Frequently Asked Questions

1. What companies provide air service in Vietnam?
Three domestic airlines are currently operating in Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar-Pacific Airlines and Vietjet Air. Both Jetstar-Pacific and Vietjet Air are low-cost carriers (LCC). Jetstar is a joint venture company between Qantas Australia and Pacific Air. VietJet Air is Vietnam's newest airline and is privately owned. All airlines are using a mixture of Boeing and Airbus planes and Vietnamese as well as foreign pilots.

 2. Do I have to pay taxes for the flight?
There is a departure tax on all international flights but this tax is already included in the price of your all airplane tickets.

 3. How many ways can I come to Vietnam?
Ho Chi Minh City's (Saigon) Tan Son Nhat Airport is Vietnam 's busiest international air hub, followed by Hanoi 's Noi Bai Airpot. A few international flights also serve Danang. Singapore, Hongkong, Bangkok have emerged as the principle embarkation points for Vietnam but it's still possible to get direct flights from a number of major Asian and European cities and a few American, Australian cities. Departure tax is US$14 in Hanoi and 14 US $ in Saigon, which can be paid in Vietnam Dong or US dollars.
There are currently six border crossings for travellers coming to Vietnam, but more may open soon. All crossing points suffer from heavy policing and often requests for 'immigration fees'.
For getting to from China, it's become very popular to cross the border at Friendship Pass or Dong Dang, 20km (12mi) north of Lang Son in northeast Vietnam, to get to/from Namning. There is a twice-weekly international train between Beijing and Hanoi that stops at Friendship Pass. The other popular border crossing with China is at Lao Cai (near Sapa) in northwest Vietnam, which lies on the railway line between Hanoi and Kunming in China 's Yunnan Province. There's also a seldom-used crossing at Mong Cai, Quang Ninh Province.
It's possible to enter Laos from Lao Bao in north-central Vietnam; there's an international bus from Danang to Savannakhet ( Laos ). The other crossing is at Keo Nua Pass/Cau Treo, west of Vinh.
The only crossing to Cambodia is via Moc Bai; an international bus links Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh City.

 4. What procedures will I apply when I come to Vietnam?
Upon arrival in Vietnam, all visitors must complete an entry/exit form including a customs declaration. It is important that your copy of this form is kept safe with your passport while in Vietnam and is presented to the customs and immigration officials on departure. In case you are obtaining your pre-arranged visa on arrival please proceed to the Visa counter and read the visa section below.

 5. Should I withdraw money from ATMs in Vietnam?
ATMs for withdrawing Vietnamese Dong are available in major airports, hotels, towns and capitals of provinces throughout Vietnam. Most ATMs have an English language version. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.

 6. How should I wear clothing when I stay in Vietnam ?
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for traveling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and an umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.
Evenings in the north and the center can be quite chilly so bring a sweater and a good jacket especially from November to February. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other revealing clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries. Shoes must be removed before entering some religious building or a private home. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off.

 7. Can I pay by Credit Card in Vietnam?
Most credit cards are accepted in Vietnam. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. JCB and American Express are also accepted in some outlets. Not all hotels, commercial centers, shops and restaurants accept credit cards. Check with the cashier before making any purchases. Bear in mind that in some places a surcharge applies for credit card purchases: Visa and MasterCard charge approximately 2.2% surcharge, JCB: 2.75% surcharge, American Express: 4% surcharge.
NOTE: Surcharges can change without prior notice. Check the percentage charged before you pay.

 8. How can I use electricity in Vietnam?
Vietnam mainly uses 220V but in some areas, 110V is also used. A mixture of flat and round 2-pin outlets are used throughout the country. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.

 9. What kind of entertainments service can I enjoy in Vietnam ?
There are plenty of entertainment options in Vietnam such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs open until late at night/early in the morning. A wide variety of restaurants are on offer, with everything from Vietnamese, Asian, Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food.

