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Spotlight Destination
Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries located in the South East Asia. In the North, Vietnam shares the long borderline with China. In the East, Vietnam is bordered by the Gulf of Tonkin, in the East and South by the South China Sea, in the South West by the Gulf of Thailand, and in the West by Cambodia and Laos. Owning to stretching the length of the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam boasts a unique shape of an elongated “S” and a long coastline of 3,260km with a lot of wonderful sites.

Formerly, the first impressions of the travelers anticipating a visit to Vietnam were likely to be highly colored by the memory the American war of the 1960's. Nowadays, the universally positive feedback from modern visitors is that of a fascinating culture and landscape, a place of unspoiled natural beauty with much to offer holidaymakers - friendly people, exotic ethnic cultures, spectacular scenery and beaches, plenty of things to see and do, and a well-deserved reputation as the safest country in Asia.

For many travelers from around the world, Vietnam is an intriguing destination where is the crossroads of tradition and modernity. This country has the old world charms which are included the French influenced architectures, the wide tree-lined boulevards gracing the cities and the former imperial capitals. The ‘History Learners’ can imagine of Vietnam’s past through the hard fought wars with Chinese, French and American from the Museums along the country while the ‘Culture Seekers’ will delight in the discovery of the beautiful natural landscapes and everyday sights such as from the bustling floating markets, lush paddy fields and the colorful hill tribes in the highlands. Besides, the ‘Beach Lovers’ can save their time being framed with sandy beaches and clear seas along the long coastline of Vietnam from North to South.

For us Vietnamese, we are always welcome the benefits of Tourism and take delight when the eyes of the world look upon our country's buildings, traditions, and natural beauty with admiration, building pride and self-confidence among our people, and encouraging us to treasure our past and conserve it for future generations. We want this pocket map to be an information database for people who are interested in Vietnam but for sure, there are still plenty of undiscovered jewels awaiting today's travelers.

When to go?

Vietnam’s weather varies greatly from north to south with each area marked by slightly different seasons and climates. Because of these regional variations, a part of the country is seasonable at any time of year.

Northern Vietnam, overall, tends to be cooler than the rest of the country. During the winter, from November until February, the day time temperature is pleasantly cool and the weather is often damp. To the far north in places like Sapa, there is occasionally freezing temperatures during this time. The north begins to warm up in March and stays dry and warm until May. From June to October, the north is hot and rainy making it a fairly unpleasant place to travel. Overall the best time to visit the north is from November until April.

Central Vietnam experiences warm weather from July to October and wet, colder weather from November to May. Frequent typhoons hit the central coast from August to October which can cause flooding and disrupt travel plans.

Southern Vietnam, although the temperature remains fairly steady throughout the year, still has two seasons. The dry season lasts from December to May, while from May to November is the rainy season. Most of the rain is in the afternoon and only lasts a short time so it is unlikely to disrupt touring plans.

Useful Information
Immigration

Most of nationalities entering Vietnam are (except most ASEAN countries and Scandinavians are) required a visa. The tourist visas are generally valid for 30 days and can be extended.

On arrival, visitors must complete duplicate arrival and departure forms. A yellow duplicate form for customs must also be completed.

Note: Please keep the WHITE COPY for departure or you will face a pretty hefty “fine”

Currency and exchange

Currency: The currency of Vietnam is Dong (VND). Notes come in 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 500,000 Dong denominations.

Money exchange: Dollars can be exchanged for Dong in banks, most gold shops, and on the street, though the latter is not advisable as customers can often be cheated.

Traveler cheques and Credit Cards: These are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, but normally include some added bank service charge.

ATMs: The ATM services are good in most cities, but if heading off into the countryside, bring cash. Note that the U.S. dollar is used widely in both Vietnam and Cambodia.

Language

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Older residents speak and understand French, and young folks are busily learning Chinese these days. While English is widely spoken among folks in the service industries in Hanoi and Saigon, it is less common in other tourist destinations. Off the beaten track, arm yourself with as many Vietnamese words as you can muster and a dictionary.

Business hour and public holidays

Business hours:

  • Government offices (including banks and museums): 08.00 to 11:30 am and 01:00 to 05:00 pm (except Saturday and Sunday)
  • Vendors, Restaurants and Shops: 08.00 to 09.00 pm daily, except Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Public holidays:

  • New Year’s Day: 1 Jan
  • Vietnamese Lunar New Year: 1st – 3rd day of the 1st lunar month (falls around January and February)
  • Hung King's Commemorations: 10th day of the 3rd lunar month (falls around April)
  • Reunification Day: 30th April
  • International Labor Day: 1st May

National Day: 2nd September

Communication

To make a ‘domestic phone call’ in Vietnam, you must dial the province code (For examples: Hanoi - 04, Ho Chi Minh City - 08) before dialing other numbers.

To make ‘international calls from Vietnam’, you must dial ‘00’ and then the ‘country code’ then area code and number. If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial tel. 110

Security

Vietnam is a safe destination, but you should take heed of the following:

  • Be cautious when crossing the street anywhere; in big cities, pedestrians cross in groups and, if alone, wade out into it and maintain a steady pace.
  • Women should play it safe and avoid going out alone late at night.

Anonymous violent crime is not common in Vietnam, but petty thievery, especially against tourists, is a risk. Pick pocketing is rampant, and Ho Chi Minh City, in particular, has a special brand of drive-by purse snatchings via motorbike so keep a close eye on your valuables and carry only enough money for your immediate needs.

