Practical information Vietnam

  • Vietnam
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  • Vietnam
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Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Vietnam
Vietnam : the key figures

Area : 128565.0 km2

Population : 90549390 inhabitants

Vietnam : Travel Information before you go!

Flights

18 hours from London to Hanoi, with at least one connection. Approximately 17 hours from London to Hô Chi Minh-city (formerly Saigon), with at least one connection. The majority of flights go via Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore or Taipei. Air France offers flights to Hanoi, with a connection in Paris (17 hrs) and Vietnam Airlines offers direct flights to Saignon (12 hrs). If you're connecting in Paris, Vietnam airlines offers six direct flights daily between Paris-CDG and Vietnam (to Hanoi on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and to Ho-Chi-Minh City on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays).

Airports

Hanoi airport, Noi Bai, is 25 miles from the town centre. A Vietnam Airways shuttle bus connects to the city for £2.50. You can also get to the city for £10 in a taxi. Saigon airport, Tan Son Nhat, is 4.3 miles from the city centre. A taxi should cost around £4. Along with Danang, these are the three international airports. For the rest, 14 domestic airports share the country.
Gia Lam (Hanoi)Cat Bi (Haiphong), Dien Bien (Lai Chau), Na San (Son La), Vinh (Nghe An), Phu Bai (Hue), Pleiku (Gia Lai), Phu Cat (Qui Nhon), Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa), Buon Ma Thuot (Daklak), Lien Khuong (Dalat), Vung Tau (Ba Ria -Vung Tau), Phu Quoc, Rach Gia (Kien Giang).

Security

Security is better in the North than the South. In Ho Chi Minh city, however, we are seeing an upsurge in petty crime. Tourists are the the victims of pickpockets and bag snatching. Follow some basic rules when out and about to avoid having your purse snatched. Keep your money, passport and plane ticket in a pouch hidden under your clothes. Keep them in the safe when in the hotel. At night, use taxis rather than rickshaws and don't go out by yourself on motorbike or moped in the more remote areas.
Monsoon season brings with it not insignificant flood risks that can cause landslides and consequent problems with roads and railways being blocked. During the summer, the rains generally affect the Red river basin to the North, and up until November, the central provinces and the Mekong Delta to the south of the country.
Update-Bird Flu: The risk from Avian Influenza is believed to be low. However, as a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds. Ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked. Birds from affected countries can not be brought into Britain.

Languages

Vietnemese, a language with loan words from Khmer, Chinese and Thai. It is one of the rare asian languages written using roman characters. Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) is the second most commonly spoken language. Young people are increasingly learning English. French is spoken by those generations who knew the colonial era. Russian is no longer fashionable.

Required travel documents for

A passport valid for 6 months after your return date, and a visa are mandatory. 3 to 7 days are necessary to obtain a tourist visa, valid for one month. Visa requests can be dropped off in the morning at the consular department of the embassy and should be picked up in the afternoon. Bring two identity photos, two copies of a form to be filled in once there, and 60 euros. Be careful : a form duly filled-in will be given to you with your stamped passport. You must keep tight hold of it and show it with your passport upon arrival in the country.

Religion

70 % of the Vietnamese are buddist. Other religions practiced are Confucianism, Taoism, Cadoism, Catholicism (10%), and Islam (among the Chams and Malais). The majority of Vietnamese observe ancestor worship (for some also spirit worship) and follow the lunar calendar.

Currency

The currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND). There are no coins, only notes (in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 dongs). If possible, try to change any notes into small denominations in order to avoid carrying around huge bundles of them in your pockets! Usually, everything has to be paid for in dongs, but dollars are accepted in upmarket and mid-range hotels, restaurants and car hire agencies. It is advisable to change money in banks, where the exchange rate is better. The Vietcombank accepts cash, travellers cheques and Visa and Eurocard-MasterCard credit cards. There are branches of several British banks, including HSBC, in Hô Chi Minh-City. Outside of Saigon and the Hô Chi Minh City area, it is not always possible to pay using credit cards and travellers cheques, although their use is becoming increasingly widespread. Banks are open from 7:00am to 11:00am and 1:00pm to 5:00pm.

