FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do I get from Hanoi to Sapa by bus?

Sapa is a popular destination in the Northwest territory of Vietnam, with beautiful scenery, fresh air and wild green hills. There are plenty of methods to go to Sapa and vice versa: by train, by car, by motorbike and by bus.

Train is the most popular way but the drawback is the long time and many people might not be into the idea of taking a night train. With car and motorbike, go with the highly experienced drivers since the road to Sapa is quite a challenge.

Thanks to the development of new highway from Hanoi to Lao Cai in 2014, bus is now a popular means to get from Hanoi to Sapa. 

Schedule: Depart Hanoi at 6:30 A.M, arrive in Sapa at 1:30 P.M.
Cost: $15

Schedule: Depart Sapa at 3:00PM., arrive in Hanoi at 9:00PM
Cost: $15

How to get your Bus ticket:

Contact us: info@vietnamonline.com for reservation.

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Where can I find the visa exemption form for Vietnamese overseas? What is the process?

Greetings,

Please visit our page on visa exemption for Vietnamese American where we explain in details the process of obtaining a visa exemption for Vietnamese overseas. You can follow the link next to the Application form to fill out an e-form and make a hard copy of the completed form. The rest of the process is also fully explained on the page.

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Hi, I have only 2 weeks in Vietnam and I want to include Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City in the trip. Is that over-ambitious? Should I just stay at some of these and if so, what would

Thank for your question. If you have only 2 weeks, it might be a bit over-ambitious to do all of those above-mentioned destinations. Instead, you can choose some of those for discovery. For example, a trip to Hanoi, Hue and Nha Trang is suitable for the 2 week length. In such an itinerary, you can have a 5 day stay in Hanoi capital to come and visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square, Old Quater, Hoan Kiem Lake. You might include Halong Bay in your itinerary as well.  

The next 5 days can be spent in Hue and Hoi An to discover the forbidden city and the surrounding areas such as DMZ zone, Hoi An, My Son Sanctuary, especially Hue's typical food.

The rest of the time can be finished nicely with a short visit to Nha Trang, a luxury paradise for travellers. You can also take a look at our suggested travel itinerary for more information how to spend your two weeks in Vietnam!

Have a meaningful trip to Vietnam!

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I am planning to go to Hanoi in December, can you please let me know whether the weather will be ok for sightseeing and walking outside at that time? I am from Washington D.C.

Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam. December is in the winter in Hanoi. Therefore, it is cold but is still ok for travellers, especially those from temperate zone like you will not have a difficult time at all. The temperature is about 16 Celcius degree on average, with light rain and windy weather. You can go out for sightseeing comfortably, but make sure that you bring some warm clothes because Vietnam does not have central heating system like North America so it might be colder than it sounds.

Many Hanoians talk about having ice-cream and walking around the tree-lined Hoan Kiem Lake as a leisure activity during the winter days. Winter food in Vietnam is not about apple cider and fresh-from-the-oven brownies, but there are sure things to enjoy: sweet potatoes grilled on charcoal or toasted corn on the cob; chicken skewer and a hot bowl of pho will definitely give your stomach a satisfying feeling like you never feel before. 

Enjoy Hanoi!

Suggested Readings:
Hanoi Travel Guide
Hanoi weather in December

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Day Train to Sapa

Questions: Is there a day train to Lao Cai/ Sapa?

Answer: Yes, there is. However, only hard seats are available for day trains, coupled with a long 8-hour journey from Hanoi to Sapa make the trip very tiring and uncomfortable for most of us. Normally, tourists choose night trains for their much better services and comfort. There is a wide variety of night sleeping-cars to suit different budgets. You can choose between normal Vietnamese railways trains or privately-run sleepers with higher standard specifically aimed at tourists.

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How safe is Vietnam?

The safest place in the world can also be the most dangerous and vice versa. It also depends what you mean by “safe”.

In general, Vietnam is safe compared with most other Southeast Asian countries in terms of political stability. There is hardly any riots and absolutely no bomb attacks. The only concern is about road safety.

Protect yourself by taking a ride with trustable bus company, though they can be more expensive. Please see “safety” section for more details.

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I am intolerant of gluten products and therefore not able to eat foods containing wheat. I would appreciate your advice on whether gluten free meals are available in major cities Vietnam?

Thank you for writing to us. Gluten-free travellers will not have a hard time in Vietnam, because the main meal in Vietnam involves rice instead of wheat (see how rice is used in Vietnam). Major dishes such as "Pho" (beef noodle), "Nem" (spring rolls) are made purely from rice.

The concept of gluten allergy and gluten free meal are not popular in Vietnam at all. You may find these niche products, however, in the expat area of Hanoi (Xuan Dieu road) and Ho Chi Minh City (Pham Ngu Lao street).

