Balancing modern buzz with laid back charm, Vietnam has a delightful knack of always matching your pace. Holidays there are superbly versatile, and can easily take you from cycling amongst rice paddies to padding across glorious tropical sand, or darting between urban eateries to gliding along a river in a private sampan.
Or why not all of it?! Vietnam has been an incredible place to travel since our early days — it was one of our founding destinations, and we now pride ourselves on knowing it better than anyone else. It’s been gratifying to see the country retain so much of its original character whilst growing into an accomplished all-rounder...
Vietnam’s coasts and islands strike a cosy balance between idyllic and practical, with plenty of undeveloped stretches amidst good infrastructure and excellent hotels. It’s ideal if you struggle to choose between a beachfront lined with excellent seafood restaurants, versus a shoreline empty of all but your footprints in the sand! The climate is such that you’ll usually find sunshine somewhere in the country, and resorts range from the occasional quirky boutique to six-star luxury and exceptional spas.
If you’re keen to take your kids on holiday to Asia, Vietnam is one of the best choices, thanks to its well-connected infrastructure and family-friendly culture. Children enjoy slurping big bowls of noodle soup and getting hands-on at rural homestays, and adults can relax amongst people who truly celebrate family ties. It’s easy to find a soft beach with safe waters and a well-equipped resort, and getting around is fun thanks to the variety of entertaining transport options.
The gleaming modern towers of Ho Chi Minh City rise amongst ornate colonial buildings, yet down every alley you’ll find the homely bustle of streetfood stalls and daily life. Whether you sip a cocktail in a sky bar, or zip between markets on the back of a Vespa, you’ll get a tantalising taste of contemporary life in southern Vietnam. In the north, we love to wander the pavements of Hanoi, sniffing out fragrant pho and arty coffee shops. This chaotic capital is a great place to immerse yourself in a cookery class, find calm with early morning tai chi beside Hoan Kiem Lake, and shop in chic little ‘old quarter’ boutiques.
Junk boats & jungle-topped crags
The famously ‘iconic’ Halong Bay — with its Bond-backdrop limestone islands and traditional junk boats — is awash with sightseers. We recommend taking a private boat into the backwaters, which are too shallow for bigger boats, or heading off along the coast, where you’ll find stunning equivalent scenery without the crowds. For an inland alternative, the evocative landscape of Ninh Binh is known as ‘Halong on land’, thanks to its towering limestone karsts and broad meandering rivers.
Laid-back rural lifestyle
We love to retreat to a riverside lodge in the Mekong Delta’s tranquil backwaters, relaxing into a gentle pace by pedalling between the paddy fields, or taking a sampan along the river! Mai Chau is another stunning place to enjoy rural life. Home to many of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities, its picturesque landscape is ideal for a few days of trekking and cycling — all within easy reach of Hanoi. Further afield, the mountainside rice terraces of Mù Cang Chải and Hà Giang stretch for miles, and you can explore these rural ancient landscapes where hill-tribe traditions have endured for centuries.
Aromatic salads, juicy dumplings, freshly wrapped summer rolls, spicy fried fish, steaming bowls of phở gà… food is one of Vietnam’s major highlights, and we can’t get enough of it when we travel there. There’s a lot to be said for just following your nose, but for a quintessential taste of Vietnam try an evening Vespa tour of the streetfood markets, or visit one of the excellent ‘kindness’ restaurants, which train disadvantaged youngsters to be expert chefs.
Things to love in Vietnam
What to do in Vietnam: Discover more with our hand-picked experiences & highlights
This is an after hours adventure that will take you to Ho Chi Minh’s hidden street food hotspots. Zipping past bright neon lights and lively sidewalk scenes on the back of a vintage vespa, weaving through hectic traffic and stopping to sample local treats, you’ll feel truly Saigonese for a few thrilling hours.
A homestay in the centuries-old village of Ky Son offers a wonderful chance to experience Vietnam's older ways of life first hand. You’ll find yourself making friends with the warmly welcoming villagers, whose livelihoods of agriculture and craftsmanship have remained comparatively steady for millennia.
Its said that the Mekong Delta feeds a good half of Vietnam, its fertile waterways rich with nutrients that travel hundreds of miles ending up in fisheries and rice fields. Stilt-houses line the quiet backwaters, and floating markets bob and jostle as farmers trade produce and hot breakfasts in the early morning. We suggest exploring the Delta by boat, particularly if it’s your own private sampan - the traditional Delta houseboat.
Discover your Vietnam
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The Selective difference
With us, you are taken care of from enquiry until your reluctant homecoming. Your holiday is designed by a specialist who knows your destination first-hand. Throughout your travels, you'll have expert personal guides where requested & our full logistical support. And, it goes without saying, we'll be waiting to hear all about it once you're home.
Our Brighton-based Destination Specialists spend each day working closely with colleagues and partners across Asia. This ensures we stay several steps ahead when designing inspiring holidays, staying up to date and overcoming obstacles, which means your holiday will be crafted using both local and international expertise.
The welfare of our destinations and their communities is incredibly important to us. We are focused on ensuring that your money makes a positive impact, as often as possible, by supporting communities and wildlife conservation through dedicated initiatives and by very carefully choosing our partners in Asia.
We may be partial to the occasional bad pun, but we don’t joke around when it comes to designing first class travel experiences. Over 90% of our clients rate us 5/5 after their holiday, and we're not ashamed to crack a proud grin on behalf of our award-winning teams in the UK and Asia.
We know your time is precious, before and during your trip. We want you to have a smooth and relaxing experience so that your main concern on holiday will be whether to order noodles or rice. There will be no hidden extras, and your holiday will be orchestrated seamlessly by your Destination Specialist plus our local guides and behind-the-scenes crews in your destination.
Explore Vietnam's highlights
Mai Chau Valley is located within the picturesque region of Hoa Binh Province, southwest of Hanoi. A number of Vietnam's 54 indigenous ethnic minority groups live in the region, ensuring that the frequent markets are a colourful place to be. The region provides an excellent base for light trekking or cycling thanks to the picturesque valleys, staggered rice paddy terraces and the many small villages you'll encounter along the way.
Although it’s just a couple of hours by boat or car from Ho Chi Minh City, life in the Mekong Delta often seems a thousand miles from that bustling modern metropolis. Things here tend to move at a more sedate pace, and the Delta's friendly residents usually lead a far more traditional existence than their high flying city neighbours.
'Can do' attitude
Vietnamese presence of mind and focus on 'now' underpins its rapidly developing economy and refusal to dwell on the past.
From mouthwatering streetfood to cookery classes that share the secrets of its flavour philosophy, Vietnam's cuisine always satisfies our tastebuds.
Ca Phe Da
Vietnam runs on this sweet iced coffee, made with condensed milk & served everywhere from streetside shacks to trendy cafes in Hanoi & HCMC. Or try ca phe trung – topped off with an egg.
Vietnam is the world's largest producer of cashews, boasting a one third market share. In 2013 the country pumped out 1.1 million tons of the mineral-rich seeds.
Hanoi has more motorcycles than households. You can ride on the back of one in our HCMC 'after dark' experience.
40% of the population share the surname: Nguyen.
Nothing says ‘I’m in Vietnam’ more than sitting in a Bia Hoi bar on a Hanoi street, sipping a freshly brewed beer. Bia Hoi means ‘beer for all’.
Vietnamese uses six tones, so each word can have up to six meanings. In poetry, though, only two tones are used.