COUNTRY GUIDE

Vietnam

Vietnam lends itself well to epics. Snaking sinuously down from the Chinese border to the Gulf of Thailand, its bounty of towering peaks, emerald green paddies, seemingly endless white sand beaches and deep roots in the past offer enough mystic allure to satiate the thirsts of any traveller. 

Vietnam 1

Airlines

International: See below under Arrival in Vietnam. 

Domestic: 4 domestic airlines are currently operating in Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines, Bamboo Airways, Jetstar-Pacific Airlines and Viet Jet Air. The last 2 are low-cost carriers (LCC). All airlines are using a mixture of Boeing and Airbus planes and Vietnamese as well as foreign pilots. EXO Travel uses Vietnam Airlines as first choice. 

Airport Tax

There is a departure tax on all international flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City but this tax is already included in the price of your all airplane tickets.  

Arrival in Vietnam

BY AIR 

Consult your local travel agent for routings, fares and availability on flights to Vietnam. Discount websites and flight search engines may offer some good deals. Major airlines flying to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi include: Vietnam Airlines, Air France, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, China Air, Hong Kong Air, Cebu Pacific, Emirates, Etihad and many more. Major airlines flying to Danang International Airport include Silk Air, Air Asia and Dragon Air. 

Nha Trang’s Cam Ranh Airport and Phu Quoc are now International airports used for some long-haul charter flights. 

BY LAND 

Vietnam shares a border with China in the north (three border crossings), Laos in the west (five border crossings) and Cambodia in the south-west (three border crossings). 

From China: 

Trains from Beijing to Hanoi pass by Nanning and Pinxiang in China and enter Vietnam at Dong Dang (north of Lang Son). There is also a road crossing known as Huu Nghi in Lang Son province. Transport coming from Kunming crosses the border at Lao Cai, in northern Vietnam. From Guangzhou, you will cross the border at Mong Cai, a few hours drive from Halong and its spectacular Bay. 

From Laos: 

  • South: Via Savannakhet and Sepon (Laos) to Lao Bao (Vietnam) and central provinces
  • Central: Vientiane to Lak Sao (Laos) to Cau Treo (Vietnam) and the Ha Tinh Province
  • Central: Xieng Khuang or Phonsavan to Nam Can (Vietnam) and the Nghe An Province
  • North: Xam Neua Province (Laos) to Na Meo (Vietnam) and the Thanh Hoa Province
  • North: Muang Khua Province (Laos) to Tay Trang border (Vietnam) and Dien Bien Phu 

From Cambodia:

If you travel from Phnom Penh by speedboat, you will enter Vietnam at Chau Doc, in the Mekong Delta area. If you arrive from Cambodia by road into Ho Chi Minh City, you will enter Vietnam at Moc Bai, which connects Vietnam’s Tay Ninh Province with Cambodia’s Svay Rieng Province. Border crossings at Prek Chak/Xaxia (close to Kep in Cambodia and Ha Tien in Vietnam) are now possible.

ARRIVAL FORMALITIES

In case you are obtaining your pre-arranged visa on arrival please proceed to the Visa counter and read the visa section below. If you do not need a visa on arrival, you should proceed direct to the immigration counter. 

ATMs

ATMs for withdrawing Vietnamese Dong are available in major airports, hotels, towns and capitals of provinces throughout Vietnam. Most ATMs have an English language version. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.  

Clothing

Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and an umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun. 

Evenings in the north and the center can be quite chilly so bring a sweater and a good jacket especially from November to February. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other revealing clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries. Shoes must be removed before entering some religious building or a private home. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off. 

Credit Cards

Most credit cards are accepted in 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 usually applies for credit card purchases: this varies depending on which credit card is used but is normally in the range between 2% – 4%. 

NOTE: Surcharges can change without prior notice. Check the percentage charged before you pay. 

Do

Those searching for authentic Asia won’t be disappointed by our vivacious and vibrant custom private tours of Vietnam. Whether it’s cruising the Mekong Delta, exploring UNESCO’s Halong Bay or visiting the island villages of Phu Quoc, Vietnam is filled with a rare beauty. Select from our wide ranging portfolio of Vietnam private tours, before contacting us to cater the itinerary to your own unique travel interests. 

