1. Is this safe to travel in Vietnam?
Vietnam is one of the safest countries for traveling. Women and independent travelers have found it relatively hassle-free and easy to travel throughout the country. Petty theft, such as pickpockets and drive-by bag snatchers, is more rampant in HCMC than elsewhere in the country. Visitors are advised to avoid wearing extravagant jewelry or carrying large amounts of money when walking in the streets. If you do choose to drive a motorbike or ride a bicycle, always wear a helmet.
2. Do I need to take vaccination before travelling to Vietnam?
No vaccination is required to enter Vietnam. However visitors are advised to have up-to-date inoculations for Cholera, Hepatitis A and B, Malaria, Typhoid and Tuberculosis. Malaria is prevalent in the remote mountainous regions. Please ask your doctor regarding immunizations and for the best preventative measures.
3. Custom Regulation?
Entering Vietnam, passengers are expected to declare:
Cameras, camcorders and other electronic equipment not for personal use
Jewelry not for personal use.
Currency over USD 3,000
Video tapes (they may be kept for a few days and screened).
Upon completion of this process, the Customs Declaration forms will be stamped with one retained by the Custom Declaration and a yellow copy returned to the visitor to be submitted upon departure. Don’t lose it!
Firearms, narcotics and other internationally prohibited goods are banned and those found in possession of such will be liable to prosecution.
Duty-Free Items: Visitors may import 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, 1 liter of wine, 1 liter of liquor and an unlimited amount of film. Commercial goods and items of high value being taken out of Vietnam require export permits the Customs Service. Antiques may be confiscated permanently. No local currency may be taken out of the country.
4. Currency & Exchange rate
In Vietnam the local currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), which has a variety of notes ranging 200 all the way to the 500,000 note. However the main notes are the 10,000 – 20,000 – 50,000 – 100,000, 200,000 and the 500,000. Please take care with 20,000 and 500,000 notes since they are both blue and can cause some confusion (and not everyone is honest enough to give you the right change).We recommend that you keep your 500,000 notes separate your 20,000 and other VND notes to avoid confusion and loss of money. The US Dollar is widely accepted at major shops and restaurants throughout Vietnam, though the exchange rate chosen may often vary the official one, making it more costly than VND. It is, however, very easy to exchange at banks, hotels and other exchanges throughout the country. The British Pound, the Euro and various other major currencies are also easily exchanged for VND. When exchanging your home currency for VND, ensure that your notes are undamaged, banks and exchanges wont accept notes which are torn, very crumpled, or have writing on them. Similarly, also make sure the VND that you receive is not damaged. The exchange rates fluctuate a lot, however the approximate rates can be viewed at:http://www.xe.com/currency/vnd-vietnamese-dong. ATM machines are now readily available throughout most cities and resorts. However, its still highly recommended that you always have some local currency with you. Visa and Master card are now becoming more accepted in many of the larger hotels and restaurants, especially in the bigger cities, the surcharge is usually around 3%.
5. What are the banned materials?
Vietnam has strict laws on bringing in anti-government literature, pornography, firearmsand weapons. CDs and tapes are often retained for screening, but will be returned after a few days. It is illegal to remove antiques Vietnam. When buying handicrafts, especially those that look old, ask the retailer for a receipt and a declaration that the item may be exported.
Q. What is the main difference in the climate of Vietnam and that of my country?
A. Vietnam is both hot and humid. Combined, they make visitors from temperate countries sweat profusely. Drinking plenty of water and good sun protection is essential. Winter in Hanoi (January to March) and the rest of the northern area can be be cold. The chilling effect is made worse by a damp, clammy atmosphere.
Q. What can I do about jet lag?
A. Not much, really. A stop-over en-route, or a rest day on arrival helps. It’s important to try to sleep and wake according to local time, even on the aeroplane.
Q. What will happen if there is an emergency?
A. With Sao La Vietnam Tours, your guide will always have a mobile ‘phone and a means of summoning immediate assistance. You will also have direct telephone access to Sao La Vietnam Tours Head office.
Q. How will medical emergencies be dealt with?
A. You will be taken to the nearest international clinic or hospital for an immediate examination and appropriate treatment according to the terms of your insurance.
Q. What if I am hospitalised or become incapacitated?
A. If you have supplied us with the details of your insurance, we will contact the company on your behalf and assist in any way we can.
Q. What should we do about malaria?
A. We are not medical experts, so we cannot advise you. However, if you wish, we will ask a trustworthy local international medical practice to provide an up-to-date report and recommendations.
7. Getting Around
Q. Can I travel freely in Vietnam?
A. Up to a point. A few areas are closed for security reasons, and others require a permit. If you travel with Sao La Vietnam Tours, we will complete all necessary paperwork and permission procedures on your behalf.
Q. Can I ride a motorbike in Vietnam?
A. Officially, not without a Vietnamese license. An international licence is not acceptable as a substitute. The police generally turn a blind eye to foreigners, but not always!
Q. Can I hire a motorbike?
A. Yes, easily. However, few come with official papers, which can result in an on-the-spot fine. As they are not insured, you will be liable to pay for any damage or theft.
