Vietnam General Information
Vietnam located Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, bordering China, Laos, and Cambodia. From the miles of white sand beaches and crystal clear waters to the lush greenery of the mountain ranges and rice paddies, Vietnam is a nature lover’s paradise. But this is just the beginning of your expedition to the Jade of the Far East. There are also the cities teeming with modern culture, from food and entertainment to shopping and exploring. Wherever they may go, visitors in Vietnam all experience the friendly smiles of its people. There’s the history and the resilience, which leads to Vietnam today: a rapidly emerging nation with a very proud, vibrant and welcoming population of 85 million people.
History and Culture
Mainland Territory: 331,211.6 sq. km
Population: 84,115.8 thousand inhabitants (in 2006)
National Capital: Hanoi
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.The country’s total length from north to south is 1,650km. Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600km at the widest point in the north, 400km in the south, and 50km at the narrowest part, in the centre, in Quang Binh Province. The coastline is 3,260km long and the inland border is 4,510km.
Latitude: 102º 08' - 109º 28’ east
Longitude: 8º 02' - 23º 23' north
Vietnam is also a transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Climate: Vietnam lies in the tropics and monsoon (detail)
Topography: Three quarters of Vietnam's territory consist of mountains and hills
Administrative Units: Vietnam is divided into 63 provinces and cities
The definition of "Vietnam"; is "the Viet people of the south." The Viets were the main ethnic group living in this land dating back 4,000 years. To many foreigners, Vietnam is synonymous with war. In reality, it is a nation of gentle, peace-loving people. Vietnam is like a picturesque painting that never ceases to amaze the observer with new and fascinating discoveries. Marco Polo was one such observer who was struck by its natural beauty while sailing along the coast in the 13th century. Vietnam now, as in centuries past, is an important nation due to its location and bountiful resources. Its history is deeply rooted in many foreign influences, including Chinese, French, Japanese, and American. All of which have helped to transform Vietnam into a modernizing nation of patience and innovation.
Vietnamese entry visa requirements vary by country. Most citizens of ASEAN nations (Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and Brunei) are not required to have a visa for a 30-day stay. Citizens of Korea, Japan, and Scandinavian nations are not required to obtain a visa for a 15-day visit. All other citizens are required to have a 30-day entry visa obtained through a Vietnamese consulate or embassy before departure for Vietnam, or a pre-approved entry visa (issued upon arrival at one of Vietnam’s international airports). Some Vietnamese embassies will accept visa applications directly from the traveler. To promote organized travel in Vietnam, Vietnamese embassies require that you go through a Vietnamese tour company in Vietnam for your visa clearance. The costs are somewhat cheaper to obtain it through a Vietnamese tour company. The following are the procedures for processing a tourist visa:
Passports must have at least 3 month validity from the date of entry.
Travelers visiting Vietnam are given 30 days visas.
It is required that visas be acquired at the Vietnamese Embassy before arrival in Vietnam.
Some Vietnamese Embassies will accept visa applications directly from the traveler. To promote organized travel in Vietnam, Vietnamese Embassies require that you go through a Vietnamese tour company in Vietnam to get your visa clearance. The costs are somewhat cheaper to get it through a Vietnamese tour company. Please note the visa allows visitors to enter one time during the valid date issued in the passport.
Multiple entry visas can be issued upon request.
The following are the procedures to process a tourist visa:
There are 2 options below:
- Full name (As on your passport)
- Passport Number
- Date of birth
- Arrival date and arrival time/flight number
- Embassy where you want to pick up the visa (if you chose option 1)
Upon fulfilling the above information you may send this information to a Vietnamese tour company in Vietnam to apply for the visa clearance letter. What the visa clearance letter means is that the tour company applied on your behalf and you have been approved to get your visa to enter Vietnam. A clearance number then is sent to the Vietnamese Embassy mentioned in your application where you chose to get the visa stamped. Also a copy of that clearance number is sent to you so you can include it with your passport. After 2-3 working days after we receive your passport information, we will email you the letter which will help you to collect your visa quickly at the Embassy. Our service fee is 25 USD/person and you will pay the cost of the stamp (costs will vary from Embassy and location) required at the Vietnamese Embassy. It only takes one working day for you to submit your visa docs together with our approval letter (travel agency provides this letter) to get your visa at the Embassy. When you receive our visa clearance you will need to follow the instructions below:
- Fill out an M3 form (we will send you this form)
- Attach a passport photo to the M3 form
- Bring the visa clearance letter with you to the Embassy with the M3 form
- If you have the clearance letter you can get the visa the same day. The cost for the visa stamp in the value of your country’s currency.
