TRAVEL TIPS - VIETNAM
GMT + 7 hours
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'.
The national currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).
Although US dollars are accepted in some shops and restaurants, it is recommended to have some local currency at hand.
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.
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 is not compulsory in Vietnam. Some restaurants add a 5-10% service charge to your bill. However, you are welcome to offer additional gratuities as a sign of appreciation for services provided. Please consider the following as a rough guide, per person per day:
Guide (or Tour Leader) 15.00
Driver (or Tour Assistant) 8.00
Hotel Porters 1.00 per service
Local Service Providers 1.00 per service
For full details on climate, please see Best Time to Go.
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.
Although there are no specific vaccinations required for Vietnam, it is highly recommended that you are up to date on your routine vaccinations.
- 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 and please only dine at places recommended by your A&K guide or representative as many local restaurants do not follow typical food hygiene practices.
For up to date information on latest health and vaccination recommendations, please contact your doctor.
The voltage supply in Vietnam is 220v 50Hz. Sockets are sometimes fit for two or three round prongs and sometimes two parallel blades
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.
Arrival and Departure Formalities
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)
All other passport holders must apply for a visa either in advance at a Vietnamese embassy, or upon arrival in Vietnam. Nationals of 40 countries can now obtain an e-visa online at
E-visas is 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 in advance from your nearest embassy, or on arrival at the airport. A&K can provide a visa approval letter as required.
In addition to the visa fee, a visa stamping fee is payable at the airport upon arrival: USD 25 for single entry and USD 50 for multiple entry.
Confucianism is the dominant influence on Vietnamese customs and etiquette due to the period of Chinese rule in earlier times. Therefore, there is an emphasis on duty, honor, loyalty and sincerity. It is common practice to respect people of a higher age and social status – elders should be greeted and served first.
As in most Asian countries, the feet are considered the most unclean part of the body and it is offensive to point your feet directly at a person or at an image of the Buddha. The head is considered the most sacred part of the body, so it is considered rude to touch the head of another person.
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 typically 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' which is 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 commonly eaten.
Places to eat in Vietnam include local markets, where the greatest selection is available in the morning before the day gets hot. In addition to Vietnamese food, the larger hotels also serve a wide variety of continental and Chinese cuisine as well as large and varied buffets.
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.