Vietnam Travel Facts

Thank you for choosing TUI for your journey into Vietnam.

Vietnam is where TUI was founded and we’re sure you’ll find the country as beautiful, captivating and intriguing as we do. To assist with your travel arrangements, we have prepared the following pre-departure information. Please read this carefully before your travel to Vietnam and be mindful of some of our suggestions while you are travelling.

What to Expect:

Vietnam is a nation of captivating diversity. From north to south you will find ‘authentic’ Asia – the fertile plains of the Mekong Delta, majestic mountains in the north, classical pagodas and temples, bustling cities and street markets, and the faded elegance of the French colonial era. You will also encounter a nation rich in culture, tradition and history, and people with a refreshing warmth and friendliness unequaled in Southeast Asia; a people who have put the war torn past behind them and are clearly focused on a brighter future.

The travel industry in Vietnam is growing at a rapid pace. While the freshness and novelty of travel within Vietnam is still evident, major cities now offer facilities and services at Western standards. Travelling in the more remote areas of Vietnam will, however, involve travel on bumpy roads, in noisy trains, and overnight stays in clean but basic accommodation.

Responsibility: Information herein was correct at the time of preparation, however the rapid development of tourism in Vietnam has the potential to make some of the information in this guide irrelevant. This information is intended as a guide only and TUI is not responsible for any inaccuracies. This document does not, in any way, alter the booking terms and conditions in our small group journey brochure. Please contact us with your comments if you find during the course of your travels that the information in this guide is incorrect or out of date.

Visa Requirements & Departure Taxes: To enter Vietnam you will require a passport (with at least 6 months remaining validity) and a tourist visa. This visa must be obtained prior to arrival. A combined entry/exit and baggage declaration form will be issued to you prior to arrival and the yellow copy of this must be retained until your departure from Vietnam. Please ensure this paper is kept in a safe place while you are in Vietnam. It is your responsibility to ensure all visa and entry requirements are met prior to your arrival in Vietnam.

 

A visa is required for entry to Vietnam

Citizens of Australia, UK, US, EU Countries, New Zealand and Canada require a visa to visit Vietnam. All other nationalities should check with the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in their country of residence.

Obtaining a visa

A visa must be obtained before departing your country of residence. It can be arranged up to 6 months before your scheduled arrival date into Vietnam. A full passport is required, valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of your departure from Vietnam.

You can acquire your tourist or business visa from your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate. TUI can assist in arranging visas for TUI clients residing in Australia, UK and the US.

All Vietnam visas are SINGLE ENTRY unless you have specifically requested MULTIPLE ENTRY and this is stamped into your passport. Please ensure you have a multiple entry visa if you are entering Vietnam twice. The status of a tourist visa cannot be changed from SINGLE ENTRY to MULTIPLE ENTRY once you have arrived in Vietnam. It is your responsibility to ensure all visa and entry requirements are met prior to your arrival in Vietnam.

Please Note:

All information provided on this page is correct at the time of writing. Rules and regulations can change suddenly. TUI will do their utmost to advise you in ample time of any changes but cannot be held responsible for any additional charges incurred. We strongly suggest that you check with the relevant embassies in your country of residence that these guidelines are applicable to you.

 

Arrival Instructions: If you have pre-arranged an airport arrival transfer you will find a representative from TUI waiting to meet you outside the customs hall. Please look carefully for a TUI sign with your name on it (not a hotel sign). There are usually a number of taxi touts outside the customs hall more than willing to take you to your hotel – at an inflated price. If you cannot find a sign with your name please call one of our 24 hour emergency contact numbers – 0903 724 206 in Saigon or 0904 037 889 in Hanoi – and our duty officer will advise you what to do.

If you have no airport arrival transfer pre-arranged, metered taxis are available at the airport. Look for the “Airport Taxi” company with uniformed drivers, or wait and they will find you (make sure the meter is turned on when you begin). You should not pay more than about $US5-7 to reach your hotel in Saigon or $US15-20 in Hanoi.

Insurance: You must be comprehensively insured as a condition of travelling with TUI. Insurance should include unlimited coverage for personal accident and medical expenses, full provision for evacuation and a minimum of $25,000USD cover for repatriation expenses, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of your holiday.

We will ask you to confirm your insurance details as part of our travel registration process at the start of your journey. If you do not have appropriate insurance we will insist you obtain insurance. We reserve the right not to provide the services booked with us until insurance is purchased.

Note that travel insurance may be ‘attached’ to your credit card, although usually such cover is effective only if your travel arrangements have been purchased with the card. Insurance cover from credit cards often does not include payment of medical expenses or emergency repatriation. Please check your policy carefully.

Please note that government regulations in Asia do not always require or enforce the possession of hotel, transport supplier and other supplier public liability insurance. Even when this insurance is in place, it can be for very limited cover only. TUI does its best to work with suppliers who possess public liability insurance, however this is not always possible. Regardless of length of stay and type of service, you must have adequate insurance to cover you in the event you suffer a medical problem while travelling.

A Responsible TUI TUI practices a thorough, realistic Responsible Travel Policy. We believe that travel should entail an exchange of knowledge and perspectives, a sharing of wealth, and a genuine appreciation of Asia’s beautiful natural environments. This philosophy underpins the heart and soul of our style of travel. It drives all that we strive to deliver to our travellers, and shapes the contact we have with our supplier colleagues in Asia. We recognise that poorly planned itineraries or poorly informed tourists contribute less to cross-cultural understanding and less to the livelihoods of local people. We also recognise that we work in a developing part of the world. Political and social factors sometimes impede the short term implementation of our responsible travel initiatives, so we do not make blanket, unrealistic statements about the achievability of our goals – doing so would make us ‘irresponsible’. We aspire to short or medium term implementation of our policies where this is realistic and to incremental change where there are constraints of a governmental or cultural nature. We strongly encourage you to refer to our website and read our Responsible Travel Policy, as well as the TUI Guide to Responsible Travel (full of pointers which we hope will make for a more informed, more ‘responsible’ holiday).

