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.
Hope you find it helpful.
1. By taxi: it would be best to negotiate the fare before going, which ranges from VND 300,000 to VND 400,000 ($15-20)
2. By bus: Many hotels in Hoi An provides bus transfer from Da Nang International Airport to Hoi An, for about $2-3/each. These minivans are often comfortable enough and carry 6-10 people. Another choice is taking the Sinh Café, the popular bus pass service which makes a stop in Hoi An.
The cheapest bus, though, is the city bus which can be found at 33 Dien Bien Phu, Thanh Khe District, Danang. This bus runs every hour and costs about $1 for one-way ticket. With that low price, you have to accept the fact that the buses are quite old and don’t run fast.
3. By motorbike taxi: Also known as xe-om, this is the most common method to get around in Vietnam. A trip from Da Nang to Hoi An by motorbike usually costs VND 150,000 to VND 250,000/each, depending on your negotiation. Or if you wish to travel to Hoi An within a day, you can rent a motorbike and ride it yourself.
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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.
From Singapore to Hanoi, there are several options for you:
Vietnam Airlines: The national flag carrier, operates two daily flights back and forth between Singapore (SIN) and Hanoi (HAN). Flights depart from Hanoi at 10:30 and 14:00; return from Singapore at 15:50 and 19:20. The cheapest option (Saver rate) is $300 return tickets, taxes and fees included.
Singapore Airlines: The national airlines of Singapore or Singapore Airlines is among the most quality airlines in the world. There are daily flights between Singapore and Hanoi, leaving Hanoi at 9:50 and departing Singapore at 13:15. Return ticket costs between $320 (Sweet Deals) and $400 (Flexi), taxes and fees included.
Tiger Airways: Tiger Airways have mixed schedule of flights between Hanoi and Singapore and have different departing time everyday. In specific, it departs at 19:50 (Monday and Wednesday); 12:40 (Tuesday and Thursday); 21:15 (Friday); 13:00 (Saturday) and 10:50 (Sunday). Return ticket costs $200 on average and Tiger Airways offers the lowest cost for flight ticket on this route. Note that there is no meal offered on this flight.
Depending on your purpose and the length of your stay in Vietnam, you can find support for renting a house or a room from different people. If you are on a business trip to Vietnam, you might have useful advice from your colleagues about where to stay. A room at a hotel near your company will be ideal for a short stay while a rental room/apartment will work for longer stay (more than 1 month).
District 2 and District 7 offer high standard rooms which are suitable for foreigners who are willing to spend more on the accommodation part. However, it is a little bit far from the city center. Some rooms are also available in District 3, Tan Binh District at a lower price.
District 1 is the most expensive to rent a room for a permanent stay. Price also varies depending upon the size and amenities of the room. If you are backpackers to Vietnam, you can find affordable rooms along the streets wherever you go. Price should not exceed $10/person/night for a hostel or motel. Again, do not hesitate to bargain!
Vietnamese cooking styles are often based on fresh ingredients which can be easily bought at wet markets. However, a wide range of microwaveable food is available mostly at the supermarkets to satisfy the needs of busy people who do not have enough time for cooking or find cooking so inconvenient. At the supermarket, frozen food is stored separately from canned food. If you don’t know where to get it, feel free to ask supermarket staff. After getting the food, just follow the instructions to make your meals correctly. Some require frying instead of putting in the microwave.
Frozen food in Vietnam might not be stored as long as food in your home country. So, make sure you take a careful look at the expiration date before you buy. Citimart offers more food with Western style in comparison with other supermarkets. You might be lucky enough to find your favorite brands at Citimart also.
If you want to purchase food in bulk, you should visit Metro hypermarket (equivalent to Sam’s Club or Canada Superstore) as long as you have a Metro membership card. Vietnamese food might have different taste from yours and you might not be quite sure which food to get, why don’t you try one of each kind and come back to get some more when you know what your favorites are? To avoid long queues at the check-out, it is advisable that you go to supermarkets on weekdays.
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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.
If you have a family and want to visit places with little noise and traffic, you may take your family to museums, historical relics or traditional music theaters because these places barely have local people visiting so there are not too many people around. Below are some suggested popular places that you might consider:
- Thang Long Imperial City: This is a group of various historical relics in Hanoi with from Ly Dynasty a thousand year ago. The remained parts of these relics reveal many aspects of the lives inside royal palace in the past, and also information about the development of each dynasty in the history of Vietnam. Most of these relics such as Doan Mon Gate, The Flag Tower or 18 Hoang Dieu Relic are located in the central area of the city at Hoang Dieu or Dien Bien Phu Street.
- Ho Chi Minh Complex: This destination is the attractive complex, including some of the most fascinating attractions in Hanoi like Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where Uncle Ho is resting, Ho Chi Minh Museum and also the famous One Pillar Pagoda. You can take a cab and arrive at the complex’s entrance at Ngoc Ha Street to register and get in.
- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: the destination exhibits numerous information about lives, belief and culture of Vietnam’s ethnic groups. The museum is also quite interesting to children with various activities like museum tours, painting or watching movies about Vietnam ethnic communities and traditional games. The museum is truly a haven away from the noise of Hanoi, with green open space and very few people.
Family Travel Advice
Hanoi is not the best bet for some pedestrians, but if you really want to go for a walk, there are still some choices.
The Old quarter is supposed to be on your top list with many local shops and street vendors. Old houses with French colonial architectural style dotted along streets are all worth sightseeing. A walk in “night streets” (at weekend’s night markets) is even better with wonderful light and very local feel atmosphere. You would certainly feel the lively nightlife of Hanoi by visiting the Old Quarter at night.
Areas around Hoan Kiem Lake, Thanh Nien Road or Ly Thai To Park are better choices for people who want to contemplate the tranquility of Hanoi, or want to take photos. Another suitable place is Truc Bach Lakeside with wind blowing and the road lined with trees. The trail that curves around the lake has trees and water on the one side and many street vendors on the other. You can always stop for some ice cream or sweet treats along the way. So just off your taxi or tour bus for a while and enjoy a walk for a better health!
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.