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Country Full Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country's natural setting: the Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats.
There are some divine beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some of which are cloaked by dense, misty forests. Vietnam also offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.
Vietnam stretches over 1600 km along the eastern coast of the Indochina peninsula from 8' 34"N to 23' 22" N. The land mass is 329,566 square kilometers, making it larger than Italy and slightly smaller than Japan. Vietnam is a country of immense beauty and geographical diversity. The country is roughly divided into three main areas: North, Center and South. The main feature of the North of Vietnam is mountains and forests along with the vast Mekong River Delta. The North is also home to the Gulf of Tonkin and a maze of islands in the bay. Central Vietnam is made up of agricultural plains wedged between the Truong Son Mountains and the East Sea (South China Sea) making some dramatic mountain passes overlooking ocean vistas. The Mekong Delta dominates the south of the country.
Electrical Plugs: 220V 50Hz
Languages Spoken: Official language in Vietnam is Vietnamese which is created by Alexandre de Rhode, the French missionary in 17th century
Second language: English and the elders over 60 can speak French because they had French education.
Country Dialing Code: +84
Weights & Measures: Metric
Time: Vietnam is GMT + 7 and does not operate daylight-saving system.
The population of Vietnam is 85 million people with 54 ethnic groups. The biggest group is the Viet or Kinh people, which is 87% of the population. The rest belong to 53 minority ethnic groups.
Vietnamese Ethnic minorities
The majority of the population is comprised of the Viet or Kinh (87%); people who speak the tonal Vietnamese. The minority population is made up of 53 ethnic hill tribe people who mainly live in the central and northern mountainous areas of the country. The best-known hill tribes are the Tay, Nung, Hmong, Zao, White and Black Thai (both mainly from the north), and the Hoa... Each hill tribe has its own unique customs and dialect and some are able to speak Vietnamese.
A typical Vietnamese meal consists of rice or noodles with soup, a stir-fry, and another main dish and is eaten on a communal basis. The dishes are usually not spicy and are accompanied with chili sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce. The traditional Vietnamese breakfast is Pho or a large bowl of rice noodles flavored with sliced beef or chicken and fragrant broth and garnished with fresh coriander and bean sprouts. The countries 3 main regions, the North, the Center and the South each have distinct cuisine. Generally the North is best known for its noodle soups and meat and seafood stir-fries. The central region especially around Hue has some of the most elaborate dishes. In the south, where there is a greater abundance of spices the food tends to be a little hotter. With over 3,000km of coastline the seafood here is both delicious and varied. Crabs prawns, crayfish and squid are in plentiful supply, not to mention hundreds of varieties of fish.
Clothing when travel to Vietnam
Light, comfortable, easy to launder clothing is recommended. The temperature during winter months in Hanoi and the rainy season in the central region can be cool; a sweater or light jacket can be handy. Good walking shoes and sandals that can be easily removed are recommended, especially when entering temples and people's homes.
Shopping in Vietnam
Vietnam offers a wide range of souvenirs and shopping in the various local markets around the country can be great fun. Good bargaining skills are essential and as high quality souvenirs or genuine antiques are difficult to find, prices should generally be low. Here are some of the items which make their way onto many people's shopping list: Clothes (e.g. T-shirt, polo-shirt, trousers, shorts, skirts,) beaded shoes, conical hats, single-cup coffee filters, sleeping bags, CDs, embroidered table cloths, carving in wood or marble, lacquer ware (e.g. pictures, trays, trinket boxes), and traditional style paintings and sketches. Handicrafts produces by the people of the hill tribes in the north are also very popular. These include fabrics, jewellery, embroidered bags, and wickerwork. It is also possible to buy tailor-made cloths. These are made to order and are usually available for collection within 24 hours. Once of the best places to buy tailor made items is Hoian.
Travellers staying in budget accommodation and eating in small cafes should be able to get by on around US$20.00 to US$25.00 per day, plus long-distance transport costs. Those wanting to stay in mid-range hotels, eat out at moderate restaurants, charter occasional taxis and enjoy the nightlife should budget on around US$65.00 a day.
Sample Price Guide
local iced tea: 1,500
bottle local soft drink: 10,000
local beer: 15,000
process roll of color film: 50,000
litre of petrol: 11,000
Bolter of water: small: 7,000-Big: 10,000
souvenir t-shirt: 40,000
street stall snack - pho bo: 20,000
internet access per hour at public internet caf√© : 16,000
short taxi ride: 7,000 per Km
restaurant meal: US$ 3.00-10.00
hotel room 3 stars with air-con: US$ 30-50.00
short cyclo ride: 50,000vnd per hour
Government-run hotels and tourist restaurants usually add a 5% service charge to bills so there's no need to tip (although staff may not get any of it). Leaving a small tip in other restaurants will be greatly appreciated by the staff. You should consider tipping hired drivers and guides, and it's polite to leave a small donation at the end of a visit to a pagoda.
Vietnam Public holidays
Liberation of Saigon: (April 30)
International Worker's Day: (May 1)
Vietnamese National Day: (September 2)
Western New year: January 1st
The Vietnamese Lunar New Year or Tet Basing on lunar calendar. There is no more colorful time to be in Vietnam than during the days leading up to Tet, the most important festival of the year for Vietnamese people.
Visa to Vietnam
Most visitors to Vietnam require a visa to enter the country. For tourist from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland traveling to Vietnam and staying for 15 days or less done or have to apply for entry visas, provided that their passports are valid for at least three months and they can show their return ticket. Those who wish to stay longer than 15 days will need to apply for a visa. For Thai, Indonesian, Lao, Malaysian and Singaporean do not need a visa for a visit up to 30 days. Philippines passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 21 days. Japanese and South Korean passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 15 days.
