How is weather in Vietnam to travel?
We can say that there’s no best time for travelling in Vietnam as the seasons vary considerably from the North to the South.
The northern regions of Vietnam normally have four seasons. Winter is from November to March which can be rather cold in Hanoi with temperatures averaging 16 oC, coming with raining and dried winds. And the temperature is around 10oC lower in the mountainous regions of Hanoi. Summer is June to August with expectation of hot and very humid conditions with temperatures averaging between 27°C to 37°C.
In the South, the dry season runs from November to May with hot and hot at day time and cooler at night. The raining season brings daily short and heavy rain from May to November. Temperature in the South does not vary much from dry to wet season, which makes it within 25-35oC
Public holidays and expectations
New Year’s Day: there are not many activities from the public as this is just a normal off day with more people in the restaurants.. There are often fireworks at big cities at 11:59 PM of the last day of the year.
Lunar New Year: this is not in Western calendar so it varies from year to year, but stays more in Feb. This often happens a week or more. Big cities like Hanoi or Hochiminh city will see less people with shops and restaurant to close (people go to home town at small cities for family reunion). There are a lot of activities everywhere, from flower gardens to traditional games, from visiting each other ‘s house to hang out more in restaurants. Traveling in this time will be a great time to remember Vietnam.
National ancestor day: This is calculated in lunar calendar so the time is not exactly but mainly in April. This is just another normal off day.
Country Reunification day in Apr 30: more decoration on the street with more Communist style (red flags, USSR flag, etc). Public music show or solder parade can be seen at this time in the down town across cities. Fireworks is always available at big cities at 9:00 PM
Labour Day in May 1: This is just another normal off day.
National Day in Sep 2: same to the Unification day and even with the same schedule for fireworks.
How are toilettes?
In the big cities, flush ones are everywhere with same standard like home. Notice for walking lovers is that public toilettes are not popular in Vietnam; and if there is a lucky one in your route, it’s not good anyway. Trips to remote villages or biking across small towns will face mostly squad toilettes with ugly smells.
So, good tour guides will know where is the best toillete.
Power and sockets
Power in Vietnam is 220V with frequency of 50 HZ. Only a very limited number of 4 or 5 star hotel remains both 220V and 110V systems.
The most common socket is at type C. Type A can be used but the popularity is made for type C, with two round cylinders. To check what is type C precisely, see this information
Who can get visa exemption in Vietnam?
The Bruneian gets visa exemption for staying up to 14 days.
The Thailand, Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Cambodian and Laotian gets visa exemption for staying up to 30 days.
The Philippines gets visa exemption for staying up to 21 days.
The Japanese, North Korean, Sweden, Norwegian, Danish, Russian, and Finland gets visa exemption for staying up to 30 days
Any visitors to Phu Quoc Island in the South of Vietnam with one connected fly in Vietnam (i.e. fly to Hochiminh city then get the next fly to Phu Quoc Island) can gets visa exemption for staying up to 15 days. Further staying or visiting to other Vietnamese cities can be done with visa to be issued right on the island. And this should be booked through authorized Vietnamese travel agents.
Holders of APEC businessmen certificate can gets visa exemption for staying up to 60 days
French or Chilean with diplomatic passport can get visa exemption for staying up to 90 days with multiple entries.
How to get Vietnamese Visa for the rest?
This is the visa you will pick up at Vietnam Embassy at your country. With this kind of visa you can travel to Vietnam by any way: air, sea, land
To do this kind, you need to require a form from Vietnam Embassy at your place. Then send Application form with signature and photo attached with your own passport to the Vietnam Embassy at your place. You will be requested a fee that varies from one Vietnam Embassy to another, but mostly within the range of 60 -100 USD. Wait for around 3 weeks to get your visa.
Visa on arrival and how to get it?
Remember that visa on arrival is more convenient and less time-consuming at home, but it is applicable only for those who travel to Vietnam by air. And the process at the airport in Vietnam can be slow
Firstly send us some information we require, then we will send you letters of confirmation you are our guest, with an application form. Secondly, prepare a set of (1) printed letter of confirmation, (2) the application form with full filling, (3) 2 passport photos, and (4) USD 45 for the visa issuing at the airport. Put all in an envelope, and you will find it comfortable.
If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: Mekong Trails, 91 Nguyen Van Thu street, district 1, HCMC, Vietnam Ph +84 8 6685 5965.
Should I apply visa for my children?
If your children travel with you and they have their own passports, you will be required to apply and pay the same fees as if they were an adult.
