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  Vietnam Overview
General Information
Population-84million people
Total Area - 329,560 square kilometers
Capital - Hanoi
Time Zone - Standard time zone: UTC/GMT +7 hours
Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries located in the South East Asia. In the North, Vietnam shares the long borderline with China. In the East, Vietnam is bordered by the Gulf of Tonkin, inn the East and South by the South China Sea, in the South West by the Gulf of Thailand, and in the West by Cambodia and Laos. Owning to stretching the length of the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam boasts a unique shape of an elongated S and a long coastline of 3,444km (2,140 miles) with a lot of wonderful sites.
Although Vietnam lies entirely within the tropics, the Vietnam’s climate surprisingly varies from region to region with the annual average temperature from 22ºC to 27ºC because of its topography. The mountainous people of Sapa in the north might be seeking shelter from snow while the urban dwellers of Ho Chi Minh City in the south seek refuge from mid-day heat.
In the North (from Hai Van mountain pass in the middle of Vietnam to the North), it is the weather of four different seasons in a year: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Spring lasts from February to April with warm weather. In Spring, it is characterized by fine drizzle that helps plants grow fast and flowers bloom brightly. Summer lasts from May to August with hot and showery weather. The sun shines almost days. And there are sometimes sudden thundershowers that make summer less hot and become cooler. Autumn lasts from September to November with cool air, and dry and lightly windy weather. It can be said that it is the most beautiful season in a year with yellow leaves falling on the streets and yellow bright shines in day time although sometimes typhoons threaten life and agriculture in the country. Winter lasts from November to January with cold and dry weather. It is the coldest season in a year. Frost and snow can also occur in the mountains (over 1000m above level sea), that make Vietnamese people eager to go up to see and take nice photos of such scare event of a year.
The southern region is predominantly sub-equatorial with two main seasons of wet rainy season and dry season. A wet rainy season ranges from April to September. It is often sunny in mornings and rainy in late afternoons. Showers often rain heavily but stop quickly. A dry season spans the months of October to May. The weather becomes hotter. The Sun shines all days. But it becomes so cool at night. Definitely, the weather is rather stable in the south.
The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, which is the mother tongue of the Vietnamese people who constitute 86% of Vietnam’s population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. And it is the second language of the ethnic minority groups in the country. It is monosyllabic, with each syllable having six different tones that can change the meaning of the word. This makes it quite difficult for new learners. Beside the official language, each ethnic minority group has its own dialect that has been used and preserved in daily life.
The Vietnamese writing system in use today is an adapted version of the Latin alphabet, with additional diacritics for tones and certain letters. The different tones are indicated by the use of accent marks. This system of writing, called quoc ngu, was created by a French Catholic missionary, Fr. Alexander De Rhodes, in the 17th century to translate the scriptures. When France invaded Vietnam in the late 19th century, French gradually replaced Chinese as the official language in education and government. Vietnamese adopted many French terms, such as d?m (dame, from madame), ga (train station, from gare), so mi (shirt, from chemise), and búp bê (doll, from poupée). In addition, many Sino-Vietnamese terms were devised for Western ideas imported through the French. However, the Romanized script did not come to predominate until the beginning of the 20th century, when education became widespread and a simpler writing system was found more expedient for teaching and communication with the general population.
Although it is a small country with the area of 329,560 square kilometers, there are up to 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting in Vietnam, of which Kinh (Viet) people accounts for nearly 86% of the whole population, and the others are ethnic minority groups that represent about 14%.
According to historical materials, Viet people was the first group living in Vietnam. And then other people came from the Southeastern Asian area. Almost of them are from China. Their ancestors migrated to Vietnam few hundred years ago. There are ethnic minority groups such as Khmer and Cham, descendents of inhabitants who lived in central and southern Vietnam before the area was conquered by Vietnam. The other groups are Muong, Pathen, Pu peo,etc. All of them are divided into 5 major groups following the language they speak: Austro-Asiatic, Mon-Khmer, Viet-Muong, Sino-Tibetan, and Austronesian.
Nowadays, Kinh (or Viet group) mostly base in plains, especially in the Red River Delta and the Mekong Delta. The ethnic minority groups locate in the mountainous areas. Each group has their own custom and tradition. However, they are all friendly and love peace.
