant Hotel de la Coupole MGallery by Sofitel in Sapa (pictured above, where we’re going to check in on my Vietnam tour!) and the majestic JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, which is the first Marriott hotel I’ve ever wanted to stay at. Take a look at the images of this place and you’ll see what I mean. We’ll be bringing you more on Vietnam’s hotels soon.
Vietnam’s Restaurants Are Getting Creative
Vietnam is one of the best eating destinations in the world, without question. But it’s been all about Vietnamese street food and traditional food with very few restaurants experimenting with Vietnamese cuisine, until recently. First, Vietnamese-Australian chef Luke Nguyen opened his swanky Modern Vietnamese restaurant called Vietnam House in a colonial-era building he remodelled in Saigon. Then, formerly Hong Kong-based Vietnamese-American chef Peter Cuong Franklin opened ănăn in a bustling neighbourhood wet market, where he’s creating street food-inspired dishes with a twist, serving inventive seven-course chef’s tasting menus, and selling extravagant off-menu items such as the hugely popular US$100 banh mi packed with pork belly, foie gras and caviar. Now things are starting to get interesting in Hanoi, where a group of young Vietnamese chefs and a sommelier who worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Scandinavia, returned home to open Nordic influenced T.U.N.G, where they’re serving fresh, light contemporary cuisine made from organic produce and edible flowers, which they want you to wash down with fermented juices and local craft beers.
Vietnam Is An Increasingly Hot Destination
Vietnam has landed on numerous lists of places to visit in 2019 and hot destinations for 2019 – alongside countries such as Cambodia, Iceland, Colombia, Portugal, Croatia, Bhutan, Bolivia, Myanmar, and Ethiopia – in travel magazines and newspapers, and in surveys of tour operators, travel agents, and travellers. Everyone is predicting that Vietnam will be the next big thing and the Vietnam government is very keen to see its tourism industry rival that of Thailand’s. And their strategy seems to be working. Vietnam welcomed 15.5 million foreign travellers in 2018, an increase of 20% on the year before, and hopes to get 18-20 million foreign visitors to Vietnam by 2020. So what does that mean for you? It’s just one more reason why you need to go to Vietnam – before everybody else does!