Vietnam Overview – Family Travel Blog

Vietnam Overview – Family Travel Blog

Oh Vietnam – how I wish I loved you as much as I was hoping. Well that’s probably a bit harsh, I did love so much about Vietnam but there were a few little things that I just did not love! There is lots of information available about travelling with kids to Vietnam and it has been high on my list of destinations for a very long time (we just didn’t get there before we had the kids). There is so much that I would have loved to explore on this trip but we didn’t have the time and there were places that just weren’t suitable for the kids at this age (i.e. some of the hiking in national parks, caving etc which had age limits of at least 9+). It was really a different experience after a week in Cambodia but I think we will still probably return down the track!

A VISA is required for Vietnam and you can read about how to arrange your VISA here.

Vietnam Weather

The weather in the south was going to be wet (June) so we decided that we would explore the north and central of Vietnam on this trip including Hanoi, Halong Bay, the over night train from Hanoi to Da’Nang and a week in Hoi An.

It can be tricky choosing where and when to travel to in Vietnam based on the weather as it is a very long country with 3 different weather systems. June is the start of the hot, humid and high rainfall season in Hanoi and the north but we only had one afternoon of short rain. June, July and August are considered the off season for Halong Bay and sometimes in July and August trips are cancelled due to storms and hurricanes but we had perfect weather in June. November to April is cooler and peak high season. In the far north it can be very cold in December and January with a friend telling me she had to go ‘beanie’ (not bikini!!) shopping in Sapa at this time.

Southern Vietnam has the highest rainfall in June, July and August and stays warm and wet between May and October. Between November to April it is dry and hot.

It was stinking hot when we visited Hoi An in June and central Vietnam has hot and dry weather all the way between January and August and there are high levels of rain in September, October and November. We did see some spectacular lightening shows on a couple of nights in Hoi An. Interestingly, we had rain in Hoi An one afternoon but not in the north!

We had one rainy afternoon in Hoi An

We had one rainy afternoon in Hoi An

Southern Vietnam has the highest rainfall in June, July and August and stays warm and wet between May and October. Between November to April it is dry and hot.

The Selective Asia website has a great interactive map on what the weather is like in Asia for any particular month.

Getting  to Hanoi from the airport

Hanoi was our first time in a large Asian city (believe it or not!) and heading into the city after arriving at the airport we were really surprised with how modern everything felt. The closer we got into the thick of things the more we felt like we were in Asia!

We arranged a driver (through our hotel) to pick us up from the airport which is a good idea if you are arriving later in the night with kids as it’s about a 40 minute drive from the airport into the Old Quarter in Hanoi. The other ways to get into town include –

Taxis –

Taxis are available at both the domestic and international arrivals area and they do use a meter.

Public Bus –

Bus numbers 7 and 17 take you into the city centre and the journey is approximately 1 hour. They run every 20 minutes from 5am to 10pm.

Minibus –

This service will drop you directly at your hotel in Hanoi and you will need to confirm your destination and total fare with the driver before boarding the bus. The bus will also drop you in the city centre if you don’t know where you are heading to straight away. The minibuses leave the airport whenever they are full.

Apart from the airport staff our driver was the first Vietnamese person we met and he didn’t interact with us once. In fact, I’d say he was ignoring us. There was lots of singing etc from the kids but he didn’t once smile or look happy!  On the way a taxi pulled in front of our car and our driver wound down his window and had a go at the driver. At one stage I thought he was going to jump out of the  car for a fight! We didn’t feel scared as such but just a little shocked as didn’t see anything like this happen in Cambodia.

Hotel Tirant

After researching accommodation we decided to stay at Hotel Tirant – purely based on the fact that we wanted to stay in the Old Quarter with a swimming pool – there are very limited options for these two requirements! The hotel was great and it was just what we were looking for.

There are plenty of accommodation options all over town but a lot of the bigger hotel chains are so stock standard that you could be staying anywhere in the world – we wanted to know we were in Hanoi! We stayed before and after our Halong Bay trip and had a nice big room with a balcony both times – we had a double bed and one single roll away so we were sharing beds (the kids thought this was terrific!). The pool had great views from the rooftop, was nice and cool and the breakfast buffet was great!

View from the roof of The Hotel Tirant, Hanoi

View from the roof of The Hotel Tirant, Hanoi

 

Rooftop pool, Hotel Tirant, Hanoi

Rooftop pool, Hotel Tirant, Hanoi

 

Breakfast with a view, Hotel Tirant, Hanoi

Breakfast with a view, Hotel Tirant, Hanoi

Food, Glorious Food!

I can definitely say that the food in Vietnam was outstanding. I think every single meal we had was cheap and delicious. I’d go back tomorrow just for the food!

What I didn’t love

This might be a little controversial but we felt like so many people in Vietnam were looking for a way to rip us off, something we really hadn’t experienced a great deal on previous travels. From the guy who tried to take Ross’s thong off and glue the bottom, to the lady who stopped me in the street and put her pole with fruit onto my shoulders before I had a chance to say anything and said we should take a photo, when we asked ‘how much’ she said nothing but then as soon as I put it down she said now you buy 2 bags of banana’s and pineapple for $15 (when she normally sells them for $2!). We are fully aware they don’t earn much but it just puts a bad taste in your mouth when they are so obviously trying to rip you off. I know, some people would just say deal with it as it’s just what happens in Vietnam but we really didn’t like it!

