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Vietnam Travel FAQ

Answers to many of your questions on Vietnam travel. This Vietnam Travel FAQ covers climate, time difference, language, money, visas and many more frequently asked questions regarding travel to Vietnam.

What is the climate like in Vietnam?
What is the time difference?
Where can I find current exchange rates for Vietnamese money?
What do I need to know regarding visas to enter Vietnam?
Are there any other entry formalities?
How safe is Vietnam?
Is language a problem, or can I get by in English?
Should I take my money in cash or travellers' cheques?
Where can I change money?
Is it better to use dollars or Vietnamese money for daily expenses?
How widely accepted are credit cards?
Can I get cash on my credit card?

What is the climate like in Vietnam?

Vietnam has a particularly complicated climate and, like elsewhere in the world, weather patterns have been changing over recent years. The situation described below is therefore only an indication of the type of weather you can expect.

Northern Vietnam Climate
Starting in the north, autumn (September to December) is undoubtedly the most pleasant season. At this time of year it's generally warm (average temps above 20°C), dry and sunny in the delta, though you'll need warm clothes up in the mountains and on the waters of Ha Long Bay. Winter (December to February) can be surprisingly bitter as cold air sweeps south from China bringing fine, persistent mists and temperatures as low as 10°C. Things begin to warm up again in March, which ushers in a period of good, spring weather before the summer heat begins in earnest in May, closely followed by the rainy season in June. This combination makes for hot, sticky weather which takes many people by surprise. Temperatures, which can occasionally reach 40°C, average 30°C, while humidity hovers around 70-75%. The rain comes in heavy downpours, causing frequent flooding in Hanoi and the delta. By mid September, however, the rains are petering out, and from October onwards it's perfect sightseeing weather.

Central Coast Vietnam Climate
The central region of Vietnam has a notoriously wet climate, particularly around Hué, where the annual average rainfall is a generous 3m. The so-called "dry" season lasts from February to May, though you'll need an umbrella even then. After this it gets wetter and hotter (avg temps 30°C) until the rainy season begins in earnest in September, gradually easing off from November through January. Winter temperatures average a pleasant 20°C or above.

Southern Vietnam Climate
Southern Vietnam is blessed with a more equitable - and predictable - climate. Here the dry season lasts from December to late April / May, and the rains from May through November. Most of the rain falls in brief afternoon downpours, so you can still get out and about, though flooding can be a problem in the delta. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 20°C, occasionally reaching 40°C in the hottest months (March to May). Once the rains start, humidity climbs to an enervating 80%.

Central Highland of Vietnam Climate
The central highlands follow roughly the same weather pattern as the southern delta. In the rainy season (May-November) roads are regularly washed out, but it can also be very beautiful at this time, with tumbling rivers, waterfalls and misty landscapes. You just have to build a bit more flexibility into your schedule.

What is the time difference in Vietnam?

Vietnam is fifteen hours ahead of Los Angeles, twelve hours ahead of New York and seven hours ahead of London, one hour behind Perth and three hours behind Sydney (give or take an hour during daylight saving time).

Where can I find current exchange rates for Vietnamese money?

Current Vietnamese money (VND or DONG) exchange rates are available on the internet.

What do I need to know regarding visas to enter Vietnam?

The most important thing is to make sure your Vietnam visa is stamped with the correct dates and the correct entry and exit points. The standard tourist visa is valid for a period of up to 30 days. If you're going for less than 30 days you can either specify the exact dates, but it is probably best to ask for the maximum period to give yourself more flexibility. Processing normally takes between a week and ten days (some embassies offer an express service for an extra fee), but longer for overseas Vietnamese. To be on the safe side, allow several weeks as mistakes are common and inexplicable delays often occur.

When applying for a Vietnam visa, in general you have to fill in two application forms and provide two passport photos. One of these forms, with photo attached, will be returned to you with your visa. For some odd reason many people throw this form away. Don't, because you'll be asked to hand it in at immigration on arrival. If you don't have it with you, blank copies are available at immigration. If you've got a spare photo, all well and good. If not, you'll have to engage the services of a handy airport photographer for the princely sum of $2-5.

If you need to extend your stay for any reason, it is relatively easy to apply for a visa renewal at present. Again this is handled by Dong Travel. The first renewal costs around $25-30 (including a handling fee) and takes three working days to process (please note that government offices are only open Monday to Friday). The maximum period you can ask for is 30 days and it costs the same whether you ask for 1 day or 30 days. A second 10-day extension is possible at a cost of around $35-40. For this second extension you will be asked to show an air ticket dated after the expiry of your visa.

