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Vietnam Travel Information

16:35 | 15/12/2013

Vietnam Travel Information

To the rest of the world, Vietnam is known as a poor country, which has been suffered a lot from the wars. Nowadays, with huge efforts from different social classes and “open window” policies of the Government, Vietnam gradually becomes a ‘new destination’ to the worldwide. Vietnam tourism reveals as a place of peace, unique culture and unspoilt nature. A visit to this fascinating country will indulge your senses and open your mind.

To the rest of the world, Vietnam is known as a poor country, which has been suffered a lot from the wars. Nowadays, with huge efforts from different social classes and “open window” policies of the Government, Vietnam gradually becomes a ‘new destination’ to the worldwide. Vietnam tourism reveals as a place of peace, unique culture and unspoilt nature. A visit to this fascinating country will indulge your senses and open your mind.
 
In the North , there’s a Hanoi elegant with friendly people, a Halong Bay with amazing caves listed on UNESCO World Heritage as well as the diversity of its ethno linguistic minorities in which Sapa is one of attractive places.
In the Central, we can explore spectacular beaches, dunes, and lagoon, There is an ancient imperial city of Hue, a tranquil Hoi An where you can have clothes made in one day and a Da Nang dynamic by Han river.
Down to the south, Nha Trang with best bays of the world is a “cannot be missed” destination.
In the South , visitors encounter modern life in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and the fertile alluvial delta of the Mekong River. A leisure boat trip can be taken to witness famous floating markets. 
 
General Information
Passport:
Passports should be valid for six months from the date of entry into Vietnam. We recommend you make a photocopy of your passport and keep it somewhere separate, or scan it and keep it in an accessible email account. Visitors must have a visa before entering Vietnam. VN Tour Services Co.,can arrange this for you. A visa on arrival can only be obtained with a letter of approval.
 
Visa:
Citizens of the US, UK, EU Countries, Australia, New Zealand and Canada must hold a visa to enter Vietnam. All other nationalities need to consult with the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in their country of residence. A visa must be organized before departing your country of residence (unless you have gone through the official channels to obtain a visa on arrival service). It can be arranged up to 6 months before your planned arrival date in Vietnam.
You must possess a full passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond your departure date from Vietnam. You can obtain a tourist or business visa from your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate.

All Vietnam visas are SINGLE ENTRY unless you have specifically asked for MULTIPLE ENTRY and this is stamped into your passport. Please ensure you have a multiple entry visa if you are entering Vietnam twice. The status of a tourist visa cannot be changed from SINGLE ENTRY to MULTIPLE ENTRY once you have arrived in Vietnam.
Please be aware that Vietnamese visa regulations and arrangements are subject to change and it is your responsibility to make sure your visa is in order before departure. We strongly advise that you check with the relevant embassies in your country of residence that these guidelines are applicable to you.

Money:
The official currency in Vietnam is the Dong (VND) which is a non-convertible currency. American dollars are widely accepted in larger stores and supermarkets. Visa and MasterCard are becoming more accepted in hotels, restaurants and large stores, especially in the bigger cities. ATM’s are widely available throughout the country, and there are a number of international banks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Exchange Rates
Post and telecommunications:
 
The Vietnamese postal services reliable and there are also courier services widely available. Do not put postcards into letter boxes; give them to your hotel to post or go to a post office.
Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available, however they aren’t cheap. A Vietnamese SIM card is a less expensive way of calling other countries, however your phone will need to be unlocked in order for it to work. For example, 200,000VND worth of Viettel credit ($10) can last for up to 45 minutes to the UK.
Internet access is available in all major tourist places and you will find WiFi in most cafes in built up areas.
Transportation:
The traffic in Vietnam is busy, but slow. It may look like chaos but don’t be frightened to cross the road. Simply make your way shaking your whole hand at waist height. You’ll soon see other people doing the same.
Taxis are a popular way of getting around Hanoi but make sure you use a reputable company such as Mai Linh or Capital Taxis. A typical 10 minute journey should cost around 50,000 VND but prices tend to increase at night.
If you are in a built up area, a cyclo is a fun form of transport and should cost no more than 100,000 VND per journey.
Motorbike taxis: Travel by motorbike is not safe and under no circumstances is this sanctioned or recommended by VN Tour Services Co.  Please note that this form of transport is not usually covered by insurance. Please check the fine print of your travel insurance policy to be sure of your cover.
 