The Political Situtation – Past And Present The conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858, and by 1887 the Vietnamese colonies became the centrepiece of the newly formed French Indochina. In the turmoil following the end of World War II, movements supported by the Communists declared independence, however France continued to rule over Vietnam until its defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu by Communist forces led by Ho Chi Minh. Under the Geneva accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into what became the Communist led North and the anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule.

Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies. However, since the enactment of Vietnam’s “doi moi” (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries.

Today, Vietnam Politics takes place in a framework of a single-party socialist republic. A new state constitution was approved in April 1992, reaffirming the central role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in politics and society, and outlining government reorganization and increased market reforms in the economy. Though Vietnam remains a one-party state, adherence to ideological orthodoxy has become less important than economic development as a national priority.

Of note recently, according to the World Bank’s Lead Economist in Vietnam Martin Rama, Vietnam has shown progress in fighting corruption, especially the use of international methodology and consultancy to detect and effectively tackle manifestations of corruption. According to Mr Rama, the financial management reform project implemented by the Ministry of Finance is also further evidence of efforts to fight corruption. Through this project, the country’s system of financial institutions will operate in a more transparent environment.

Money: The official unit of currency in Vietnam is the dong. Approximate exchange rates at the time of printing are:

  • 1USD equals 16,00 dong
  • 1AUD equals 12,000 dong
  • 1CAD equals 14,000 dong
  • 1NZD equals 10,500 dong
  • 1GBP equals 29,500 dong

You are able to bring your home currency in cash or travellers cheques (AUD, GBP, CAD or USD). All international currency, with the exception of US dollars, must be changed into the local currency, the Vietnamese dong. You can pay for goods and services in US dollars or dong, however you will get better value for your money if you use local currency. Most hotels change travellers cheques (with a 1% to 2% commission) and cash at reasonable rates. Credit cards (Visa or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted) can be used in a number shops and restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi, however they are not widely accepted outside these cities. Cash advances can be obtained using these cards at the major banks and ATM’s in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang, Hoi An and Hue. Please note if travelling to remote areas of Vietnam it is advisable to carry dong or USD cash

Climate: Vietnam spans several climatic zones, resulting in substantial weather condition variations between the north and the south. Average temperatures year round range from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius so there is no particularly good or bad time to visit Vietnam.

In southern Vietnam tropical conditions prevail, and there are two seasons – the wet season lasts from May to November and the dry season from December to April. The wet is characterised by high humidity levels and a refreshing afternoon downpour. Humidity in the south during the months of June and July ranges between 75% and 85%. The hottest months are from March to May.

Central Vietnam is usually dry from May to October and wet from December to February. October and November may experience unstable weather conditions and flooding.

Northern Vietnam also experiences two seasons though conditions can change dramatically throughout the day. The winter months from November to April are usually cold and humid. The months of December and January can be particularly cool with temperatures as low as 8 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can drop to 0 degrees Celsius in Sapa (in the highlands near the Chinese border) in winter. Summer, from May to October, can be quite hot and wet with regular downpours and occasional typhoons. The hottest months are July and August in Hanoi.

Vietnam spans several climatic zones, resulting in substantial weather condition variations between the north and the south. Average temperatures year round range from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius (68 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) so there is no particularly good or bad time to visit Vietnam.

WEATHER
Southern Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the south is hot year-round. The hottest period is March to May when average daytime temperatures can reach 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). The wet season is May to November. Typically this involves an afternoon downpour that rarely interferes with travel arrangements.
Central Vietnam Usually dry from May to October and wet from December to February. October and November occasionally see unstable weather conditions and flooding.
Northern Vietnam Hanoi and the north experience four seasons. Summer (May to October), is hot and wet with regular downpours and occasional typhoons. July and August are the hottest months with maximum temperatures exceeding 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit). Winter (November to April) is usually cold and humid. In December and January temperatures can fall to as low as 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit). Cloudy skies and misty conditions usually prevail.

Baggage & Clothing: Standard sized bags (preferably soft bags), backpacks or soft cases only are permitted on our journeys. Your baggage should be clearly labelled and kept to a reasonable minimum. Luggage limits on airlines are strictly enforced and space on vehicles and trains is limited. Any flights booked through TUI (domestic and international) have a luggage limit of 20 kilograms per person. You may be required to carry your own luggage at times where porters are not available – you should be capable of carrying your own bags on and off trains, and up and down stairs. If you are doing lots of shopping during your travels, it may be necessary for you to forward any excess to the city where your tour concludes, or ship purchases directly home. Keeping the amount of luggage you carry in check will ensure your safety and comfort, and the safety and comfort of your fellow travellers. Porterage is not included in the cost of your journey. Please ensure you pay porters around $1USD per person for carrying your luggage. Should you wish to avoid such payments, please carry and take responsibility for your luggage.

Comfortable casual clothes made of cotton are best in tropical and semi tropical climates – packing one set of smart casual clothes is advisable. Laundry services are available throughout the country, although hotel laundry costs can be expensive. We suggest you include:

  • Flat walking shoes and sandals
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Bathers
  • Money belt
  • Raincoat or umbrella
  • Basic first aid kit (see below)
  • Alarm clock
  • Small torch
  • Swiss Army pocketknife
  • Power adapter
  • Women’s sanitary products
  • Slide or any specialised film if used (print film is widely available in Cambodia)
  • Ear plugs

Please note that airlines insist all sharp items (knives, scissors, nail clippers etc.) are packed in your ‘check-in’ luggage!

Electricity: The electric current in Vietnam operates mostly on 220 volts but occasionally you will find 110 volt sockets. Electric plug types vary throughout the country, however the two-rounded pin standard Asian plug is usable in most parts of the country.

