General Information

• Official Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
• Population: 90.5 million
• Capital City: Hanoi, population 6.5 million
• People: Viet (Kinh), 53 ethnic minorities including Muong, Tay, Khmer, Mong, Dao, Kadai, Han, Tang
• Language: Vietnamese
• Currency: Vietnam Dong (VND)
• Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
• International Dialing Code: +84

Stretching 1650 km, or 1025 miles, from north to south, Vietnam has immense geographic and cultural diversity. While approximately three-fourths of the country is covered by mountains and hills, the south is tropical and lush and its coast provides some of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia. Three of Vietnam’s destinations are official World Heritage sites – The Royal Monuments of Hue, the ancient city of Hoi An and the Hindu Temple site of My Son.

Pre Departure Check List

• Travel Insurance
• Valid Passport (at least six months remaining) and visa (or two passport pictures as well as 20USD for obtaining prearranged visa on arrival)
• Immunizations/Vaccinations
• Foreign currency (US$) or ATM card
• Flights tickets
• Photocopy of passport either scanned into email account or separate from the original

Travel Insurance (Compulsory)
Viet Expert Travel will do everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. However, certain risks are involved and should be recognized by travelers. Thus, we require all guests to purchase travel insurance prior to their trip. Travel insurance is a cost-effective way to protect yourself and your belongings in the event of cancelled trips, delays, medical emergencies, baggage loss or damage. It also gives you peace of mind for your trip.

Visa/Passports
A passport with at least six months validity is necessary. Visitors to Vietnam must obtain a visa approval prior to entry.
Viet Expert Travel can arrange visas at a reduced cost for visitors who book one of our tours. Viet Expert Travel contacts the Immigration Department to arrange an approval letter, which you then bring to Vietnam to obtain your upon arrival. Without an approval letter, you cannot obtain a visa on arrival.

Arriving in Vietnam
We will arrange your transfer to and from the airport unless otherwise specified.

Health & Well-being
Be aware, as with other parts of Southeast Asia, your health can be put at risk due to lack of effective medical treatment facilities and poor sanitation. In Vietnam, rural areas may lack pharmacies and hospitals, so be sure to have any medications with you that you take regularly

If you feel ill to the point of needing medical attention, you should return to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. International SOS has clinics in each of these cities equipped to treat foreigners.

Each traveler is responsible for his or her health. Consult your doctor or local travel clinic before departure for the latest information on travelling to Vietnam.

Vietnam has been voted one of the safest destinations in the world. Women and independent travelers have found it relatively hassle-free and easy to travel throughout the country.

Immunizations/Vaccinations
Before travelling to Vietnam, it is important to ensure that you have adequate protection from disease. About two months before your holiday you should consult your doctor who will advise as to the whether you need vaccinations before you travel. These will vary depending on where you are planning on visiting. Bear in mind that there is a malaria risk in rural parts of Vietnam. Most visitors to Vietnam will require the following vaccinations:

• Hepatitis A and B
• Tetanus
• Typhoid
• Polio
• Diphtheria
• Yellow Fever

If you have any special conditions or allergies that may require attention overseas, have your GP write a letter describing the nature of the condition and the treatment. Always carry the letter on your person. It is also a good idea to bring your own first aid kit containing some basics and paracetamol (acetaminophen) and diarrhea relief.

Money
The official currency is Dong. The Dong is non-convertible outside of Vietnam. American dollars are however widely accepted in larger stores and supermarkets. To estimate the conversion from Dong to American dollars, drop the last 4 zeros and divide by 2. For example, in 2013,100,000 Dong is about 5 American dollars.

Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted in hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities. ATM’s are widely available throughout the country, as well as a number of international banks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Allow $8 to $15 per meal for additional lunches or dinners not included in the trip price. You may also want to have some money put aside so that you can try some local foods at the markets.

Tipping is a personal matter, and passengers are encouraged to tip an amount they find appropriate. For your convenience we have included a tipping guide below; please, however, note that these amounts are suggestions. We encourage our passengers to reward guides based on their performance:

• Meal (restaurants): In smart restaurants you may find that the tip is already included, in other restaurants and local ones a tip is not expected but you may wish to leave loose change on the table
• Bellboy: average amount is $1
• Chambermaid: average amount is $1 per day
• Tips for guides are completely at your discretion, but here are some guidelines: $5-$10 per day for guides (depending on group size), $2-$5 per day per person for drivers

Mail and Telecommunications
The Vietnamese postal service is reliable and offers you most telecommunications. Courier services are widely available. However do not put postcards into letter boxes; either give them to your hotel to post or take directly to post offices.

Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available, however they aren’t cheap. Setting up a Skype or Facetime account is recommended for international communication. Internet access is available in all major tourist places.

Clothing and Suggested Packing List

• Internet access is available in all major tourist places
• Clothing and Suggested Packing List
• Personal clothing items, toiletries, medication
• Sunscreen
• Insect Repellent
• Light weight clothing (Summer months)
• Warm clothing (winter in Hanoi and mountainous areas)
• Camera
• Adaptor – 220V, 50Hz; 2 pin plugs
• Small daypack for day tips and overnight trips to Halong Bay
• Appropriate shoes for trekking, cycling or walking in caves
• Water bottle and helmet (for cycling trips only)

Please note: Domestic airlines impose restrictions on baggage at approx 20kg maximum, so travel lightly where possible. Also the train cabins and boat cabins in Halong Bay have limited space so consider this when packing.

Climate

• The South (Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet)
- May to October: Hot and wet
- November to April: Hot and humid
• The Centre (Nha Trang to Hue)
- Nha Trang – sunshine all year round, apart from November and December when the area has heavy rain
- Dalat – Cooler than the coastal area – particularly from November to March
- Danang and Hue – Mostly warm and sunny. Typhoon activity occurs from mid-October to mid-December, during which the climate becomes cooler, more overcast and wet The North (Hanoi to Sapa)
- April to October: Temperatures between 30-35°C (85-95°F) with occasional bursts of heavy rain
- December to March: Temperatures between 10-15°C (50-60°F). February and March can be damp with drizzle and overcast skies

Cuisine, Special Dietary Requests and Drinking Water
Vietnamese food is characterized by fresh vegetables and fruits, rice, and noodles, but varies throughout the country. The 3 main regions of North, Central and South each have distinct cuisines. Vietnamese food is usually not spicy and is accompanied with chili sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce. Generally food in the South of the country tends to be a little hotter with a greater abundance of spices available.

If you are a vegetarian, vegan, allergic to any foods or adhere to a special diet, please advise us prior to your trip so we can comply with your dietary requirements.

It is not advisable to drink tap water in any of the Southeast Asian countries. Bottled water is recommended and widely available. Ice is widely used in Vietnam and is produced with treated water.

Cultural Differences
Experiencing cultural differences is one of the joys of travelling, and it is important that these differences are encouraged and respected. Things in Vietnam are done differently relative to the rest of the world and we ask you to please accept the differences and respect the cultural rules of the areas we travel to. It is good practice to observe first in order to observe common practices.

Saving Face and Manners
Getting angry and showing it by shouting or becoming abusive is extremely impolite and a poor reflection on you. In addition, it is unlikely to achieve much. .

General Points of Etiquette

• It is improper to pat children on the head
• If you would like someone to come over to you, motion with your whole hand held palm down - signaling with your index finger and your palm pointed skyward may be interpreted as being sexually suggestive
• When using a toothpick, it is considered polite to hold it in one hand and to cover your open mouth with the other. Public use of toothpicks is, however, commonplace.
• When handing things to other people, use both of your hands or your right hand only, never your left hand (reserved for toilet ablutions!)
Public displays of affection are considered to be quite offensive in Vietnam – definitely no kissing! It is also extremely rare to see couples holding hands. However, it is quite common to see friends of the same sex holding hands

Donations and Gift-Giving
Although there is a great amount of poverty in certain areas of Vietnam, please read the following points about donations and gift-giving.

• In many places it is considered acceptable to give to the elderly or disabled as there is no social security or other way these people can earn money. Do not give to begging children as it reinforces for these children that begging is an acceptable way to make a living.
• Giving money and goods away to random individuals can increase begging. It accentuates an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely ‘money givers’. We do not want to encourage the development of a society that equates every human action as potential money making scheme – for example paying to take photographs.
• Do not give sweets to children in villages that we visit. Local people do not have access to dentists, nor can they afford them and again there is the issue of turning children into beggars. Pens, toothbrushes, clothing or other ‘worthwhile’ items are best distributed via a local charity, school teacher or community leader
• Avoid feeling that you necessarily have to give ‘material’ things. The best giving can sometimes be interactions: a smile, a joke, a song, dancing or playing a game can go a long way.

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