FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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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What to do on the long plane trip to Vietnam?

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.

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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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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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I am planning to go to Hanoi in December, can you please let me know whether the weather will be ok for sightseeing and walking outside at that time? I am from Washington D.C.

Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam. December is in the winter in Hanoi. Therefore, it is cold but is still ok for travellers, especially those from temperate zone like you will not have a difficult time at all. The temperature is about 16 Celcius degree on average, with light rain and windy weather. You can go out for sightseeing comfortably, but make sure that you bring some warm clothes because Vietnam does not have central heating system like North America so it might be colder than it sounds.

Many Hanoians talk about having ice-cream and walking around the tree-lined Hoan Kiem Lake as a leisure activity during the winter days. Winter food in Vietnam is not about apple cider and fresh-from-the-oven brownies, but there are sure things to enjoy: sweet potatoes grilled on charcoal or toasted corn on the cob; chicken skewer and a hot bowl of pho will definitely give your stomach a satisfying feeling like you never feel before. 

Enjoy Hanoi!

Suggested Readings:
Hanoi Travel Guide
Hanoi weather in December

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Where to go in Vietnam in January?

Question: Where to go in Vietnam in January?

Answer: January weather is cold and occasionally chilly in the Northern Vietnam but gradually warmer when heading southwards. The temperature in the Northern parts, typically, Hanoi, is around 150C. Meanwhile, in the Central and Southern regions like Hoi An or Saigon, the temperature fluctuates around 200C and 300C respectively. With the weather conditions like this, the best places suggested for travelers to visit Vietnam in January is in the Central and Southern cities/ provinces such as Saigon, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hue, Hoi An, etc. Nonetheless, if you still desire to visit Hanoi or other Northern provinces, you can visit Huong Pagoda (Perfume Pagoda), Halong Bay, and Sapa. Perfume Pagoda in January is cool and windy but pretty tranquil. The main festival of Perfume Pagoda often takes place in Late-February, therefore, it is hardly crowded in this month. Besides, it is a bit chilly to visit Halong Bay and Sapa as well, however, if you want to avoid the crowd, this is the best time to go.

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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 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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Hi, I have only 2 weeks in Vietnam and I want to include Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City in the trip. Is that over-ambitious? Should I just stay at some of these and if so, what would

Thank for your question. If you have only 2 weeks, it might be a bit over-ambitious to do all of those above-mentioned destinations. Instead, you can choose some of those for discovery. For example, a trip to Hanoi, Hue and Nha Trang is suitable for the 2 week length. In such an itinerary, you can have a 5 day stay in Hanoi capital to come and visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square, Old Quater, Hoan Kiem Lake. You might include Halong Bay in your itinerary as well.  

The next 5 days can be spent in Hue and Hoi An to discover the forbidden city and the surrounding areas such as DMZ zone, Hoi An, My Son Sanctuary, especially Hue's typical food.

The rest of the time can be finished nicely with a short visit to Nha Trang, a luxury paradise for travellers. You can also take a look at our suggested travel itinerary for more information how to spend your two weeks in Vietnam!

Have a meaningful trip to Vietnam!

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Can a foreigner drive motorbike in Vietnam?

Question: I am planning to make a motorbike tour in Vietnam. I just wanna ask can I drive motorbike in the country as local people still do?

Answer: Maybe you can but please take note the following information. The international driving license is not recognized in Vietnam, hence, for legally driving a motorbike/ a car, you need to get a Vietnamese license. If you do not have Vietnam license, there is no travel insurance for you. In addition, Vietnam’s traffic law has some different rules from Western countries’. For example, you are required to drive on the right side of the road, not on the left side as in your country. If you can deal well with these problems, you can travel by motorbike in Vietnam.

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What theme park should we go to in Ho Chi Minh city?

Theme parks in Ho Chi Minh City differ by games, decorating themes and services offered to their guests. Hence, the “should go” theme park varies from this to that based on your interest or time of traveling.

Dam Sen Water Park, located at no.3 Hoa Binh Street, District 11 is a “should go” theme park for any one who loves swimming and other exciting water-based activities like twisting in spiral pipe, jumping in the wave pool, or floating along the “wandering river” and so on. This is an ideal place for family tourists, especially who travel in summer time. Parents can relax themselves in massage pool, while children playing in the pool for kids. The advantage of Dam Sen Water Park is its easy reach - it takes only half an hour to get there from Ben Thanh market.

Suoi Tien Theme Park is also a popular choice, about 1 hour away from the city center. Suoi Tien is popular among international tourists for it paints the picture of Vietnam's history. Characters from fairy tales to legends are sculptured after and displayed all through the park. Game facilities are also of better quality than Dam Sen Park.

Lac Canh Dai Nam Van Hien or often called Dai Nam is a huge theme park located at 1765A Binh Duong Boulevard, just 1.5 hour’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City. This 500 ha site consists of an amusement section with modern games and exciting sports, a zoo with more than 1000 kinds of birds and animals, a spacious spiritual area with great temples, towers, statues and accommodation area with hotels in traditional architecture. The grandiose spiritual area on can be seen as the highlight for the park and makes Dai Nam become a destination for cultural tourism also.

Decide on your own how far you want to go and how much fun you want to get!

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