Health & Fitness: Travellers to Vietnam should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. Western medical facilities are available in the major cities. In remote areas of Vietnam, medical facilities are basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in Vietnam include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks. We are a travel company and we are not qualified to provide detailed medical information appropriate to your individual needs. We recommend you consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for up to date health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip at least one month prior to departure.

We suggest you bring a simple medical kit. Your doctor should advise you what to include, but as a minimum we suggest you bring:

  • Aspirin or paracetamol (for pain or fever)
  • Antihistamines (for allergies and itches)
  • Cold and flu tablets
  • Something to stop diarrhoea
  • Something appropriate for nausea and vomiting
  • Rehydration mixture (to prevent dehydration)
  • Insect repellant
  • Antiseptic and bandages
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Antibiotics (discuss with your doctor)

As part of our travel registration process at the start of any journey with TUI, you will be asked to declare any serious pre-existing medical conditions or allergies.

Small Group Journey Gradings: Each Small Group Journey in our brochure has a “grading” to assist you in choosing a holiday best suited to your level of health and fitness. A guide to the gradings is as follows:

Easy
These tours avoid the more arduous road travel by flying between major cities. They are suitable for travellers of all ages and levels of fitness. However, an average level of mobility and agility is required as these tours still include some walking in often hot and humid conditions, as well as getting on/off boats and walking up/down flights of stairs. Accommodation is generally comfortable by international standards.

Moderate
These tours involve some long distance overland/overnight travel and can include one or two nights of basic accommodation in more remote areas. The tours are suitable for most travellers of average fitness and mobility with a spirit for “soft” adventure. Clients will be expected on occasions to carry their own luggage for short distances.

Adventurous
These tours involve some long distance travel and at least 2 nights in very basic accommodation. On these tours there may be nights when clients will sleep out on boats, on trains, in a hilltribe village or in other basic accommodation. A client should be quite fit and be prepared for travelling in remote parts of developing Asia to get the most out of an “adventurous” tour. Clients will be expected on occasions to carry their own luggage for short distances.

Minimum Fitness Levels
It is essential for a good group dynamic on our Small Group Journeys that a less able client does not significantly impact on the enjoyment of the rest of the group during the touring days. We ask you please to consider the above tour gradings and think carefully about the Small Group Journeys most appropriate for your level of health and fitness. As a minimum requirement for our tours graded Easy, you should ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Am I able to walk 2-3 kilometres comfortably in hot and humid conditions?
  • Am I able to walk up 4 flights of stairs without losing breath?
  • Am I able to walk along rough and unstable surfaces?
  • Am I able to board small boats, trains etc?
  • Am I able to carry my own luggage?

If, upon commencement of a Small Group Journey, our Tour Leader takes the view that a client’s physical capabilities are not to the standard set out in by the above criteria (also stipulated in the “Fitness Form” which is required to be completed upon booking) then, in the interests of the client and fellow travellers, we reserve the right to prevent the client from participating in the tour. In such instances, we will assist with onward travel arrangements. Cancellation penalties will apply. You should therefore ensure that you are physically capable and prepared for undertaking our journeys.

Health: Travellers to Vietnam should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. There are now a number of international standard medical care facilities available in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Outside the cities, medical care facilities are basic. We strongly recommend you consult your preferred doctor for the most up to date health advice at least one month prior to travel.

We also suggest you bring a simple medical kit. Your doctor should advise you what to include, however as a minimum we suggest you bring:

  • Aspirin or paracetamol (for pain or fever)
  • Antihistamines (for allergies and itches)
  • Cold and flu tablets
  • Anti diarrhea medication
  • Something appropriate for nausea and vomiting
  • Rehydration mixture (to prevent dehydration)
  • Insect repellant
  • Antiseptic and bandages
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Antibiotics (discuss with your doctor)

As part of our travel registration process at the start of any journey with TUI, you will be asked to declare any serious pre-existing medical conditions or allergies.

Swimming: Swimming at the many beaches and bays in Vietnam is usually safe. On occasion jellyfish can be found in the waters around Vietnam, the most likely time of year they are present is during the months of June through to August in the north, and during the months of August and September in the south. Swimming can still be enjoyed during these months, however please be aware and exercise some caution.

Food/ Water: Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and tasty and one of the many highlights of a visit to the country. Most food presented is well cooked, however some optional dishes may be served cold. Travellers should note that raw, cold food presents a higher risk of stomach upset than well cooked food. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually a mix of buffet and continental style. Lunch should cost around $US4-10 and dinner approximately $US6-20, depending on the restaurant. Drinking local tap water is not recommended, even in hotels. Bottled water is readily available throughout Vietnam.

Tipping Policy: If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides and drivers a tip is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across TUI destinations. As a general guide on private tours, please allow 2USD to 3USD per day per traveller for each of your local guide and driver. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your local guide or driver, please let us know.

Safety & Security: Vietnam is generally a safe country, however petty street crime is on the rise as tourist numbers increase. In Ho Chi Minh City we recommend that as little jewellery as possible is worn and that when on the street your spending money is kept close to your body in a secure place. We further recommended that you take taxis rather than cyclos at night. Taxis are metered and inexpensive. Carry a hotel card so that you can show your taxi driver where you want to go. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes at all times and carry photocopies of your passport, credit card numbers, and airline tickets, and keep a record of your encashed travellers cheques. These papers should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals.

Post & Communication: International mail generally takes 7 to 10 days to reach its destination and prices are generally equivalent to western postal charges. Reverse charge (collect) calls are not possible from Vietnam. International phone and fax charges are expensive and vary between $US1.50 (at some post offices) and $US6 per minute (at some hotels). Email services are inexpensive and available in major tourist areas.