The advice we have for you is to check with the hotel and restaurants to verify that the ingredients do not contain wheat (bot my in Vietnamese). If you stay at upper-scale hotels in Hanoi or in Ho Chi Minh City, check with the hotel chef or restaurant head to ensure a gluten free meal.

A few popular food that will contain gluten for sure that you should avoid (this may help with the Vietnamese vocabulary):

- Any food with a "banh" (including baguette, baked goods, ..)

- Any food with a "my" (including egg noogle, instant noodle)

- Any food with a "quay" (fried fritter dough)

- Any food with a "tam bot" (Vietnamese term for fried fish or meat with a flour coating)

We hope this is helpful to you and your family. Bon Voyage!

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Independent travel in Mekong Delta?

Question: Why are tours to Mekong Delta packaged tours? Can we travel on our own?

Answer: Because traveling around islands in Mekong Delta requires using the boat. If you travel on your own, booking a private boat might result in higher cost. Moreover, the package tour offer a complimentary service with an English speaking guide and many stop-overs in between so that travelers can get chances to see how they manufacture coconut candy, pop rice and other handicraft products. Traveling alone might be troublesome because the local people are not really good at communicating in English. If you are native to Vietnamese language, you can try, though!

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Where can I buy English books in Hanoi?

It is quite hard to find a decent English bookstore in Hanoi, since the demand is pretty low and not frequent. The first and only English bookstore in Hanoi until now is Bookworm, which located on 44 Chau Long Street, near Truc Bach Lake. This bookstore trades only English books and magazines, both used and new, with a limitted French collection. There are also many discounted fictions if you want a quick read for your next trip.

Another bookstore, Trang Tien bookstore (44 Trang Tien Str., Hoan Kiem Dist.) also sells many English books, though it is mostly about learning and teaching. The majority of books here are still in Vietnamese.

In order to find English books, you might need to venture out to other book stores around the city. Phuong Nam company has three bookstores in Hanoi: one inside Vincom tower (191 Ba Trieu Str.), one at 20 Ly Thai To Str and one at 87 Lang Ha Str. All of them have foreign sections, with some books, magazines, artbooks and CDs/DVDs in English.

Fahasa bookstore (338 Xa Dan Str, Dong Da Dist) might be worth visiting as well, with around 100 English books of different types. Moreover, Fahasa recently open a new book store at 39 Kim Lien Moi Str., Dong Da Dist, doubling the number of English books, which include some famous classic novels such as Frankenstein, Gone with the wind, Breakfast at Tiffany, The lords of the rings, etc.

In addition, wandering around Dinh Le Str. (the so called book street of Hanoi), you can sometimes find good English books/novels/artbooks at quite low prices. In general, to find a good English book in Hanoi, you must have patience and time but the price is pretty reasonable. 

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We are an Aussie family travelling to Hanoi this August, where should I take them to? I would prefer somewhere without too much noise and traffic.

If you have a family and want to visit places with little noise and traffic, you may take your family to museums, historical relics or traditional music theaters because these places barely have local people visiting so there are not too many people around. Below are some suggested popular places that you might consider:

- Thang Long Imperial City: This is a group of various historical relics in Hanoi with from Ly Dynasty a thousand year ago. The remained parts of these relics reveal many aspects of the lives inside royal palace in the past, and also information about the development of each dynasty in the history of Vietnam. Most of these relics such as Doan Mon Gate, The Flag Tower or 18 Hoang Dieu Relic are located in the central area of the city at Hoang Dieu or Dien Bien Phu Street.

- Ho Chi Minh Complex: This destination is the attractive complex, including some of the most fascinating attractions in Hanoi like Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where Uncle Ho is resting, Ho Chi Minh Museum and also the famous One Pillar Pagoda. You can take a cab and arrive at the complex’s entrance at Ngoc Ha Street to register and get in.

- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: the destination exhibits numerous information about lives, belief and culture of Vietnam’s ethnic groups. The museum is also quite interesting to children with various activities like museum tours, painting or watching movies about Vietnam ethnic communities and traditional games. The museum is truly a haven away from the noise of Hanoi, with green open space and very few people. 

Related Readings:
Family Travel Advice

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How much should we tip a driver on a private tour?

For a private tour, $5 tip per day for the tour guide and half of it for the driver is acceptable. If you are pleased with the service provided and find the trip enjoyable, some more dollars might be a good motivation and they would be happy to receive because they are deserved to it.

Remember: 50,000 ($2.5) and 100,000 ($5) are considered big notes in Vietnam!

Read more about Tipping culture in Vietnam.

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