Vietnam General Travel Information

Local Time

GMT + 7

Immigration

SA passports do require visas for Vietnam. Passports must have a validity of at least six months beyond the time of stay allowed in Vietnam and 3 blank pages available.

Departure Taxes

No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.

Health

No vaccinations are presently required for visitors to enter Vietnam. However, it is advisable that precautionary measures be taken for cholera, malaria, hepatitis A & B, typhoid and tuberculosis. Although international medical centres are available in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, it can be expensive for emergency care.

Therefore, health and emergency medical insurance prior to visiting Vietnam is highly recommended for foreigners. Clinics with qualified Vietnamese and foreign doctors to treat foreign patients:

Hanoi:

Viet Duc Hospital

40 Trang Thi St., Hoan Kiem District
Tel: (84.4) 8253531
+ Asia Emergency Assistance
31 Hai Ba Trung St., Hoan Kiem District
Tel: (84.4) 9340555        

 

Ho Chi Minh City:

+ Asia Emergency Assistance
65 Nguyen Du St., District 1
Tel: (84.8) 8298520
+ Columbia International Healthcare
08 Alexandre de Rhodes St., District 1
Tel: (84.8) 8238455

Language

English, French, Cantonese and Japanese are spoken by hotel staff. Guides and interpreters speaking English, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Cantonese, Mandarin, etc. are available from the Saigontourist Travel Service Co

Weather

In all, Vietnam climate is so diverse that there is almost no definition of an average temperature for the whole country. Thanks to these regional variations in weather, generally, you can drop in Vietnam at any time of year.

Commonly, based on the duration of your stay, you should plan to catch the good weather and places by either dropping in Saigon in February or March then following the coast to north or hitting Hanoi in October-November then tracing southward. The choice is entirely yours.

Whichever way you choose, however, it is important to keep your luggage as light and loose as possible. Vietnam is not subject to extreme weather, thus loading up with clothes is never necessary.

Electricity

Electrical current: 110-220 volts A.C

Water

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

Clothes and Customs

Throughout the year, it is advisable to wear summer clothing: thin clothes in light colour. In December and January, warm clothes are recommended for visits to the northern provinces. It is advisable to bring umbrellas or raincoats in the rainy season from May to November in southern and northern Vietnam, from August to January in central Vietnam. The wearing of suits for business is now common in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Dress should be respectable, especially if entering religious premises such as temples and pagodas

Currency

The official currency in Vietnam is Dong (abbreviated “d” or “VND”). It's around 20,000 dong to USD1 (at the time of writing – October 2012).

Bank notes include: 100d, 200d and 500d (too small value - rarely used); 1,000d; 2,000d; 5,000d; 10,000d, 20,000d, 50,000d and 100,000d, 200,000d and 500,000d. Coins have recently come into circulation but not widely been accepted due to inconvenience. Cheques with value as Vietnamese dong include: VND 1,000,000 and 500,000.

You will be expected to use VND for cash purchases (especially in the rural area), but sometimes in larger centres, US dollars are accepted. Foreign currencies and tourist cheques can be exchanged into Vietnamese Dong at leading banks or foreign exchange agencies (or some jewellery shops, hotels) in Vietnam.

Tip: The largest denomination is currently 500,000 dong (about 25 - 26 US dollar). Be careful, the 20,000 notes look only slightly different from the 500,000 one but the value is a big gap. So you should keep the 500,000 dong notes separate from your other dong notes.

Direct payment of cash is most popular in Vietnam. Small shops, restaurants and markets usually do not accept any other payment.

Major credit cards (such as Visa, Master Charge and to some extent American Express) are increasingly being used, especially in big cities and tourist places, but only in restaurants, hotels or big shopping malls with a transactional fee (3%-5%).

Traveller’s cheques are an easy method of carrying money around, and can be cashed at major banks (but not small banks in small towns).

For those hesitant to carry a large amount of cash around, ATMs (automatic teller machines) have become increasingly popular in Vietnam (mostly in cities) and have attracted many foreign visitors.

Most banks offer this service and the registration for an account is simple and fast. All ATMs are locally interconnected. However, ATMs only give in VND

Before leaving Vietnam, Vietnamese dong can be changed into foreign currencies at the airport.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected in Vietnam, but it is enormously appreciated. For a person who earns US$100 per month, a US$1 tip is significant. Upmarket hotels and some restaurants may levy a 5% service charge, but this may not make it to the staff. If you stay a couple of days in the same hotel, try and remember to tip the staff who clean your room.

You should also consider tipping drivers and guides – after all, the time they spend on the road with you means time away from home and family. Typically, travellers on minibus tours will pool together to collect a communal tip to be split between the guide and driver.

It is considered proper to make a small donation at the end of a visit to a pagoda, especially if a monk has shown you around; most pagodas have contribution boxes for this purpose.

Shopping

The following items are preferred by foreign travellers:

  • Carved wooden furniture, fine lacquer ware (these can be shipped home on request).
  • Traditional Vietnamese hand-made silk dresses, kimonos, embroideries, etc.
  • Simulated antiques, fine ceramics, old watches or Zippo lighters, etc.
  • Copies of famous paintings.

