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Vietnam Travel Information, Tips and More

 

Country Information

Located on the eastern part of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is 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.

With over 4,000-years of history, Vietnam has many valuable architectural monuments and there are more than 3,000 relics and landscapes classified national heritage. In addition there are over tens of millions of valuable antiques and national treasures being preserved and on display all over the country.

With over 4,000-years of history, Vietnam has many valuable architectural monuments and there are more than 3,000 relics and landscapes classified national heritage. In addition there are over tens of millions of valuable antiques and national treasures being preserved and on display all over the country.

The photo opportunities are endless as we travel past landscape dotted with rice paddies and water buffalo. Bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles fill the wide city avenues, which make crossing an experience. Expect to find bargains everywhere and anticipate tasting a new and unique cuisine. See daily rituals and traditions performed for hundreds of years.

Passport and Visas:

All travelers need a visa to visit Vietnam except citizens of certain Asian and Nordic countries.

You can get the visa by visiting a Vietnam Embassy and processing time is about 1 week. The easiest way to get your visa is the On Arrival / E-visa. You will need to fill out an "Online Application Form", pay a service fee and you should get your "Visa approval letter" within 2 working days, by either email or fax. Copies of the same document will be forwarded on your behalf to Vietnam Immigration checkpoints at the International Airports.

You can google Vietnam Visas or here are a few links - http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/  or http://www.getvisavietnam.com/ to get you started.

Take that letter along with at least 2 photos of standard passport size with you to either the Hanoi airport or Ho Chi Minh airport upon arrival. When you arrive in Vietnam, the Immigration officers will have those documents. The entire procedure should take about 15 minutes.

Vietnamese visa-on-arrival fee includes both the approval letter fee and stamping fee at Vietnam airport. As of 2016, the stamping fee is $25 for single entry visa (both 1 month and 3 month type) and $50 for multiple entry visa (both 1 month and 3 month type). Price is in US dollars and may change with advanced notice.

Weather

Vietnam has 3 regions, the North, Center and South and each region has distinct climates.

*  The north is hot and extremely humid and receives heavy rain from June – August. Winter is from November until March and is cool and damp.

*  The center is warm throughout the year and the rainy season occurs from August or September until December. The center often receives storms during October and November.

*  The south has 2 seasons, one dry and the other wet. The wet season last from June until October, but the summer storms rarely last more than a few hours.

Time

Vietnam Standard Time is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 12 hours ahead of EST / 15 hours ahead of PST

Currency

The official currency is the Vietnam dong (d), but the US dollar is pretty widely accepted. In tourist centers, most hotels will accept either, while other businesses may prefer dong.

1 USD = 22,675.74 VND   or   0.000044 VND = 1 USD

Paper notes include: VND 500,000; 200,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000 and 500.
Coins include VND 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500 and 200, but they are no longer used.

It’s a good idea to check that any big dollar bills you plan on exchanging do not have any small tears or look too tatty, as no-one will accept them in Vietnam.

Many travellers are concerned by the safety of their money when travelling, and travellers cheques are popular for those who do not like carrying around cash or cards. Sadly, it can be quite difficult to cash travellers cheques in Vietnam and many major hotels will only exchange currency for current residents.

You’ll find several ATMs at Vietnam’s major airports. They’re also plentiful around city streets and next to convenience stores, bars and restaurants. Vietcombank has the most ATMs in Vietnam. A number of international banks also have ATMs across the country. These include ANZ, Citibank and HSBC.  ATMs in Vietnam use six-digit PINs. If your PIN is four digits long, you can usually get around this by adding two zeros in front. However, it’s best to ask your bank about this. Also, it is a good idea to let your bank know when you’ll be in Vietnam, so they won’t flag your transactions as suspicious and freeze your card.

Electric Plugs

Most plugs in Vietnam are still the two-prong electric plug variety, so you will need to use a plug adapter to adapt three-prong electronics to two-prongs. The more modern hotels may use the British style three-prong plugs.

Tipping

Tipping is not part of the culture in Vietnam, and you are not required to tip anywhere. There will be a service charge for more upscale restaurants. People more accustomed to receiving tips are tour guides and in Western style hotels.

On a private tours, tip your tour guide around 3-5 dollars per day per traveller. Also, be sure to tip your driver as well. One to two dollars should be sufficient. Also, you can buy small gifts for your tour guide or driver in lieu of tipping.

Cuisine

Because Vietnam is a typical wet rice country, rice is strongly worshipped here. Visitors to Vietnam will be amazed with the number of dishes made from rice: steamed rice (com) in daily meals, glutinous rice cake (square cake or banh chung), rice noodle, rice vermicelli, steamed rice pancakes (banh cuon) and many other ones. A common fish sauce bowl is also a a staple at most meals..   Even though steamed rice, fish sauce, pho and square cakes are symbolic dishes of Vietnam, each city, province, district, commune and village has its own unique special dishes.