 10. What about the Vietnamese Food ?
Vietnamese cuisine comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors and is definitely a part of the Vietnam experience not to be missed. One of the characteristics of Vietnamese food is that it is always bought fresh from the market the same morning. Food is usually prepared with a minimum of oil and served with the ubiquitous fish sauce called nuoc mam. Typical Vietnamese dishes you can expect to try include pho, a type of rice noodle soup eaten for breakfast, cha gio, deep-fried spring rolls and goi ngo sen, a delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps and peanuts. Due to the strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam, vegetarian food is widely available.

11. Do I need vaccinations before going to Vietnam?
No vaccinations are mandatory except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions, especially if traveling off the beaten track. Medical facilities are limited and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before traveling in case evacuation is needed.
Consult your doctor for up-to-date information and prescriptions for vaccinations, anti-malarial tablets and any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst traveling in Vietnam. Some vaccination courses may need time to be completed. If you plan to take anti-malarial tablets, you usually need to start one week before arrival. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses).
For additional information you can also consult the following sites:

 12. What is working hour in Vietnam?
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07:30 or 08:00 until 17:00 or 18:00 and often close for lunch between 11:30 and 13:00. Some offices also open on Saturday morning. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.

 13. How about Internet in Vietnam?
Major hotels have business centers with PCs connected to the Internet. Some of them have wireless broadband access in rooms or public areas. Cybercafés are available everywhere and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable, usually below US$1 per hour. In many Internet cafés, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline or mobile phone worldwide. Most Internet cafés are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.

 14. Does the Vietnamese speak English?
The national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. In big cities and in places with many tourists, people will speak basic English. The younger generation will be more adept at speaking English, while the older generation still speaks some French. Because Vietnamese has six different tones, it is a difficult language for most foreigners to speak despite the fact that the Roman alphabet is used in modern Vietnamese. The same word can have six different meanings depending on the tone used to pronounce it. Russian and Chinese are also spoken by some people.

 15. What kind of cash can I use in Vietnam?
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). US Dollars and Euros are accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 05:00 and some on Saturday morning. In the major cities, some exchange offices open long hours near places frequented by tourists and most hotels will change US Dollars and Euros at very reasonable rates.
For everyday expenses, we recommend carrying a mix of US Dollars and VND in cash. For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favor, use US Dollars. For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it's best to use VND. In either case, make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don't have to worry about change.
Current exchange rate (Dec 08, 2013) 1 USD = 21000 VND; 1 Euro = 28,000 VND
You receive a slightly better exchange rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations.
Vietnamese Dongs come in the following forms:
Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 500,000 VND

 16. Can I send Post Card to my friends?
Of course, postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs VND 9,000 (0.5 USD) to send and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of destination.

 17. When is Public Holidays in Vietnam?
January 1 New Year's Day
January 1 (Lunar calendar) Tet or Vietnamese New Year. The actual dates vary from year to year according to the lunar calendar. Officially a three-day holiday but many businesses close down for a full week. This is the busiest time of the year for travelling in Vietnam and hotels, flights and trains are often full.
March 10 (Lunar calendar) Hung King's Birthday
April 30 Liberation of Saigon Day
May 1 International Labor Day
September 2 National Day

 18. What kind of religion do Vietnamese people ussually follow?
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Vietnam and is usually combined with elements of Confucianism and Taoism. About 10% of the country's population is Catholic and there are also communities of Protestants and Muslims. Vietnam is also home to a unique religion called Cao Dai, a religious cocktail of all the world's major faiths.

 19. How safe is Vietnam?
Vietnam is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Avoid cyclos late at night and choose reliable metered taxi companies as they are really cheap and air-conditioned.

 20. What should I buy ?
Souvenirs to look out for in Vietnam include lacquer ware, silk, conical hats, woodcarvings, hill tribe fabrics and handicrafts, embroidery, marble, ceramics, silver jewelry, antique watches and paintings. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choices when it comes to shopping but Hoi An is also a very good place to hunt for bargains.

 21. Can I call to my home?
If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the costs before using it abroad - it may be expensive.
Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices although these services are expensive. It may not always be possible to make international calls in remote areas.