Can I extend my visa?
Surely you can, just let us do that for you when you travel with us.
How is tipping in Vietnam?
Tipping is not a must but is turning customary in Vietnam, but a tip would be appreciated by restaurants, drivers and other service workers, especially if the service has been particularly good. A tip for tour guides is much recommended and varies from individual travel (5-10 USD per day per person) to group tours (2-3 USD per day per person). Of course, if the service is not good, then don’t tip, and let us know for the improvement for the next services.
How is dress code in Vietnam?
It’s your own freedom of wearing but remember Vietnamese will feel uncomfortable with foreigners if tourists show too much their own body. Shorts are OK but those should be long enough to cover your bum. Non-sleeve T-shirt is OK but don’t show bra and things behind. If you decide to enter any religious place like pagoda, temple, or church, it is strongly recommended that you should wear trousers covering your knees and T-shirt covering your forearm, plus veiling your belly button and surrounding areas.
How to make a phone call in Vietnam?
If you are in a city in Vietnam and try to call to another city, make 0 then province code then your number. The call within province just needs the phone number.
Calling home from Vietnam need double 0 before country code and state codes. There is one way to save the cost is to press 171 or 177 before the numbers. (i.e. to call to USA you dial 00 1 then you state code and your number).
However, those are much outdated and the more common way to do for local people are Skype, Viber and other system of free calls. More concerns on internet connection, see the next QA
How is internet access:
Internet access is very popularly available in tourist areas and big cities, especially in internet cafes, restaurants, bars, etc. In Vietnam entering a café or a restaurant means you can use their internet wifi which mostly comes with pass code. Ask them the pass code. There are some cities with free internet via wifi and the only way to use it is that you answer yes when being asked “do you love our city?”. Internet access is less popular in rural and remote areas.
Can I use my mobile phone?
You are able to use your hand phone in most reas of Vietnam, as long as you have roaming, even at remote and mountainous areas. The coverage here is great for 130 million subscribers over 90 million citizens. Make sure you have global roaming activated with your mobile carrier if you wish to use your mobile in Vietnam.
How can I pay Mekong Trails
The most preferred way is to pay full via PayPal. You even can pay your via credit card on arrival as we have machine in your hotel. Cash is fine too.
Can I pay by credit card in Vietnam?
Major credit cards are widely accepted by large shops, hotels and restaurants in Vietnam. However, shopping in smaller vendors like small family restaurants, market stalls will only receive cash in Vietnam Dong.
Can I get money from ATM?
ATMs are found everywhere in Vietnam, so withdrawing cash shouldn’t be problematic in most areas if you accept the withdrawing fees. Some tiny villages and rural areas, especially at the biking or motor biking trips, may not have ATM access, so prepare for this before venturing too far from a city or major town.
How is exchange rates?
Exchange rate does not change much in those year and nails at around 21 000 per USD. For precise number daily, visit the biggest private bank in Vietnam
Should we use USD or Vietnam Dong?
We recommend you to use Vietnam Dong, unless the quotation in menu is USD. Using Dong will help you to have a better exchange rate.
Can I get tax refund?
Yes, tourists are allowed to get the value added tax refund which are mostly applied 10% for every purchase. So, any high amount of purchase, you need to collect VAT invoice to as to claim it at the Cam Ranh, Da Nang, Noi Bai, or Tan Son Nhat or Phu Quoc air port.
Should I buy a travel insurance before coming to Vietnam.
Of course. All travel mates travelling with Mekong Trails are strongly suggetsed to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
Can I drink water from tap in Vietnam?
All water from taps water are not for drinking in Vietnam. Filter water source is limited and rather rare to find, so bottle water is still convenient for tourists. Don’t worry about environmental reasons for plastic bottles as these are mostly recycled. The poor people will collect those and sell to plastic factory for money.
Can I use ice in Vietnam?
Some ice yes and some not. If you see ice with big square blocks, DON’T, as this ice is made by the water from the river directly. If you see ice with round shape with a hole in the middle. That’s good as the water to make ice has been processed.
What are the must-try food in my Vietnam trip?
Pho is more internationally famous and even in the Oxford dictionary. Have a steaming bowl of flavorsome pho is one of Vietnam’s most celebrated dishes. This noodle soup usually features clear noodles in a broth with beef or chicken and some vegetables and herbs.
Banh xeo is more in the South of Vietnam and often comes with a lot of vegetables and herb. This delicious crepe-like savory pancake is often served with seafood or pork, onions, oil, lettuce and other condiments.
