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Is Vietnam safe to visit?

Hoi An, VietnamI get asked a lot if it’s safe to go to Vietnam. I always answer this question by talking about how you have to be careful of pickpockets and just use common sense, etc, but the truth is that this question goes much deeper than that. It’s about Americans wondering if those we used to see as enemies are now in fact welcoming hosts?

And the answer is yes, yes it’s safe and yes they’re gracious, kind and welcoming hosts. You see, the Vietnam war, while still rather raw for us, is something that Vietnam had to rapidly get over. Reunification caused a lot of pain, but it forced the country to pull off the bandaid and move on in healing their country. Also, if you’ve watched the Ken Burns documentary you know that the American war was just a continuation of a struggle the Vietnamese had faced for centuries. Post war Vietnam had to re-grow and they had to get past the past.

For America, our healing was different. As we were the ones that withdrew, it felt a little bit like a Band-Aid you could never take off, like a wound that would forever be on the collective American soul. Now as travelers, you can’t help but know about that wound. You can’t help but feel we had unfinished business in Vietnam and wonder if that business is going to become yours, as soon as you touch down on Vietnamese soil.

The answer is absolutely not. The healing that needs to be done isn’t actually on the Vietnamese side, but more on our side. It’s amazing to realize that this country has come an incredibly long way since the war, pulling more people per capita above the poverty line than any other country on earth, and truly come out of a brutal time in their history to be a stronger, more united, and quite honestly fascinating country.

The first time I went to Vietnam I was nervous, I remember checking in, going through immigration and realizing that I was for the first time in my life entering a communist country. That was a new experience for me and growing up had been something that we were taught to fear. After a few days in Vietnam I realized that these warm, open, dynamic people had gotten past the history that we as Americans were having trouble doing. I could ask questions, I could ask them to tell me about their experiences and I wasn’t in fact pulling off any Band-Aids for them, I was merely asking them about a small part of their history. I think they found it fascinating that we wanted to know, that we wanted to understand and that they were proud of the unified Vietnam they got to show us.

Mr. Nam is a perfect example of this, as a Vietnamese Vietnam war veteran he lived for years under the ground in the Cu Chi Tunnels – meeting his wife, making babies, having a family, having a life, all underground. He lost an eye and an arm in the war, but he didn’t lose his sense of compassion or his incredible hosting ability. Drinking rice wine with Mr. Nam and eating his daughter-in-law‘s famous spring rolls has led me to the realization that letting things go, letting the past go and moving on and finding those friendships, is really a key part to life, we all have our own wars in our past and we could use a lesson from Mr. Nam in getting over.

So to answer the question yes, you’re absolutely safe in Vietnam, but I wouldn’t put your wallet in your back pocket when you visit the market and I’d get ready to bargain hard! The people are kind and friendly and there’s a ton of energy in the country right now as it moves forwards in its development. Vietnam should be on everyone’s must-visit list and our history only makes it a more intimate experience!… Read more »

Get ready for “The Vietnam War” premiere on PBS

We’ve always been huge fans of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s documentaries. And given that the latest one – “The Vietnam War” – hits so close to home, we’re especially excited to see how this conflict is portrayed.

Click here to watch the extended trailer for the mini-series.

We’re also excited to be partnering with KNPB – our local PBS station in Reno, Nevada – to offer a special 10-day Vietnam tour for two which will take travelers through many of the key areas highlighted in the documentary, and allow people to hear first-hand accounts from survivors of the “American War” as they call it in Vietnam.

Click here for the Remembering the Vietnam War itinerary.

Over the years, we’ve created tours for a number of Vietnam War veterans and their families – tours that have helped bring closure and greater understanding of this generation-defining conflict. And we are proud to be able to donate this tour to help fundraise for KNPB and their amazing programing.

Of course, we’re always happy to customize this itinerary for anyone else interested in the history of this conflict and the beauty and culture of this amazing country. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or would be interested in making a similar journey yourself.

So set your alarm for the premiere of the 10-part documentary series on “The Vietnam War” this Sunday, Sept. 17 on your local PBS station or streaming online via any number of PBS apps/services. Click here for how to watch.


