Vietnam travel tips

Vietnam travel tips

This page provides useful and comprehensive tips for independent travelers to Vietnam

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Passport, Visa, Customs, Wearing, Weather, Currency, Shopping, Vietnamese phrases, ...

Passport: Each passenger must be in possession of a valid passport which must be valid for more than 6 months after the return date of travel. Passport number, date and place of issue, and birth date is now required by airlines and trains, and may be required to confirm services. Names on your airline tickets must match the first and last name listed on your passport.
Visa: Entry visas are obtainable at Vietnamese diplomatic missions and required for almost visitors with valid passports irrespective of nationality. Travel permits are only required for trips to off-limit areas such as border provinces, military bases and remote islands.
Important: Please take a note that visa on arrival in Vietnam means visa stamped on arrival with visa approval from Vietnam Immigration Office (must be obtained in advance).
Click here to see more information and services for Vietnam visa

Recommended Vietnam visa service | Vietnam visa on arrival

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What to wear: Appropriate dress differs from North to South. Southern Vietnam is tropical year round and people dress comfortably and casually. Lightweight cotton and wool fabrics will be comfortable at any time of year. While they may resist wrinkles, synthetics and are blends miserably hot. Generally, short pants are inappropriate anywhere but a beach resort or a farm and you will look like a foolish tourist on the streets of most cities. Jeans are almost always fashionable except for business occasions.
Winter (November through April) can be cool in Hanoi, and a coat may be necessary. Dress here is a bit more formal and somber than the fashionable South. If traveling on business, jackets and ties are usually appropriate, regardless of the weather. Saigon’s business community is very image oriented. It’s alright to ask your business partners here what kind of attire is appropriate and expected.
Remember that Vietnam is a tropical country. Most of the year it is warm and humid. If you are not used to tropical weather, be prepared to shower and change your clothes two or three times a day. During rainy season in Saigon the rain is often short (20-30 minutes) and some times quite sudden. Practically every hotel in Vietnam has laundry service, which is usually quite inexpensive.

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Customs regulations: Arriving in Vietnam, all visitors must fill in Declaration Forms and show their luggage to Customs Officials upon request. There are no limited amounts of foreign currency, objects made of gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones or plated with silver or gold but visitors must declare these in detail on the customs forms.
ENTRY: Tourists are authorized to bring in the following items duty-free: Cigarettes: 400 pieces; Cigars: 50-100; Tobacco: 500 gram; Liquor: 1.5l.
Personal effects of a reasonable quantity. Small gift items valued at not more than US$ 500.
Note: There is no limit to the amounts of cash, precious metals and gems people can bring in, but amounts of over US$ 7,000 must be declared.
It is prohibited for any visitor to bring into Vietnam the followings:
* Weapons, explosives and inflammable objects.
* Opium and other narcotics.
* Cultural materials unsuitable to Vietnamese society.
EXIT: Goods of commercial nature and articles of high value require export permits issued by the Customs Office. Antiques, some precious stones and animals listed in Vietnam's red-book may not be brought out of the country.

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Baggage: Airline baggage allowance regulations are based on a weight and measurement system. Combined overall dimensions for checked baggage can not exceed 106 inches. Carry-on luggage cannot exceed 45 inches. For flights within continents baggage is limited to 44 lbs. (20 kilos). One bag not to exceed 106 inches may be taken on escorted programs. For additional bags, there will be an additional charge of approximately $3 per bag per handling.
Vietnam currency: The currency of Vietnam is "Dong" (abbreviated "d" or VND). Bank coins are 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2000d, 5000d. Bank notes are 1,000d; 2,000d; 5,000d; 10,000d; 20,000d; 50,000d, 100,000d, 200,000d and 500,000d.

See images of current Vietnam Dong

Unlike most of Vietnam's neighboring countries, the US Dollar is widely accepted. At this the official rate of exchange is approximately VND 16,500 to USD 01.

Official updated exchange rate in Vietnam
Credit Cards and Travelers' Cheques are accepted at most of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops but in major cities only. Visitors are recommended to carry US Dollar in small notes. Travelers can change their money for Vietnamese Dong (VND) at banks, hotels and jewelry shops throughout the country.

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Food: Vietnamese food often comes as a wonderful surprise! It has a very distinctive style, although it is also clearly influenced by Chinese and, to a lesser extent, French cuisine. Freshness is of paramount importance so ingredients are bought fresh from the local market on a daily basis.
Meals will usually include rice or noodles as staples along with a vast array of vegetables, and meats like chicken, duck, beef, and pork. Good quality seafood (fish, calamari, prawns and crab) is widely available and you’ll find that fish sauce is a condiment which accompanies almost every meal. The most famous Vietnamese dish is spring rolls either deep fried (known as cha gio in the south and nem ran in the north) or served fresh (bi cuon/bo bia) with a combination of raw vegetables and grilled prawns, crab, pork or chicken. Pho (noodle soup) served with either chicken or beef, fresh green leaves, beans sprouts, and red chilly is also found throughout the country. If you are after a snack try a banh cuon, a steamed dumpling stuffed with minced pork or prawns, black mushrooms and bean sprouts.
The French colonial period has left a legacy of delicious continental food. Often street cafés have a distinctly French feel with crispy baguettes, pate, crème caramel, banana flambé, and sweet pastries on the menu.
Vegetarians: Vegetarians should not have any difficulty in finding a great selection of food in Vietnam as there is a strong Buddhist influence and Chinese and Vietnamese vegetarian dishes abound.
Food Allergies: If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour guide who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.

