Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful countries, a nature-blessed land with a bunch of fascinating landscapes attracting travellers such as lush mountains, terraced fields and golden sand beaches. This coastal country is hot and humid in the south, and sometimes cold and foggy in the north. The cuisine is some of the best in Southeast Asia and even the world, it is Vietnamese’s pride all over the country. Despite rapid modernisation in Vietnam’s urban centres of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, time-honoured traditions remain intact amongst the locals. A blend of natural beauty and cultural complexities, of bustling megacities and hill-tribe villages has created Vietnam – an interesting country that brings you both exotic and appealing.
+ Population: 90.5 million
+ Capital City: Hanoi (6.5 million)
+ People: 53 ethnic minorities
+ Language: Vietnamese
+ Currency: Vietnam Dong (VND)
+ Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
+ International Dialing Code: +84
+ Electricity supply: 220V, 50Hz / 110V, 50Hz
In Vietnam, not everyone can speak English. Therefore, mastering these basic Vietnamese phrases below will give you huge advantages and sellers might even give you discounts if you can say some Vietnamese phrases.
ESSENTIAL VIETNAMESE WORDS AND PHRASES FOR TRAVELERS
When is the best time of year to visit Vietnam?
Vietnam is a long country with more than 2000 miles of pristine coastline from Sa Pa in the north to the Mekong Delta in the south. There are roughly two different climates, the northern climate with four seasons and the tropical climate in southern Vietnam with dry and wet seasons.
In Hanoi & the north, the weather is hot and humid with high rainfall in May to October while November to April is cooler and dry. In the far north, December and January can be particularly cold. Central Vietnam experiences hot, dry weather between January & August when temperatures can hit the mid-30°C’s; whilst high levels of rainfall can occur in September, October & November. Southern Vietnam is generally dry and hot from November to April but warm and wet between May & October, with the highest rainfall in June, July & August. Daytime temperatures in the region occasionally hitting 40°C during March, April and May.
With such a complicated weather, there’s no one particular season to recommend as the best time for visiting Vietnam. Overall, spring (February to April) and autumn (August to October) are probably ideal seasons if you plan to see the whole country. Tet is often take places from late January or early February and lasts for around a week and Mid-Autumn festival is happened in September so that will be a good occasion for you to experience Vietnam’s cultural identity.
The temperatures are more moderate and rainfall is lighter. However, you should notice that the coast of central Vietnam is the zone most likely to be hit by typhoons from August to November. Moreover, Vietnam’s weather can be unpredictable, so it is always right to carry an umbrella or raincoat with you.
To enter Vietnam, you must have a valid passport and a visa (or pre-approval for a visa on arrival). Your passport’s validity is required to remain at least 6 month from your arrival date, and you must have at least one blank visa page. If you arrive in Vietnam without an appropriate visa (which could be an e-visa) or pre-approval for a visa on arrival, you will be denied entry.
Citizens of these countries below are allowed to visit Vietnam without visa within a specific period of time:
All others wishing to enter Vietnam must obtain a visa. There are two common ways to get Vietnam visa, including visa on arrival and visa at Vietnamese representative offices aboard.
Apply Vietnam visa at Vietnam Embassies/Consulates (effective for all citizens and all borders in Vietnam including airports, land or sea): Please go to the nearest Vietnam Embassy or Consulate aboard to apply the visa in person. Kindly contact the Embassy/Consulate where you wish to get your visa and ask them for support.
Apply Vietnam visa on arrival (applicable for air travellers only): If you do not wish to go to the embassy to apply visa in person, you can consider visa on arrival. It takes you only few minutes to apply your visa online through travel agents at anytime and anywhere using your Internet connected computers or Wifi enabled mobile phones.
