Our Vietnam Travel FAQ covers everything you and your family may need to know about your tour of Vietnam such as visas, money, language, time difference, climate, food, and places to see.
Table of Contents:
What is the Vietnam time zone?
Can I get by only speaking in English?
Does Vietnam have a reliable internet service?
Will my mobile phone work in Vietnam?
Is it advised to organize travel insurance?
Will I experience a major culture shock?
What is the food like in Vietnam?
What type of clothes should I pack?
Is there a suggested limit on the amount of luggage?
What is the electrical current in Vietnam?
What is the preferred currency?
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Is travel expensive in Vietnam?
Is tipping expected in Vietnam?
Passport & Visa
What are the passport requirements?
Is a visa necessary to travel to Vietnam?
Is it safe to drink local tap water?
Is it safe to travel in Vietnam?
Why is it important to avoid drugs?
Is driving on Vietnam's roads safe?
What do I do in the event of an emergency?
How to report a crime?
What are the common scams in Vietnam?
What is shopping like in Vietnam?
Things to do
What are the sightseeing options in Vietnam?
Where are the finest beaches?
What is the best option to arrive in Vietnam?
How to get around in Vietnam?
What is the traffic like in Vietnam?
What is the weather in Vietnam?
Q. What is the Vietnam time zone?
A. Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of London, UK, 12 hours ahead of New York, US and 3 hours behind Sydney, Australia.
Q. Can I get by only speaking in English?
A. Generally, it should be okay to travel in Vietnam while solely relying on English. Travellers in the touristy areas or major cities are like to find more locals that speak English to an acceptable standard, but will find things more difficult in the remote, rural regions that aren't on the tourist trail.
However, it can benefit the travel experience to pack a local phrase-book and use a few of the common local words, such as how much is that, hello, goodbye, thank you, etc.
Q. Does Vietnam have a reliable internet service?
A. Internet access is widely available in many parts of Vietnam except for towns in the most remote regions. The majority of guest houses and hotels can provide internet access – although this can be subject to an extra fee. Internet cafes are plentiful throughout the towns and cities and relatively inexpensive to use. Big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will have the fastest connection speeds.
Q. Will my mobile phone work in Vietnam?
A. Using your mobile phone shouldn't be a problem while travelling in Vietnam. Simply visit one of the many mobile stores to pick up a pre-paid SIM card for less than a $1. While it is possible to rely on roaming, the charge for this is quite expensive. A useful method to save money is to make use of Wi-Fi networks while travelling. Most of the coffee shops, restaurants and hotels in the big cities will have Wi-Fi available.
Q. Is it advised to organize travel insurance?
A. Travel insurance is suggested for travel in Vietnam, especially for situations like medical coverage for illness or accident, as well as evacuation expenses. Other benefits include trip interruption and unexpected trip cancellation.
Q. Will I experience a major culture shock?
A. Before travelling to Vietnam it is worth the effort to learn the basics of the local culture to avoid any misunderstandings with the locals.
Here are a few things to consider:
Temples – Conservative dress and shoes removed should be standard practice when visiting a religious structure, such as a Buddhist pagoda. It is seen as impolite to sit in a temple or elsewhere with your back towards a Buddha statue. Also, make sure to get permission before taking photos of the place of worship or local people in attendance.
Dress code – Local dress codes should be respected. This can include tops that cover the shoulder area and shorts to the knees, which is especially important on a visit to religious sites. Additionally, if planning to enter the house of a local make sure to remove your shoes.
Meet and greet – The most typical method to meet and greet is with shaking hands much like the Western custom. Also, the traditional Vietnamese method is still present and based on pressing the hands together and positioning in front of the body while also giving a slight bow.
Q. What is the food like in Vietnam?
A. Vietnam's food reflects its period of French colonization, climate and geography. Rice is a typical staple of many dishes, including a variety of noodle and cake dishes. The basic ingredients for most dishes have a combination of meats (fish, prawn, chicken, beef, pork, etc.), herbs (kefir, lime, lemon grass, etc.) and vegetables. Additionally, many dishes are served with a dipping sauce or flavouring, such as soy sauce and fish sauce.
The street food scene is very affordable and it benefits to eat out and enjoy the local dishes in Vietnam. Also, the restaurants are great for the affordable Vietnamese dishes.
A few of the local specialities include Eggnog coffee (coffee with egg), Pho (the most popular Vietnamese soup), banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), Bun Cha (soup with meat, noodles and vegetables).
Q. What type of clothes should I pack?
A. Basically, the preferred clothing choice for the warmest month are likely to include synthetic or light cotton trousers, shorts, or tops that will quickly dry. Additionally, on visits to religious temples or monuments, there is a need to cover up so it helps to pack a shawl or scarf for the shoulders and head area.
Q. Is there a suggested limit on the amount of luggage?
A. While a commercial airline will likely accept a higher limit, an ideal volume of luggage is in the region of 20 kg. Packing light will make your travel experience more enjoyable, especially if constantly travelling on the Vietnam tour. Also, the lighter load will leave space for souvenirs for friends and family.
