Vietnam Travel Tips
Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, covers an area of
332,000 square kilometers. It shares common borders with China, Laos, and
Cambodia. With a population of more than 80 million, it is the most densely
populated country in Southeast Asia. The vast majority of the population is
Vietnamese. Other ethnic groups include Chinese, Muong, Thai, Meo, Khmer,
Man and Cham.
Vietnam's topography varies from low, flat delta in the south and north to
hilly, mountainous terrain in the central, far north and northwest.
Three-quarters of Vietnam is hilly or mountainous. Hanoi is the capital, and
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the largest city in the country.
Vietnam, once a forbidden country for tourists, now attracts hundreds of
thousands of visitors (with numbers increasing) every year. Rich culture,
strong tradition, and a patriotic people characterize this fascinating
country. This exotic destination offers such wonders as magical islands set
in pristine waters as well as historic and cultural sites like temples,
pagodas and churches. Traveling to Vietnam will be an unforgettable
experience and will leave visitors deeply impressed.
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Vietnam shares borders with Cambodia, Laos and China, and features 3,200 km
of coastline bordering the Eastern Sea. With an area of 332,000 square km,
Vietnam's topography varies from coastal plains to mountain ranges.
Vietnam stretches over 1,800 km from north to south; therefore weather
patterns in the principle cities are very different.
North: Winter lasts from November to April, with temperatures averaging 10 -
16C, fog and drizzle in January - March.
Summer begins in May and lasts until October, with an average temperature of
30C, heavy rainfall and the occasional violent typhoon.
Center: Central Vietnam experiences a transitional climate, with heavy
rainfalls between November and December and dry, hot summer months.
South: Temperatures are fairly constant through the year; 25C - 30C. Seasons
are determined by the rains - the dry season runs from November to April and
the wet season from May to October. The hottest period is March and April.
Typhoons are quite common in coastal areas between July and November.
Highland areas: In the hill resorts of Dalat (1,500 m), Buon Me Thuot and
Sapa, nights are cool throughout the year, and in the winter months, October
to March, it can be distinctly chilly with temperatures falling to 0C. Even
in the hottest months of March and April the temperature rarely exceeds 26C.
CUSTOMS AND FORMALITIES
All visitors to Vietnam must fill in declaration forms and show their
luggage to customs officials on request.
Visitors can bring with them unlimited amounts of foreign currency, objects
made of gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones or plated with silver or
gold, all of which must be declared in detail on the customs forms.
Commercial Video films and printed materials that are considered offensive
are normally confiscated and sent to Ministry of Culture for inspection.
Goods prohibited to import: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military
technical equipment, drugs, toxic chemicals, debauched and reactionary
products, firecrackers of all kinds, toys with negative impacts on the
dignity education, social security and safety, cigarettes beyond the
stipulated quantity, etc.
Goods prohibited to export: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military
technical equipment, antiques, drugs, toxic chemicals, wild animals, rare
and precious animals and plants, documents related to the national security,
CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE
The local currency is the Dong (abbreviated "d" or VND). Bank notes are
100d, 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2,000d, 5,000d, 10,000d, 20,000d, 50,000d, 100,000d
& 500,000d. Coins include 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2000d & 5000d. The exchange
rate (as of July 2006) is approximately Dong 15.850 to one US. Dollar.
Money and travelers cheques, particularly U.S. Dollars, can be exchanged at
banks, hotels and authorized money- exchangers. It is advisable to carry
U.S. Dollar bills in small denominations.
Credit cards are generally only accepted in major hotels, and in some
up-market shops and restaurants in major cities.
ATM facilities are readily available now in major cities.
No actual vaccinations are officially required. Visitors are advised to
check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding the
advisability of inoculation against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B and
Those visitors taking medicine for certain conditions such as diabetes or
heart problems should make sure that they carry these medications in their
hand luggage at all times in case the main luggage should be delayed.
It is recommended that all travellers take out comprehensive Personal Travel
Insurance to cover personal belongings, in case of accident or illness etc.
Vietnam has three International Airports : Hanoi / Noi Bai, Ho Chi Minh City
/ Tan Son Nhat and Danang / Danang Airport.
Cities with directs flight to Hanoi / Noi Bai Airport are Bangkok, Beijing,
Frankfurt Guang Zhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Kunming, Moscow, Paris, Siem
Reap, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Vientiane and Seoul.
Airlines currently serving Hanoi : Aeroflot (SU), Air France
(AF), All Nippon Airways (NH), Asiana Airlines (OZ), Cathay Pacific Airways
(CX), China Airlines (CI), China Southern Airlines (CZ), Eva Air (BR), Japan
Airlines (JL), Korean Air (KE), Malaysia Airlines (MH), Lao Airlines (QV),
Singapore Airlines (SQ), Thai Airways (TG), Tiger Airways (TR), Uni Air
(B7), Vietnam Airlines (VN).
