Vietnam - Useful travel information

Vietnam - Useful travel information

Vietnam is a country where anything seems possible. As soon as you arrive, you’ll notice the activity, industry, and energy all around. While there are still many areas that remain peaceful and undeveloped, there’s no denying that Vietnam has entered an exciting new era, one full of promise. Now is the perfect time to visit, with more options and possibilities for your holidays than ever before.

Visa

Most visitors to Viet Nam need a visa to enter the country. Visas are exempted for the citizens of the countries which have signed a bilateral or unilateral visa exemption agreement with Viet Nam.

Visa exemption

Overseas Vietnamese and foreigners who are spouses or children of overseas Vietnamese or Vietnamese citizens are exempt from visa requirements to enter Viet Nam and are allowed to stay for not more than 6 months if they have and passports or international travel documents with the validity of at least 01 year and papers proving eligibility as prescribed. Visa exemption paper (VEP) is valid for not more than 5 years and expires at least 6 months prior to the expiry date of holder’s passport or international travel document. For more information, please visit the website: http://mienthithucvk.mofa.gov.vn/

Bilateral visa exemption agreement

Citizens of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos holding valid ordinary passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 30 days; Philippines is allowed to stay for not more than 21 days; Brunei and Myanmar citizens are allowed to stay for not more than 14 days; Chilean citizens are allowed to stay for not more than 90 days and vice versa.

By August 2017, citizens of 81 countries holding valid diplomatic or official passports are exempt from visa requirements and vice versa, including:  Argentina, Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italia, Israel, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Kuwait, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arad Emirates (U.A.E), Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela.

Duration of stay is applied for each specific object. For more information, please visit the website: lanhsuvietnam.gov.vn

Unilateral visa exemption

Foreigners and Vietnamese people holding foreign passports are allowed to stay in Phu Quoc Island for not more than 30 days without visa. In case foreigners who transit via an international gate of Viet Nam (including by air or sea) and then to Phu Quoc Island later also exempt from visa requirements.

Visa with 30-day validity is exempted for officials from ASEAN secretariat holding different kinds of passports.

From 01 January 2015 to the end of 31 December 2019, citizens of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Japan, South Korea and Russia holding different kinds of passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 15 days.

From 1 July 2015 to end of 30 June 2021, citizens of the United Kingdom, the French Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Kingdom of Spain and the Italian Republic holding different kinds of passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 15 days.

From 1 July 2015 to end of 30 June 2020, citizens of the Republic of Belarus holding different kinds of passports are exempt from visa requirement and are allowed to stay for not more than 15 days.

Visa applications

Visa is issued by competent authorities of Viet Nam in foreign countries. Visa on arrival is possibly issued in some special cases. For more, please visit the website https://visa.mofa.gov.vn.

Documents for visa application: 01 application form (in provided format) with an attached 4x6cm photo; passport or passport substitute that its validity must be at least 01 month longer  than the applied visa validity .

Tourist visa is valid for up to 3 months.

Customs

Luggage of people on entry and exit (including clothes, personal belongings with reasonable quantity in service of the trip's purpose) must be declared in case as follow:

  • Luggage exceeding duty free concessions;
  • Luggage sent before or after the traveller;
  • Imports and exports under regulation of the State;
  • Professional equipment temporarily imported and re-exported or vice versa;
  • Addictive medication;
  • Jewelry gold, fine-art gold exceeding 300g;
  • Drafts, cheque or precious metals, precious stones with a value of more than VND 300 million;

Foreign currency exceeding USD 5,000 (five thousand) or its equivalent in other foreign currency, or more than VND 15,000,000 (fifteen million) in cash.

Goods prohibited for import: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military equipment, drugs, toxic chemicals, immoral and reactionary products, firecrackers of all kinds, toys with a negative impact on education, and social security, cigarettes beyond the quantity stipulated, some consumer goods, materials and vehicles have used, ingot gold, raw material gold...

Goods prohibited for export: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military equipment, antiques, drugs, toxic chemicals, wild animals, endangered animals and plants, documents related to national security, ingot gold and raw material gold...

