Vietnam Travel Guide
Vietnam Travel Guide
15:46 - 03/12/2018
Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is located in Southeast Asia, a well-known tourist destination for its glorious history, rich culture, and fascinating landscapes. With an estimated 96.2 million inhabitants as of 2019, it is the 15th most populous country in the world.
Vietnam shares its land borders with China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west. The capital city is Hanoi, while its most populous city is Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam, Asia's leading tourist destination in 2018, is an exhilarating country to travel.
The country is long North-South (3260 km coastline, 1650 km in straight flight) with 3 regions:
+ Southern (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Vung Tau, Mui Ne, Phu Quoc Island…)
+ Central (Da Nang, Hoi An, Hue, Phong Nha…)
+ Northern (Ha Noi, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, Sapa,...)
Domestic: 4 domestic airlines are currently operating in Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airlines, Jetstar-Pacific Airlines, and Viet Jet Air. The last 2 are low-cost carriers (LCC). All airlines are using a mixture of Boeing and Airbus planes and Vietnamese as well as foreign pilots.
ARRIVAL IN VIETNAM
Consult your local airline's ticket agent for routings, fares, and availability on flights to Vietnam. The website of airlines is also an easy way to check for airline tickets and booking; discount websites and flight search engines may offer some good deals. If you need our support, don't hesitate to contact Coco Vietnam Travel consultants, we will help you in finding the best air tickets.
- Major airlines flying to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi include Vietnam Airlines, Air France, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, AirAsia, Philippines Airlines, China Air, Hong Kong Air, Cebu Pacific, Emirates, Etihad and many more.
- Major airlines flying to Danang International Airport include Silk Air, Air Asia, and Dragon Air.
- Nha Trang’s Cam Ranh Airport and Phu Quoc are now International airports used for some long-haul charter flights.
- Can Tho Airport in Mekong Delta is also now International airports with many flights from South East Asia countries
Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang City and Ha Noi (the capital city) are the biggest cities and tourism center of each region. For international tourists, the best way to access (and depart from) Vietnam are through the international airport in these cities:
- Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)
- Da Nang International Airport (Da Nang City)
- Noi Bai International Airport (Ha Noi)
- Can Tho International Airport (Can Tho City, Mekong Delta)
Vietnam shares a border with China in the north (three border crossings), Laos in the west (five border crossings) and Cambodia in the south-west (three border crossings).
Trains from Beijing to Hanoi pass by Nanning and Pinxiang in China and enter Vietnam at Dong Dang (north of Lang Son). There is also a road crossing known as Huu Nghi in Lang Son province. Transport coming from Kunming cross the border at Lao Cai, in northern Vietnam. From Guangzhou, you will cross the border at Mong Cai, a few hours drive from Halong and its spectacular Bay.
South: Via Savannakhet and Sepon (Laos) to Lao Bao (Vietnam) and the central province
Central: Vientiane to Lak Sao (Laos) to Cau Treo (Vietnam) and the Ha Tinh Province
Central: Xieng Khuang or Phonsavan to Nam Can (Vietnam) and the Nghe An Province
North: Xam Neua Province (Laos) to Na Meo (Vietnam) and the Thanh Hoa Province
North: Muang Khua Province (Laos) to Tay Trang border (Vietnam) and Dien Bien Phu
If you travel from Phnom Penh by speedboat, you will enter Vietnam at Chau Doc, in the Mekong Delta area. If you arrive from Cambodia by road into Ho Chi Minh City, you will enter Vietnam at Moc Bai, which connects Vietnam’s Tay Ninh Province with Cambodia’s Svay Rieng Province. Border crossings at Prek Chak/Xaxia (close to Kep in Cambodia and Ha Tien in Vietnam) are now possible.
SPECIAL NOTE: You cannot obtain a visa on arrival at land border-crossing points. If you enter Vietnam by land, you must obtain the visa before arrival. Refer to our VISA section below for more information.
ARRIVAL FORMALITIES/VISA ON ARRIVAL
In case you are obtaining your pre-arranged visa on arrival please proceed to the Visa counter and read the visa section below.
ATMs for withdrawing Vietnamese Dong are available in major airports, hotels, towns, and capitals of provinces throughout Vietnam. Most ATMs have an English language version. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and an umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.
Evenings in the north and the center can be quite chilly so bring a sweater and a good jacket especially from November to February. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other revealing clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries. Shoes must be removed before entering some religious building or a private home. It is, therefore, useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off.