Photography:  Vietnam has good, fast, and inexpensive film processing facilities. Slide films and Hi8/V8 video cassettes are not widely available outside Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. X-ray machines at airports are film safe.

1. Memory cards sell in most Cities.

2. Bring extra batteries and adaptor units for recharging batteries.

3. Keep weather conditions in mind to gain the best photographic effects.

4. Do not take photos in politically sensitive areas such as military bases, customs or airports. Otherwise, you might be regarded as a terrorist or a person who has certain threat.

5. Certain places or backgrounds may incur fees. Be sure to clarify the amount before taking photos.

6. For religious reasons and for relic protection, many scenic spots such as museums, grottoes, temples, monasteries, palaces and cultural relics do not allow the taking of photos. ‘No Photos’ signs mark restricted areas.

7. Before taking photos of Local people which show their way of life or a street scene, you should first ask permission.

8. In some special wildlife reserves, taking photos close to the animals is not allowed for the sake of tourists’ safety. Please pay attention to the signs in these places.

9. In special areas such as Private Places, photography is strictly limited. Typical local customs and religious places such as palaces or monasteries can not be photographed unless you pay for your photo taking or get the permission.

10. It is illegal to take photos regarding other people’s private actions or some embarrassing scenes by using the telephoto lens.

11. Film processing is convenient and fast, with good print quality. Photography studios can be easily found in most Local cities.

12. As you take photos in museums or some exhibition halls, for the protection of cultural relic, photoflash lamp and A-frame camera should be avoided.

13. Besides photography, videography is also a good way to remember your trip.

Hotels: Most hotels will have private western style bathrooms, hot water, air-conditioning, satellite television, IDD telephones, laundry and other facilities. Many have swimming pools. Coffee and tea making facilities are generally not available. Where possible we will endeavour at passenger request to accommodate couples in double rooms. Please note however that on occasions during your journey, this may not be possible and a twin room will be provided.

Our “Grand Adventure”, “North Unveiled”, “Trails of Indochina” and “Inside Vietnam and Cambodia” Small Group Journeys involve some overnight stops in remote areas where accommodation is clean and comfortable, but quite basic.

Check in and check out times can vary but most hotels in Vietnam require guests to check out by 12 noon and do not allow check in until 2pm. Many hotels may allow an earlier check in or later check out subject to availability on the day. However, if you are arriving early in the morning to a destination or leaving late in the evening you should consider pre-booking a guaranteed early check in/late check out. The additional cost varies from hotel to hotel but is usually between 50-100% of the nightly rate.

Transport: On the road we generally use late model Toyota Coaster or Hyundai air-conditioned buses with either 25-40 seats – depending on the size of the group. These vehicles are designed with excellent viewing windows and a high roof. Modern sedan cars and minibuses are used for transporting smaller numbers of people. Some tours include domestic flights. Vietnam Airlines operates a modern fleet, however schedules frequently change and this can result in alterations to your tour programme. Some tours also involve an overnight 15 hour rail trip between Hanoi and Hue (or Hue and Hanoi) or an overnight train trip between Hanoi and Sapa (or Sapa and Hanoi). Accommodation is in shared, four berth, first class sleeper cabins which are sometimes fan-cooled and sometimes air-conditioned. Sheets and blankets are provided but on the odd occasion are not particularly clean or warm. You may wish to bring a sleeping sheet or purchase one in Saigon or Hanoi for an overnight train journey. Toilets on the train are generally Asian squat style although many also do have a western style toilet.

Tour Leaders/ Guides: Providing the group tour reaches a minimum of 7 passengers a Western tour leader will guide you on your entire journey through Vietnam. All our tour leaders have an in-depth knowledge of Vietnam and an enthusiasm for the country that is contagious. Your tour leader is your link with Vietnam and is there to ensure the smooth running of the trip. Your tour leader will try, wherever practicable, to cater for your individual interests. Local English-speaking guides also accompany you on your tour. They impart local information about history, customs and culture that can only come from living in the area. Generally we have a different local guide for each city or region we visit and so local guides are usually only with the group for 1 to 2 days.

Local Time:

Vietnam is:

  • 7hrs ahead of GMT
  • 3hrs behind Australian Eastern Standard Time
  • 5hrs behind New Zealand
  • 12hrs ahead of Canada Eastern Time
  • 15hrs ahead of Canada Pacific Time
  • 12hrs ahead of US Eastern Time.
  • 15 hrs ahead of US Pacific Time.

Shopping: Vietnam is fast becoming known as a “shopper’s paradise”. Ceramics, lacquerware, bamboo, silk and embroidery are just some of the many good buys. Many travellers also have clothes tailored due to the low prices – standards vary. A few guidelines to follow when shopping:

  • Except in department stores, bargaining is the norm. To get the best price you will have to haggle hard.
  • Export of certain antiques is not permitted. Make sure you are aware of relevant regulations before purchasing.
  • Fake reproductions are common. Make sure you know what you are buying, especially in the case of antiques.

Massage Services: Many countries in Asia are deservedly renowned for their massage techniques and the quality and value for money of these services. Unfortunately, many massage parlours including some in otherwise ‘reputable’ hotels are also linked to the paid sex industry. We advise you to check carefully before using massage services in Asia.

Group Dynamics: Our small group journeys provide you with a good balance of group activity and personal discovery. Travellers need to be aware of certain personal responsibilities when travelling with a group. Simple things like being ready at agreed times and keeping to schedule will ensure the smooth running of the programme. Furthermore, the traditions and culture of the country you are visiting should be respected. Correct behaviour includes wearing the appropriate dress when visiting religious sites, and refraining from making comments or acting in a manner that would be viewed as unacceptable by your fellow group members or by the local people in the country you are visiting. Please ask your tour leader for further clarification of the issues mentioned above.

