Travel guide

Please select guide

Local Time
GMT + 7 hours or + 12 hours in New York or + 15 hours in Los Angeles
Differences time between Hanoi and Paris - 5 hours in summer: 7.00 am in Paris - 12.00 in Hanoi, and 6 hours in winter.

Business Hours
Government offices and museums open early at around 08h00AM.
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07h30 or 08h00 until 17h00 or 18h00. Avoid doing business from 11h30 to 13h00 when people have  lunch or are napping. Some offices also open on Saturday morning. Shops open early and close anytime between 18h00 and 22h00. Most shops are open 7days a week, except Tet holiday.

Currency & Exchange
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Notes are available in denominations of VND 500,000; 200,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500; 200 and  rare 100. Coins are no longer used. Exchange rates vary largely with US$, Euro, AUS dollars due to economic situation in Vietnam, and monetary & economic fluctuations, political unrest around the world. The US$ is widely used in Vietnam’s cities. The Euro is now welcome and exchanged, particularly at hotel or at banks, but not as popular. Larger notes (i.e. 100; 50 USD) often get a better exchange rate than smaller ones.

It is not good to exchange at the “black market” with some women on the streets, because the exchange rates aren’t interesting and you can maybe lose money by mistakes or miscounts.

For everyday expenses, we recommend that you carry a mix of US Dollars and VND in cash. For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favor, use US Dollars. For cyclos, taxi, mineral water, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use VND. In either case, please make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to worry about change money.

Credit Cards
Most credit cards are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, and shops in the main cities of Vietnam. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. JCB and American Express are also accepted in some outlets. Not all hotels, commercial centers, shops and restaurants accept credit cards. Check with the cashier before making any purchases. Bear in mind that in some places a surcharge applies for purchases by credit card: Visa and MasterCard charge approximately 3% surcharge, Amex 4% surcharge.

Travelers Cheques
Travelers Cheques are easily changeable at banks and authorized moneychangers in Hanoi and Hochiminh city. CitiBank, ANZ Bank, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and Vietcombank can change your travelers checks for VND or US Dollars but a commission applies (1% to 3%). A fews hops, hotels or restaurants accept travelers checks.

Foreign visitors to Vietnam have the opportunity to buy souvenirs made of rattan, gold, silver and stone. There is a diverse range of products, from woodenware, such as wooden buttons or sindora beds to lacquer paintings, bowls and chopsticks, bamboo screens and stone tea sets. In addition, you have a large choice of local products: lacquer-ware, mother-of-pearl inlay, and ceramics, colorful embroidered items (hangings, tablecloths, pillowcases, pajamas and robes), greeting cards with silk paintings on the front, woodblock prints, oil paintings, watercolors, blinds made of hanging bamboo beads, reed mats, carpets, jewelry and leatherwork. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping but Hoi An in central Vietnam is also a very good place to look for souvenirs.