Q. What is the electrical current in Vietnam?
A. The electrical outlets in Vietnam are in the 220V – 240V range, which is typical in European, African and Asian countries, as well as Australia.
Q. What is the preferred currency?
A. The local Vietnamese Dong and American Dollar are both accepted in Vietnam. However, the Dong is a closed currency and only available to exchange on arrival in the country. Use the local banks and ATMs to get this currency. The American Dollar is useful in a variety of situations, such as paying the cost of visa on arrival or tipping drivers, guides, bell boys, etc.
Q. Are credit cards widely accepted?
A. Major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City accept credit card (Visa, MasterCard, JCB, American Express) payments in upmarket establishments intended for the tourist market, such as high-end restaurants and mid-level or above hotels. Credit card payments are likely to attract a surcharge of 5% or more. Make sure to travel with enough cash when travelling outside the major cities. Additionally, there is the option to carry travellers’ cheques which can easily be converted to cash in any decent size city.
Q. Is travel expensive in Vietnam?
A. Vietnam is a relatively cheap country to visit on a tour of SE Asia. Food and accommodation is particularly low. A local dish costs about $2 to $3, while the Western cuisine is available, but will be a lot more expensive. A stay in a mid-range Hanoi hotel with private bathroom, AC and Wi-Fi is likely to cost approx $12 to $15 per night.
Q. Is tipping expected in Vietnam?
A. While tipping isn't compulsory in Vietnam, it is nowadays expected in certain sectors, such as the service industry. Tipping for a well provided service is much appreciated and a typical tip can amount to:
$5 to $10 per day for tour guides and drivers
$5 to $10 for a massage/spa service
Add 10% to a restaurant bill for the pleasant service from the waiter/waitress
$2 for hotel room attendants or porters
Passport & Visa
Q. What are the passport requirements?
A. Any visitors to Vietnam will need to hold a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining after arriving in the country.
Q. Is a visa necessary to travel to Vietnam?
A. Yes, for citizens of most countries, there is a need to apply for a visa before travelling. However, there are a few countries that are granted a visa exemption of 14 – 30 days. If you are planning a short stay in Vietnam, it is worth checking the latest exemption list to see if your home nation is included.
For the majority of travellers the visa on arrival (VOA) is likely to be the easiest method to apply for a visa. It is a fast and inexpensive option and easily applied online through a local tour agency. Note: the VOA is only applicable if the intention is to enter the country via one of the main international airports.
Other options include the e-visa which gives greater flexibility on the entry option and the visa in advance via a local Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate.
Q. Is it safe to drink local tap water?
A. Drinking tap water in Vietnam isn't advisable. The preferred option is to use bottled water, which is very cheap and widely available throughout the country. Additionally, ice should be avoided unless served at a high-end restaurant or hotel.
Q. Is it safe to travel in Vietnam?
A. Vietnam is seen as a safe country to visit for foreigners. Unfortunately, there is the risk of pick pocketing in major tourist hotspots, such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. For this reason it is wise to take practical precautions when visiting crowded places. Generally, it is advised to leave high value electronics and other valuables locked in your luggage or left in the hotel safe. Additionally, money, passport or similar items can be kept in a waist belt or pouch that hangs around the neck
Q. Why is it important to avoid drugs?
A. Drug-related offenses can lead to severe penalties in Vietnam.
Q. Is driving on Vietnam's roads safe?
A. Travel on the major Vietnam cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City can be particularly dangerous, so it is essential to take extra care when crossing the roads and driving.
Q. What do I do in the event of an emergency?
A. If you are involved in an emergency situation, dial 115 for an ambulance, dial 113 for the police, or 116 for general phone number enquiries. Also, it can help to get help from the locals because the switchboard operators aren't always fluent in foreign languages.
A few of the hospitals to contact in the event of a medical emergency include:
International SOS Vietnam - (84) (4) 3934 0666 - Central Building, 31 Hai Ba Trung Street, Hanoi
Family Medical Practice - (04) 3843 0748 - Van Phuc Compound, 298 Kim Ma Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh City:
The International SOS Vietnam 24 hour Alarm Center - (84) (8) 829 8424 - 65 Nguyen Du street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
FV Hospital - (08) 54 11 33 33 - 6 Nguyen Luong Bang St., Saigon South (Phu Hung), Dist. 7, HCM
In addition to the major cities, there are plenty more hospitals throughout the country in the built up cities. Simply check your intended destination before travelling to see what you will have available.
Q. How to report a crime?
A. The process of reporting a crime in Vietnam is often a difficult and long process. It helps to have a local with you to translate the conversation. Additionally, you will be asked to sign a document that is solely in Vietnamese. So, it is important to only sign the paperwork when it has been translated accurately.
Q. What are the common scams in Vietnam?
A. Many of the popular tourist destinations in Vietnam are unfortunate to experience a variety of scams, tricks and safety hazards.
A few of the common scams include:
Airport Taxi – After emerging from Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City or Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi with a long-distance flight behind you, the scam taxis will try to take advantage of your tiredness. A taxi will pick up their passengers and after the intended destination is known, they will say the hotel is closed down and offer a local alternative. Normally the taxi driver gives false information and gets a commission for any tourists that book into the alternative hotel which is likely to be more expensive and at a substandard condition.
