Planning a Vietnam getaway? Here are a number of things AZ Local Trip suggests that you should prepare for your trip to Vietnam!
(And if you are still looking for an itinerary for your trip to Hanoi, please check this out: Hanoi Itinerary (Detailed), we have itineraries from one day to several days).
Preparations For A Trip To Vietnam
Vietnam Visa is important for travelers who visit Vietnam for holiday or business. Most travelers visiting Vietnam need a visa; however, there are some exemptions for the countries which have reciprocal agreements with Vietnam.
There are different types of visa to Vietnam:
The citizens of following countries are NOT required VISA to visit Vietnam for a certain amount of time.
Phu Quoc Island
The visitors to Phu Quoc Island are allowed stay on the island less than 15 days without a visa when they travel to the island via any international ports of entry (air and sea). However, if visitors visit other parts of Vietnam after Phu Quoc Island they will need a visa to Vietnam (if they do not have an exemption).
Under Vietnam’s visa waiver policy, passport holders from the following countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Russia, South Korea, UK, France, Germany, Italia, and Spain are allowed to stay up to 15 days per visit without a visa.
If a secondary entry is required, they must wait for at least 30 days to apply for the next entry.
Passport holders from these countries, who wish to stay in Vietnam for more than 15 days, or enter more than once within 30 days, need to apply for single entry visas for 30 days or multiple entry visas.
Options depending upon the nationality and passport of the applicant:
Direct: Visitors can apply for the Vietnam visa in person or by post at nearby Vietnam Embassy/Consulate.
E –Visa: Starting from February 2017 visitors of certain countries visiting Vietnam – This is a new system so we have no advice for this option. Tourists can visit the website: https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/en_US/web/guest/khai-thi-thuc-dien-tu/cap-thi-thuc-dien-tu for more information.
Through Travel Company: Tourists can apply for the Vietnam visa online through travel agents and the visa stamp will be issued on arrival at the airport (Visa on Arrival).
Visa on Arrival
Vietnam runs on two currencies: Vietnamese dong and US dollars. Despite the government’s push to get away from using foreign currency, US dollars are still used in some instances.
Many prices for hotels, tours, or other services are presented in US dollars. Prices for food, drinks, and souvenirs past security in Saigon’s airport are all in US dollars.
However, you have to use dong when buying local food and some other stuff.
HSBC banks are located around Old Quarter, which is quite convenient for foreign travelers
There are a number of international banks operating in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with 24-hour cash withdrawal facilities. Most ATMs enables you to get cash from VISA, MASTER CARD, Cirrus, Maestro, Plus and JCB network.
Local transaction fees are reasonable, however, they are in addition to whatever fees your bank already charges for international transactions.
HSBC and Citibank are better choice for you as they allow you to make free transactions. Here are the locations of HSBC and Citibank near Old Quarter
Pacific Place building, 83B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem district
23 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem district
No 6 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem district
Horison Tower, 40 Cat Linh Street, Cat Linh Ward Dong Da District
ATMs in Vietnam
Using ATMs attached to bank offices is slightly safer for avoiding card-scanning devices attached to the card slot — a problematic, high-tech scam in Southeast Asia. Also, you stand a better chance of getting your card back if it is captured by the machine.
Tip: Find ATMs that give smaller denominations. Large banknotes (100,000-dong notes) can be tricky to break sometimes. The limit per transaction is usually 2,000,000 dong (approximately US $95).
The most commonly accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard
As with the rest of Southeast Asia, credit cards are of little use for anything more than booking flights or possibly paying for tours or diving. Paying with plastic means that you’ll be charged a steep commission; using cash is always best.
The most commonly accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard. Fraud is a serious problem in Vietnam, so you’ll need to notify the card issuer in advance to avoid having your card deactivated the first time that you use it.
Most ATMs in the country accept Visa or MasterCard. In all of the major airports there are money exchanges booths.
