Things to know

 

* Currency

– Vietnamese dong (VND) is the official currency. Paper notes include: VND 500,000; 200,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500; 200 and 100. Coins include VND 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500 and 200.

– Foreign currencies and tourist cheques can be exchanged into VND at banks or foreign exchange agencies.

– Credit cards are popularly used, especially in cities and big tourist centers.

* Language

– Vietnamese is the official language.

– The most widely spoke languages: English, Chinese, French and Russian (more or less on that order).

* Weather

Sub-Tropical climate with four season (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) in the North and two season (dry and rainy) in the South.

* Clothing

In daytime and evening, dress informal. When visiting some places, smart clothes are required.

* Food, fruit and drink

Eating while in Vietnam is a delight for visitors, because many of the local specialties come straight from the imperial kitchens that served the emperors of Vietnam. The diversity of dining options is tremendous, ranging from cheap street side noodle stalls to banquets of freshly caught seafood. And our tours not only offer the chance to eat these culinary creations, but to learn to make them as well.

Seasonal fruits such as dragon fruit, rambutans and longans, can be enjoyed, though all fruits and vegetables should be cooked or peeled before eaten. Drinking water or ice is generally not recommended, even in the cities. Bottled water is cheap and readily available, so we recommend clients not to take the risk. Vietnam is a beer culture, and there are plenty of local as well as imported brands. 333, Carlsberg, Hanoi, Tiger, Saigon, La Rue, San Miguel and Heineken are some common brands.

* Health

No vaccinations are officially required to visit Vietnam, but local medical authorities recommend protection against polio, diphtheria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, and Japanese encephalitis. For travellers spending much time in the countryside, anti-malaria pills are recommended and you should take precautions not to get bitten. Repellents and mosquito nets are necessary.

All travellers are advised to bring any prescription medications (in the original containers) currently required. Travellers should pack a small medical kit, which includes sunscreen, insect repellent, diarrhea medication, ibuprofen or aspirin and antibacterial ointments. For those who wear eyeglasses, it is recommended that an extra pair be taken, as the quality of local replacement services varies.

Medical care facilities are available in the largest cities, but are limited outside of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. It’s wise for each traveller to consult with each insurance company to see whether coverage is included for Vietnam, because care is expensive, and often requires evacuation to nearby countries.

* Shopping

Bargaining is customary at roadside stalls and at open markets.

The following items are preferred by foreign travellers:

– Carved wooden furniture, fine lacquerware (these can be shipped home upon request).

– Traditional Vietnamese hand-made silk dresses, kimonos, embroideries, etc.

– Simulated antiques, fine ceramics, old watches or Zippo lighters, etc.

– Copies of famous artist paintings

* Security and advice

Vietnam is by and large a very safe country; violent crime is extremely rare. Unfortunately you cannot expect hospitality at every turn and you may experience problems with petty theft and pick pockets.

– As with any big city, do not bring items of value as you go shopping or sightseeing on city streets.

– It is customary to give alms to beggars and to buy souvenirs from street vendors.

– Foreign currencies should be exchanged at banks, or authorized exchange facilities. Do not exchange money in the street.

– Store your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place. Most 4-star hotels have in-room safes, otherwise ask the reception to keep your valuable things in their deposit facility.

– Don’t wear singlets, shorts, dresses or skirts, or tops with low-neck lines and bare shoulders to Temples and Pagodas. To do this is considered extremely rude and offensive.

– Do not try to take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security. Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages. They are considered to be too intrusive by the local people.

– It is advisable NOT to take pedicabs or “honda-om” on your own.

* Time zone: Hours in Vietnam: GMT + 7

* Electricity and water supply

– Electric power: 220V, frequency: 50 Hz

– Cities, towns and townships are supplied with fresh sterilized water.

* Hotel and restaurant

– Accommodation is various from one star to five star hotels that can meet the diverse demands of visitors at different levels.

– Restaurants in the major towns and cities can satisfy tourists? gastronomic demands. Some specialize in European, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean foods, so clients can always find some food that suits their fancy. In popular tourist centers, special restaurants are available for travellers who are vegetarian, on diet or religious.

* Transportation

Airports

– International airports: Noi Bai (Ha Noi), Phu Bai (Hue), Da Nang (Da Nang), and Tan Son Nhat (Ho Chi Minh City).

– Domestic airports:

• In the North: Gia Lam (Ha Noi); Cat Bi (Hai Phong); Dien Bien Phu (Dien Bien); Na San (Son La).

• In the Centre and Central Highlands: Vinh (Vinh City – Nghe An); Dong Hoi (Dong Hoi City – Quang Binh), Chu Lai (Quang Nam); Phu Cat (Qui Nhon – Binh Dinh); Dong Tac (Tuy Hoa – Phu Yen); Cam Ranh (Nha Trang – Khanh Hoa); Pleiku (Gia Lai); Buon Ma Thuot (Dak Lak); Lien Khuong (Da Lat – Lam Dong).