The impact of French influence in Vietnam is very clear with the fresh baguettes as the very popular food for breakfast. It is even more popular than “pho” as the cost is lower and the take-away convenience is great. Take crusty bread and stuff it with pork or ham, coriander, salad and pickled condiments .
The tropical Vietnam makes great place for fruits. You even never seen many of them in your life, and of course the taste are great. Take the opportunity to try exotic fruits which are very fresh like rambutan, persimmon, mangosteen, dragon fruit, jackfruit, durian, etc as they are just picked not long before and not get frozen before coming to you.
Top 10 Iconic travel hotspot of Vietnam
Halong Bay offers its beauty in different style from morning to night time, from sunshine to misty view. Make yourself comfortable on the big junk, enjoying the breeze and the view of thousands of karst towers as your junk passes by. Having a night swimming, finishing your seafood, having private room with open window to get the sound of waves and winds, kayaking thru heaven caves, are things that can’t be described by words.
The Old quarter with cyclos, the lifestyle along the pavements with business at every houses, the old houses with strong imprint of communism living style, etc are resources to bring strong feelings to your trip of Oriental discovery.
The place is famous for green trips into the mazes of canals where boats are a lot to transport fruits and vegetables back and forth. More can be the unique floating markets (forget the manmade on in Thailand), emerald rice paddies and lush islands and the hostability of the people here.
Change to the cool place of 1500m elevation and experience the colorful villages of Vietnam’s minority groups – the Zay, the Dao, and the Blue and Black H’mong. The best way to explore the area is to make some trekking across the villages, the local plantations, the rice terraced scenic views, and stay overnight as a guest of a local family, with food cooked by the host.
The last dynasty in Vietnam has left great imperial monuments and different people manner in Hue city. In addition to the green city (the only city in Vietnam with push bike popularity and more trees than people) and beautiful river, Hue is super for any who seeks for peace, slow living, nostalgia and romance.
This is another peaceful place which tourists find it more relaxed and comfortable with more restaurants, shops and café. Hoian was once the prosperous harbor city four century ago. The history has made the town slept in hunger and that turns out to be great as the local preserve all monuments long time ago (too poor to build any new house) and their lifestyle (so isolated to the next city with limited traffic)
Hoi An then has returns from a sleeping princess, beautiful and peaceful.
Only few hours from Hanoi but Mai Chau is so different with indigenous tribes, marvelous mountains, emerald rice paddies and the air of peacefulness. Stay at a local house, eat their food, drink their magic whisky made in jars, dance with their UNESCO acknowledged dance, are the great moments here.
Dalat is the honeymoon city of all Vietnamese as it’s spring all year round here. Dalat used to be a hill station for French and the architecture makes the strong feelling among the green forest of pines, endless flower plantations, green vegetable terraces, poetic lakes, marvelous waterfalls and hills.
Ho Chi Minh City
The change of the most dynamic city in Vietnam has made Hochiminh city much different from yesterday. However, the enthusiasm on the city do not stop as this city hold a thick book of history of Vietnam, in the recent fierce but nonsense wars. The name Saigon remains on the mind of nostalgic Saigonese.
It’s a system of over 250 km of tunnels underground sued by Viet cong at the war time for a perfect guerrilla warfare to struggle against the strong weapon from US army. The place hold heap of stories on the war as well as the answers on the war in Vietnam.
Things to buy in Vietnam
Visit Hoi An and get tailor-made clothing of your daily office wear or party costume at a great price. Find a tailor (which is very easy as they are everywhere), choose your fabric, choose a fashion style you want (mostly point at some pages among hundreds of fashion magazines), get measured and return the day after to collect your custom-made fashion. Ask the to fix it even if any small mistake happens.
Indigenous tribe fabrics
Those fabrics are often colorful indicating the identity of the tribes. These are great as all made by hands (they plant their own trees and make textile by hands, eave them by hand with traditional techniques, dying the color by secret trees, etc). Those can be available in excellent woven bags, wall decoration, clothing and table clothing which make meaningful souvenirs for friends back home.
Vietnam is the second largest coffee exporter in the world, and coffee here make the special taste with different tradition of drinking. Visit a Trung Nguyen café (the biggest local coffee name), have a cup of coffee with condensed milk and buy some bags for friends.
In Vietnam, hand made things are popular, and it’s also an art. Visit a workshop of lacquer ware to see they made it, painting lacquer liquid to timbers, laying egg shells or mother of pearl to the timber and make fabulous pictures. You can find lacquer ware from small boxes to big pictures and vases.
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