Language The Vietnamese language is derived from Latin characters with a range of tones. English is widely spoken throughout the country, especially in tourist areas. To help you get the most out of your contact with Vietnamese, try learning how to say these key phrases:

Vietnamese English
sin chow Hello (or hi)
kwhere khom How are you?
toy kwhere, come ern I’m fine, thank you
come ern Thank you
ten la zee What is your name?
ten toy la …… My name is …
Bao new toy How old are you?
Toy … too-ee I am … years old
…Bao new How much is …?
Muk kwar Its too expensive!
Kom No
Ya(south), vang (north) Yes
Sin loy Excuse me / I’m sorry
Kom can No need
Come ern, noong toy kom can too-ee nee long Thank you, but I don’t need a plastic bag.
Toy kom can ong hoot No straw please
Voo-ee lum yup bao vay moy troong coo-ah choong tah Please help protect our environment
Voo-ee lum doong tay kung tum coo-ah toy Please do not change my bath towels
Voo-ee lum doong tay kung chai young vu ow goy Please do not change my linen
Tum bee-et Good bye!
Chook may mun Good luck!

Social Support: TUI is a supporter of the following foundations, working to improve the lives of the underprivileged in Vietnam:

The Fred Hollows Foundation – “aims to develop sustainable local capacity to prevent and treat avoidable blindness in developing countries”. Since 1994, through training and provision of medical supplies, the Fred Hollows Foundation has greatly improved eye health care in Vietnam.

The Loreto Foundation – provides support to poor and disadvantaged children in and around Ho Chi Minh City. Current programmes include:

  • Construction and maintenance of 2 village schools aimed at “making educational accessible to children in poor, rural areas”.
  • Construction of two shelters that provide a safe home for the street children of Ho Chi Minh City.
  • English language instruction to blind children and their teachers.

Please contact your tour leader or TUI if you would like to obtain more information about these organisations.

Important Dates Affecting Touring, and Compulsory Meals

01 Jan – International New Year’s Day:
Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses. Road traffic will likely be heavy in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City.

16 Feb – Lunar New Year’s Eve: :
Road traffic is likely to be heavy in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City.Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Victoria in Sapa, Hoi An, Phan Thiet, Can Tho and Chau Doc at USD 30.00/pax.

17 Feb to 21 Feb – Lunar New Year :
Banks and public offices will be closed, as will most businesses. Re-unification Palace will be closed on New Year’s Eve. Cao Dai Temples (including the temple in Tay Ninh) will be closed 6 days before the Lunar New Year. Floating Markets in the Mekong Delta will not operate. Factories will not operate.

30 Apr – Independence Day:
Public holiday. Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses. Road traffic is likely to be heavy in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City.

01 May – Labor Day:
Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses. Road traffic is likely to be heavy in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City.

02 Sep – National Day:
Banks and public offices will be closed, as will some businesses. Road traffic is likely to be heavy in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City.

24 Dec – Christmas Eve.:
Not a public holiday.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Victoria in Sapa, Hoi An, Phan Thiet, Can Tho and Chau Doc at USD 50.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Hoi An Beach Resort and the Hoi An Hotel in Hoi An at USD 20.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Life Heritage Resort Hoi An at USD 30.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Ana Mandara Resort Nha Trang at USD 80.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the LA Residence Hotel and Spa Hue at USD 50.00/pax.

31 Dec – International New Year’s Eve:
Not a public holiday. Road traffic will likely be heavy in the evening in Ho Chi Minh City.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Victoria in Sapa, Hoi An, Phan Thiet, Can Tho and Chau Doc at USD 55.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Novotel Ocean Dune in Phan Thiet at USD 65.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Hoi An Beach Resort and the Hoi An Hotel in Hoi An at USD 25.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Life Heritage Resort Hoi An at USD 35.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the Ana Mandara Resort Nha Trang at USD 80.00/pax.
– Compulsory dinner charge levied by the LA Residence Hotel and Spa Hue at USD 55.00/pax.

Recommended Reading:
Mobile libraries are carried in the minibus when the group is at least seven people in size. Books include guide books, books about local history, and often some fiction written by local authors. Feel free to use these books at any time during the tour. Books worth reading include:

Guide Books

  • Insight Guide – Vietnam by Helen West (Editor) and Scott Rutherford (Editor). Paperback, fourth edition (2004). Our pick for the best insight into the history and culture of Vietnam and all of the major tourist attractions, together with great photos.
  • Rough Guide to Vietnam – by Jan Dodd. Paperback, third edition (September 2006). A great guide book to go by – accurate and positive, in the case of Vietnam, better than Lonely Planet.
  • World Food Vietnam – for people who live to eat, drink and travel – by Richard Sterling. Lonely Planet March 2000. A great little book for cuisine aficionados, or those who simply have an interest in the diverse flavours and aromas Vietnam offers. Gives an overview of the history and culture of Vietnamese cuisine, unravels some of the mysteries of what things are, describes food unique to different regions, passes on produce-buying tips and provides some great, easy recipes.

