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VIETNAM

Vietnam In Brief

Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, covers an area of 332,000 square kilometers. It shares common borders with China, Laos, and Cambodia. With a population of more than 80 million, it is the most densely populated country in Southeast Asia. The vast majority of the population is Vietnamese. Other ethnic groups include Chinese, Muong, Thai, Meo, Khmer, Man and Cham.

Vietnam's topography varies from low, flat delta in the south and north to hilly, mountainous terrain in the central, far north and northwest. Three-quarters of Vietnam is hilly or mountainous. Hanoi is the capital, and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the largest city in the country.

Vietnam, once a forbidden country for tourists, now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors (with numbers increasing) every year. Rich culture, strong tradition, and a patriotic people characterize this fascinating country.

 

This exotic destination offers such wonders as magical islands set in pristine waters as well as historic and cultural sites like temples, pagodas and churches. Traveling to Vietnam will be an unforgettable experience and will leave visitors deeply impressed.

CLIMATE

Vietnam shares borders with Cambodia, Laos and China, and features 3,200 km of coastline bordering the Eastern Sea. With an area of 332,000 square km, Vietnam's topography varies from coastal plains to mountain ranges.

Vietnam stretches over 1,800 km from north to south; therefore weather patterns in the principle cities are very different.

North : Winter lasts from November to April, with temperatures averaging 10 - 16C, fog and drizzle in January - March.

Summer begins in May and lasts until October, with an average temperature of 30C, heavy rainfall and the occasional violent typhoon.

Center : Central Vietnam experiences a transitional climate, with heavy rainfalls between November and December and dry, hot summer months.

South : Temperatures are fairly constant through the year; 25C - 30C. Seasons are determined by the rains - the dry season runs from November to April and the wet season from May to October. The hottest period is March and April. Typhoons are quite common in coastal areas between July and November.

Highland areas : In the hill resorts of Dalat (1,500 m), Buon Me Thuot and Sapa, nights are cool throughout the year, and in the winter months, October to March, it can be distinctly chilly with temperatures falling to 0C. Even in the hottest months of March and April the temperature rarely exceeds 26C.

CUSTOMS AND FORMALITIES

All visitors to Vietnam must fill in declaration forms and show their luggage to customs officials on request. 

Visitors can bring with them unlimited amounts of foreign currency, objects made of gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones or plated with silver or gold, all of which must be declared in detail on the customs forms. Commercial Video films and printed materials that are considered offensive are normally confiscated and sent to Ministry of Culture for inspection. 

Goods prohibited to import: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, drugs, toxic chemicals, debauched and reactionary products, firecrackers of all kinds, toys with negative impacts on the dignity education, social security and safety, cigarettes beyond the stipulated quantity, etc.

Goods prohibited to export: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, antiques, drugs, toxic chemicals, wild animals, rare and precious animals and plants, documents related to the national security, etc.        

CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE

The local currency is the Dong (abbreviated "d" or VND). Bank notes are 100d, 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2,000d, 5,000d, 10,000d, 20,000d, 50,000d, 100,000d & 500,000d. The exchange rate (as of July 2005) is approximately Dong 15.750 to one US. Dollar. 

Money and travelers cheques, particularly U.S. Dollars, can be exchanged at banks, hotels and authorized money- exchangers. It is advisable to carry U.S. Dollar bills in small denominations.

Credit cards are generally only accepted in major hotels, and in some up-market shops and restaurants in major cities. 

ATM facilities are readily available now in major cities.

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

No actual vaccinations are officially required. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding the advisability of inoculation against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B and Malaria.

Those visitors taking medicine for certain conditions such as diabetes or heart problems should make sure that they carry these medications in their hand luggage at all times in case the main luggage should be delayed.

It is recommended that all travellers take out comprehensive Personal Travel Insurance to cover personal belongings, in case of accident or illness etc.

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS  

Vietnam has three International Airports : Hanoi / Noi Bai, Ho Chi Minh City / Tan Son Nhat and Danang / Danang Airport.

Cities with directs flight to Hanoi / Noi Bai Airport  are Bangkok, Beijing, Frankfurt Guang Zhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Kunming, Moscow, Paris, Siem Reap, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Vientiane and Seoul.

