Visa are required by all nationalities. Regulations and costs change from time
to time so it is advisable to check the current rules. Visa are refused without
explanation to those the authorities consider a proscribed profession. It is
also a good idea to carry 2-4 passport sized photos with you when traveling to
Vietnam, as sometimes these are requested by Immigration officials. Those who
travel overland from Cambodia will be crossing at Moc Bai border gate, from Laos
at Lao Bao and Cau Treo border gates, from China at Hakau, Huu Nghi and Mong Cai
border gates. You must ensure your visa specifies entry " international
border gates". Further more your visa must be " multiple entry " If you want to
fly out from Hanoi or Saigon after your extension trip to Angkor Wat or
The local currency in Vietnam is Vietnam Dong ( VND ). At the time of writing, 1
USD is around 15,000 VND. Local VND or USD are both accepted. Banks are open
Monday to Friday and some open on Saturday morning. In main cities, travelers'
cheques can be exchanged at banks and some exchange bureau, but this can be very
difficult in small towns. ATMs can be found in major citiesHanoi and Ho
Chi Minh city, Hoian, Haiphong so do not depend on any kind of bankcards ( e.g.
credit cards...) as your main source of funds.
On entering Vietnam all visitors must complete an entry/exit card ( white/blue
color ) and a customs declaration form ( white/yellow). It is important that you
keep both of these forms and present them to Customs and Immigration upon
arrival. If you have booked an arrival transfer or are on one of your designed
group tour, please look for our representative who will be holding a sign with
your name on at Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city airport.
Taxi: If you have not arranged for an arrival/departure transfer,
you can always take a cap which is available at the airport and at the
hotel. Whether you are arriving at Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city it is best to take
a metered taxi to the hotel. Driver may want to negotiate a price before leaving
the airport, but do not agree to this. Rather you should make sure they switch
the meter on and pay the amount it displays when you reach your destination.
Taxi fares vary according to the type of vehicle ( i.e. a modern A.C car is more
expensive than an older non A.C vehicle ). As a guideline you should expect to
pay the following amounts for a taxi from the airport to your hotel:
Hanoi: $ 10-15
HCM city $ 7-10 US
During your free time there may be occasion to use local taxis. These are
inexpensive, about 5,000 VND for a first km.
Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from
hotels and post offices although be warned these services are expensive . Away
from the major cities it may not always be possible to make international calls.
Cyber cafes are becoming popular in the major cities in Vietnam, and many
travelers now prefer to keep in touch by e-mail. Post cards can be bought at all
the main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel
The voltage in the cities and towns is generally 220V, 50 cycles, sometimes 110V
in the rural areas. Electric sockets are standard European or American. If you
bring a computer to Vietnam, you must use a surge suppresser to protect your
circuits. Large voltage regulators can be bought at computer stores in
Vietnam to give greater protection. It is a good idea to bring adapter plugs in
case your plugs do not fit the sockets, which are sometimes two round pins,
other times three pins. If you do not have the correct size plug, however, it is
easy to buy one at many markets or electronics stores. Batteries are available
in the major cities.
Offices are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:00 until 17:00 or 18:00, and
some also open on Saturdays.
Most shops open 7 days a week around 9:00am until late as 20:00 or 21:00.
Vietnamese food comes as a wonderful surprise and is definitely not to be
missed! It has a very distinctive style, although it is also clearly influenced
by Chinese and , to a lesser extent, French cuisine.
Meals will usually include rice or noodles as staples along with a vast array of
vegetables, and meats like chicken, duck, beef and pork. Dishes feature a
wonderful fusion of flavors and you will find that fish sauce is a condiment
accompanying almost every meal. Anther unexpected delight is the availability
of good quality seafood ( fish, calamari, prawns and crabs) which is caught
along Vietnam's extensive coastline.
Freshness is of paramount importance in Vietnamese cooking, so ingredients are
bought fresh from local market on a daily basis.
The fact that many Vietnamese are completely omnivorous, has lead to some very
exotic dishes - such as barbecued frog legs which can be found in food stalls in
many local markets ( perhaps this is how the French come to introduce frog legs
into their cuisine).
On the other hand, there is also a strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam which
means that vegetarian food is also widely available.
