Vietnam | Travel Information

SECURITY

Vietnam is described as the safest country in the region without rebel, riot, terror?.However, like other countries in the world, it is not redundant to pay attention to your private properties. In big cities, do not bring along anything valuable as you go shopping or sightseeing on the street. It is dispensable to give aims to beggars and to buy souvenirs from street vendors. Foreign currencies should be exchanged at banks, or authorized exchange bureaus. Never exchange money on street.

LANGUAGE

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam but there are various dialects spoken by hill tribe people in remote areas. Learning foreign languages, particularly English and French, is currently in vogue among young people in Hanoi, Saigon, Hue, Da Nang and other cities. Guides and interpreters speaking English, French, Japanese, German, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Russian etc. are available from us.

FOODS

Vietnamese cuisine is a style of cooking derived from Vietnam with fish sauce, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables all commonly used. Vietnamese recipes utilize a diverse range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander and Thai basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for freshness of the ingredients and for the healthy eating style. The most common meats used in Vietnamese cuisine are beef, pork, chicken, fish, and various kinds of seafood. The Vietnamese also have a strong vegetarian tradition influenced by Buddhist values.

   

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.

WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU?

There are a few things you should not travel without:
- A map, certainly.
- Photocopies of your passport and visa.
- Cash in US$ 20?s and $ 100?s
- A folding umbrella if you plan to visit during the rainy season. The wettest months are July and August.
- Zip lock bags. They are cheap, disposable, and keep all kinds of things fresh and dry.
- Hotel cards: You should keep your hotel cards or brochures to show people to get guidance in case of missing way back home
- Business Cards. You will discover that practically everyone in Vietnam has a calling card of some kinds. The proper way to offer your card is to hold it by the corners with both hands.

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.

CURRENCY

Vietnamese dong (VND) is the official currency in Vietnam. 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. Cheques with value as Vietnamese dong include: VND 1,000,000 and 500,000. Foreign currencies and tourist cheques can be exchanged into Vietnamese Dong at banks or foreign exchange agencies. Credit cards are popularly used, especially in cities and big tourist centers. Before leave Vietnam, Vietnamese dong can be changed into foreign currencies at the airport.

GENERAL DOs AND DON'Ts FOR VIETNAM

Vietnam is a friendly and safe place to travel with the hidden charm. But each country have special different, Vietnam too. Different about culture, history and style life? With a sprinkling of common sense, your trip should be smooth and trouble free. Do not be overly paranoid though. Generally, Vietnamese people are very appreciative if they see you trying to abide by the customs, and very forgiving if you get it wrong or forget. If you make the effort, you will be rewarded. With a cool head and sensible planning, one can avoid these problems. The below advice meant to help you have a perfect trip to Vietnam:
DOs
1. Greetings are no different to western countries, there are no cultural formalities that as a foreigner you would be expected to know or practice.
2. Vietnamese dress conservatively. Not only for the prevailing weather, but also not to cause offence to the local people. Despite the heat, it?s best not to show off too much skin. If you do, especially girls, you?ll only draw stares from the locals. Vietnamese have conservative dress codes, and it is only in larger cities that these codes are a little more relaxed. Do not wear revealing clothing. Dress well when visiting pagodas. No shorts or tatty beer t-shirts. Shoes are fine, and rarely will you have to remove them. If unsure, just follow what the locals do.
3. Drink plenty of bottled water, especially when walking around sightseeing. No need to carry huge bottles around with you, a vendor is never far away and no doubt they will find you before you find them. During the summer months you should be drinking a minimum of two liters per day. If you drink tea, coffee & alcohol you should increase you water intake accordingly as these will help to dehydrate you.
4. 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.
5. Take a hotel business card from the reception desk before venturing out from your hotel. This will make your return to the hotel in a taxi or cyclo much easier. Carry a roll of toilet paper in your daypack on long excursions from your base hotel. You never know when you might need it!
6. If invited into a home, always remove your shoes at the front door when entering.
7. Ask for permission when taking a photograph of someone. If they indicate that they do not want you to, then abide by their wishes.