Vat Refund

VAT refund for purchases by foreigners when leaving Viet Nam has been officially implemented in 9 international border gates, including Noi Bai International Airport (Ha Noi), Da Nang International Airport (Da Nang City), Cam Ranh International Airport (Khanh Hoa Province), Phu Quoc International Airport (Kien Giang Province), Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City), Da Nang International Seaport (Da Nang City), Nha Trang International Seaport (Khanh Hoa Province), Khanh Hoi International Seaport (Ho Chi Minh City), Ben Dam Con Dao Seaport (Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province).

When purchasing goods in stores with VAT refund, you must present a valid passport (original) to receive an invoice and the VAT refund declaration form

Before doing the procedures to check in luggage, visitors must present passport, invoice cum VAT refund declaration form (originals) and VAT refunded goods to customs authority at goods checking counters, so that customs official stamps “Checked”;

At the VAT refund counters in the restricted areas of the airport, you need to present your passport (original), boarding pass, invoice with the VAT refund declaration form stamped “Checked”.
VAT refund amount will be 85% of  the VAT amount noted in the invoice and VAT refund declaration form;

VAT refund currency: VND; then exchange the VND to your preferred currency at the VAT refund counters according to the current exchange rate.

Wifi

Believe it or not, it is a lot easier to find a free wireless network hotspots in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City than major cities in North America. In Vietnam, visitors can get free access to the Internet at most coffee shops, Fast food franchises, hotels and office buildings.

Water

Do not drink from the taps. Always use bottled water. Ice in most restaurant is made with clean water and is safe.

Traffic Safety

Vietnamese drivers think the white lines in the road are for decoration. Pedestrians are reasonably safe but do be aware that motorbikes will mount the pavement should traffic be dense, and frequently travel the wrong way down a street, driving on both the left and right sides of the road, so please make sure you are looking around you as you walk the streets and before you cross the road.

Etiquette

When visiting Buddhist pagodas, dress conservatively and remove shoes before entering. It’s also considered impolite to have your back facing Buddha statues. Donations for the upkeep of temples are welcomed but not expected. Always ask for permission before photographing people or places of worship.

Water Puppet Show

Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today's Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition. The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large bamboo rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.

Shopping

Shopping is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture during your time in Vietnam holiday. Here you can find unique handicrafts, food items, and apparel at relatively affordable prices. Whenever shopping at local markets, art galleries, and craft centres, it’s wise to take your time searching for good Vietnamese souvenirs and gifts. Bargaining (at least 75% lower than the retail price) is a must for better deals as vendors often charge higher for tourists. Locally produced coffee, conical hats and dipping sauces can be found in most markets, but if you’re looking to purchase authentic Vietnamese silk, jewellery and antiques, make sure you’ve done your research and shop in a reputable store.

Vietnamese coffee beans can be found just about anywhere in Vietnam, from local markets and quaint cafes to shopping malls and international airports. Hanoi is the place for coffee, where you can get a 2.2 pound bag of whole or ground Robusta beans for about $4 USD.

Vietnam is a producer of Akoya cultured pearls. Many farms are located in region around the Halong Bay in northern Vietnam. Akoya cultured pearl encountered at a pearl farm in the Halong Bay, Vietnam. Saigon Pearls widely known as the best place in Vietnam for authentic pearls and jewellery.

Silk in Vietnam is made from the cocoons of silkworms using manual looms, and comes in a variety of patterns and colors. You can find plenty of fashion boutiques and souvenir shops selling shirts, ties, accessories, and dresses at relatively affordable prices. Unfortunately, counterfeit goods are very common in Vietnam, so if the price is too good beware.

Purchasing a conical hat may seem silly, but it’s one of the most practical items for travelling, especially during Asia’s downpours and hot summers. Also known as non la, these hats have been around since the 18th century and are typically handwoven using bamboo, palm leaves, and the bark of Moc trees.

Lacquerware is a traditional form of craftsmanship commonly used on furniture, dishes, bowls, vases and paintings, which takes up to four months to produce.

Hand embroidery in Vietnam often depicts natural scenes and wildlife. If you have time you can have you can create your own design.

Snake wine is very popular in Vietnam, and is produced by infusing whole snakes (mostly venomous ones) in a glass jar of rice wine. A popular souvenir, you can find one sold at most markets and touristy shops for about USD25. Locals believe that drinking snake wine helps increase one’s virility and alleviate rheumatism, though those claims have yet to be verified by professionals.


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