Things to know before traveling in Vietnam

Ngày đăng: 12/04/2016 .

saigoncafetravelI'm working at the Saigoncafetravel company in Vietnam. I love the traveling and l introduce to help friends on the world when traveling in Vietnam. Travel Vietnam, tour and general info to help make your holiday even better.

General Information
 
Vietnam is one of the last countries in the world that hasn't been the stomping ground of tourists.  For that reason many people are making Vietnam their destination of choice.  The magnificent coastline of Vietnam is 3260 Km's long- beaches, bays & islands abound.  The jungles still have tigers, bears, panthers, elephants and even rhinoceros.  The people of Vietnam are very friendly, helpful and always keen to have a chat.  Vietnam is one of the few Asian countries that has not been a stomping ground for millions of tourists.


Weather
 Vietnam has some truly remarkable weather patterns.
In the north, regardless of what you may have read in 1 of the guide books in particular, there are 4 distinct seasons.  In the mountains up on the Chinese border it even snows sometimes.  In the south it's the typical 2 season, tropical climate with both wet and dry !

 
CNN have a good weather forecast page as do the BBC & you can do a search for anywhere in Viet Nam that you would like a forecast for & it's a good idea especially with so much silly advice about monsoons, typhoons and the like in Viet Nam.

 
Regulation & When you go tours in Vietnam

1, Remember to bring passports
2, Please be on time
3, Appreciate the local customs.
4, Ensure safety of participants
5, Help each other when joining the program.
6, Bring essential luggage, do not bring expensive jewelry
7, Remember to bring your camera.
8, Please don’t break the rules.

Hot Phone
Police 113,
Fire Brigade 114,
Hospital 115,
Time 117,
General Information 1080
Landline numbers in Hanoi and HCMC have a sequence of eight numbers, others have seven.
Vietnam international code: +84
Hanoi area code : (04)
Ho Chi Minh area code : (08)

Local Currency - VND


The currency in Vietnam really is the "Dong" & yes we've heard all the 1 liners about it we ever want to hear 
             
Currently the VND is worth approximately;

$1.00 USD  ~  22,000 VND (Approx)

$1.00 AUD   ~  15,600 VND (Approx)  

What's your currency worth in Vietnam ?

Try XE.COM Personal Currency Assistant

It's a great web tool, it's accurate & easy to use.



 
Foreign Exchange

 
The (State) Vietcom bank is the main bank for foreign exchange and accepts most major currencies. They have branches & even sub branches in many of the gold/jewellery shops, all over Vietnam.

A question that's often asked is - Do I need to take USD to Vietnam ?

The simple answer is - NO YOU DON'T !

We're often surprised when we hear from people (only ever tourists & the authors of 1 particular guide book) that you need to take USD to Vietnam.  You don't & haven't needed to for over 16 years now.  An Australian/New Zealand bank (the ANZ) was, in fact, the 1st foreign bank of exchange to open in Vietnam in 1993.

These days you name it, you can exchange it.  Aussie & Canadian dollars, Japanese Yen, the Euro, Singapore dollars & of course, UK Pound Sterling.

Taking your own currency with you to Vietnam will definitely save you money.

There's usually a commission you have to pay your bank to change into USD & the rate your bank gives you is rarely the latest market rate so you get got at twice. Bringing your own currency to Viet Nam is much easier to deal with because it's familiar & using the local currency in Vietnam helps their economy & that's a good thing to do in any developing country.  When you're leaving Viet Nam you simply change your VND back to whatever currency you like at the airport, no fuss, no bother & you'll get the REAL, daily full market rate too.

Many younger tourists (particularly Aussies) are infatuated with having the USD & it seems to make them feel more American.  So, if you're one of those & feel like you'd just love to have some USD to carry, please be careful it's not the '90, '93, '96 or 2002 series as those series were very widely counterfeited & are often rejected at the Banks here in Vietnam. Also, make sure the notes aren't ripped, torn, are clean & are in new or near new condition.

Lesser holidays include.

New Year 1 January.
Hùng Kings' Festival (Giỗ tổ Hùng Vương) on the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month commemorating the first kings of Vietnam.
Liberation Day (Ngày giải phóng miền Nam) on 30 April, marking the fall of Saigon in 1975.
International Workers' Day (Ngày Quốc tế Lao động) 1 May, the traditional socialist labour day. Around those times (Vietnamese often call 30 Apr-1 May holiday - the second longest holiday after Tết), trains and planes tend to be sold out, and accommodations at the beach or in Dalat are hard to find. Best to book far in advance.
National Day (Quốc khánh) 2 September.