History

  • A Bright Shinning Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam – Neil Sheehan. Picador. Captures the Vietnam/American war in its scale, passion and folly.
  • Ho Chi Minh – by William J. Duiker. Hardcover, September 2000. Hyperion. An intriguing tale of an intriguing man – the father of modern Vietnam.
  • Once Upon A Distant War – by William Prochnau. Prochnau tells the true story of David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan and Peter Arnett’s early years in Vietnam. Written like a novel, Once Upon A Distant War tracks the US government’s progressive enmeshment with the Vietnam debacle through the early forays of three of the journalistic legends the war produced.
  • The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, Hell in a Very Small Place – by Bernard Fall. Fall, who himself was a casualty of the Vietnam War, provides the most thorough account of the 1954 battle that ended French colonialism in Vietnam and should have sent warnings to a US government becoming increasingly involved in Vietnam. Dien Bien Phu is considered one of the most important battles of the twentieth century and a classic tactical triumph by a poorly armed guerrilla force over a modern army of occupation.
  • In Retrospect -The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam – by Robert McNamara. McNamara, considered the chief architect of the US war in Vietnam, created a furore with this Mea Culpa in 1996. There is something unsatisfying about this read. Still, essential in making sense of how the cleverest of men led the world’s greatest power into the most futile conflict.
  • The Living and the Dead – Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War – Paul Hendrickson – Also on the McNamara theme this unusual biography presents a singularly unsympathetic account of the former Defense Secretary. Hendrickson threads his detailed biography through the lives of five diverse characters – a soldier, a protestor, a nurse, a Vietnamese and an artist who tried to murder McNamara in a spontaneous rage in 1972 – all of them profoundly effected by McNamara and his policies. An engrossing read and an unorthodox biography that is an excellent antidote to the numbing effects of In Retrospect.
  • The Vietnam Reader – Edited by Walter Capps. This is a superb collection of essays from the diverse US voices who led and were led into the Vietnam War as well those such as protestors and boat people who were deeply affected by the conflict. Capps book includes moving accounts of the moral dilemmas confronted by soldiers in the field, the havoc wrought on the lives of many of the returned servicemen, analysis of the lessons of the war from voices as diverse as US General Westmoreland to North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap and more. No book captures the depth, complexity and tragedy of the US Vietnam adventure so eloquently.
  • Fire In The Lake by Frances FitzGerald. This is both the only major work on the Vietnam War written by a woman, and one of a handful of books that takes the time to study in depth the Vietnamese side of the conflict. Fitzgerald’s work won her a Pulitzer in 1973 and makes a serious effort to probe the cultural underpinnings of the US failure in Vietnam – rather than the military failings.
  • Vietnam – A History by Stanley Karnow. Penguin Books. Clarifies, analyses and demystifies the tragic ordeal of the Vietnam War – features fresh revelations drawn from secret documents and from exclusive interviews.

Contemporary

  • Shadows and Wind by Robert Templer. Perhaps the only book available that probes contemporary Vietnamese society. Templer, a Hanoi based correspondent for AFP during the 1990s presents a well researched, well argued, provocative account of modern Vietnam.
  • Catfish and Mandala: A 2 Wheeled Voyage through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam – Andrew X. Pham. (Picador US) A great travelogue, and more – a captivating read. Vietnamese American Pham pedals through Mexico, the American West Coast, Japan and, when he finally feels ready, Vietnam. In the process, Pham delves into issues of belonging, home, family, relationships and culture. Catfish and Mandala provides a vivid, and personal, insight into the Vietnamese people. It’s definitely a “can’t put down”!
  • The Trouble with Tigers – the rise and fall of South East Asia by Victor Mallet. Harper Collins Business. An interesting, readable account of the Asian economic crisis and its affects on the countries of South East Asia. Country-specific chapters provide an informative outline of pre and post-crisis development in this part of the world.

Fiction

  • Earth and Water: Encounters in Viet Nam by Edith Shillue, Kevin Bowen. (University of Massachusetts Press, paperback, March 1998).
  • Novel without a name by Duong Thu Huong. (Penguin, USA, reprint June 1996). A compelling novel about the horror and waste of the Vietnam War–from the North Vietnamese point of view.
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene. (First published in Great Britain by William Heinemann Ltd. 1955). A heartrending novel set in French colonial Vietnam in the 1950’s. It follows the life of a British foreign correspondent reporting the progress of the war, an American working for an economic development organization, and the young Vietnamese woman they are both in love with.
  • The Sorrow of War – a novel of North Vietnam by Bao Ninh, Frank Palmos (Editor), Phan Thanh Hao (Translator). Riverhead Books, reprint edition April 1996. The quasi-autobiographical account of a north Vietnamese soldier’s horrific memories of his involvement in the Vietnam/American War.
  • Paradise of the Blind – by Duong Thu Huong, Phan Huy Duong, Nina McPherson, Thu Huong Duong. Paperback Reprint edition (July 1994) Penguin USA. The first Vietnamese novel translated and published in North America, Paradise of the Blind is an interesting and revealing view of one Vietnamese family’s life over the past forty years.
  • After the Sorrow – by Lady Borton. A wonderful story of an American Quaker woman who was on a peace mission her during the Vietnam War and returns several times after the war ended to interview Vietnamese women and understand the impact on their lives and the role they had to play in the war. It is a very moving and revealing insight into the role of the strong Vietnamese women in the war.

 

VIETNAM Q & A

Q: When is the best time to travel to Vietnam?
A: All year is fine. Travellers should note that Vietnam is especially hot and humid (highs of 35 – 38 degrees) between June and September and Hanoi and the north tends to be cool (15 – 20 degrees) and often misty in December, January and February. The wet season (May to October) does not usually obstruct travel as rain is normally confined to an hour or two each day. The wet season is the hottest and most humid period of the year. Central Vietnam may experience unstable weather in October and November.

Q: Do the Vietnamese harbour grudges against Westerners because of the Vietnam War?
A: Remarkably, the Vietnamese are some of the most friendly and hospitable people in Asia. Travellers to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality of the people.

Q: Will I encounter lots of poverty and squalor travelling through Vietnam?
A: Vietnam is one of the poorest countries in Asia. This is not so apparent to travellers as food is plentifully available and business is now thriving. Travellers will encounter beggars in the cities and will also likely be confronted by some poverty. These are all part of the experience of Vietnam. The more powerful image of the Vietnamese is of a positive people committed to improving their lives and advancing their country.

Q: What kinds of transport are used on tour?
A: For road journeys, air conditioned coasters or mini buses are used. These are modern, spacious, comfortable, well maintained, safe vehicles – perfect for small group travel. In cities, towns and villages we use a combination of cyclos (Vietnamese tri-shaw), boats, bicycles (optional) and our own two feet. Some tours include domestic flights on Vietnam Airlines. Most flights are on modern Airbus 320 or Fokker 70 planes. Some tours also include rail trips.