Links of Vietnamese Embassies abroad
If you are not close to a Vietnamese Embassy to personally apply at the Vietnamese Embassy please let us know and we will suggest the best alternative.
Another alternative is for you to pick up your visa at the airport in Saigon, Danang or Hanoi using our authorization letter. The clearance letter must be done prior to your arrival. You must send us the passport information at least 2 working days or earlier prior to arrival for us to apply for you to pick up your visa at the airport.
1) Provide us the following information
- Full names
- Date of birth
- Passport number
- Date of arrival
- Flight arrival time and number
2) After receiving your information above we will process the visa application. In 2-3 working days we will send you our visa clearance letter by email.
3) You will use the document to show the airline check in counter that you will receive a visa on arrival. Upon arrival you will go to the “landing visa” booth on the left of the immigration area. DO NOT LINE UP in the regular immigration line until you get your visa sticker at the “landing visa booth”. Pay the 25 USD/person visa stamp fee (cash).
4) Proceed to the regular immigration line for check through.
Contact us for the cost for processing the clearance document.
A quick checklist for people acquiring Vietnam visas in the U.S.
- Travelers are allowed to arrive at 3 airports in Vietnam: Hanoi – Noi Bai, Ho Chi Minh City – Tan Son Nhat, Danang International Airport. You will see this written on your visa.
- Travelers crossing into Vietnam by land must obtain their Vietnam visa in advance prior to crossing the border into Vietnam.
- When traveling overnight outside the main cities, you must have your passport and visa with you.
- Business visas (multiple entry visas) are available for 3- 6 months at a time.
- Rush visas can be processed within 1-2 working days prior to entering Vietnam.
- Fill out the M3 form (link) with attached passport photo. You’ll need to keep an extra form filled out, to be given to the immigration officer on arrival.
- A cashier’s check for the cost of your visa stamp made out to “Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
- Contact the embassy to confirm the cost, as policies are subject to change.
- Your passport. (Make sure to make photo copies of your passport.)
- A self-addressed express mail envelope (so that you'll receive the passport back quickly).
- Visa clearance letter (please make a copy for your records).
PLEASE MAKE SURE NONE OF THE PAGES IN YOUR PASSPORT ARE TORN OFF
OR MISSING AS YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO ENTER THE COUNTRY
VIETNAMESE EMBASSY LOCATIONS WORLDWIDE
Please contact us at
with further inquiries.
Weather: Travel Tips
Vietnam lies in the Southeast Asia inter-tropical monsoon zone. There are neither good nor bad seasons to visit. When one region is wet, it is sunny and warm somewhere else. The average temperature ranges from 20 C/68 F to 32 C/90 F. The hottest seasons are March and April in the south (Ho Chi Minh City), and June and July in the north (Hanoi). The rainy season is from May to October in the south. The Central Highlands enjoy a milder climate year round.
The Vietnamese language is a fusion of Mon-Khmer, Thai and Muong. Vietnamese script, created by the French missionary Alexander de Rhodes, is comprised of Roman characters with phonetic sounds originating from Chinese words that have been incorporated into the language. This Latin-based language is the official language of all ethnic groups in Vietnam. The other ethnic groups also use their own languages and dialects. Besides Vietnamese, English is now the second most widely used language in the business sector. Older educated Vietnamese people may still speak French. Learn some Vietnamese: Your first introduction to the Vietnamese culture will probably be the language, so what better time than now to start learning.
|WRITTEN IN ENGLISH
||WRITTEN VIETNAMESE ||PRONOUCED
||WRITTEN IN ENGLISH ||WRITTEN VIETNAMESE
||NAM ||"N-HAM" |
||CAMON ||"COME ON"
||HOW MUCH ||BAO NHIEU
|NO HOT PEPPERS
||KHONG OT ||"KONG-URT"
||SOFT DRINK ||NUOC NGOT
||NUOC SUOI ||"NUT-SUEY"
||GOODBYE OR HELLO ||CHAO
There are about 54 minority groups which make the present population over 85 million. Most of the population resides in harmony in the cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in particular. The largest ethnic group is the Viet or Kinh people, who make up 80% of the total population.
There are many holidays in Vietnam. You can say there is almost a holiday every occasion. Western holidays are celebrated in Vietnam but not an official national holiday.
Tet: The Lunar New Year
The celebration of the Lunar New Year falls between January 19 and February 20 on the western calendar. Officially three days long, it typically lasts for weeks. It is a time to call the spirits of the ancestors’ home and make temple pilgrimages. It is also a time to eat, drink, and be merry with fireworks displays, concerts, and street theater during Vietnam’s biggest party of the year. The most important one for most all Asians is the New Years “Tet” celebration.
