VIETNAM

 

See our selected itineraries in Vietnam

GENERAL INFORMATION

CAPITAL CITY

The capital city of Vietnam is Hanoi but the largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), which is the cultural and economic centre with a population of 7 million and the biggest port in Vietnam. 

SIZE

Inland area: 330,991 Km2

Length: 1,650 Km

Width: 600 km at the widest point and 50 km at the narrowest point. 

GEOGRAPHICAL SITUATION

Located on the eastern coast of South-East Asian Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam shares its borders with Cambodia and Laos to the West, with China to the North and the East Sea to the East. Total coastline and borders stretch 2,500 Km. An estimated 66% of the total area is dominated by the rugged, heavily forested terrain of the Truong Son Range stretching North-South between the intensively cultivated and densely populated Red River (North) and the Mekong River (South) deltas. The highest peak in Vietnam is Fan Si Pan (3,143 m) in the extreme North. A long, narrow coastal plain links the two major river deltas. 22% of the land is arable and 40% is forested.

POPULATION

Vietnam has 95 million inhabitants with an average density of 308 inhabitants/km2.

88% of the population is Viet, 2% Chinese and 1.5% Khmer. Numerous ethnic minorities make up the rest of the population of Vietnam: Muong, Nung, Dao, Thai, Cham, Hmong and various mountain-dwellers.

The dominant religions are Buddhism (55% of the population) and Catholicism (8% to 10% of the population). Confucianism, Taoism, Hoa Hao, Islam and Caodaism represent around 35% of the population.

LANGUAGE

Vietnamese is the official language although English is increasingly spoken by younger Vietnamese in main cities. Some people and especially elderly still speak French, while middle-aged might speak German and Russian. However a guide is duly recommended as language can be a problem outside of main cities for people who have no knowledge of Vietnamese.

CURRENCY

The official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) although US dollars and euros are still accepted. At the time of writing exchange rate is US$ 1 = 22.650 VND and 1 EURO = 23.900 VND (January 2017).

Traveller’s cheques can be cashed only at major banks and usually incur a 2 to 5% transaction fee. 

Visa and Master cards are accepted in most of hotels, restaurants and shops in tourist cities of Vietnam, but can also be subject to 2 to 3% transaction fees.

You can also get cash advances with your credit card from automated teller machines (ATM) everywhere (amount generally limited to 5 or 10.000.000 VND, that is to say around 300 USD to 600 USD depending on the bank).

If you bring either cash in USD or Euro, please note that exchange rates for small and big notes vary. So we would recommend you to bring some small notes in USD dollars to cope with first expenses on arrival then either 100 USD or 100 € bank notes.

Be careful, banks and foreign exchange offices do not usually take old, scribbled or even stained bank notes.   

Please note that some Hotels may need an imprint of your credit card as a deposit during your stay, which is a normal procedure.  However, this deposit can be made in cash and will be refunded upon check-out

CLIMATE

Due to its long shape bordering the South East Sea, Vietnam has a very diversified weather and climate so visitors can come to Vietnam all year round without having many climatic disadvantages.

IN THE NORTH

It has 4 clear-cut seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter. From November to March it is rather cool and can be cold due to the humidity level, while the average temperature is about 30°C from April to October.

Hanoi

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Min °C

13

14

17

21

24

26

26

25

24

22

18

14

Max °C

21

21

23

27

32

33

33

32

31

29

25

22

Rain mm

18

25

46

84

192

240

240

310

258

127

47

20

IN THE CENTRE

The narrowest part of the country usually suffers the most from typhoons and heavy rains during the months from September to November.

Danang

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Min °C

19

20

21

23

25

25

25

25

24

23

22

19

Max °C

25

26

28

30

33

35

34

34

32

29

27

25

Rain mm

110

40

24

29

63

76

83

116

373

585

368

223

IN THE SOUTH

The difference between two seasons, dry from November to May and rainy from June to October, is very clear. During the rainy season it is usually raining only in the evening or very early in the morning. Temperatures are warm all year long.   

HCMC*

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Min °C

21

22

24

25

24

24

24

24

24

23

23

22

Max °C

31

33

34

34

33

32

31

32

31

31

31

30

Rain mm

11

6

10

50

218

298

279

271

312

267

111

35

*Ho Chi Minh City.   

LOCAL TIME

Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

ELECTRICITY

In Vietnam electric current is mostly 220V in main cities, although you can still find 110V in rural areas. Sockets are both round and flat types.

WATER

It is advisable not to drink water from the tap unless it is boiled properly.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

International phone call charges from Vietnam have decreased tremendously over the past few years. Today, cost of an international phone call is 0,75 USD/minute for Europe. This service is free, but if you need to call from a hotel, it is advisable to check first with the reception. The Vietnamese telephone code is 0084.

