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Vietnam Travel Information

Passport and Visa

Travelers to Vietnam always need a valid passport and a visa. The passport should not expire within six months after the day you arrive in Vietnam. Vietnam Incentives will assist you with a hassle-free visa application process.

Climate

The weather in Vietnam can be very diverse, see also the Climate Charts (in a new window). There is no 'best' season for traveling to Vietnam although March and December offer the best chance of good weather for tours covering the whole country.
  • The North has four seasons. Summers are warm and winters cool. In the mountains, it can even be cold. Rainy season: June to September.
  • The Centre has a similar climate as the South but is sometimes faced with bad weather due to storms at sea (mid-October to mid-December). This may cause inconvenience to travelers. Rainy season: September to December.
  • The South has a tropical climate, so it is often hot and humid. Rainy season: May to November (wettest from June to September).

Clothing

A clothing advice strongly depends on your destination in Vietnam and the time of the year that you will be traveling (see also the Climate section). Most of the time cotton summer clothes will be your best choice. Bring a sweater and a jacket if you are visiting the North in winter. Also light rain gear and swimming gear prove essential during many tours.
In public, it is wise to dress conservatively. Trousers or long skirts are required when visiting pagodas or churches.
Formal attire is prudent when visiting Vietnamese officials.
Strong and light walking shoes with a good profile are best for excursions during the day. Bring another pair of comfortable shoes for in the evening. Many travelers also find a pair of slippers useful.

Currencies and Methods of Payment

Vietnam's unit of currency is the dong (abbreviated d or VND). Most articles are priced in dong, some in US Dollars. Most articles are priced in dong, some in US Dollars. You are expected to pay in dong, sometimes dollars are also accepted (small denominations in particular). Shops and restaurants certainly do not always ask for dollars.
The current exchange rate is approximately 20,000 dong to a dollar and approximately 28,000 dong to a euro.
Bank notes exist of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000 dong. Older notes of 100, 200 and 500 dong are disappearing. In addition to bank notes, Vietnam also has coins of 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 dong.
Automated Teller Machines (ATM's or cash dispensers) are available in all towns and cities. They provide the safest and cheapest way to obtain Vietnamese currency, but it is wise not to depend on ATM's alone.
Travellers' cheques can be redeemed for dollars or dong at banks, exchange offices and in some hotels. You can also change cash dollars for dong there, provided your notes are in good condition. A slightly better exchange rate is offered for large denominations than for small ones. Regular bank cheques are generally not accepted. Changing money in the black market is not customary and seldom offers a better rate.
Credit cards are also widely accepted these days, especially in cities, but some shops and restaurants charge a fee for this service. At several banks in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, a credit card can be used for cash advances.
It is not allowed to take out any dong. Moreover, the currency is not convertible outside Vietnam. Upon departure you can change back dong at the airport (maximum $500 worth, with official receipts), but it is easier to spend your dong before your tour ends.

Prices

Vietnam is a cheap country, but do not expect bottom-low prices for telecommunications, plane tickets and some entrance tickets. Sporadically, foreigners have to pay more than Vietnamese.

Bargaining

You are expected to negotiate the price in small shops and markets, but not as much as in other Asian countries. Do not expect more than ten to twenty per cent discount, perhaps a little more if you are the first client in the morning, but rarely half the asking price. Keep smiling if you are not happy with the price yet, or simply walk away and come back some other time.

Tipping

In a country where many people earn less than $100 or 200 a month, tipping after a good service is of course appreciated. For years, tipping was uncommon in Vietnam but now it is quite accepted. Bank notes of 10,000 or 20,000 dong or $1 can be used to tip waiters, bellmen, room maids, etc. Avoid giving 1000 or 2000 dong. A service charge which is added to the bill in some restaurants usually benefits the owner, not the staff. It is customary to leave a small donation at the end of a visit to a pagoda.

Health

Most importantly, travelers should take precautions against the sun. Use protective clothes, a cap and suntan lotion. Wear an old T-shirt when snorkeling.
Do not drink tap water, unless your hotel explicitly mentions that it is drinkable (or “potable”). Brushing teeth with tap water is no problem for most travelers.
To prevent from dehydration, we regularly offer free bottles of mineral water during our incentive tours.
Currently no vaccinations are prescribed, but DTP, Hepatitis A and (for a stay of two weeks or longer) Typhoid are recommended. Short-term visitors normally do not need any other vaccinations (like Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, dengue fever, rabies, parotisis, measles and prickly heat).
Malaria does occur in Vietnam, but not in the destinations that are within the scope of a typical incentive program.
Hospitals that meet Western standards exist in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Time Difference

Local time = UTC (or GMT) plus 7. Vietnam has no daylight savings time.

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