We recommend that you visit Vietnam and leave about 1 week prior to the actual date of the Tet celebration as most stores and shops close and prices of food is much higher than usual. Lunar New Year dates: 2009: 26 Jan 2010: 14 Feb 2011: 03 Feb 2012: 23 Jan 2013: 10 Feb 2014: 30 Jan 2015: 19 Feb 2016: 08 Feb 2017: Jan 28 2018: Feb 16 2019: Feb 05 2020: Jan 02
Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fresh ingredients, whether on the milder side with subtle herbs or a bit more zing with hot peppers. The national dish is pho or noodle soup. A fixture on any menu, pho is loaded with rice noodles, meat, scallions, garlic, ginger, basil leaves, star anise and pepper. Another staple is rice with nuoc mam (fermented fish sauce), an accompaniment to almost any meal. Spring rolls, seafood, tropical fruits and many unique sweets are also widely enjoyed throughout the country.
Internet access is widely available in internet cafes and hotels throughout Vietnam. Vietnam is very much an internet savvy country with most large cities having Wi-Fi everywhere you go.
Travelers are advised to be up-to-date on tetanus, typhoid, and polio immunizations. Bottled water is available throughout the country. Here is a short checklist.
- Bring some insect repellent (with deet) as you are traveling in a tropical area. While traveling always remember to drink water as it will help you acclimatize to the tropical temperatures. Bring a cap or a hat.
- Bring medicine for your stomach in case food doesn’t agree or to treat diarrhea.
- Water from the faucet is use to brush your teeth not to drink. Always drink bottled water if you are thirsty. Drinks at restaurants should be chilled avoid drinking ice cubes when traveling in the rural area. Avoid eating fresh salads when you eat on the street. Fruits should always be peeled right when you eat if you wanted to eat in the rural area not peeled before and left out in the sun.
The Vietnamese currency is the Vietnam Dong. Vietcombank The U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere in Vietnam and is easily exchanged to dong. While traveling overnight outside of the bit cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh it is advised for you to bring local currency (Vietnam Dong).
USE of ATMs: ATM’s are widely used in Vietnam. For most ATM a limit between 400 – 600 USD a day (you will receive local currency from ATM’s). You should check with your bank as they usually set the limit on your card. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in high end restaurants and some high end shops. Most or all hotels will accept visa and MasterCard. USD cash are accepted everywhere. The USD is very strong in Asia so you will get a good exchange and use the local currency to pay your purchases. We don’t suggest you take the traveler checks because most hotels, restaurant, shop will not accept traveler’s checks. If you bring traveler’s checks you will have to go to the bank to change it. If you change to local currency usually there is not commission charge. If you change to USD then there is usually a 1.8% commission charge. Regarding bring cash I would advise bring 50’s, 20’s, 10’s, 5’s and 1’s in USD cash. We find you can never go wrong bring USD.
Credit cards are accepted in major hotels, shops, banks, and elsewhere. Credit cards can also be cashed for currency at the bank. The main bank of Vietnam is Vietcom Bank (Vietnam Commercial Bank), with branches all over the country. ATM transactions are available throughout the country.
M-F 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Vietnam is a shopper’s paradise. Here are a few tips before making purchases: wood products are better purchased in the south, ceramics in the north. Fine handicrafts, embroidered articles, rattan and bamboo products, lacquer wares and marble carvings of high quality can also be found. Silk in Vietnam is of some of the highest quality in the world. Women and men can have clothing custom tailored in a day or two. Jewelry can also be made to customer specification. Precious stones should only be bought from the government jewelry company (SJC) as they have certification of origination, which you will need when you leave Vietnam and reenter your home country. Please let us know if you would like recommendations. If fine jewelry is too cheap to be true then it’s too cheap to be true.
As of Jan 1st. 2010-Warning:
Checklist before you leave on your trip:
- PICK UP AT THE AIRPORT: If we pick you up at the airport we will ALWAYS have your name sign to pick you up. If someone does not have a sign and say they are picking you up for a tour company or a hotel, always ask them “what’s my name and what tour company?”. There are sometimes taxis at the airport who want to trick you into getting into their taxi so pretend to represent a travel company or hotel. If You are unsure call one of our 24 hour mobile number : 0903-98-1212 or 909278141.
- ATM machines in Vietnam you should always never ever let anyone help you at an ATM especially a taxi driver (always go into the bank to ask for assistance) as they may copy your pin or have a camera to take a picture of your card. Only use the national bank ATM : Vietcombank, ACB, ANZ, HSBC ATMs.
