traveltips

VIETNAM TRAVEL TIPS

Time Zone

GMT +7 hours

Language

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. However, Vietnamese is considered the second language for many ethnic minorities living in regional parts of the country. Some Vietnamese words and phrases have been adapted from Chinese, while others are derived from French, a by-product of the period of French colonial rule.

Currency

The national currency in is Vietnamese Dong. US dollars are accepted in some hotels, shops and restaurants.

Religion

Vietnam is considered one of the least religious countries in the world with less than 30% of the population identifying with one of the major religions. Buddhists represent approximately 12% of the population, while 7% are Catholic. Instead, a large percentage of Vietnamese people practice traditional folk religions, which feature the worship of local gods, goddesses and ancestors. Over the centuries, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have melded with popular Chinese beliefs and ancient Vietnamese animism to form what is known as 'Tam Giao' or 'Triple Religion'.

Weather

In general, Vietnam has a tropical climate with average annual temperatures ranging from 22ºC (72ºF) to 34ºC (86ºF). Although temperatures are consistent year round, various parts of the country, at certain times of the year, can be affected by unpredictable storms which may cause flooding. From May to November, most of the country is affected by south-western monsoons. The rains, which tend to be concentrated in the late afternoons, provide welcome relief to the heat. The heaviest rainfall tends to occur between July and August in the north; June to October in the south; and October to December in Central Vietnam.

December to March is a pleasant time to visit the southern city of Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, although temperatures in Hanoi and northern regions tend to be cooler during those months. In the mountainous regions in the far north such as Sapa, the temperature can at times drop below zero (32ºF). The best time to visit the north is between September and December when there's a good chance of clear skies and low humidity, while March to September is an ideal time to enjoy the beaches and sightseeing spots of Central Vietnam. Beach destinations in the south such as Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Phu Quoc and Con Dao Island are warm and sunny most of the year. However, the rainy season varies for each destination: Nha Trang (October to December); Phan Thiet (July to October); Phu Quoc (June to September) and Con Dao (November to January).

Arrival and Departure Formalities

The following nationals enjoy visa-free entry into Vietnam: Cambodia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand (up to 30 days); The Philippines (up to 21 days); Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden & UK (up to 15 days); Brunei and Myanmar (up to 14 days).

All other passport holders must apply for a visa either at a Vietnamese embassy prior to departure from your point of origin or on arrival in Vietnam.

For visas on arrival, the following documents are required: A Visa Approval Letter, which must be obtained prior to departure from your point of origin; a passport valid for more than six months with at least two blank pages; a completed visa application form, which can be obtained at the visa application counter at the airport; visa fee: USD 25 for single entry or USD 50 for multiple entry; two current passport size photographs (4x6 centimeters or 2×2 inches). Passport photographs can be obtained at the airport for an additional fee.

Nationals of 40 countries can also obtain an e-visa online, prior to arrival. To check your eligibility or to apply for an e-visa online, visit https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/en_US/trang-chu-ttdt. E-visas are valid for stays of up to 30 days, single entry only. Please be aware that the application process takes 2-3 days and the e-visa fee will not be refunded in the case that the e-visa is not granted. Visas for longer stays or multiple-entry must be obtained from your nearest embassy, prior to departure from your point of origin or on arrival in Vietnam.

If you are arriving into Vietnam by river cruise, we recommend that you obtain the necessary visa from your nearest embassy or consulate prior to departure from your point of origin as it is not possible to obtain a visa on arrival at river borders. E-visas are not valid for entry at most river ports, unless you are arriving into Vietnam on an Aqua Mekong, Mekong Princess, Jahan or Jayavarman cruise. In these cases, you can obtain an e-visa and indicate Song Tien Land Port as your point of entry.

For nationals of United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Russia, Korea, Japan, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, visa-free entry for 15 days is only applicable to the first entry. If the guest intends to return to Vietnam within 30 days after their exit date, a valid visa must be obtained under one of the following conditions: if the guest re-enters Vietnam from their home country, a visa approval letter is required and tourists must apply for a visa on arrival following the usual process, with a visa fee of USD 25 per person; if the guest re-enters Vietnam from a third country (ie. the guest travels back to Vietnam through Cambodia or Thailand or another country which is not the guest’s home country) the guest may obtain a special visa (type #6014) at the border or upon re-entry, which is valid for 15 days. To obtain this special visa type, a visa approval letter is NOT required. However, the guest should prepare the following documentation: Boarding pass of previous departure flight or cruise from Vietnam, flight or cruise ticket of previous departure from Vietnam, passport with previous Vietnam entry and exit stamp, special type visa fee of USD 5 per person. Please note that if the guest is not able to provide ALL of the above required documents, the Immigration Officer will not be able to process the special visa and will instead process a normal visa application, which requires an approval letter and a visa fee of USD 25.

While we do our best to provide the most up-to-date information, visa requirements may change at short notice. Obtaining the correct visa is the responsibility of each passenger and the company will not be held accountable for any refusal upon entry. Therefore, we recommend that you check with your consulate or embassy for current visa information before leaving home.