Duty free concessions for arriving passengers:

  • Liquor: 1.5 liters of liquor above 22° alcohol; 2.0 liters of liquor below 22°; 3 liters of alcoholic beverages;
  • Cigarettes: 200 pieces; Cigars: 100 pieces; Tobacco: 500g;
  • A reasonable quantity of clothes and personal belongings related to the purpose of the trip;
  • Articles other than those mentioned above (excluding the list of goods banned for import or subject to conditional import) with total a value not exceeding VND 10,000,000 (ten million).

Note:  Foreigners carrying luggage, in excess of duty-free quotas to be given as presents and gifts with a total value not exceeding VND 1,000,000 (one million) will be exempt from taxes.

Tourism season

Viet Nam is an ideal destination all year round. In the North, the climate is divided into four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. From January to April is the change period of living beings, very suitable for festive and spiritual tourism activities, because most festivals in the North take place in the spring. From May to September is appropriate for sea tourism and leisure tourism in mountainous region. The period of October to December is an ideal time for ones who love nature and want to explore wild and majestic beauty of Northern mountainous region.

Climate of the South includes two distinct seasons (rainy and dry seasons) and mild year-round with average temperatures of 27°C. The South has diversified tourism types such as culture, eco-tourism, sea, community-based tourism...

Vietnamese Traditional Lunar New Year Festival (Tet) takes place in late January or early February. Visitors to Viet Nam this time will have opportunity to enjoy the bustling atmosphere in flower markets and explore unique traditional customs of Vietnamese people.

Language

Vietnamese is the official language. Almost tourist guides speak languages: English, Chinese, French, Russian and Japanese.

Among the 54 Vietnamese ethnic groups some have had their own scripts for a long time and some have not preserved their ancient scripts. As a matter of fact, some ethnic groups consisting of some hundreds of individuals living in remote areas have their own languages.

Throughout the years, these languages have been enriched in terms of vocabulary, precision, and expression. However, the Viet language is most commonly used.

In terms of script, for a long time under northern domination, han (Chinese) was widely used in trade, education and state documents. This lasted until the beginning of 20th century. During the eighth century, parallel to the use of han, the Vietnamese created the nom script, which used the pictography of han to note the sounds of the Viet language. The appearance of the nom script marked a point of maturity in the national conscious of the Viet, and led to the development of literature in Viet Nam.

In the 16th century, quoc ngu (a Romanized script produced by French missionaries) appeared and was substituted for both the han and nom scripts.

Currency

Vietnamese dong (VND) is the official currency in Viet Nam.

  • Paper notes include: VND 500,000; 200,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000 and 500. Coins include VND 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500 and 200, but they are no longer used actually.

Cheques with value as Vietnamese dong include: VND 1,000,000 and 500,000.

  • Foreign currencies and tourist cheques can be exchanged into Vietnamese Dong at banks or foreign exchange agencies.
  • Credit cards are popularly used, especially in cities and big tourist centers.

Before leave Viet Nam, Vietnamese dong can be changed into foreign currencies at the airport.

Time and working hours

Vietnam Time: GMT plus 7 hours

Working hours

  • Governmental agencies work 8 hours/day from 8h to 17h (excluding one-hour lunch). Working days are from Monday to Friday. Saturday and Sunday are close.
  • Banks are open from 7h30 or 8h to 16h30. Some banks are open on Saturday morning from 8h to 11h30. Sunday is close.
  • Almost shops are open from 8h or 8h30 to 21h or 22h.

Public Holidays

  • Saturdays and Sundays are holidays. There are ten public holidays in a year:
  • January 1: New Year's Day, (one day holiday)
  • April 30: Sai Gon Liberation Day, (one day holiday)
  • May 1: International Labour Day, (one day holiday)
  • September 2: National Day of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, (one day holiday)
  • Viet Nam Traditional Lunar New Year Festival - Tet Nguyen Dan: (Five day holiday).Tet holiday usually falls at the end of January or middle of February by solar calendar. The holiday begins on the two last days of the last lunar month and lasts through the first three days of the Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan)
  • The 10th day of the third lunar month: The ancestors' death anniversary of the whole nation (one day holiday)

Useful telephone numbers

  • 0: National Domestic Direct Dialing Access Code
  • 00: International Direct Dialing Access Code
  • 100117: Time Inquiries
  • 1080: Information directory & English service
  • 112: Rescue emergency
  • 113: Police
  • 114: Fire Brigade
  • 115: Ambulance
  • 116: Local Call Assistance

Internet Access

It might be one common concern of travelers coming to Vietnam because of Internet’s importance for their personal or business purposes such as social media usage and emailing. Nowadays in Vietnam, wireless connection is provided throughout the country, in both public and private areas. Wifi access is currently available in almost all hotels, cafeterias, pizzerias and even street food stores.