The stamp fees are applied for visa to Vietnam (price per person):
Please note you must pay the stamping fee in cash at the Immigration Checking Point at international airports in Vietnam to get your official visa stamped on your passport. Besides US dollars, you can pay by other strong currencies (Australian dollars, Vietnam Dong, Euros, RMB, etc). However, the exchange rates set at Immigration Checking Point are normally 5-10% higher than the rates quoted by banks. Thus, please select which currency suits you most.
The Vietnamese dong (VND), Vietnam’s official currency, come in polymerized notes ranging from VND 10,000 to VND 500,000 bill.
Major currencies can be exchanged practically anywhere in Vietnam, but not all exchange facilities are created equal.
Vietin Bank and Exim Bank have currency exchange stalls at Tan Son Nhat Airport (HCMC) and Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi) for you to exchange money after immigration and customs. However, these booths usually apply an unfavorable exchange rate, just like in all airports. Therefore, you should only change a small amount to cover your taxi fare and other necessities and then head to the city for a better rate.
Major currencies such as US dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, and Singapore dollars can be exchanged to Vietnam Dong in Vietcombank – a government-run bank. Banks in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will let you change foreign currencies and most travelers’ checks. You’ll be charged a commission rate of between 0.5 and 2% for the latter. And remember to bring new notes caused any damaged or dirty notes will be charged an additional 2% of the note’s face value.
Big hotels might offer better deals but smaller hotels (like those in the Old Quarter of Hanoi) may tack on an additional service fee.
Gold and jewelry shops
Unlike in hotels and airport, the rates in these mom and pop establishments can be surprisingly fair, with no fees. Shops in Hanoi’s Old Quarter (particularly Hang Bo and Ha Trung streets) offer the competitive rate, as do gold and jewelry shops in Ho Chi Minh City’s Nguyen An Ninh Street (near Ben Thanh Market).
If you want to make a phone call to outsides of Vietnam, it is always available but it is quite expensive. Using your own cellphone with Vietnamese Sim card or requiring service from your country service provider for enabling global roaming is the better choice. The way of using Vietnamese Sim card is cheaper and you can easily recognize Sim card seller in big cities at any credit kiosk or network providers’ official stores when you arrive or you can easily buy it at the airport.
There are four major networks in Vietnam. Viettel has the largest network and most customers, closely followed by Vinaphone. If Cambodia and Laos are involved in your trip, a Viettel sim card can be also actived in these countries. A tourist sim card may cost you from $5 to $10, then you can top up by buying a phone credit voucher with price ranging from $0.5 to $25. A $4 data package will give you 1.2 GB to use enough throughout your stay.
Internet access is available. Sometimes, you can find free Wi-fi in hotels, bars, restaurants and cafe in the cities. If you found one and it had been locked, you could ask the Wi-Fi providers for the password.
You can rent a taxi for about 330,000 dong or airport bus for 50,000 dong/ person or by public bus (lines 17, 07 and 86 to the city center). Taxi could be a nice choice if you travel with a group and have tons of luggage while solo traveler should go by bus for amazing cost savings. Last but not least, ask the fare before going to avoid overcharging.
+ Bus: Bus has become popular transportations in Hanoi now due to the budget-friendly price and availability. The price is ranging just from 7,000 dong to 9,000 dong per turn for bus travel inside the city.
+ Xe om: They are a great way to experience the true pulse of big cities in a country so enamored of two-wheeled vehicles. Xe om are an easy and affordable way to get around but don’t forget to bargain to get a better offer.
Taxi: Catching a taxi in Vietnam is unbelievably easy and cheap. It can be a convenient vehicle when you have children with you and an air conditioned taxi can be the best option for summer. However, to avoid taxi scams you should choose these realiable companies: Vinasun (028 3827 7178), Mai Linh (0438 222 666) and Taxigroup (0438 26 26 26).
+ Grab or Uber: Using apps like Uber or Grab to book transportations are favoured by young people recently. You can book a motorbike or a cab anywhere and anytime without being overcharged. And remember you will need a Vietnamese sim card for booking via these apps.
