One of the greatest way to understand Vietnamese culture is to travel through Vietnam individually or in a group. We present some Vietnam travel tips to make your trip enjoyable!
Posted by Nathan sightseeing on a cyclo along streets in Hochiminh city
Government offices and museums open early, around 8am, and close between 4pm and 5pm. Avoid doing business from 11.30am to 2pm, when people are either at lunch or napping
The currency in Vietnam is the dong (VND), which currently trades at about VND 16,000 to the US dollar. US dollars remain widely accepted at hotels, but you should have local currency for use in taxis and shops. Credit card acceptance, especially for Visa, is spreading in higher-end hotels, restaurants, and shops in big cities. Some travel cafes provide cash advances at higher rates, their advantage being that they stay open late and on weekends. Almost banks have ATM machines that dispense only dong. Do not accept torn or soiled bills as you may have trouble spending them.
Vietnam uses 220V electricity nation-wide. In the South, outlets are often US style flat pins. In the north, many outlets fit round pins. As the electrical current varies, use a surge protector when running sensitive electronic equipment like laptops.
Hotels and registration
There is a wide range of accommodation available, at least in Vietnam’s major cities. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City feature a choice of five-star hotels, while guest houses and mini hotels offer no-frills rooms fro around US $10. As hotels and private hosts must register your presence with the police, you’ll be expected to hand over your passport, along with your entry/exit from.
Local food is absolutely fabulous. Try as much Vietnamese food as your wallet or stomach can afford. Restaurants are available everywhere and open to late hours. Most restaurants will have a menu that include photographs of the various dishes. Better yet, simply point at the food that your next door table is having, especially if it looks delicious!
While Vietnam is one of the safest countries in Asia, you should take care with your possessions. Secure your valuables, documents, and credit cards in your hotel’s safe. Beware of pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and mobile phone thieves, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. If you choose to drive a motor bike or ride a bicycle, always wear a helmet.
International phone charges are steep in Vietnam and many hotels, especially up-market ones, add extra fees. Check rates before dialing. One long distance service offers a flat fee of around US $0.75 per minute to 50 countries; dial 171 followed by the number.
Public phones require phone cards, which are available at post offices. To rent a mobile phone call 821 2382 in Hanoi and 824 2382 in Ho Chi Minh city. Faxes can be sent from hotels, business centers or post offices. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city also offer dozens of internet cafes.
Hanoi and the north of Vietnam have a distinct winter and summer season with the mainly dry winter lasting from November through to April with average temperatures of 18-20ºC. Summer lasts from May to October and is hot and humid with temperatures around 30ºC. Hue and Danang in the center of the country have very hot, dry weather from February to August with temperatures reaching the mid 30s-Celsius, but can experience some quite heavy rainfall between September and January. Ho Chi Minh City and the south have a hot, dry season from December till April with average temperatures around 28ºC and a rainy season lasting from May through till November. It rarely rains for long periods even in the rainy season with most rain coming in short, heavy bursts.
Use of English in Vietnam
Most civil servants, custom officials, police, hotel staff and men in the street do not speak English or at best a smattering of English.
Most signboards and notices will carry both English and Vietnamese . Most young people can understand basic English if you speak slowly.
Useful Vietnam Travel Tips:
Try to get a English speaking tour guide at every opportunity you can. Vietnam has a rich and wonderful history and culture and without a guide, somehow, the flavour and significance of most tour sites can be lost.
*Sneaky tip: Hang around a group that has a English speaking guide if you cannot afford one!
Always ask for a receipt from a taxi driver so that you can complain if you find something wrong or if you happen to leave your camera behind in the taxi.
Try to take the namecard for each hotel that you are staying at as these cards will have a Vietnamese address and the map of your hotel location. This is useful if you need to seek assistance to find your way back as the English version or pronounciation of a hotel or a street name may be quite different from the Vietnamese version.
After a tiring day, check out Vietnamese foot reflexology or Vietnamese massage. Wonderful for the body after a hard day and very cheap to boot. Simply look out for shop signs that shows two feet! They are everywhere.
Make friends with the Vietnamese whenever you can. They love to meet foreigners and will make good tour guides. Just buy a small present as a small token of appreciation.