Scams & rip-offs
 

Vietnamese people are, on the whole, very decent & honest people.  There are exceptions of course & you always need to be a bit circumspect when travelling to any foreign country.  We've listed some of the most popular scams below.

Money Changers

Changing money on the street to get a better rate ?  Don't do it !!

Please go to the bank or the big gold shop.

The airport taxi (about $14 USD including tolls)

The airport taxi service is about $14 & that’s for the car NOT per person & includes all tolls etc.

If you're having trouble with one (and sadly there's plenty of them) of the cute taxi drivers, please feel free to get them to drop you over to the Saigon Cafe Travel or you call hot line: +84 936020978

Tell them that you don’t have any money & that you’re meeting your Mum, Dad, Uncle etc at the cafe & they’ve got all your money. Tiny will explain the error of their crooked ways to them in no uncertain terms on your behalf.

The old Hotel tour & services scam

Please don't fall for the lousy tours, ticketing &/or any other services the hotels offer.  They're not licensed tour operators & they'll flog you off to any old mob that offers them a drink, regardless of what it is that the end company actually provides.  It's the same with 90% of the Travel Agent & Traveller Cafes too & it doesn't matter what kind of review you've read & the reviews are usually posted by some tout getting paid to post.

The hotel &/or dud travel agent/cafe mob usually charge between 50% & 200% on top of what they pay for the tour voucher & it's just not fair.

Buying it yourself from the actual tour operator will mean you'll not only save lots of money but you'll be able to get some real details on the tour you're paying for.  Ask yourself this.

Just why are they so desperate for you to buy ? I think the reason is very obvious.

The Shop in Vietnam

It's the usual thing in Vietnam to bargain for things but please remember to keep things in perspective. In Vietnam there are "fixed price" Government run stores that are always cheaper than you'll ever get things for on the street.
 

Please be careful & as always, shop around & check the prices before you buy.

Tipping, is it compulsory in Viet Nam ?

In Viet Nam tipping is not expected, not the done thing & as is the case in any other civilised country, something that you may or may not wish to do.

Here they are again, the usual suspects, the big tour mobs & they force their customers to pay extra for tips at the start of a tour on the basis that someone is going to dole out these tips for you (secretly) along the way. The latest tipping rate is $5+ USD for the guide & $2+ USD for the driver & that's Per person & every day too no less !!!

Sure you can tip our staff but only if you want to BUT it's NEVER, EVER compulsory !

Rest assured that our staff get decent living wages & all their other conditions too like annual leave, sick pay, public holidays etc.  They don't have to survive by constantly sucking up to the customer, arranging those not so secret commissions or resorting to other forms of nasty &/or demeaning behaviour.

Street kids

We believe they genuinely try to help out the local communities in an up front, transparent way & anything else is just not on.  The Vietnamese are an extremely compassionate society & there are all kinds of Government run agencies & programs to help those in difficulty, IF & ONLY IF, they're genuine !

When you're in Ha Noi and HCMC & if you're approached by anyone or any mob asking for your money, please feel free to ask us & we'll tell you what we know about them.

ATM and Credit Card Facilities

Credit cards are accepted in most places, although we'd advise Master or Visa card to be on the safe side.  ANZ, Citi Bank (they still around ?), the Bank of America (they still around ?)and many other banks, now have branches in Vietnam.

The Vietcom Bank now has ATMs at most of its branches throughout the country. You'll certainly find plenty of them (approx 3,500 + nation wide) in all the bigger cities like Ha Noi, Hue, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City.   

The ANZ bank has branches in both Ha Noi & HCM City with ATM machines that accept Visa, Master & Cirrus as well as ordinary ANZ access cards.  For those with ANZ accounts it's really a great service being able to withdraw from your savings account at home while on holidays in Vietnam.  Much safer too with all the counterfeit USD in Asia these days.
 
Travellers Cheques
 

The biggest problem with travellers cheques is that various providers have yet to open offices here in Vietnam.  We've had to help a number of people who simply couldn't get replacement cheques until they went to Bangkok.  If you plan to use travellers cheques then make sure you get a Vietnam office address before you purchase them, just to be safe.

