Useful Information

  • Top Responsible Travel Tips
     
    1. Be considerate of Vietnam's customs, traditions, religion and culture.
    2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.
    3. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying botted water. Instead, full a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.
    4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cugarette butts.
    5. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
    6. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simpe greetings will help break the ice.
    7. Shop for locally made products. Suppoting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
    8. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
    9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
    10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals
  • Tax Free

    The following items may be freely imported into Vietnam by foreign visitors without incurring customs duty:

    • 400 cigarettes, 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco
    • up to 5kg of tea and up to 3kg of coffee
    • 1.5L of liquor at 22 percent and above, 2L of liquor below this amount, and 3L of all other alcoholic beverages
    • A reasonable quantity of perfume and personal belongings; other goods not exceeding (VND)5 million


    The importation of non-prescribed drugs, firearms and pornography is prohibited. Literature with sensitive content on political issues should not be brought into the country.


  • Vietnamese Culture

    Vietnam has its own characteristics, quite different from its neighbors, including China. Vietnamese like to think they are very unique… because that’s what they are! Pleased accept the fact that you are a guest in Vietnam and always will be. You will experience what it feels to be part of a visible privileged minority. As such, you’ll enjoy special status but also have special responsibilities. Do try to learn as much as you can about the culture before you depart.

     

    The Vietnamese will highly appreciate your efforts to understand them, their culture, and their language. If you are up for a culture shock then Vietnam is the place to be. Don’t blame it on the country because the cure is at your finger tips: understanding your new surroundings. Learn to enjoy Vietnam for what it is, a country neither better nor worse than home, but incredibly different. As much as Westerners are “task-oriented”, Vietnamese are “relationship-oriented”. If you have problems work up the relationship.

     

    Do realize that the Vietnamese have a very different perspective on social, political and business organizations, most of which are modeled on the extended family concept. It would be difficult in fact to overestimate the importance of family and the extent to which the family model is present at all levels and in all social and professional structures. Don’t be offended if newly made friends poke into every detail of your personal life. They are in fact helping you become part of a Vietnamese group. Do understand that family matters are paramount and unexpected family responsibilities will take precedence over appointments and activities scheduled previously. In general, don’t judge what you cannot understand. As always, respect is the key word here.

     

    You should show respect in general, as it will usually be shown by most Vietnamese in most situations. Don’t lose your temper; it is first seen as a lack of respect for yourself and a strong sign of disrespect for your counterparts. Nevertheless, although in many ways a very polite and courteous lot, you may sometimes find people in Vietnam to be quite rude by your own standards. Examples include that you should not bother with queuing up for things, since queues and line-ups just don’t happen in Vietnam. Also, don’t be offended by personal questions and remarks, people will often ask nosy questions like: how old are you? Where are you going? Why are you late?

     

    Humor can be valuable tool in Vietnam. The Vietnamese truly love to have a laugh about almost anything, and someone who can crack a joke will be appreciated and even be taken more seriously by any locals. Do joke about things as a polite way of dodging the many questions you may not want to answer. Realize that Vietnamese people also laugh when they are sad, angry, embarrassed, puzzled, uneasy, shy and grieving. Overall, it’s a Vietnamese trait, and people will smile at you wherever you go. The Vietnamese are very tolerant of bad driving, noise, interruptions, invasion (or absence of personal space, discomfort (primitive living and working conditions, being squeezed into a crowded bus for hours) and the sharing of everything.

     

    They are not very tolerant of insubordination, criticism of Vietnamese culture and homosexuality for example, though obviously present. Lying is not really seen as a sin in Vietnam. This does not mean that the country is crawling with malicious fibbers, but rather that truth may be yet another relative concept from that prevalent in your own culture. The most important thing in a Vietnamese context is to say the right thing. People will often tell you what they think you want to hear. 


  • Religious

    Vietnam’s traditional religious background is based on three great philosophies and religions. These are Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism that coexist with a more ancient but still thriving mother worship cult, ancestor worship, popular beliefs, superstitions and ancient Vietnamese animism. It is rich and finely balanced amalgam that permeates not only the spiritual side of Vietnamese life (most will say they are Buddhists) and their understanding of the universe (taken from Taoist philosophy) but also regulates family and civic duties (which is the main focus of Confucianism)

     

    Although religious identification is not such a clear-cut matter, statistics tell us that about 70% of the population are Buddhist, 10% Catholic, 3% Cao Dai, 2% Hao Hao and the rest of various other religious groups such as Protestantism, Islam, Hinduism and the specific beliefs of some minority ethnic groups. As far as individual beliefs are concerned, especially those of foreigners, Vietnam has to be one of the most tolerant societies. Actually, most Vietnamese couldn’t care less if you believe or what you believe in and will not try to convert you to their own sets of beliefs.