However you can find a better exchange rate in the jewelry and gold shops in HCMC and Hanoi around the central part of town (in HCMC, they surround Ben Thanh market).
Phu Van Jewelry shop – a place to exchange money in Hanoi
We would like to recommend some reliable money changers in Hanoi Old Quarter. Forex service at the Old Quarter is mostly offered by gold dealers and tour operators. Their rates are often better than banks’ rates.
1) Quoc Trinh Gold Shop
2) Kim Linh Jewelry
3) Tu Binh Jewelry
4) Hanoi Money Exchange
5) Phu Van Jewelry
6) Manh Hung Jewelry
*Opening hours may vary. Call first before visiting.
For the best exchange rates, you are recommended to visit the money changers and gold dealers around Ben Thanh Market and Ho Chi Minh Square.
Below is a list of recommended money changers and gold shops at the center of Ho Chi Minh City. Phone numbers are included for you to call for inquiries before visiting.
Money changers and gold dealers at Ben Thanh Market are the first choice of locals and visitors alike when it comes to currency exchange. These shops can be found inside and outside the market. Expect to find a large number of them on Le Thanh Ton street, which is one among the 4 streets surrounding this famous old market.
RECOMMENDED MONEY CHANGERS
Ha Tam Jewelry
1) Ha Tam Jewelry
2) Ben Thanh Money Changer
3) Hoang Thu
4) Ben Thanh Jewelry
*Opening hours may vary. Call first before visiting.
Ho Chi Minh Square, situated in the heart of the city and right in front of Ho Chi Minh City Hall, is also a popular place for currency exchanging in Saigon. The whole stretch of the square is surrounded by hotels, shops, and restaurants. This is probably a reason for money exchange shops and gold dealers to settle down in the area.
RECOMMENDED MONEY CHANGERS
1) Hung Long Money Exchange
2) Eximbank Money Exchange 59
3) Currency Exchange
4) Minh Thu
5) Therese Jewelry
*Opening hours may vary. Call first before visiting.
One of the safest and cheapest destinations in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is an incredible year-round destination. Whether you are traveling solo or with friends, this is definitely a place that you don’t want to miss.
Narrowing down the best time to go to Vietnam is a bit tricky. The country is 1,100 miles long, and while that might not seem huge, it’s incredibly diverse, and the weather varies a lot from place to place.
Here’s what you need to know about the weather and the best time to go to different places of Vietnam!
Sapa frost in January
Vietnam weather between January and March is characterized by cool and occasional light rain in the North, warm and dry in the centre and the south.
If you plan to trek early in the year to rural Northern mountain, make sure you bring extra coat to keep warm. Temperature in places like Sapa can drop to near 0 point.
In sum: Great weather, Abundant festivals, Uncrowded attractions.
Where to go: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (during Tet holiday), Sapa (January, March), Dalat (January), Nha Trang (February, March)
April to June is an unpredictable time, as the season transforms from spring to summer. Most April 30th holiday (marking Vietnam Reunification of North and South) experience cool weather with occasional light rain.
As it gets to June, temperature rises and so is the humidity. The Center of Vietnam remains wet with temperate weather until May, while the South and Southern coast are already in hot dry weather from March to May.
Vietnamese families often do not take off until the mid June since their kids remain in school until late May. That means you still have space to breath, if visiting popular beaches area like Nha Trang, Quy Nhon or Halong Bay.
One suggestion that we can make is that – visit Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City during April 30th – May 2nd, which coincide with the long holiday in Vietnam.
You will find these cities empty thanks to families taking off: fewer traffic congestion, nice fresh air and perfect time to visit museums and tourist spots. Avoid off-city spots, since you will be caught in the cram and not be able to enjoy to the fullest of the trip.
In sum: Fine weather, Low domestic season, Not many events and festivals.
Where to go: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (late April early May), beaches (mid May to June), Hue (during Hue festival often in May or June), Centre of Vietnam.