Money Matters

Although US dollars are widely accepted, it is recommended to have some local currency on hand. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most major shopping centers, restaurants and hotels, although relatively few establishments accept American Express. Traveler's checks can be exchanged in most banks, authorized exchange bureaus and hotels although they are not generally accepted as payment for items in shops. Normal banking hours 08:00 to 11:30 and 13:00 to 16:00. ATMs can be found in most major cities.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory but is appreciated in Vietnam. You are traveling on an independent itinerary and the cost of your program does not include gratuities. Tipping is a very personal matter and should only be considered when the staff have gone above and beyond for you. Should you feel you would like to acknowledge their service, please consider the following as a rough guide, per person per day.

Type of Service / USD ($)

Group Size (Number of People)

1

2

3

4

5-9

10+

Tour Director

15.00

12.00

10.00

8.00

6.00

5.00

Guide

15.00

12.00

10.00

8.00

6.00

5.00

Driver

8.00

6.00

5.00

4.00

3.00

2.50

Hotel Porters

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

Local Service Providers

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

The above tipping guidelines are recommendations only and are not compulsory. Please use your own discretion in tipping, based on quality of service.

Restaurants: Some restaurants add a 10% service charge to your bill, however, it is customary to add about 10% to the bill to show appreciation for the service.

Taxis: Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped but they appreciate the fare being rounded up.

Porterage: If you are being transferred by our representative to a hotel, then porterage and tipping of porters is already included. You are not expected to tip the representative.

Clothing

Light and comfortable cotton or linen clothing is recommended for the summer months, while warmer clothes for the winter months are recommended. Good walking shoes or sandals for touring are also beneficial. For women, shorts are acceptable, however keep in mind that the Vietnamese tend to dress conservatively and very revealing clothing may be frowned upon. Smart/casual dress is adequate for dinner restaurants. A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and regular sun protection are recommended to protect against the sun and heat, particularly if you are planning to spend a lot of time visiting the many interesting sites which are outdoors. When visiting temples and shrines, it is best to dress conservatively as visitors may be refused entry if not dressed appropriately. It is often a requirement to wear a long skirt or trousers that cover the knees as well as long sleeves to cover the arms and shoulders. Avoid any see-through clothing. You may also be required to remove any footwear, so sandals may be more convenient.

Electricity

The voltage supply in Vietnam is 220v 50Hz. Sockets are sometimes fit for two or three round prongs and sometimes two parallel blades

Health

Staying up-to-date with your vaccinations is a crucial part of your pre-holiday planning and it is important to seek professional medical advice for your specific requirements. If you are traveling to remote areas, you may also consider preparing a medical kit.

Although there are no specific vaccinations required for Vietnam, it is highly recommended that you are up to date on your routine vaccinations. Malaria is present in Vietnam, although visitors to major cities and typical tourist areas are at low risk. If traveling to remote areas, anti-malarial medication is recommended. Please consult your doctor as to the best medication for you.

Do not drink tap water in Vietnam and avoid ice in your drinks unless it is made from mineral water. We also recommend brushing your teeth with bottled water. Exercise caution when eating and drinking outside reputable hotels and restaurants and please only dine at places recommended by your guide or representative as many local restaurants do not follow typical food hygiene practices.

Photography

Camera etiquette requires that you ask permission before photographing local people, unless you are shooting a crowded public scene. This applies especially to small children. Please be considerate of a desire not to be photographed.

Photography is not permitted at some designated locations, which may include some museums, art galleries and private houses, for example. These areas are usually clearly marked. In general, avoid taking photographs of government buildings or installations, and military or police personnel. If in doubt, please ask your guide.

Local Handicrafts

Traditionally crafted lacquerware items, mother-of-pearl inlays, ceramics, exquisite embroidered tablecloths and shirts, intricate basketwork and beautiful ethnic clothes of high standards, wood-block prints and Vietnamese oil paintings are among the best buys. The port town of Hoi An is an epicenter of tailors and seamstresses, who can produce any design that you desire including traditional ao dai, the Vietnamese national dress, fashioned from high-quality silk.

Local Food

The cuisine of Vietnam varies from region to region; stir-fried dishes are more commonly found in the north due to Chinese influences, central Vietnamese dishes tend to be hot and spicy, while southern Vietnamese cuisine can be characterized by a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and spices. French influence can also be seen throughout Vietnam, particularly in banh mi, which is a Vietnamese version of baguette.

Vietnamese cuisine is known for its use of fish sauce and hoisin sauce as well as generous servings of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices including garlic, shallots, lemongrass and lime. Rice is the traditional staple dish, although noodles are also popular. Traditional dishes include pho, noodle soup often served with fresh slices of beef, and gio lua, a type of pork sausage. Deep-fried spring rolls, known as nem ran or cha gio can be found in almost every eatery in the country and cha ca, or fish balls, are also common.

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