• In the South: Con Dao (Ba Ria – Vung Tau); Duong Dong (Phu Quoc- Kien Giang); Rach Gia (Rach Gia – Kien Giang); Ca Mau (Ca Mau); Can Tho (Can Tho City).

Domestic flights

– From Ha Noi: to Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang, Qui Nhon, Buon Ma Thuot, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Dien Bien Phu, Dong Hoi, Can Tho and vice verse.

+ To Phu Quoc (connect at Ho Chi Minh City)

+ To Pleiku (connect at Da Nang)

– From Da Nang: to Buon Ma Thuot, Ha Noi, Nha Trang, Pleiku, Quy Nhon, Ho Chi Minh City and vice verse.

– From Ho Chi Minh City: to Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Vinh, Hue, Da Nang, Chu Lai, Quy Nhon, Tuy Hoa, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, Ca Mau, Con Dao, Phu Quoc, Rach Gia and vice verse; Dien Bien (connect at Ha Noi)

International flights

• From Ha Noi:

– To the cities of American: Chicago (transit via Tokyo or Paris, or Frankfurt); Boston (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth, or Paris and Dallas Fort Worth); Denver; Dallas Fort Worth (transit Tokyo or Paris, or Frankfurt); Washington (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); Houston (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); Miami (transit Paris, or Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); San Francisco (transit via Taipei); Los Angeles (transit via Taipei); Oklahoma (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); New York (transit via Tokyo or Paris); Atlanta (transit Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth);

– To other destinations: Beijing; Guangzhou; Kunming; Taipei; Kaoshing (connect at Ho Chi Minh City); Haneda (transit via Osaka); Osaka; Fukuoka; Nagoya; Tokyo; Miyazaki (connect at Ho Chi Minh City and transit via Fukuoka); Sapporo (transit via Nagoya or Osaka); Seoul; Busan; Hong Kong; Kuala Lumper; Luang Prabang; Vientanie; Phnuom Penh; Siem Reap; Bangkok; Singapore, Jakarta (transit via Singapore); Doha and Dubai (transit via Bangkok); Paris; Frankfurt; Moscow; Manila (connect at Ho Chi Minh City); Melbourne; Sydney.

• From Ho Chi Minh City

– To the cities of American: Chicago (transit via Tokyo or Paris); New York (transit via Tokyo or Paris); Boston (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth, or Paris and Dallas Fort Worth); Houston (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); Washington (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); Oklahoma (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); Miami (transit Paris, or Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); Denver (transit via Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth); San Francisco (transit via Taipei); Los Angeles (transit via Taipei); Dallas Fort Worth (transit Tokyo or Paris, or Frankfurt); Atlanta (transit Tokyo and Dallas Fort Worth).

– To other destinations: Beijing; Guangzhou (one way returns); Hong Kong; Kaoshing; Taipei; Nagoya; Tokyo; Sappro (transit via Osaka); Fukuoka;); Osaka; Miyazaki (transit via Fukuoka); Seoul; Busan; Singapore; Manila; Kuala Lumper; Jakarta (one way); Luang Prabang (connect at Hanoi); Vientanie; Phnuom Penh; Siem Reap; Bangkok; Frankfurt; Paris; Moscow; Melbourne; Sydney; Doha and Dubai (transit via Bangkok);

Hanoi-Noi Bai motor-vehicles: Tourists can catch taxi or air-conditioned city buses (No7 and No17), every 15 to 20 minutes. Minibuses leave for the airport from the Vietnam Airlines Office at 1 Quang Trung St.

Ho Chi Minh City’s center-Tan Son Nhat motor-vehicles: In order to the city centre, tourists can catch taxi or bus (No 154)

Danang City’s center-Danang Airport: Tourists can reach the airport by taxi or pedicab.

Land road

– From China through the border gates of Mong Cai (Quang Ninh), Huu Nghi (Lang Son), Lao Cai (Lao Cai).

– From Laos through the border gates of Tay Trang (Dien Bien), Na Meo (Thanh Hoa), Nam Can (Nghe An), Keo Nua or Cau Treo (Ha Tinh), Cha Lo (Quang Binh), Lao Bao (Quang Tri), Bo Y (Kon Tum).

– From Cambodia through the border gates of Le Thanh (Gia Lai), Moc Bai and Xa Mat (Tay Ninh), Dinh Ba (Dong Thap), Tinh Bien (An Giang), Ha Tien (Kien Giang).

Railway

Vietnam has 6 railway lines: Ha Noi – Ho Chi Minh City (Thong Nhat); Ha Noi –Hai Phong; Ha Noi – Thai Nguyen; Ha Noi – Lao Cai, Ha Noi – Lang Son; Ha Noi – Quang Ninh; and international railway line Hanoi – Beijing through Dong Dang Border Gate

For more information, please visit the website: www.vr.com.vn

In Hanoi

– Hanoi-Vinh: via Phu Ly, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Vinh. Hanoi Railway Station, 120 Le Duan, Tel. 9423697/9423949

– Thong Nhat (Reunification) Express Train (Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City) runs through many tourism centers such as Nam Dinh, Thanh Hoa, Vinh, Hue, Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City. You should buy ticket two or three days in advance (paid in Vietnamese dongs only). Journeys: 29 hours, 30 hours, 33 hours. Soft seats; 4-6 beds/room with or without air-conditioners. Hanoi Railway Station, 120 Le Duan, Tel. 9423697/9423949.

