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GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT TRAVELLING TO VIETNAM

 

Viet Nam is a destination for our present millennium. Why Viet Nam? 
Viet Nam is recently voted to be the most safe and beautiful country in Asia for travelling and investing. Vietnamese are rich cultured people, with many different history stages that have been going along way  and  created a unique civilization. Come to Vietnam to see their brilliant beautiful country, enjoy their excellent food culture, and figure out how did they cope with aggressive invaders! 
 

Vietnam has its total area of 128,527 square miles (329,566 square km) with more than two thirds of the area are covered with hills and mountains, 22% the land is arable. The coastal line is more than 3,000kms long endowed with many beautiful beaches and bays. From green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats to the lush jungle, everywhere you look it's green. And from the mountains to the flat river deltas with to the sandy beaches, the landscape is so diverse from the north, center, and the south of Vietnam.

 

Full country name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Area
: 329,566 sq km (128,527 sq mi)
Population: 90 million (Vietnamese government statistics in the year 2015). Still, every year Vietnam got one more million, population growth fast is a problem for Vietnam.
Capital city: Hanoi is the second largest city after Ho Chi Minh city, (population 3,5 millions), center of politic, culture, locate in the north, red river delta. Ha Noi is one of the cities expanding fast, as the the country has been successive economy positive growth 7.7% in average.
Ho Chi Minh city (former name: Sai Gon) is the biggest city of Vietnam. The business center.
Big cities: Ho Chi Minh (locates in the South), Hanoi (locates in red river delta in the North), Danang (Central of Vietnam), Haiphong (in the North, habour city, third largest city of Vietnam after Ha Noi) 
 

Peoples: 54 different ethnic groups. The major are: 85% ethnic Vietnamese, 3% ethnic Chinese, also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once-great Indianised Champa Kingdom) and other ethno linguistic groups (also known as Montagnards, 'highlanders' by French)
 

Language: Vietnamese is the national language, French, Chinese, English are spoken in hotels. Variety of Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian local dialects
 

Religion: Buddhism is the principal religion but there are also sizeable Taoist, Confucian (was a political philosophy), Hoa Hao, Caodaists, Muslim, Protestant, and Christian minorities. However, Vietnamese religion is mainly mixed up with local believe, worship ancestors, Taoism, animism,

 

History in brief: There was a Vietnamese country named Van Lang that was invaded by Chinese in the second century BC. There had been many struggles against Chinese, until the 10th century, there was an official independent country of Vietnamese with territory and monarchal system set away from Chinese. Since then there had been many Vietnamese dynasties successive ruled the Vietnamese people. The last one was Nguyen dynasty ended in 1945. In 1858 French attacked middle of Vietnam, and three years later Gia Dinh in the south of Vietnam was fell to French hands that shortly be called Saigon. And more than 20 years later in 1883 Ha Noi was the last place fell to the French Indochina rulers. Ha Noi arm force general Hoang Dieu killed him self when Ha Noi failed. Vietnamese many times had tried to organized arm forces fought against French or struggled for an independence of Vietnam but all were cracked down bloody by French. Japanese came to Vietnam in  1941 but still let the cooperated French rulers to rule the local people in Indochina. In 1945 Japanese surrendered allied forces, and in 1945 there were about 2 million Vietnamese died because of starvation as Japanese sized farmer rice and burn down rice fields to encourage people to grow industrial crops. In 1945 Uncle Ho government was officially form, and the fighting between Vietnamese and French broke out again. French lost their war in Dien Bien Phu in north - west of Vietnam, and Geneva agreement was signed for an independence of Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). The Geneva agreement said Vietnam would temporary divide to two parts and within two years later they would come to general election to vote for a government of one Vietnam country. The general election never came as American came to South Vietnam. For the unification and independence of Vietnam, only the last choice of arm struggle was made, and it was the will and determination of general Vietnamese. US interfered to Vietnam and Indochina politic in 1950s. It marked by the two US pilots died with their fighter plane that got fire in Dien Bien Phu firing days in 1954. US army officially came to inland of Vietnam - red beach in Da Nang in 1965 after the Tonkin gulf event in 1964. US  army withdrew in 1973. The country was unified in 1975. There have been many websites and books that written and published by Americans who talk about the the war and every one has their own ideas and comments. There were 58 thousand US soldiers died in Vietnam, some said they were hero. And what about Vietnamese?  Is three million Vietnamese people died for nothing during the course of Vietnam independent and unification in the US war in Vietnam??? Are they heroic???
We hope for a peace country of Vietnam. The beautiful country with great smile on the faces of Vietnamese wherever you meet, they are very friendly people and really warm welcome every one to their country. 


