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.
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.
I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have other questions!
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.
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.
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
The long plan trip across the ocean can be a nightmare for many travellers, including those experienced ones. A plane trip to Vietnam, unless departing from Hong Kong or Southeast Asia, will be a great pain for some. For example, from Toronto or New York to Hanoi, it takes 17 hours onboard, excluding the transiting time. Here is what you can do to alleviate the long trip pain:
1. Read your travel guide book: Sections in the Lonely Planet such as History and Geography are often scantily skimmed when you arrive. The time on the plane, however, can be an ideal period to know more about Vietnam. Imagine when you talk to the locals, you can be proud to think of yourself as "just-not-another-tourist".
2. Start your travel dairy: the boring landscape inside an airplane, with neither internet nor your favourite baseball match, can be an ideal environment for reflection. Think about where you are now, what you have prepared for the trip and what you are expecting. You will have fun revisiting these pages upon returning to your home country.
3. Make your to-do list: what food do you want to try, where do you want to visit, what do you want to learn, whom will you be telling your story along the way. Making to-do list can be a great way to make yourself satisfied after the trip to Vietnam.
4. Talk to your seat-mate: you never know whom you are sitting next to, until you TRY. Break the ice and make a new friend. Why not? You are going to Vietnam, a most-likely-totally-foreign place anyway.
5. Sleep: Sleeping is the best way to kill time and to help you avoid jetlag later when you land. Avoid caffeinated drinks whenever possible.
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.
If you are sending something to Vietnam, you can leave the address in English or ask the recipients for the Vietnamese version. In general, the number of the house comes first and followed by lane number of street names, districts and cities.
Here are some useful words:
Quận/ Huyện: District
Ngách: smaller than lane unit
Số: House number
Khu đô thị: Apartment building complex
Example of an address:
Chu Ngoc H.
So 4, ngo 12, pho H.H, Dong Da, Hanoi.
Note: Vietnam does not have postal code.
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!
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.