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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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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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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How do I book a flight ticket in Vietnam?

You can either seek assistance from a travel agency or book directly online. Travel agency sometimes has good deals for domestic and international travel. Otherwise, go to the airline website:

www.jetstars.com.vn
www.vietnamairlines.com.vn

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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 can I do during Tet in HCMC?

Tet is one of the most exciting festivals throughout the year in Vietnam. It is a wise choice to visit Saigon in Tet because there are a lot of activities going on on this special occasion.

Nguyen Hue Flower Street on Nguyen Hue Boulevard

The whole street is decorated with many kinds of flower and plants. However familiar you are with Nguyen Hue Street in daily life, you are still amazed how beautiful it is during Tet. The theme for the whole street is different from year to year. Thousands of colorful flower baskets of all kinds: orchids, daisy and carnations, gathered and arranged in an artistic way, will surely impress visitors. A gorgeous outfit with a nice camera can work out a good memorial album of Tet in Saigon. Spring can’t be better with the warmth of sunshine, the colorful flowers and happy people smiling everywhere on the street!

Flower Festival at Tao Dan Park

Tao Dan Park, located on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai-Cach Mang Thang Tam crossroads, is a place where Flower Festival is held every year. Different from Nguyen Hue Flower Street, Flower Festival brings visitors more chances to see much more kinds of flowers in an open and vast area. Besides, rocks and limestone are also exhibited. In another area, there are Vietnamese traditional games, such as: beating the pot with blind eyes or walking on a thin bridge (Cau Khi).

While Nguyen Hue Flower Street is free, Tao Dan park charges about $1-$1.5 for entrance ticket to the Flower Festival.

Besides these two major activities, you can also see lion and dragon dances in front of luxury hotels on the first days of Lunar New Year. Lion and dragon dances are believed to bring prosperity and luck for people in the upcoming year. Another fun activity to attend is to try the largest Banh Tet, a kind of tradition cake in the South Vietnam at Dam Sen Amusement Park (03 Hoa Binh St, Wd 3, Dist 11, HCMC) or join the fruit festival at Suoi Tien Theme Park (Tan Phu Ward, Dist. 9). 

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When is the best time to book cheap flights to Vietnam?

For those with a tight budget, the ideal season to fly to Vietnam should be March and April, or September and October. That is to say, the beginning and the end of tourism reason offer you the best deals. In these months, the flight fare could decrease by 5-10%, or even a drop of 30% compared to the price in the tourism season.

In other months, you could grasp reasonable ticket fares for the flights to Vietnam, but the price in the summer or on Tet Holiday is significantly more expensive.

Summer in Vietnam lasts from late May to late August, with various tourism activities in many places and attracts a considerable number of travellers . Tourists are certain to face more challenges to reserve and purchase desired flights ticket while the ticket fare, in general, is considerably higher than the normal season.

The same situation occurs during Christmas and Tet Holiday, but to more extreme degree because not only the tourists use airplane to travel, but also the overseas Vietnamese who come back to Vietnam to have get-togethers with their family, leading to over-booking on most international flights to Vietnam.

Conversely, travelling in between September - November, February - April is advantageous thanks to the seasonal deals and discounts from the airlines to encourage people to travel.

Related Readings:
Other tips to save your buck while you are in Vietnam
International Flights to Vietnam

Visit our Flight page for best flight rate and schedule of all domestic flights in Vietnam
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Where can I find places with free wifi in Vietnam?

Believe it or not, it is a lot easier to find a free wireless network hotspots in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City than major cities in North America. In Vietnam, visitors can get free access to the Internet at some places:

1. Coffee shops:

Free Wi-fi is available at most coffee shops in Hanoi, Danang, Hoi An and  Ho Chi Minh City. A coffee shop is a great place when you are waiting for someone and need to access the Internet in the mean time. Or it can be a place for a short appointment with your clients as well. All you need to pay is your drink which varies from $1 to $2.5. If the Wi-fi is secured by passwords, don’t hesitate to ask the staff for it. They are willing to give you without any surcharge. Some suggestions: Trung Nguyen Coffee Shop, Highlands Coffee Shop, Gloria Jeans, Angel in U.S.

2. Fast food franchises:

At fast food franchises in Hanoi Ho Chi Minh City, customers can both have meals and finish their work on the Internet. KFC, Lotteria, Jolibee, Pizza Hut are four major franchises in Vietnam. 

3. Hotels and office buildings:

Some free wi-fi hotspots can also be found inside and outside hotels and office buildings. Check with your hotel receptionist and see if they have complimentary internet service. In case of office buildings, unlike coffee shops, these free wi-fi hot spots don’t offer a comfortable seat in an air-conditioned room with a tasty drink. Therefore, it might not be your choice at noon when the sun is shining too brightly or it is raining.

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Can I get by with just English in Vietnam

The short answer is: YES, you totally can.
The not-so-short answer is: Yes, you can, but it also depends on where you go in Vietnam.

To your relief, most foreigners visiting Vietnam know barely any Vietnamese words but "Xin Chao - Hello" and "Cam On - Thank you". That is quite enough vocabulary for a 2 or 3 week trip to Vietnam. English is the most popular language in Vietnam after Vietnamese, and in the cities, even when you try to communicate in Vietnamese, the local younger people will just respond to you in English.

If you plan to take a break from the metropolitan areas and all the touristy places, you will have a harder time communicating your thoughts, ideas and needs. Body languages still work but a little bit more Vietnamese will save you tons of time and frustration. The good news is that, most Vietnamese people are very friendly and even when they do not know a word of English, they will try to help you out in all circumstances. 

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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 have some question about the weather in Vietnam. What it’s like in December?

The weather in Vietnam in December is totally reverse between in the North and the South. The weather in the North at that time is extreme with freezing atmosphere and dry air in almost any place. The temperature in this month can go under 0oC in some place, and snow and ice can be seen in this area, mostly in Sapa, Moc Chau or Dong Van. This is not a good time to visit any destination in this region. Weather in December in the Middle and the South of Vietnam is different from the North with warmer, rainier and more pleasant climates. The temperature in this month is kept around 20-25oC, which are perfect to the foreigners to come to avoid the extreme winter in their home countries.

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