Most credit cards are accepted in Vietnam. VISA and MASTERCARD are the most widely accepted. JCB and AMERICAN EXPRESS are also accepted in some outlets. Not all hotels, commercial centers, shops, and restaurants accept credit cards. Check with the cashier before making any purchases.
Bear in mind that in some places a surcharge usually applies for credit card purchases: VISA and MasterCard approx 2.2%, JCB: 2.75% surcharge, American Express: 4% surcharge.
NOTE: Surcharges can change without prior notice. Check the percentage charged before you pay.
Vietnam mainly uses 220V but in some areas, 110V is also used. A mixture of flat and round 2-pin outlets are used throughout the country. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.
There are plenty of entertainment options in Vietnam and restaurants/bars and nightclubs open until late at night/early in the morning. A wide variety of restaurants are on offer with everything from Vietnamese, Asian, Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food.
The cuisine of Vietnam comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors and is definitely a part of the Vietnam experience not to be missed. One of the characteristics of Vietnamese food is that it is always fresh being bought the same morning straight from the market. Food is usually prepared with a minimum of oil and served with the ubiquitous fish sauce called nuoc mam. Typical Vietnamese dishes you can expect to try included pho, a type of rice noodle soup eaten for breakfast, cha gio (nem in northern dialect), deep-fried spring rolls and goi ngo sen, a delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps and peanuts. Due to the strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam, vegetarian food is widely available however more so in Southern Vietnam.
No vaccinations are mandatory except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However, visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions, especially if traveling off the beaten track. Medical facilities are limited and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling in case evacuation is needed.
Consult your doctor for up-to-date information and prescriptions for vaccinations, anti-malarial tablets, and any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst traveling in Vietnam. Some vaccination courses may need time to be completed. If you plan to take anti-malarial tablets, you usually need to start one week before arrival. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses).
HOURS OF BUSINESS
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07:30 or 08:00 until 17:00 or 18:00 and often close for lunch between 11:30 and 13:30. Some offices also open on Saturday morning. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.
INTERNET & DATA SIM CARD
Majors hotels (3*-5*) have Business Centers with PCs connected to the Internet. All of them have free wifi access in rooms or public areas. Cybercafés are available everywhere and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable, usually below US$1 per hour. Most Internet cafés are equipped with webcams, headsets, and microphones. Vietnam has an exceptional amount of cafés and restaurants offering free WIFI connections if having a meal or a drink internet fees are waived.
There are 3 main mobile internet providers in Vietnam: Vietel, Mobifone and VinaPhone. For your continuously connection, you can buy a prepaid 4G data sim card when you arrive at the airport or in the city center. The sim card usually valids for about 30 days and cost from 8$ -12$ with the options only data or data & call.
The national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. In big cities and in places with many tourists, people will speak basic English. The younger generation will be more adept at speaking English, while the older generation still speaks some French. Because Vietnamese has six different tones, it is a difficult language for most foreigners to speak despite the fact that the Roman alphabet is used in modern Vietnamese. The same word can have six different meanings depending on the tone used to pronounce it. Russian and Chinese are also spoken by some people.
Some Vietnamese phrases:
- Xin chào! /Sin chow!/: Hello
- Cảm ơn /gauhm uhhn/: Thank you
- Tạm biệt /tam byet/: Good bye
- Bao nhiêu? /bow nyew/: How much?
- Tôi tên là ___ /Toy ten la ___./: My name is ___.
- Không /kaumng/: No
- Có /co'h/: Yes
- Đúng /doong/: Yes (correct)
- Khỏe không? /kweh kohng?/: How are you?
- Bao nhiêu tiền? /bahw ngew tee-uhn.../: How much (money) is this?
- Đắt quá /daht?! kwahh?/: That's too expensive
- Tôi không hiểu /toy kohng hugh/: I don't understand
- Phở /foh/: Pho - Vietnamese famous beef rice - noodle soup
- Bánh mì /bann mee/: Vietnamese baguette/bread/sandwich (famous street food)
- Tôi ăn chay /toy ann chai/: I am vegetarian
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). US Dollars and Euros are accepted in some hotels, restaurants, and shops. Please note that they are not normally allowed to collect foreign currency. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 05:00 and some on Saturday morning. In the major cities, there are some exchange offices open long hours near places frequented by tourists and most hotels will change US Dollars and Euros at very reasonable rates.
You receive a slightly better exchange rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations.
Vietnamese Dongs come in the following forms: Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000;500,000.