Hotel Rates – Double check the price of your hotel stay to make sure it is correct and keep a copy of the email confirmation. After arriving at some of the budget hotels in the country, there is the risk of prices being inflated by switching the price to dong instead of dollars and using a very inflated exchange rate. Additionally, the hotel may say the quoted price was per person and not per room.
Cyclo or motorbike tour – When walking through a city it is quite common for a cyclo or motorbike to stop and offer a low-cost ride to a popular destination (tourist attraction, city tour, rice paddies, etc.). If you decide to get on the back of the vehicle, there is a high risk of the price escalating significantly on arrival at your destination. Any attempt to argue the cost will simply result in the driver saying you misheard the price at the time of pick up. This scam often impacts the curious tourists. A safer option to book a motorbike ride is to book via a hotel or travel agency.
Q. What is shopping like in Vietnam?
A. Vietnam is a wonderful shopping destination, where tourists have the opportunity to purchase a wide assortment of essentials, gifts and souvenirs, such as exquisite pottery, local coffee, traditional music instruments, and world-class handcrafted products.
Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Hoi An are a few of the most popular places to go shopping in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City – this entrancing city is blessed with endless shopping possibilities. Modern shopping centres have appeared throughout the city, which are filled with plenty of international brands. There are plenty of boutique shops which make it possible to purchase bespoke items at a very competitive price. Also, the market scene is exceptional in Ho Chi Minh City and forms a basic part of the day-to-day life of the locals, as well as being popular with the visiting tourists.
Hanoi – Vietnam's capital city, Hanoi has no lack of choice when it comes to shopping. Hanoi is appreciated for its high-quality shopping centres, authentic shops and lively markets. This is a city that has seen rapid urbanization and modernization to make a standout shopping destination. Popular items like silk, silver and stoneware are easily found. Additionally, tourists won't be disappointed with the quality of the garments, handicraft and materials.
Hoi An – this city in central Vietnam is well-known for its tailor-made garments, customized lanterns and conical hats. Plus, the shopping in Hoi An gives to option to purchase extraordinary souvenirs and customary artworks. The tailored garments are quickly made at affordable prices and include items like shoes, shirts, dresses and suits.
Things to do
Q. What are the sightseeing options in Vietnam?
A. Vietnam is a delightful place to visit to experience an all-round holiday. It is rich in both cultural and natural attractions that can keep the entire family entertained.
In respect of historical and cultural sights, you won't be disappointed when you have cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Hoi An to explore.
Vietnam's landscape is absolutely stunning with its stunning islands and sweeping beaches to rice terraces and mountains.
A few of the must-see attractions include the fascinating Phong Na National Park with its amazing cave system, the Cao Bang mountains and Halong Bay, which is one of the country's most popular sights with its limestone towers and emerald waters.
For the adventurous, the fantastic coastline is perfect for not only relaxing, but also engaging in a variety of water sports, such as scuba diving and kite surfing.
Q. Where are the finest beaches?
A. A Vietnam holiday gives families access to many beautiful beaches that range from long stretches of coastline to hidden coves.
One of the most famous is Nha Trang which is appreciated for its offshore islands and diving sites, while a quieter destination can be found on the Con Dao islands
Other worthwhile coastal resorts include Mui Ne, Phu Quoc, Quy Nhon, Danang and Phan Thiet.
Q. What is the best option to arrive in Vietnam?
A. The most convenient travel option to arrive in Vietnam is to book an international flight that will land on one of the major airports. The biggest airports are based in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Also, for travellers in this part of Asia, the train or bus is an option when travelling from a a neighbouring country like Laos, China or Cambodia.
Q. How to get around in Vietnam?
A. Vietnam has a useful transport network with the option to use domestic flights for long-distance travel or boats, buses, minibus, taxis, etc. for easy connection throughout the country. The actual cost of travelling in Vietnam is very affordable which makes it possible to explore a vast area of the country on a single tour.
Q. What is the traffic like in Vietnam?
A. Most big cities - Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi – have huge problems with traffic jams. It will be difficult to ride solo on a motorbike in the major cities, but is a popular option when travelling in the less crowded places. Also, when riding a motorbike it is important to remember that road conditions and traffic are likely to be a lot different to what is seen at home.
Q. What is the weather in Vietnam?
A. Vietnam is well worth visiting at any time of the year with no good or bad season. If one region of the country is cold or wet, there are other parts that are pleasantly warm and sunny.
The climate in Vietnam is so diverse because of its landscape and variation in the altitudes and latitudes. In the far north the conditions can be very cold and frosty in the winter, while the south in a region like the Mekong Delta can have sub-equatorial warmth. At sea level, the average temperature in the extreme north is in the region of 21° C and increasing in the south to 27° C.
In the north of the country, the months of May to October are the summer months and November to April the winter months. Additionally, for the south of the country, it is split between a dry and wet season. The dry season runs from December to April and the wet season runs from May to November.