Top Vietnam Hotels
Vietnam Quick Guide
- Banking Hours
- Local Telephone Codes
- International Airports
- International Airport Departure Tax
- Domestic Airports
- Domestic Airport Departure Tax
- Etiquette/Dress Code
- Diplomatic Missions
- Useful Sources of Information
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All foreign nationals visiting Vietnam require a visa and this should be obtained prior to arrival from a Vietnamese Embassy, Consulate or a travel agent. The visa takes around five working days to process and once issued, you must enter the country within 90 days. Tourist visas are available on a single or multiple entry basis and there is also a business visa for frequent travellers to Vietnam (although a letter of invitation from a recognised Vietnamese company will be required). Ensure that the correct entry and exit points are entered on the visa as these tend to be strictly enforced - especially when using overland border crossings. If the visa is issued as a loose piece of paper make photocopies and keep these separate from your passport. This will save you extra hassle and a lot of time and expense should you lose the visa while in Vietnam.
Entry into Vietnam can be extremely bureaucratic; lots of forms to fill in and pieces of paper to keep. Make copies and take great care of all customs forms issued on arrival, as these must be presented upon departure. If the paperwork cannot be produced, you may be fined and it all becomes very time consuming. Keep all Foreign Exchange Certificates and receipts for goods purchased in Vietnam. In order to bring items such as electronic goods, laptops and cameras into the country you must write down the details for customs - so note these before arrival to save time and paperwork. Be aware that customs officers may wish to view videotapes. Foreign currency in excess of US$3,000 must be declared on arrival and no more than VND5,000,000 can be imported/exported.
Visitors are allowed to take the following into Vietnam duty free:
- Alcohol - 1 litre of alcohol
- Tobacco- 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
Restrictions are placed on antiques being exported from the country and current information should be confirmed with a local Vietnamese Embassy.
Penalties for carrying or trafficking illegal drugs are severe, ranging from long prison sentences to the death penalty.
Vietnamese time: GMT + 7
- Dong (VND or d) - Check current exchange rates
- Notes issued -VND50,000, VND20,000, VND10,000, VND5,000, VND2,000, VND1,000, VND500, VND200, VND100
- No coins are issued
The government is trying to enforce a policy where all business transactions in Vietnam are carried out in VND. Certain establishments are officially licensed to trade in US$ (some hotels, travel agents and a small number of businesses) but despite the fact that it is officially illegal for other businesses, the reality is that the dollar is widely accepted. In actual fact, paying for items in VND generally gets you a better deal than the rate given for US$.
The official language is Vietnamese; however French, English, Russian and Chinese are spoken to varying degrees in different parts of the country. Some English tends to be spoken in most tourist areas and is actually now taught as the second language in Vietnamese schools - local people are often keen to practice their English.
Tipping is not expected but definitely appreciated. Some of the more expensive restaurants add 10-15%. About US$ 0.50 - US$1 is considered acceptable for a chambermaid or porter.
Monday to Friday 8.00 am to 11.30 am and 1.00 pm to 4.30 pm
The international dialling code for Vietnam is + 84
When making international telephone calls from Vietnam first dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number
Local Telephone Codes
|Ha Long Bay||033|
|Ho Chi Minh||08|
Mostly 220 V AC, 50 cycles, however some places still use 110V. Be aware that the current can be uneven so appliances may not perform very reliably, even with adapters. In the south, sockets tend to be for American style flat 2 pin plugs, while the north mainly uses Russian style round 2 pin plugs.
Avoid using ice cubes and stick to (sealed) bottled water, as even in the cities the chlorinated tap water still needs boiling for up to 20 minutes to kill any bacteria.
There are reasonably good medical services in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh but away from these major cities, medical services can be poor and comprehensive health insurance covering evacuation is recommended. Think seriously about being inoculated against hepatitis A, polio and typhoid; consider Japanese encephalitis, pre-exposure rabies vaccination and anti-malarials. The major cities and coastal areas are considered low risk for malaria but elsewhere it is best to be vigilant. Be sure that you have decided your itinerary when discussing health requirements with your doctor prior to the trip. It is essential that you check the current situation with regard to all potential health hazards and any vaccination requirements.
- Hanoi - Noi Bai
- Ho Chi Minh - Tan Son Nhat
International Airport Departure Tax
US$10 (payable in US$ or VND)
All international airports mentioned above plus the following:
- Bao Loc
- Buon Me Thuot
- Can Tho
- Da Nang
- Dien Bien Phu
- Nha Trang
- Plei Ku
- Qui Nhon
- Rach Gia
Domestic Airport Departure Tax
From VND15,000 to VND20,000 depending on airport
In recent years young Vietnamese have enthusiastically embraced Western fashions and culture but away from the beach revealing clothes are still considered quite shocking and disrespectful. Modest dress is recommended in Vietnam - avoid short skirts, shorts and sleeveless clothing. Dress even more respectably when visiting temples and churches ensuring that shoulders and legs are covered.
A number of countries have representative offices and consulates in both Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
Useful Sources of Information
Further information on Vietnamese culture and tourist attractions.
- Vietnam Now travel information
Being over 1,600km long, Vietnam experiences some distinct climatic variations.
