About Vietnam


Vietnam is located on the eastern seaboard of the Indochina peninsula, sharing common borders with China in the north, and Laos and Cambodia in the west. To the east and south lies the East Sea. Mountains and hills cover four fifths of Vietnam’s territory with the Truong Son range stretching over 1,400 km. Mount Fansipan (3,142m) is the highest peak on mainland Southeast Asia.

The most populated areas in Vietnam re the Red River Delta and the Mekong Delta, which form around Vietnam’s two largest rivers Vietnam’s 3,444 km coastline features beautiful beaches like Tra Co, Lang Co, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, and Ha Tien. National parks include Ba Vi, Cat Ba, and Cuc Phuong in the north, Ke Bang, Bach Ma in the center, and Cat Tien in the south.


Minerals: coal, iron, aluminum, tin, and oil.

Agricultural and forestry products: rice, maize, sweet potatoes, peanuts, soy beans, rubber, lacquer, coffee, tea, tobacco, cotton, coconut, sugar cane, jute, and tropical fruit.


Vietnam’s climate varies a great deal from north to south. Northern Vietnam has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. In the north, summers are hot, while winters are cool and misty. Southern Vietnam is hot all year round, with temperatures typically varying by just three degrees Celsius. Tropical monsoons occur from May to October in the north and south, and from Sep0tember to January in the cen tre.

Administrative Divisions

Vietnam has 64 provinces, including five municipalities (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Haiphong, Can Tho, and Danang).


Vietnam’s history can roughly be divided into the following periods:

Pre-history: from circa 400,000 years (Paleolithic) to 4,000 years (Neolithic) ago, cultures in the area included Son Vi, Hoa Binh, Bac Son, Ha Long, and Hoa Loc.

Proto-history: according to legends, Vietnam originated in the seventh century BC when the Hung Kings founded Van Lang. In the third century BC, King An Duong Vuong named founded Au Lac and ruled until 179 B.C.

Chinese Occupation: Vietnam was occupied by China from the first to the tenth century A.D.

Monarchy: Kings reigned from 968 to 1945

Independence: the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as founded after the 1945 August Revolution, when President Ho chi Minh declared independence. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has been the official name since 1976.

French War: Vienam battled French colonialism from 1858 to the Auhust Revolution in 1945, and from 1946 to the factory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954k.

American War: Vietnam fought America from 1954 to Ho Chi Minh’s victory on April 30, 1975.

From 1975 ultil now, Vietnam has been working towards development and success.

Ethnic Groups

There are 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam. The Viet (or Kinh) people account for 88% of Vietnam’s population and are mostly concentrated in the lowlands. Most of the country’s 5.5 million ethnic minority peoples live in moutanous ares. Major groups include the Tay (960,000 people) the Nung (152,000 people); the Thai (770,000 people); the Muong (700,000 people); the H’mong (441,000 people); the Dao (340,000 people); the Hoa (930,000 people), the Khmer (720,000 people), the Bana (100,000 people); the Giarai (184,000 people), and the Edo (140,000 people).


Major spiritual influences ini Vietnam include Buddhism, laoism, Contucianism, and native religions (Ancestor, Mother Goddess Worship). Chiristanity arrived in the late 18th entury and now has the second largest following, after Buddhism. Other religions practiced include islam and Cao Dao, with higher concentrations in the South.

Vietnamese languages and scripts

More than 80% of the population speak Vietnamese (or Kinh), the national language. Ethnic minorities have native languages. Three scipts have influenced Vietnam’s history:

Han (classical Chinese) ideograms wre usded until the beginning of the 20th cetury.

The Nom script created betwee the 11th and 14th centuries is based on the Han script.

European missionaries in the 17 century used the Roman alphabet to record the Vietnamese language and created Quoc Ngu script. After independence in 1945, Quoc Ngu was developed and used as the official national language.

Business Hours

Government offices and museums open early, around 8am, and close between 4pm and 5pm. Avoid cdoing business from 11:30am to 1pm, when many people are either at lunch or napping.


The currency in Vietnam is the dong (VND) which curretlu trades at about VND2,000 to the US dollar. Us dollards remain widely accepted at hotels, but you should have local currency for use in taxis and shops. Credit card acceptance, especially for Visa, is spreading in higher end hotels, restaurents,and shops in big cities.


Vietnam uses 220V electricity nationwide. In the South, outlets are often US-style flat pins, in the North, many outlets use round pins. As the electrical current varies, use a surge protector when running sensitive electronic equipment like laptops.


While Vietnam is one of the safest countries in Asia, you should take care with your valuables, documents, and credit cards in your hotel’s safe. Beware of pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and mobile phone thieves, especially in HCM City. If you choose to drive a motorbike or ride a bicycle, by law you must wear a helmet.


Many hotels, especially up-market ones, add extra fees. Ceck the rates before dialing. One long-distance service offers a flat fee of around US $0.75 per minute to 50 countries; dial 171 followed by the number. Public pones require phone cards, which are available at post offices. To rent a mobile phone call +84 4 3821 8465 in Hanoi and +84 8 3824 2382 in HCMC. Faxes can be sent from hotels, business centers or ost offices Internet coffee abound Hanoi and HCMC.


Tourist visas are generally valid for 30 days. Should you wish to extend your visa, go to the immigration office at 40A Hang Bai St. in Hanoi, Tel: +4 4 38266200/ 54 Nguyen Trai, D.1, Ho Chi Minh City/ 9 Tran Quy Cap, Da Nang City. Many tour operators can also extend your visa for a fee.

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