Scorching hot summer in Hanoi
You must find it interesting, learning that Vietnamese hardly travel solo – mostly family form and increasingly in friends or like-minded forms. What this means is that parents often wait for their children to finish school for family vacation.
From June to early September, Vietnam sees a record high in domestic tourists volume, crowding in beach and mountain retreats. Popular places like Halong Bay, Sapa, Danang, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, will see lines after lines of travellers – hotels will be full, food price rockets, and the worst of it all – tourist spots of all sorts will be crammed with people.
In terms of weather, June to early September is a wet and hot period. It does not sounds like an ideal condition to travel, but for beach and sun lovers, they cannot find a better time to visit Vietnam than this.
All through out the country from top north to bottom south, you will see the golden sun shining from 6AM to 7PM, and the evening usually gives way to thunderstorm.
If you are from a tropical country – great – since you are already accustomed to this type of weather. If you are not – bring some sun-screen with you to avoid sunburnt. If you are not into crowd, avoid travelling off the city during weekends.
In sum: rather harsh weather in Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An; thunderstorm in Ho Chi Minh City; crowded beach.
Recommended: So and so
Where to go: beaches from Monday to Wednesday, city on weekend.
A magnificent view of terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai
A golden time to visit the North of Vietnam such as Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Giang, Mu Cang Chai, Halong Bay and other provinces nearby, the sky is clear and the wind is gentle.
Late September and early October is also a great occasion to travel up north, to see the beautiful colour of terraced rice paddy field ready for harvest. In other words, the period between September and December in Northern part of Vietnam can be characterized by the words “romance and tranquility”.
The average temperature is around 20°C.
On the contrary, this all-too-perfect time period may not be the best fit for Southern beaches. October and November are rainy months in Nha Trang and the damp weather could spoil your long-waiting holiday with the sun and beach.
Similarly in Centre Vietnam, especially Hue and Hoi An, it often rains heavily in November and December, though the water may subdue as it gets closer to Tet. Still, the rain may make your plan on outdoor activities fall through. In exchange, travelling in this period and you can avoid all the notorious heat of Vietnam summer.
In sum: the weather is the most beautiful in the year for North Vietnam and rainy in the rest of the country. Uncrowded public space since domestic tourist season is over.
Where to go: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa and the northern part of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City and non-beach areas are also great to visit during this time of the year.
Girls Packing List for Southeast Asia
There are no serious cultural concerns about wearing inappropriate clothing in Vietnam. In religious buildings and government offices (or if attending a formal dinner), legs should be covered and sleeveless tops should be avoided.
Vietnam is in the tropical zone, but it can be chilly when visiting anywhere in Northern Vietnam between November and March, so pack some layers (a fleece or two).
The rest of the year, and in the south, flip-flops or sandals, a T-shirt and shorts are likely to be your daily uniform.
Guys Packing List for Southeast Asia
Packing list for Vietnam
Getting around Old Quarter with Cyclo
The cyclo is a bicycle rickshaw. This cheap mode of transport is steadily dying out, but is still found in some Vietnamese cities.
Groups of cyclo drivers always hang out near major hotels and markets. Bargaining is imperative; settle on a fare before going anywhere.
Approximate fares are between 12,000d and 25,0000d for a short ride, between 25,000d and 40,000d for a longer or night ride.
However, do consider that there are some dodgy cyclo operators out there (HCMC has several) who target tourists by outrageously overcharging and there have been reports of threats of violence.
Cyclo tours organised by tour operators and some hotels are sanitised rides around cities.
Grab Bike is a common means of transport in big cities in Vietnam
The xe om (zay-ohm) is a motorbike taxi. Xe means motorbike, om means hug (or hold), so you get the picture. Getting around by xe om is easy, as long as you don’t have a lot of luggage.
Fares are around 15,000d for a short hop, or from 20,000d in HCMC or Hanoi. Negotiate the price beforehand. There are plenty of xe om drivers hanging around street corners, hotels and bus stations. They will find you before you find them…
You can choose Grab Bike for they have fixed prices and you can easily track their route. No bargain needed.