- Northern Vietnam - has two distinct seasons - hot and wet summers and cool and dry winters.
- Central Vietnam - coastal areas are more temperate than the sticky south (although they do experience high rainfall), while the Central Highlands are pleasantly cooler.
- Southern Vietnam - is fairly consistently hot and humid all year round.
Carry a lightweight jumper as it can be chillingly cold inside air-conditioned buildings during summer.
|Season||Average temperature||Average rainfall|
|Summer (May - October)||24 - 33°C||238mm|
|Winter (November - April)||16 - 23°C||41mm|
Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hai Phong
North Vietnam has two main seasons - the hot and rainy summer and the cool and dry winter.
- Summer - is hot and humid, especially inland, which is not touched by cool coastal breezes. Tropical rain showers and the occasional typhoon are also possibilities - light clothes and an umbrella are recommended.
- Winter - It remains fairly dry up until late February/March, when it starts to drizzle almost constantly and waterproofs become a necessity. Warm clothes are a must during the cool months, especially when travelling in the hill areas.
Although temperatures can drop unexpectedly between December and February, it can be a good time to explore the sights as days are cool and rainfall is limited. It is also a safer time to visit the hill tribe region avoiding mosquito related problems - although temperatures can fall to freezing in these elevated areas.
Best time to visit: During winter when rainfall is minimal and temperatures are not too low.
Central Vietnam - Lowlands and Highlands
|Season||Average temperature||Average rainfall|
|Summer (May - October)||23 - 24°C||210mm|
|Winter (November - April)||17 - 23°C||95mm|
Dalat, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang
The central belt of Vietnam comprises the lowlands and the highlands. The weather is fairly similar across both, although the highlands tend to be slightly cooler with higher rainfall as the majority of rain normally falls on the mountains before arriving at the low coastal areas.
- Summer - the weather is warm and reasonably dry from May to September. The monsoon winds then change bringing above average rain during late September. This time is not very pleasant as it can rain constantly - there is a high probability of flooding, visibility is poor and typhoons are also a possibility.
Best time to visit: During the winter between February and April, when rainfall is low and temperatures are warm.
Winter temperatures can fall slightly below the average and rainfall is higher than at lower elevations. However, most rain tends to fall during the summer months when it can be very wet - although these summer months do provide a respite from the often intense heat of other areas.
Light cotton clothes are required, although a few warm layers are necessary throughout the year as temperatures can drop away, especially at night. Waterproofs are also a good idea as rain can fall at anytime of the year.
Best time to visit: winter days are pleasantly warm and rainfall is lower from November to March - nights can be chilly.
Southern Vietnam & Mekong Delta
|Season||Average temperature||Average rainfall|
|Summer (May - November)||24 - 31°C||265mm|
|Winter (December - April)||22 - 33°C||25mm|
Ho Chi Minh, Bin Thuen, Mekong Delta
Sitting below the line of the equator, this area maintains a tropical climate throughout the year.
Light clothes are required all year round and an umbrella would be very useful.
- Summer - is hot, humid and rainy but heavy downpours are usually short lived.
- Winter - remains hot and humid, although humidity levels are more bearable between December and February. During April and May the southwest monsoon winds bring rain showers to the Mekong Delta and southern Vietnam.
Best time to visit: Temperatures are not as extreme from September to February as they can be during March and April when the heat is fierce.
Featured Vietnam Hotels
Vietnam Travellers Tales
I would recommend renting a motorbike (ask for a scooter, they are automatic and easy to drive). The thought might seem somewhat daunting to the visitor, but it really is a great way to see the town. It is also exhilarating. The town really comes alive in the afternoon and evening with everybody "cruising" the main strip. It is fun to be a part of it.
Perhaps not the best time to travel to HCMC. Most of the time, it rained during my stay. I had to cancel my intended trip to the Mekong Delta as the weather was not compatible. Lesson learned: always be familiar with the local weather details before embarking on a trip to a foreign land.
People at the market stalls were great as were the people generally - we will visit Vietnam again for sure. The mekong delta was great fun - do that trip but watch out for the rain - it''s amazing but very heavy - buy the cheap poncho US army style macs at the American Market. The war museum is an eye opener and worth a visit - it''s smaller than I thought it would be but to the point. The cu chi tunnels were good - have a shot of an AK47 - it''s pretty cheap and well worth 10 shots. Go the the restaurant opposite the old imperial palace - the busy one not the posh looking one - its cheap and fabulous! Taxis are the way to go - cheap and good - and get a metered one from the airport - not one you are solicited for - they rip you off.
