There are a number of airlines operating flights from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City daily. Whichever air carriers you choose, you will land at the international terminal of Ho Chi Minh City Airport - the official name of which is Tan Son Nhat Airport. As of January 2012, this is the only airport that receives domestic and international passengers from Vietnam and all over the world. Below are some information and tips you might be interested in:
Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, is the biggest festival and holiday of a year in the country. In 2012, Vietnamese New Year will fall on Monday - January 23rd. Most public offices will be closed from Saturday (January 21st) and will be reopen on Monday (January 29th). The main Tet days are January 23rd, 24th and 25th.
Many attractions will be closed, while those like Hue citadel will be open during the three days of Tet with free admission. Cu Chi Tunnel, for your information, remains open during Tet holiday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.
For more information about Tet and Tet travel advice, read visit our Vietnamese Tet page or take a look at the following articles:
In HCMC, latest 2D and 3D movies can be seen at Galaxy Cinema or CGV Cinema (Megastar Cineplex). These are currently the only two cinemas that retain English dub or have English subtitle.
Schedules can be seen online at the website of Galaxy Cinema or CGV Cinema. Online booking is also available. You can choose either to pay immediately or pay later. If you choose to pay later, you just need to arrive at the cinema at least 45 minutes prior to the showing time to pay for your tickets. Besides, you can check out these websites to know about concurrent promotions. Price is a little bit higher in Megastar Cineplex (at least $6 for a 3D ticket and $4.5 for a 2D ticket at noon and $1-$2 extra in the evening and on weekends).
It is recommended that you book tickets for the latest 3D movies online because they might have run out of seat when you get there, especially on weekends.
Ho Chi Minh City Cinemas:
Address 1: Hùng Vương Plaza, 7th floor, 126 Hung Vuong, District 5,HCMC
Address 2: CT Plaza,10th floor, 60A Truong Son, Ward 2, Tân Bình District, HCMC
Address 3: Parkson Paragon, 5th floor, 03 Nguyen Luong Bang, District 7, HCMC
Address 1: 116 Nguyen Du, District 1, HCMC
Address 2: 2/230 Nguyen Trai, District 1, HCMC
Address 3: 246 Nguyen Hong Dao, Tân Bình District, HCMC
There are two options to renew your visa in HCMC. You can either have a travel agency do it for you or do it on your own. Some services charge you from $40 to $160 depending upon for how long you want to extend or renew your visa and what types of visas - multiple entry or single entry.
It often takes 5 working days to process. If you prefer to do it on your own, you first need to download the application form for visa renewal, replacement or modification, length of stay extension (Form N14/M). Then, fill in the form and attach it to your passport and bring both in person to the Immigration Office.
Vietnam Department of Immigration
Address: 161 Nguyen Du, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
In case you are sponsored or invited to stay longer in Vietnam, a certification signature from the chief of the receiving, sponsoring agency/organization of the applicant or of the Chief Police of the Ward/Commune where the sponsor resides is required. It costs you from $25 up to $100 for renewing a visa depending upon your length of stay you want to renew. If you are not clear what to choose, you can ask the officers for explanation.
Don’t forget to get a receipt when submitting your documents at the Immigration Office. On the due date, bring your receipt and personal ID to get back your passport with the new visa.
Motor rental service is available in Hanoi and you can easily find the shops which offer this service on main streets like Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Tran Hung Dao, and especially small streets in Hanoi Old Quarter like Hang Be, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Dinh Liet.
There are many kinds of motorbikes from the most popular ones in Vietnam like Wave, Dream, Viva… to favorite transportation means of backpackers like Simson, Minsk. The cost ranges from $6 to $50 per day depending on motor type.
Foreign tourists just has to leave one hard copy of his/her passport and one kind of identity papers like driving license or passport in the shop, then take the motor and begin a joyful trip. These rented motor taxi is usually empty of gas so you will need to find a gas station to fill it up (see How much fuel costs in Vietnam).
Monthly motorcycle rent is also available with Rentabike (www.rentabikehanoi.com/) starting from $50 a month. If you plan to stay long term in Hanoi, you may purchase a used motorbike from a fellow expat - such as visiting New Hanoian classifieds section.
Question: Is there any place I could play paintball in Ho Chi Minh City?
Answer: In the city center, you may not find a place for paintball. However, if you travel 70 km away from the center and reach Cuchi Tunnel, you can have the feeling of a gun there. Besides discovering the tunnel, they offer the paintball service. A bullet is charged at VND 4,000 each.
Question: Should I bargain at Ben Thanh Market?
Answer: Yes, you should. It may be your interesting experience with Vietnamese locals. If you do it well, you can pick up a few good bargains which are less than one third of the initial asking price. For example, if a seller says it costs 90,000 VND, you can bargain to get it for more or less 30,000 VND.
Taking place every Sunday’s morning, Bac Ha is the local market where ethnic communities living in Lao Cai Province gather to exchange and trade goods. Bac Ha Market attracts tourists from all over Vietnam as well as foreigners for the original and diverse features of culture. People can visit Bac Ha Market by catching buses from Lao Cai Terminal or Sapa Terminal, as it is located 70km far from Lao Cai City and 80km from Sapa Town.
Every day, there are three buses departing from Lao Cai Terminal at 6 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m., with the fare around VND 70,000. In addition, passengers who travel by train can get off at Pho Lu station, which is only 50km far from the market; and then use local buses or motorbike service.
From Sapa, tourists have several alternatives to go to Bac Ha Market: buses or motorbike. There are direct buses from Sapa Terminal with the ticket price of VND 80,000; and it will take up to three hours to reach Bac Ha Market.
Tourists can also hire motorbike (Minsk is the most popular) for VND 100,000/day and enjoy the wildly picturesque sceneries on the way to Bac Ha. The route passes through Ban Phiet; then following Highway 70 for about 40-50km, turning left at the three-way crossroad leading to Bac Ha.
Tips: Use our Route Planner Tool (http://routeplanner.vietnamonline.com/) to find the best way to get from Sapa to Bac Ha.
Question: What is carry-on baggage allowance for Vietnam Airlines?
Answer: According to Vietnam Airline’s policy, each Economy Class passenger can carry 1 piece of baggage on board, meanwhile, each Business Class passenger can carry two pieces. Each piece has a maximum weight of 7kg and the sum of three dimensions is required to not exceed 115cm (56 cm x 36 cm x 23 cm) or (22 x 14 x 9 inches). In case your hand baggage exceeds the required weights and dimensions, Vietnam Airlines has rights to refuse to carry your hand baggage and request the baggage to be transferred as checked baggage.
Here are some suggested hotels that you can consider when you come to Ho Chi Minh City:
- Liberty 4 Hotel (265 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1): This is one of the three star hotels name Liberty in Ho Chi Minh city and the nearby area. This hotel is a proper choice with the lowest price of roughly USD42 for one night. The room is well equipped with adequate facilities like TV, private toilet, Air conditioners…
- Empress Hotel (136 Bui Thi Xuan, District 1): This is not a huge hotel, but still attractive to the costumers with the unique and beautiful decoration inside. Also, the attitude of the staff and the service here are also the vantages of this hotel. The price for a night at this hotel is USD36 for the ROH room.
- Kelly Hotel (42-44 Thu Hoa Khuan, District 1): The hotel is located near Ben Thanh market, one of the most attractive places in Ho Chi Minh City. This hotel has warm atmosphere with ingenious decoration that fascinate the tourists to come in. The price of this hotel is around USD 38 to 42 for a night in one good room with enough facilities.
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.