Eating out in Vietnam ranges from street food to fine dining in luxury hotels. Though from anywhere, it cannot be denied that Vietnamese food is tasty and healthy. It is often made by different kinds of vegetables. Rice is the staple cereal and fish-sauce “nuoc mam” is extensively used. The most popular dish among the local people is the Ph? - a noodle soup with meat, beef or chicken. The chicken soup (pho ga) or beef soup (pho bo) is quite spicy and available at all food stalls at US $0.60 per bowl. Pho Bo Tai is a soup with rare beef fillets. Another specialty is the spring roll, which is found in many versions, with varying ingredients used.
The menu in restaurants is mainly non-vegetarian with dishes made from pork, fish and beef, snake and soft-shell turtle, which is considered a delicacy. Chè is a dessert made from sticky rice, beans, and a seasonal fruit. International cuisine such as French, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and American is also available.
Fruit smoothies made from seasonal fruits are popular. Fruits such as custard apple, sugar apple, banana, avocado, durian, strawberry, jack fruit, passion fruit, dragon fruit, lychee and mango can be found in fruit stalls. You will need to clean the fruit thoroughly before eating.
It is also recommended that you buy bottled water rather than drinking tap water. Don’t miss out the bia hoi (meaning ‘beer gas’), as the Vietnamese call draught beer. Imported brands such as Carlsberg, San Miguel and Heineken are available along with local brands such as Tiger, Saigon, and 333 (pronounced “ba-ba-ba”).
Currency/ Money
The currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Notes are available in denominations of VND 500,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20, 000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500; and 200 hundred. Many tourists call Vietnam is a country of many thousand Dong.
Coins have just recently been re-introduced and are available in 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500; and 200 Dong denominations.
The USD is widely used in Vietnam’s cities. Tourists can use USD when travel around Vietnam but please look at exchange rate in the exchange rate table before coming to Vietnam.
VISA, MasterCard and American Express cards are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, and shops in the urban areas. Travelers Checks are easily changeable at banks and moneychangers all over the country. Commissions are US$1 for a US$100 TC at Vietcombank, US$2 at ANZ Bank.
Vietnam is not exactly a shopper’s paradise, and the streets are awash with little shops selling all manner of items. You can do a lot of souvenir shopping in Hanoi, Hanoi’s Old Quarter is particularly excellent for visitors with shops selling clothes, gold, embroidered tablecloths and handbags. Around Hanoi have many handicraft villages, Good souvenirs are marble figurines and vases, ceramics from Bat Trang village, silk paintings from silk village, and hand-painted greetings cards. In particular, the lacquer ware, tailor-made ao dais (female national costume), mother-of-pearl inlay work, silk paintings, and wood block prints are very artistic and worth acquiring to take back home. The hill tribes of the Central Highlands and the north of the country now sell colorful woven bags and clothing. Ho Chi Minh City is also a good place to shop for jewellery, carpets and leather work
  Getting Around
Going to Vietnam, you can discover the country through various cities, tourist sites … by air, road, train or boat…
Traveling by Air
Traveling by air may be the first choice for traveler in Vietnam. There are three international airports in Vietnam: Noi Bai in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang in Danang city. Airport tax is 14$ for only international flights in each airports.
Flights are available to almost big airports such as Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Phnom Penh, Dubai, Paris, and Frankfurt…
In major cities of Vietnam, plane ticket booking is available via telephone and internet. It is also available at civil aviation ticketing offices, travel agencies and hotels.
Taxies service are available all day at the airport, hotels, railway station in the big cities and provinces. The prices is about 1$ for the first 2km, and every kilometer thereafter costs about 0.5$. It can be vary based on the taxi service provider you choose.
Pedicab or Cyclo
Pedicab available in some cities such as Hanoi, Hue, Dan Nang, Hoi An and Saigon. You can discover these city by Pedicab (it is called “xich lo” in Vietnamese). It costs about 40.000 VND to 50.000 VND / hour (3$ ~ 4$ dollars / hour). It is very convenient that you can take photos or make movies while sitting in pedicab.
Vietnam’s railway provides an alternative travel mean to the plane. You can travel through Vietnam by train but it takes time because the journey time is long. Sleeping compartments usually are available on the long-distances train.
Ticket can be bought at the station of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City in advance.
Cars for Rent
Cars for rent are available at almost travel agencies. There are a wide range of cars you can rent with drivers.
