Vietnam Travel Tips - with Wired Destinations
A valid passport and a visa are required to enter Vietnam. Apply to the nearest diplomatic or consular mission of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Point of entry visa is possible but since you must apply for your visa in advance and receive approval, it really amounts to the same thing. The advantage of obtaining your visa stamp prior to arrival in the country saves time and possible confusion with airport immigration and airlines respectively. Visa on arrival is the preferred method by tour companies booking groups since they do not want the inconvenience of handling clients' passports. Extensions are normally available once in Vietnam; costs vary depending on who is proposing the service. Thirty-day single entry and ninety-day multiple entry tourist visas are currently the norm for visitors to the region. Note that commercial goods and high value items purchased and leaving Vietnam require export permits from the Customs Service. Antiques may be confiscated. No local currency is allowed to leave the country. A handful of international airports are scattered throughout the country but fares are significantly lower if flying to Ho Chi Minh City. The advantage of arriving from Bangkok is that visas are very easy to obtain there. An unlimited amount of foreign currency can be brought into the country as long as it is declared on the forms provided by customs officers.
In the north, especially in the interior, expect subtropical temperatures. Winters are dry and summers are wet. Monsoon weather dominates the central and southeast regions providing high temperatures and much precipitation. The southwest portion of the country receives a very distinct wet and dry season with higher temperatures than in the north. June to September sees most of the precipitation. November to May are the dryer months.
Legal tender in Vietnam is the Dong (D). Bank notes come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 100,000-Dong. There are no coins in circulation.
The US dollar is commonly used and having a supply of 1, 5, and 10-dollar notes will come in very handy. Other currencies are not readily accepted. Traveler's checks are easily cashed at most banks and some hotels. Only US dollar-denominated traveler's checks are accepted. Typically, when you exchange money or cash traveler's checks, you will be given a choice of whether you prefer Dong or dollars. Carry both, as establishments may list prices in either currency and while they will gladly convert from Dong to dollars, or vice-versa, you will usually lose 5-10% in the deal. You will find a couple of 24-hour ATM machines in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. They accept Cirrus, Plus, Visa and MasterCard, and only dispense US dollars. There is no black market to speak of, although you may occasionally be approached by people on the street offering to (illegally) exchange dollars into Dong. Ask the concierge at your Vietnam hotel for more information on currency exchange.
UTC / GMT (+7) At noon in London, Vietnamese clocks read 7 pm.
Vietnam Business Hours
Business hours for shops, banks and government offices are generally: Open between 7 and 8am with a possible lunchtime closure. Afternoon hours are loosely between 1 or 2 pm until 4 or 5 pm.
Communication services are not very well developed although major Vietnam hotels offer IDD services. Check with your service provider for mobile phone roaming agreements in the region. Beware of proprietary telephone systems which may look standard; they can damage your modem and possibly your notebook computer. Verify with hotel management whether you can hook up to their telephone system.
220 volts AC 50 cycles It would be a good idea to bring an electrical multi-plug adaptor as not all outlets are standard.
Vietnamese is the official language, however, French, Chinese, English, Khmer and various tribal dialects (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian) are also spoken.
Vietnam Dress Code
Vietnamese people in general, dress modestly. Women visitors wearing miniskirts and revealing shorts, may often be viewed as impolite. The best plan is to dress modestly like the locals. It is common practice to remove footwear when entering a religious shrine, building or monument. People's homes are also entered by leaving your footwear at the entrance. Light clothing made from natural fibres is best for the region. You will find laundry service is widely available and clothes are normally returned to you within 24 hours. In the rainy season, clothes may take longer to dry as most everything is hung out on lines.
Travel by railway in Vietnam
Car rentals are not currently in existence. Car and driver (usually unmarked cars with no meter) can be hired for the day. The Vietnamese railway system runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi along the coast and links with Haiphong and the regions further north. Odd-numbered trains travel South, and even-numbered trains travel north. The fastest trains take at least 36 hours from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Reservations should be made a day or more in advance. The major setback to the railways is that tourists incur a hefty surcharge. A slow and unreliable bus system runs almost everywhere within the country, with stations dividing the territory into regions. The best long distance travel option may be flying.
Vietnam Health Facilities
Although health facilities are not extensive or particularly well funded, emergency services are available in metropolitan areas. It would be wise to consult with your health insurance organization to determine if emergency evacuation is covered. Excellent health care is available in modern hospitals at reasonable costs with the region-Thailand for example.
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