DON'Ts
1. Never carry more money than you need when walking around the streets. Do not wear large amounts of jewelry. There are two reasons for not doing this:
- It is considered impolite to flaunt wealth in public.
- It is more likely that you may become a victim of a pickpocket or drive-by bag snatcher.
2. Don't be paranoid about your security; just be aware of your surroundings.
3. 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.
4. Avoid giving empty water bottles, sweets and candies or pens to the local people when trekking through ethnic minority villages. You cannot guarantee that the empty bottles will be disposed of in a correct manner, and the people have no access to dental health. If you want to give pens, ask your guide to introduce you to the local teacher and donate them to the whole community.
5. Never sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar when in someone?s house.
6. Never lose your temper in public or when bargaining for a purchase. This is considered a serious loss of face for both parties. Always maintain a cool and happy demeanor and you will be reciprocated with the same.
7. 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.
8. Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages. They are considered to be too intrusive by the local people. Wear a lot of jewellery or take a bag with you. Violent crime is highly unusual in Vietnam, but petty crime is more apparent. If you have a bag, or tout a digital camera around your neck, you are a potential target.
9. When taking a ride by motorbike taxi (xe om) make sure your bag, if any, is not on display or easy to grab. Bag snatches, although still rare, are probably the most likely crime a tourist would encounter, and it raises the probability immensely if you are tailing a camera or a laptop in the wind.
10. Physical displays of affection between lovers in public are frowned upon. That?s why you may come across couples holding hands but not hugging or kissing.
11. Remember, this is Vietnam, a developing country, and things don?t quite work as you are maybe used to. Don?t be paranoid about your safety; just be aware of your surroundings. Do not carry your passport a leave it in the safe in your hotel. A photocopy will suffice if local law states that you need to.
12. DO NOT offer money or push the issue.
13. Check on your first day whether you need to reconfirm your next flight, if so do it then. Some airlines do not require this anymore but it is still worthwhile calling them so that they at least have your contact details, in case the flight is delayed or whatever.

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. The following information will be useful for tourists who enjoy Vietnam travel and intend to take part in Vietnam tours for their1 Vietnam holidays.
ENTRY

Tourists are authorized to bring in the following items duty-free:
Cigarettes: 400 pieces; Cigars: 100 pieces; Tobacco: 500 gram.
Alcohol at 22? and above: 1.5 liters; Alcohol below 22?: 2.0 liters; Alcoholic beverage: 3.0 liters.
Personal effects of a reasonable quantity, small gift items valued at not more than US$ 500.

It is prohibited for any visitor to bring into Vietnam the followings:
* Weapons, ammunition, explosives and inflammable objects, military technical equipment, toxic chemicals, debauched and reactionary products, firecrackers of all kinds, toys with negative impacts on the dignity education, social security and safety, cigarettes beyond the stipulated quantity, etc.
* Opium and other narcotics.
* Cultural materials unsuitable to Vietnamese society.


NOTE
Luggage of people on entry must be declared in case of:
- Luggage exceeds duty free concessions.
- Luggage sent before/ after trips.
- Professional equipment temporarily imported/exported or vice versa.
- Addictive medicines.
- Other medicines exceed 30 USD in value.
- Foreign currency exceeds 7,000 USD (or its equivalence other foreign currency) or over 15,000,000 VND in cash.

EXIT
Goods of commercial nature and articles of high value require export permits issued by the Customs Office. Antiques, some precious stones, animals, plants listed in Vietnam's red-book may not be brought out of the country. Weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, drugs, toxic chemicals. Documents related to the national security, etc. A quantity over 300g of gold must be declared and be permitted by the State Bank.

CLIMATE:


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 7.30am or 8am to 11.30am and from 1pm to 4pm.
- Saturday and Sunday are close. Private shops are open from 8am or 8.30am to 9pm or 10pm.

OTHERS

Taxi
Taxis with meters are available in almost big cities. The current price is about US$ 0.5 per kilometer. Most metered taxi drivers can speak a little English.

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). Normally, hotels will get 15-20% service charge of the bill. Internet phone is an alternative choice and much cheaper, with around 0,1USD/minute to Europe or America. Prepaid sim cards are very popular and cheap everywhere (0.08 USD / minute for domestic calls. Vietnam cell-phone networks are GSM and Vietnam operators have roaming agreement with most countries in the world.

Internet
Internet cafes with ADSL can be found easily in Vietnam. Surprisingly the cost for an hour is as very cheap as around 0,2US$.

Tip
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.