Mai Linh Taxi
Taxis with meters, found in most major cities, are very cheap by international standards and a safe way to travel around at night. Average tariffs are about 12,000d to 15,000d per kilometre. However, dodgy taxis with go-fast meters do roam the streets of Hanoi and HCMC; they often hang around bus terminals. Only travel with reputable or recommended companies.
Three nationwide companies with excellent reputations are
Apart from Mai Linh, Vinasun and Taxi Group, there are other taxi groups which are less reputable but credible and cheaper for those who has a tight budget:
App-based taxis (both car and motorbike) including Grab are available in several Vietnamese cities including HCMC, Hanoi and Danang.
Note: Uber has stopped operating in Vietnam.
Buses in Vietnam
There are different types of buses of different companies: minibuses, city buses, tourist buses, long-distance night buses
Being a cheap option of traveling in Vietnam, buses run almost everywhere and often, with the exception of mountain areas, we recommend you ask the people locally (Vietnamese language is sometimes necessary)
For long-distance travel, there are a number of well-known bus companies: Hoang Long, TheSinh Tourist, Futabus, EcoSapa, InterBus Lines, Kumho Samco, Sapa Shuttle bus…and many other companies you will find in Baolau and 12go
However, you should take it seriously if you choose to go on a sleeper bus. There have been several reports about drivers driving like lunatics, crashes or people trying to scam you.
Not all buses are bad, but you should get prepared for the worst case scenario if you decide to travel by long-distance buses in Vietnam.
Train to Sapa
Inside Livitrans Express Train to Sapa
The website www.baolau.vn has a very useful, and generally accurate, Plan Your Trip function that allows you to compare train, plane and bus travel (including costs and schedules) between cities in Vietnam.
For most visitors one of the most frustrating aspects of travelling in Vietnam is the perception that they are being ripped off. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate the maze.
Airfares Fares are dependent on when you book and what dates you want to travel. There is no price difference between Vietnamese and foreigners.
Boat fares Ferries and hydrofoils have fixed prices, but expect to pay more for the privilege of being a foreigner on smaller local boats around the Mekong Delta and to places like the Cham Islands.
If you travel by bus within each city, the price for a one-way ticket is 7000 VND
If you buy a ticket from the point of departure (ie the bus station), then the price is fixed and very reasonable.
However, should you board a bus along the way, there’s a good chance the driver or conductor will overcharge.
In remote areas drivers may ask for four, or even 10, times what the locals pay. Local bus prices should be fixed and displayed by the door, but foreigners are sometimes overcharged on routes such as Danang–Hoi An.
Rail fares Fixed, although naturally there are different prices for different classes.
Taxis Mostly metered and very cheap, but very occasionally some taxis have dodgy meters that run fast.
Xe Oms & Cyclos Fares are definitely not fixed and you need to bargain. Hard.
Vietnam is well known as a friendly and non-religious country. Vietnam still preserves customs which have lasted for thousands of years. As a result, to have a happy in your holiday in Vietnam, you should glance at this list of dos and don’ts in Vietnam.
You can learn how to use chopsticks during your Food Tour with AZ Local Trip!
Remove your shoes before entering a house
in the list of the Dos and Don’ts in Vietnam you may take care with the list of Don’ts in Vietnam more because knowing this you can avoid the trouble when you take the trip to Vietnam.
Kissing in public is often considered inappropriate in Vietnam
Don’t wear short in Pagoda
Read carefully the list of Dos and Don’ts in Vietnam. Wish you have a great holiday in Vietnam!
Equip yourself with knowledge before going to another country
Like the rest of Southeast Asia, Vietnam has its share of scams that target travelers. Generally these scams are old, proven ways to sucker newcomers to the country out of a few extra dollars here and there.
While most are more a nuisance than dangerous, some scams in Vietnam are far more cheeky and can literally ruin your entire trip if you fall victim.
