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Vietnam and travel guides
++ Visa vietnam procedures:
To enter Vietnam you will require a passport. It is possible to arrange 3month and 6month multiple entry visas. A tourist visa must be obtained prior to arrival. a combined entry/exit and baggage declaration form will be issued to you prior to arrival and the yellow copy of this must be retained until your departure from Viet Nam, please ensure this papers is kept in a safe place while you are in Vietnam.
To avoid long delays and possible complications at the airport. Our travel company can process your visa application and obtain the necessary visa approval from the Vietnamese immigration department. For this .we need the following details from all applicants:
- Your full name and title
- Date of birth
- Passport number
- Issue date and expiry date of your passport
- Place of issue
- Place for your collecting visa: e.g. Vietnam embassy in London.
- Arrival date in Vietnam and flight number.
- Purpose of visit
After receiving the above information.10days later. We will send you the official document approved by the Vietnamese immigration department. You may be able to receive an “approval letter” or “visa picking up upon arrival approval letter”.
1, if you will receive an “approval letter”. Then bring with you; passport and two recent photos to the Vietnamese embassy or consulate. Where you need to complete two application forms and to pay for visa stamping.
2, if you will receive a “visa picking up upon arrival letter”. Then bring with you; passport and two recent photos. On arrival at Hochiminh, Hanoi or Danang international airports. Go straight to the landing visa counter. Present your “visa picking up upon arrival letter”, passport and two photos to the officer who will charge you a visa stamping fee. Next will be queuing up for the immigration desks.
Note: Since the 1st of May 2005, nationals from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland traveling to Vietnam and staying for 15 days or less no longer need to apply for entry visas, provided that their passports are valid for at least three months and they can show their return ticket. Those who wish to stay longer than 15 days will need to apply for a visa. Tourists holding Thai, Indonesian, Lao, Malaysian and Singaporean passports do not need a visa for a visit up to 30 days. Philippines passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 21 days. Japanese and South Korean passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 15 days.
For visa information, http://www.vietnamembassy-usa.org/consular_services/visa_info/ to contact your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate.
++ Airport tax:
An international departure tax is payable by all travelers leaving Vietnam. It is not included in the price of your flight ticket and must be purchased at the airport before departure.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the International departure tax is USD 12.
In Hanoi, the International departure tax is USD 14.
In Danang, the International departure tax is USD 12.
Domestic flights are not subject to airport tax. It is already included in the price of your ticket.
++ Travel insurance:
You must be comprehensively insured as a condition of traveling with VIETNAMPATHFINDERTravel. Insurance should include coverage for personal accident, medical expenses, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of your holiday. We will ask you to confirm your insurance details as part of our travel registration process at the start of your journey. If you do not have appropriate insurance we will insist you obtain insurance. We reserve the right not to provide the services booked with us until insurance is purchased. Note that travel insurance may be ‘attached’ to your credit card, although usually such cover is effective only if your travel arrangements have been purchased with the card. Insurance cover from credit cards often does not include payment of medical expenses. Please check your policy carefully. You must have adequate insurance to cover you in the event you suffer a medical problem while traveling.
++ Exchange and currency:
the currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) which is in notes or coins, although US Dollars and Euros are widely accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops. However you will get better value for your money if you use local currency. Most hotels offer the opportunity to change USD, Euros or travelers cheques at reasonable exchange rates. Visa or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted. . Bear in mind that a surcharge usually applies for credit card purchases.
VISA and MasterCard: 2.2 % surcharge
JCB: 2.75% surcharge
American Express: 4% surcharge
Banks are open Monday to Friday and some on Saturday morning. In the major cities there are Banks such as Citibank, ANZ Bank. HSBC and VietcomBank where you can withdraw cash (Vietnamese Dong) from ATMs. Most ATMs have an English language version and cash come in the following forms:
Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 500,000.
Coins: 200; 500 (silver) and 1,000; 2,000; 5,000 (gold)
For real-time official exchange rates and currencies converter (Xe)
++ Weather & climate:
Vietnam spans several climatic zones, resulting in substantial weather condition variations between the north and the south. Average temperatures year round range from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius so there is no particularly good or bad time to visit Vietnam.
