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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Why Vietnam Tet Holiday changes its date from year to year? What will the date be for 2012? Is it ok to travel to Vietnam during that holiday?


Thank you for your questions. Vietnam Tet holiday is calculated based on the Lunar Calendar, which is different from Solar Calendar. Sometimes the Lunar Calendar has 13 months (leap year) instead of 12 months so the date of Tet holiday might change. It often falls into the end of January to early February.

As for your second question, Vietnam Tet Holiday 2012 will be January 23rd, 2012 (Solar Calendar). Most offices will be closed a few days before and after this date so be prepared (for example, please apply for your visa well in advance). Many Vietnamese overseas will return home, and those from the city will come back to the countryside so the traffic volume may be quite large. We suggest you to plan your travel well and book all the necessary flight tickets and tour service to avoid delays.

It will be a delight for you to get to know Tet Holiday - the most important holiday and event of the year for Vietnamese. If you are lucky, you will be invited to a Vietnamese family to enjoy the Tet holiday with them - which will totally change your idea of travel and travelling to Vietnam. 

Here are a few reads and articles on the website which might be helpful to you:
Vietnam Lunar Calendar
Vietnam Tet Holiday 
What you should know when visiting a Vietnamese family

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Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City? Which name is more popular now?

It is hard to say which name is more popular now: Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. To most young people, Ho Chi Minh City is more common while to most older generations (the middle-aged and elderly people), Saigon is still deeply in their mind.

The name Saigon, adopted over 300 years ago, was originally used to indicate an area of 1 km square where there were a lot of Hoa people (Chinese) living in the 18th century which is now known as the Chinatown or Cholon. It is said in the past, there were lots of woods and cotton trees in this area which yielded its name Saigon. Based on Chinese and ancient Vietnamese phonetics, “Sai” means “woods” and “gon” means “Cotton tree”.

However, this evidence is not strong enough to be an official explanation for the name Saigon. Besides, some people believe Saigon was derived from “Prei Nokor” , a former Khmer palace of Angkor Dynasty where there was a large community of Khmer people living before the expanding the country process of Nguyen Dynasty. That is the reason why most older people are more comfortable with the name “Saigon”. It is not only a historical name but also a part of their daily conversation since the very first days moving to the South.

The name, Ho Chi Minh City, officially became the name for Saigon in July, 1976 to honor the first prime minister of Vietnam, also the national hero Ho Chi Minh, a famous figure in Vietnam’s struggling and liberating history. Because it has just been used for over 30 years, Ho Chi Minh City is more popular to young people.

However, due to some phonetic characteristic, the name Saigon is used mostly by foreigners who come to visit Vietnam. Saigon is shorter and easier to pronounce,though!

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Opening hours

Question: What are the opening hours of the St Joseph Cathedral, One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Literature's Temple, History Museum, Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnamese Women's Museum, Keang nam Hanoi tower, Perfume Pagoda and Bamboo Wing?

Answer: Please find below the opening hours of the above tourist attractions:

• St. Joseph Cathedral: Opening hours for Catholic rituals

Weekdays: 5:30 am and 6:30 pm

Saturdays: 6:00 pm

Sundays: 5:00 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm

• Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum opens on Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun in the morning, from 8:00am to 11:00am

• Ho Chi Minh Museum opens every Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun and Mon + Fri morning.

• One Pillar Pagoda opens all days in week, in the morning from 6:00 am to 11:00 am, and in the afternoon from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

• Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo prison open daily from 8am to 5pm

• Keangnam Hanoi tower opens daily from 7am to 9pm

• Perfume Pagoda opens daily, you should visit at day time by joining one tour departing from Hanoi

• Bamboo Wing opens daily, it is located in Dai Lai Resort, Vinh Phuc Province. It is around 40km away from Hanoi.

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I am planning to visit Vietnam in the next days. I know several parts are still flooded, my questions is in how far this affects tourists? Is it safe to come? Are busses still running?