Q. Is it safe to ride a motorcycle in Vietnam?
A. The short answer is no! 80% of the 20,000 or so serious traffic accidents per year in Vietnam are caused by, or involve, motorcyclists. Roads are bad, and regulations are often ignored.
Q. Can I get a license to drive in Vietnam?
A. Not easily. An international driving licence can be converted, but the document must be translated and notarised, a protracted procedure.
Q. Can I drive a car in Vietnam?
A. With a Vietnamese licence, or a converted international licence, yes. However, there are no car rental agencies. Advertisements for car rental mean a car and a driver.
8. Food and Drink
Q. I am restricted to a special diet. How will I cope in Vietnam?
A. If travel with Sao La Vietnam Tours, and give us details of your diet, we will instruct all the hotels and restaurants in the itinerary to provide the correct food. Your guide will also be fully briefed.
Q. I am a vegetarian. What are the options for me?
A. Despite being a Buddhist country, Vietnam is short of vegetarian restaurants. However, there are a few in the larger cities, and it’s quite easy to find good vegetable meals. The fruit is excellent!
Q. Can I make changes to my itinerary after I arrive?
A. Yes, as long as it’s possible. We will give you a quotation and issue a receipt or refund as appropriate. We consider minor changes involving minimal or no costs as part of the service and make no charge in such circumstances.
Q. Are there any restrictions on photography in Vietnam?
A. Yes. Photography in or near military installations, airports or similar locations is prohibited. Anyone caught doing taking photographs in restricted areas will have the film, and possibly the camera or camcorder, confiscated, and may be arrested.
Q. Can I buy antiques in Vietnam?
A. A qualified yes, providing it is less than a hundred years old. However, exporting an artefact that was made within the last century is not straightforward. There are experts on hand at the airport to verify the age of antiques, but the quality of fakes is very high, so anything that looks old is liable to be confiscated.
Q. How can I take large items home with me – furniture or paintings, for example?
A. We are also registered for export and import activities. We will give you an ‘at cost’ quotation, and arrange for the items to be properly crated, licensed for export, and shipped or flown to your home address.
Q. Are there Internet facilities in Vietnam?
A. Yes, there are plenty in cities and large towns, but not in rural areas. Most large hotels have internet access, and Internet cafes are commonplace and cheap.
Q. The artist you took me to was wonderful. I want to give him a present. Any ideas?
A. This is a common query. If you want to show your appreciation to someone in the form of a gift, we will try to suggest something appropriate, and even purchase and deliver it on your behalf, if necessary.
Q. I am from the United States. Will I face any hostility because of the war?
A. You will be surprised by the warmth of your reception. We Vietnamese live in the present and look forward to the future – the war is history. We warmly welcome people from all countries and races.
Q. What is the attitude towards drugs in Vietnam?
A. The law is strict in Vietnam. The use of illegal narcotics is strictly forbidden under any circumstances. Dealers and people caught trafficking, whether Vietnamese or foreigner, face execution. Don't be tempted to risk it!
10. How many days do need in Vietnam
How long it takes to travel in Vietnam depends on the breadth and depth of your visit. About a week is suitable for visiting major attractions like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Halong Bay, and the Mekong Delta. If you want to explore more of Vietnam, such as the terraced rice fields of Sapa and the Karst landscape of Ninh Binh, 10-15 days would be better.
11. Can i combine my visit to Vietnam with another country
Sure. For most of our clients, some would prefer to travel Vietnam and Cambodia together, some would combine Vietnam and Laos, or some even extend to Thailand and more nearby countries. With our tailor-made service, it is easy to customize a multi-country tour.
12. Is it a common practice to give tips in Vietnam
Tipping is not mandatory or customary in Vietnam, but it is always appreciated. For the people who provide good services to you, just leave a small tip to show your appreciation. Suggested tips are USD 5-10 per traveler per day as tips for the guide, USD 3-6 per traveler per day as tips for the driver, and USD 1-2 as tips for the hotel and restaurant waitress.
13. Can i take pictures of the people and streets during my tour
Generally, you can freely take street or people photography in Vietnam, and the locals are remarkably amenable to being photographed. But it is important to show your etiquette to ask permission before photographing people or places of worship. No photo should come at the expense of your manners or respect.
14. Is it safe to visit Vietnam?
Yes, Vietnam is a friendly and safe place to travel, keeping a very low crime rate in general, particularly against tourists. The most common issue you should be cautious of is pickpocketing when visiting crowded marketplaces or shopping areas, just as that happens in any other tourist destination. For your traveling with us, you will always have a private tour guide and driver with you in each city, so as to ensure you a safe and happy journey.
15. Is there any special advice for women travelers while visiting Vietnam?
While traveling with us, you are guaranteed a hassle-free time with a personal guide and driver. For your own leisure time, it is suggested:
1. Avoid walking alone at night.
2. Dress conservatively and avoid revealing clothes.
3. Don't wear glittering jewelry out on the street.
4. Always keep your valuables with you.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation. When you're in a bar, keep your eyes on your drinks and don't accept any drinks from strangers.