4 Days / 3 Nights
Buon Ma Thuot

Discover Vietnam’s Central Highlands 4 Days

  • Discover Vietnam’s ethnic groups
  • Sleep in a hilltribe village
  • See ancient customs and rituals
  • Get a glimpse of each individual elephant's personality
  • Explore highland landscapes
5 Days / 4 Nights
Buon Ma Thuot

Discover Vietnam’s Central Highlands

  • Discover Vietnam’s ethnic groups
  • Sleep in a hilltribe village
  • See ancient customs and rituals
  • Get a glimpse of each individual elephant's personality
  • Explore highland landscapes
3 Days / 2 Nights
Hoa Binh

Pu Bin - Mai Chau

  • Authentic experience of Thai ethnic cultural minority
  • Relaxing traditional herbal massage
  • Trek in stunning landscapes and remote Mai Chau

Electricity

Vietnam mainly uses 220V but in some areas, 110V is also used. A mixture of flat and round 2-pin outlets are used throughout the country. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor. 

Entertainment

There are plenty of entertainment options in Vietnam and restaurants/bars and nightclubs open until late at night/early in the morning. A wide variety of restaurants are on offer with everything from Vietnamese, Asian, Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food. 

Food

The cuisine of Vietnam comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors and is definitely a part of the Vietnam experience not to be missed. One of the characteristics of Vietnamese food is that it is always fresh being bought the same morning straight from the market. Food is usually prepared with a minimum of oil and served with the ubiquitous fish sauce called nuoc mam.

Typical Vietnamese dishes you can expect to try include pho, a type of rice noodle soup eaten for breakfast, cha gio (nem in northern dialect), deep-fried spring rolls and goi ngo sen, a delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps and peanuts. Due to the strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam, vegetarian food is widely available however more so in Southern Vietnam. 

Health

Whilst no vaccinations are compulsory for travel to Vietnam, except Yellow Fever of coming from an infected area, there may be some that are recommended. We therefore suggest that prospective travellers refer to their own government’s Foreign Travel Advice website, and to seek the expert opinion of a qualified medical practitioner in their home country prior to travel. Some vaccination courses may need time to be completed and if you plan to take anti-malarial tablets, you usually need to start some time before arrival. Medical facilities are limited in Vietnam and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling in case evacuation is needed. We also recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses). 

Hours of Business

Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07:30 or 08:00 until 17:00 or 18:00 and often close for lunch between 11:30 and 13:30. Some offices also open Saturday morning. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week. 

Internet

Major hotels have Business Centers with PCs connected to the Internet and have wireless broadband access in room or public area. Vietnam has an exceptional amount of cafés and restaurants offering free WIFI connections, if having a meal or a drink internet fees are waived. 

Language

The national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. In big cities and in places with many tourists, people will speak basic English. The younger generation will be more adept at speaking English, while the older generation still speaks some French. Because Vietnamese has six different tones, it is a difficult language for most foreigners to speak despite the fact that the Roman alphabet is used in modern Vietnamese. The same word can have six different meanings depending on the tone used to pronounce it. Russian and Chinese are also spoken by some people. 

Money

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). US Dollars and Euros are accepted in some hotels, restaurants and shops. Please note that they are not normally allowed to collect foreign currency since 2012. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 05:00 and some on Saturday morning. In the major cities there are some exchange offices open long hours near places frequented by tourists and most hotels will change US Dollars and Euros at very reasonable rates. 

Current exchange rate (Jan 2020) approx. 1 USD = 23,000 VND; 1 Euro = 26,100 VND You receive a slightly better exchange rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations. 

Vietnamese Dongs come in the following forms: 

  • Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000.
  • Coins (not commonly used): 200; 500 (silver) and 1,000; 2,000; 5,000 (gold) 

Post Mail

Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs VND 15,000 (0.7 USD) to send and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of destination. 

Public Holidays

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3 May
Mon
Labour Day
2 September
Thu
Independance Day
30 April
Fri
Liberation Day

READING LIST

  • The Quiet American – Graham Green – Two Americans with different characters are sent to Vietnam for their own missions. After meeting a beautiful native girl, who creates a catalyst for jealousy and competition between the men and a cultural clash resulting in bloodshed and deep misgivings.
  • When Heaven and Earth Changed Places – Le Ly Hayslip – A true story of the hardship and ordeal Le Ly suffered in order to survive when growing up. Her faith in humanity thrives upon all the terrible ordeals. Le Ly is courageous woman who experienced the true horror of the Vietnam War—and survived to tell her unforgettable story.
  • Child of War, Woman of Peace – Le Ly Hayslip – The inspiring story of an immigrant’s struggles to heal old wounds in the United States, this is the sequel to When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, Le Ly Hayslip’s extraordinary, award-winning memoir of life in wartime Vietnam.
  • Paradise Of The Blind – Duong Thu Huong – An exquisite portrait of three Vietnamese women struggling to survive in a society where subservience to men is expected and Communist corruption crushes every dream.