Thanks for your email and your interest in visiting Vietnam in the next few days. You are right, there are several parts still flooded in Vietnam (information as of October 26th, 2011). At this time every year, the Mekong Delta area often gets flooded because it is rainy season in the South of Vietnam. However, if you travel around Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, it’s not a big deal at all. You can find more information about weather in Ho Chi Minh City here

There are foreigners visiting Vietnam and being on the Mekong Delta Tour, though. For safety reasons, booking a tour at a travel agency is recommended. Floating market is a piece of Mekong Delta culture you should experience.

Besides, there are usually some upcoming storms in the Centre of Vietnam at this time of the year which makes the weather cooler than usual and more appealing to foreigners. If you are planning to stay in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi only, weather would be calm and will not to ruin your vacation.

Buses won't be affected by the weather. You may also check out News and Events section - we have reviews about weather on the VNO Weekly articles and update them regularly.

Hope you find it helpful.

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What is Vietnam currency and what is the exchange rate with dollars?

Vietnam's sole currency is Vietnam Dong - VND, which comes in notes and coins though the latter is barely seen today. Vietnam Dong notes come in denominations of: 

VND 500; 1,000; 2,000;

VND 5,000; 10;000; 20,000;

VND 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000

At present the exchange rate is about VND 21,000 for 1 USD.

US dollars can also be used for your purchase while you are in larger cities' tourist areas but try to avoid doing so. Since late 2011, Vietnamese government has banned all price listing in dollars. Adding to that, Vietnamese sellers will charge you unfavourable rate if you pay in dollars.

Vietnamese currency is not common beyond Vietnam and Asia, so your banks will not have them in stocks if you are in North America or Europe. You can always get some as you land at one of the Vietnam's airport.

• History of Vietnam Dong

Vietnamese bank notes images

Online currency converter

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I am an Australian with a Singapore permanent resident status, do I need a visa for Vietnam?


Yes you need a visa for Vietnam. Only Singapore passport holder can come to Vietnam for a 30 day visit without a visa (see full list of countries with visa exemption agreement with Vietnam). 

Australians can get a visa to Vietnam in 2 ways: applying for one at the embassy in Canberra or consulate in Sydney. An alternative option is get one on arrival (read full instructions about how Australians can get a visa for Vietnam).

Hope this helps.

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We have been invited to a friend’s family home for a typical Vietnamese meal. We want to bring a gift to them. Is a bottle of wine or flowers appropriate? Or is there anything particular that we are e


Thank you for your question.

Frankly, there is no strict rule or code for gifts and presents when you are invited to enjoy a family meal in Vietnam. Without any wine or flower, the diner guests are still warmly welcomed by hospitable Vietnamese hosts.

However, fruit is always a nice gift and seems to be well received. So, you are highly recommended to pick up some nice fruits for the dessert. Besides, one could bring something nutritious for the elder, some alcohol, pastries for the family, or candy for the kids, though these gifts may make the dinner a lot more formal than it should.

You are also recommended to ask the host if there is anything you could help, and be willing to give them a hand in preparing the meal. Remember to wait for the oldest to eat first, ask once before the meal and once after your finish.

Enjoy the meal.

Read our Article "Visiting a Vietnamese Family" for more detailed insights. 

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Is it possible to transport my pets with me by train? How about flights?

You can fly with pets inside Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines, all you need is 24-36 hour notice in advance. You cannot, however, bring your pet on the train, as far as I am concerned.

More information about flying with your pet on Vietnam Airlines Website.  Or visit our page on Bringing your pet to Vietnam for advice & tips.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have other questions!

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I am interested in advertising for my travel agency on Vietnam Online. Who should I contact?


Thank you for your inquiry. Our advertising plan is posted on the About Us section of the website. You can also visit the section by clicking on this link:

Any specific question can be directed to our sale department:

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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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