+ Cyclo: Cyclo is the unique transportation for sightseeing in major cities. It can help you discover the ancient beauty and slow-moving life among the hustle and bustle of cities. An hour of seeing nightlife might be an interesting experience in Vietnam.
Train and sleeper bus are popular choices for long-distance trips. They provide air conditioner and offer an affordable price. Especially, if traveling by train you might get excited by exploring breath-taking sceneries along with the railway.
Due to lack of effective medical facilities and sanitation, your risk might be at risk if you travel to rural areas. So please make sure to see your doctor or travel clinic at least 6 weeks before your departure or general advice on travel risks, malaria and vaccinations. If you are in a treatment, certain that your prescription or prescribed medicines are brought with you. And if possible, carry a doctor’s letter that describe the nature of illness and necessary treatments. Most importantly, ensure that you have travel insurance, get a dental check-up, know your own blood group. Do not hesitate to tell us about your health conditions before your trip. Please also check out our recommended medial kit below.
Typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, meningitis, and influenza are some vaccines which are recommended when you travel to Vietnam. Antimalarials are highly recommended when visiting rural areas. You also should buy a travel insurance for safety purpose.
Please beware of people if you travel in big cities. In Ho Chi Minh, do not bring any valuables with you or show it out on the streets. Bags and jewelries will be targets for thieves, who normally work as a team. Be careful with robbers on motorbike as well. Such problems seem to happen less in Hanoi. However, the more careful you are, the better.
Emergency contact number
Vietnamese people are hospitable, polite and gracious. They consider friendship is important in everyone’s life. A Vietnamese can immediately invite you to his or her home for a Vietnamese meals at the very first time. Don’t be surprise! It is the way Vietnamese people show their hospitality. And don’t miss that chance to enjoy a Vietnamese meal and enrich your experience in Vietnam. If you are invited and want to prepare some gifts to host family, it will be appreciated and you will certainly be closer to the hosts. Having a drink is widely accepted in a social gathering. However, the majority of Vietnamese women never drink and it is serious matter if you keep forcing them to drink. Together with drinking, only a few women smoke. Smoking women are considered as “liberal”. Vietnamese people concern more about status (with age and education) than wealth. Vietnamese culture highly consider the importance of one’s knowledge and experience gained from schools and life. Modesty is also important. Vietnamese people will try not to show their knowledge, skills or abilities if they are not being asked to do so. Vietnamese people usually live with their family until marriage. Family plays an important and deciding role in choosing spouse for their children. Divorce is unusual and considered as shamefulness.
Vietnam is best known for its age-old recipes. If this is your first time in Vietnam, Vietnamese culinary will absolutely make you irresistible with a range of tastes, flavors and vibrant colors. A lot of the best dishes are found on the streets so let’s put any hesitation aside about eating on the streets because authentic street food will definitely satisfy your tastebuds. Here are the 5 best traditional Vietnamese dishes that make you cannot help but try it more than once.
Pho or noodle soup is one of Vietnam’s signature dishes. Vietnamese can eat Pho at any time of day but primarily at breakfast. Slivers of chicken, pork or beef, broad, flat rice noodles and spring onions served with a light beef or chicken broth flavoured with ginger and coriander create a tasty bowl of Pho.
While banh mi’s origins are French, the Vietnamese have made it distinctively their own. Generally speaking, it is an airy Vietnamese baguette with thin crispy crust filled with greens and a choice of fillings, including paté and freshly omelet. A wealth of textures and flavors can make you melt in each bite.
Banh xeo or crispy pancake is made of shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, egg and rice flour, which is then fried, wrapped in rice paper with assorted veggies and herbs and dunked in a yummy spicy sauce before eaten. There’s nothing to complain about these sizzling pancakes which are extremely delicious and cheap.
Bun cha is listed in top 10 summer dishes (CNN) and top 10 world’s best street foods (National Geographic). The pork is barbecued on an open charcoal brazier and served on a bed of rice vermicelli with assorted foliage and a sweet and sour sauce. Bun cha is a great harmonious combination of spicy, sour, salty and sweet.
