Things to know before travelling to Vietnam

Things to know before travelling to Vietnam

* 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 (Hanoi), Tan Son Nhat (Ho Chi Minh City) and Da Nang (Da Nang).
- Domestic airports: Gia Lam (Hanoi), Cat Bi (Hai Phong), Dien Bien Phu (Dien Bien), Na San (Son La), Vinh (Nghe An), Phu Bai (Hue), Pleiku (Gia Lai), Buon Ma Thuot (Dak Lak), Lien Khuong (Da Lat), Phu Cat (Quy Nhon), Tuy Hoa (Phu Yen), Cam Ranh (Khanh Hoa), Con Son (Ba Ria-Vung Tau), Phu Quoc, Rach Gia (Kien Giang), Camau (Camau).

Domestic flights
- From Hanoi: to Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang, Cam Ranh, Da Lat, Na San, Dien Bien Phu and vice verse.
- From Ho Chi Minh City: to Hanoi, Hai Phong, Hue, Da Nang, Cam Ranh, Da Lat, Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, Vinh, Tuy Hoa, Quy Nhon, Phu Quoc, Rach Gia and vice verse. 

International flights
- To Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Kaoshiung, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Pusan, Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuka, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Dubai, Frankfurt, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Moscow

Airport charge: included in air-ticket fare
 
Hanoi-Noi Bai motor-vehicles
- Bus: VND 3,000/person: Kim Ma-Noi Bai (No 07)  and Long Bien-Noi Bai (No 17)
- Vietnam Airlines mini bus, No. 1 Quang Trung, fare: VND 22,000/person/turn
- Taxi: A taxi ride from Noi Bai Airport (Ha Noi) to downtown Ha Noi costs abouts VND 150,000/turn and VND 180,000/turn (Noi Bai-Hanoi).
 
Ho Chi Minh City's center-Tan Son Nhat motor-vehicles
- Bus: VND 3,000/person: Ben Thanh-Tan Son Nhat (No 154)
- Taxi: A taxi ride from Tan Son Nhat Airport (Ho Chi Minh City) to downtown Ho Chi Minh City costs about VND 60,000 

Da Nang City's center-Da Nang Airport
- Taxi: VND 25,000/person
 
Land road
- From Laos through the border gates of Lao Bao (Quang Tri), Cau Treo (Ha Tinh)
- From Cambodia through the border gates of Moc Bai and Xa Mat (Tay Ninh), Tinh Bien (An Giang)
- From China through the border gates of Huu Nghi Quan (Lang Son), Ha Khau (Lao Cai)
 
Bus in Hanoi 
- Southern Bus Station, 225 Giai Phong Road, Tel. 8641467
- Gia Lam Bus Station, Nguyen Van Cu Road, Long Bien District, Tel. 6271529
- My Dinh Bus Station, My Dinh Commune, Tu Liem District, Tel. 7685549
 
Bus in Ho Chi Minh City 
- Western Bus Station, 137 Hung Vuong, Binh Chanh District, Tel. 8776593
- Eastern Bus Station, 292 Dinh Bo Linh, Binh Thanh District, Tel. 8984893
 
Railway
Vietnam has 5 railway lines: Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City (Thong Nhat); Hanoi-Hai Phong; Hanoi-Thai Nguyen; Hanoi-Lang Son and Hanoi-Lao Cai.
 
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: Haiphong, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Thai Nguyen, Halong. 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
 
In Ho Chi Minh City 
- Thong Nhat Train: via Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Da Nang, Hue, Vinh, Thanh Hoa, Nam Dinh and Hanoi. Saigon Railway Station, 1 Nguyen Thong, Tel. 8436528/8466091
 
Waterways
The traditional means of transport in remote areas is waterways. Ship of all types together with the river and the wharf, are familiar in the Vietnamese geological and humanitarian images. So if you want to make trips to such places like Mekong Delta, be prepared to go by this means.

Tourists can come to Vietnam by sea routes to the ports: Ha Long, Danang, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City.
- Daily ships to islands: Cat Ba, Con Dao, Phu Quoc
- Haiphong - Ha Long, Mong Cai routes, daily
- From Hanoi, there are ships to some provinces in the Red and Thai Binh River Delta 
- Daily speed boats from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, Can Tho, Rach Gia
- In some provinces in the Mekong Delta, boats can navigate along the Mekong River.

Traffic services
- Taxis: Taxis with meters are available in big cities and in many provinces: 24/24h. Most metered taxi drivers speak little English.
- Pedicabs: in Hanoi, Haiphong, Hue, Danang, Khanh Hoa, Ho Chi Minh City, Cantho, etc. VND 2,000/Km
- Motor-taxis (xe om): price similar to pedicabs
- Bicycles: for rent, daily or hourly
- Motorbikes: for rent, VND 80,000-120,000/day
- Automobiles: tourist cars for hire, with or without drivers.
 
* 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.

Posted by:
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DAO TUNG (Mr.)
Tour Operator of Vietsky International Travel
Address: 55 Kim Ma Thuong, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Tel: 84-4-7624705
Hand phone: 84-(0)913345496
Fax: 84-4-7624711
Email: info@vietnamtours.com.vn
          absolutevietnam@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.vietnamtours.com.vn
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