Area: 331 698 km²
Population: 90 million people
Capital : Hanoi
Events and Festivals
Visitors from the following countries do not require a visa for tourism purposes for a limited period of stay.
– 30 days: Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand.
– 15 days:Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Belarus, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom.
All other nationalities are required to obtain a tourist visa, which are generally valid for 30 days. Visas can be obtained from Vietnamese Embassies and Consulates abroad. Costs of tourist visa vary from one Vietnamese Embassy to another. When your passport is returned to you from the Vietnamese embassy, one application form with a photo will be returned along with it. Keep the form, as you will be required to hand it to the immigration upon arrival in Vietnam. If you misplaced this form, you can complete a new form upon arrival – there are photo booths at the airport. Passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the end of the trip.
Many travelers try to board their flights with no visa or ‘confirmation letter’ and are refused. Ensure that you have a visa or have applied online for a confirmation letter, and received it before your flight. Your confirmation letter should have your exact information as per your passport or once again you will be refused entry to Vietnam or not allowed to board your flight.
The currency in Vietnam is the Dong (VND). The US dollar is also still accepted at some hotels, but you should have local currency available for use anywhere else. Credit card acceptance is spreading in higher-end hotels, restaurants and shops in big cities, but outside of these cash is still by far preferable. Never change money on the streets from hustlers.
ATMs or cash machines
ATMs are now the easiest way to get hold of your money in Vietnam. ATMs are a common site in most Vietnamese towns. The number of ATMs in the country is increasing all the time, and there is now usually at least one ATM in every town, more in the larger cities. However, it is not sensible to rely on them entirely, as ATMs can go down, or might be out of cash, and you could also be left penniless if you were to lose your card. A combination of bank cards, cash and a few travellers cheques is often best.
Pounds sterling or travellers’ cheques
Larger value notes such as US$50 and US$100 usually get the best exchange rate, but you get a lot of Dong for US$100 so it’s best not to change up too much at a time. Travellers’ cheques can be cashed in banks and money exchanges in the larger towns/cities.
These are accepted in the larger hotels and restaurants, as well as a limited number of banks. Visa and MasterCard are the most often accepted cards. Very few places will accept American Express cards – so they are better left at home. Money, passports and other valuables like travellers’ cheques are best kept in a safety deposit box at your hotel. Never leave valuables or money unattended in your hotel room. It’s also advisable to avoid carrying unnecessary valuables on your person, especially at night, just in case.
You can spend very little or a lot in Vietnam depending on your personal spending pattern. A modest weekly budget of approximately US$55 for day to day things like food, drinks, tips, entry fees (when not included) and small souvenirs. This amount is naturally just an estimate.
It is not customary to leave a tip in small local eateries, but more sophisticated restaurants will expect a tip. Tips are often divided between the waiting and kitchen staff, so if you have experienced great food and service, it is advisable to show your appreciation with a tip- between 5-10% of the bill is normal. A tip is also very welcomed by local guides and drivers.
Vietnamese (Tieng Viet) is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of Vietnamese people (Kinh), and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language or a first language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam. It is part of the Austro-Asiatic language family, of which it has the most speakers by a significant margin (several times larger than the other Austro-Asiatic languages put together). Much of Vietnamese vocabulary has been borrowed from Chinese, and the language displays some influence from French, and the Vietnamese alphabet in use today is a Latin alphabet with additional diacritics for tones and certain vowels and consonants.
As in any country when travelling, keep a close eye on your belongings. Secure your valuables, documents and credit cards in your hotel safe or carry them close on your body if that is not possible. Beware of pickpockets, purse-snatchers and mobile phone thieves, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. If you choose to rent a motorbike or ride a bicycle, always wear a helmet.
The emergency telephone numbers are:
– 113 – Police
– 114 – Fire
– 115 – Medical
Here are some general things to take into consideration when travelling around Vietnam:
– Before leaving from your hotel, ensure you have a hotel business card from the reception desk. This will make your return to the hotel in a taxi or cyclo much easier.
– For longer excursions from your base hotel, it is always a good idea to carry a roll of toilet paper in your daypack. You never know when you will need it.
– Always dress appropriately. Not only for the prevailing climatic conditions, but also not to cause offence to the local people. Vietnamese have conservative dress codes and it is only in larger cities that these codes are relaxed a little.
– Always leave your excess cash, airline tickets, passports and valuables with the hotels safety deposit facility.
– Always be aware when entering someone’s houses to see if you must remove your shoes at the front door.
– Always ask his or her permission first when taking a photograph of someone. If they indicate that they do not want you to, then abide by their wishes. DO NOT push the issue or offer money.
Vietnam uses 220V electricity nationwide. In the south, power outlets are often US-style flat pins. In the north, many power outlets are the European-style round pins. As the electrical current varies, use a surge protector when running sensitive electronic equipment like laptops.
Highspeed internet connections are plentiful throughout Vietnam, although naturally more so in the cities. Free Wi-Fi is available in most hotels and many coffee shops.
Vietnam’s international dialing code is +84. To call to other countries from Vietnam, start with 00, followed by the international number, usually without the first 0. International and domestic phone calls are available in almost every hotel or internet cafe. International phone charges are high in Vietnam and hotels often add a mark up fee so it is smart to always check the rates before dialing. Public phones require phone cards, which are available at post offices.
Some common and useful phone codes are:
00 – International call prefix
110 – Operator
113 – Police
114 – Fire Department
115 – Medical Aid/Ambulance
116 – Directory Assistance
1080 – Information
Vietnam Post is the government owned national postal service of Vietnam. Services are generally fairly reliable, cheap but not overly fast, except express services. Express Mail Service (EMS) ensures that letters and small parcels are delivered within 24-48 hours domestically. International EMS is associated with over 50 countries worldwide, with a delivery time ranging from 2 to 10 days. Regular services are cheaper but much slower. Most post offices keep much longer hours than most other official businesses, usually starting from 6:30am until 9:30pm and also open on Saturday and even Sunday. You can buy stamps here and they also offer other services like money transfers. You can also try other companies to send parcels, for example with DHL, TNT and UPS.