According to Buzzfeed, Vietnam’s egg coffee is ranked first in the list of world’s 17 types of coffee to drink when traveling. Egg coffee is also the most favoured coffee in the north of Vietnam. With the ingredients of thick dark coffee topped with egg yolk whipped with condensed milk and sugar. The egg cream on top of the coffee was rich and silky, but not overly sweet. It is one-of-a-kind drink that can be likened to tiramisu dessert.
|Foods, drinks & other items||VND||USD|
|Vietnamese (robusta) coffee||15,000d||$0.8|
|Fresh/Draught Beer||5,000d – 8,000d||$0.2 – $0.6|
|Smoothies and Juices||40,000d||$2|
|Spirit & Mixer||70,000d||$3.5|
|Taxi (per km)||9,000d||$0.45|
|Cyclo (per km)||10,000d||$0.5|
|Motor taxi (xe om)||6,000d||$0.3|
|Simple phone (call + text messages function)||300,000d||$15|
If you eat in small family owned restaurants, you do not need to tip them. Vietnamese do not normally tip; however, you can do it if you are happy with the service. Foreigners normally leave the small change left after paying the bill and tips are highly appreciated. Large restaurants or hotels have already added 5-10% service charge and the government tax (VAT) of 10% to the bill. You could also consider tipping your guides and drivers – after all, the time they spend with you on the road means time away from home and family. Typically, travelers on minibus will pool together to collect a communal tip to be split between the guide and driver. Of course, give more if you wish, but if you have genuine reasons for not wanting to tip, don’t.
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How to cross the road in Vietnam
Crossing the road can be your the first instances of culture shock when you step out of your hotel but don’t worry, you just need to follow these steps to master it.
+ Step 1: Don’t hesitate. A crowded street full of motorbikes seems not feasible for you to pass but all you need is focus on your path. The drivers will not run into you.
+ Step 2: Moving slowly and steadily when you find a gap among vehicles. Unpredictable stopping only makes crossing impossible.
+ Step 3: Keep the balance and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you cannot do it by yourself. Vietnamese people are friendly and hospitable.
Do’s and Don’ts in Vietnam
1. Hanoi – Vietnam’s bustling capital with a mix of modern and traditional attractions, including the Hoan Kiem Lake, Old Quarter, and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
2. Ha Long Bay – A UNESCO World Heritage site known for its stunning limestone karsts, emerald waters, and floating villages. Taking a cruise through this natural wonder is a must-do.
3. Hoi An – A charming riverside town famous for its well-preserved ancient architecture, lantern-lit streets, and vibrant night markets. Don’t miss the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge and tailor-made clothing.
4. Sapa – Located in the northwestern mountains, Sapa offers breathtaking landscapes with terraced rice fields and ethnic minority villages. Hiking enthusiasts can embark on scenic treks such as the Fansipan summit.
5. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) – A vibrant and dynamic city with a mix of modern skyscrapers and French colonial buildings. Explore historical sites like the War Remnants Museum and Notre-Dame Cathedral.
6. Hue – A city steeped in history and culture, with the Imperial Citadel and ornate royal tombs showcasing its former glory as the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty.
7. Nha Trang – A coastal city known for its pristine beaches, clear waters, and coral reefs. It’s a paradise for beach lovers and snorkeling/diving enthusiasts.
8. Mekong Delta – A fertile region in southern Vietnam, famous for its vast network of rivers, canals, floating markets, and lush greenery. Explore the countryside by boat and enjoy the local lifestyle.
9. Da Nang – A coastal city with beautiful beaches, including My Khe Beach, and impressive attractions such as the Marble Mountains and Dragon Bridge. It’s also known for its delicious street food.
10. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – Home to the largest cave in the world, Son Doong Cave, and numerous other stunning caves. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and an excellent destination for adventure seekers.