Health and Safety:
Climate: Vietnam has a diverse climate that varies significantly from region to region:
The North (Hanoi to Sapa)
April to October: temperatures between 30-35°C with occasional bursts of heavy rain.
December to March: temperatures between 10-15°C. February and March can be damp with drizzle and overcast skies.
The Centre (Hue to Nha Trang)
Nha Trang: sunshine all year round apart from November and December when the area has heavy rain.
Dalat: cooler than the coastal area, particularly from November to March.
Da Nang Hoian and Hue: typhoons from mid October to mid December
The South (Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet)
May to October: hot and wet
November to April: hot and humid 
 
Please note: The weather can be very unpredictable so it may be a good idea to carry an umbrella or raincoat with you. You can purchase these from supermarkets and general stores. 
Health and wellbeing:
Please be aware that your health can be at risk in Vietnam due to poor sanitation and lack of effective medical facilities. Rural areas may not have pharmacies and hospitals so make sure you travel with a full supply of any prescribed medicine you take. If you need medical assistance, we suggest The Family Medical Practice in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Every traveller is responsible for his or her own health. First and foremost, make sure that you have travel insurance for your trip. You should also consult your doctor or local travel clinic for the latest information and advice on travelling to Vietnam before departure.
If you have a medical condition or allergy which requires particular attention, carry a doctor’s letter with you that describes the nature of the condition and treatment needed. We also recommend you pack a medical kit, including paracetamol and a diarrhoea remedy.
 
Vaccinations:
Before travelling, please ensure you have adequate protection against disease.  Contact your doctor for the latest medical advice on the vaccinations you need, no less than two months before your departure.  Be aware that there is a malaria risk in rural parts of Vietnam.
Travel insurance (compulsory):
VN Tour Services Co., does everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. However, travel inevitably involves some risk and this should be recognised by holiday-makers. Travel insurance is a cost effective way of protecting yourself and your equipment should any problems occur such as cancelled trips, delays, medical emergencies, baggage loss or damage. It also gives you peace of mind. Please also make sure your travel insurance covers all activities planned on your trip.
 
Culture & Customs:
Etiquette and cultural differences
Experiencing different cultures is one of the joys of travelling, and it is important that these differences are respected. Knowing a few important customs of the Vietnamese people will help make your visit more enjoyable:
Try not to get angry.  Showing any frustrations or annoyances by shouting or becoming abusive is extremely impolite and unlikely to achieve a positive outcome.
Pointing your finger is seen as offensive. Try to gesture using your whole hand instead.
Refrain from public displays of affection, they are considered offensive. It is extremely rare to see couples holding hands.
Wear shorts to the knees and cover your shoulders, particularly at religious sites.
Always remove your shoes when entering a temple or somebody’s home.
Nude sunbathing is considered completely inappropriate, even on beaches.
Remove your hat when entering a religious site, addressing the elderly or encountering esteemed people such as monks.
It is improper to pat children on the head.
When using a toothpick, it is polite to cover your open mouth.
Don’t leave chopsticks sitting vertically in a rice bowl as it looks very similar to incense sticks that are burned for the dead.
When passing something to another person, use both your hands together or just your right hand. Never use just your left hand.
 
Food and drink:
Vietnamese food is fragrant, exciting and healthy.  Around the country, you will find a delicious variety on offer, influenced from France, Thailand and even India.
The most popular dish is called Pho and is often referred to as the "soul of the nation". It's quite simply a noodle soup dish eaten every day, predominantly for breakfast. It is served in most Vietnamese restaurants and street food vendors. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, there are plenty of options, including:
 
    Nem Ran or Cha Gio (fried spring roll)
    Banh Chung (sticky rice cake)
    GioLua (lean pork pie)
    BanhCuon (rice flour steamed rolls)
    Banh My (pate and egg rolls)
    Mivoithitbo/ga (noodles with beef/chicken)
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Vietnam. Bottled water is cheap and widely available.
Public holidays:
 
    TET (Vietnamese New Year): generally takes place at the end of January or early February and lasts for three days.
    Liberation of Saigon: 30 April
    International Worker’s Day: 1 May
    Hung King’s memorial day: 10 March (lunar calendar)
    Vietnamese National Day: 2 September
TET Travel Recommendation: VN Tour Services Co discourages travel over the TET period. Transport is often booked or expensive. Lots of places are closed including restaurants, shops and key tourist sites.
Pre-departure checklist:
 
    Travel insurance
    Passport with at least six months validity from date of entry
    Photocopy of passport
    Visa
    Vaccinations
    Foreign currency (US$) and/or ATM card
    All relevant tickets
    Reconfirmed flights
    Light weight clothing (summer months and the south)
    Warm clothing (mountainous regions and Hanoi in winter)
    Appropriate shoes for trekking, cycling or walking
    Insect repellent
    Medication
    First aid kit
    Adaptor – 220V, 50Hz; 2 pin plugs
    Small daypack (for day and overnight trips)
    Water bottle and helmet (for cycling trips)
Please note: Domestic airlines do impose restrictions on baggage at approx 20kg maximum, so travel lightly where possible. Train cabins around the country, and boat cabins ¬in Halong Bay have limited space so consider this when packing.
 
What to take:
 
Flat walking shoes & sandals
Hat & sunglasses
Swimming attire
Lightweight travel towel
Money belt
Lightweight waterproof coat or umbrella
Basic first aid kit
Alarm clock
Small torch (flashlight)
Travel plug/international adapter
Women’s sanitary products
Camera
Ear plugs/eye mask
Day pack and/or small backpack
 
Clothes for temples
Safety & Security:Vietnam is a comparatively safe country by world standards, but the usual common sense health and safety precautions apply. Petty street crime levels have risen in recent years as visitor numbers have increased. We recommend you use taxis to get around at night, with the aid of a hotel address card to show drivers. Taxis are metered, inexpensive and numerous in Vietnam.
During your time in Vietnam, always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers, and a detailed record of your traveler's checks. These copies should be kept in a safe place apart from the originals. You should keep valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible.
In major cities, such as Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi, we recommend you wear minimal jewelery and keep money concealed close to your body when in public places. For further information or more comprehensive safety guidelines click here.
Health & Fitness:
Travelers to Vietnam should take care with their health and personal safety as they would anywhere else in Asia. Vietnam's major cities now feature international level medical facilities, while in smaller centers medical care can be more basic. Diseases that can be found in Vietnam include Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis A and B, polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, typhoid and HIV/AIDS.
To lower your risk of exposure to these and other health risks, we recommend you take sufficient preventative measures. We strongly advise that you consult your doctor for current health advice at least a month before departure.
 
Useful words & Phrases:
 
Vietnamese English
Sin Chow Hello
Kwhere Khom How are you?
Toy Kwhere, Come on I'm fine, Thank you
Come on Thank you
Ten la zee What is your name?
Ten toy la ... My name is ...
Bao new toy How old are you?
Toy ... too ee I'M ... year old
Bao new How much
Muk kwar It's too expensive!
Kom No
Da Yes
Sin loy I'm Sorry
Kom can No need
 Plug Types:
 
Voltage: 220V
Frequency: 50HZ
Population: 91,500,000
Capital: Hanoi
Religion: Buddhist
Time Zone: UTC + 7 Hours
 