Don’t be a sucker! Here are some common scams in Vietnam to avoid:
Motorbike for rent
Pretty much applicable to all of Vietnam, be prepared to decline dozens of offers for a motorbike every time you leave your hotel. Particularly in Nha Trang and Mui Ne, a horde of shady individuals on the street will offer up their personal motorbikes for rent.
Renting from individuals on the street makes you vulnerable to a multitude of old scams. Some have been known to follow you then actually steal the motorbike with a spare key. Others rent motorbikes with mechanical problems then claim that you must make the repairs upon return.
If you intend to rent a motorbike in Vietnam, do so through your accommodation. Although lots of tourists do drive motorbikes, be aware that you are required to possess a Vietnamese driving permit.
If stopped by the police and you fail to show a permit, they can impound the motorbike for over a month – you are responsible to pay the rental costs while it is in impound – and charge you a steep fine!
Tips: Make sure you have a valid driving permit, check the vehicle thoroughly before renting a motorbike. If possible, take photos of existing scratches or defects and verify it with the owner.
Some notes have similar colors
Using two different currencies increases the potential for miscommunication and getting ripped off. If a price is listed in US dollars and you choose to pay in Vietnamese dong, the proprietor or vendor can make up the exchange rate on the spot, usually rounding in their own favor.
Because the Vietnamese dong is weak and prices come as large numbers, sometimes locals simplify prices to the 1,000s of dong. For instance, someone telling you that the price is “5” can mean either 5,000 dong or US $5 — big difference!
Switching currencies on tourists is an old scam in Vietnam; always verify before you agree to a price.
Tip: Carrying a small calculator or using the calculator on your mobile phone is a great way to avoid miscommunication, calculate exchange rates, and haggle prices
DON’T CONFUSE ’15’ AND ’50’
One of those “petty” things to watch out for. Street vendors such as coconut sellers or shoe shiners will trick you and claim that you agreed to a higher “50” thousand dong and not the “15” thousand you were 100% sure was understood.
The price of a coconut or a shoe shine is around 15,000 dong, so be sure that “15” is understood before the coconut is cracked open or your shoes are shined. Don’t fall for the “50”. Once their end of the deal is met, you can’t win the argument. It’s ’50’.
Tips: Take out 15,000 dong and show it to the seller before you commit. Or, use your fingers to illustrate “1” and “5” so there is no confusion in the end.
100.000 vs 10.000, 20.000 vs 500.000
Mind your change – the 100,000 and 10,000 notes look similar; the 20,000 and the 500,000 are both blue.
While most Vietnamese are honest and used to tourists fumbling for the right currency values, a few will actively try to short-change you. Take your time to count the zeroes or you’ll unintentionally make someone very happy.
Spend all of your Vietnamese dong before exiting the country; it is very difficult to get rid of outside Vietnam! Vietcombank is one of the very few banks that will exchange dong back into foreign currency.
Make sure you receive authentic dong, not a joss paper!
Joss Papers look somehow similar to authentic dong
In June 2018, there has been a report about a foreign traveler receiving 200.000 VND change, which is a joss paper, from a taxi driver. While such problem is not common, you had better check your change twice before getting out of taxi.
Only using official taxis
Taxis are one of the fastest and most comfortable way of getting around Vietnam, as you can get to wherever you want in an air-conditioned vehicle instead of fighting for a seat on overcrowded buses. However, travellers often fall prey to unscrupulous taxi drivers, with common scams such as
A more-dangerous scam in Hanoi consists of drivers pretending to be taxis, then driving their passengers outside of the city unless they agree to fork over money and valuables.
There have been reports of airport taxi drivers operating on the coupon system who demand more money once at your destination. The driver will hold your luggage hostage in the trunk until you pay the difference.
For cyclo, there are 2 most common scenarios:
Booking hotels carefully if you don’t want to fall victim to unscrupulous business owners
Some small, independent guesthouses advertise attractively low room rates, but will claim that the ones you’ve booked are full so you’ll need to pay much more for the only available rooms left – often the higher end rooms.
