Useful information for your trip to Vietnam
In this section we've put together lots of useful practical advice about travelling in Indochina. Of course, everyone travelling with InsideVietnam Tours is supplied with our complimentary Travel Info-Pack and has 24/7 support from our local offices. Those of you taking a Small Group Tour will also receive on the ground assistance from your Tour Leader.
If there is anything we've forgotten, please e-mail us and we'll do our best to include it soon.
Vietnam Quick Facts
Population: 90 million
Capital City: Hanoi, pop. 6.5 million (28 districts)
Religion: Indigenous religions, atheist, Buddhist, and Christian
Currency: Vietnamese Dong
Time: GMT +7 hours
International Dialling Code: 84
Visitors from the majority of countries, including the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most EU nationals will require a visa to enter Vietnam. There are two options available:
1. Arrange the visa in advance of travel via a Vietnamese Embassy/Consulate in your home country
Although it is generally the more expensive option, obtaining your visa in advance offers the most security and is therefore the one that we recommend. Please note this is the only option for those arriving into Vietnam at a land or river border (crossing from Cambodia, Laos or China), where visa-on-arrival is not available. This includes Mekong River cruises commencing in Cambodia and travelling south into Vietnam.
NB/ Please note that although officially only one month validity at date of departure is required on your passport to obtain a visa for Vietnam, in practice some airlines refuse to allow boarding if validity is less than six months from the date on which you are due to depart. We therefore recommend always ensuring your passport has this minimum six months validity.
2. Obtain a Visa-on-Arrival at your designated point of entry into Vietnam
If you are flying in to Vietnam and arriving at Hanoi Noi Bai, Ho Chi Minh Tan Son Nhat or Danang International Airport it is possible to obtain a visa-on-arrival, assuming you have the correct documentation and authorisations. This is a good option for those who are unable to send their passports or visit the consulate in their home country in advance of travel, or who have made last-minute arrangements.
If you are considering this option please let us know as we will need to arrange a visa authorisation letter and can advise you on the most up to date fees. In addition to this authorisation you will also require:
• Valid PASSPORT (officially validity must exceed that of the visa by at least one month, though as stated above we strongly recommend a minimum of six months).
• One completed APPLICATION FORM (only obtainable on arrival at the Visa-on-Arrival desk).
• Two passport PHOTOGRAPHS taken not more than one year ago,
• VISA FEE to be paid in US Dollars (see below)
• Visa authorisation letter
Visa on Arrival Fees (correct as of January 2013)
• 45 USD/person for 1-3 month single entry visa.
• 65 USD/person for 1 month (29 days) multiple entry visa.
• 95 USD/person for 30 days to 3 months multiple entry visa.
• 135 USD/person for 6 months or more multiple entry visa.
Vietnam is still predominantly a cash society – the majority of shops and restaurants, with the exception of international chains and some tourist-orientated places in the big cities, do not accept debit or credit cards, though they can be used in many hotels. The currency in Vietnam is the Dong (VND), and though US dollars are accepted in many popular destinations and attractions, the majority of transactions are conducted in Dong.
The Vietnamese Dong rates against major currencies are as follows as of early 2013:
1 Australian Dollar AUD 21,500 VND
1 British Pound GBP 31,700 VND
1 Euro EUR 27,800 VND
1 United States Dollar USD 20,800 VND
In general terms the USD is the most widely and easily exchanged currency in Vietnam, as it is in the majority of Asia, with the Euro as a distant second. British pounds, Canadian dollars or Australian dollars are not widely accepted in either banks or hotels, and where they are the exchange rate is unfavourable. There is no longer a significant currency black-market in Vietnam, and most hotels offer roughly the same US dollar exchange rate as banks or exchange-desks, making this often the easiest option. USD cash is also required to obtain a Visa-on-Arrival in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, so we recommend you bring a cash float in USD or at least Euros even if you intend to obtain most of your currency through the ATM network.
Credit / Debit cards
ATMs are now widespread in all but the most remote destinations in Vietnam, and although rates and withdrawal charges will generally be higher than for exchanging cash, this is a reliable and largely secure method of obtaining VND cash.
Traveller’s cheques will be accepted at major international banks in big cities, but generally not in hotels, and the process may both be more time-consuming and incur higher charges than exchanging cash. These should be USD denominated to ensure the best chance of acceptance, but we would generally not recommend them.
In conclusion we recommend using debit cards to withdraw cash from local ATMs, backed up by a cash float of USD brought with you from home. A good selection of low denomination USD bills (USD 1 and 5) are very useful for tipping and bargaining purposes. If you have any questions or concerns about the best place to get currency, please ask your guide – they will recommend a good local option.
How much money will I need?
This is the $1000 question so to speak!
Everybody spends a different amount when they visit. Vietnam can be delightfully inexpensive though, and as eating out is very reasonable this helps keep costs down. Taxis, tuk-tuks and cyclos are generally reasonable – check with your hotel or guide what they suggest as reasonable as a certain amount of negotiation is often required to get the best rate. This principle applies to the purchase of most tourist souvenirs – haggling is part of the fun but don’t get too carried away over the equivalent of $0.20!
As a rough guide we recommend USD 25-50 per person per day as a good amount to cover basic costs on a 2 week trip. This should cover your meals, a couple of drinks, local transport and any entrance fees. What this won’t cover are significant souvenir purchases, or meals at the more upmarket hotels or restaurants. Please be aware that drinks onboard cruise vessels at Halong Bay or on the Mekong can be pricey, and corkage will be charged for BYO unless you are discrete!
Power and Plugs
Vietnam uses 220v with two round or flat-pin plugs. Plug adaptors are often available at hotels, but we recommend bringing them with you – they are readily available in electronic stores at international airports worldwide.
Vaccinations against a range of diseases are required for much of Southeast Asia. Please consult your GP and visit http://www.nathnac.org/ds/map_asia.aspx for details of the recommended vaccinations for the particular regions you will be visiting on your trip. Anti-malarial medication may also be required.
Complimentary wi-fi internet access is available in almost all international standard hotels in Vietnam should you wish to bring laptops/tablets etc. Please be aware that there will usually be no access onboard boats or in more remote homestay or lodge accommodation.
Most international mobile phones will work in Vietnam, and coverage is excellent, often in even the most remote locations, but you are likely to incur high “roaming” charges. If it is important for you to keep in touch then you may like to consider purchasing a local SIM card on arrival. This is relatively inexpensive and your guide will be able to assist should this be of interest. If you plan to use your own mobile phone then we recommend contacting your phone contract provider in advance to ask about service availability and costs for receiving and making calls whilst in Vietnam.
Crime and personal safety
Vietnam is not a dangerous country, but the usual precautions regarding valuables should be taken, especially in the bigger cities where pick-pocketing and bag/camera snatching is not uncommon. In Ho Chi Minh City snatch thieves are known to use motorbikes to grab valuables and make a quick getaway, so make sure you keep a tight hold of your personal belongings. Keep large amounts of money out of sight and consider using a money belt; in your hotel room keep your valuables locked in the room safe and when out and about keep an eye on your bag and other personal effects.
Vietnam is also a safe country for women to travel in and there is a low risk of being assaulted in any way. Most areas are safe to walk alone at night but as always it is best to be with another person.