  • Visa Instruction to Vietnam 2013
    To enter Vietnam you need:
    1.   A passport valid for 6 months beyond your travel date.
    2.   A visa for Vietnam - usually either a Tourist Visa or a Business Visa but other classes are available. Visas may be either single-entry or multiple-entry as requested at time of application.
    3.   Two (2) recent passport-size photos.
     
    VISA
     Almost all visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country, although some qualified exemptions apply for citizens of those countries with bilateral reciprocal agreements with Vietnam. Depending upon the nationality and passport of the applicant, a tourist visa may be granted for either a fifteen (15) or thirty (30) day stay in Vietnam.
     
    Visa on arrival
    The easiest way is to get your Visa through a licenced Vietnamese Travel Agent, such as Sisters Tours Vietnam.  We can quickly and efficiently organize your pre-arranged visa-on-arrival if you wish.
     
    Visa exemptions: are applied for citizens of:
    • Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Laos (Not more than 30 days)
    • Japan and South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland. (Not more than 15 days)
    There are some countries which could not get visa upon arrival, you need to contact Vietnam Embassy right in your country or region.
    • Pakistan, Afghanistan, Srilanka...Middle East Countries.
    • Africa countries such as: Nigeria, Marok, Algerie, South Africa
     
    Visa Serivce fee for 2013

    01 Visa Application - 25 USD
    02 Visa Applications - 35 USD
    03 Visa Applications - 45 USD
    04 Visa Applications - 60 USD
     
    Not included stamping fees - which you will be required to pay directly at the airport 25$/person)
    • NORMAL PROCESSING: 3-5 working days (Except Saturday and Sunday)
    • URGENT PROCESSING: 1-2 working day  (plus 20 USD/person)
    The following information is needed for visa on arrival:

    1. Full name - exactly as stated in your passport
    2. Date and Place of Birth - exactly as stated in your passport
    3. Gender
    4. Nationality - this must be the same as the passport to be used for those with more than one nationality
    5. Occupation or Job
    6. Passport Number - include any prefix letter
    7. Passport Date and Place of Issue
    8. Passport Date of Expiry
    9. Your proposed/actual Entry and Exit dates for Vietnam
    10. The Country in which, or the point of entry to Vietnam at which, you wish to receive your entry visa on arrival. 
  • Photography
    Taking photographs of anything to do with the military, airports, police etc. is prohibited. When taking photographs of local people, especially the older folk it is polite to ask their permission first and respect their wishes. We recommend you to develop photos in Vietnam for cheap price but high quality.
  • Etiquette
    Vietnamese people are very gracious, polite and generous and will make every effort to have foreign guests feel comfortable. Most cafes and restaurants will have knives and forks as well as chopsticks for example. In the city's and country towns alike do not be surprised to be invited home to meet someone's family you have just met, these are the experiences that will enrich your visit to Vietnam.

    From the workers simple outfits in the rice fields to western style business suits in the city, the Vietnamese are conservative in their dress. Visitors wearing shorts are tolerated, unless you enter a culturally sensitive area such as a temple or pagoda. Keep in mind that, although tolerant, people may be judgmental.


    Unfortunately you cannot expect hospitality at every turn and you may still experience some problems with petty theft and pick pockets. This is more prevalent in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Nha Trang. In other areas, especially in the north, reports of these activities are extremely minimal. It is not something to be paranoid about but be aware of your surroundings. Below is a list of do's and don'ts to help you avoid some of the social taboos during your visit. Take heed of these pointers and you will be rewarded with a culturally and socially enriching experience.


  • Shopping
    Souvenirs to look out for in Vietnam include lacquer ware, silk, conical hats, woodcarvings, hill tribe fabrics and handicrafts, embroidery, marble, ceramics, silver jewelry, antique watches and paintings. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping but Hoi An in the Centre of Vietnam is also a very good place to hunt for bargains

  • Currency
    The official currency, the dong and is non-convertible. There are coins 200, 1.000, 5.000 used in the local currency and the notes come in denominations of 100, 200,) 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 (2 notes), 100,000 (2notes) and 500.000 dong notes.