The Journeys Within teamRead more »

From the Ground-Exploring Picturesque Countryside around Hoi An, Vietnam

Once a major spice port, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An, Vietnam, has managed to preserve its legacy and heritage for more than 2,000 years. This cities charm and impressively preserved architecture, lend to memorable travel experiences. But, for an adventure off the tourist loop, make time to explore the more laid back surrounding countryside.  Exploring by bike and boat you will attain a deeper sense of local life, in picturesque, rural Vietnam.

Hoi An’s is a culturally diverse port town that once controlled the ancient spice trade in the 7th and 8th century. This trade route spanned all the way to Indonesia. The prevailing religion at the time was Hindu until the 10th century when Muslim traders introduced and influenced the spread of Islam. These influences can be seen throughout the cities architecture today. The next major cultural influence was from the Chinese. They first arrived as traders and later as refugees, escaping the oppressive Ming Dynasty armies. Today, Chinese styled shop-houses flank winding lanes, as the sun goes down you feel as if you have been transported to another time.

Rice is at the heart of Vietnamese life. Not only is it a staple but a major economic resource. The farms and paddies around Hoi An are the lifeblood of the community. The best time to head into the countryside is morning, when the temperature is cool and the mist rises from the rice paddies. Begin your day with a visit to a local noodle shop where MiQuang, a famous local dish is prepared fresh. Traditionally, this noodle bowl is created with thick rice noodles in a broth with shrimp, chicken or pork. It is then topped with roasted peanuts and toasted sesame rice paper and a dash of locally prepared fish sauce. Enjoy a refreshing glass of sweet Vietnamese coffee and the vibrant sights and sounds of the day beginning on the paddies.

The peaceful countryside embraces a slower pace of life compared to the bustling larger cities. Verdant paddy fields and swaying water coconut farms dot the countryside and various river ways carve through the brilliant landscape. Traditional farming methods have been maintained over the centuries. It is not uncommon to find the majestic water buffalo tilling rice paddies, evoking nostalgia of a bygone era.

Fishing is also an important way of life here. This area is famous for creating flavorful fish sauces used in spicing local cuisine. This unique condiment is used throughout Vietnam and with Hoi An’s proximity to many rivers and the sea, it is a key fish sauce producer for the country.

An unforgettable highlight in the region is taking a ride on a Basket Boat, known traditionally as a Thung Chai. This is still the preferred method of transportation of local the fisherman in the central regions of Vietnam. Large nets are thrown from the boat to easily catch an array of fish sold in markets and for the making of fish sauce. These round, bowl shaped boats are wove out of bamboo reeds and given a yearly seal of tar to keep them afloat. It takes great practice to perfect navigating these spinning water vessels, but with patience and a great sense of humor, you can give it a try yourself.

If you prefer to stay on Terra Firma, maybe a gentle bike ride is more your style of transportation. Take your time exploring quiet country roads along local farms and hamlets. This will give you a chance to meet friendly locals who are happy to share stories and history with visitors from around the world. If you are interested in learning more about this vibrant culture, we can arrange a lunch at a local home, where you can share a delicious traditional lunch with a local family before your return to Hoi An town. No matter how you prefer to explore this enchanting area, Hoi An and its countryside will create memories and experiences of a lifetime.

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From the Ground: New Culture and Cooking Tour in Duong Lam Village

By Jay Austin

We are excited to offer this new tour, located in Duong Lam Village, outside of Hanoi, provides guests with the rare opportunity to experience a more traditional part of Vietnam, away from the typical travel routes and provides a nice contrast to the frantic pace of bustling Hanoi. This tour offers a mix of culture, cooking and exploring which provides a well-rounded list of activities for the day!

What you can expect from this tour:

Duong Lam Village is located in a farming district of the Red River Delta region. Starting early, you will meet your local guide and take part in a quick workshop in Vietnamese language and market tactics, before you try shopping and bargaining to source the ingredients for your cooking session. Absorb the bustling atmosphere from the authentic village market, and then turn your attention to cooking and enjoying your traditional Northern Vietnamese home-cooked meal.  This village is well known for its tradition of candy-making and you’ll have the chance to try a selection of tasty treats, and perhaps try making some candy yourself! Our team favorite is Kẹo Lạc (peanut brittle) – delicious! After lunch, walk or cycle through narrow alleyways of the area’s villages and open roads of the countryside. Explore age-old ancient houses, observe the unique architecture, and meet the locals.