 22. What is Vietnam time zone?
Vietnam is GMT +7 and does not operate daylight-saving system.

 23. How much should I tip?
Unlike the US, tipping is not obligatory in Asia. It is an accepted practice, however, as an optional way to show appreciation. At the start of each trip, your Western tour leader or local guide will request a small amount (approximately 50 cents per day) to be used as tips for service providers such as boat crew members and hotel porters used along the way. This helps prevent excessive tipping and the need to always have small change.
We do not expect compulsory tipping for Travel Indochina representatives, as we are confident you will be extremely satisfied with the service levels provided by our guides, tour leaders and drivers. It is up to you whether you decide to tip these staff.

 24. Can I rent and drive a car?
Vietnamese law does not allow foreigners to rent and drive a car. It is highly advisable to rent a car with a driver who knows the roads and can speak Vietnamese in case of any problems. Traffic and roads conditions may be very different to what you are used to. Generally drivers do not speak English although you might get lucky. But you can easily rent or buy a motorbike for ride through Vietnam.

 25. Can I use travellers' cheques?
Banks such as Citi Bank, ANZ Bank. HSBC and Vietcombank can change your travelers checks for VND or US Dollars but a commission applies (1% to 2%). Very few shops, hotels or restaurants accept travelers checks.
NOTE: Travelers checks can be difficult to change outside of major cities.

 26. How can I apply for a visa?
Most visitors to Vietnam require a visa to enter the country and all travelers must have a passport valid for 6 months after their planned exit from Vietnam.
Exceptions: Nationals from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Russia traveling to Vietnam and staying for 15 days or less do not need to apply for entry visas, provided that their passport is valid for at least three months and they can show their return ticket. Those who wish to stay longer than 15 days will need to apply for a visa.
Tourists holding ASEAN passports do not need a visa for a visit up to 30 days. Philippines passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 21 days. Japanese and South Korean passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 15 days.
A tourist visa is normally a single entry visa, which means that if you exit Vietnam (for example for a side trip to Cambodia), you will require a new visa to re-enter (or apply for a Multiple Entry Visa). The validity of a Tourist Visa is 30 days and is normally a single entry visa is given unless a multiple entry is requested.

There are 2 ways to obtain a visa:

Case 1: Visa application in your country before departure. In case there is a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in your home town:
Apply directly at the Vietnamese embassy or consulate. The length of the process can vary.
In order to accelerate the process, bring the "Approval letter" done by us (see below) your passport 2 recent passport-sized photos and fill out the paperwork required. Your visa can then be delivered much faster. A visa stamping fee is charged locally. Fees vary from one country to another.
Note: A visa requested as a multi-entry at embassies abroad is often issued as a single entry; it is recommended to double-check your visa stamp in passport when collecting your passport. Multiple entry visas can also be arranged on arrival (Case 2).

Case 2: Pre-arranged "Visa on arrival" at international entry points In case there is NO Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home town:
Send us all passport details as required below and we will process a pre-approval here from Vietnam. Bring the "Visa pick-up upon arrival approval letter" (see below) to the airline check-in counter. Without this letter airlines may refuse you boarding.
On arrival in Vietnam, proceed to the Visa on Arrival counter at the airports. You will be asked to fill one more form, give 2 photos and pay USD 25/person (Single entry) and USD 50/person (Multiple entry) in cash before the visa is stamped into your passport and before going through passport control.
Such a procedure is possible at the international airports in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon and Danang) and at the land border of Moc Bai (coming from Cambodia near Ho Cho Minh City – here you need the ORIGINAL paper and a copy will not be accepted – please allow for extra time to have original sent to you by DHL).
Before departure, prepare some bank notes in US Dollars to pay the visa stamping fee on arrival.
For both cases mentioned above Great Tours can facilitate the visa application procedure and obtain the necessary visa pre-approval from the Vietnamese Immigration Department in advance.

