FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Should I bargain at Ben Thanh Market?

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.

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Train ticket from HCM to Nha Trang?

Question: Is it possible to book a train ticket from HCM to Nha Trang?

Answer: Yes, it is possible. Currently, there are 6 train routes running from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, namely, SE2, SE4, SE6, SE8, SNT2, and SE22. All of these routes are operated by Reunification Express Train. Normally, each train has 3 or 4 types of seat including hard seat, soft seat, hard berth (6 berths), and soft berth (4 berths). All are equipped with air-conditioner.

For your information, the railway from Saigon to Nha Trang is about 411 kilometers and it will take passengers approximately 8 hours. Ho Chi Minh Railway Station is located at No. 1, Nguyen Thong Street, Ward 9, District 3, meanwhile, Nha Trang Railway Station’s address is at No. 17, Thai Nguyen Street, Phuoc Tan District.

Please see the following table for your reference and be kindly noted that the information was taken in January 2016. It may change anytime by service’s providers.

Train No. Time Price (US$)
Hard Seat Soft Seat Hard Berth Soft Berth
SE2 19:30 - 03:13 n/a 33 41 43
SE4 22:00 - 04:52 n/a 35 42 45
SE6 09.00 - 16:21 30 33 41 43
SE8 06:00 - 13:18 30 33 41 43
SNT2 20:30 - 05:30 30 32 44 47
SE22 12:05 - 19:46 30 31 39 N/A
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Should I visit Sapa in late-January and early-February?

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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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 transport my pets with me by train? How about flights?

You can fly with pets inside Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines, all you need is 24-36 hour notice in advance. You cannot, however, bring your pet on the train, as far as I am concerned.

More information about flying with your pet on Vietnam Airlines Website.  Or visit our page on Bringing your pet to Vietnam for advice & tips.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have other questions!

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Paintball place in Ho Chi Minh City?

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.

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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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Where can I watch the latest films in Hanoi?

Most cinemas in Hanoi, like Thang Tam, Dan Chu, Sinh Vien, National Cinema Center, only show films with dubbed Vietnamese and no English subtitle. Thus far, choices for foreigners in Vietnam in term of cinemas are very limited.

In Hanoi, only 2 cinemas provide original films with Vietnamese subtitle: Megastar at 6th floor, Vincom tower (191 Ba Trieu Str.) and Platinum Cineplex, 4th floor (The Garden center, Me Tri, Tu Liem). Both cinemas provide films in 3D and 2D, but the prices are different. Megastar asks for around VND 70,000  for a normal movie ticket and VND100,000 for a 3D seat, meanwhile Platinum’s prices are just VND 50,000 and 80,000, respectively. Compared to other local cinemas, the prices are quite high, but it is worth every penny with high quality movies and comfortable seats. Megastar even provides couple seats in Valentine period and other discounts for students during the week.

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Can I get by with just English in Vietnam

The short answer is: YES, you totally can.
The not-so-short answer is: Yes, you can, but it also depends on where you go in Vietnam.

To your relief, most foreigners visiting Vietnam know barely any Vietnamese words but "Xin Chao - Hello" and "Cam On - Thank you". That is quite enough vocabulary for a 2 or 3 week trip to Vietnam. English is the most popular language in Vietnam after Vietnamese, and in the cities, even when you try to communicate in Vietnamese, the local younger people will just respond to you in English.

If you plan to take a break from the metropolitan areas and all the touristy places, you will have a harder time communicating your thoughts, ideas and needs. Body languages still work but a little bit more Vietnamese will save you tons of time and frustration. The good news is that, most Vietnamese people are very friendly and even when they do not know a word of English, they will try to help you out in all circumstances. 

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Can you please advise me where to shop and massage / spa with good and reasonable price? So far I know the popular places to shop is Ben Thanh Market , is there any else you can advise for me?

Hi,

Some shopping venues that you should check out: Personally, I highly recommend Saigon Square (77-78 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street) which is the heaven for shopping with good prices. The shopping center is just a step away from Ben Thanh market. Yet, where to shop also depends on what you want to buy. For example, for camping facilities, you could only find at Dan Sinh market.

In terms of spa, Spa Tropic is great place that provides you the best mind-healing treatment. (http://www.spatropic.com/). Happy Ending Massage Yuan is also a good choice for travelers with tight budget (about $10-15 for food and body massage) and it is quite central ( on Le Thanh Tong street). Good luck !

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Where can I find dog food in HCMC?

There are two options to get food for your pet in Ho Chi Minh City: Supermarkets and street stores

In Supermarkets:

You can easily find dog food at supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City. There are a variety of brands you can choose from. Unlike Walmarts or other franchising stores, every supermarket in Vietnam has different ways to arrange their products. Therefore, if you are unsure where to get dog food and don’t want to spend time walking around, just ask a cashier or any supermarket staff for direction.

One advantage when buying dog food at the supermarket is fixed price and guaranteed quality. A drawback is there will be a long queue of people checking out at the cashiers during peak hours or the weekends. If you don’t want to wait for long, you can go to the supermarket in the morning or in the afternoon on weekdays. Some recommended supermarkets are Citimart, Coopmart, Lottemart and Maximark

In Street Stores:

Dog food can also be found outside of supermarkets in some pet shops or pet clinics. Unless you are familiar with roads in HCMC, it might be a little hard to find these shops. An advantage about buying dog food at street stores rather than supermarket is being free of queuing and waiting. These shops are small and the sellers often handle a customer each time so you can have advice or recommendations from the sellers.

A drawback is that its quality is not guaranteed. Some stores are just stocked with low quality pet food made in China because it is cheap and more profitable than other brands.  Some recommended pet stores are Saigon Pet clinic (33 street 41 Thao Dien, District 2), KC Pets (6 Hoa Su, Phu Nhuan district), Petit Ange (out in D7. 23 My Hoang, Phu My Hung , Tan Phong ward, District 7).  You may find other stores while walking around also! 

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