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Vietnam travel tips

From the exciting pace of the Cities and Villages to breathtaking rural landscapes, Vietnam 's diversity is astounding. In the capital Hanoi, you will find peaceful lakes, wide tree-lined Boulevards, and a fascinating Old Quarter. From Hanoi you can take an overnight boat trip on Halong Bay, with its Thousands of limestone islands, or head to the mountains of Sapa.

With its modern vibe and frenetic energy, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) makes for a complete contrast, and is a great jumping off point for an exploration of the Mekong Delta, Dalat or a mountain getaway to a beach holiday in Nha Trang. And do not forget the Central Vietnam towns of Hue and Hoi An. Here you will find history, culture, cuisine, beaches and some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in all Asia. If you have already booked your trip to Vietnam click here to download our pre-departure guide.

Full name
Socialist republic of Vietnam
Voltage
Used in 127V/ 220V
Frequency
Used in 50HZ
 
Capital city
Hanoi
Population
92,500,000
Religion
Buddhist
 
Currency
Dong (VND)
International code
+84
Time zone
UTC + 7 hours
 
 
Climate & times to visit
You can travel to Vietnam any time of year and each season has its own special appeal. The most popular time for travel is between November to April. You should book well in advance if you wish to travel to Vietnam at this time. Temperatures are generally lower, especially in the north, where it can be quite cool in the winter months (December to February). Halong Bay is often covered in mist, which reduces visibility but adds to the atmosphere. In the south of the country, days are usually warm and clear, but be prepared for some instability and possible flooding in Central Vietnam during the months of October and November.

uring summer, which is also the monsoon season (May to November) you can expect days to be warm and humid with refreshing afternoon showers. Travel is rarely affected by the rain and everything is lush and green at this time. Skies over Halong Bay are usually clear and blue.
What to expect
Tourism in Vietnam has come a long way in the last 10 years. The industry is still evolving but these days you will find that services and facilities are similar to what you would find in Australia. Travelling in more remote areas could involve bumpy roads, noisy trains, and overnight stays in clean but basic accommodation.

Over 2,000 km separates the capital, Hanoi, from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), so most holidays to Vietnam will involve some combination of plane, bus (or private car), and train travel. Domestic flights between major centres are readily available and an efficient way to travel long distances. Travelling by train on the Reunification Express is a unique and rewarding experience.
Events
Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed below. As major holidays such as Tet (Vietnamese New Year) are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our Asia specialists for details.
 
 
 
Health & fitness
As with travelling to other parts of Asia, you need to take precautions when visiting Vietnam. Some of the diseases known to exist in Vietnam include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We strongly recommend you consult your doctor with regards to vaccinations and up-to-date health advice at a month before you depart.

International standard medical care facilities are available in Hanoi, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Danang. In other areas, medical care facilities are more basic.
Visa information
Citizens of Australia require a visa to visit Vietnam. You must organise your visa before departing your country of residence, unless you have gone through the official channels to obtain a visa on arrival service. You can arrange your visa up to six months before your scheduled arrival date into Vietnam. In addition, your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your departure from Vietnam.

All Vietnam visas are SINGLE ENTRY unless you have specifically requested MULTIPLE ENTRY and this is stamped into your passport. If you are entering Vietnam twice or more you will need to ensure you have a MULTIPLE ENTRY visa before you leave home. The status of your tourist visa cannot be changed after you arrive in Vietnam.
Travel updates
Please be advised that the Super typhoon has significantly downgraded to a Typhoon CAT 1 according to Tropical Storm Risk when reaching near the mainland and it has changed the direction to the north. At the time of report, it is raining heavily in Hue and Hoian so all the travel activities have been cancelled for today. All passengers have been advised to remain in hotels for safety reasons.
Safety & security
Though it Vietnam is considered safe by world standards, you should apply common sense when travelling as you would anywhere. Petty crime in Vietnam’s major cities has risen along with rising numbers of tourists.

We advise you to take a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers, and keep these in a safe place separate from the originals. In large cities, such as Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi, it is advisable to keep valuables in your hotel safe, and wear as little jewellery as possible when you are out. Keeping your money and other valuables close to your body in a secure place is also a good idea.

We recommend you take taxis rather than cyclos when travelling at night; taxis in Vietnam are numerous, metered and inexpensive. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card to show drivers. Read our safety guidelines for further information.
Recommended reading
Ho Chi Minh by William J. Duiker (2000) will give you a solid overview of the life of Ho Chi Minh, who is affectionately called ‘Uncle Ho’ throughout Vietnam.

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann (2010) America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan is a biography of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann and his experience with the US Army during the war.