Airlines currently serving Hanoi  : Aeroflot (SU), Air France (AF), All Nippon Airways (NH), Asiana Airlines (OZ), Cathay Pacific Airways (CX), China Airlines (CI), China Southern Airlines (CZ), Eva Air (BR), Japan Airlines (JL), Korean Air (KE), Malaysia Airlines (MH), Lao Airlines (QV), Singapore Airlines (SQ), Thai Airways (TG), Tiger Airways (TR), Uni Air (B7), Vietnam Airlines (VN).

Cities with directs flight to Ho Chi Minh City / Tan Son Nhat Airport  are Bangkok, Frankfurt, Fukuoka, Guang Zhou, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Melbourne, Moscow, Osaka, Paris, Phnom Penh, San Francisco, Seoul, Siem Reap, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, and Vientiane.

Airlines currently serving Ho Chi Minh City : Aeroflot (SU), Air France (AF), All Nippon Airways (NH), Asiana Airlines (OZ), Cathay Pacific Airways (CX), China Airlines (CI), China Southern Airlines (CZ), Eva Air (BR), Japan Airlines (JP), Korean Air (KE), Lufthansa German Airlines (LH), Malaysia Airlines (MH), Pacific Airlines (BL), Philippine Airlines (PR), Singapore Airlines (SQ), Shanghai Airlines (FM), Thai Airways (TG), Tiger Airways (TR), United Airlines (UA), Vietnam Airlines (VN).

Cities with directs flight to Danang/ Danang Airport  are Bangkok, Singapore.

Airlines currently serving Danang : PB Air (PB); Silk Air (MI).

DOMESTIC FLIGHTS

If flights are required in your itinerary they are in coach class, unless specified otherwise. Flight timings quoted are local and are subject to change. Domestic flights require a check-in, 1-hour prior to the flight departure. 

Carry on luggage is limited to one piece plus a camera. 

All "carry-on" hand luggage must have luggage tags which are provided by the airlines when passengers check in at airports for their flights. Security regulations at airports are strict. Passengers are required to identify their checked luggage after they have passed through security check points in the airport. This identification process is done before boarding your flight. Appropriate announcements may or may not be made for this procedure.

In economy class air travel baggage allowance is 20kg per person.  Excess baggage may be subject to overweight charges by the airline. We cannot be held responsible for the loss or damage to passenger's belongings. Domestic flights are prone to last minute schedule changes and cancellation without ANY advance notice. 

AIRPORT TAX

Airport departure tax for  international flights  currently is:

US$ 14 from Hanoi
US$   8 from Danang
US$ 12 from Ho Chi Minh City. 

The departure airport tax may be paid in local currency or in US Dollars.

Airport departure tax for  domestic flights  is included in the airfare.

INTERNET  

Vietnam joined the global computer age and internet-service providers are currently operating in most of the Cities. You can access the internet through hotels, Cyber Cafés & Internet/Computer Service Centers. Following are internet addresses with relevant information on Vietnam:

Vietnam Development Gateway

http://www.vietnamgateway.org/

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en

Vietnam News

http://vietnamnews.com.vn/ 

Vietnam National Administration of Tourism

http://www.vietnamtourism.com/

Vietnam Airlines

http://www.vietnamairlines.com/ 

LANGUAGE

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Learning foreign languages, particularly English, is currently popular among young people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Danang and other cities. Tourist guides are available for English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian speakers.

LOCAL TIME & WORKING HOURS

Local time is GMT + 7 hours.

Governmental agencies work Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 4.30pm (excluding one-hour lunch) and are closed Saturday and Sunday. 

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 7.30am or 8am to 11.30am and from 1pm to 4pm and are closed Saturday and Sunday.

Private shops are open from 8 or 8.30am to 9 or 10pm.

OFFICIAL PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 2006

01 - 02 JAN' 06

(Sun - Mon)

International New Year

28 Jan  - 02 FEB' 06

(Sat - Thu)

Lunar New Year (TET)

30 APR' 06

(Sun)

Liberation Day

01 - 03 MAY' 06

(Mon - Tue)

Labor Day

02 - 04 SEP' 06

(Sat - Mon)

National Day

OVERLAND TRAVEL  

The road system in Vietnam is reasonable in the main urban cities. The drives through the countryside can be a wonderful sightseeing experience. However, it must be noted that the roads are narrow and some may be poorly paved when outside the main cities, and as a consequence the drives can be rough and difficult at times.

