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TRAVEL TIPS - VIETNAM

Time Zone

GMT +7 hours

Language

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. However, Vietnamese is considered the second language for many ethnic minorities living in regional parts of the country. Some Vietnamese words and phrases have been adapted from Chinese, while others are derived from French, a by-product of the period of French colonial rule.

Currency

The national currency in is Vietnamese Dong. US dollars are accepted in some hotels, shops and restaurants.

Religion

Vietnam is considered one of the least religious countries in the world with less than 30% of the population identifying with one of the major religions. Buddhists represent approximately 12% of the population, while 7% are Catholic. Instead, a large percentage of Vietnamese people practice traditional folk religions, which feature the worship of local gods, goddesses and ancestors. Over the centuries, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have melded with popular Chinese beliefs and ancient Vietnamese animism to form what is known as 'Tam Giao' or 'Triple Religion'.

Weather

For full details on climate, please see Best Time to Go.

Arrival and Departure Formalities

Nationals of 40 countries can now obtain an e-visa online. To check your eligibility or to apply for an e-visa online, visit https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/en_US/trang-chu-ttdt. E-visas are valid for stays of up to 30 days, single entry only. Please be aware that the application process takes 2-3 days and the e-visa fee will not be refunded in the case that the e-visa is not granted. Visas for longer stays or multiple-entry must be obtained from your nearest embassy, prior to departure from your point of origin or on arrival in Vietnam.

For visas on arrival, the visa fee is payable at the airport: USD 25 for single entry and USD 50 for multiple entry. You will also need to provide a current passport size photograph (4x6 centimeters or 2×2 inches), which you can obtain at the airport for an additional fee.

The following nationals may enter Vietnam without a visa: Cambodia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand (up to 30 days), The Philippines (up to 21 days), Belarus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden & UK (up to 15 days), Brunei and Myanmar (up to 14 days).

Money Matters

Although US dollars are widely accepted, it is recommended to have some local currency on hand. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most major shopping centers, restaurants and hotels, although relatively few establishments accept American Express. Traveler's checks can be exchanged in most banks, authorized exchange bureaus and hotels although they are not generally accepted as payment for items in shops. Normal banking hours 08:00 to 11:30 and 13:00 to 16:00. ATMs can be found in most major cities.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory in Vietnam, however small gratuities are always appreciated. Some restaurants add a 5-10% service charge to your bill. Hotel porters will appreciate US $1 per bag and you may consider leaving a tip of US $1 for waiters at local restaurants. Gratuities to your guide are entirely up to you. As a guideline, we recommend US $15 for your guide and US $8 for your driver, per person per day. 

Clothing

Light and comfortable cotton or linen clothing is recommended for the summer months, while warmer clothes for the winter months are recommended. Good walking shoes or sandals for touring are also beneficial.

For women, shorts are acceptable, however keep in mind that the Vietnamese tend to dress conservatively and very revealing clothing may be frowned upon. Smart/casual dress is adequate for dinner restaurants.

Electricity

The voltage supply in Vietnam is 220v 50Hz. Sockets are sometimes fit for two or three round prongs and sometimes two parallel blades

Health

Please consult your doctor for the most up to date information on recommended vaccinations specific to your needs. Malaria is present in Vietnam, although visitors to major cities and typical tourist areas are at low risk. If traveling to remote areas, anti-malarial medication is recommended. Please consult your doctor as to the best medication for you.

Do not drink tap water in Vietnam and avoid ice in your drinks unless it is made from mineral water. We also recommend brushing your teeth with bottled water. Exercise caution when eating and drinking outside reputable hotels and restaurants. 

Photography

Camera etiquette requires that you ask permission before photographing local people, unless you are shooting a crowded public scene. This applies especially to small children. Please be considerate of a desire not to be photographed.

Photography is not permitted at some designated locations, which may include some museums, art galleries and private houses, for example. These areas are usually clearly marked. In general, avoid taking photographs of government buildings or installations, and military or police personnel. If in doubt, please ask your guide. 

Local Handicrafts

Traditionally crafted lacquerware items, mother-of-pearl inlays, ceramics, exquisite embroidered tablecloths and shirts, intricate basketwork and beautiful ethnic clothes of high standards, wood-block prints and Vietnamese oil paintings are among the best buys. The port town of Hoi An is an epicenter of tailors and seamstresses, who can produce any design that you desire including traditional ao dai, the Vietnamese national dress, fashioned from high-quality silk.

Local Food

The cuisine of Vietnam varies from region to region; stir-fried dishes are more commonly found in the north due to Chinese influences, central Vietnamese dishes tend to be hot and spicy, while southern Vietnamese cuisine can be characterized by a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and spices. French influence can also be seen throughout Vietnam, particularly in banh mi, which is a Vietnamese version of baguette.

Vietnamese cuisine is known for its use of fish sauce and hoisin sauce as well as generous servings of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices including garlic, shallots, lemongrass and lime. Rice is the traditional staple dish, although noodles are also popular. Traditional dishes include pho, noodle soup often served with fresh slices of beef, and gio lua, a type of pork sausage. Deep-fried spring rolls, known as nem ran or cha gio can be found in almost every eatery in the country and cha ca, or fish balls, are also common.

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