Shadows and Wind by Robert Templer  examines the problems that arose in Vietnam as it sought to modernise after decades of conflict.

Once Upon A Distant War by William Prochnau (1995) tells the stories of some of the Vietnam War's prominent correspondents, such as Neil Sheehan and Peter Arnett.

In Retrospect - The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam by Robert McNamara (1996) a fantastic account from one of the war's key players. McNamara tells the inside story America’s experience in Vietnam.

Lonely Planet World Food Vietnam by Richard Sterling (2012) is the definitive guide to Vietnamese cuisine, complete with mouth-watering photographs.
 
What to take
  • Flat walking shoes & sandals
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Swimming attire
  • Lightweight travel towel
  • Money belt
  • Lightweight waterproof coat or umbrella
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Alarm clock
  • Small torch (flashlight)
  • Travel plug/international adapter
  • Women’s sanitary products
  • Camera
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Day pack and/or small backpack
  • Clothes for temples
 
 
 
 
Getting around
Arrival and departure transfers: Ensure your transfer driver is wearing a Travel Indochina t-shirt and carrying a Travel Indochina signboard with your name. This will help you to avoid scams, especially at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi.

Road: For six travellers or more, air-conditioned Hyundai with 25-40 seats are used. If you are travelling in a smaller group, travel will be by air-conditioned minibus or modern sedan car. Metered taxis are cheap and plentiful in most towns and cities throughout Vietnam.

Air: Modern Airbus 320 or Fokker 70 planes. Flight schedules frequently change in Vietnam, which may impact travel plans.

Train: The Reunification Express travels the length of the country, and there are also overnight trains to and from Sapa. We travel in shared, four-berth soft bed sleeping compartments. Earplugs are advisable.

Other: Cyclos, boats of varying sizes, bicycles and your feet.
Internet access & communication
Internet: Internet is inexpensive and widely available throughout Vietnam. You will also find free WiFi at many hotels, cafes and restaurants.

Phone: There is extensive mobile phone coverage in Vietnam, though you will need to contact your service provider to enable roaming before you leave. Purchasing a local SIM card on arrival is another option. International phone calls can be very expensive in Vietnam, with rates from 4-6 AUD per minute. Reverse charge calls cannot be made.

Mail: International post generally takes 7-10 days to reach its destination, with the cost similar to charges in Australia.
Food & drink
With its fresh flavours, fragrant herbs and spices, and wonderful use of seasonal produce, the cuisine in Vietnam is a highlight for many travellers. The French influence is apparent in the crispy baguettes and tempting pastries and lovers of seafood will be delighted by the range and abundance of fish and shellfish. As in other parts of Asia, rice and rice noodles are staples. Be sure to sample pho, the rice noodle soup with either beef or chicken, that is ubiquitous throughout Vietnam. Some other highlights include ca kho to (caramelised fish in claypot), ga xao xo ot (lemongrass chicken) and nem cuon (fresh spring rolls). Each region has its own highlights, such as cha ca (fried fish with dill) in Hanoi and banh bao or white rose (delicate dumplings filled with prawn and pork) in Hoi An.

Be mindful that in Vietnam, like other parts of the developing world, eating cold, uncooked dishes such as salad is more likely to lead to stomach upsets than cooked dishes. It is unadvisable to drink water from the tap, even in hotels; however bottled water can be purchased cheaply and is also provided complimentary in most hotel rooms.
Tipping
Tipping is a personal matter, and you should never feel obligated to provide a tip. However tipping is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry in Vietnam, and we believe that showing your appreciation with a tip is an appropriate way to reward great service.

Your local guide or Western tour leader will ask for a small sum in the local currency (the equivalent of around 50 cents a day) at the beginning of your Vietnam holiday. This will be used to tip hotel porters and boat crews during your trip. This means that you do not have to worry about having small change on hand, and helps to prevent over-tipping. It is not compulsory to tip Travel Indochina guides, drivers and tour leaders. We are sure that you will be extremely happy with the service you receive from our representatives, and may choose to show your appreciation with a tip; however whether or not you choose to is entirely up to you.
Responsible travel
Travel Indochina is committed to responsible travel in all our destinations, including Vietnam. When you travel to Vietnam with Travel Indochina, especially on a Small Group Tour, you may have the chance to support sustainable projects, or provide funding for worthwhile causes.

Whenever you a homestay with a family in the Mekong Delta or in a hilltribe community in Mai Chau helps to create wealth in smaller, lesser-visited communities, at the same time giving our travellers an opportunity to gain an insight into the unique lifestyle of Vietnam’s rural areas. We also work with a number of local not-for-profit organisations throughout Vietnam.