Some even refuse to return your passport unless you’ve paid for the extra fee, so there’s no way around it other than giving in to their demands.
Hotels in Vietnam have been known to double rates upon checkout by claiming that the price quoted was per person rather than per night. If your room has a refrigerator, confirm what drinks are present when you check in to avoid being charged for something a previous guest enjoyed.
When arriving to a new town, your best bet is to walk briskly past all the hotel offers from touts that wait on the buses. These guys are middlemen and their commission is added to your room rate.
Tips: Book your hotel through a trusted hotel booking website and bring along your confirmation email.
Some street vendors will follow you until you’ve bought something or given some money
Street vendors often target western visitors who’ve never experienced the local culture, many of whom invite you to take photographs with their props, then force them to pay a tip after they’re done.
If tourists refuse to pay, these street vendors will follow them until they’ve bought something or given some money. Another common scam is children pretending to be orphans or disabled, begging for money outside prominent attractions or restaurants.
Tips: Politely but firmly decline their offer, but if the street vendors are persistent, simply walk away from them.
Make sure you check prices carefully before ordering
Vietnam may be renowned for its delicious yet affordable delicacies, but there are some restaurants that con tourists into paying exorbitant prices for their meal.
These dining venues often have staff who can’t converse in English (or pretend that they don’t), so if you ask for the price, they often answer vaguely or assure you that their food is cheap.
As a result, the bill is usually much more expensive compared to the regular price. Of course, you’ll have no other choice than to pay for it as the food is already eaten.
Tips: Always ask for the menu and insist on knowing the prices before ordering. Alternatively, do your research beforehand and only visit restaurants with positive reviews.
Mui Ne Sand Dune during sunset
Attractions in Vietnam range from pristine Buddhist shrines and colonial structures to geological wonders such as the Sand Dunes of Mui Ne and Ha Long Bay.
There are common cases of tourists being told by strangers to pay an entrance fee to visit certain areas of an attraction.
Tips: Always do your research if you’re planning to visit Vietnam’s many attractions. Most Buddhist temples in Vietnam are free to enter, though donations are welcomed.
Backpackers and long-term travellers are the targets of fake train travel websites
Popular amongst backpackers and long-term travellers, travelling by overnight trains is a cheap and efficient way of travelling across Vietnam.
However, there are plenty of fake train travel websites offering attractive prices and then charging you extra once you’ve arrived the station.
Another common scam is people approaching you at the entrance of train stations, often offering to buy a ticket for you at a discounted rate.
Tips: Buy train tickets through your hotel, a reputable travel agent or an official website. Better yet, head to the train station to buy your ticket on the spot.
Although English has risen to be a common medium of communication in Vietnam, it would be a little bit difficult to get by without knowing a word of Vietnamese.
Having some basic Vietnamese words and phrases in hand will definitely help cut down misunderstandings and frustrations, thereby giving you a more fascinating insight into Vietnamese culture.
AZ Local Trip would like to introduce you 45 common Vietnamese words and phrases suitable for everyone who goes to Vietnam for a business, travel or simply to get to know the area better.
PART 1: Numbers:
(English – Vietnamese)
1: một (mot)
2: hai (hi)
3: ba (ba)
4: bốn (bón)
5: năm (numb)
6: sáu (sów)
7: bảy (bay)
8: tám (túm)
9: chín (jín)
10: mười (mù – ee)
1x: mười + x ( 1,2,3,4…9). Example, 12: mười hai (mù-ee hi)
x0: (1,2,…,9) + mươi. EX, 30: ba mươi (ba muoi)
X00: (1,2,…,9) + trăm. Example, 200: hai trăm (hi trum)
X000: (1,2,…9) + nghìn. Example, 2000: hai nghìn (hi nghin)
PART 2: Basic Greetings
(English – Vietnamese)
PART 3: Shopping/Hotel/Restaurant
(English – Vietnamese)