In southern Vietnam tropical conditions prevail, and there are two seasons – the wet season lasts from May to November and the dry season from December to April. The wet is characterized by high humidity levels and a refreshing afternoon downpour. Humidity in the south during the months of June and July ranges between 75% and 85%. The hottest months are from March to May.
Central Vietnam is usually dry from May to October and wet from December to February. October and November may experience unstable weather conditions and flooding.
Northern Vietnam also experiences two seasons though conditions can change dramatically throughout the day. The winter months from November to April are usually cold and humid. The months of December and January can be particularly cool with temperatures as low as 8 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can drop to 0 degrees Celsius in Sapa (in the highlands near the Chinese border) in winter. Summer, from May to October, can be quite hot and wet with regular downpours and occasional typhoons. The hottest months are June and July in Hanoi.
With such a complicated weather picture, there is no particularly good or bad time for visiting Vietnam, overall. Autumn and spring seasons are probably the most favorable times if you are covering the whole country. But also we do not recommend visiting Vietnam during the Lunar New Year, Tet holidays (Vietnamese New Year falls between late January and February). The Tet holiday is the most important period of the year for Vietnamese people who take time off to visit their families in the countryside. All hotels, buses, trains and flights are full, and there is almost no activity in the markets and shops. Some hotels and restaurants are under-staffed and in some cases the quality of the service may suffer. This period of reduced activity may last from a week before and a week after the Tet period. It is also impossible to get a “visa authorization letter” processed during this period.
++ Baggge & clothing:
Please ensure that your luggage is of a standard size (preferably soft bags) as backpacks or soft cases are only permitted on our journeys. It should be clearly labeled and not exceed the airline’s own limitations. Any flight booked through vietnampathfinder travel (both domestic and international) has a luggage limit of 20kg per person. If you have made your own flight arrangements, please check the luggage allowance directly with the airline. Luggage limits on airlines are strictly enforced and space on vehicles and trains is limited. vietnampathfinder travel is not responsible for any excess luggage fees that may be incurred due to bags that exceed the airline limitations. If you are doing a lot of shopping during your travels, it may be necessary for you to forward any excess to the city where your tour concludes, or ship purchases directly home.
Keeping the amount of luggage you carry in check will ensure your safety and comfort, and the comfort of your fellow travelers. Please note you may be required to carry your own luggage at times. Porterage is not included in the cost of your journey. Please ensure you pay porters around 1USD per person for carrying your luggage. Should you wish to avoid such payments, please carry and take responsibility for your luggages?
Comfortable casual clothes made of cotton are best in tropical and semi tropical climates – packing one set of smart casual clothes is advisable. Laundry services are available throughout the country, although hotel laundry costs can be expensive. We suggest you include:
· Flat walking shoes and sandals
· Hat & sunglasses
· Jumper/coat/thermals - if visiting in winter
· Money belt
· Raincoat or umbrella
· Basic first aid kit (see below)
· Insect repellent
· Alarm clock
· Small torch
· Swiss Army pocketknife
· Power adapter
· Women’s sanitary products
· Ear plugs and eye patches for the train
Please note that airlines insist all sharp items (knives, scissors, nail clippers etc.) are packed in your ‘check-in’ luggage. Alcohol is no longer permitted onboard domestic flights and must also be stored in your check-in luggage.
++ Heath care:
Travelers to Vietnam should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. . There are now a number of international standard medical care facilities available in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi but outside the major cities, in remote areas of Vietnam, western medical facilities are basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in Vietnam include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimize your risk of exposure to these health risks. We are a travel company and we are not qualified to provide detailed medical information appropriate to your individual needs. We recommend you consult with your local doctor or a specialist travel medical centre for up to date health information and prescriptions for vaccinations, anti-malarial tablets and any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst traveling in Vietnam. Some vaccination course may need time to be completed .if you plan to take anti-malarial tablets (. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions, especially if traveling off the beaten track. ) you usually need to start one week before arrival.