Weather is distinctive varieties: The North, The Central, and The South

The North: There are four distinct seasons. Summer is from May to August  temperature is 36 degree Celsius in day time and down to 30 at night time, occasional heavy rains, it is hot and humid. Autumn is from  September to the beginning of November temperature is from 23 - 32 degree Celsius, occasional heavy rains, it is more dry. Winter is from November to January, temperature is from 6 - 17 degree Celsius, rare rains, it is dry and cold. Spring,  from February to April temperature is gradually warmer from 12 - 25 degree Celsius,  drizzling for some successive days in sometimes, it is damp  and overcast sky.

 

The central: The variety of weather patterns in this region is noted due to the Truong Son mountain range situated in the northwestern on the country. There are rainy periods from November to December. Due to the  location, Dalat the Southern Central High Land is cooler than the coastal regions, from November to March. Danang and Hue are sometimes be affected by typhoon activity from mid October to mid December when it is cooler, overcast and drizzly. Temperature of provinces which more closed to the North are influenced by the cold front arriving from the North in Winter  and others are warmer by the heating of the South

 

The South: The whole year round, it is hot with dry and wet seasons. The wet season is from May to October where there are downpours, which are brief and predictable. When average temperatures reach the low 30s(Celsius), rain showers can be a blessing in disguise and provide relief to the sweltering heat. The dry season from November to April is generally sunny and humid and can be uncomfortable if no precautions are taken for sun protection. In short, 


Health
Vaccinations are not required.
Although there are international medical clinics in Hanoi and Hochiminh City, Vietnam still lacks adequate care for serious illnesses and injuries, or in term of health care Vietnam is not standard for developed countries. Therefore, travelling to Vietnam, we recommend you take out travel insurance before your departure.

-Emergency is to call 115

-www.doctorkot.com: Medical practice in Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh cities

-SOS Emergency Care in Hanoi, address: 31 Hai Ba Trung street  : Tel:(04) 9340555 or 9340666 . In Ho Chi Minh city 65 Nguyen Du Street, Tel: (08)8298520 or 8298424  "meeting your health care needs 24 hours per day"

-Hanoi French hospital, 1 Phuong Mai street, tel: (04)5740740 or 5741111 (24 hour service) 

-Cholon Cho Ray hospital, 201 Nguyen Chi Thanh street, Ho Chi Minh city, tel: (08) 8554137

-Columbia Asian Sai Gon Clinic, 8 Alexandre De Rhodes, Ho Chi Minh city, tel: (08)8238888

-HCM Family Medical Practice/Denitist - Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan Street, tel: (08)8227848

-International Medical Center, 520 Nguyen Tri Phuong street, HCM city, tel: (08)8654025

 

Food:

"Specialty is the food produced and cooked in the unique way of its self place" Vietnamese people are proud to offer their visitors food variety, thanks to their fertile land stretch out from the North to the South, from plains to mountains. The regions, with many different distinctive weather have created and given them variety of food. Furthermore, French and Chinese gastronomy is also be selected and modified to add up to their available food and have enriched their eating culture. Please consult you guide for food when you are visiting a place. For example, Pho, Bun Cha, hot Banh Cuon...( you can only find their real taste in Hanoi ) 
 

Visa Entry is required to enter Vietnam

 Entry visa, which is obtainable at Vietnamese Embassy or consulate in your country, or in any country where Vietnamese embassy is show up. It's requested for all visitors irrespective of nationalities (except people from some South East countries, Japanese, Korean). Please allow ten days of processing. Some Vietnamese Embassies can make instant entry visa, but require some more fee for the fast service.  The entry visa is good for travelling throughout the country, except to such restricted areas as bordering provinces, military bases, islands, etc... where a special travel permit is needed.

Procedures are quick because Vietnamese Government is trying to speed up the Vietnam Tourism as well as improving Vietnam image. 
If you are already in Vietnam,  and want to extend your visa, just come to provincial custom offices, procedures are easy to work out, or come to tourist offices for this type of service is also recommended.

