Going With the Right Guidebook

by Sarah Tilton, Dec 1, 1994 | Destinations: Vietnam / Hanoi

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Wondering which guidebook is right for you? A few years ago there weren't a lot of choices, but now there is an entire shelf of books to suit every traveler's needs. Just remember that all guidebooks are not alike. And Vietnam is changing so rapidly it's hard for a book to keep up. Our guide to the guides will help you find the right one for you.

Fielding's Vietnam.

Fielding Worldwide, Inc., 1994, 470 pages, $16.95.
Among the most up-to-date guides, Fielding's has the answer to almost every conceivable question - everything from how to get there to how to get your laptop through customs to where to eat in Long Xuyen. It starts with the basics (visas, international drivers licenses, airport service charges) and moves on to sections about the country's religion, history and politics. Author Wink Dulles has tips for backpackers and businessmen and he knows what he's talking about. Fielding's will get you anywhere you need to go.

Fielding's Far East.

Fielding Worldwide, Inc., 1994, 896 pages, $16.95.
The highlights of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Hue in 32 short pages. It contains the usual logistical information and insider tips that will keep you on the right track. If you are venturing outside the cities listed, go for the more complete Fielding's Vietnam.

Vietnam - A travel survival kit.

Lonely Planet Publications, 1993, 448 pages, $19.95.
This book is in the same user-friendly format as the rest of the Lonely Planet series. It offers all the necessary practical information as well as interesting anecdotes that make the book good reading on long train rides. Concise and easy to carry, it contains addresses and phone numbers that will help any traveler whether they are looking for a hotel in Hanoi or an inexpensive hang-out in Ho Chi Minh City. You can cross the country with this book (by plane, train or automobile).

The Vietnam Guidebook.

Eurasia Travel Guides, 1993, 464 pages, $19.95.
Author Barbara Cohen was a psychiatrist with the US Army Medical Corps in Vietnam from 1970-71 and now lives in Hanoi. She knows the country and the people. The book gives more thorough and detailed background information on Vietnamese culture, art and history than its competitors. For the business traveler there are directories of banks, foreign trade offices and import-export agencies as well as a copy of the law on foreign investment. The book ends with a section on Cambodia for those considering a visit to Angkor.


Prentice Hall, 1993, 306 pages, $18.00.
This color-coded book is easy to follow and has everything you need to know about getting there and getting around, though mostly on the beaten path. One-page vignettes about Vietnam's Buddhist monks and rice farmers give you added insight into daily life. There are also short takes on topics ranging from bird-watching to martial arts. The final directory of hotels, consulates, and important offices and services is accurate and useful.

Odyssey Illustrated Guide to Vietnam.

The Guidebook Company, 1992.
Published in 1992, this is not the most up-to-date guide to a rapidly changing Vietnam. It does, however, provide extensive background on the country and has good color photos. Among its most interesting features are relevant excerpts from works by Graham Greene, Michael Herr and others.

Vietnam Insight Guides.

APA Publications, 1991, 351 pages, $19.95.
The first 300 pages give timeless information about Vietnam's history and culture, but a lot has changed since the last 40 pages of travel essentials were written in 1991. Read this at home. Don't take it with you and don't rely on the outdated listings of hotels, air routes, and the like.

Maverick Guide to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Pelican Publishing, 1994, 382 pages, $17.95.
Vietnam takes up more than half of this guide. The book covers the usual spots: Hanoi, Hue, Danang and Saigon. Most of the information is accurate, but some of it is already outdated. The limited material about investment opportunities lacks details.