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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What is the weather of Hanoi like in January?

January is undoubtedly the coldest month in Hanoi (see Hanoi monthly average temperature). Though the idea of having 7-12 Celsius degree seems to be associated with a nice, cool and no-sweat atmosphere, the reality is rather dark and ugly. The drizzle that goes on days and nights - though not all the time - make the air wet, humid and chilly beyond imagination. The worst part is probably strong cold wind AND no central heating system available indoors!  

The average temperature in Hanoi in January falls between 13 and 19 degree, not to mention the colder days which can make your trip rather miserable without warm clothing. The good news is that if you cannot afford to take them in your luggage from home, Hanoi has plenty to offer when it comes to shopping for clothes.

Tips: Essential things for Hanoi in January: scarf, mitten, thin layers of warm sweaters, socks and long-johns if you are from a tropical country.

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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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What medication should I bring along?

It is highly recommended that you bring a first-aid-kit with any of your trip. In addition, you might also want to include medication in case of diarrhea, sore-throat or those that you are on use. Consult your family doctor or a travel clinic for further details. If you head first to city centers such as Hanoi, Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City, you can purchase your medication when you arrive.

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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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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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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

Hi,

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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How much do people generally tip in Vietnam?

Previously, Vietnamese people did not have the habit of tipping; however, a boom in tourism allows this western life style to be adapted by the local. The most common situations to give tips are eating at restaurants, taking a taxi or hiring a tour guide. It all depends on the quality of services they provide you as well as yours’ satisfaction. To a taxi driver, 50 cents to $1is greatly appreciated, but not common. In a luxury restaurant, you can leave the change or a VND 50,000 note (about $2.5) which is really generous. In some upscale spa or hotels, a service fee of 10% is often added, so tipping is not necessary.

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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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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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Where should I go to when I feel sick?

Vietnam has public, semi-public and private medical care facility. However, most of the quality ones concentrate in major cities such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Public hospitals are large but often heavily cramped with patients and the staffs do not speak English well. You can visit other healthcare services as listed in our city pages, many of which have foreign doctors. Normally you do not have to book an appointment in advance unless otherwise noted.

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