Buy Vietnam SIM Cards?

Is it easy to get a SIM card in Vietnam? Yes! A pre-activated Vietnam SIM card which costs less than 100,000 VND (5$USD) can be sold at the airports, via land borders and nearly every shop on the streets. Recharge cards are widely available in small shops on the sidewalks. If your trip is organized by a travel agent, you are generally provided with an activated SIM card bought in advance by your tour guide or driver with registered 3G Internet Package. In case you travel by yourself or a SIM card is not prepared by your clients, buy it at the airports of tourist destinations where the staff can speak English for more convenience. Noi Bai, Tan Son Nhat and Da Nang Airport, three biggest airports of Vietnam, inevitably offer this service as well. In addition, all types of SIM cards of different sizes (Full-size SIM, Mini-SIM, Micro-SIM, and Nano-SIM) are available in every mobile shop. In Vietnam, both prepaid SIM cards and postpaid SIM cards are sold, but a prepaid one is highly recommended for foreign tourists.

Transport

Transportation in Vietnam is various and developed. From air, and road to water, transportation in the country can meet the demand of tourists’ travel. It is easy for both local people and tourists travel from one place to others in Vietnam.

Nowadays, transportation in Vietnam develops rapidly with various kinds of transports and it is increasingly easier to travel to Vietnam from other countries and vice versa, as well as travel to other destinations in Vietnam. Travel in Vietnam is much easier than in the past. Means of transportation are comfortable and convenient. The travel routes in Vietnam between big cities and tourist destinations are comfortable and hassle free as well. To both domestic and international tourists, they need local knowledge requirement for a decent level of comfort. With beautiful natural landscapes and predominantly rural areas, Vietnam is a beautiful country in Southeast Asia. Being one of the most densely populated nations in the south East Asia, main mode of transportation at Vietnam are buses, Rickshaw, and bicycles, etc. Besides, taxis, cars or motorbikes are popular in Vietnam.

Climate

Viet Nam is located in both a tropical and a temperate zone. It is characterized by strong monsoon influences, but has a considerable amount of sun, a high rate of rainfall, and high humidity. Regions located near the tropics and in the mountainous regions are endowed with a temperate climate.

The monsoon climate also influences to the changes of the tropical humidity. In general, in Viet Nam there are two seasons, the cold season occurs from November to April and the hot season from May to October. The difference in temperature between the two seasons in southern is almost unnoticeable, averaging 3ºC. The most noticeable variations are found in the northern where differences of 12ºC have been observed. There are essentially four distinct seasons, which are most evident in the northern provinces (from Hai Van Pass toward to the north): Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.

Every year there are 100 rainy days and the average rainfall is 1,500 to 2,000mm. The humidity ranges around 80%. The sunny hours are 1,500 to 2,000 and the average solar radiation of 100kcal/cm2 in a year.

Because Viet Nam is affected by the monsoon, that why the average temperature is lower than the other countries which are located in the same longitude in Asia. The annual average temperatures range from 22oC to 27oC. In comparing with these countries, the temperature in winter is colder and in summer is less hotter in Viet Nam.

Under  influence of  monsoon, and further because of the complicated topography, the climate in Viet Nam always changes in one year, between the years, or between the  areas   (from North to South and from low to high). The climate in Viet Nam is also under disadvantage of weather, such as typhoons (advantage there are 6-10 storms and tropical low atmosphere in year, floods and droughts are threaten the life and the agriculture of Viet Nam).

People           

At present there are 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Viet Nam, in which Kinh (Viet) people make up nearly 90% of the whole population, and 53 other ethnic groups represent over 10%.