We suggest you bring a simple medical kit. Your doctor should advise you what to include, but as a minimum we suggest you bring:
· Aspirin or paracetamol (for pain or fever)
· Antihistamines (for allergies and itches)
· Cold and flu tablets
· Something to stop diarrhea
· Something appropriate for nausea and vomiting
· Dehydration mixture (to prevent dehydration)
· Insect repellant
· Antiseptic and bandages
· Sunscreen and lip balm
· Antibiotics (discuss with your doctor)
As part of our travel registration process at the start of any journey with our company, you will be asked to declare any serious pre-existing medical conditions or allergies.
++ Water and drink:
The simple rule is do not drink tap water in Vietnam even when water looks clean and safe to drink. Fortunately there are plenty of alternative drinks around .in many Hotels provide thermos flasks of boiled water. Bottled water and carbonated drinks are widely available. When buying bottled water check the seal is unbroken as bottles are occasionally refilled from the tap. It is important to drink enough water through the day to combat the effects of dehydration .if you drink tea or coffee you will have to increase your water intake accordingly .this is especially important during the summer months
Water in major cities like Hanoi or Hochiminh city is chlorinated and most travelers use it for brushing their teeth without problem .the only time you are likely to be out of reach of bottled water is trekking into remote areas when you will be replying on boiled water. Boiling for ten minutes gets rid of most bacteria in water but at least twenty minutes is needed to kill amoebic cysts. A cause of dysentery.
Ice can upset your day as well. Usually the more reputable restaurants and café will use boiled or bottled water to make ice .check with the waiter or waitress before you will order it.
++ Food & restaurant:
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and tasty and one of the many highlights of a visit to the country. In recent years eating in Hanoi and Hochiminh city has become an easier and far more enjoyable experience, in terms of both choice and quality. It boasts an increasing number of top quality restaurants mostly found around the city’ center at all major cities in Vietnam. Check Vietnam investment review for the latest newcomers.
Most food presented is well cooked, however some optional dishes may be served cold. Travelers should note that raw, cold food presents a higher risk of stomach upset than well cooked food. As regards food. The two most important precautions are to eat at places which are busy and look clean and you are generally better off eating Vietnamese dishes wherever you are.
++ Safety and security:
Generally Vietnam is a very safe country to travel in ( Even for women traveller alone ). however do not get complacent about your personal security. So we would like to give you some suggestions as following here:
- As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags.
- Always ask the reception to store your excess cash, passports, airline ticket and anything else of value in their safety deposit facility. Your valuable are better being here when not needed.
- When walking around the streets do not carry more than you need to. And do not wear large amounts of jewelry. It is not considered polite to flaunt wealth in public.
- We further recommended that you take taxis rather than cycles at night. Taxis are metered and inexpensive. Carry a hotel card or a copy of city map so that you can show your taxi driver where you want to go.
++ Post & communication:
Telephone: Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices although these services are expensive. It may not always be possible to make international calls in remote areas.
If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the costs before using it abroad - it may be expensive.
Internet: Major hotels have Business Centers with PCs connected to the Internet. Some of them have wireless broadband access in rooms or public areas. Cyber cafes are becoming popular and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable, usually below US$1 per hour. In many Internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline or mobile phone worldwide. Most Internet cafes are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.
Mail: Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs VND 9,000 to send and takes up to two weeks to reach the country of destination
++ Hotel accommodation:
There is a wide range of accommodation available; most hotels will have private western style bathrooms, hot water, air-conditioning, satellite television, IDD telephones, laundry and other facilities. Many have swimming pools. Coffee and tea making facilities are generally not available. Where possible we will Endeavour at passenger request to accommodate couples in double rooms. Please note however that on occasions during your journey, this may not be possible and a twin room will be provided.