– Hanoi to other provinces: Hai Phong, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Thai Nguyen, Ha Long. Tickets bought at 120 Le Duan. Check-in and out at the Hanoi Station B, Tran Quy Cap Road. For the routes to Haiphong, Yen Bai, Thai Nguyen, also check-in and out at Long Bien Station.

– Hanoi-Beijing International Train via Dong Dang (Lang Son): twice a week on Tuesday and Friday. For the group of 6 people and above, leaving at the same station, ticket price will be reduced by 25%. Hanoi Railway Station, 120 Le Duan, Tel. 9423697/9423949

Waterways

Tourists can come to Vietnam by sea routes to the ports: Ha Long, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City.

– Daily ships to islands: Cat Ba, Con Dao, Phu Quoc, Phu Quy, Cu Lao Cham

– Daily Hai Phong – Mong Cai and Mong Cai – Bai Chay routes

– Daily speed boats from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, Can Tho, Chau Doc

– Boat services between Can Tho and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) through Vinh Xuong Border Gate.

Other traffic services

• There are many available means of transport such as: taxis in many provinces and big cities (24/24h); pedicabs; motor-taxis (xe om); bicycles and motorbikes for rent daily or hourly; tourist cars for hire with or without drivers.

• Air Taxi service: organized by The Northern Service Flight Company (NFSC) with the flight costing US$110, used EC-130 B4 helicopers. Customers can make a choice of a number of routes linking Ha Noi with Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Ha Long Bay and some of Ha Noi’s neighbouring provinces. Currently, the company will operate nearly 20 flights from Hanoi to some tourist destinations such as Ha Long, Cat Ba, Mong Cai, Lao Cai, Sa Pa, Dien Bien Phu, Hoa Binh, Thanh Hoa, Vinh, Hue, Da Nang, Vung Tau, Nha Trang, Con Dao, Can Tho, Ca Mau, Phu Quoc… Noi Bai Airports has been choosen as services base and departure point.

Some notes:

• The regulation of liquid carried on all Vietnamairlines international and domestic flights:

– All liquids carried as unchecked baggage by a passenger shall not exceed 1 litre; such liquids are carried in completely closed containers with a capacity not greater than 100 ml and should be placed in a transparent plastic bag and shall be re-sealable for security check. Only one transparent plastic bag per passenger should be permitted.

– Passenger is allowed to carried on:

+ The medications incase the medications must be accompanied by the prescription which contains name and address of the prescriber and name and address of the passenger;

+ The baby milk/foods must be accompanied by the baby.

– The liquids purchased either at airport duty free shop or on broad aircraft, provided that the liquid must be purchased on the day of the passenger’s departure or transfer and packed in a transparent sealed plastic bag that is both tamper-evident and displays the receipt of that purchase which is visible for security check of content without opening the bag.

• Wear appropriate clothing when visiting sacred places (temples, pagodas…)

• It is forbidden to take photos at demilitarized zone or some places have notice-board “no picture taken”.

* Telephone, Fax, Internet, Email

– Dialling code: 84

– Phone calls or fax to foreign countries can be directly made at post offices or hotels.

– Internet and emails are popular in almost provinces and cities.

– Mobile network is used in different forms: subscribe, monthly- or daily-payment in advance.

– For more tourism information, please visit the website:www.vietnamtourism.com

* Working hours

– Governmental agencies work 8 hours/day from 7.30am to 4.30pm (excluding one-hour lunch). Saturday and Sunday are close.

– Banks are open from 7.30 or 8.00 to 11.30am and from 1.00pm to 4.00pm. Saturday and Sunday are close.

– Shops are open from 8.00am or 8.30 to 8pm or 9pm

* Credit Cards and Travellers Cheques

Visa, Amex, JCB and Mastercard are accepted at some banks and most large hotels. You will seldom be able to shop or pay in restaurants with credit cards. Travellers cheques, preferably in US dollars, can be easily cashed at banks, hotels and some travel agents.

* ATM

If your bank at home is part of the Plus or Star systems, you can withdraw from your ATM account at home in either dong or Dollars. You can also get a cash advance on your Visa card at the Hong Kong Bank office in Hanoi or through the ANZ Bank’s offices in HCMC and Hanoi.

* Tipping

With the advent of tourism, the practice of tipping is just beginning in Vietnam. Tip sparingly and only where it is deserved. Ten percent will suffice. It is increasingly common to tip guides, drivers, waiters and masseurs.

* Television and Radio

Vietnam TV broadcasts three channels throughout the country; satellite channels such as CNN are available in most hotels catering to foreigners. Voice of Vietnam Radio broadcasts throughout the country; all provinces and cities have their own radio stations as well.

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