Discount Hotels in Vietnam : Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Dalat, Danang, Hoi An, Hue, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Halong, Hai Phong, Chau Doc, Binh Dinh, Can Tho, Lao Cai, Phan Thiet, Long Hai, Phu Quoc, Ninh Binh, Nghe An (Vinh), Dien Bien
Obtaining a single entry, thirty-day tourist visa is easy, although a bit expensive. Obtaining a business visa is a little more complex, and a little more expensive. Business visas do have the advantage of a longer stay, either 3 or 6 months, and multiple entry. Both visas can usually be extended once in Vietnam.
In the US, simply call the Vietnamese embassy, (202) 861-2293, and request a visa application. If you have a fax machine, they will fax it to you the same day. Outside the US, contact the Vietnamese consulate or embassy in your country for an application and fee information.
Return two copies of the completed application together with your passport, two passport-size photos, a check or money order for USD 65 and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Allow two weeks for processing. (Consider Fed-Xing your application with a return air bill to receive your visa in 4-5 days.)
To obtain a business visa you must also include a visa authorization letter with your application. Your Vietnamese sponsor will submit a request to the Ministry of the Interior on your behalf. You must provide your sponsor with your full name, profession, expected date of arrival and passport information, including passport number, date of issue and expiration, date and place of birth. Upon approval, your sponsor will send a visa authorization letter to you.
You will receive your passport back with a visa stamped inside as well as one copy of your application and photo stapled to the page. Before when you entered the country the immigration officer took this copy. They seemed to have stopped doing this, but still bring it along anyway.
Visa extensions can usually be obtained once in Vietnam. You'll see numerous travel agencies and Vietnam hotels offering this service in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Rates vary, as does the official policy regarding extensions!
Visitors may import 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, 1 liter of wine, 1 liter of liquor and an unlimited amount of film. Commercial goods and items of high value being taken out of Vietnam require export permits from the Customs Service. Antiques may be confiscated permanently without the right permits. No local currency may be taken out of the country, and all Gold and currency must be declared upon arrival.
All luggage coming in and out of Vietnam is x-rayed. Antiques, or all wood products older than 20 years, are banned as well from being exported. This could give a customs agent room to confiscate your souvenir, so take heed.
The most important festival of the year is Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet. Tet is the lunar New Year festival.
It is also everyone's birthday. The Vietnamese do not celebrate their individual birthdays. Instead, they all celebrate all together on Tet. It is the celebration of the beginning of spring and of new life as well as the New Year. It is also observed by a family visit to the church or pagoda to pray for good fortune and happiness. This is a time for family reunions, the exchange of gifts, best wishes for the New Year and to forgive and forget.
It officially marks the beginning of the New Year on the twelve-month lunar calendar. It is believed that the first day and the first week of the New Year will determine the fortunes for the rest of the year. In order to kick off the year right, Vietnamese houses are thoroughly repaired and painted. The family shrine is also given a good cleansing because it is believed that the family members, already departed, will be present as well. New clothes are purchased for the beginning of this festival. All old debts should be paid off. It is advised to take great care in avoiding arguments. Families exchange visits between each other.
It is believed that the first visitor to the house on the first morning of Tet is very important and will bring good luck in the new year. Particular care is taken to choose the perfect guest. Traditional food is eaten for the New Year, and families start preparing and cooking a month in advance for the New Year festivities.
There are many other important holidays that might stir up a festival. Hai Ba Trung Day celebrates the famous Trung sisters who led a revolt against the Chinese in 41AD. Thanh Minh, or the New Year of the Dead, brings people out of their homes to evoke the spirit of the dead. Family shrines and tombs are cleaned and decorated as well. Trung Nguyen, or Wandering Souls Day, is another one of the most important holidays. During this time, prayers can absolve the sins of the dead that leave hell and return, hungry and naked, to their relatives. The Wandering Souls are those with no homes to go to. Food is placed out on tables, money is burned and there are celebrations in Buddhist temples and homes. Another, but certainly not the last, is Tet Trung Thu, or the Mid Autumn Festival, which is primarily celebrated by children. Lanterns are made, painted, and lit, and Moon cakes are baked. The children parade through the towns with music and lanterns.
Vietnam is located in both a tropical and a temperate zone. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences but has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity. Regions located near the tropics and in the mountainous regions, are endowed with a temperate climate.
The annual average temperature ranges from 22ºC to 27ºC. In Hanoi, the average temperature is 23ºC, and in Ho Chi Minh City it is 26ºC, and in Hue it is 25ºC.
Two seasons are generally distinguished in Vietnam. The cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October. The difference in temperature between the two seasons in Southern Vietnam is almost unnoticeable, averaging 3ºC. In the Northern provinces, variations of up to 12% can be experienced.
Even though Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, has a historical and cultural resonance, this is probably not the best time to go. This feast usually falls between late January and early March, depending upon the year. With all the festivities going on, it tends to draw quite a large crowd of people, who are eager to pack all the hotels, restaurants and the roads in between.
Vietnam Hotels and Resorts also tend to get full in the school summer holidays such as Cat Ba, Do Son, Phan Thiet and Long Hai. This is especially true during weekends. Prices also tend to rise with the severe squeeze of people trying to get a room.
Vietnam, for the most part, is hot and humid for much of the year. In the north and highland areas, from December to March, you may find it somewhat cooler. Travel in the south and in the Mekong Delta can be difficult at the height of the monsoon season, which is generally during September, October and November. In concern to the climate, the best times to visit Vietnam are generally in between December and March.
For more Vietnam Travel info go to our Vietnam Travel Guide with Vietnam Sightseeing, Vietnam Dining and Vietnam Transport. Have a look at our recommended Vietnam hotels, Hanoi hotels, Ho Chi Minh City hotels, Hoi An hotels, Hue hotels and Phu Quoc hotels.