International border gates: 
By air: Noi Bai airport in Ha Noi, and Tan San Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh city, Da Nang airport in the middle of Vietnam.
By land with China: 03 with China: Mong Cai, Quang Ninh province(Dong Xing in Chinese, Quang Xi province), Huu Nghi Quan, Lang Son province (You Yi Quan in Chinese, Quang Xin province), and Lao Cai, Lao Cai province (He Kou in Chinese, Yun Nan province).
By land with Laos: 03 with Laos: Nam Can, Nghe An province, high way 07 (Laos side call Nam Khanh, Xieng Khoang province), Cau Treo, Ha Tinh province, high way 08 (Laos side call Nam Phao, Bolikhamxai province), and Lao Bao, Quang Tri province, high way 09 (Laos side call Lao Bao)
By Land with Cambodia: 02 with Cambodia: Moc Bai in Tay Ninh province (Bavet on Cambodia side), Chau Doc in Chau Doc town, Mekong river cross (Kaam Samnor on Cambodia side)

 

Air Access

Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines (Vietnam), Air France, Asiana Airlines, Air Cambodia, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Eva Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Lao Aviation, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways International, Quantas Airlines, Singapore Airlines, etc...

 

Currency

VND (Vietnam Dong) is the currency of Vietnam. The official rate of exchange is approximately VND 22 750 to one USD. Notes are in denominations of VND 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100000, and 500,000 Dong. Foreign currency be converted at banks, jewellery shops, hotels or at authorised exchange counters.

Visitors are advised to carry USD cash for easy acceptance nationwide. Tourist may encounter difficulties in exchanging other currencies than the USD. However, at Hanoi - Noi Bai and HCM - Tan San Nhat airports upon their arrival or departure visitors can convert and revert money of EUR, GBP, CAD, USD, AUD, SGD, HKG, YPY, CHF, and Thai Baht in to USD, Vietnamese Dong, or their concerned money. 

Travellers' cheques and some major credit cards such as VISA, MASTERCARD... are accepted in most tourist destinations and 3% commission usually be charged when paying. 

Languages: Vietnamese, English, Chinese, French are spoken by hotel staff.

 

 220 volts (50 Hz) AC.


Water

Bottled water and mineral water are available in most cities. In other areas, boiled water can be obtained. It is advisable to drink precooled drinks, to refrain from using ice.

 

Business Hours (GMT +7)

Offices : 7:30 am to 11:30 am and 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Closed Sundays.

Banks : 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. Closed Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

 

Telephone:

Remember to dial 177 or 171 code first when phoning home, it will reduce a flat - rate for you is of  $0.4/minute. Public phones accept phone cards only.  to make a call home at post offices is recommended and you will not be charged for any ++ or other kind of services. There are two biggest telecomunication companies are Vina phone and Viettel. Viettel is making in road so the cost is lowest but the network in remote areas is not as good as Vina phone. 


Others useful tips:

- Taxi from Tan Son Nhat Airport to down-town Ho Chi Minh City should cost about USD 7 - 8.
- Taxi from NoiBai airport to Hanoi cost 10USD, mini bus (16 seaters)  is cost $2/person but its waiting until there are number of passengers are loaded enough to cover their expenses, big public buses 45 seaters is running to centre of Hanoi every 15 minutes regardless number of passengers and is cost 2,500Dong for one ticket ($1 = 22 750  VN Dong)  
- Travel agencies for backpackers are mushroomed  in the old quarter of Hanoi and Pham Ngu Lao Street in Ho Chi Minh city or in some major cities, such as Sinhcafe, Queen cafe AZ, Kim Cafe, 

-Fresh, unexposed film is widely available and at cheap price in most Cities. Also for other electronic items.

-It is advisable to bring an umbrella and raincoat on visits between May and December.

-Do not exchange money on the street.

-Check all valuables into hotel safes.

-Upon leaving Saigon or Hanoi, tourists should arrange to arrive at the airport about 2 hours before taking an international flight and 1 hour before taking a domestic flight.