The ladies selling doughnuts in Hanoi were the same. As soon as you showed any interest they were putting them into bags and handing them to you all within about 2 seconds before you have any time to think what is happening. Luckily, they were awesome and we wished we could find them elsewhere!!

We had a terrible restaurant experience at a restaurant at Ang Bang beach – reading other reviews this is a common event at the restaurants along this strip. The waitress told us there would be an extra cost for the smoothies that the kids wanted and she was just letting us know so there wouldn’t be questions when we received the bill. This was not an issue for us but when we asked for the bill she didn’t hand it over, just told us the amount. We raised our eyes but paid it and then thought about it for a minute and said hang on it should have been nowhere near that amount. It took us 3 times calling the waitress back before we had the bill at the correct amount. If she had only overcharged us a couple of dollars, then we possibly wouldn’t have questioned it but because it was nearly double what it should have been it was obviously incorrect. She made up all sorts of excuses from ‘oh the other person out the back wrote out the bill’ and ‘oh I thought you had 2 waters’ – just another example of being ripped off. I was also told when we returned home that a lot of the taxi’s (which are all metered) are set to jump up higher increments to charge more – so I have no idea if we were ripped off in taxi’s – probably so!

Another thing we struggled with in Vietnam was the attention that our kids had. Of course, two, cute little blonde, curly haired kids are going to get attention in Asia, we don’t mind a little but it was relentless. Marble Mountain in Da’Nang was the worst. We literally picked up the kids and ran as a bus load of 50 tourists all got their phones out and wanted to pick the kids up and have photo’s with them. The poor kids burst into tears.

In lots of places it was bus load after bus load of tourists and we found there was lots of pushing and shoving by tourists. I am not sure if it is like this all year or if we just timed it badly!

Wow, I guess I am going against the masses here with my general overall review of Vietnam with kids. I suppose for us it was a different experience from other Asian countries we have visited but we had our wits about us so we handled it all. If you are reading this and haven’t been to Vietnam before, please don’t be put off! It is a beautiful country with so many amazing places to explore – just have your wits about you and be aware.  Please let me know if you have had similar experiences in the comments below.

By | 2017-12-21T15:52:46+00:00 November 5th, 2017|Categories: Vietnam|10 Comments

About the Author:

I love travelling with my family! When we are not travelling I am researching all things travel!

10 Comments

  1. Sally November 6, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Great post Amber, so much great information. Vietnam is my favourite country, having honeymooned there i holds a special place in my heart. I loved that we took our kids back 13 years after our first visit.
    As for the unwanted attention, I have found we get it in every Asian country, I’m pretty ok with it now until they pick them up. I draw the line there after someone ran off with our middle child in HK!
    I think I really need to return to Hoi An again, maybe next year.

    • Amber November 6, 2017 at 8:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Sally, thanks for the comment, really appreciate it. My favourite thing about Vietnam was the food! Even though there were a few little things that annoyed us I do think we will go back and explore more. I have a little post coming on our trip to Marble Mountains – this is where the attention was the WORST!!! But yes, I think it’s a pretty common thing! I know you loved Halong Bay also – I have a post coming soon…Cheers, Amber

  2. Michael November 17, 2017 at 4:32 am - Reply

    Hi Amber. I love what you are doing. I feel we have all been inspired by your grand parents Jack and May. I certainly have been. They introduced us to bushwalking many years ago after their trek to Mt. Everest base camp and I personally have not stopped since. I wish you all the best with your venture.

    • Amber November 17, 2017 at 4:52 am - Reply

      Hi Michael, thank you for your message of support. Yes, Nana and Pa are a massive inspiration! I hope to be able to inspire other families to enjoy not only hiking but family travel in general. I hope we don’t ever stop travelling and hiking also! Cheers, Amber

  3. Marianna November 29, 2017 at 6:03 am - Reply

    I feel inspired!

    • Amber November 29, 2017 at 6:05 am - Reply

      Yes, you should that’s great!! That’s what I am hoping to do. Start planning 🙂 x

  4. Jenifer March 6, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    I really love traveling with my family. But I don’t know where is best places and safely to visit with my family. When I read this post, I know I need travel to Vietnam. Thanks for sharing, look so great when we travel with family. Again, thanks, Amber 🙂

    • Amber March 6, 2018 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Thanks for stopping by and having a read Jenifer.

  5. Rachel March 20, 2018 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Thanks for such an honest article on Vietnam. We visited with our two kids aged 8 and 10 late last year and overall enjoyed our stay.

    The food was incredible and places like Halong Bay and Ninh Binh made the trip worthwhile. We were disappointed with Hoi An – just so touristed it was like it had lost its soul. We also found the scamming annoying but we have experienced it in so many countries it just seems the norm now, unfortunately.

    Where in SE Asia would you say is your favourite country?

    • Amber March 20, 2018 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Rachel, thanks for getting in touch. That was one of my first articles I wrote. I probably need to go and update with things I have learnt about blogs etc!!! I really didn’t love Vietnam as much as I was hoping. But would it stop me going back? Nope, there are lots of places I would still love to explore in Vietnam. We love Thailand, the food is the best! But we have only been to Phuket a few times, we are yet to explore more. Cambodia was awesome and would love to go back. Laos is high on my list so we might combine more Cambodia when we get to Laos. Cheers, Amber

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