As hotels and private hosts must register your presence with the police, you will be expected to hand over your passport, along with your entry/exit form when you will check in the hotels. In Vietnam require guests to check out by 12 noon and do not allow check in until 2pm. Many hotels may allow an earlier check in or later check out subject to availability on the day. However, if you are arriving early in the morning to a destination or leaving late in the evening you should consider pre-booking a guaranteed early check in/late checks out. The additional cost varies from hotel to hotel but is usually between 50-100% of the nightly rate.
Vietnamese law does not allow foreigners to rent and drive a car. It is highly advisable to rent a car with a driver who knows the roads and can speak Vietnamese in case of any problems. Traffic and roads conditions may be very different to what you are used to. So you need to rent a car with a local driver, but bear in mind that drivers are just drivers. They can not act like a guide. In Vietnam Tour guides need to be licensed by the National Tourism Authority. Tour guides are the only persons legally entitled to escort tourists.
The electric current in Vietnam operates mostly on 220 volts but occasionally you will find 110 volt sockets. Electric plug types vary throughout the country, however the two-rounded pin standard Asian plug is usable in most parts of the country. As the electrical current varies, use a surge protector when running sensitive electronic equipment like laptops.
++ Tourist guide:
Providing the group tour reaches a minimum of 7 passengers a Western tour leader will guide you on your entire journey through Vietnam. All our tour leaders have an in-depth knowledge of Vietnam and an enthusiasm for the country that is contagious. Your tour leader is your link with Vietnam and is there to ensure the smooth running of the trip. Your tour leader will try, wherever practicable, to cater for your individual interests. Local English-speaking guides also accompany you on your tour. They impart local information about history, customs and culture that can only come from living in the area. Generally we have a different local guide for each city or region we visit and so local guides are usually only with the group for few days.
++ Local time:
· 7hrs ahead of GMT
· 3hrs behind Australian Eastern Standard Time
· 5hrs behind New Zealand
· 12hrs ahead of Canada Eastern Time
· 15hrs ahead of Canada Pacific Time
· 12hrs ahead of US Eastern Time.
· 15 hrs ahead of US Pacific Time.
Vietnam is fast becoming known as a “shopper’s paradise”. Ceramics, lacquer ware, bamboo, silk and embroidery are just some of the many good buys. Many travelers also have clothes tailored due to the low prices - standards vary. A few guidelines to follow when shopping:
· Except in department stores, bargaining is the norm. To get the best price you will have to haggle hard.
· Export of certain antiques is not permitted. Make sure you are aware of relevant regulations before purchasing.
· Fake reproductions are common. Make sure you know what you are buying, especially in the case of antiques.
++ Group dynamics:
Our small group journeys provide you with a good balance of group activity and personal discovery. Travelers need to be aware of certain personal responsibilities when traveling with a group. Simple things like being ready at agreed times and keeping to schedule will ensure the smooth running of the programme. Furthermore, the traditions and culture of the country you are visiting should be respected. Correct behavior includes wearing the appropriate dress when visiting religious sites, and refraining from making comments or acting in a manner that would be viewed as unacceptable by your fellow group members or by the local people in the country you are visiting. Please ask your tour leader for further clarification of the issues mentioned above.
The Vietnamese language is derived from Latin characters. English is widely spoken throughout the country, especially in tourist areas. The Lonely Planet Vietnam Phrasebook is recommended for those wanting to learn more about the language
Vietnamese, the official language, is a tonal language that can be compared to Cambodia’s official language, Khmer. With each syllable, there are six different tones that can be used, which change the definition and it often makes it difficult for foreigners to pick up the language. There are other languages spoken as well such as Chinese, Khmer, Cham and other languages spoken by tribes inhabiting the mountainous regions. Although there are some similarities to Southeast Asian languages, such as Chinese, Vietnamese is thought to be a separate language group, although a member of the Austro-Asiatic language family.
In written form, Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet and accent marks to show tones. This system of writing called Quoc Ngu was created by Catholic missionaries in the 17th century to translate the scriptures. Eventually this system, particularly after World War I, replaced one using Chinese characters (Chu Nom), which had been the unofficial written form used for centuries.
++ Tipping and gratity:
If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides and drivers a tip is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Indochina destinations. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your local guide or driver. Happy travel!