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs ~VND 11,000 (0.5 USD) to send and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of destination.
|January 01||New Year’s Day|
|Tet or Vietnamese New Year. The actual dates vary from year to year according to the lunar calendar. Officially a three-day holiday but many businesses close down for a full week. This is the busiest time of the year for traveling in Vietnam and hotels, flights and trains are often full.|
|March 10th (moon calendar)||Hung King’s Birthday|
|April 30||The liberation of Saigon Day|
|May 1||International Labor Day|
|September 2||National Day|
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Vietnam usually combined with elements of Confucianism and Taoism. About 10% of the country"s population is Catholic and there are also communities of Protestants and Muslims. Vietnam is also home to a unique religion called Cao Dai, a religious cocktail of all the world"s major faiths.
Vietnam is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your valuables unattended in the vehicles and always maintain eye contact and a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. In Saigon (HCMC) there has been a surge in drive-by snatching so keep a lookout around you and never stay close to the road’s edge with a bag, gold chains or handling phone or camera as these are the favorite objects
Taxi: Mai Linh Taxi, Vinasun, Vina Taxi in Saigon (HCMC) and Hanoi Taxi and CP Taxi in Hanoi. Best to avoid other brands on the street. Best to ask for price clearly before buying/using any services on the street.
Souvenirs to look out for in Vietnam include lacquerware, silk, conical hats, woodcarvings, hill tribe fabrics, and handicrafts, embroidery, marble, ceramics, silver jewelry, antique watches, and paintings. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping but Hoi An in the center of Vietnam is also a very good place to hunt for bargains.
Vietnam is GMT + 7 and does not operate a daylight-saving system.
Tipping for good service is always appreciated in a country where the average annual income is quite low compared to Europe for example. It is customary to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped. Tipping should from 2$ - 6$ per day/pax for different services, size of your group; our travel consultants should give you more details info on tipping. Anyway, it is totally up to you who you tip, when and how much.
Vietnamese law does not allow foreigners to rent and drive a car. Traffic and road conditions may be very different from what you are used to.
Banks such as CitiBank, ANZ Bank. HSBC and Vietcombank can change your Travelers Checks for VND or US Dollars but a commission applies (1% to 2%). Very few shops, hotels or restaurants accept Travelers Checks.
NOTE: Travelers Checks can be difficult to change outside of major cities.
Most visitors to Vietnam require a visa to enter the country and all travelers must have a passport valid for 6 months after their planned exit from Vietnam.
More on Visa click here
Hanoi and the north of Vietnam have distinct winter and summer seasons. The mainly dry winter lasts from December to March with average temperatures of 18-20°C but it can drop to as low 10’s at times. Summer lasts from May to October and is hot and humid with temperatures around 30°C. Hue and Danang, in the center of the country, have very hot, dry weather from February to August with temperatures reaching the mid 30"s Celsius, but can experience some heavy rainfall between September and January. Ho Chi Minh City and the south have a hot, dry season from December till April with average temperatures around 28°C and a warm rainy season from May to November. In the rainy season, most rain comes in short, heavy bursts.
There is good weather somewhere in Vietnam all year round! Vietnam stretches over 2000 km from North to South. The climate differs all year round from one region to another. The North can be chilly during winter months (December to March). North and Central Vietnam can encounter tropical storms and typhoons from October to January. Overall, the north of Vietnam experiences more marked seasons than the rest of the country with two distinct seasons: wet and dry.
The South, including Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, benefits from sunshine and warm weather all year round. However, the rainy season lasts from May to November (with showers once or twice a day in general) and a dry season from December to April. The Central Highlands can be chilly. Nha Trang has warm – sometimes hot - weather all year round, with a rainy season from the end of September until December.
Unless you intend to visit friends, relatives or your family, we do not recommend visiting Vietnam during the Lunar New Year, Tet holidays (Vietnamese New Year falls between late January and February). The Tet holiday is the most important period of the year for Vietnamese people who take time off to visit their families in the countryside. All hotels, buses, trains, and flights are full, and there is almost no activity in the markets and shops. Some hotels and restaurants are understaffed and in some cases, the quality of the service may suffer. This period of reduced activity may last from a week before and a week after the Tet period. It is also impossible to get a “visa authorization letter” processed during this period.
NOTE: As a reminder, the peak season lasts from October to May. To avoid disappointment because hotel rooms or domestic flights are fully booked, reserve your travel arrangements early. Contact us to discuss your travel plans.
It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes in drinks are generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when traveling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhea medicine.