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- ▸ Vietnam Travel Guide
Lying on the eastern part of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is a strip of land shaped like the letter “S”. China borders it to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the East Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the east and south.
Vietnam is a country of immense beauty and geographical diversity. The country is roughly divided into three main areas: North, Center and South with the population of over 90 million.
Time: Vietnam is GMT+7 and does not operate daylight-saving system. Vietnam National Emblem.
Country code: +84
Vietnam has a history as rich and evocative as anywhere on the planet. Sure, the American War in Vietnam captured the attention of the West, but centuries before that Vietnam was scrapping with the Chinese, the Khmers, the Chams and the Mongols. Vietnamese civilisation is as sophisticated as that of its mighty northern neighbour China from where it drew many of its influences under a thousand-year occupation. Later came the French and the humbling period of colonialism from which Vietnam was not to emerge until the second half of the 20th century. The Americans were simply the last in a long line of invaders who had come and gone through the centuries and, no matter what was required or how long it took, they too would be vanquished.
Hanoi and northern Vietnam have a distinct winter and summer season. A dryer winter lasts from November to April with average temperatures of 18 - 20ºC. Summer lasts from May to October and is hot and humid with temperatures around 30 - 35ºC. In areas like Sapa, prepare accordingly for the winter months as it has been known to snow on occasion. Hue and Danang, in the center of the country, have very hot, dry weather from February to August with temperatures reaching over 35ºC. The region can experience quite 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 28ºC. The rainy season lasts from May through till November. It rarely rains for long periods, even in the rainy season, with most rain coming in short, heavy bursts.
Passport & Visa
Each passenger must be in possession of a valid passport which must be valid for more than 6 months after the return date of travel. Passport number, date and place of issue, and birth date is now required by airlines and trains, and may be required to confirm services. Names on your airline tickets must match the first and last name listed on your passport.
Visitors must have a visa before entering Vietnam. S Vietnam Travel can arrange this for you. A visa on arrival can only be obtained with a letter of approval.
The official currency in Vietnam is the VND or in Vietnamese "Dong". The basic unit is the VND (also known as "Dong"). Bank notes are 1,000d; 2,000d; 5,000d; 10,000d; 20,000d; 50,000d, 100,000d, 200,000d and 500,000d.
Unlike most of Vietnam's neighboring countries, the US Dollar is widely accepted. At this the official rate of exchange is approximately VND 21,000 to USD 01.
Credit Cards is accepted at most of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops but in major cities only. Visitors are recommended to carry US Dollar in small notes. Travelers can change their money for Vietnamese Dong (VND) at banks, hotels and jewelry shops throughout the country.
Phone and Internet service
Contact your mobile phone carrier to change your service to ‘roam’. If you wish to use a Vietnamese SIM card you will need to bring a mobile phone that is not locked in to a local carrier. Phone calls with a Vietnamese SIM card are vastly cheaper than using an overseas SIM.
Internet access isavailable in all major tourist places and you will find WiFi in most cafes in built up areas.
Taxis - travelling by taxi is much cheaper in Vietnam than in the west. All taxis have meters, make sure they turn them on, a typical 10 minute journey should cost around 3 USD.Always look for the following taxis:
Hanoi: Noi Bai, Hanoi Taxi, Taxi Group.
Ho Chi Minh city: Vinasun, Taxi Group.
Xich Lo (Cyclo) - This iconic form of transport was popular with the French aristocracy and later with the Vietnamese. The modern motorbike has dwindled their numbers but they are still useful for the locals and popular with visitors and it is a calm way to travel through the chaos. Be sure to agree on a price beforehand. Expect to pay about $5 per hour.
Xe Om (motorbike taxi) - Xe Om means ‘Bike Hug’. These popular forms of transport are prolific on every street corner and are the most convenient way to get around the city if travelling solo. It is a challenge and you ride at your own risk.
Food & Drink
Vietnam is a culinary adventure; so make sure you try as many of the local delicacies as possible. You won’t be disappointed. Eating from small roadside stalls with teeny-weeny plastic stools and tiny local restaurants will give you the best “local” experience. These places sell only one dish and they do it extremely well. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, there are plenty of options, including: plenty of options, including:
Pho (pronounced fur): The most famous food of Vietnam - fresh soup with an array of flavors bound to satisfy: Phở bò (Phở with beef), Phở gà (Phở with chicken)
Goi Cuon: The famous Vietnamese “summer rolls”: shrimp or pork (sometimes both) with herbs, rolled up in rice paper and served cold with a spicy peanut dipping sauce.
Bun Cha: A lunch-time only Hanoi specialty, this is simply marinated grilled pork served on a bed of cold rice noodles with fresh herbs. The liquid it is served in has a delicate flavor & comes with pickled.
Xoi Xeo: Chances are you will encounter this dish in almost every outdoor market. Xoi xeo is sticky rice topped with ground de-hulled mung bean and fried onion. Sometimes it can be served with eggs or steamed chicken breast on request.
Banh Mi: Vietnamese baguette stuffed cold cuts, liver pâté, pickled carrots, salad, coriander, chilli and mayonaise.
Bun Bo Hue: Vietnamese soup rice vermicelli with a predominant flavor of lemon grass, beef & pork and sometimes cubes of congealed pig blood. It is commonly served with mung bean sprouts, coriander, raw onions and thinly sliced banana blossom or purple cabbage.
Cao Lau: Only available in Hoi An, this dish is made with fat sticky rice noodles, pork and greens. A wonderful mix of flavours and textures.
Bottled water and mineral water are obtainable at any shops in most cities. It is advisable to drink boiled water and not to drink ice and tap water.
Vietnam is a beer culture and Hanoi is the “bia hoi” capital of Vietnam. Bia hoi (draught beer) is one of things you should not be missed. It’s the most popular beverage throughout the country and the cheapest beer in the world, 5,000d (US$ 0,25) a glass.
Beside beer, Vietnam is also a place to enjoy tea (Thai Nguyen tea or “Thai tea”) - one of the most common drinks in Vietnam, Coffee was introduced by the French and is usually strong, thick and served complete with drip filter, so you know it’s fresh!
- TET (Vietnamese New Year): generally takes place at the end of January or early February and lasts for three days.
- Hung King’s memorial day: 10 March (lunar calendar).
- Liberation of Saigon: 30 April.
- International Worker’s Day: 1 May.
- Vietnamese National Day: 2 September
Pre-departure check list
- Itinerary & tickets
- Copy of your passport
- 2 methods of accessing your money, ie, ATM & credit card
- Bank account details & phone number
- Insurance company number
- Light clothing (summer months and the South )
- Warm clothing (Mountainous regions and the North in winter)
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Sunglasses, swimmers, sunscreen
- Insect repellent
- Personal Medical Kit
- Adaptor - 220V, 50Hz; 2 pin plugs
- Camera with charger/battery
- Camera memory card
- Small daypack