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 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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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 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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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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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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We are a Canadian couple who want to adopt a Vietnamese child. Where do we start? What formalities do we need to complete?

Thank you for your questions. We have encountered similar inquiries from many of our audience and thus we have maintained a detailed page on Adoption matters in Vietnam. Please take a look at the following post in order to understand what procedures you will have to go through, and the tips that we have collected for adopting Vietnamese children.

- Start with learning about Step-by-step adoption process.
- Check whether you are eligible to adopt a Vietnamese child.
- Learn about Canadian law in adopting a foreign born baby.
- Find an agent who will facilitate the process.

We hope that this guide is comprehensive enough to you and please contact us if you have more questions to ask.

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When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

It’s hard to answer exactly when is the best time to visit Vietnam because the country’s climate is very diverse. From the North to the Central then the South, ones may go through chilly mountaintops, sunny coastline, cool highland and steamy jungle. Thanks to this diversity and opposing monsoon pattern among the three region, there is always a high season somewhere in Vietnam throughout a year.

The North

The North is the coolest region of Vietnam where its seasons are clearly divided into four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Amongst which, rainy season occur from summer to autumn while dry season falls between the other two. Winter in Northern Vietnam usually bring extremely cold but dry weather, especially in the Northwest altitudes like Spa, Dien Bien or Lao Cai where snow falling occasionally in sub-zero condition. Hanoi and its surrounding province like Ninh Binh, Hai Phong or Quang Ninh has a milder climate in winter but much hotter and wetter with high humidity (80% on average) in rainy season (May-October) should worry things.

Best time to visit the North: from October to April

Reason: when this area of Vietnam having its driest days and most favored temperature. This also includes your opportunity to enjoy the most festive time of a year in Vietnam when Tet Holiday takes place.

The Central

The central coastal area occupies the most beautiful beaches of Vietnam where monsoon season is opposed to that of the North. Hence, while the North having its dampest month, from June to October, this area going through its driest days and vice-versa. During its damp season, the area suffers from severe flood which damage uncountable properties and money annually. In general, although the Central Coast has both hot and cold season, its climate more likely to resemble steam climate of the South. 

In opposite to the great heat of the Central Coast, the Central Highland, expanding from the inland to Southern end of Truong Son Mountain (Annamite Range), possesses temperate climate with its precipitation double fold of the country’s average. Highland areas like Da Lat and Pleiku are the two best representative of this kind of weather. Dry months seem to be more favored by travelers, lasting from November to March.

Best time to visit the central: from June to October

Reason: to avoid constant rainy days and enjoy sunshine on beaches.

The South

The area includes Ho Chi Minh City and the vast Mekong Delta Zone is freaking hot with only one dry and one rainy season occurs between December-April and May-November respectively. Average temperature recorded in this steamy hot zone has been recorded is from 21 to 32 Degree Celsius. February and March should be ideal to visit Southern Vietnam since its heat is not too high while the rainfall stays at its lowest rate.

Best time to visit the South: February - April

Reason: dry and warm weather and many festivals will take place

Read more: Guide to Best time to visit Vietnam

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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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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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