FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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 new to Ho Chi Minh City and I want to find some reasonable hotel under USD50 per night. Could you give me some suggestions?

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.

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Travel to Vietnam During Tet

Question: Should I travel to Vietnam during Tet?

Answer: The answer is yes or no depending on you.

First of all, in terms of transportation, if you plan to visit Vietnam on Tet holiday, you should book transferring services (airplane, train, car…) in advance. Why? Because this is the time of Vietnamese family reunion, so airplanes, trains and coaches are often fully booked. In addition, be ready that you may have to pay more for the fare at this special occasion.

Secondly, referring to accommodation, hotels in this time are abundant. You can book any room types in any hotels you like without worrying about the overbooked condition. However, similar to the fare of transportation, the accommodation expenses may increase because companies have to pay more for staff working in the most important vacation in their country.

Having said that, the most interesting fact when visiting Vietnam on Tet Holiday is that you can see how Vietnamese people celebrate their biggest holiday in a year. Streets will be wonderful decorated with eye-catching items such as colorful flowers, national flags, lanterns, and twinkling lights. This is also a wonderful chance to see traditional trees in blossom like peach flowers, apricot flowers, or kumquat trees and try traditional cuisines which only appear in Tet such as Chung Cake, Picked Onion, and so on. The streets at this time are very quiet and peaceful because people will spend most of their time for in-house parties. No crowd, no noisy! Especially, don’t miss the countdown moments when you can listen to “Happy New Year” of ABBA and enjoy the firework show in Hoan Kiem Lake (Hanoi), Bitexco Tower (Saigon), Dragon Bridge (Da Nang)…

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What is Vietnam weather like in February?

Question: What is Vietnam weather like in February?

Answer: The weather in the North Vietnam in February is opposite to the Southern part of the country. In the northern cities/towns such as Hanoi, Halong, Sapa, the weather becomes colder, meanwhile, the southern parts like Saigon or Vung Tau receive sunshine and warm. For more information about Vietnam weather in February and what to expect if you travel Vietnam in this month, please visit http://www.vietnamonline.com/weather/february.html

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I am planning to go to Hanoi in December, can you please let me know whether the weather will be ok for sightseeing and walking outside at that time? I am from Washington D.C.

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. 

Enjoy Hanoi!

Suggested Readings:
Hanoi Travel Guide
Hanoi weather in December

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How safe is Vietnam?

The safest place in the world can also be the most dangerous and vice versa. It also depends what you mean by “safe”.

In general, Vietnam is safe compared with most other Southeast Asian countries in terms of political stability. There is hardly any riots and absolutely no bomb attacks. The only concern is about road safety.

Protect yourself by taking a ride with trustable bus company, though they can be more expensive. Please see “safety” section for more details.

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Opening hours

Question: What are the opening hours of the St Joseph Cathedral, One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Literature's Temple, History Museum, Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnamese Women's Museum, Keang nam Hanoi tower, Perfume Pagoda and Bamboo Wing?

Answer: Please find below the opening hours of the above tourist attractions:

• St. Joseph Cathedral: Opening hours for Catholic rituals

Weekdays: 5:30 am and 6:30 pm

Saturdays: 6:00 pm

Sundays: 5:00 am, 7:00 am, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm

• Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum opens on Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun in the morning, from 8:00am to 11:00am

• Ho Chi Minh Museum opens every Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun and Mon + Fri morning.

• One Pillar Pagoda opens all days in week, in the morning from 6:00 am to 11:00 am, and in the afternoon from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

• Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo prison open daily from 8am to 5pm

• Keangnam Hanoi tower opens daily from 7am to 9pm

• Perfume Pagoda opens daily, you should visit at day time by joining one tour departing from Hanoi

• Bamboo Wing opens daily, it is located in Dai Lai Resort, Vinh Phuc Province. It is around 40km away from Hanoi.

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Where can I go for a walk in Hanoi?

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! 

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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 you use american dollars in Vietnam?

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.

In International airport such as Hanoi Airport or Ho Chi Minh City Airport there will be currency exchange booths for you to change the currency. Current exchange rate is 1 USD ~ 21,600 VND.

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How much is Vietnam's airport departure tax? Do I have to pay in cash?

Airport departure tax for domestic flight is $2 and for international departure tax is $14. The taxes are included in the air tickets, even low cost carriers like Air Asia often include the airport tax so you do not have to worry about paying extra. 

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