Here are just a few examples of the fantastic dishes you can expect to find in
Noodle soup made with either chicken or beef. It is served with
a plate of fresh green leaves (e.g., basil, bok choi), beans
sprouts, and red chilies to add as you please
fried spring roll( in the south)
/nem ran (north)
Fresh spring rolls made from raw vegetables and grill
prawns, crab, pork, or chicken wrapped in rice paper. The
ingredients are usually served separately, leaving you to
assemble the rolls yourself!
A steamed "
ravioli" style dumpling ( although somewhat larger), stuffed with minced
pork or prawns, black mushrooms and bean sprouts.
delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps, and peanuts.
Cubes of fish cooked on the table in butter, you add all
ingredients, veggies, noodles and corianders etc... this is authentic
A combination of soup with meatballs and spring rolls, another
typical Hanoi food
Some of the legacies left over from the French colonial period include
crispy baguettes, pate, hard boiled quails eggs, crème caramel, and banana
On the subject of deserts, we should point out that they are not
particularly common. However an amazing assortment of fresh tropical fruits
is usually on offer, which will round off a meal perfectly.
Tea, similar to Chinese green tea, is one of the most common drinks in
Vietnam. Coffee was introduced by the French and is very good. It is thick
and strong and is served complete with drip filter, so you know it is fresh!
If you ask for milk it will usually be sweet condensed milk. Home brewed
rice wine is often offered to guests, but watch out - it is extremely
alcoholic! Light larger style beer is more commonly available, Ba Ba Ba,
Hanoi beer being the most well known local brands. Spirits, such as nep moi
( a type of Vodka) , are also produced locally but once again, be cautious
as these are very strong.
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Vietnam, but bottled mineral water
is safe and available everywhere. Ice in drinks is generally OK in good
standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls
or in country areas.
Malaria: Malaria is not a problem in big cities, but care should be taken in
remote areas, especially in the rainy season when mosquitoes breed. If
spending time in the countryside (below 1,200 meters al), contact a doctor
about anti-malarial drugs. Try to avoid getting bitten, cover up after dark,
wear insect repellent, burn mosquito coils and sleep under a net.
Diarrhea: This malady is common. If it occurs, maintain a diet of bland
foods of fluids only. If severe, consult a physician.
Pharmacies: Many of the drugs sold in small pharmacies are copies of have
expired. Stick to reputable.
Vietnam offers a wide range of souvenirs and shopping in the various local
markets around the country can be great fun. Good bargaining skills are
essential and as high quality souvenirs or genuine antiques are difficult to
find, prices should generally be low. Here are some of the items which make
their way onto many people's shopping list: Clothes ( e.g. T-shirt,
polo-shirt, trousers, shorts, skirts,) beaded shoes, conical hats,
single-cup coffee filters, sleeping bags, CDs, embroidered table
cloths, carving in wood or marble, lacquer ware ( e.g. pictures , trays,
trinket boxes), and traditional style paintings and sketches. Handicrafts
produces by the people of the hill tribes in the north are also very
popular. These include fabrics, jewellery, embroidered bags, and wickerwork.
It is also possible to buy tailor-made cloths. These are made to order and
are usually available for collection within 24 hours. Once of the best
places to buy tailor made items is Hoian.
As Vietnamese has six different tones, it is a difficult language for most
foreigners to grasp. The same word can have six different meanings pending
on the tone used to pronounce it. Nonetheless we encourage you try to
speak a few words of the local language. The locals will certainly
appreciate your efforts!
Although Roman script is used for modern Vietnamese, the words and phrases
below are spelled phonetically to help you with pronunciation.
I don't understand
Anh ( Chi)
Nha ve sinh
Nya vay sing
toy kom beet
New Year's Day 1st Jan
Liberation of Saigon 30 April
International Labor Day 1 May
Birthday of Ho Chi Minh 19 May National Day 2 Sept
Vietnamese New Year or Tet is celebrated each year with an official 3
day holiday, but some businesses close for an entire week. The actual
dates of the Tet celebrations change from year to year in accordance
with sometime in January/February.
Rough Guide to Vietnam
Lonely Planet Vietnam
The insight Guide to Vietnam
Vietnam, a History ( Stanley Karnow ) an Historical
Account of the Vietnam war
Child of War, Woman of Peace ( Le Ly)
The sorrow of the War ( Bao Ninh)
Three Moon in Vietnam ( Maria Coffey)
Down highway one ( Sue Downy )
Great Railway Bazaar ( Paul Theroux )