 … Read more »

Vietnam Offers E-Visas to Arriving Guests

By Jay Austin

In February 2017, the Vietnamese government began offering 30 day single entry visas electronically to entrants from 40 countries including the USA and Canada. The E-Visa (Electronic Visa) system requires travelers to complete an online form, upload a copy of their passport along with a passport photo. The process requires a non-refundable online payment of $25USD per person to be made by the traveler to complete the application.

 A Normal Tourist E-Visa on Arrival Approval Letter takes approximately 3 days from the date of application. Once approved, a visa approval letter will be forwarded to your specified email address. Guests traveling to Vietnam must carry a printed copy of the visa approval letter and their passport (with validity of at least 6 months from the date of arrival). Vietnam immigration officials will take your visa approval letter on arrival which includes a code, visa number and barcode and will place a stamp in your passport granting you entry into the country.

This new E-Visa application process replaces the previous process of applying through a Vietnamese Embassy and negates the need to send your passport to an Embassy as part of this process. This is a wonderful step in the direction of ease for travelers wishing to take care of their own entry requirements for the country. Our local Vietnam offices have noted a few warnings to be heeded by guests wishing to arrange their own visas through this new system:

E-Visas are only valid for a single entry of 30 days or less

Guests who have an itinerary that takes them into Vietnam on more than one occasion or for more than 30 days are not able to secure an E-Visa for entry. In this situation, the visa must still be processed via the nearest Vietnamese Embassy, or through an agent such as Journeys Within.

Guests have been experiencing long wait times on arrival at international airports

Our offices in both Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the country’s capital of Hanoi have both reported the E-Visa line being the longest line of arrivals in Vietnamese Immigration halls.

If there is the slightest mistake on your approval letter, you may not be allowed entry into the country

The Vietnamese Immigration office is a stickler for detail. As with many countries in the world, your visa information must match your passport exactly, without any variation. Even one letter, or number, out of place may see you denied access to the country.

E-Visas are valid for land border crossings & international airport arrivals

Below are the land border crossings and international airports that can process E-visa arrivals into Vietnam:

  • Can Tho International Airport
  • Danang International Airport
  • Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi)
  • Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)
  • Phu Bai International Airport (Hue)
  • Phu Quoc International Airport
  • Cat Bi International Airport (Hai Phong)
  • Cam Ranh International Airport (Khanh Hoa)
  • Nam Can Landport
  • Song Tien Landport
  • Tinh Bien Landport
  • Xa Mat Landport
  • Mong Cai Landport
  • Moc Bai Landport
  • Lao Bao Landport
  • Ha Tien Landport
  • Huu Nghi Landport
  • Cau Treo Landport
  • Cha Lo Landport
  • Bo Y Landport
  • Lao Cai Landport
  • Ho Chi Minh City Seaport
  • Quy Nhon Seaport
  • Nha Trang Seaport
  • Hai Phong Seaport
  • Hon Gai Seaport
  • Danang Seaport
  • Vung Tau Seaport

You must have at least 3 blank pages in your passport to enter the country

Our Vietnam offices warn guests that in all circumstances, no matter how you obtain your entry visa into the country, every guest must have at least 3 blank pages in their passport on arrival. The Vietnam Visa stamp requires 1 full page in your passport. It is advised that guests have at least 3 blank passport pages available per country visited to ensure that no complications are experienced on arrival.

While the E-Visa process seems simple, we still recommend allowing Journeys Within to take care of your Vietnamese Visa on your behalf to ensure a smooth and hassle free arrival into the country. The Journeys Within visa service in Vietnam includes a fast track VIP arrival which includes a personal meet and greet on arrival, much less time in visa queues and personal support to ensure a smooth arrival process.

*Please note: All details were confirmed by Vietnam Immigration officials to be correct at the time of writing, however regulations may change without notice at the discretion of the Vietnam Immigration Office.

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