WELCOME TO VIETNAM
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
Currency: Vietnam Dong (VND)
Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
International Dialing Code: +84
For a country that is only a little larger than Italy, Vietnam has immense geographic and cultural diversity. The country’s varied climate and landscape range from four seasons in the mountainous north, to year-round tropical temperatures in the lush south. Its intriguing history spans back over 4,000 years, with occupations from both the Chinese and French who have left strong foreign cultural influences, evident in buildings, cuisine and much more.
Pre Departure Check List
– Travel Insurance
– Valid Passport (at least six months remaining) and visa (or two passport pictures as well as 20US$ for visa on arrival)
– Foreign currency (US$) or ATM card
– Flights tickets
– Photocopy of passport either scanned into email account or separate from the original
Travel Insurance (Compulsory)
ALANTOUR will do everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. However, certain risks are involved and should be recognized by participants. Thus, we require all guests to purchase travel insurance prior to their trip. Travel insurance is a cost effective way of protecting yourself and your equipment in the event of problems due to cancelled trips, delays, medical emergencies, baggage loss or damage. It also gives you peace of mind for your trip.
A passport with at least six months validity is necessary. Visitors must obtain visa approval prior to entry. You can not obtain a visa on arrival and must have either an approval letter or valid visa on arrival.
ALANTOUR can arrange visas at a reduced cost for visitors who book one of our tours. ALANTOUR contact the Immigration Department to arrange an approval letter, which you then bring to Vietnam and deal with upon 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 South-East Asia, your health can be put at risk due to lack of effective medical treatment facilities and poor sanitation. In Vietnam, rural areas can have a lack of pharmacies and hospitals so be sure to have any drugs that you regularly take already with you.
– If you feel particularly ill, you should return to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City
Each traveler is responsible for his or her health. First and foremost make sure that you have travel insurance for your trip. Also, 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.
Before travelling to Vietnam, it is important to ensure that you have adequate protection about disease. About two months before your holiday you should consult you 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. In general, most visitors to Cambodia will require the following vaccinations:
– Hepatitis A and B
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 basic medicine kit with you containing some basics like paracetamol and diarrhoea relief.
The official currency is Dong. The Dong is non-convertible outside of Vietnam. American dollars are however widely accepted in larger stores and supermarkets.
Visa and MasterCard are becoming more accepted in many of the bigger 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 to 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
Post 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 to post offices.
– Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available, however they aren’t cheap
– Internet access is available in all major tourist places
Clothing and Suggested Packing List
– Personal clothing items, toiletries, medication
– Insect Repellent
– Light weight clothing (Summer months)
– Warm clothing (winter in Hanoi and mountainous areas)
– 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 do 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.
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 – Experience typhoon activity from mid October to mid December, climate becomes cooler, more overcast and wet
The North (Hanoi to Sapa)
– April to October: Temperatures between 30-35°C with occasional bursts of heavy rain
– December to March: Temperatures between 10-15°C. February and march can be damp with drizzle and overcast skies
Cuisine, Special Dietary Requests and Drinking Water
Vietnamese food is delicious and varies through the whole 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 South East Asian countries. Bottled water is recommended and widely available. Ice is widely used in Vietnam and it is produced with treated water.
Experiencing cultural differences is one of the joys of travelling, and it is important that these differences are encouraged and respected. Things in Asia are done differently 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.
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
– As in Thailand, 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 finer 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
– 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 – defiantly no kissing! It is also extremely rare to see couples holding hands. On the contrary it is quite common to see friends of the same sex holding hands
Donations and Gift-Giving
Although there is poverty in certain areas of Vietnam, please read the following points about donations and gift-giving.
– Do not give to begging children as it reinforces for these children that begging is an acceptable to make a living. However 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.
– Giving money and goods away to random individuals can result in the local communities acting like beggars. 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 be sometimes be shared interactions: a smile, a joke, a sing-song, dance or playing a game. Giving something of your friendship, time and interest to interact with locals can be the best gift of all.