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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) and Answers
- Getting around
- Food and Drink
- Vietnam Visa
Q. When is the best time to travel to Vietnam? Back to top
A. All year round is the good season somewhere!
Vietnam stretches over 2000 km from North to South. The climate differs all year round from one region to another. The North can be chilly during winter months (December to March). North and Central Vietnam can encounter tropical storms and typhoons from October to January. Overall, the north of Vietnam experiences more marked seasons than the rest of the country with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. The South, including Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, benefits from sunshine and warm weather all year round. However, the rainy season lasts from May to November (with showers once or twice in general) and a dry season from December to April. The Central Highlands can be chilly. Nha Trang has warm – sometimes hot - weather all year round, with a rainy season from the end of September until December. Unless you intend to visit friends, relatives or your family, we do not recommend visiting Vietnam during the Lunar New Year, Tet holidays (Vietnamese New Year falls between late January and February). The Tet holiday is the most important period of the year for Vietnamese people who take time off to visit their families in the countryside. All hotels, buses, trains and flights are full, and there is almost no activity in the markets and shops. Some hotels and restaurants are under-staffed and in some cases the quality of the service may suffer. This period of reduced activity may last from a week before and a week after the Tet period. It is also impossible to get a “visa authorization letter” processed during this period.
To be fair, look at the article on the best time to go to Vietnam from www.weatherholiday.com
***As a reminder, the peak season lasts from October to April. To avoid disappointment because hotel rooms or domestic flights are fully booked, reserve your travel arrangements early.
Q. What is the local currency in Vietnam? Back to top
A. The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) although US Dollars and Euros are accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops. Banks are open Monday to Friday and some on Saturday morning. In the major cities there are Currency Exchanges and most hotels will change US Dollars and Euros into VND. Vietnamese Dongs come in the following forms: Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; and 500,000. Coins: 200; 500 (silver) and 1,000; 2,000; 5,000 (gold). For the exchange rate, please check: www.xe.com
Q. Do Vietnamese except US Dollar?
A. In short, yes! So, if you stay few days in Vietnam, you don’t need to have VND. If you stay long, you should have some VND in hands, just USD 20 to USD 50 into VND. You should not have too much VND as it cannot use else where. USD 1 is about VND 16000, you are rich in Vietnam!
Q. Can I use a credit card to get cash in Vietnam?
A. Yes, but it gets more difficult the further you are from the cities. Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other centres have ATMs that accept the main cards, but only dispense local currency. Be warned that all credit card transactions in Vietnam are subject to a 3% surcharge (3.9% for Amex).
Q. Can I pay by credit card in Vietnam?
A. Yes, but only in big shops of cities. In cities, large hotels, international restaurants and some souvenir shops take Visa or MasterCard.
Q. What about travellers’ cheques?
A. Travellers’ cheques and cash in any international currency can be changed at all major banks and some bank agents. Some hotels will accept travellers’ cheques.
Q. Where can I change my currency for local currency?
A. At the airport, in banks, hotels or in shops licensed to sell gold - exchange rates are very similar. Steer clear of street moneychangers - the exchange rate will be no better, and being given forged notes is a risk.
Q. What is the main difference in the climate of Vietnam and that of my country? Back to top
A. Vietnam is both hot and humid. Combined, they make visitors from temperate countries sweat profusely. Drinking plenty of water and good sun protection is essential. Winter in Hanoi (January to March) and the rest of the northern area can be be cold. The chilling effect is made worse by a damp, clammy atmosphere.
Q. What can I do about jet lag?
A. Not much, really. A stop-over en-route, or a rest day on arrival helps. It’s important to try to sleep and wake according to local time, even on the aeroplane.
Q. What will happen if there is an emergency?
A. With Vantours, your guide will always have a mobile phone and a means of summoning immediate assistance. You will also have direct telephone access to Vantours Head office.
Q. How will medical emergencies be dealt with?
A. You will be taken to the nearest international clinic or hospital for an immediate examination and appropriate treatment according to the terms of your insurance.
Q. What if I am hospitalised or become incapacitated?
A. If you have supplied us with the details of your insurance, we will contact the company on your behalf and assist in any way we can.
Q. What should we do about malaria?
A. We are not medical experts, so we cannot advise you. However, if you wish, we will ask a trustworthy local international medical practice to provide an up-to-date report and recommendations. However, it is not as bad as in some guidebooks.
Q. Can I travel freely in Vietnam? Back to top
A. Up to a point. A few areas are closed for security reasons, and others require a permit. If you travel with Vantours, we will complete all necessary paperwork and permission procedures on your behalf.
Q. Can I ride a motorbike in Vietnam?
A. Officially, not without a Vietnamese license. An international licence is not acceptable as a substitute. The police generally turn a blind eye to foreigners, but not always!
Q. Can I hire a motorbike?
A. Yes, easily. However, few come with official papers, which can result in an on-the-spot fine. As they are not insured, you will be liable to pay for any damage or theft.
Q. Is it safe to ride a motorcycle in Vietnam?
A. The short answer is no! 80% of the 20,000 or so serious traffic accidents per year in Vietnam are caused by, or involve, motorcyclists. Roads are bad, and regulations are often ignored.