Internet access & communication:
Internet access is prevalent throughout Vietnam, and is very affordable. Free Wi-Fi can now sometimes be found in hotels, bars, restaurants and café in the cities. International phone calls can be quite costly, with rates from 4-6 USD per minute. It is not possible to make reverse charge calls.
You can use your cell phone in Vietnam, although you will need to contact your service provider prior to traveling to enable global roaming. You can also opt to purchase a local SIM card when you arrive. It usually takes 7-10 days for international post to reach its destination, with rates similar to those in Western countries.
Vietnam Weather - Best time to travel:
 
Undoubtedly, weather is one of the determining factors for your traveling decisions. If you are heading to Vietnam, then, take it easy to make up your mind. Vietnam’s climate is not just steamy hot as what you are frequently exposed to on movies. All year round here, there is always a perfect place where it is pleasant to stay. Basically, the whole country falls into the tropic and subtropics but its stretching length and diverse topography allow it to span several different climate zones. The weather thus, tends to vary considerably from season to season and also from region to region.
Northern Patterns:
 
The North of Vietnam is generally cooler than other South East Asian regions in the same longitude. It experiences two main distinct seasons. In winter months, the weather gets colder and colder from November to March and considerably warmer in April (a leap into summer).  This is also time to observe much cloud and frequent drizzle. The average winter temperature is 17.2°C (62.9°F). Particularly, the mountainous areas (Northwest) are often much colder, temperature may keep below 10°C (50°F) for long period. Ice and snow even cover Hoang Lien Son Mountains and nearby Sapa town for some times with the lowest record of -3°C (26.6°F) in Feb 2008.
In the summer (from May to October), the whole region is quite hot. Temperature may rise to 37°C (98.6 °F) in the peaks of June and July. Hanoi and coastal provinces around the Red River Delta generally enjoy equitable weather with high average humidity (80%) all year round though they may occasionally be subjected to typhoons and heavy rain in late summers (September to November). Vietnamese people even identify four seasons in the Northern provinces (from Hai Van Pass toward the north) with their distinct features: pleasant spring (typically March-April) and autumn (October-December), a chilly winter (December- February) and a hot summer (June – July).
Central Pattern:
 
The Central Vietnam with two sub-regions, coastal lowlands and central highlands, can be seen as an in-between climatic area of the North and the South. The coastal strip is usually dry and hotter than the rest in the summer, as the Truong Son Mountains do not allow it to enjoy most rainfall of south-western monsoon (from April to October). Unprotected coasts in their turn, however, make it wet and colder than the rest in winter-monsoon season (from November to March). Also, storms and typhoons strike this area more frequently than the northern coasts in summer months (from July to November). The Central Highlands in particular enjoys nearly double the average rainfall of the country. Two biggest towns in this plateau, Dalat and Pleiku, are ideally cool throughout the year. Near-the-south coastal cities, Quy Nhon,  Nha Trang and Phan Thiet, on the contrary, experiences steamy hot weather (21°C-32°C / 70°F-90°F) all year round.
Southern Pattern:
 
The South of Vietnam, merely 8 degrees north of the Equator, is typical of humid tropical climate which is excellent for growing rice. The region’s temperatures experience little variations in a year (around 27-32°C/80-90°F). There are two main seasons: the rainy and the dry. During the rainy/monsoon season (from May to November), downpours are expected to happen nearly every afternoon, resulting in occasional street flooding in and around Saigon. In the dry season, it is hot from late February to April then slightly cooler when first downpours come. Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) enjoys rather equitable tropical climate with high humidity all year round. December to March is said to be the most pleasant time to hit this region’s center.
Note: In all, Vietnam climate is so diverse that there is almost no definition of an average temperature for the whole country. Thanks to these regional variations in weather, generally, you can drop in Vietnam at any time of year. Commonly, based on the duration of your stay, you should plan to catch the good weather and places by either dropping in Saigon in February or March then following the coast to north or hitting Hanoi in October-November then tracing southward. The choice is entirely yours.

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