Cities with directs flight to Ho Chi Minh City / Tan Son Nhat Airport
are Bandar Seri Begawan (Brumai), Bangkok, Frankfurt, Fukuoka, Guang Zhou,
Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Moscow, Osaka, Paris,
Phnom Penh, San Francisco, Seoul, Siem Reap, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei,
Tokyo, and Vientiane.
Airlines currently serving Ho Chi Minh City: Aeroflot (SU), Air
France (AF), All Nippon Airways (NH), Asiana Airlines (OZ), Cathay Pacific
Airways (CX), China Airlines (CI), China Southern Airlines (CZ), Eva Air
(BR), Japan Airlines (JP), Korean Air (KE), Lufthansa German Airlines (LH),
Malaysia Airlines (MH), Pacific Airlines (BL), Philippine Airlines (PR),
Singapore Airlines (SQ), Shanghai Airlines (FM), Thai Airways (TG), Tiger
Airways (TR), Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA),United Airlines (UA), Vietnam
Cities with directs flight to Danang/ Danang Airport are Bangkok, Singapore.
Airlines currently serving Danang: PB Air (PB); Silk Air (MI).
If flights are required in your itinerary they are in coach class, unless
specified otherwise. Flight timings quoted are local and are subject to
change. Domestic flights require a check-in, 1-hour prior to the flight
Carry on luggage is limited to one piece plus a camera.
All “carry-on” hand luggage must have luggage tags which are provided by the
airlines when passengers check in at airports for their flights. Security
regulations at airports are strict. Passengers are required to identify
their checked luggage after they have passed through security check points
in the airport. This identification process is done before boarding your
flight. Appropriate announcements may or may not be made for this procedure.
In economy class air travel baggage allowance is 20kg per person. Excess
baggage may be subject to overweight charges by the airline. We cannot be
held responsible for the loss or damage to passenger’s belongings. Domestic
flights are prone to last minute schedule changes and cancellation without
ANY advance notice.
Book Vietnam Domestic
Airport departure tax for international flights currently is:
US$ 14 from Hanoi
US$ 8 from Danang
US$ 14 from Ho Chi Minh City
The departure airport tax may be paid in local currency or in US Dollars.
Airport departure tax for domestic flights is included in the airfare.
Vietnam joined the global computer age and internet-service providers are
currently operating in most of the Cities. You can access the internet
through hotels, Cyber Cafés & Internet/Computer Service Centers. Following
are internet addresses with relevant information on Vietnam:
Vietnam Development Gatewayhttp://www.vietnamgateway.org/
Ministry of Foreign Affairshttp://www.mofa.gov.vn/en
Vietnam National Administration
of Tourism http://www.vietnamtourism.com/
Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Learning foreign languages,
particularly English, is currently popular among young people in Hanoi, Ho
Chi Minh City, Hue, Danang and other cities. Tourist guides are available
for English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian
LOCAL TIME & WORKING HOURS
Local time is GMT + 7 hours.
Governmental agencies work Monday to Friday from 7:30 hrs to 16:30 hrs
(excluding one-hour lunch) and are closed Saturday and Sunday.
Banks are open Monday to Friday from 7:30 hrs or 8:00 to 11.30 hrs and from
13:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs and are closed Saturday and Sunday.
Private shops are open from 8:00 or 8:30 hrs to 21:00 or 11:00 hrs.
OFFICIAL PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
01 JAN International New Year
16 Feb - 21 FEB’ 07 Lunar New Year (TET)
30 APR' Liberation Day
01 MAY' Labor Day
02 - 03 SEP National Day
The road system in Vietnam is reasonable in the main urban cities. The
drives through the countryside can be a wonderful sightseeing experience.
However, it must be noted that the roads are narrow and some may be poorly
paved when outside the main cities, and as a consequence the drives can be
rough and difficult at times.
The journey timings described in your itinerary are based on the usual
amount of time a particular journey will take. However, please appreciate
that not all roads can be checked for their condition throughout the year.
Most cars used are manufactured locally by Toyota, Honda and Ford and are
for the most part comfortable and ideally suited to local roads. Smoking is
not permitted in any vehicle, under any conditions. There is ample
opportunity to smoke during photographic, luncheon and sightseeing stops.
If you decide to leave the hotel and go out on your own, there are various
means of transport that you may like to take such as taxis or “cyclos”. If
taking a taxi or “cyclo”, insist on the meter being switched on before you
begin your journey. Due to an effort to stop pollution, most “cyclos” are
pedaled as opposed to motor. It is suggested that you carry the name of your
destination or hotel written in local language in the event your driver does
not understand English. The staff at your hotel can assist you in this
Border crossing into Vietnam is possible from China, Laos and Cambodia.