Vietnam's people are a special mix of cultures, languages and historical backgrounds. The one common denominator amongst them is that, as in most Southeast Asia countries, they love to smile and are genuinely interested in foreign visitors.

Traditional festivals

Festive activities are living museums in which typical cultural values of the nation have been preserved for centuries.

Formation and meaning of traditional festivals

Traditional festivals constitute a form of cultural activities, a spiritual product which the people have created and developed during the course of history. From generation to generation, the Vietnamese people preserve the fine tradition of “remembering the source while drinking water.” Festivals are events which represent this tradition of the community as well as honour the holy figures named as “gods” – the real persons in national history or legendary persons. The images of gods converge the noble characteristics of mankind. They are national heroes who fought against foreign invaders, reclaimed new lands, treated people, fought against natural calamities, or those legendary characters who affect the earthly life. Festivals are events when people pay tribute to divinities that rendered merits to the community and the nation.

Festivals are occasions when people come back to either their natural or national roots, which form a sacred part in their mind.

Festivals represent the strength of the commune or village, the local region or even the whole nation. Worshipping the same god, the people unite in solidarity to overcome difficulties, striving for a happy and wealthy life.

Festivals display the demand for creativity and enjoyment of spiritual and material cultural values of all social strata. Festivals become a form of education under which fine traditional moral values can be handed from one generation to the next in a unique way of combining spiritual characters with competition and entertainment games.

Festivals are also the time people can express their sadness and worries in a wish that gods might bestow favour on them to help them strive for a better life.

Process of festivals

Generally speaking, every festival will include the following three steps:

  • Preparation: The preparation work is divided into two phases: prior to the coming festive season and in the immediate time before the festive day. The preparation work for the coming festive season starts right after the previous festival comes to an end. When it is coming to the festive day, people need to check the worshipping objects, attires, decoration, and cleaning of the worshipping place and statues.
  • The festive day: Many activities take place, including rituals of procession, incense offering, and rejoicing games, among others. They form the most important and significant part of any festival. These activities also play a decisive role in attracting tourists and deciding the timing of the festival itself.
  • The ending of the festival: The organization board expresses their thanks to all festival goers and closes the worshipping place.

Time for festivals

In Viet Nam festivals often take place during the three months in spring and in autumn when people have a lot of leisure time. In addition, the climate in spring and autumn is especially suitable for holding festivals and for festivals goers to enjoy.

Foods

In the past few years Vietnamese food has become more and more popular around the world. Food lovers may have tried the two best known Vietnamese dishes – spring rolls and bread rolls. Rice, noodles, fresh vegetable and herbs all play big roles in Vietnamese food, making it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.

What to Order:

Banh Mi Thit: The Vietnamese equivalent of a “submarine” – a Vietnamese baguette stuffed with any of a wide variety of fillings including ham, cheese, canned sardines, Vietnamese bologna and pickled carrot.

  • Bo Kho: Beef-and-vegetable stew, usually accompanied by baguettes.
  • Che: For dessert, try Che, a pudding made from sticky rice and beans.
  • Buncha: Vietnamese Pork Meatball and Noodle Salad.
  • Nem Nuong Xa: Grilled meat on lemongrass skewers.
  • Goi Cuon: The famous Vietnamese “summer rolls”: shrimp or pork (sometimes both) with herbs, rolled up in rice paper and served cold with a peanut dipping sauce.
  • Pho: Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bò) or chicken (phở gà).The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with Vietnamese basil, mint leaves, lime, and bean sprouts that are added to the soup by the person who is dining.

Floating Markets

There is a very interesting kind of market in the Mekong River Delta. Thousands of boats gather to form a place of economic activity. Trading activities take place all day, but the most exciting time is in the morning when boats arrive loaded up with agricultural products.

On a cho noi (floating market) all trade activities take place on boats. The largest cho noi include Phung Hiep, Nga Bay, Phong Dien (in Hau Giang), Cai Rang (in Can Tho) and Cai Be (in Tien Giang). Most of the agricultural productions sold in “cho noi” are for wholesalers, who then re-sell it to food processing factories or ship it to the north.

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