Bargaining

Some bargaining is essential in most tourist transactions. Remember that in Asia ‘saving face’ is important, so bargaining should be good-natured. Smile and don’t get angry or argue. In some cases you will be able to get a 50% discount or more, at other times this may only be 10%. And once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Don’t waste time getting stressed if you find out someone else got it for less; it is about paying the price that is right for you, not always the local price.

Security

In big cities, do not bring along valuables as going shopping or sightseeing in the street. It is dispensable to give alms to beggars and to buy souvenirs from street vendors. Foreign currencies should be exchanged at banks or authorized exchange bureaus. Do not exchange money in the street. It is advisable not to ride on pedicabs or “honda-om” by oneself.

Food & Drink

It is a wonderful experience to walk around corners of the city in an afternoon and drop by a roadside restaurant to enjoy a bowl of hot sweet soup with the flavours of sugar mixed in beans, cassava or sweet potato. They remind people of the winter of Hanoi rather than any type of street-food because you only have a chance to taste them in winter. And only by trying them in the cold wind, can you feel its best flavour.

Green Rice Flake Sweet Soup (Che Com)

Apart from serving green rice flakes with banana, people also use this ingredient to make many dishes such as green rice flake pies, green rice flake cake and steamed glutinous rice with green rice flake. Especially, you will have chance to try green rice cake sweet soup in Hanoi

To enjoy this delicious dish, you must travel to markets with many small restaurants of sweet soup sold many kinds of sweet soup of Hanoi, At present; you can enjoy this dish at Thanh Cong market at reasonable price. With only 10.000 VND ( 0,5 USD) you can state a bowl of green flaje sweet soup.

Getting Around

On the occasion of holiday April 30 and May 1, Dong Xuan Joint Stock Company officially launches 02 tour of Hanoi Old Quarter (also known as the "French Quarter") by electric vehicles, serving the needs of domestic and foreign tourists.

Two tours will help visitors to discover, learn cultural, history and architecture value associated with the development of Thang Long - Hanoi.

Outstanding value of the old streets is the French architecture with buildings built in the late 19th century - early 20th century, which have been preserved and promoted their value until today. For example: Hanoi Railway Station, Hanoi Opera House, the Xao Auction (now it is the Cultural Friendship Palace in Hanoi), Hanoi Medical University, Government Guest House... Next is the historical and cultural vestige such asHoanKiemLake, Quan Su Pagoda, Hoa Lo Prison...

Banh Troi Tau, Luc Tau Xa, Chi Ma Phu

Banh Troi Tau often includes two prices of powder with two different stuffings soaked into dense soup with the flavour of ginger. Luc Tau Xa is the green bean sweet soup with the aroma of tangerine skin. Chi Ma Phu is made of black sesame with a very special taste.

Luc Tau Xa is originated from China. In the local language of Guangdong. Luc Tau Xa means pounder green bean and this dish is cooked with green bean without skins, wheat, dry tangerine skin and sugar, Green bean is cooked with cassava wheat and sugar. Then add dry tangerine skin and cook until the mixture become dense. A delicious Luc Tau Xa dish must contain tangerine skin.

The cool flavour of green bean, the viscous of cassava powder and the pungent of tangerine skin will bring about a fantastic experience for your taste buds.

Chi Ma Phu is also known as black sesame sweet soup because it main ingredient is black sesame. This ingredient is ground and cooked with sugar. In addition, lemon leaves are added to increase it aroma. This recipe is very simple but it requires a very professional skill of cooks

Taro And Corn Sweet Soup

Simple food such as taro or corn sweet soup has become favourite dishes in winter. To make taro sweet soup delicious, taro must be cooked to be soft. The dense of cassava powder and the aroma of coconut milk will make the soup nutty, fatty and fragrant. For a delicious bowl of corn sweet soup, corn must be also cooked to be soft and served with the leathery taste of small pearls and coconut milk. Each bowl of sweet soup enchants guests once tasting it

Ba Cot Sweet Soup

Ba cot sweet soup is a traditional food with the sweet flavour of sugar and the pungent of fresh ginger to bring about warm fillings in cold winter days. Its ingredients include glutinous rice, brown colour or molasses and ginger.

Glutinous rice is soaked into water in 1 -2 hours, and then left drain, After that, cook the rice as porridge. Ginger is washed and peeled, ground for its extract. Sugar is mixed in water and pour to the glutinous rice. You can also add sugar directly to the glutinous rice when the rice is cooked. When the soup is viscous, add ginger extract and stir regularly.

Use a spoon to try steamed glutinous rice with sweet soup to feel its delicious flavour.

Hot Cassava Sweet Soup

In recent years, cassava sweet soup has become a favourite food of diners. However, until when the cold wind blows out, can you have a chance to taste this delicious dish. Cassava orders that when being cooked, it will become soft and starchy.

The most sophisticated step is preparing the soup. Firstly, sugar is mixed with warm water to be melted quickly until the soup is sweet enough. Then, add a little powder and boil on low fire while stirring regularly to make the soup not to be overcooked. When the soup is boiled, pour pieces of cassava into it to make them soaked in the sweet flavour. Pieces of cassava mixed with golden brown sweet soup will be a memorable taste

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