Motorbikes for Rent
Motorbikes for rent are available in almost tourist town and cities. If you want to have an enjoyable sightseeing you can rent one. It costs about 6$ to 12$ performance day to rent a motorbike
  Safety Tips while Traveling
In comparison with other countries, Vietnam is considered as one of the safest country for personal security. But as a traveler, you should be aware of some crimes to avoid bad situation during your trip. Here are some safety tips which can helps you when you travel in Vietnam:
• Be careful in a crowded area such as local festivals, tourist site… there may have some gambles which you should not join and also pickpockets.
• Keep enough money in your pocket and don’t show off it in the public place. Keep the rest on your body. It would be very convenient if you carry the credit or master card. You can withdraw the money in almost big cities and some tourist sites. Remember don’t count your money when you’re standing at ATM, put it in your wallet and check it in a safe place later.
• With the important document such as passport/visa you can keep it in safety deposit box in the hotels.
• You should never wear a bag or purse to avoid bag snatchers.
• Traffic in Vietnam, especially in big cities such as Hanoi and Saigon is very terrible so be careful when you cross the street. Here is a video of how to cross the street in Vietnam. Get experiences and don’t get shocked!
  Money Issues
Vietnamese currency is called Vietnam Dong and abbreviated as VND. Notes are available in paper denominations of 5.000VND, 10.000VND, 20.000VND, 50.000VND, 100.000 VND and 500.000VND. Beside VND, US dollar is widely accepted.
Traveler’s Check
Traveler’s check is a good way to carry money around Vietnam because the exchange rate is fixed and it can be replaced in case of lost or stolen. Checks can also be easily exchangeable in banks.
Credit Card
Most major credit cards such as Visa, Master card and American Express are very usefully in the big cities and some tourist sites too. Those cards can be used in the most mid range to the high-end class hotels and some luxury restaurants. You can also get the cash advances from ATMs of the almost Vietnamese banks especially Vietcombank.
Banks in Vietnam has developed a large number of ATM networks but it is not recommended to trust completely in ATM because sometimes you cannot get cash from them especially during lunar New Year. Furthermore, many shops and restaurants don’t accept credit cards as a payment method.
Currency Regulations
You can bring as much as money to Vietnam as you can. There is no limit on amount of foreign currency by tourist but you must declare to the customs. At this time, the minimum amount of money for declaration is 7000$
  Eating and Drinking
Traveling to Vietnam, you are not only having a chance to see such beautiful places but also to enjoy Vietnamese food and drink. In Vietnam, eating can range from cheap noodle soups to banquets in the luxury hotels. In addition, Vietnamese restaurants also serve a lot of international food like Chinese, Japanese, French, and American…
The most famous and typical Vietnamese food you may know is Pho Bo – the noodle soup with beef in it. It is very tasty and not expensive and usually for breakfast. One of the most well-known brands in of Pho Bo is Pho24. For lunch and dinner you can enjoy Com – steamed white rice with many delicious courses like fish, pog…
Fresh fruits such as oranges, dragon fruit, and apples… are widely available. It is recommended that all fruits should be peeled before eaten.
Mineral water in bottle is cheap and available everywhere. It is recommended that you should drink it instead of water or tea with ice on the street or. Don’t take the risk!
In Hanoi and Saigon “Bia hoi” or “draught beer” a kind of beer is very popular and cheap on the street in summer. It’s usually has a lot of people sit together and cheer with “Bia hoi” in a crowded atmosphere. It should not be missed. Beside “bia hoi” you can find other restaurants or bars which serve imported beer such as Carlsberg, Tiger, Heineken or even famous beer from Germany
  Vietnam Climate
The climate of Vietnam varies considerably from region to region. Although the entire country lies in the tropics and subtropics, local condition varies from frosty winters in the far northern hill to year-round, sub-equatorial warmth in the Mekong Delta.
Vietnam’s weather is indicated by two monsoons. The winter monsoon comes from the northeast between October and March, bringing wet cold winter to all areas north of Nha Trang, and dry and warm temperatures to the south. From April or May to October, the southwestern monsoon bring warm, humid weather to the whole country except for those areas sheltered by mountains
• For the best balance, try the months of April, May or October;
• For those sticking to the south, November to February is dry and a touch cooler;
• From July to November, violent and unpredictable typhoons hit central and northern Vietnam
It gets pretty crowded from November to March and in June and August. Prices tend to peak over the Christmas and New Year period, but if you don’t fancy sharing the sites with the masses, try to avoid these busy times.
Some travelers like to time a visit with Tet (Vietnamese New Year), which is the biggest festival in the calendar in late January or early February. A nice idea but not ideal, as the whole country is on the move
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