-Emergency police: Tel: 113

-Directory assistance: Tel: 116

 -International operator: Tel: 110

-Asking general information: Tel: 1080

-Hanoi airport: Tel: (04)8843389

-HCM city airport: Tel: (08)8443879


Highlight places of interest in Vietnam: 
The North:
Ha Noi old parts and others, Tam Coc, Perfume pagoda, Bat Trang ceramics villages, But Thap pagoda, Ha Long bay, Sapa mountainous resort area, Phat Diem stone church, trip to circle mountainous North - West of Vietnam (via for fighting battle of Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau, Sapa)
The middle: DMZ to study the war history that the country was divided from 1954 to 1975 (Mc Namara's electronic barrier, DMZ, 17th parallel the provisional demarcation line, Hien Luong Bridge, Vinh Moc tunnels, Con Tien firebase, Camp Carrol fire-base, Khe Sanh combat base, Ta Con airfield, Ho Chi Minh trail.).
Hue ancient city and its cultures, Phong Nha longest underground river, Hoi An ancient town, My Son holy land and towers, Non Nuoc beach (China Beach. Vietnam has more than 3000km of coastline and there are many beaches).
Southern Middle of Vietnam: Nha Trang one of the 29 nicest beaches in the world, Phan Thiet resort beach, Dalat mountainous resort, 
The South: Ho Chi Minh city and vicinity areas: Cu Chi underground tunnel, Tay Ninh Cao Dai holy See, My Tho, Can Tho floating market and fruits gardens.
 

Interest places in Hanoi (Hanoi is going to celebrate its 1000 years old in 2008 ): Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and museum, one pillar pagoda are located in the same complex (was built in 11th century). West lake, and Tran Quoc pagoda (was built in 544th it is an island pagoda in west lake) and Quan Thanh temple(worshiping Taoism) are located in the same Thanh Nien road. And Old town, Hoan Kiem lake, Ngoc Son Temple, Catholic churches,  old citadel, museum of history, museum of fine and arts, army museum, Temple of literature (was the firs university of Vietnam and to worship Confucius built in 11th century) and there are many other pagodas and temples

Shopping in Hanoi: Dong Xuan market, Old Quarter and Hang Gai Street...
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh city: Ben Thanh market, and around district 1

 

Interest places out of Hanoi to make day trip:   Perfume pagoda (boating one and half hours to the root of the mountain and starts climbing) , Tam Coc is the Halong bay in Land (boating trip through three natural mountain tunnels) and Hoa Lu the old citadel in the 10th century, Phat Diem the stone Cathedral church,  Tam Dao and Ba Vi (high mountainous resort places), some handicraft villages

Halong bay (World natural heritage, with more than two thousand islands come out of the water)

Interest places in Ho Chi Minh city: Saigon river and walking streets around district 1, old post office, war crime museum, Notre Dame catholic church, Reunification palace, 

Day trip to Interest places outside Ho Chi Minh city: Cu Chi underground tunnel, Cao Dai holy See, My Tho boat trip to Mekong river.


TRAVELLING RULES

The way we travel (in small group up to 10 people), the quality of our staff, our concern for local development, our involvement in environmental protection projects and our constant desire to limit the impact of our passage, create an art of travel that leads to beautiful encounters and avoids perturbing the age-old harmony of the places we pass through.
We can indeed - you the travelers, we the organizers - do a great deal, by simply understanding what we see, respecting those we encounter, protecting both. In this way, we personally contribute to safeguarding Cultures and Nature.

These are general rules to be applied with discernment depending on the region of the country.

 

Let us treat local people, their traditions, cultures and religions with respect..., avoiding:
  • Certain types of physical contact (caressing a child’s head, a man shaking a woman’s hand, kissing someone.)

  • Each culture has its own habits so you must get the relevant information from your guides and those accompanying you. This would demonstrate a clear sign of interest and respect.

  • We can leave our Western prejudice and snap judgments behind. Humility and forgetting the principle that ‘the customer is always right’ often allow us to establish warm relations. Avoid ‘having all the answers’, and develop the habit of asking questions.

  • Due to Vietnamese type of complicated hierachy, people always asking age at the first meet, please feel relax for that.

  • Learn a few words of the languages and dialects. These efforts are greatly appreciated and often lead to laughter and getting to know people.

  • Take the time to meet and to wait. Taking the time to converse and listen can bring about a fuller appreciation of our voyage. In certain countries, haste and impatience are even considered to be bad manners.