Tipping is not compulsory, but a tip is highly appreciated when you are satisfied for good services. It is understanding that tips or gratuities are welcome in a developing country where the average annual income is quite low in comparison with your country. Normally, you give a tip to tour guides and drivers at the end of your tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped. It is recommended to tip the crew on board in Halong Bay, Mekong River when you enjoy a cruise trip.
Food & Beverage
Vietnam has abundant food supplies and an elaborate cuisine. Cooking is seen as an art and some Vietnamese dishes have international fame, including such traditional dishes as noodle soup (pho), pork sausage (gio lua), spring rolls (nem), fish sauce (nuoc mam) and fish balls (cha ca). However, Vietnamese restaurants can also offer a broad selection of international cuisines including French, Italian, American, Indian, Chinese and Japanese.
Seasonal fruits such as dragon fruit, rambutans and longans, fresh vegetables and local seafood are nationwide available, although supply can vary by region and season. All fruits and vegetables should be cooked or peeled before eaten. Drinking water or ice is generally not recommended, even in the cities. Bottled water is cheap and readily available, so we recommend you don’t take the risk. In Vietnam, there are plenty of local as well as imported brands. 333, Carlsberg, Hanoi, Tiger, Saigon, Halida and Heineken are some common brands, especially, you can see in Hanoi draught beer (bia hoi) which is highly appreciated by local people.
Health care
No vaccinations are officially required to visit Viet Nam. However, visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding the advisability of inoculation against Polio, Meningitis, Hepatitis A&B, Tuberculosis, TABT (Typhoid, paratyphoid A&B and tetanus), Cholera, Malaria, and Japanese Encephalitis. Vietnam does have a wide variety of medicines, but you may not be familiar with them. You are advised to bring any prescription medications (in the original containers) currently required. You should pack a small medical kit, which includes sunscreen, insect repellent, diarrhea medication, ibuprofen or aspirin and antibacterial ointments. For those who wear eyeglasses, it is recommended that an extra pair be taken, as the quality of local replacement services varies. It is strongly suggested that you have a dental check-up before departure. Medical care facilities are available, but are limited outside of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and can be expensive for emergency care. However, there are international hospitals in Hanoi and Hochiminh city such as SOS emergency, French hospital etc...
Today, Vietnamese is the official language in Vietnam. The language is tonal and monosyllabic. The script of modern Vietnamese is based on Latin alphabetic system with six different accents, and was formed and created by the Jesuit priest Fr. Alexander De Rhodes in the 16th century. Most minorities continue to retain their  own languages.
Today’s main foreign language, especially among the young, is English. In the north, French and Russian are still quite widely spoken. Otherwise, Chinese, Japanese, German are learnt at universities over the country.
Vietnam is home to four of the world’s great philosophies and religions: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. Over the centuries, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have fused with popular Chinese beliefs and ancient Vietnamese animism to form what is known collectively as the Triple Religion. Confucianism, more a system of social and political morality than a religion, took on many religious aspects. Taoism, which began as an esoteric philosophy for scholars, mixed with the popular Buddhism of the peasants, and many Taoist elements became an intrinsic part of popular religion. If asked their religion most Vietnamese are likely to say they are Buddhist, but when it comes to family or civic duties they follow Confucianism while turning to Taoist concepts in understanding the nature of the cosmos. Nowadays, 80% Vietnamese are buddhist. The rest practice catholicism, and buddhist sects: caodai and hoahao.
There are 54 ethnic groups around the country. The major ethnic group is  Kinh or Viet people who represent  about 80% of the population living in the two deltas: Red river delta and Mekong river delta, along the coast of central Vietnam and in urban areas. The 53 ethnic groups live in the mountainous regions. The best-known are the Tay, H’mong, Dao, White and Black Thai and the Hoa (Chinese community living in Vietnam). Each has its own unique customs and dialect making them fascinating to visit. The population is about 82 million in 2004. More than 60% are under 25 years old. Life expectancy at birth is 68 years for men and 70 years for women.

Vietnam is a safe country to visit in Asia. You should take care of your own assets or valued objects whilst travelling. Secure your valuables, documents, money and credit cards in the safety box of your hotel. Be aware of pickpockets, purse-snatchers and  mobile phone thieves, especially in Hochiminh city and Hanoi. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Avoid cyclos/ motorbikes taxi (xe om) late at night and choose reliable metered taxi companies as they are really cheap and air-conditioned. in Hanoi, take Hanoi Taxi group, Mai Linh taxi. in Hochiminh city, Vinasun, Mai Linh or Saigon Tourist Taxi.
Vietnam uses 220V electricity nationwide. In the south, outlets are often US-style flat pins. In the north, many outlets use round pins. As the electrical current varies, please use a surge protector or a plug adaptor when running electronic equipment such laptops, professional cameras.
Post offices are usually open from 8.00 am to 9.00 pm in the main cities Hanoi, Hue, Hochiminh city... Postcards cost about VND 10,000 for a booklet of ten from the post office. Children also sell them, but they are more expensive. Don’t be too annoyed by them, if they save you a trip to the post office it’s probably worth paying a few VND more. A postcard with stamp to Europe/USA costs VND 9,000, a letter around VND 10,000 (depending on the weight). They take about from 01 to 02 weeks to arrive to your destination or receiver.
It is easy to telephone inside Vietnam. All hotels will let you make local phone calls, many don’t even charge you. International phone calls are possible from many post offices. At some places, international direct dialing (IDD) has become commonplace. There is a telephone card, the UniphoneKad. Cell phones are popular. If you have one you can buy a prepaid phone-card and own your private contact number while traveling in Vietnam. The system in Vietnam is GSM.
For international calls from Vietnam, you make: 00 + country code + city code + your number phone.
Vietnam joined the global computer age, internet service providers are currently operating in most of the cities like Hanoi, Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Danang and Hue. You can access to online services through cyber-cafes and computer terminals in the lobbies and business centers in hotels. If you have an established E-mail account with a non-Vietnamese service provider, accessing your mail from Vietnam will require you to download your mail through a Web-based service such as Yahoo or Hotmail. The Internet access fee is cheaper in cafe internet. It is more expensive in the 5 stars hotels. Nowadays, 4G technologies will help you connect all parts around the world with smart phones such as Iphone, Samsung, Nokia, Sony or tablets like ipad.