Vietnam, what you need to know
Vietnam is a country in south east Asia. The country has much to offer to travelers. This page helps you organizing your journey.
On this page we will help you with your visa, money, language and other useful information to enjoy your journey.
Most visitors still need to apply for a Vietnamese visa in advance to enter the country. Passport valid for at least one month after expiration of visa required by all nationals.
The price of the visa depends on nationality. 2 photos of passport regulation size are required. Processing time, typically is about 1-2 days though same day is for an additional possible.
If you need a visa extension, you can apply at Vietnam Immigration Department on your own at:
Price for extension of a normal 1 month tourist visa is US $30 and takes 5 working days.
If you are on the road, for example in Thailand, Laos, China, Cambodia or Laos, you can arrange a visa in Bangkok, Vientiane, Beijing, Nanning, Phnom Penh and Savannakhet. Typically the easiest way is through an agency.
The Vietnamese currency is the Dong, VTD. Bills come in VTD 500,000, 200,000, 100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000, 500, 200 and 100. Coins are in denominations of VTD 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500.
US dollars are in use too. Australian, British, Japanese, Singaporean and Thai currency, as well as the Euro, can usually be changed in the larger cities; great difficulty may be encountered in trying to exchange any other currencies. As usual you will pay a commission charge for changing money in banks.
Banking Hours: Mon-Fri 08.00-11.30 and 13.00-16.00. Bring your passport for changing money.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
MasterCard and Visa are accepted in the bigger cities and major hotels. There are ATM's in many major towns but certainly not everywhere. Bring enough cash or Travelers Cheques. Both are widely accepted. (bring TC's in US $).
Water should be purified or bought at shops. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have excellent international standard hospitals. Vaccinations may be advised for Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Malaria (Sometimes), Tetanus and Typhoid. Bring your own First Aid Kit just in case.
International entry points
The International entry points for most travelers will be either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. There are 3 border crossings with Cambodia: Moc Bai (to Bavet), Vinh Xuong (to Kaam Samnor) and Tinh Bien near Chau Doc. Ha Tien has a border crossing but it is only accessible for locals.
There are several border crossings with China: crossing to Nanning in Guangxi: Huu Nghi at Dong Dang of Lang Son Province. Lao Cai has a border crossing leading into Yunnan. A third border at Mong Cai is open for travelers to Guangdong.
Local Transport: air, bus, train, car
Vietnam Airlines (VN) operates daily flights between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang and Nha Trang. Regular services are also provided between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ma Thuot, Dalat, Phu Quoc, Pleiku and Qui Nhon. The Northern Airport Flight Service Company operates flights by helicopter to Halong Bay from Hanoi.
An interesting option is to use the local network between ports. There are hydrofoils from Haiphong to Cat Ba and Mong Cai and express boats from Rach Gia to Phu Quoc, which can be booked by local travel agents or in person at the dock.
Express long-distance trains are faster than local services, more reliable and more comfortable. Although a few carriages now have air conditioning, facilities are still short of international standards. The main rail route connects Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the journey can take between 30 and 40 hours. There are also services from Hanoi to Haiphong, Dong Dang and Lao Cai. Tickets should be bought at railway stations.
The road network throughout Vietnam is reasonable but the standard of the roads varies dramatically from good to very average. Roads throughout Vietnam are designated by numbers.
The main north to south route is Highway 1 connecting Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City. In theory, traffic drives on the right but in practice drivers take the most direct path avoiding the many thousands of bicycles, motorbikes and animals wandering along the road.
The buses are often poor and overcrowded, although long-distance buses are modern and air-conditioned. Popular cafes like the Sinh Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City offer mini bus services throughout the country. For short distances it may be an interesting experience to use the local bus, but don't expect any comfort.
Cycling is a great option in Vietnam. The Vietnamese are used to bicycles. The cities however, can be quite a nightmare. Some parts of the cities can be incredible busy with motorbikes, cars and buses. Try to avoid the bigger roads in the cities. Outside on the countryside it's great. For example, you can take the old highway out of Hanoi, which is for the most very quiet, no need to use the new highways.
A good option to go around are the tricycles or rickshaws. They're cheap and can go where taxies sometimes have the disadvantage of waiting in traffic jams. Bargain before using.
Vietnam is a good country to travel light. The climate in Vietnam varies from north to south. Tropical monsoons occur from May to October in the north and south and from September to January in the center. It is almost totally dry throughout the rest of the year.
Temperature in Hanoi varies from 15 to 34°C during the year. In Ho Chi Minh City the temperature is more tropical: 26-32 °C.
In the highlands of Central Vietnam and the mountain of north west Vietnam winters can be cold.
Accommodation in Vietnam
You will find hotels and guesthouses in every price range in Vietnam. Obviously the tourist areas are more expensive as off the tourist trail.
Still, with a little searching you can find some very reasonable priced hotels even in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. On the pages about the cities and sights, you will find links to some of the recommended hotels.
Internet and newspapers
Internet is nowadays almost everywhere available. You can bring your laptop and enjoy wireless connections in many hotels. The main cities offer international newspapers.
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Cycling in Vietnam
Bring your own bicycle and cycle the whole country. It's certainly worth to experience Vietnam on bicycle
and Marko's Vietnamese adventure: