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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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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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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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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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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Where can I find musical instruments in Hanoi?

Hanoi has plenty of instrument providers. If you go with local people and are not afraid of bargaining, you had better go to Hao Nam Street. This street is famous for instrument trading, since it is near Vietnam National Institute of Music. Shops here offer a variety of instruments, from foreign ones such as guitar, mandolin, bass guitar, violin, cello, piano, flute to traditional instruments like bamboo flute, bau luthier (dan bau), 16 strings zither (dan tranh), Vietnamese violin (dan nhi) or even t’rung (a Ba Na ethical instrument from Tay Nguyen). The price is not too high, but you should be careful because instruments here are not always as good as what they look like.

Hang Manh Street also has instrument shops, but the range is much narrower compared to those in Hao Nam Str., and the quality is not even as good. In general, shopping at these addresses is not always safe, and moreover they do not provide any warranty service at all. In order to buy good instruments with famous brand names in Hanoi, consumers just have 3 choices: Hoang Phuc, the officially distribution center of Ibanez and Roland instrument in Vietnam, located at Vincom tower, 191 Ba Trieu Str.; Yamaha official store, 24 Ly Quoc Su Str. and SolG, 13D2A Van Phuc Str. The prices are higher than those at Hao Nam and Hang Manh Street, but customers are given full information about the suppliers, the original countries and instrument's conditions, along with certifications and warranties. Price or quality, the choice is yours. 

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

Hi,

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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I’m moving to Vietnam in a few days and I need some information about the cell phone. So which network provider should I choose?

You can use your current phone with the sim card you buy in Vietnam like other international sim card. Vietnam now has only a number of service providers on mobile phone services with different advantages and disadvantages. Among those firms, Vinaphone, Mobiphone and Viettel are the three biggest service providers.

Vinaphone is reputed with the stable and high standard of network, while Mobiphone has better customer services, and Viettel focus more on promotion and competitive price. The price for a new prepaid account and sim card is normally from VND 50,000 to 100,000 based on the type of accounts (USD 2.43 to 4.86) and the price for using services is different for each firm, with the range from around VND 1,200 to 2,500 per minute (USD 0.06 to 0.122).

Fortunately, Viettel is currently offering a special package for the foreigner tourists name “Tourist” with more benefit and easiness to them to use phone in Vietnam. More information about this package can be obtained at the branches or stores of Viettel.

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Is it possible to withdraw US dollars from ATMs in big cities in Vietnam?

Question: Is it possible to withdraw US dollars from ATMs in big cities in Vietnam?

Answer: No, it isn’t, even if in the biggest cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, and so forth. You can withdraw VND only!

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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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Should we use travelers check? ATMs?

Question: We will visit Vietnam in February and we are wondering the best way to pay for anything. Should we use travelers check? ATMs?

Answer: You aren’t encouraged to use travelers cheques in Vietnam because it isn’t cheap and convenient at all. Perhaps the cheapest and most convenient way to get cash is to use a bank card or a certain credit card to take it out of an ATM. ATMs are now widely put everywhere in the country, so it is pretty convenient to get cash. Or, you can also bring cash along with you but please watch out pickpockets and bag snatchers.

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