Frequently asked questions about Vietnam

What is the best time to travel?

There are no good or bad seasons to visit Vietnam. There are many different climates in the various regions of Vietnam due to the pronounced elongation of the country, which ensures that at any given moment there will always be beautiful weather in one particular place and miserable weather in another.
In the North of the country the winters are ‘cool’ with temperatures between, 12-20 Celsius, and the summers are hot and humid. The temperature can drop to zero in the mountains during the winter. The rainy season stretches from June until September.
In the South of the country it is warm and humid the whole year round with a rainy season from May until October. Central Vietnam has a similar climate to the South, but sometimes endures bad weather in the autumn as a result of storms at sea.

What are the best festivals and when do they take place?

Although the Vietnamese calendar is the same as our Gregorian calendar, some Vietnamese holidays are based on the lunar calendar. The exact dates are different every year, depending on the position of the moon.
Tet Nguyen Dan (usually abbreviated to Tet) is celebrated in January/February and is the Vietnamese New Year, the biggest annual celebration. The Tet celebrations are officially three days long, but many Vietnamese have the week off. Festivities such as processions, dragon dances, fireworks and flower parades are organised, but in the main it is a family celebration and is not targeted at tourists.
Trung Nguyen is the day of wandering souls (July/August), where gifts are offered to spirits forgotten or neglected by their surviving relatives.
Tet Thrung Thu is the mid-autumn festival, held at the end of September, when ‘moon cakes’ are sold everywhere and children with beautifully shaped lanterns walk through the streets. 

Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

Yes, you have the option to pre-book airport transfers (arrival only) and secondly the option to pre-book pre and post tour nights.These extra services should be added to your booking.

What about my passport?

You need a passport that is valid at least 6 months at the date of departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.

Do I need a visa?

You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. Please check the embassy if you need a visa for Vietnam and check out the current situation right here. Make sure you inquire at least a month before departure so that you do not run into time problems. 

*From 1st July 2015, nationals of UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are exempt from needing a visa to travel in Vietnam.

Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?

Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations or malaria tablets for this country and contact after your local practitioner or a specialised health centre and make an appointment to get your shots and pills. Please make sure that you allow at least six weeks for a full program. People who already have had a few shots might do with two weeks. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.

What is the recommended currency for Vietnam?

The official currency is the Dông (VND). Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureau de change, hotels and on the black market. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are becoming more widely acceptable in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but it is best not to rely on them elsewhere.US currency acts as unofficial tender and is useful as a back-up. Euro and Pounds are widely accepted and changed, in the major cities banks. Dông can be withdrawn from ATMs, but they are limited to major cities and tourist areas. Withdrawing is almost always possible with Maestro, Cirrus, Visa and Mastercard.

What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?

Don’t bring too much baggage. Vietnam is a subtropical country, so thin, cotton clothing is advisable. A sweatshirt can be useful in the cooler evenings, especially in the winter. All you need for your feet are a pair of good walking shoes and a pair of flip flops/sandals (easy to be removed before entering temples). An umbrella will come in useful. Headgear, sunglasses and sun cream are useful against the sun . Other important items include swimwear, insect repellent and T-shirt with long sleeves, toiletries, a beach towel, a first-aid kit, a (video) camera and sufficient film and batteries, a torch, a pocket-knife, an alarm clock, writing equipment, books, your passport,  all relevant travel insurance details and documents.

What kind of luggage should I take?

We ask you to bring a frameless backpack or a strong weekend bag to carry your luggage. Don’t bring a suitcase, as these are very tricky to transport. We find that 12 kilos is the maximum weight for your requirements. A small backpack or shoulder bag is best for your hand luggage. For the storage of valuables or important documents we advise that you bring a thin money belt that you can wear under your clothes.

What is the situation with electricity in Vietnam?

What voltage and plugs are in used in Vietnam? Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are in use in this country. You could consider taking a universal electric plug.

Which travel guides and maps?

If you want to take a travel guide or map, we suggest you click on Lonely Planet.

In what kind of accommodation do we sleep?

In Vietnam we mostly use accommodation in hotels, staying in twin rooms with en-suite facilities.

How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?

If you book alone you will share your room with a fellow traveler unless you have booked a single room. Sometimes it means that you need to share your room with someone of the opposite sex. 

Do I need a sleeping mat or sleeping bag?

Since we use hotels, a sleeping bag is not necessary. If you go trekking in Sapa, sufficient bedding (blankets) will be provided.

Do I need to take a mosquito net?

You don’t need to carry your own one. In many hotels you can request mosquito nets or electric anti-mosquito devices for your room.

Do they cater for vegetarians in Vietnam?

Vegetarian dishes are available everywhere, but don’t expect perfection in this field. ‘Toy an chay’ is the translation for ‘I am a vegetarian’. The best vegetarian dishes are bamboo soup, cooked mushrooms or a vegetarian soup called s-p rau.
Anyway, steamed rice and vegetables are the base of the local cuisine, so the choice is not limited.
Vietnam is a paradise for tropical fruits lovers. You can find coconuts, papayas, pineapples, apricots, apples, lychees and mango. Unusual fruit include the delicious pink dragon fruit, the purple mangosteen, the pungent durian fruit and the water apple. Baguettes are remnants of the French colonial period and are available throughout the land. On the streets you can buy baguettes (with pâté for meat eaters) and cheese.

What kind of transportation is used?

In Vietnam we use private mini-bus, trains and local flights.

Is Vietnam dangerous?

Theft occurs in Vietnam as in any country. Pay good attention to valuables. Money and important documents are best not stored in handbags or wallets, but worn on the body in a money belt or bag attached to the inside of your clothes. Pickpockets in Ho Chi Minh City are increasingly targeting tourists. However Vietnam is definitely not a country where you should feel threatened.

What local customs do I need to keep in mind?

The Vietnamese are very friendly people, especially in the South.
Do not criticize anyone in public. Being criticized in the presence of others is seen as a severe loss of face and is one of the worst things that can happen to a Vietnamese person. Getting angry is counter-productive.
If you enter a house or temple, you will be expected to remove your shoes.

Like us, men shake hands as greeting, although women usually only nod their head. Nuns and monks often greet each other in the traditional way by folding their hands in front of them and bowing slightly. It is polite to return this sort of greeting.
Caution: women are not allowed to touch Buddhist monks. Public displays of affection are frowned upon.

Do not expect that Vietnamese people will have the same concept of time and being on time. They live more in the here and now, worry much less than us about the future, and have much more patience.

Are there opportunities to snorkel or dive?

In Hoi An and in the Ha Long Bay area you will have the opportunity to go on the beach. Snorkelling or diving is possible in these areas, but not particularly interesting.

Are there opportunities to swim?

You can have the opportunity to swim at the beautiful Hoi An beach and in the magnificent Ha Long Bay.

What are other activities and sports I could do?

You can experience boat trips, hire a bike or go hiking. On a cultural side, you can enjoy a typically Vietnamese water puppet show, visit interesting museums and buildings, sample the atmosphere of remote tribal villages and suck in the merchant-like local life style in a great number of markets and floating markets.

How are communications in Vietnam?

The international country code is +84. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code City/area codes are in use, e.g. Hanoi is (0)4 and Ho Chi Minh City is (0)8. GSM 900 mobile networks cover the major urban areas. Internet cafes are available in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Internet access is often available at post offices in rural areas.
In the main cities and tourist places internet café are widely available. Post service is generally quite reliable and most international forwarding companies have office in the bigger cities.

What is the time difference?

Please check the World Clock in order to find out the exact time difference.

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