GSM phone coverage is also good in Vietnam, although you may have no network connection in remote areas. Since 2010, Vietnam has an extended GPRS and 3G network.

Internet cafés are common in every city. Wifi is very widespread and free in most bars and restaurants. However, some hotels may charge Wifi connection.

HEALTH & MEDICAL FACILITIES

No vaccination is required, but visitors are advised to receive inoculations against hepatitis A and B, typhoid and tetanus. Inoculation for yellow fever and tablets for malaria are not necessary although doctors still usually recommend them.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have good hospitals staffed with foreign medical personnel, however for life threatening injury it can be necessary to be evacuated to Bangkok or Singapore and we therefore strongly recommended subscribing a medical travel insurance.

TRANSPORTATION

There are five international airports in Vietnam: Noi Bai in Hanoi located 45 minutes from the town centre, Cat Bi in Hai Phong, Danang’s airport at 4 km from the heart of the town, Cam Rang located 40 mn driver from Nha Trang and Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City located 20 minutes from the town centre.

The road network has improved but still needs to be upgraded in some areas. To cover a distance, it is reasonable to count an average speed of 50 km / hour.

By train, it takes a minimum of 32 hours from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Although we can now find carriages with soft sleepers and air-conditioning, it is rather slow and not really comfortable but for a short-term journey, it is an interesting means of transportation and way to see Vietnam. 

Helicopter sightseeing has become available using safe helicopters flown by qualified pilots. 

DRIVING

In Vietnam, we drive on the right side.

An international Driving license is not valid. Only owners of a Vietnamese driving license are allowed to drive a car or a motorcycle.

Without talking about insurance matters, renting a motorbike is possible although not recommended due to the dense traffic in main cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  

COOKING

Traditional Vietnamese cuisine boasts over 500 specialities varying from the famous spring rolls to tamarind crab. Meals are generally not spicy but make use of a wide array of interesting sauces. For vegetarians, Vietnam offers a unique Buddhist-style fare created from combinations of an unending selection of vegetables and tofu. Beyond the delights of the street stalls and culinary wonders of Vietnam, main cities now offer an increasing selection of international restaurants.  

SHOPPING

All sorts of goods and manufactured products can be found. From high-tech products to local handicraft products (lacquer ware, painting, silk, wood and stone art works…), main cities have an abundance of small shops and even big shopping centres. Those who plan to bring back souvenirs are therefore advised to travel light.   

Prices displayed are usUally fixed, but in other cases, bargaining is a fact of life in Vietnam!

TIPPING

Tipping is not mandatory although it is appreciated. Note that prices in hotels and restaurants usually include 10% for VAT and 5% for service charges.

VISA AND PASSPORT

A visa is compulsory to enter Vietnam except for citizens of:

-          France, Germany, United-Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Korea, Japan, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Russia if the length of the stay is not exceeding 15 days

-          Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand if the length of the stay is not exceeding 30 days.

-          The Philippines if the length of the stay is not exceeding 21 days.

To obtain a visa, you must first ensure your passport will be valid for at least 6 months after your return date.

There are 3 options at the moment to obtain a visa for Vietnam:

-          Visas can be acquired directly at Vietnamese Embassies and Consulates abroad.

-          You can apply for visa a through a sponsoring travel agency.

In that case, just provide us with the following details: Full name, date and place of birth, citizenship, occupation, passport number, date and place of issue, expiration date, date and port of entry into Vietnam.

We will forward these particulars to Vietnam immigration, which will in turn issue and send by telex an approval letter to the relevant embassy by telex.

In our turn, we will send you one copy of the approval letter. Just bring it or send it to the embassy together with your passport, 2 passport photos and two fully filled out application forms to get the visas stamped.

-          You can apply for a visa upon arrival through a sponsoring travel agency.

In that case, provide us with the same information as mentioned above and we will send you an approval letter issued from immigration.

This approval letter will be required at the time of boarding.

Visa stamping fees can be either pre-paid to our agency or paid at immigration on arrival.   

Note that in all cases visas cannot be delivered upon arrival without a visa authorization from immigration.

BEFORE GOING

If you are travelling in the north or the centre from October to March warm clothes are recommended and especially appropriate all year long in the northern and highlands area (Sapa, Buon Ma Thuot and Dalat).

In the south, light clothing is a must all year long.

Although you can find all these products in Vietnam, we recommend you take products for mosquitoes and for the sun, a cap or a hat, sunglasses, a raincoat and a small bag to carry a few things in case you have to leave your big suitcases at the hotel for a few days.

Vietnam is considered a safe country but we recommend you leave your gold jewellery at home.

For safety reasons, we advise travelers not to leave valuables in vehicles during their journey.

 

 

ASIA HOLIDAYS WISHES YOU A PLEASANT TRIP