  • Novel Without A Name – Duong Thu Huong – A piercing, unforgettable tale of the horror and spiritual weariness of war, Novel Without a Name will shatter every preconception Americans have about what happened in the jungles of Vietnam.

Religion

Buddhism is the dominant religion in Vietnam usually combined with elements of Confucianism and Taoism. About 10% of the country’s population is Catholic and there are also communities of Protestants and Muslims. Vietnam is also home to a unique religion called Cao Dai, a religious cocktail of all the world’s major faiths. 

Safety

Vietnam is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your valuables unattended in the vehicles and always maintain eye contact and a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. In Saigon (HCMC) there has been a surge in drive-by snatching so keep a lookout around you and never stay close to the road’s edge with a bag, gold chains or handling a phone or camera as these are the favorite objects.

Avoid cyclos late at night and choose reliable metered taxi companies (they are really cheap and air conditioned). Choose Mai Linh Taxi, Vinasun, Vina Taxi in Saigon (HCMC) and Hanoi Taxi and CP Taxi in Hanoi. Best to avoid other brands on the streets. Grab, Go Viet, Be are available in Saigon and Hanoi. 

See

Our day trips in Vietnam, perfect to fill the gaps in any Vietnamese itinerary, showcase the best experiences to be had in this vibrant modernising nation. Whether it’s cycling through the verdant rice paddies around Hoi An or sampling delicious street food in Ho Chi Minh City, EXO can arrange concentrated half-day or full-day experiences that take travellers straight to the heart of Vietnam. 

Central Vietnam
Half Day

SIC Sunset Boat Cruise on The Thu Bon River

  • Take a scenic boat cruise along Hoi An’s Thu Bon River
  • Watch the sunset over the coconut-lined river banks
  • Climb in a traditional basket boat for a local-style adventure
Ho Chi Minh City
Evening

Dinner Cruise In Ho Chi Minh City

  • Cruising with its Indochinese inspired river cruise vessel
  • Authentic live music, traditional art performances and interactive buffet
  • Modern Morish Cuisine buffet inspired by flavors, species and taste.
Central Vietnam
Full Day

Da Nang City Tour Full-day

  • Explore Danang’s thrilling mix of old and new
  • Glimpse into Vietnam’s military past at an insightful museum
  • Visit Marble Mountain for fabulous views over Da Nang

Shopping

Souvenirs to look out for in Vietnam include lacquer ware, silk, conical hats, woodcarvings, hill tribe fabrics and handicrafts, embroidery, marble, ceramics, silver jewelry, antique watches and paintings. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping but Hoi An in the center of Vietnam is also a very good place to hunt for bargains. 

Stay

With an impressive selection of resorts, hideaways, lodges and hotels in Vietnam, the country really is a paradise of choice for the discerning traveller. Using our 25 years of experience in Vietnam we have curated them to provide you only the very best. Our carefully handpicked best hotels in Vietnam ensure our clients receive excellent service in only the finest surroundings. 

Ho Chi Minh City & surrounds

Villa Song Saigon

Beach & Island Destinations

Villa Aria Muine

Beach & Island Destinations

Victoria Phan Thiet Resort

Telephone

If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the costs before using it abroad – it may be expensive. 

Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices although these services are expensive. It may not always be possible to make international calls in remote areas. 

Time

Vietnam is GMT + 7 and does not operate daylight-saving system. 

Tipping

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in a country where the average annual income is quite low compared to Europe for example. It is customary to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped. Do not let guide talk you into tipping more than you plan to. It is totally up to you who you tip, when and how much. 

Transportation

Foreign tourist with valid international driving license is required to converse to the corresponding driving license of Vietnam if they wish to drive in the country.  

Travel Checks

Banks such as CitiBank, ANZ Bank. HSBC and Vietcombank can change your Travelers Checks for VND or US Dollars but a commission applies (1% to 2%). Very few shops, hotels or restaurants accept Travelers Checks. NOTE: Travelers Checks can be difficult to change outside of major cities. 

WATER

It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine.

Weather

Vietnam’s weather ranges from a familiar four-season system in the north to eternal summer in the south. Because of regional variation, there are pleasant places to visit in Vietnam throughout the year.   

REGION
1 Jan
2 Feb
3 Mar
4 Apr
5 May
6 Jun
7 Jul
8 Aug
9 Sep
10 Oct
11 Nov
12 Dec
North
Center
South

Pleasant Weather, No Rain

High Heat and Humidity

Tropical Climate, Possible Intermittent Rain

Tropical Climate, High Chances of Rain

Possible Risk of Typhoons and Storms

Cool to Cold Temperature (At Night)

Where Next?

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