Travel Tips » TRAVEL INFORMATION » Useful Tips
CUSTOMS & IMMIGRATION
All persons entering Vietnam are required to complete a simple, two-part, Arrival – Departure Declaration card. This is a combined Immigration and Customs declaration and must be retained by you until you depart Vietnam. This form requires you to declare any unaccompanied baggage, foreign currencies totaling US$7,000. or more. Vietnamese currency exceeding VND 15,000,000. Gold exceeding 300 grams in weight. Any temporarily imported and re-exported goods or vice versa. This declaration also lists your duty free entitlements.
Each adult passenger may bring in to Vietnam the following quantities and items of duty free goods:
Liquor – over 22 % spirit – 1.5 liters, and, liquor under 22 % spirit – 2 litres.Tobacco products – 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500 grams of raw tobacco.
Permitted items in your accompanied baggage are duty free if the value is not over VND 5,000,000.
Prohibited import items include weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, drugs, toxic chemicals, pornographic, debauched and reactionary products, fireworks of all description, toys with any negative impacts on the dignity, education, social security and safety, tobacco products and liquor above the permitted quantities, etc. If in any doubt, please ask a customs official on arrival.
Prohibited export items include weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, antiques, drugs, toxic chemicals, wild animals, rare and precious animals or parts thereof, plants and documents relating to national security, etc.
MONEY AND EXCHANGE
The Vietnamese currency is the Dong –VND, Both notes, paper and polymer, and coins are in circulation. US$1 equals approximately 18,000 VND. In the main cities, US dollars are accepted. Dirty or torn notes might be refused. Large denomination notes (US$100) often get a better exchange rate than smaller ones.
Leading credit cards such as VISA, MASTERCARD, JCB and AMERICAN EXPRESS, are accepted at nearly 2,000 large hotels and major stores, restaurants, tourist centres, shops, supermarkets, airline offices and better travel agencies.
Automatic Teller Machines, ATM’s, are becoming increasingly available in the major centres of Vietnam and may be accessed by leading credit cards such as VISA, MASTERCARD and AMERICAN EXPRESS. The Vietcombank, the Vietnam Foreign Trade Bank, has the largest network of ATM’s throughout Vietnam. Please note that in Vietnam, the Merchant Fee is added to the cost of your purchase so for Visa Card, Master Card, JCB expect to pay about an extra 3% and for American Express Card an extra 5%.
In Vietnam, GMS is presently provided by several operators. These suppliers offer Pre-Paid Card service. The best way for you to use mobile phone in the country is to rent a mobile phone and buy a pre-paid card. Sisters Tours can arrange a cell phone with a pre-paid card for you.
Access to online services or ADSL/WIFI internet is now available through cyber-cafes and in hotels
PEOPLE AND LANGUAGE
The majority Viet (or Kinh) people make up 85% of Vietnam's 86.5 million population (7/2008) and are largely concentrated in the lowland areas. The national language is tonal Vietnamese. There are 54 minority groups. The largest of these groups is the ethnic Chinese who live mainly in the central and southern regions. The H’mong, Thai, Tay, Dao and other minority peoples inhabit the central highlands and the mountainous regions of the North. Each of these groups has its own customs, culture, costumes and dialect.
HEALTH AND INSURANCE
Travelers are required to have proof of medical insurance to participate in SISTERS tour programs. There are several International medical clinics in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. SISTERS would advise tourists, as a precautionary measure, to have sufficient coverage for emergency medical care. SISTERS arrange with SOS International for 24 hour medical assistance and emergency air evacuation if needed.
FOOD AND RESTAURANTS
Vietnamese food is subtle and delicious - and a culinary adventure. It is one of the great undiscovered cuisines of the world. Northern food is mild; food in the Center is spicier and; in the South dishes tend to be sweeter. From sautéed Morning Glory to Roast Chicken with Lemon Grass to Fresh Prawns with Coriander to Garlic Ginger Chili Fish, you will find a host of new taste sensations.
