VIETNAM : A BASIC TRAVEL INFO Print

 

Area                                                     329,560 square kilometers

Size comparision with U.S. states              A bit smaller than California  

Borders with                                           China, Laos, Cambodia & South China Sea                

Population                                              90 million                                         

Time Zone                                             GMT + 7:00

Religions                                                Mahayana Buddhist, Catholic, Confucianism, Animism

Government Type                                    Communist Single Party    system

Language                                               Vietnamese 

Passport & Visa Formalities

 
A valid passport and Vietnamese visa is required. You must have a visa to Vietnam before you arrive Vietnam.

A VISA to Vietnam can be applied for by mail or in person at the Embassy of Vietnam as early as six months prior to the date of travel. The applicant must submit original PASSPORT,  Application form (PDF Form/Word Form), original photo (2x 2in) and visa fee in money order.

The visa rules and regulations are subjec to change. Please check www.vietnamembassy.us

Current information on visa and entry requirements may be obtained from the
Vietnamese Embassy
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400,
Washington, DC 20036, tel: 202-861-0737

The Vietnamese Consulate General,
1700 California Street - Suite 430,
San Francisco, CA 94109, tel: (415) 922-1707

Weather & Clothing

 
Vietnam’s climate is very diverse because the country covers a wide range of latitudes and altitudes. So, the clothing depends on place where you are going and time of the year you are traveling.

The North: The cold season is between November and April when average temperatures are around 60°F/16°C and it is often wet and chilly. In the hot period, between May and October, the average temperature is about 86°F/30°C.

Central: Central Vietnam offers a combination of climates: northern and southern. The southern part has less rainfall and the temperatures are similar to those in the south. The northern part has more rain and significant changes in temperature. The rainy season in the center lasts from September to December. Especially during the months of October and November, central Vietnam is hit by typhoons with strong winds and heavy downpours.


The South: The temperatures in the south are constant all year, ranging from 77-86°F/25-30°C. The dry season is from November to April and the wet period from May to October.


The South: The temperatures in the south are constant all year, ranging from 77-86°F/25-30°C. The dry season is from November to April and the wet period from May to October.

Health & Immunization

No vaccinations are officially required by the Vietnamese authorities, but immunization against hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus and polio is advised. Vaccination for typhoid fever is recommended for long stay and intensive travelling tourists. Rabies is widespread in Vietnam, so you are advised to avoid dogs and other animals that may bite as a precaution.


Malaria
Malaria is widespread in the Central Highlands and some parts of the Mekong Delta. The best protection against malaria is to avoid being bitten in the first place. Check with your physician about taking a course of anti-malarials. If it is considered necessary given your itinerary, you might need to begin before your trip and continue for a time after you return. But if you are not traveling to the Central Highlands nor going on overnight treks in the mountain region of Sapa, no anti-malarial drugs are needed.


Dengue fever, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes, is often mistaken for malaria. Its symptoms are severe pain in the joints, high fever, and extreme headache. Aside from avoiding being bitten altogether (this mosquito is active in daytime and is often a striped variety), there is no prevention available. Hospital treatment is urgently required.


Food & Water
As with most underdeveloped countries, stomach upsets and diarrhea are a common problem and can ruin a visit. Most problems stem from contaminated water. Unless it has been thoroughly boiled, do not drink tap water. You should also avoid ice in drinks, especially in the countryside. Imported bottled water is available in most cities, but beware of bottles that have been refilled with tap water. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are fine and in hotels you can use the boiled water in your room to make Chinese tea. You should have no problems with thoroughly cooked food, but stay clear of anything that looks like it has been reheated from a previous meal. Take care with seafood and avoid undercooked meat. Only eat fruit that you have peeled yourself.

Customs & Declarations

All visitors need to complete a customs declaration form and this form must be presented upon departure. Unlimited amounts of foreign currencies can be carried in, but they must be declared to ensure the same amount will be allowed to be carried out. Importation of all kinds of narcotics, firearms and pornographic media are strictly prohibited. Customs officials may examine books, magazines, and videos.