Q: What type of restaurants and food will be available on tour?
A: Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and tasty and one of the many highlights of a visit to the country. We therefore usually eat at quality Vietnamese restaurants – serving a selection of seafood, chicken, beef, pork and vegetable dishes. Some travellers prefer a mixture of International (Western) and Vietnamese food while touring. In Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi there is a generous array of international cuisine, while in most provincial areas the choice is more limited. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually a mix of western buffet and continental style. Vegetarians will find a good selection of fresh foods available.

Q: How much money will I spend per day touring?
A: Approximately US$12 per person for day to day living. Vietnam is a country that offers great value for your money. For around US$12 you will be able to buy lunch and dinner at good local restaurants, as well as refreshments (non-alcoholic) during the day. Western restaurants will cost more.

Q: How much English is spoken in Vietnam?
A: The Vietnamese are learning English at a furious speed so the language is well understood and widely spoken by our guides and hotel staff. English is also spoken in most restaurants, shops and to a lesser extent by taxi drivers and cyclo drivers.

 

Money

How should I take money to Vietnam?
How much money will I need each day for food and other expenses?
Do I need to tip in Vietnam?
Will I need to bargain for everything I want to buy?

Health & Safety

What vaccinations will I need to have?
Are western toilets available?
Is Vietnam a safe country?
I’m traveling alone – is it safe to go out at night?
Is Vietnam a good place to take children?

Food & Water

Can I drink the water?
Is there vegetarian food and western food available?
I have special dietary requirements/allergies – can these be accommodated?
What general food and water precautions should I take?

Getting There and Away and Around

What is the flight time to Vietnam?
Do I need a visa for Vietnam?
What are the trains like?
Are the domestic flights safe and reliable?
Is it safe to catch a taxi or cyclo at night?

Packing

Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?
What is the baggage allowance on domestic flights?
What should I pack for a vacation in Vietnam?
Will I need wet weather gear?

Communications & Technology

Will I be able to use my mobile phone?
Are there many internet cafes in Vietnam?
I am traveling with my laptop – will I be able to access WiFi?

Responsible Travel

I would like to bring some gifts for the local children – what do you suggest?
What are some of the local customs I should be aware of?
Looking for further information on how you can travel responsibly?

For information on our responsible travel polices visit our Responsible Travel page.

Money

How should I take money to Vietnam?
Bring a combination of debit and credit cards, as well as some USD cash. ATMs are widely available in airports, major cities and towns and issue Vietnamese dong. Most hotels change traveler’s checks and cash at reasonable rates. Credit cards can be used in a number of shops and restaurants in major centres. If you bring traveler’s checks, it is best to use USD, but these are now becoming harder to cash.

How much money will I need each day for food and other expenses?
Vietnam offers excellent value for your money. Allow approximately 20 USD per person for day-to-day living, which will buy you lunch and dinner at good local restaurants (your breakfast is always included), as well as refreshments during the day. Transport such as taxis and cyclos is cheap, and should cost you no more than 5 USD a day on average, and often much less. If you are traveling independently, you will need to factor in any entrance fees, which may be between 1-5 USD. High end and Western restaurants will cost more. Prices of alcohol varies. Beer is generally cheap, especially in local restaurants however wine is expensive, even by Western standards.

Do I need to tip in Vietnam?
Tipping inspires great service and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry in Vietnam. In local markets and basic restaurants we suggest rounding your bill up to the nearest 1 USD. In more up-market restaurants 5% to 10% is appropriate. If you are happy with the services provided by your guides and drivers, we suggest a tip of 3-5 USD per person per day for guides and 2 USD per person per day for drivers. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.

Will I need to bargain for everything I want to buy?
Bargaining for souvenirs has long been the norm in Vietnam, however ‘fixed price’ boutiques are becoming more common. Even then, you may be able to garner a discount, especially if you buy more than one item. As in all Asian countries, ‘saving face’ is important, so bargaining should be good-natured. In some cases you will be able to get a 50% discount or more, at other times this may only be 10%. And it’s never a good idea to ask whether someone else got it for less – chances are they will have! In most cases you will not need to bargain for basic items such as bottled water, toiletries and food.

Health & Safety

What vaccinations will I need to have?
Some of the diseases known to exist in Vietnam include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. Consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for up-to-date health information on vaccinations and medicine for your trip at least one month prior to departure.

Are western toilets available?
All hotels and guesthouses, including home-stays, are equipped with western toilets. Overnight trains usually have the options of Asian squat-style toilet at one of the carriage and a western-style toilet at the other. On long bus drives, we endeavour to time stops according to acceptable and hygienic toilet facilities which will, in most cases, include a western toilet. We recommend that you carry hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Is Vietnam a safe country?
Vietnam is generally a safe destination by world standards, but usual common sense precautions are advisable. In recent years petty street crime in large cities has risen. Always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers, and a detailed record of your traveler’s checks. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible. In large cities, such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, we recommend you wear as little jewelry as possible and keep your spending money close to your body in a secure place when out on the street.

I’m traveling alone – is it safe to go out at night?
Our hotels are centrally located in safe neighborhoods so provided you take the usual common sense precautions, you should feel safe going out at night, even on your own. Alternatively, most hotels we use have a restaurant. We recommend you take taxis rather than cyclos when traveling at night; taxis in Vietnam are numerous, metered and inexpensive. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card, to show drivers where you want to go.

Is Vietnam a good place to take children?
Vietnam is very child-friendly. The Vietnamese are family oriented and regularly travel with their own children during vacation periods. If you are traveling with children aged 5-17, our Family Journeys, featuring a combination of fun and educational activities, might best suit your needs. Some hotels cater well to families with triple share options, or adjoining rooms.