Electrical Appliances
 
The electricity current in Vietnam is 220 volts. Most people can use their appliances here but for our American friends, please bring an adapter if you wish to use 110 volt appliances.
 
Transport
 

We only ever recommend the safest and most comfortable forms of transport by licensed, registered operators.  We don't believe in taking silly risks just to save a few dollars.

The mini bus rides throughout Vietnam whilst being ridiculously cheaps are usually very uncomfortable & often dangerous. The trains & planes are of a very good standard & they're safe too, which is always more important than saving a few dollars.

By plane

Booking online
When searching for flights, make sure to check directly with the carrier or that your favorite flight search engine is set to Vietnam. Otherwise you risk paying up to $100 more than necessary.

Traveling by plane is cheap and fast. For longer distances it is probably the best way to get around. The trip from Hanoi to HCMC will take about 2 hours by plane. There are many flights connecting the two largest cities, Hanoi and HCMC, to major towns such as Da Nang, Hai Phong, Can Tho, Hue, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Phu Quoc.

There are several domestic carriers in Vietnam:

Vietnam Airlines

Vietnam Airlines, a SkyTeam alliance member, is probably the best and most comfortable airline in Vietnam. Passengers are generally allowed to take one free checked bag up to 22 kgs and one free cabin bag up to 7 kg plus a laptop bag or a handbag. Also the carry-on weight is rarely enforced as long as the bag size looks reasonable.

On some flights they serve drinks and sandwiches, on other shorter routes they only serve water.

Book via its website as Expedia and others seem to only show Class Y fares for domestic routes - which are the most expensive fares - and if you book early, you can get many cheap deals ("Super Saver"). A flight between SGN and HAN should cost about 1.600.000 VND (70 USD). Planes are usually quite new Airbus A320s, and there is reasonable legroom space. This airline is mostly on-time, and delays are rare.

VietJetAir

VietJetAir is a private low cost carrier. This airline is infamously nickanamed locally as "DelayJet" as most of its flights are invariantly delayed, often for many hours and more. While it appears to have more flights available when booking, it is simply a marketing trick - in reality most of those flights would be merged together into one or two flights, typically leaving many hours after your initial departure time.

So instead of flying 6 times a day on the route, there would be one or two flights only packing the passengers from all 6 itineraries. VietJet calls it "rescheduling", and you can get your first "rescheduling" notification sometime just hours after purchasing the flight.

Flights are also occasionally cancelled, although this is less frequent now - as in case of cancellation the refund is due, while no refund or any kind of compensation is due in case of any flight delays. Occasionally you are notified about the flight changes via e-mail and phone, but the notifications not always happen - do not assume if you don't receive any notifications than the flight is on time (as it almost never is anyway).

Almost all passengers on those flights are Vietnamese buying super-cheap tickets (as low as 220,000 VND - less than $10) months in advance, who cannot afford Vietnam Airlines and therefore are willing to spend long hours or even days at crowded airports waiting for their flight. If you do not belong into this category and care about your itinerary at all, it is not recommended to fly VietJetAir.

Personal experience: in Sep 2015 all three of my VietjetAir flights were delayed for 4, 9 and 14 hours respectively). While flights are much cheaper when purchased well in advance, once the supersaver fares are gone, the flights are only slightly cheaper (SGN-HAN for under 1.000.000 VND or 50 USD versus $70 on Vietnam Airlines).

Planes are Airbus 320s with western pilots. However the seats are tiny, and there is almost no legroom. If you're over 5"6 make sure you book (and pay for) an exit row or premium seat, as otherwise you simply might not fit in.

You are also charged for checked baggage, and free carry-on allowance is only one piece not exceeding 7 kg. Your carry-on will be weighted during check-in, and if it exceeds 7kg, you cannot carry it on and must check it in for a fee.

Jetstar Pacific

Jetstar Pacific is another low-cost carrier. Formerly known as Pacific Airlines, it belongs now to the Jetstar Airways network. According to locals it is as delay-prone as VietjetAir.

By train

The railway is the least developed transportation infrastructure in Vietnam. Most of the network was built during the period of French colonization and since then it has not been expanded. There have been various programs for rehabilitation in the last decade but the network still has many deficiencies. Nevertheless, trains are undoubtedly the most comfortable way to travel overland in Vietnam, although prices are more expensive than buses.