  • Walking through land under cultivation, picking crops (fruits, corn), scaring livestock lead to significant losses for a farmer, and the risk of him being unable to feed his family during difficult months.

  • If you are in Vietnam's territory or at custom offices avoid asking question:  "Is it China beach (China Beach) here ? " It is the name of the beach and  is belong to Vietnam territory that in Vietnamese is called" Bien Dong means East Sea''. Many customers have asked the question, and that is insult Vietnamese people.

Welcoming people into a village or a family are sometimes a huge sacrifice for our hosts. Be aware of this and depending on the situation we must offer food, some basic goods or money before leaving (a discreet inquiry to the guides will help avoids gifts that may offend). We should leave the place as it was or better than before our passage.

 

Photos are not the best souvenirs... 
  • Do not take photos of or film people by themselves or in villages without first obtaining permission.

  • It is strongly recommended that we refrain from taking photos of children without asking their or their parents’ permission. This will often be refused so do not insist.

  • Avoid promising to send pictures of people photographed unless we’re sure that we can keep that promise. Instant cameras (like Polaroid) can be useful.

  • Above all let us take the time to really meet people. Rather than just collect images.

Gifts: often not the best way to help

 

Tip are a reward for the quality of service and is never an obligation or payment due. Consult your guides for information on the standard of living or local customs in this regard.
  • Gifts should not be made in a condescending manner like, for example, throwing sweets to children to avoid them crowding or making fun of a fight. Sweets also cause dental problems unknown before the arrival of tourists.

  • Do not hand out medicines in a manner dangerous to or risky for the health of recipients. Hospitals or dispensaries in the regions we visit are often better equipped to manage these gifts.

  • We should make use of services offered by locals, for example, to wash our clothes, act as guides, cooks, mule driver, porters etc. this puts money into the local economy and cuts down on begging.

  • Do not give money to children. Perverse and facile practices like this, indulged in by certain tourists (as if to erase the reality) often create situations where the ‘salary’ of a 10 year old can exceed that of his own father, a farmer who wears himself out laboring on his farm. The resulting distortion within the family unit can lead to its breakdown, with the child leaving school, the father his farm and the family abandoning its traditions.

  • The very notion of a gift should be understood as a ‘donation’. It is not payment for a photo or a helping hand but the souvenir we want to leave after our visit no matter how short. Pens, balls and other traditional gifts should be handed to teachers or village chiefs rather than to the children themselves. Our guides can help you.

 

Souvenirs or best buys?

 

When we haggle over purchasing souvenirs, let’s not forget that the amount in question may often be laughably small for us but not necessarily so for the recipient.
  • Try to buy directly from a craftsman rather than from a middleman.

  • The agreement on the protection of endangered species (CITES) bans trade in hides and skins, ivory, tortoiseshell, coral, shells, and also the importing of live exotic animals. Let's refrain from buying shells, butterflies, skin bags, ivory, turtles and other wild animals, alive or dead...

  • We should not buy up the traditional cultural heritage: Jewell (unless specifically made for tourists), sacred objects ... that people will sell with little hesitation faced with the kind of money on offer.

 

Leave only footprints...

 

It is best to purchase our equipment with biodegradable packaging (for e.g. previsions) and to leave the packaging at home.
  • We should not leave our waste behind us: butts, sweet wrapping or shopping packages, plastic bags, camera film boxes ... They could be eaten by animals and cause an unhealthy environment. 

  • It is important to ensure that the campsite is left undamaged: to assist and inform local teams so that waste management is as appropriate as possible. In certain regions, tins are left or given to locals who recycle them as Jewell or useful objects. Ask before you act.

  • It is best to take the most polluting waste back home:  non-biodegradable waste: most Third World Countries have no industrial waste disposal infrastructure.

  • Burn toilet paper after use (unless there is a fire risk). Use the toilets that are sometimes provided in encampment. Let us refrain from polluting the water with our excreta (be at least 50 meters away from streams, rivers, or waterways) or detergents. Do washing down stream of inhabited areas or, better still, get a basin and take a walk for your wash.

  • Nature is a thing of wonder, let’s respect nature...

  • It is advisable to use designated paths, trails and tracks. In certain fragile ecosystems taking shortcuts and straying off the beaten track leads to the destruction of vegetation or soil erosion.

  • We should not collect souvenirs: animals, plants, minerals, fossils, flint,  ...