Question: Hi, I and my wife would like to take a cruise in Halong Bay. We are wondering whether Halong Bay cruise is suitable for us - both are in our late 60’s? We wouldn’t be interested in activities like kayaking, climbing, or snorkeling.
Answer: A typical program of a Halong Bay cruise consists of many activities: energizing activities like climbing, kayaking, snorkeling; sightseeing tours to well-known attractions such as Surprising Cave, Floating Fishing Village, Pearl Farm; on-board activities like cooking demonstration, spa.... This means you have many options to enjoy Halong Bay cruise at leisure. If you don’t like kayaking, swimming or something else, you can sit on the boat, sip a cup of delicious cocktails, take a massage, or enjoy beautiful vistas of the Bay yourself .
However, please kindly be reminded that you should make clear with the cruise’s company or agent to ensure that they let you stay on board because some cruises off load you to other activities so that they can return to the pier to pick up new passengers.
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.
Question: Should I visit Sapa in late-January and early-February?
Answer: It depends. You are advised to check the weather forecast before starting your trip because the weather is now unpredictable. However, normally, this is the time when Sapa is getting colder and colder. Snow often falls in Sapa in these months. So, if you can adapt to the freezing cold weather and love admiring snow in Sapa, go ahead! On the other hand, choose another time to visit the town.
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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.
Normally you can bring any currency that you want to Vietnam, as long as you exchange that money into Vietnam Dong but USD is the most widely accepted one. You can also use USD or Euro to make payment in Vietnam, especially in hotel, restaurants or some shops in the tourists areas.
To exchange you currency into Vietnam Dong, there are many ways for you to choose. The first way is to do it right at the airport when you land. You can also exchange currency in any bank in Hanoi, but ANZ bank or HSBC branch are recommended as they are international banks with better customer service.
You should never exchange currency with the street vendors as their money might be not guaranteed in quality. About international credit card, you can use it in Vietnam to make payment, but there is only limited place, mostly big supermarkets, restaurants, hotel or malls accept this kind of payment. Therefore, prepare enough cash on your purse is more suitable in Hanoi than carry an credit card.
Believe it or not, it is a lot easier to find a free wireless network hotspots in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City than major cities in North America. In Vietnam, visitors can get free access to the Internet at some places:
1. Coffee shops:
Free Wi-fi is available at most coffee shops in Hanoi, Danang, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City. A coffee shop is a great place when you are waiting for someone and need to access the Internet in the mean time. Or it can be a place for a short appointment with your clients as well. All you need to pay is your drink which varies from $1 to $2.5. If the Wi-fi is secured by passwords, don’t hesitate to ask the staff for it. They are willing to give you without any surcharge. Some suggestions: Trung Nguyen Coffee Shop, Highlands Coffee Shop, Gloria Jeans, Angel in U.S.
2. Fast food franchises:
At fast food franchises in Hanoi Ho Chi Minh City, customers can both have meals and finish their work on the Internet. KFC, Lotteria, Jolibee, Pizza Hut are four major franchises in Vietnam.
3. Hotels and office buildings:
Some free wi-fi hotspots can also be found inside and outside hotels and office buildings. Check with your hotel receptionist and see if they have complimentary internet service. In case of office buildings, unlike coffee shops, these free wi-fi hot spots don’t offer a comfortable seat in an air-conditioned room with a tasty drink. Therefore, it might not be your choice at noon when the sun is shining too brightly or it is raining.
It is highly recommended that you bring a first-aid-kit with any of your trip. In addition, you might also want to include medication in case of diarrhea, sore-throat or those that you are on use. Consult your family doctor or a travel clinic for further details. If you head first to city centers such as Hanoi, Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City, you can purchase your medication when you arrive.
You can use American dollars for sure, though in major tourist cities such as Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City. When you get to Vietnam, you can change the currency to Vietnam Dong, which will help your shopping time a lot. Most shops and stores will apply very low rate when you pay in dollars so we suggest you to avoid using the dollars whenever possible.
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 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 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 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
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.