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Drinking: Bottled water and mineral water are obtainable at any shops in most cities. It is advisable to drink boiled water and not to drink ice and tap water. The most reliable local brand is LA VIE (Don’t confuse them with the imitations such as La Ville or La Vierge). Aquafina of Pepsi and real Evian also available at many shops.
Tea, similar to Chinese green tea, is one of the most common drinks in Vietnam. Coffee was introduced by the French and is usually strong, thick and served complete with drip filter, so you know it’s fresh! If you ask for milk it will usually be sweet condensed milk.
Popular beer are: Local brand: 333, Hanoi beer, Saigon beer and international brand Carlsberg, Heineken, Tiger and Foster
Film and developing: Fresh negative film is widely available. Popular brands are Kodak, Fuji, Agfa and Konica. Memory cards for digital camera could be found easily, but be careful with its quality. Image printing from both negative film or digital file are obtainable in cities and towns. The tourists say that the negative film is cheaper than abroad.
One-hour service photo shops have become ubiquitous in places where tourists abound. Positive film can be developed only in Saigon and Hanoi. Most reliable and centered-located Film developing shops are 19 Nguyen Cau – Ba Trieu St. and Photocen – 77 Ly Thuong Kiet in Hanoi and Shops on Nguyen Hue Blvd., District 1 in Saigon.

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Shopping: The following items are quite unique and have good quality:
* Carved wooden furniture, fine lacquer ware (these can be shipped home upon request).
* Traditional Vietnamese hand-made silk, linen and cotton dresses, kimonos, embroideries, etc.
* Simulated antiques, ceramics, old watches or Zippo lighters, etc.
* Copies of famous paintings.
Others
Taxi: Taxis with meters are available in big cities. The current price is about US$ 0.5 per kilometer. Most metered taxi drivers can speak a little English.
Business hours: (GMT + 7)
* Offices: 07:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 01:00 p.m. to 04:30 p.m., closed on Saturday and Sundays
* Banks: 08:00 a.m to 03:00 p.m, closed on Friday afternoons, Saturday and Sunday.

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Electrical current: 110-220 volts A.C.
Telephone: Long distance calls should be made at post offices, hotels or telephone booths (phone cards are available at post offices).
Internet: Internet cafes with ADSL can be found easily in Vietnam. Cost for an hour is around 0,5US$.
Tip and Gratuities: Tipping is not obligatory in Vietnam, however, if you meet with exceptional services or kindness, a tip is always appreciated. A tip for good service might be about 5% of the bill.
Bargaining: Bargaining is a way of life in much of South East Asia. In Vietnam shops don't have fixed prices so the shop keeper will start with a high price which you are then expected to bargain down until you reach a fair price. Bargaining should always be relaxed and can be a lot of fun but you should remember that it is considered disrespectful to agree a price but then walk away.
Laundry: Most of the hotels we use in Vietnam provide a laundry service although this can be quite expensive, sometimes as much as US$1 per item. Alternatively the side streets of most towns and cities are teeming with laundries where the average cost per kilo of laundry is US$0.70.

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Weather: Vietnam experiences a fair degree of diversity in climate. The north has distinct summer and winter seasons. Summer lasts from May until October, when the weather is hot and very humid with temperatures averaging about 30 degrees Celsius. November to April are the winter months when the weather is mainly dry and average temperatures are about 18-20 degrees Celsius. Please note that in the mountainous regions of the country, temperatures will be much lower than this, so warm clothing is required if you are traveling to hill tribe areas during the winter months.
In the centre of the country (e.g. Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An) the weather is very hot and dry from February to August with temperatures of around 33-36 degrees Celsius, but there can be heavy rainfall between September and January.
The south of Vietnam has a hot, dry season from December through until April with temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius. May until November is the rainy season, although there are rarely long periods of rain – it is usually short heavy showers.

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Useful phrases in Vietnamese
As Vietnamese is a tonal language (with six different tones), the particular tone used determines the meaning of a word. As the same word can mean many different things depending on the tone it is a difficult language to grasp but the locals will certainly appreciate your efforts!
The following words and phrases are spelled phonetically to help you with pronunciation.

Popular phrases:

- Hello >> sin chow
- Goodbye >> chow, tam bi-ait
- Excuse me (sorry) >> sin looee
- Please >> lam on
- Thank you >> gum urn
- Yes >> vung (when spoken in the north)

         >> roi (in the south)
- No >> kom
- Excuse me >> sin loy
- How much? >> bough new?
- Tea >> cha
- Coffee >> ca fe
- Water >> nook
- Beer >> bia
- I don't understand >> toy kom beet

 

Numbers in Vietnamese:

1 - mot
2 - hai
3 - ba
4 - bon
5 - numb
6 - sow
7 - buy
8 - tum
9 - chin
10 - moo-ee
11 - moo-ee mot
12 - moo-ee hai
20 - hai moo-ee
30 - ba moo-ee
100 - mot traam
1000 - mot ngan

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