    The US dollar, preferably crisp clean bills, is widely accepted among major shops and restaurants. Travelers checks can be cashed at authorized foreign exchange outlets and banks, and require presentation of passport. There is normally a 2 to 5 percent transaction fee for cashing travelers checks. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in some of the bigger hotels and restaurants. Prices are usually quoted in USD so if you are paying in Dong check the exchange rate first.
    ATM machines are available at major cities: Hanoi , Halong, Haiphong , Hue , Danang, Nha Trang and Saigon


  • Language
    Vietnamese, the national language is tonal and monosyllabic, which means the meanings of the word change according to the pitch they are pronounced at. The accents and some words are quite distinct among the three regions of North, Central, and South.
    Today, English, French and Chinese have replaced Russian as the most studied and spoken languages


  • Holiday
    The most important and widely celebrated public holiday of the year is Tet the Lunar Chinese New Year , which coincides with the cycle of the moon. This public holiday usually takes place in late January or early February and lasts officially for three days although many businesses are closed the entire week. Other important public holidays include Saigon Liberation day (30 April), International Worker's Day (May 1), and Vietnamese National Day (September 2).


  • Vietnamese People
    The majority of the population is comprised of the Viet or Kinh (87%) people who speak the Vietnamese language. The minority population is made up of 54 ethnic hill tribe people who mainly live in the extreme south, central and northern mountainous areas of the country. The best-known hill tribes are the Tày, Hmong, Zao, White and Black Thai, Muong (both mainly from the north), and the Hoa, Khmer in the South. Each hill tribe has its own unique customs and dialect and some are able to speak official Vietnamese language.
  • Vietnam Environment
    Vietnam borders Cambodia , Laos and China and stretches over 1650km along the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula . The country's two main cultivated areas are the Red River Delta (15,000 sq. km) in the north and the Mekong Delta (40,000 sq. km) in the south. Three-quarters of the country is mountainous and hilly; the highest peak is the 3.143m high Fansipan in northwest Vietnam .

    Vietnam is made up of equatorial lowlands, high, temperate plateaus and alpine peaks. Although Vietnam 's wildlife is rich, it is in precipitous decline because of the destruction of habitats and illegal hunting. Less than 20% of the country remains forested, and what remains is under threat from slash and burn agriculture and excessive harvesting. Fauna includes elephants, rhinoceros, tiger, leopard, black bear, snub-nosed monkey, crocodile and turtle.

    Vietnam has more than 10 national parks: The more popular ones being Cat Ba Ba Be Lake and Cuc Phuong national parks in the north; Bach Ma National Park in the center; and Nam Cat Tien National Park in the south. In an attempt to prevent an ecological and hydrological catastrophe, the government has plans to set aside tens of thousand of sq. km of forest and to create 87 national parks and nature reserves.
    Although Vietnam lies in the inter-tropical zone, local conditions vary from frosty winter in far northern hills to the year-round subequatorial warmth of the Mekong Delta. At sea level, the mean annual temperature is about 27 degrees C in the south, falling to about 21 degrees C in the far north.

  • Get There and Away
    Ho Chi Minh City's (Saigon) Tan Son Nhat Airport is Vietnam 's busiest international air hub, followed by Hanoi 's Noi Bai Airpot. A few international flights also serve Danang. Singapore, Hongkong, Bangkok have emerged as the principle embarkation points for Vietnam but it's still possible to get direct flights from a number of major Asian and European cities and a few American, Australian cities. Departure tax is US$14 in Hanoi and 14 US $ in Saigon, which can be paid in Vietnam Dong or US dollars.

    There are currently six border crossings for travellers coming to Vietnam, but more may open soon. All crossing points suffer from heavy policing and often requests for 'immigration fees'.

    For getting to from China, it's become very popular to cross the border at Friendship Pass or Dong Dang, 20km (12mi) north of Lang Son in northeast Vietnam, to get to/from Namning. There is a twice-weekly international train between Beijing and Hanoi that stops at Friendship Pass. The other popular border crossing with China is at Lao Cai (near Sapa) in northwest Vietnam, which lies on the railway line between Hanoi and Kunming in China 's Yunnan Province. There's also a seldom-used crossing at Mong Cai, Quang Ninh Province.