Money, Credit Cards & ATM

Currency & Changing Money

The currency of Vietnam is the Dong. All goods and services can and should be paid for in Dong. Exceptions are made in hotels and when buying international air tickets. Shops and restaurants in the bigger cities will also accept US dollars, but you should be aware of the fact that usually a lower exchange rate will be used. It is therefore advisable to change a certain amount of Vietnamese dong to cover your day-to-day expenses.

The best places to change money  are Banks, Hotels and Authorized Money exchange outlets. Each place may have a bit different rate. You may ask guide the best best place to change the money,  if you plan on exchanging large sums. 

Credit Cards

Visa, Mastercard and  with exceptions  American Express are accepted in virtually every hotel in major cities throughout the country, as well as in upmarket restaurants, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.


ATM

ATM card can be used in major cities in Vietnam.
 

Culture & Etiquette


Religion
Vietnam supports adherents of all the major world religions, as well as followers of religions that are peculiarly Vietnamese: Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, Cao Daism, Hoa Hao and Hinduism. In addition spirit and ancestor worship, To Tien, is also practiced. Confucianism is probably the most pervasive doctrine of all.


Manners
The Vietnamese used to greet one another by clasping their hands, prayer-like, in front of their faces and bowing slightly. Unfortunately, this charming custom has been replaced by the handshake. When trying to gain the attention of a Vietnamese, try not to point or gesture excessively. This is regarded as rude. Call out their names if possible, if not beckon by using the whole hand, palm downwards. Again, as in the other countries of Southeast Asia, do not touch people on the head as it is regarded as spiritually the 'highest' part of the body. Expect to be the center of attention outside Saigon, Hanoi and the main tourist centers. React accordingly and be a good ambassador.
 

Miscellaneous

When you arrive at the airport or border

When you arrive at the airport or border, someone from our local supplier will meet you at the airport who will be displaying your name. You will be then transferred to your to hotel.  In case,  because of earlier or delayed flight, if you do not  see anybody to pick you up, then give a call to the local tour operator listed on the “Local Operator’s Contact Detail” which is in the information package you have received from us before you left U.S.

Telephone, Email, Wifi

You can make a direct call from most of the places in Vietnam to  U.S. through a telephone line.  Telecom in Vietnam has developed significantly. There are several cyber cafes in big cities. Most of the hotels, restaurants have Wifi free of charge. If you have roaming service in your phone, it may work in most of the places in Vietnam. You may also buy a local sim card and use with your cell phone, if it's GSM unlocked set.

 

Security
When planning your trip abroad, take steps to protect yourself from crime or theft. Vietnam is a relatively safe destination, however, it is always better to be cautious.


Electricity

Electricity: 220V / 50V.
However, electricity supply can be unreliable in smaller towns.


Eating & Drinking

Vietnamese cuisine is a mixture of Chinese, French and a little Thai and is one of the most sophisticated cuisines in Asia. The basic ingredients of Vietnamese cuisine are rice and the famous fish-sauce, nouc mam.


One of the specialties of Vietnamese cuisine are spring rolls, ingredients and size vary depending on the region of the country. The traditional breakfast, chicken soup (pho ga) or beef soup (pho bo) is available at most of the food stalls on the main streets of nearly every city in Vietnam.


Shopping
Vietnam offers a huge variety of souvenirs and traditional handicrafts. Popular buys include lacquerware, ceramics, embroidery, silk and paintings. As with most countries, the Vietnamese government does not allow the export of any item of historic or cultural significance. Saigon has the best buys for modern goods like CDs and clothing.

If you are thinking of purchasing any products, which you cannot carry with you, then think twice before you purchase it. The salesman or guide may tell you that they would pay the shipping charges to your address. However, besides the shipping charge, you must understand that there are other charges involved at your end, which they may not be aware of, such as destination charges, custom clearance fees, warehouse fees and other fees. By the time, the product reaches your home; the chance is high that you will also receive a bill for all the other charges, which might be higher than the cost of product itself. So, unless you are very sure about these charges, shipping anything home is not suggested.

 

Tipping

Your driver and guide expect a tip at the end of the tour.  Below is a general idea on tipping in the group size beween 2-5 people.  If there are more than 5 people in the group, a little more would be expectd. The mentioend tipping is to be divided by the number of people in the group.  The tips can be more or less depending on the services you get from them.

Tour Guide :  US$ 8 a day

Driver  :         US$  6 a day