Q. Can I get a license to drive in Vietnam?
A. Not easily. An international driving licence can be converted, but the document must be translated and notarised, a protracted procedure.
Q. Can I drive a car in Vietnam?
A. With a Vietnamese licence, or a converted international licence, yes. However, there are no car rental agencies. Advertisements for car rental mean a car and a driver.
Food and Drink
Q. I am restricted to a special diet. How will I cope in Vietnam?Back to top
A. If travel with Vantours, and give us details of your diet, we will instruct all the hotels and restaurants in the itinerary to provide the correct food. Your guide will also be fully briefed.
Q. I am a vegetarian. What are the options for me?
A. Despite being a Buddhist country, Vietnam is short of vegetarian restaurants. However, you can ask for vegetarian foods in regular restaurants, and it’s quite easy to find good vegetable meals. The fruit is excellent!
Q. How do I apply for a Vietnamese visa? Back to top
A. There are 2 ways to obtain a visa: (If you arrive to Vietnam by land, it is NOT possible to get a visa on arrival. You must obtain the visa beforehand). Case1: Have Vietnam’s visa before arrival from your closest Vietnamese embassy or consulate. Case 2: Collect your visa on arrival at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Danang International Airports. In this case, Vantours can help you obtain your visa upon arrival. Vantours can process your visa application and obtain the necessary visa approval from the Vietnamese Immigration Department. For this, we need the following details from all applicants:
Full name as it appears in your passport
Date of birth DD/MM/YY
Issue date and expiry date of your passport
Place of issue (e.g. Paris, France)
Date of Arrival to Vietnam
Date of Departure:
Reason of the visit:
Once, we get your request and information, we will do the process to abtain the visa approval, it usually takes about 5 working days. We will send you by email the official document approved by the Vietnamese Immigration Department.
Please remember to take your passport, 2 recent passport-sized photos and the “visa picking up upon arrival approval letter” with you to check in for your flight to Vietnam.
***If you do not have this letter at the time of check-in, the airline staff will not allow you to board the aircraft. Before departure, prepare some bank notes in USD. around USD 25 to clear visa stamping fees on arrival. On arrival at Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or Danang International Airports, head to the Landing Visa Counter. Present your “visa picking up upon arrival approval letter”, passport and 2 pictures to the officer who will charge you a Visa stamping fee. Then, head for the Immigration desks.
Q. Is there any airport departure tax in Vietnam?
A. Yes, an international departure tax is payable by all travellers leaving Vietnam. It is not included in the price of your flight ticket and must be purchased at the airport before departure. USD 14 per person. Domestic flights are not subject to airport tax. It is already included in the price of your ticket.
***You can purchase your international departure tax in US$ or in Vietnamese Dong. Airport tax is subject to change without prior notice. Check with your local guide or a Vietnam Alive Travel's travel consultant before your departure.
Q. Can I make changes to my itinerary after I arrive?
A. Yes, as long as it’s possible. We will give you a quotation and issue a receipt or refund as appropriate. We consider minor changes involving minimal or no costs as part of the service and make no charge in such circumstances.
Q. Are there any restrictions on photography in Vietnam?
A. Yes. Photography in or near military installations, airports or similar locations is prohibited. Anyone caught doing taking photographs in restricted areas will have the film, and possibly the camera or camcorder, confiscated, and may be arrested.
Q. Can I buy antiques in Vietnam?
A. A qualified yes, providing it is less than a hundred years old. However, exporting an artefact that was made within the last century is not straightforward. There are experts on hand at the airport to verify the age of antiques, but the quality of fakes is very high, so anything that looks old is liable to be confiscated.
Q. How can I take large items home with me – furniture or paintings, for example?
A. We are also registered for export and import activities. We will give you an ‘at cost’ quotation, and arrange for the items to be properly crated, licensed for export, and shipped or flown to your home address.
Q. Are there Internet facilities in Vietnam?
A. Yes, there are plenty in cities and large towns, but not in rural areas. Most large hotels have internet access,: Wifi and Internet cafes are commonplace and cheap.
Q. The artist you took me to was wonderful. I want to give him a present. Any ideas?
A. This is a common query. If you want to show your appreciation to someone in the form of a gift, we will try to suggest something appropriate, and even purchase and deliver it on your behalf, if necessary.
Q. I am from the United States. Will I face any hostility because of the war?
A. You will be surprised by the warmth of your reception. We Vietnamese live in the present and look forward to the future – the war is history. We warmly welcome people from all countries and races.
Q. What is the attitude towards drugs in Vietnam?
A. The law is strict in Vietnam. The use of illegal narcotics is strictly forbidden under any circumstances. Dealers and people caught trafficking, whether Vietnamese or foreigner, face execution. Don't be tempted to risk it!
Q. Can the driver speak English and act as a guide? Back to top
A. No, he cannot. In Vietnam, drivers are just drivers. Tour guides need to be licensed by the National Tourism Authority. Tour guides are the only persons legally entitled to escort tourists. Vietman Alive Travel specialises in arranging tours with private drivers and qualified professional tour guides.
For more questions, please contact us