The network currently has 7 lines in operation, with a total length of 2,632 km.

    The North-South railway line connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
    The Hanoi-Lao Cai railway line
    The Hanoi-Quan Trieu railway line
    The Hanoi-Dong Dang railway line
    The Hanoi-Hai Phong railway line
    The Saigon-Quy Nhon railway line
    The Saigon-Phan Thiet railway line

The main railway line is the North-South line, also known as the Reunification Express, connecting Hanoi with Saigon station in Ho Chi Minh City. It has a total length of 1,726 km and there are two types of service, express (designated as SE) and local (designated as TN), with different durations depending on the number of stops. Each of the SE and TN coded trains end with a number. If the number is odd it travels from North to South; if it is even, it travels from South to North.

The fastest service runs between Hanoi and HCMC in almost 30 hours, stopping in the main cities: Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hue and Vinh. The duration is too long to complete the whole journey at once, so overnight hops are usually recommended. Besides the service Hanoi-Saigon, there are partial services for the most important sections of the North-South line, such as: Hanoi-Vinh, Hanoi-Hue, Hue-Saigon, Nha Trang-Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang-Saigon. Some segments of the North-South line pass near the coast or through a unique mountain scenery, like the Hai Van Pass between Da Nang and Hue. The train is definitely a good way to see the countryside of Vietnam.

If you want to pre-book some or all of your trains before you get to Vietnam, you can also order tickets through one of these reliable Vietnamese train booking agencies. They naturally charge a fee or mark-up for their service, but it's worth it to be sure of a ticket for your first choice of date, train and class.

Vietnamtrain: http://www.vr.com.vn/en would be a good choice. They're a reliable Hanoi-based agency which specialises in train bookings and has the Vietnamese Railways ticketing system installed in their offices. They get regular glowing reports from seat correspondents.

For sorting through the different railway lines, schedules and fares, the travel search engine Baolau is a useful tool. It calculates the best route to connect any two cities of the railway network and provides information of the location of the train stations and official ticket offices.

Always try to buy your tickets at least 4 days in advance, to avoid disappointment, especially during peak holiday season, during which you should try to book at least a week in advance. It is common and convenient to book through one of the popular online agencies (who are middlemen), who then deliver your ticket to your hotel. However, this is done at a surcharge to the actual price ($10-$20 USD).

If you either want to cut out the cost of the middleman or require urgent travel by train within the next 4 days, it is possible to go directly to the train station to book directly, if there are any seats left. Air-conditioned soft or hard sleeper berths are available and purchasing as early as possible is a good idea as popular berths and routes are often bought out by tour companies and travel agents well before the departure time (hence being told the train is sold out at a station ticket window or popular tour company office does not mean there are no tickets available anywhere--they've simply been bought by another re-seller).

Booking at the train station itself is generally the safest way, just prepare on a piece of paper the destination, date, time, number of passengers and class. However, unsold tickets can often be bought last minute from people hanging around at the station--a train is rarely sold out for real, as the railway company will add cars when demand is high. Commissions on these tickets will drop away as the departure time draws nearer. Tickets can be returned before departure for a 10% fee.

Open Tour bus are run by a multitude of tour companies. They cater especially to tourists, offering ridiculous low rates (Hanoi to HCMC: US$25-30) and door-to-door service to your desired hostel. You can break the journey at any point and continue on a bus of the same company any time later, or simply buy tickets just for the stage you're willing to cover next.

If you're not planning to make more than 3-4 stops, it might be cheaper to buy separate tickets as you go (ie Hanoi to Hue can be as low as US$5). Also the open ticket limits you to using only one company and does not guarantee you a seat on any bus. Most hotels and guest houses can book seats for any connection, although you're better to shop around at travel agents, as prices will vary on any given ticket/bus company. Going to the bus company office may net you a commission-free fare.

Although the bus company will usually be happy to collect you at your hotel or guest house, boarding at the company office will guarantee a choice of seats and you'll avoid getting stuck at the back or unable to sit next to your travelling companions. The offices are generally located in or near the tourist area of town, and a short walk might make your trip that much more pleasant.

Since tour companies charge very little, they do make commission on their stop-offs which are often at souvenir shops, where you do not have to buy; they always have toilets and drinks and water available for purchase. The estimated time for a bus trip will not be accurate and may be an additional couple of hours sometimes, due to the number of stop offs.

Collecting the passengers at the start of the journey can also take quite a while too. Always be at least half an hour early to catch the bus. Try not to drink too much water, as rest stops, especially for overnight buses, may be just somewhere where there are a lot of bushes.

WARNING - Be very careful of your possessions on the overnight bus, people (including bus employees) have been known to look through passengers bag's and take expensive items such as iPods and phones and sell them on for profit. If you are travelling with an iPod DO NOT FALL ASLEEP WITH IT IN YOUR EAR, as the chances are it will be nowhere to be found in the morning. Simply get a padlock for your hand luggage and lock everything up in there before you go to sleep.

Health
 
At different times we've needed medical services.  In the bigger cities like Ha Noi & Danang and Ho Chi Minh City we can put you in touch with the places we have either been to ourselves, or can highly recommend.  Services like doctors, dentists, optical, alternative medicines, massage and even cosmetic surgery.

 First hospital contacts for emergencies Hanoi
1. International SOS: 24 hour alarm center & medical emergency teams
Add: 31 Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi Tel: 39340555  Fax: 39340556
 
2. Vietnam International Hospital: 24 hour emergency clinic
Add: Phuong Mai road, Hanoi Tel: 35740740
 
3. Medex: 24 hour emergency (090401919)
Add: A1 Van Phuc, Suite 109-112, Kim Ma, Hanoi. Tel: 38430748  Fax: 38461750
 
Hochiminh City
1. International SOS: 24 hour emergency
Add: 65 Nguyen Du, Dist.1., Hochiminh City. Tel: 38298424, 38298520 Fax: 38298551
 
2. Alain Carpentier Foundation- IMC-Heart Institute: 24h emergency
Add: 520 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Dist.10, Hochiminh  City. Tel: 38654025
 
3. Colombia Asia Saigon: 24 hour emergency
Add: 8 Alexandere de Rhodes, Dist.1, Hochiminh City. Tel: 38238455

Travel Insurance
 
For anyone travelling to Vietnam (or to any other country) we strongly recommend that you take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before your departure.  The rate for Asian destinations is very reasonable when compared with Europe or the USA.

If you're going to try something out of the ordinary (windsurfing, scuba diving etc) please check with your insurance company before you purchase your policy.

People have found out later that they weren't covered & the results have been absolutely disastrous.  When choosing your travel insurance company, please be very careful.  Some insurance companies are very nice when it comes to taking your money but have incredible difficulty remembering who you are if you need their help.

On a recent visit to the Aussie embassy here in Ha Noi I saw a large sign that simply said this.   "If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel". Please be careful !
 
Special Interests
 
If you have a special interest or requirement or would like to make contacts in a particular area whilst in Vietnam, let us know prior to your trip. We'll assist in any way we can.
 
Visas
 
It's necessary to have your visa issued prior to arrival in Vietnam.  Tourist visas are generally for 1 or 3 months but business and other visas can be obtained for longer stays if required.  

The best place to obtain a Viet Nam Visa is in your own country.

The best person to help you with it is a licensed travel agent.

People who get someone they've never dealt with before to do it in other countries are often very disappointed.

For Aussie customers especially, the best & cheapest way to get a visa for Viet Nam is to get a licensed travel agent to do it for you or if you really want to do it for yourself, you can arrange a visa by contacting the Vietnamese Embassy in either Sydney, NSW or Canberra in the ACT.
 
Export/Import
 
Vietnam is an exciting developing country with many opportunities.  We are happy to introduce you to reputable local companies, not some operator working out of a briefcase, who can't be found when they're needed.
 
Customer Bookings

For your airline tickets, visas & travel insurance, please contact your nearest, licensed travel agent.

You can purchase your tour directly from us & you can contact us by e-mail, phone or with any & all enquires or if you'd prefer you can get your travel agent to contact us on your behalf.

All our contact details are listed at the bottom of this page.

Office: 60 Le Thanh Ton Str., District.,1., HCMC, Vietnam
Email: saigoncafetravel@gmail.com
24/27 Service: +84 936020978
www.saigoncafetravel.com
Office: 56/21 Cau Go Str., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi City Vietnam
Hotline: +84 936020978
Email: saigoncafetravel@gmail.com
www.saigoncafetravel.com
Thank you for reading this page.

Ceo Director - Tiny Pham

 

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