FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does Vietnam mean?

Vietnam should be correctly written as Viet Nam. Viet is the name of the people, which covers the 54 different ethnic groups in the country. Nam means South. Viet Nam means the Viet people living in the South.

To many people, Vietnam is not an unfamiliar name as it had been on the international press and media for such a long time. But what have been left in their minds are just images of war in a secluded corner of Southeast Asia, nothing more. So hardly does anyone know the meaning of the name and the long established history of that remote country.

The name Vietnam came about when Emperor Gia Long desired to rename the country Nam Viet which was the combination of names of regions in Vietnam, including An Nam and Viet Thuong, and later change to Vietnam as seen today. There are many other assumptions about the meaning of the name and the most rational explanation is that the name is the fine combination of both geographical and ethnical factors.

In brief, Vietnam means the Viets of the South according to the second explanation or is synonymous with the reunification of different regions in Vietnam in accordance with the first explanation.

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nice beach destinations nearby Saigon?

Question: Hi there, I’ve been in Sai Gon for a week and now I’m looking for nice beach destinations nearby the city. Could you please suggest me some options?

Answer: If you are staying in Ho Chi Minh City, you should go ahead to Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province or Phan Thiet City which are well-known for its magnificent beaches. Vung Tau is one of the best destinations in the South Vietnam for beach fans. Some renowned ones in the province are the untouched and immaculate Ho Tram Beach and the famous Con Dao Island with blue crystal-clear beaches, white sand dunes, and amazing coral reefs. Another popular beach heaven in Vietnam is in Phan Thiet City with the prominent Mui Ne Beach, which is widely known by worldwide travelers. For more information about the best beaches surrounding Ho Chi Minh City, please visit our website http://www.vietnamonline.com/ho-chi-minh-city-beaches.html

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What is the best way to travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City?

There are several methods to get from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City such as travelling by motors, cars or airplane, but the most interesting way should be travel by train. Thanks to the significant investment of the government, the Unification Trains (also called North-South Express Train) now connect Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in one integrated route, with the direct travel time often less than 40 hours. The magnificent scenery outside of the train windows is also the attractive point of travelling by trains. Along the road from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, there are a considerable number of beautiful attractions such as mountains, valleys, oceans and forests for you to witness and enjoy. The only worth considering point of travelling by train is that the safety of the train is not totally ensured with sometimes serious accidents occurred on the route, but It is still in the acceptable level, especially in the modern trains. More information about the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City can be found at the North – South Express Train of this site.

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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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Is Halong Bay Cruise suitable for old people?

Question: Hi, I and my wife would like to take a cruise in Halong Bay. We are wondering whether Halong Bay cruise is suitable for us - both are in our late 60’s? We wouldn’t be interested in activities like kayaking, climbing, or snorkeling.

Answer: A typical program of a Halong Bay cruise consists of many activities: energizing activities like climbing, kayaking, snorkeling; sightseeing tours to well-known attractions such as Surprising Cave, Floating Fishing Village, Pearl Farm; on-board activities like cooking demonstration, spa.... This means you have many options to enjoy Halong Bay cruise at leisure. If you don’t like kayaking, swimming or something else, you can sit on the boat, sip a cup of delicious cocktails, take a massage, or enjoy beautiful vistas of the Bay yourself .

However, please kindly be reminded that you should make clear with the cruise’s company or agent to ensure that they let you stay on board because some cruises off load you to other activities so that they can return to the pier to pick up new passengers.

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What is the most popular food in Vietnam?

Pho is arguably the most popular food in Vietnam. It is served both at restaurants and in families, eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This famous dish is basically rice noodle soup but the broth is seasoned in a very unique way that appeals to almost everyone.

You can try pho in one of the street corners where every local gather or at more upscale restaurants such as Pho Vuong or Pho 24. Pho 24 also has a vegetarian option for pho, replacing beef and chicken with a variety of mushrooms.

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I’m moving to Vietnam in a few days and I need some information about the cell phone. So which network provider should I choose?

You can use your current phone with the sim card you buy in Vietnam like other international sim card. Vietnam now has only a number of service providers on mobile phone services with different advantages and disadvantages. Among those firms, Vinaphone, Mobiphone and Viettel are the three biggest service providers.

Vinaphone is reputed with the stable and high standard of network, while Mobiphone has better customer services, and Viettel focus more on promotion and competitive price. The price for a new prepaid account and sim card is normally from VND 50,000 to 100,000 based on the type of accounts (USD 2.43 to 4.86) and the price for using services is different for each firm, with the range from around VND 1,200 to 2,500 per minute (USD 0.06 to 0.122).

Fortunately, Viettel is currently offering a special package for the foreigner tourists name “Tourist” with more benefit and easiness to them to use phone in Vietnam. More information about this package can be obtained at the branches or stores of Viettel.

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Buckwheat Flower Season in Ha Giang?

Question: Hi, I’m planning to visit Ha Giang in April. Can I see Buckwheat Flower Season in this month?

Answer: Buckwheat Flower or Tam Giac Mach in Vietnamese is a special flower growing in northern mountainous provinces of Vietnam. It is noted that this flower doesn’t grow naturally, it is planted by farmers, therefore, the time of buckwheat season really depends on these farmers.

Normally, buckwheat flowers are in blossom in October & November in Ha Giang Province and in March & April in Bac Giang Province. Hence, if you want to see buckwheat flower season, you should visit Bac Giang Province in April, instead of Ha Giang as your planning. In addition to admiring the beauty of buckwheat flowers, you should try wine and cake made from them, it is very special.

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What qualifications do I need to teach English in Vietnam?

With most major English centers, trainers are required to have Bachelor degree and teaching certificate (TESOL/ CELTA/ TEFL). Those with certificates or knowledge of TOEFL iBT, IELTS, SAT, GRE, GMAT are preferable.

However, if you do not hold any certificate, your circumstance may be considered if you have more than one year experience teaching English. In some English centers like ILA Vietnam center, trainers without certificate will need to join a training course conducted by the center.

Read more about Teach English in Vietnam

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When is Vietnamese new year 2012? Will Cu Chi Tunnel be open during Tet?

Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, is the biggest festival and holiday of a year in the country. In 2012, Vietnamese New Year will fall on Monday - January 23rd. Most public offices will be closed from Saturday (January 21st) and will be reopen on Monday (January 29th). The main Tet days are January 23rd, 24th and 25th.

Many attractions will be closed, while those like Hue citadel will be open during the three days of Tet with free admission. Cu Chi Tunnel, for your information, remains open during Tet holiday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.

For more information about Tet and Tet travel advice, read visit our Vietnamese Tet page or take a look at the following articles:

• 5 things to know about travelling during Tet

• Tet in Ho Chi Minh City - what to do

• 7 tips for travellers in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet

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What is Vietnam weather like in February?

Question: What is Vietnam weather like in February?

Answer: The weather in the North Vietnam in February is opposite to the Southern part of the country. In the northern cities/towns such as Hanoi, Halong, Sapa, the weather becomes colder, meanwhile, the southern parts like Saigon or Vung Tau receive sunshine and warm. For more information about Vietnam weather in February and what to expect if you travel Vietnam in this month, please visit http://www.vietnamonline.com/weather/february.html

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