Food & Water

Can I drink the water?
We advise against drinking tap water in Vietnam. Bottled water provided on a complimentary basis by most hotels and is otherwise inexpensive and readily available.

Is there vegetarian food and western food available?
Vegetables and vegetarian dishes feature prominently in Vietnamese cuisine, though even vegetable dishes may use fish sauce as a base so if you are a strict Vegetarian it’s a good idea to ask about the ingredients used. Western food is widely available in major centres though is generally more expensive than Vietnamese.

I have special dietary requirements/allergies – can these be accommodated?
It is generally possible to accommodate special dietary requirements and allergies, though it is a good idea to have someone prepare a Vietnamese translation of the details of your needs to show restaurant staff. Even non-seafood dishes may feature shrimp or fish sauce as a base.

What general food and water precautions should I take?
We advise you to use bottled water, even to clean your teeth. Always wash your hands thoroughly, particularly after handling local money. Ensure meats are thoroughly cooked. It is not necessary to avoid salads and herbs out of hand but remember uncooked foods do carry a greater risk. In general, establishments that cater to Western tourists make their own ice on the premises from bottled water. Elsewhere, ice is made from filtered water that is delivered in blocks from local factories. If in doubt as to the origin of ice, it’s a good idea to ask.

Getting There and Away and Around

What is the flight time to Vietnam?
From Australia: Flight times range from 9 Hours (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth) to 12 hours (Adelaide, Brisbane)
From New Zealand: 13 hours from Auckland
From UK: 14 hours from London
From USA: Flight times range from 16 hours (Los Angeles) to 19 hours (New York)

Do I need a visa for Vietnam?
To enter Vietnam you will need a passport with at least six-months validity and a tourist visa, which you must obtain prior to arrival. If you are entering Vietnam twice during your stay you will need a dual-entry visa. For further details see our visa information page, speak to one of our experts or contact your local Vietnamese consulate or embassy.

What are the trains like?
Train travel can be a great way to experience Vietnam. The most common routes are the overnight journeys between Hue and Hanoi and Hanoi and Sapa. We book our travelers in 4-berth soft sleeper compartments, which are clean and comfortable. Most luggage stows easily under the bottom berth or in racks above the top berth. We recommend bringing earplugs as the train is quite noisy and it can be difficult to sleep at night.

Are the domestic flights safe and reliable?
Most domestic flights within Vietnam are with Vietnam Airlines. The fleet is modern and comfortable, with most flights using Airbus A320 or Fokker 70 aeroplanes, however schedules frequently change and this can result in alterations to your itinerary.

Is it safe to catch a taxi or cyclo at night?
We generally advise against taking cyclos at night unless they are registered with a hotel. Taxis are safe and metered provided you use a reputable company. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card, to show drivers where you want to go.

Packing

Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?
We recommend one piece of medium-sized lightweight luggage with wheels and preferably a soft cover. If you are traveling on a train during your stay, bear in mind that you will need to travel with your luggage in your compartment, where space is limited, as there is no separate baggage car.

What is the baggage allowance on domestic flights?
The baggage allowance in economy class with Vietnam Airlines on domestic flights is one piece of checked luggage weighing no more than 20kg (44 pounds), plus one piece of hand luggage weighing no more than 7kg (15 pounds).

What should I pack for a vacation in Vietnam?
Please refer to the following checklist as a guide. You may need to carry your own bags at certain stages during the trip so you should be able to lift them! Laundry service is available in most hotels but can be expensive.

Travel documents – passport, visas, travel insurance certificate, air tickets,
Money – traveler’s checks/cash/credit card and money pouch
Day pack and/or shoulder bag that can be slung across the body for security
First aid kit
Medication/prescriptions (it is a good idea to have a doctors letter if you are carrying a large amount of medication), travel sickness tablets if required
Torch/flashlight
Travel plug/international adapter
Insect repellent
A range of comfortable, quick dry, loose fitting clothes
Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
Swimming costume
Lightweight travel towel
Ear plugs/eye mask
Comfortable walking shoes
Camera, film and/or memory cards with spare batteries (or battery charger)
Raincoat/umbrella
Waterproof jacket
Clothes for temples – long pants or long skirts, long sleeve tops, shoes which are easy to slip on/off
Warm clothes for the winter months (Nov to Feb)

Will I need wet weather gear?
We do advise you bring wet weather gear however raincoats and umbrellas can easily be purchased in Vietnam.

Communications & Technology

Will I be able to use my mobile phone?
Mobile phone networks cover much of the country and global roaming is available – check with your service provider before leaving home.

Are there many internet cafes in Vietnam?
You will find internet cafes in almost every town and city, although the service can be slow in regional areas. Rates are generally reasonable. Most hotels offer an internet service however rates are generally higher than in internet cafes.

I am traveling with my laptop – will I be able to access WiFi?
WiFi is becoming increasingly common in the major cities of Vietnam where it is available in cafes and other WiFi hotspots. WiFi is also offered in some hotels, either in-room or in certain public areas such as the lobby. Check with your travel expert for availability of WiFi at your chosen hotel/s before departure.

Responsible Travel

I would like to bring some gifts for the local children – what do you suggest?
Gifts such as text books and pencils are most appropriate and best given to organizations (such as schools or clinics) rather than to individuals, as distribution through a community channel is more likely to occur equitably, and with dignity. We advise against giving gifts directly to children on the street, at home or in village communities. Gift giving creates inequality within communities and encourages children to start begging. Giving money (even to children who offer to act as guides) can also make children the primary income earners in their family, resulting in long-term school truancy.

What are some of the local customs I should be aware of?
Dress standards are fairly conservative, especially outside major cities. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong. You should try to keep your shoulders covered, especially outside major cities. Like many Asian countries, the concept of ‘saving face’ is important in Vietnam. Try to resolve any difficulties in a calm, friendly matter. Losing your temper will not get you anywhere.