Getting around on your own
  • By taxi: You don't have to worry about taxis wherever you are all those carrying a company livery will be metered. There is some difference in rates, but you're unlikely to be seriously ripped off. Taxi drivers will be pleased if you round up the bill (again, mainly in the big cities).
  • By motorbike:
  • Motorbike taxis (Xe Om): are available just about anywhere, and drivers catcall tourists on every street corner. It's a great way to explore a city. Always negotiate a price in advance to save a very public row about the fare upon arrival. When taking a ride by motorbike taxi be sure your bag 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 trailing a camera or a laptop in the wind.
  • Renting your own motorbike: is possible in just about every tourist destination in Vietnam. Expect to pay as little as $8 and as much as $15 per day depending on the regional price fix and type of bike.

 

Food and Beverage

Food:

  • Vietnamese cuisine: relies heavily on fresh ingredients and the right mix of herbs and spices. Fresh fish is available anywhere in Vietnam. Vietnam is also home to some of the world's most exotic fare, with the likes of dog, snake, deer, jungle animals, and frogs gracing menus at the finer local restaurants, as well as any sea creature that moves -- one man's bait is another man's dinner.
  • Herbs and fresh vegetables: are used both in cooking and as condiments at the table. Sadly, MSG (mono sodium glutamate) is used widely in Vietnamese fare. If you have a hard time processing MSG (that is, you get headaches, shortness of breath, or MSG "seasickness"), ask for food without it.
  • Nuoc mam: is the famous -- or notorious -- Vietnamese fish sauce; its pungent flavor (and more pungent aroma) sets Vietnamese food apart. Made from fish that has been fermented in salt water, the subtleties of ‘Nuoc Mam’ production are comparable to the making of fine wine or olive oil. The taste and smell of ‘Nuoc Mam’ can be overwhelming to the Western palate, but a true appreciation of Vietnamese food brings an understanding of Nuoc Mam's importance.

Beverage:

  • Tea: follows hundreds of year of Chinese’s tradition. Vietnam's plantations produce all varieties, standard black and green as well as fine jasmine tea, and fine teas are also imported from China.
  • Local ‘Bia hoi’:  a cheap draft beer of watery lager made in every region, is served cold on tap in every town, usually in small storefronts crowded with squat stool tables and lots of revelers.
  • Vietnamese whiskey: also called ‘Ruou’, comes in many varieties, and most of it could thin paint and is sure to cross your eyes in due time -- go easy with the stuff. In the Central Highlands, don't miss an opportunity to slurp from a long reed straw from a massive pot of ‘Ruou Can’, a particularly potent local brew made by ethnic-minority groups.

Coffee: Vietnam is the second-largest coffee grower in the world, which mostly comes from the Central Highlands - and though roasting techniques are primitive, choice Vietnamese Robusta coffee is delicious.  Vietnamese coffee is usually served with condensed milk.

Tipping In Vietnam

Tipping is more of an issue in the South, and particularly in Ho Chi Minh City, than in the North.

  • In a top-end hotels: feel free to tip bellhops anywhere from 10,000 VND to 15,000 VND (about $1).
  • In the North:  tipping in restaurants is not necessary unless you feel moved to reward particularly good service, and even then, keep it low no more than about 5%.

In Ho Chi Minh City and other areas: tipping is more often expected 10% or so would be adequate.

Hotline
  • Information service: 1080
  • Police's hotline: 113
  • Fire: 114
  • Ambulance: 115
‘Dos’ and ‘Don'ts’ in Vietnam

DOs:

  • Always drink bottled water that is easily available everywhere in Vietnam.
  • Use waterproof sun cream if you plan to spend a good amount of time in the water when you travel to Vietnam.
  • Always reconfirm the tickets for your return journey.
  • Change money from a recognized moneychanger.
  • Keep important documents in your hotel locker and carry photocopies of the same.
  • Dress   discreetly   while   entering   temples   and   other religious places.
  • Indulge in some haggling while buying goods without price tags whenever you go shopping in Vietnam.
  • Always be careful of the belongings you carry with you during your holiday.
  • Take care of all your valuables. Never leave your bags unattended
  • Do some researching before changing money so that you are aware of the existing rates.

 

DON'Ts

  • Don't drink water from the tap.
  • Don't carry more money than you need when walking around the streets and don't wear large amounts of jewels.
  • Don't worry too much about security; just be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don't wear indecent dresses.
  • Never sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar when in someone's house.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Losing your temper in Vietnam means a loss of face. Keep a cool head and remain polite, you'll have a greater chance of getting what you want.

Things that should not to miss
  • Water puppetry
  • Pho in Hanoi (rice noodle with beef or chicken)
  • Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Ha Long Bay (overnight on a junk or kayaking)
  • Monuments in Hue
  • Ancient town of Hoi An
  • Floating markets in the Mekong Delta
  • Cu Chi tunnels
  • Ethnic minority culture in the Northern border
  • Beach break in the Central Coast
Souvenirs from Vietnam
  • Vietnamese coffee
  • Carved wooden and rattan furniture.
  • Tine lacquer ware and fine ceramics.
  • Traditional Vietnamese hand-made silk dresses.
  • Embroideries and embroidered pictures.
  • Paintings
  • Tailor made clothes in Hoi An
  • Propaganda picture
  • Silk scarf
  • Ceramic ware
What to see?
Where to stay?
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