Tourists can pass borders at the following checkpoints :
Vietnam side /China side
* Huu Nghi (Lang Son province) / Pinxiang (Guangxi province)
* Lao Cai (Lao Cai province) / Hekou (Yunnan province)
* Mong Cai (Quang Ninh province) / Dongxin (Guangxi province)
From Laos : Vietnam side / Laos side
* Tay Trang ( west of Dien Bien Phu valley / Muang Mai - Phongsaly Province
* Na Meo ( Thanh Hoa province ) / Nam Sooy - Huaphanh Province
* Nam Can ( Nghe An province ) / Nam Khan - Xieng Khouang Province
* Cau Treo ( Ha Tinh province ) / Nam Pao - Bolikhamxay Province
* Cha Lo ( Quang Binh province ) / Naphao / Khammouane Province
* Lao Bao ( Quang Tri province ) / Lao Bao - Savannakhet Province
From Cambodia : Vietnam side / Cambodia side
* Moc Bai (Tay Ninh province) / Bavet (Svay Reang province)
* Tinh Bien (An Giang province) / Phnom Den (Takeo province)
* Xa Mat (Tay Ninh province) / Trapeang Plong (Kampong Cham province)
* Vinh Xuong - by Boat (Chau Doc province) / Kaom Samnoar (Kandal
PASSPORT AND VISAS
Travellers to Vietnam are required to hold a passport valid for at least six
(06) months beyond the completion of their visit and must contain a valid
visa. If tourist visas are to be obtained via Discovery Indochina, the
following personal data must be supplied to us at least 2 (two) weeks before
travel to Vietnam:
* full name as per passport
* passport number, date of issue and expiry date
* date and place of birth
* occupation and nationality
Visas are usually issued by the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok or in the
passengers’ home country (against the visa’s approval number), which require
the original passport, and 2 photos and for 2 (two) full working days in
order to issue a visa stamp.
Visas can also be obtained upon arrival at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and
Danang airports, in which case the stamping fee will be quoted separately.
Apart from required details above we further need arrival/departure date and
flight information. Discovery Indochina will send a confirmation letter to
show to airport staff at the departing airport, confirming that clients will
get the visa on arrival. Visas can only be requested via Discovery Indochina
in connection with the booking of travel arrangements to Vietnam.
Visa exemption :
* Not more than 30 days: for citizens of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia,
Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
* Not more than 15 days: for citizens of Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway,
South Korea and Sweden.
Hotels might reserve the right to keep travel documents overnight at the
reception for registration purpose.
Vietnam has abundant food supplies and an elaborate cuisine. Cooking is seen
as an art and some Vietnamese dishes have achieved international fame,
including such traditional dishes as noodle soup (pho), pork sausage (gio
lua), spring rolls (nem ran), and fish balls (cha ca). In addition to
Vietnamese food, the larger hotels also serve a wide variety of Continental
and Chinese cuisine. In the smaller cities, when the hotels only have one
restaurant, ordering a-la-carte may involve a slight wait, consequently it
is advised that you take advantage of the large and diverse buffets
available at these hotels to minimize any delay.
Never drink water from the hotel tap, no matter what category of hotel you
are staying in. Bottled mineral water is available at all hotels throughout
Vietnam. Do not have any ice in your drinks as this is often made from
water that has not been purified.
POST AND COMMUNICATIONS
A regular international post service is available. In addition Express Mail
Service (EMS) is available to more than 50 countries worldwide with a
delivery time of 2 to 10 days.
Vietnam has high international telephone charges. It is important to check
the exact amount with the hotel before making a call, as hotel surcharges
are often imposed.
VOIP calls which help reduce call charges (for most of International calls
from any destination within Vietnam and for domestic calls between the main
cities of the country) are now available as well pre-paid internet & mobile
card can be bought in the major cities.
Foreign visitors to Vietnam have the opportunity to buy souvenirs made of
rattan, gold, silver and stone. There is a diverse range of products, from
woodenwares such as wooden buttons or sindora beds to lacquer paintings,
bowls and chopsticks, bamboo screens and stone tea sets. Woven tapestries,
“tho cam” handbags and other handicrafts are produced by the traditional
skills of the women of ethnic minorities in such rural regions in the north
as Sapa, Mai Chau and Dien Bien.
Tipping is widely practiced and expected
Porters : VND 5.000 - 10.000 per bag
Waiters in restaurants:5-10% of total bill
Taxi drivers :10% of total bill
Tour guides : US$2-3 per person/per day
Drivers : US$1-2 per person/per day
All of the above information is accurate at the time of publication.