- Air tickets: check your departure times and date. Where possible buy e-tickets it saves you time when you inadvertently lose the document you can always pull out a copy from the computer or provide the ticket number. Paper tickets are more likely to get lost and end up having to wait for months to claim the lost ticket. Make sure you save a copy of your e-ticket in your traveling email.
- Call your credit card company to inform them you will be traveling overseas and name of countries that the card will charged and the period that you will be using the card overseas to avoid identity theft and inconvenience that your card gets blocked when you travel.
- Check your visa documents and passport size photos if you need them to get visa on arrival.
- Make copies of your passport and visas scan it and send it to your traveling email in case your passport is lost or visas lost you can contact the proper authorities to provide those copies.
- Make sure you have your health/accidental /emergency evacuation insurance. Most important is health /accident coverage. Make sure that the coverage will pay for you while you are in the hospital or need assistance in the country you are traveling. Costs are covered and not require you to pay first and claim later. From our experience insurance underwritten by AIG in the US and Lloyds of London in Europe has come through for our clients in times of emergencies with little inconvenience.
- Check with your mobile phone carrier if they have roaming coverage in the countries you are traveling. Make sure your phone is compatible to receive or make calls in the country you will be traveling. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a local SIM card in the country of arrival and put it in your phone to use locally. But it’s always good to have a back up to have your phone roaming coverage.
- Make sure you have enough passport pages in your passport. Usually try to have at least 2 pages in your passport for each country you will be visiting (not transiting at the airports). This is if you will get your visa on arrival at the country you are visiting.
- Make sure you have your travel agent’s mobile phone number in your phone or where you can access information in case of an emergency.
USE of ATMs: ATM’s are widely used in Vietnam. For most ATM a limit between 400 – 600 USD a day (you will receive local currency from ATM’s). You should check with your bank as they usually set the limit on your card.
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in high end restaurants and some high end shops. Most or all hotels will accept Visa and Mastercard. USD cash are accepted everywhere. The USD is very strong in Asia so you will get a good exchange and use the local currency to pay your purchases.
We don’t suggest you take the traveler checks because most hotels, restaurant, shop will not accept traveler’s checks. If you bring traveler’s checks you will have to go to the bank to change it. If you change to local currency usually there is not commission charge. If you change to USD then there is usually a 1.8% commission charge.
Regarding bring cash I would advise bring 50’s, 20’s, 10’s, 5’s and 1’s in USD cash. We find you can never go wrong by bringing USD.
Tipping with ones for the hotel porters is useful. Tipping for guides are on average 10 – 15 US/day and drivers about 5 – 10 US/day. Tipping is not expected only if they do a good job then you can tip as you feel. Tipping in restaurants are not expected either. But if the waiter provided good service then you can leave a tip in local currency of about 1-2 USD. Local food stalls along the road you do not need to tip. Usually only in sit down A/C restaurants if good service is provided.
Laundry can be done at the hotels and can usually be done in 1 day. There are also outside laundry service that’s usually 1/3 the price of what the hotels charge you but make sure you have time to send out your laundry as it make take 1-2 days.
Dress and etiquette:
- In Vietnam it’s ok to wear shorts. Going to temples you should avoid wearing tank tops or revealing bare shoulders.
- Asia is a very casual so you won’t need any formal clothes but I do recommend bringing one or 2 collared shirt if you plan to dine at a formal restaurant.
- When you shake hands you shake with 2 hands holding the other person you are greeting.
- Do not point your finger at a person unless you mean to offend them.
- When you call someone to you your palms should face the ground and pull towards you. Do not have your hands facing up flipping towards you when you want someone to come to you as it’s disrespectful.
- Hugging is a show of close friendship and does not mean anything more then that.
- Holding hands men and men or women and women is a show of close friendship like brothers and sisters. Does not mean anything more then that. Same with arms over the shoulders or hand on the lap.
- Women do not always necessarily shake hands with men and usually a nod of acknowledgement will do fine.
Bring some insect repellent (with Deet) as you are traveling in a tropical area. While traveling always remember to drink water as it will help you acclimatize to the tropical temperatures. Bring a cap or a hat. Bring medicine for your stomach in case food doesn’t agree or to treat diarrhea Water from the faucet is use to brush your teeth not to drink. Always drink bottled water if you are thirsty. Drinks at restaurants should be chilled avoid drinking ice cubes when traveling in the rural area. Avoid eating fresh salads when you eat on the street. Fruits should always be peeled right when you eat if you wanted to eat in the rural area not peeled before and left out in the sun.