Do yourself a favor and attend the evening traditional Vietnamese musical concert and fashion show at SI HOANG, a tea salon located on the street just behind Saigon''s famous City Hall building. For only $15.00 US per person, you get to sample gourmet teas and snacks while hearing talented musicians play extremely rare instruments (like a unique stone xylophone and beautiful violin made out of a stalk of bamboo) and seeing professional models wearing ancient Vietnamese textiles in intimate, charming, and very atmospheric surroundings. Best of all, it is not cheesy or touristy like a lot of things in Vietnam can be. CAN''T RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH!<br> <br> For dinner I highly recommend Luong Son Quan. I like to eat where the locals do--off the beaten track from the tourist circuit, and you won''t find any foreigners here, just really well prepared Vietnamese cuisine that is delicious and very safe. Their specialty is a wonderful marinated beef that you grill yourself on a handy table top charcoal grill, accompanied by a nice mustard sauce. For the more adventurous diner, there are also many exotic dishes like deep fried scorpion or grilled field rat! Best (cheapest) way to get around Saigon is by motorbike or cyclo (bicycle pedaled rickshaw) but BE SURE TO AGREE ON A PRICE BEFORE YOU EMBARK! Same goes for taxi cabs - most of them in Saigon don''t seem to be metered!
We visited the war remants museum, one sided but still very eye-opening, the Bin Tanh market - crazy busy but great bargains and all around the Dhong Khoi area is great shopping. Lemon Grass restaurant (just off Dhong Khoi St) had some lovely Vietnamese food and we ate in Camargue and Le Jardin French restaurants, the former somewhat more expensive but amazing food and setting. Also worth a look is the Fine Arts Museum, set in a beautiful building (French style) and if you go down the corridors and not just the main rooms, there is a wealth of ornaments and paintings to be seen. A find are the 2 galleries selling art at the bottom of this museum.
Highlights of the trip, for me, were: the Water Puppet Theatre - just incredible; the Museum of the Revolution (a couple of minutes from the hotel) and the Museum of Ethnology. I was very touched by the people who I found very warm and helpful. I learnt to speak a few words of Vietnamese - the most important being ''thank you''. As in most countries people really appreciate it when you try to speak some of the language. And for visitors from wealthy countries don''t moan if you (and it''s very occasional - much worse in most western countries) get overcharged by the odd taxi driver. It will probably cost you a dollar. The average weekly wage is not high so tip generously.
Halong bay is a must to go in Hanoi. Those not prepared to climb and sun under the hot sun, please do not go to Perfume Pagoda. No safety measures for the sampan ride to the Perfume Pagoda. Plenty of local tour agencies. No problem to move around.
Street merchants in Saigon are unwilling to bargain despite there not being many tourists around. For best-priced food and souvenirs try the Pha Nga Lao area near the Sahara Bar. Some taxis have doctored meters showing absurd amounts to fool tourists -- problem easily resolved by getting the doorman or greeter at your destination to talk to the driver, though. Don''t miss the Cu Chi Tunnels daytrip and the War Remnants Museum. Beware of limited direction signs and lack of spoken English throughout the city.
Recommended restaurants: Pho Thin - excellent pho bo; Pho 24 - good pho bo in a cleaner location; Cha Ca La Vong - fried fish in turmeric spiced oil with fresh mint, dill and spring onion; Fanny - for home made french ice cream; Bobby Chin and Wild Rice - if you are looking for chic restaurants. Food does not beat what you get on the street though. Coffee shops in Hang Hanh - excellent local coffee.
As recommended in Lonely Planet, we went to the Old Quarter to find "Hanspan" at 116 Hang Bac, we didn''t pay enough attention and found out later that AZ Queen Cafe Tour is there at that address. We found out talking to other people on the two tours we booked that we paid about double than they did (I guess we looked richer and dumber). The Perfume Pagoda Tour should be avoided. A 2-hour van ride brings you to a river, there are flat-bottom boats with lady rowers are waiting. Four people per boat squat on 8 inch high, hard wood benches. For a cramped hour, you are rowed along the pretty river. You reach a dock and sellers of water, and everything else descend on you (same as when you got out of the van). It was very hot and we decided to only go to the lower pagoda, which was very nice. Others decided to go all the way and our guide said it was 2, then 4, then 4-5 kilometers up the hill and back. <br><br>The people that went to the "Perfume Pagoda" said it didn''t smell so nice and was not worth the effort. The worst part was our rower who shadowed us and continuosly told us "I have boat". On the row back she said "you give tip money, I''m very tired'' over and over. At the dock she said my tip "not enough". To top it off the guide, who was lousy by the way, told the group that we would all be dropped at the centrally located lake near the "Old Quarter", not our hotels. My back still hurts and is was one of the most unpleasant days we have spent. In contrast, our tour to Hai Long Bay was very good, with a good guide. One bad defect was the cabin on the junk we were to sleep in had an air conditioner that we had to pay $10 US to get turned on. The actual tour was given by APT Tours at 37 Dao Duy Tu Street in the Old Quarter. They seem OK. The "Hanoi Hilton", which is actually Hoa Lo Prison, should be visited, just take a cab. (Our 1/2 day Hanoi tour skipped it.) The Hoan Kiem Lake is very pleasant and there is a pagoda right on the lake. We also had great tasting Vietnamese ice coffee and hot coffee at Hapro cafe on the lake. (I''m spoiled now and the coffee back home tastes like water). If you want cheap eyeglasses or knockoff watches there are clusters of stores for that. Crossing streets without traffic lights is a little scary. Tons of motor bikes and guys trying to get you on their cyclo and you weave through the traffic. We would advise crossing with the natives at first to get the idea. Then pray.