A single entry tourists visa, which means that if you, exit Vietnam, you will require a new tourist visa to enter Vietnam again.
All travelers must have a passport valid to 6 months after their planned exit from Vietnam. The above information may change without prior notice. It is your responsibility to check whether or not you are subject to a tourist visa for Vietnam.
Tourist visa valid
A one-month tourist visa is usually sufficient for most visitors though it is possible to arrange 3-month and 6-month multiple entry visas.
If you arrive to Vietnam by land, it is NOT possible to get a visa on arrival. You must obtain the visa beforehand
Collect your visa before arrival from your closest Vietnamese embassy or consulate. For
collect your visa on arrival at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Danang International Airports.
Indochinatrips can help you obtain your visa prior to arrival or upon arrival. We strongly recommend you obtain your visa before arrival to avoid long delays and possible complications at the airport.
Visa upon arrival
Visitors must obtain visa approval prior to entry. Indochinatrips offers the visa approval service. The procedure can be summarized as follow:
(1) Passport details and arrival, departure dates are to send to us no later than 14 day prior to your departure. (You can send by email, fax or snail mail; we need: full name as stated in passport, gender, date of birth, passport number, expiry date, nationality, arrival & departure date, place to receive your visa-please advise which Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate where your want to get your visa stamped)
(2) We then go ahead and submits these details to the Vietnamese Immigration Department.
(3) The Immigration Department will confirm us of visa approval and send it by fax/telex approval to the Embassy or Consulate in the country of visitors' residence
(4) We send you the approval document via email.
(5) You bring your passports & 2 passport sized photos to Vietnamese embassy to get the visa stamped (stamp fee will be paid by yourselves).
Visitors can obtain a visa upon arrival in Vietnam. However, we recommend this option only in cases of emergency as it much more expensive than a regular visa.
Changing Your Money
There is now a reasonably extensive network of ATMs in major cities and this can be a convenient way to get your hands on money. It is also handy to have a combination of US dollars and travellers cheques for more remote or rural parts of the country. There are four ways to exchange currency: at a bank, through authorised exchange bureaus, at hotel reception desks, and on the black market. The best rates are offered by the banks, but the exchange bureaus are generally more conveniently located and have longer opening hours. The black market rate is worse than the legal exchange rate, so if you're offered better rates than a bank it's bound to be some sort of scam. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and JCB credit cards are accepted in the major cities and towns popular with tourists.
It's virtually impossible to exchange travellers cheques outside the major cities and tourist areas. Visitors heading off the beaten track will either need to stock up on dong, or conduct a private cash transaction on the black market. It's a good idea to bring a small calculator with you for currency conversions, unless you're the kind of person who can divide or multiply by large numbers in your head.
Using Credit cards in Vietnam
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 whether card is accepted. Bear in mind that a surcharge usually applies for credit card purchases. VISA and MasterCard: 2.2 % surcharge
JCB: 2.75% surcharge
American Express: 4% surcharge
NOTE: Surcharges can change without prior notice. Check the percentage charged before you buy.
Commission rates are slightly lower if changing Travelers or Cheques into Vietnamese Dongs rather than US Dollars. Vietcombank does not charge commission when changing US Dollars cash into Dong, though some banks do. You receive a slightly better exchange rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations. When cashing Travelers or Cheques you may be asked for your passport.
You can check real-time official exchange rates with the combination of a currencies converter anytime.
Vietnamese, the official language, is a tonal language that can be compared to Chinese - Mandarin, but there are more tones. With each syllable, there are six different tones that can be used, which change the definition and it often makes it difficult for foreigners to pick up the language. There are other languages spoken as well such as Chinese, Khmer, Cham and other languages spoken by tribes inhabiting the mountainous regions. Although there are some similarities to Southeast Asian languages, such as Chinese, Vietnamese is thought to be a separate language group, although a member of the Austro-Asiatic language family.
Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet and accent marks to show tones. This system of writing called Quoc Ngu, was created by Catholic missionaries in the 17th century to translate the scriptures. Eventually this system, particularly after World War I, replaced one using Chinese characters (chu nom), which had been the unofficial written form used for centuries.
Vietnam is the safest country in the world. But be careful is better so you should never put your belongings out of your sight. Avoid cyclos late at night and choose reliable metered taxi companies. Ask your Indochinatrips guide for advice on safety issues.
Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices although these services are expensive. It may not always be possible to make international calls in remote areas.
If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the costs before using it abroad as you may have to pay for listening or dialing as well
Most of the hotels in the cities connected to the Internet. Some of them have wireless broadband access in rooms or public areas. Cyber cafes are becoming popular and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable, usually below US$1 per hour. In many Internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline or mobile phone worldwide. Most Internet cafes are equipped with web cams, headsets and microphones.
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 9,000 to send and takes up to two weeks to reach the country of destination.
Vietnamese law does not allow foreigners to rent and drive a car. It is highly advisable to rent a car with a driver who knows the roads and can speak Vietnamese in case of any problems. Traffic and roads conditions may be very different to what you are used to even if you have International driving license.
In Vietnam, drivers are just drivers. Tour guides need to be licensed by the National Tourism Authority. Tour guides are the only persons legally entitled to escort tourists. Indochinatrips specializes in arranging tours with private drivers and qualified professional tour guides.
Airport Tax in Vietnam
International departure tax is payable by all travelers leaving Vietnam. It is not included in the price of your flight ticket and must be purchased at the airport before departure. Some airlines issues tickets including tax. Please check your airline ticket¬† for more detail
Ho Chi Minh City, the International departure tax is USD 12.
Hanoi, the International departure tax is USD 14.
Danang, the International departure tax is USD 12.
Domestic flights are not subject to airport tax. It is already included in the price of your ticket.