Cost of meals:
Meals per day you would estimate about 40 – 60 US/person/day for 2 people. As for the high end restaurants you would add an additional 20 US/person/person. You will find that high end meals in Asia are much more affordable then western countries unless you are dining in the 5 star hotel restaurants. Most 5 star hotels will take credit card charges. As for shopping you will also find that most product purchases will range from 1 US to 50 US (silks) per item on average. Visa and MasterCard is widely accepted.
A packing list is always one of the forgotten processes for some who plan to travel on a long holiday but probably one of the most important step to have an enjoyable vacation. We listed some important reminders and check lists from our traveler’s experiences:
Electronics or gadgets:
- Does your passport have at least 6 month validity from the date of departure on your trip.
- Check your visa requirement to your destination. Check the entry date on your visa and validity of the visa.
- When possible book e-tickets if you happen to lose your ticket you can always printout your ticket online.
- Always make extra copies of your passport and keep it separate from your original.
- Copy of your travel insurance and emergency contact. It’s best to have those numbers entered in your mobile phone.
- Call your credit card company to inform them of your trip and when your trip will end so that your charge card won’t get blocked by your card company because of a foreign charge and also charges are blocked overseas if someone happen to steal your card number and charge on the card. Sometimes you have to call the card company a few times before you leave to remind them. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted as oppose to Amex.
- Make sure your tour operator know of any allergies you may have.
Clothing & Miscellaneous:
- If you have a 3 program plug you will need to bring an adapter to change to 2 prongs (flat and round). Most countries will have plugs for 2 prongs.
- Make sure your electronics can take 220 volts as most countries.
- Sometimes it’s a good investment to bring a back up mobile phone where you can use a local SIM card for calls. It’s much cheaper then using your regular mobile phone and paying roaming calls.
- Don’t forget your charger for your electronics and check to see if they are Compatible with 220 volts.
- A small pocket solar calculator to convert exchange rates
- Know where you are traveling and the weather you should expect. Traveling to a tropical area you will expect to see mosquitoes so bring some long sleeve short and long pants for the evening.
- Traveling to Asia it is frowned upon to wear shorts that are 6 in. above the knee. Especially going into temples or places of worship. Wearing a dress is fine if you plan to dress light but always go into temples. Wearing short a few inches above the knee is fine.
- Shirt or blouse covering your shoulder. Revealing shoulders are frowned upon.
- Head cover to protect from hot tropical weather
- Insect repellent
- Stomach medicine
- A good book for those sometimes flight delays
Do's & Don'ts
- In Vietnam it’s ok to wear shorts. Going to temples you should avoid wearing tank tops or revealing bare shoulders or thighs. Bring a shawl to cover your legs if you enter the temple or avoid going to the main prayer room.
- Asia is a very casual so you won’t need any formal clothes but I do recommend bringing one or 2 collared shirt if you plan to dine at a formal restaurant.
- When you shake hands you shake with 2 hands holding the other person you are greeting.
- Hugging is a show of close friendship and does not mean anything more than that.
- Holding hands men and men or women and women is a show of close friendship like brothers and sisters. Does not mean anything more than that. Same with arms over the shoulders or hand on the lap.
- Do try local foods but make sure it’s cooked hot.
- Do try to say a few words in Vietnamese like Hello or Thank you. Vietnamese people love to smile when they hear you try to speak their language.
- Do take lots of pictures people don’t mind. Just don’t take pictures of military installations or police officers.
- Do take a taxi when you need to get around town as they are air-conditioned and run on a meter. Some reputable taxis in Hanoi are (Hanoi Taxi and Noi Bai Taxi). In Ho Chi Minh City (Vinasun, Mai Linh Taxi and Vina Taxi). Make sure you know how to read the meter as there are many zeros and you might pay for more than the actual cost. Usual cost starts at 12,000 VND (1 USD~17,000 VND).
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- Do not point your finger at a person unless you mean to offend them. When you call someone to you your palms should face down and pull towards you. Do not have your hands facing up flipping towards you when you want someone to come to you as it’s disrespectful.
- Women do not always necessarily shake hands with men and usually a nod of acknowledgement will do fine. Only shake hands with women only if they extend their hands first.
- Don’t ever take cyclos (bicycle cabs) in Ho Chi Minh City as you will be most likely be cheated by pedicab drivers. They will start an argument with you at the end of the trip and demand 3 times the price you agreed on.
- Don’t eat food on the sidewalk unless it’s cooked hot.
- As you cross the street DO NOT STEP BACK while you are in the middle of the street move forward and do not make sudden moves.