No Vietnamese meal is complete without rice or noodles, tastier than you have ever experienced. And you will want to try PHO, the traditional soup of the North.
Vietnam's cities also boast a wide variety of top-flight international restaurants - Chinese, French, Italian, American, Indian, Japanese etc.
Seasonal fruits (including tropical fruits such as sweet mango, dragon fruit, rambutan, and longan) and fresh vegetables are readily available. All fruits and vegetables should be cooked or peeled. Local drinking water and ice should not be consumed. Bottled water is available everywhere. Vietnamese beer is excellent. The most popular local brands are Hanoi, Saigon and 333. Imported beers such as Tiger, Heineken and Fosters are widely available.
When food is included in the tours, SISTERS makes sure you dine on the best of local cuisine. If you are dining on your own, we will give you the best advice on where and what to eat.
Vietnam is a shopper's paradise. You will find unique and beautiful objects that have not yet found their way into world markets. Custom-made silk suits, shirts, blouses and dresses are available at prices you won't believe. Other hot items include lacquer wares, mother-of-pearl inlay, ceramics, bamboo and colorful embroidered items (such as hangings, tablecloths, pillowcases, scarves, pajamas and robes) Traditional and modern oil paintings and watercolors, woodblock prints, carpets, jewellery and leatherwork display the skills of Vietnam's artists and artisans. Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi have the widest variety of fine shops, but Hoi An is also an excellent place to shop for clothes, silks, arts and crafts.
Our guides speak fluent English, French, and Japanese. They are well-educated, informative, enthusiastic and flexible. They will be both your language interpreters and your cultural interpreters. You can choose to have a regional guide in the main regions or a national guide, who guides you from the beginning to the end of your trip.
Small gifts such as cigarette lighters, pens, foreign cigarettes, liquor, perfume and even shampoo are greatly appreciated by anyone you wish to make friends with in Vietnam.
Out of politeness, always ask permission before taking photos of people. The same rule of thumb also applies to photos taken in places of worship. Permission will almost always be granted.
A gentle handshake is the most appropriate manner of greeting.
Keep your ID and passport in a safe place and carry only photocopies of those items.
DO's and DONT's
* Store your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place. Most 4-star hotels have in-room safes, otherwise ask the reception to keep your valuable things in their deposit facility.
* Take a hotel business card from the reception desk before venturing out from your hotel. This will make your return to the hotel in a taxi or cyclo much easier.
* Dress appropriately. Not only for the prevailing weather, but also not to cause offence to the local people. Vietnamese have conservative dress codes, and it is only in larger cities that these codes are a little more relaxed. Do not wear revealing clothing.
* If invited into a home, always remove your shoes at the front door when entering.
* Ask for permission when taking a photograph of someone. If they indicate that they do not want you to, then abide by their wishes. DO NOT offer money or push the issue.
* Drink plenty of bottled water. During the summer months you should be drinking a minimum of two liters per day. If you drink tea, coffee & alcohol you should increase you water intake accordingly as these will help to dehydrate you.
* Never carry more money than you need when walking around the streets. Do not wear large amounts of jewelry. There are two reasons for not doing this:
+ It is considered impolite to flaunt wealth in public;
+ It is more likely that you may become a victim of a pickpocket or drive-by bag snatcher.
* Don't be paranoid about your security, just be aware of your surroundings.
* Don't wear shorts, dresses or skirts, or tops with low-neck lines and bare shoulders to Temples and Pagodas. To do this is considered extremely rude and offensive.
* Avoid giving empty water bottles, sweets and candies or pens to the local people when trekking through ethnic minority villages. You cannot guarantee that the empty bottles will be disposed of in a correct manner, and the people have no access to dental health. If you want to give pens, ask your guide to introduce you to the local teacher and donate them to the whole community.
* Never sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar when in someone’s house.
* Never lose your temper in public or when bargaining for a purchase. This is considered a serious loss of face for both parties. Always maintain a cool and happy demeanor and you will be reciprocated with the same.
* Do not try to take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security.
* Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages. They are considered to be too intrusive by the local people.