Local transportation

By air:
This is the quickest and most comfortable way of covering long distances. Vietnam airlines offers daily direct flights between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi. Allow 2 hours. Other direct flights: From Hanoi to Nha Trang, Da Nang and Hue... From Saigon to Buon Ma Thot, Hue, Phu Quoc... It is recommended to book a few days in advance.
By train :
Foreigners have only been able to use the trains since 1993. A special rate is applied to foreigners (tickets are sold at different ticket desks). Very slow (45km/h), the train is nevertheless safer and more comfortable than the road, especially at night. You need to reserve a seated place on the day and a bunk at least four days in advance. There are three daily connections between Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi, with the journey taking between 36 and 44 hours (depending on which train is taken). A further line links Hanoi and Haiphong to the other Northen cities.
By bus :
Local buses go to various destinations but are slow and rather uncomfortable. You should add two or even three hours to advertised timetables. Minibuses offer regular departures in all directions and are quicker at reaching their destination. Tourist buses, exclusively for foreigners, come to pick up passengers from their hotel. By reserving on the day, you can get from Saigon to Haboi for about £20, or Saigon to Hue for £35.
By car:
Driving is forbidden for foreigners. Cars with a driver can be booked. Allow between £30 and £60.
By taxi :
Some companies have installed meters. Other companies allow you the freedom (or irritation) of settling on a price. You will find taxis in all of the country's towns and cities. They are indispensible for getting around at night.
By scooter-taxi:
If in a rush, a Honda ôm can be a good solution. This is a mode of transport to avoid at night or when accessing less central places.
By taxi-bike:
In the cities, these bikes with a passenger seat in the front are ideal for tourists. Certain drivers don't mind acting as guides (though sometimes are scammers). Before setting off, we reccommend establishing the price in advance and writing it down.
By two-wheel transport:
The bicycle is a pleasant and cheap way of getting round cities or over shorter distances. Russian motorbikes, Minsk, can be hired in most cities. Honda mopeds, hired on a daily basis, are easier to use and less dangerous.
By boat:
Hiring these is sometimes quicker than using the roads to get around. Express boats link Ho Chi Minh city with Vung Tau, Can Tho and Chau Doc.

Health

Avian Flu (bird flu):
It is advised that travellers going to countries reported by the World Health Administration (WHO) and the International Office of Epizootics (IOE) to have outbreaks of this disease avoid contact with poultry and birds during their stay, as well as any surface spattered with fowl droppings or animal dejections. Finally, it is formally inadvisable to bring birds back to the UK that come from these countries. The general hygiene advice for travellers who wish to protect themselves against microbial infections are heartily recommended:
- avoid consuming raw or half-cooked food, in particular meat and eggs
- wash your hands regularly.

our section on avian flu

Main recommendations:
No particular vaccine required. However, it is recommended that travellers protect themselves against dengue fever, a disease passed on by mosquitoes. Some cases of malaria have also been reported. The risk of catching malaria in the cities is very low. If you are thinking about staying in rural areas, it is preferable to follow an antimalaria treatment and pack mosquito repellent products. Regarding food, always peel fruit and vegetables; the best thing is to eat cooked vegetables. Never drink tap water, and avoid ice cubes. You can easily find water in bottles (the cap should be taken off in front of you) and soft drinks. Also, do not drink from straws that are put in your drinks-they may not be new.

Electricity

220 V. In rural areas, you might find 110 V. For precaution, bring an adapter. Electric plugs are of European style.

Tourist numbers

Vietnam received around 4 million tourists in 2009.

Taxes and tips

Airport taxes for international flights: £5 on average (£8 at the airport Tan Son Nhat of Hô Chi Minh-City, and £9 leaving Noi Bai airport in Hanoi); for domestic flights: 15,000 dôngs. Since Vietnam's opening to tourism, tipping tends to be more common (to taxi drivers, guides, luggage carriers...). Foreigners are still paying twice the price compared to Vietnamese people concerning domestic flights. It is better to book your tickets several days in advance. You can pay in dongs or by credit card.

Telephone

To call Vietnam from the UK, dial 00 84 + city code (Hanoi: 04 ; Haïphong : 031 ; Hô-Chi Minh-City : 08 ; Da Nang : 0511) or the region (Diên Biên Phu : 023 ; Hué : 054, Along : 033+the person's number.
For Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh-City, numbers of correspondants have seven digits. For other cities, they have six digits.
To call the UK from Vietnam, dial 00 44 and the person's number (without the initial zero).
To call locally, dial the local area code and the person's number. .

Vietnam : Useful addresses in the country

Before leaving

Embassy and Consulate of Vietnam
Consulate Section 12 - 14 Victoria Road London W8 5RD
Tel: 0207 937 1912
Fax: 0207 937 6108 or 0207 565 3853
Email: consular@vietnamembassy.org.uk


At the destination

Vietnam National Administraton of Tourism
80 Quan Su, Hanoï.
Tel. : 84-4-8252246.
Fax: [84] (4) 826 39 56.

British Embassy
Central Building 4th floor 31 Hai Ba Trung Hanoi
Tel. : (+84) (4) 3936 0500
Fax : (+84) (4) 3936 0561

British Consulate General
25 Le Duan Street. District 1.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel. :(+84) (8) 3825 1380 - Switchboard
(+84) (4) 3936 0500 - Visa (direct to Visa section in Hanoi)
Fax: (+84) (8) 3822 1971 - Commercial and Management sections
(+84) (8) 3829 5257 - Visa and Consular sections

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