    It's possible to enter Laos from Lao Bao in north-central Vietnam; there's an international bus from Danang to Savannakhet ( Laos ). The other crossing is at Keo Nua Pass/Cau Treo, west of Vinh.

    The only crossing to Cambodia is via Moc Bai; an international bus links Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Arrival in Vietnam
    All visitors must complete an Entry/exit Card. This should be submitted together with passport and visa to the Immigration Department officials at the point of entry. The Exit portion will be torn off and returned to the visitor, who should retain this for presentation upon departure. It is a good idea to staple this into your passport on the page that has your visa stamp.
  • Visa Requirements

    Visitors must obtain visa approval prior to entry. A tourist visa for Vietnam can be obtained from any Vietnam Embassy or consulate office world wide. Visas are valid for 30 days and can be extended through our head office in Vietnam.
     
    Notes:
    Vietnam exempts visa for Asean Citizens, Scandanive citizens as well as Japanese, South Korean tourists.
    Visitors can obtain a visa upon arrival in Vietnam. We can apply for you to get a visa upon arrival atTan Son Nhat Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, at Danang airport or Noi Bai international airport, Hanoi. The visa is done by us, an urgent visa on arrival (3 days before arrival) at 75 US$ and a normal 50 US$ both needs 2 passport sized photos.
    Please provide the following information for us to apply for your visa.
    1. Full name on passport
    2. Passport number
    3. Date of birth
    4. Nationality
    5. Date of arrival
    6. Flight number and time
    7. Fax number where we can fax you or your email address forward to you.

    If we receive the above information we will process the visa within 3 working days

  • Drinks

    Drinking tap water or ice is not recommended. Bottled water is readily available but remember to check the seal for possible tampering. You should be drinking a minimum of 1.5 liters of water per day. This should increase as the temperature increases or you are engaging in physical activities.

    Vietnamese coffee is usually very strong and has a punctuated mockup aroma and flavors. It is usually served in a small glass or cup with a drip filter and additional hot water in a thermos. As the filter empties you top it up from the thermos until you have the required amount of coffee. Condensed milk is added as a whitener and sweetener as it is usually not possible to find fresh milk away for the main cities.

    Beer is available just about everywhere. Most places stock a selection of local and some imported brands. Draught beer comes in two varieties, Beer Hoi or Beer Tuoi. Beer Hoi is draught beer found on the street stalls and poured straight from the keg. Vietnamese quite often add ice to their beer when drinking. Beer Tuoi is found in the bars and restaurants and is chilled and served under pressure from the keg in a more conventional method
  • Internet access & communication
    Internet access is prevalent throughout Vietnam, and is very affordable. Free Wi-Fi can now sometimes be found in hotels, bars, restaurants and café in the cities. Internet access is prevalent throughout Vietnam, and is very affordable. Free Wi-Fi can now sometimes be found in hotels, bars, restaurants and café in the cities. International phone calls can be quite costly, with rates from 4-6 USD per minute. It is not possible to make reverse charge calls.

    You can use your cell phone in Vietnam, although you will need to contact your service provider prior to traveling to enable global roaming. You can also opt to purchase a local SIM card when you arrive. It usually takes 7-10 days for international post to reach its destination, with rates similar to those in Western countries.
  • Tipping
    Unlike the US, tipping is not obligatory in Asia. It is an accepted practice, however, as an optional way to show appreciation. At the start of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will request a small amount (approximately 50 cents per day) Unlike the US, tipping is not obligatory in Asia. It is an accepted practice, however, as an optional way to show appreciation. At the start of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will request a small amount (approximately 50 cents per day) to be used as tips for service providers such as boat crew members and hotel porters used along the way. This helps prevent excessive tipping and the need to always have small change.

    We do not expect compulsory tipping for Travel Indochina representatives, as we are confident you will be extremely satisfied with the service levels provided by our guides, tour leaders and drivers. It is up to you whether you decide to tip these staff.
  • Swimming
    Swimming in various locations throughout Vietnam is most often considered safe. Occasionally, jellyfish can be found in the waters around Vietnam, most likely from June to August in the north Swimming in various locations throughout Vietnam is most often considered safe. Occasionally, jellyfish can be found in the waters around Vietnam, most likely from June to August in the north, and in August and September in the south. It is still possible to swim in these months, but is best remain alert and cautious.