We need the following details from all applicants:
Full name as it appears in your passport
Date of birth DD/MM/YY
Passport number
Issue date and expiry date of your passport
Place of issue (e.g. Paris, France)
Option 1: Location where you collect the visa, e.g. Vietnam embassy in Paris.
Case 2: Arrival date and flight number (e.g. 24th of March 2009 by Vietnam Airlines flight VN532) and Port of entry (e.g. Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Son Nhat airport)
We will send you in time the official document issued by the Vietnamese Immigration department. In Case 1 it is an "Approval letter", in Case 2 it is a "Visa pick-up upon arrival approval letter". The approval process usually takes 5-7 working days. A processing fee is charged for this service. In urgent cases (less than 5 days) an express surcharge will be charged.
In urgent cases (less than 5 days) an express surcharge of USD 20 will be charged.
A supplement for DHL fees will be charged in case you need the original document (land crossing Moc Bai from Cambodia to Vietnam).

NOTE: All the above information may change without prior notice. It remains the traveler's responsibility to verify whether or not you are subject to a tourist visa for Vietnam.

27. When is the best time to travel Vietnam?
Hanoi and the north of Vietnam have distinct winter and summer seasons. The mainly dry winter lasts from November to April with average temperatures of 18-20°C. Summer lasts from May to October and is hot and humid with temperatures around 30°C.
Hue and Danang, in the center of the country, see very hot, dry weather from February to August with temperatures reaching the mid-30's°C, but can experience some heavy rainfall between September and January.
Ho Chi Minh City and the south have a hot, dry season from December till April with average temperatures hovering around 28°C and a warm rainy season from May to November. In the rainy season, most rain comes in short, heavy bursts.
There is good weather somewhere in Vietnam all year round! Vietnam stretches over 2000 km from North to South. The climate differs all year round from one region to another. The North can be chilly during winter months (December to March). North and Central Vietnam can encounter tropical storms and typhoons from October to January. Overall, the north of Vietnam experiences more marked seasons than the rest of the country with two distinct seasons: wet and dry.
The South, including Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, benefits from sunshine and warm weather all year round. However, the rainy season lasts from May to November (with showers once or twice daily in general) and a dry season from December to April. The Central Highlands can be chilly. Nha Trang has warm – sometimes hot - weather all year round, with a rainy season from the end of September until December.
Unless you intend to visit friends, relatives or your family, we do not recommend visiting Vietnam during the Lunar New Year or Tet holiday (Vietnamese New Year falls between late January and February). Tet is the most important period of the year for many Vietnameses who take time off to visit their families in the countryside. All hotels, buses, trains and flights are full, and there is almost no activity in the markets and shops. Some hotels and restaurants are under-staffed and in some cases the quality of the service may suffer. This period of reduced activity may last from a week before and a week after the Tet period. It is also impossible to get a "visa authorization letter" processed during this period.
NOTE: As a reminder, the peak season lasts from October to May. To avoid disappointment because hotel rooms or domestic flights are fully booked, reserve your travel arrangements early. Contact us to discuss your travel plans.

 28. Can I drink water from tap?
Drinking tap water or ice is not recommended. Bottled water is readily available but remember to check the seal for possible tampering. You should be drinking a minimum of 1.5 liters of water per day. This should increase as the temperature increases or you are engaging in physical activities.
Vietnamese coffee is usually very strong and has a punctuated mockup aroma and flavors. It is usually served in a small glass or cup with a drip filter and additional hot water in a thermos. As the filter empties you top it up from the thermos until you have the required amount of coffee. Condensed milk is added as a whitener and sweetener as it is usually not possible to find fresh milk away for the main cities.
Beer is available just about everywhere. Most places stock a selection of local and some imported brands. Draught beer comes in two varieties, Beer Hoi or Beer Tuoi. Beer Hoi is draught beer found on the street stalls and poured straight from the keg. Vietnamese quite often add ice to their beer when drinking. Beer Tuoi is found in the bars and restaurants and is chilled and served under pressure from the keg in a more conventional method.

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