Visas for those entering or exiting Vietnam other than the airport.
The standard entry and exit point is "Noi Bai / Tan Son Nhat", ie. you can enter and depart via either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City airports. If you plan to enter via one of the land border crossings, then you should specify the name of the crossing when you apply for your visa. Check what you eventually get because some Vietnamese embassies seem reluctant to issue anything other than the standard entry / exit points. If you can't persuade the embassy to give you the entry point you need, you could try getting it changed in the neighbouring country. If that fails and you turn up at the border with the wrong entry point, you'll either get sent back, or - more likely - asked to pay a "fine" of maybe $40-50.

The same applies for exit points, though this is less of a problem as it's fairly easily to get them changed in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Dong Travel can handle this for you - you can't go to the immigration police in person. Rates vary (US$15-25), it should take three or four days to process.

Are there any other entry formalities for Vietnam?

That protocol is no longer in Vietnam. We try to simplify all procedures ;)

How safe is Vietnam?

Quoted from a customer:
Vietnam is a relatively safe country to visit. As a woman, I have travelled extensively in Vietnam on my own with absolutely no problems. Despite people's fears, there is almost no animosity towards Americans.

As any country in the world would also happen that the thieves, pickpockets, car accidents, Vietnam is no exception, is something evils inevitable. But with Dong Travel, you will have the opportunity to travel throughout Vietnam and Asia but not any trouble, native guides who are very flexible and modern transportation will minimize the risks for you , Dong Travel is coming up with safety and luxury amenities with an affordable price, this is best choice for you.

Is language a problem in Vietnam, or can I get by in English?

Everyone in Vietnam seems to be learning English. Standards are relatively high considering the country has only been open for just over a decade. Most young people and many of those working in the tourist industry speak sufficient English to communicate at a basic level. You'll find more and better English-speakers in the south - a legacy of the American presence - but even here don't expect to find English spoken at small restaurants, in markets or anywhere off the tourist trail. For such situations it will help to have a basic phrasebook.

People over 60 years old, especially in the north, speak wonderfully old-fashioned French. Other northerners might speak Russian or German, depending where they were sent to be educated or as "guest workers".

Though you will certainly be able to get by in English, it's worth learning a few Vietnamese phrases before you go. The pronunciation is a bit tricky, but otherwise Vietnamese is not a particularly complicated language. A few standard phrases (such as hello, thank you, how much is it? and goodbye) always go down well. It will also help if you learn the numbers, though this can be circumvented by asking people to write down prices, times etc.

Should I take my money to Vietnam in cash or travellers' cheques?

Vietnam's official currency is the VND, which can not be purchased outside Vietnam. The main banks in Hanoi and HCMC can handle a fairly broad range of currencies nowadays, but the dollar is still the most widely accepted. I therefore recommend taking a combination of US$ cash and US$ travellers' cheques, with the bulk in travellers' cheques for safety. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are the most recognised brands.

It's a good idea to arrive with at least some small denomination dollar bills ($1s, $5s and $10s) to get you from the airport into town and to a bank. Even if they're open, the airport exchange desks offer unfavourable rates. If you do bring dollars cash into Vietnam, make sure they are not badly tattered as they may be refused.

Where can I change Vietnamese money?

You can change cash and travellers' cheques at exchange desks in hotels and at authorised foreign exchange banks in the cities.

Is it better to use American dollars or VND for daily expenses in Vietnam?

Despite government attempts to outlaw the practice, the US $ still acts as an alternative currency which is almost completely interchangeable with the VND. Many prices, especially for hotels, tours and expensive restaurants, are still quoted in $, though you can pay in VND if you'd rather - just check what exchange rate they're using.

For everyday expenses, I recommend carrying a mix of US $ cash and VND. For larger items (hotel bills, train tickets, etc.) or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use dollars. For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it's best to use VND. In either case, make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don't have to worry about change.

How widely accepted are credit cards in Vietnam?

Major credit cards (Visa, American Express, JCB, MasterCard) are gradually becoming more widely accepted in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. All top level and many mid-level hotels accept them, as do a growing number of restaurants and upmarket shops catering to the tourist trade. But watch out for the extra taxes they wap on when using a credit card - these can amount to an additional 5 percent. Outside the major cities you will have to rely on cash and travellers' cheques.

Can I get cash on my credit card in Vietnam?

Cash advances on credit cards are available at the central bank in major cities, for which you will be charged around 2%.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City also boast 24hr ATMs where you can withdraw cash on MasterCard, Visa and other cards in the Cirrus / Plus networks.