The journey timings described in your itinerary are based on the usual amount of time a particular journey will take.  However, please appreciate that not all roads can be checked for their condition throughout the year. 

Most cars used are manufactured locally by Toyota, Honda and Ford and are for the most part comfortable and ideally suited to local roads. Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle, under any conditions. There is ample opportunity to smoke during photographic, luncheon and sightseeing stops.  

If you decide to leave the hotel and go out on your own, there are various means of transport that you may like to take such as taxis or "cyclos". If taking a taxi or "cyclo", insist on the meter being switched on before you begin your journey. Due to an effort to stop pollution, most "cyclos" are pedaled as opposed to motor. It is suggested that you carry the name of your destination or hotel written in local language in the event your driver does not understand English. The staff at your hotel can assist you in this regard.  

Border crossing into Vietnam is possible from China, Laos and Cambodia. Tourists can pass borders at the following checkpoints :

  • From China : Huu Nghi, Lao Cai, Mong Cai.
  • From Laos : Cau Treo, Cha Lo (Quang Binh), Lao Bao.
  • From Cambodia : Moc Bai, Vinh Xuong (by boat)

PASSPORT AND VISAS

Travellers to Vietnam are required to hold a passport valid for at least six (06) months beyond the completion of their visit and must contain a valid visa. If tourist visas are to be obtained via Diethelm Travel, the following personal data must be supplied to us at least 2 (two) weeks before travel to Vietnam:

  • full name as per passport 
  • passport number, date of issue and expiry date
  • date and place of birth
  • occupation and nationality

Visas are usually issued by the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok or in the passengers' home country (against the visa's approval number), which require the original passport, and 2 photos and for 2 (two) full working days in order to issue a visa stamp.

Visas can also be obtained upon arrival at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang airports, in which case the stamping fee will be quoted separately. Apart from required details above we further need arrival/departure date and flight information. Diethelm Travel will send a confirmation letter to show to airport staff at the departing airport, confirming that clients will get the visa on arrival. Visas can only be requested via Diethelm Travel in connection with the booking of travel arrangements to Vietnam.

Visa exemption :

  • Not more than 30 days: for citizens of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
  • Not more than 15 days: for citizens of Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea and Sweden.

Hotels might reserve the right to keep travel documents overnight at the reception for registration purpose. 

FOOD

Vietnam has abundant food supplies and an elaborate cuisine. Cooking is seen as an art and some Vietnamese dishes have achieved international fame, including such traditional dishes as noodle soup (pho), pork sausage (gio lua), spring rolls (nem ran), and fish balls (cha ca). In addition to Vietnamese food, the larger hotels also serve a wide variety of Continental and Chinese cuisine. In the smaller cities, when the hotels only have one restaurant, ordering a-la-carte may involve a slight wait, consequently it is advised that you take advantage of the large and diverse buffets available at these hotels to minimize any delay. 

Never drink water from the hotel tap, no matter what category of hotel you are staying in. Bottled mineral water is available at all hotels throughout Vietnam.  Do not have any ice in your drinks as this is often made from water that has not been purified.

POST AND COMMUNICATIONS

A regular international post service is available. In addition Express Mail Service (EMS) is available to more than 50 countries worldwide with a delivery time of 2 to 10 days.

Vietnam has high international telephone charges. It is important to check the exact amount with the hotel before making a call, as hotel surcharges are often imposed. 

VOIP calls which help reduce call charges (for most of International calls from any destination within Vietnam and for domestic calls between the main cities of the country) are now available as well pre-paid internet & mobile card can be bought in the major cities.

SHOPPING

Foreign visitors to Vietnam have the opportunity to buy souvenirs made of rattan, gold, silver and stone. There is a diverse range of products, from woodenwares such as wooden buttons or sindora beds to lacquer paintings, bowls and chopsticks,  bamboo screens and stone tea sets. Woven tapestries,  "tho cam" handbags and other handicrafts are produced by the traditional skills of the women of ethnic minorities in such rural regions in the north as Sapa, Mai Chau and Dien Bien.

TIPPING

Tipping is widely practiced and expected 

Porters : 

 VND 5.000 - 10.000 per bag

Waiters in restaurants:

 5-10% of total bill 

Taxi drivers :

10% of total bill 

Tour guides :  

VND 40.000 per person/per day 

Drivers : 

 VND 20.000 per person/per day

All of the above information is accurate at the time of publication.  


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