FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The best budget hotel to stay in Hanoi?

Question: The best budget hotel to stay in Hanoi?

Answer: Hanoi is a well-known capital of Vietnam and a tourist hub of world-wide travelers. Due to the increasing demands of many tourists to find a good accommodation, nowadays, there are many hotel types in Hanoi to meet travelers’ expectation. Referring to the budget hotels, the average prices of these hotels fluctuate from USD23 to 95. Depending on your budget and criteria, you can see the following link and choose the most suitable for yourself.

http://www.vietnamonline.com/hotel/hanoi/more/budget.html

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What is the weather of Hanoi like in January?

January is undoubtedly the coldest month in Hanoi (see Hanoi monthly average temperature). Though the idea of having 7-12 Celsius degree seems to be associated with a nice, cool and no-sweat atmosphere, the reality is rather dark and ugly. The drizzle that goes on days and nights - though not all the time - make the air wet, humid and chilly beyond imagination. The worst part is probably strong cold wind AND no central heating system available indoors!  

The average temperature in Hanoi in January falls between 13 and 19 degree, not to mention the colder days which can make your trip rather miserable without warm clothing. The good news is that if you cannot afford to take them in your luggage from home, Hanoi has plenty to offer when it comes to shopping for clothes.

Tips: Essential things for Hanoi in January: scarf, mitten, thin layers of warm sweaters, socks and long-johns if you are from a tropical country.

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What is Vietnam currency and what is the exchange rate with dollars?

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.

• History of Vietnam Dong

Vietnamese bank notes images

Online currency converter

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What is electricity like in Vietnam?

Vietnam uses 127/220 V, 50Hz electricity. The power plug is mostly the 2 parallel flat prongs, 2 parallel prongs- French type (round) and the 2 parallel flat prongs with an earth connector. If your appliance uses different type of power socket, you can always buy an adapter from most tourist area or at the airport.

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How can I travel overland from China to Hanoi?

From China to Hanoi, you have some routes. Each of them has their own advantages:

1. Kunming - Hekou - Lao Cai - Hanoi:

Chinese side has no train in this route. From Kunming to Hekou border gate, if you travel by bus, it will take almost 10 hours, including lunch time. From Hekou to Lao Cai town, it lasts 10 minutes by motorbike/taxi. The next step is to go to Lao Cai railway station and find a train ticket to Hanoi (overnight train). So, it is about 790 km (490km by bus and 300km by train) from Kunming to Hanoi.

2. Nanning - PingXiang - Lang Son - Hanoi:

By bus: Huu Nghi Quan (Friendship Pass) is about 17km from Lang Son town. It is wise to arrive at Friendship Pass (customs and immigration) before 4:30 PM, because they do not stamp foreign passports after that time. After that you can take a minibus tour to Hanoi. It costs VND 60,000 ($3) for this trip and it takes 3,5-4 hours.

By train: Beijing - Nanning – Hanoi trip takes you about 40 hours. You will need to change the train at Dong Dang border town, since the rail width in China is 1,4m, while in Vietnam it is only 1m.

3. Nanning - DongXing - MongCai - Ha Long - Hanoi:

There are direct buses from Nanning to Halong Bay, which start 8:00 am in the morning, from River South Bus Centre (Jiang Nan Ke Yun Zhong Xing). The bus passes the border at DongXing border town instead of Gate of Friendship. Total bus travel time from Nanning to Halong bay is 9 hours and it costs VND 3,000,000 ($150). You can also go by express boat from MongCai to Halong Bay then by bus to Hanoi, but it takes longer.

Related Readings:

Crossing the border between China and Vietnam
Vietnam Railway System
Tips for taking night train in Vietnam

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When is the best time to book cheap flights to Vietnam?

For those with a tight budget, the ideal season to fly to Vietnam should be March and April, or September and October. That is to say, the beginning and the end of tourism reason offer you the best deals. In these months, the flight fare could decrease by 5-10%, or even a drop of 30% compared to the price in the tourism season.

In other months, you could grasp reasonable ticket fares for the flights to Vietnam, but the price in the summer or on Tet Holiday is significantly more expensive.

Summer in Vietnam lasts from late May to late August, with various tourism activities in many places and attracts a considerable number of travellers . Tourists are certain to face more challenges to reserve and purchase desired flights ticket while the ticket fare, in general, is considerably higher than the normal season.

The same situation occurs during Christmas and Tet Holiday, but to more extreme degree because not only the tourists use airplane to travel, but also the overseas Vietnamese who come back to Vietnam to have get-togethers with their family, leading to over-booking on most international flights to Vietnam.

Conversely, travelling in between September - November, February - April is advantageous thanks to the seasonal deals and discounts from the airlines to encourage people to travel.

Related Readings:
Other tips to save your buck while you are in Vietnam
International Flights to Vietnam

Visit our Flight page for best flight rate and schedule of all domestic flights in Vietnam
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Where can I get a pair of flipflops or sandals in Hanoi?

Summer is the golden time of flip flops and sandals in general. The scorching weather prevents many people from wearing shoes; moreover flip flops/sandals are so much convenient to take off before entering some café, restaurants or even pagodas. There are two biggest places for this product, one is Le Duan Street and the other is Hang Dau Street.

As Le Duan Street mainly provides working clothes, like rubber boots, rain coat, security uniforms, flip flop/sandals are not their major products. The positive features are low price and durability, but the styles are limited and the design is quite rough (imagine Birkenstock and the likes).

Hang Dau has a better diversity of styles, colors and designs, and the prices are just slightly higher. Shops here also sell bamboo flip flops, which are very stylish in this hot weather, and high quality leather sandals, sometimes imported from Korean or Japan. You really should go outside and get one pair for your own. 

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How much should we tip a driver on a private tour?

For a private tour, $5 tip per day for the tour guide and half of it for the driver is acceptable. If you are pleased with the service provided and find the trip enjoyable, some more dollars might be a good motivation and they would be happy to receive because they are deserved to it.

Remember: 50,000 ($2.5) and 100,000 ($5) are considered big notes in Vietnam!

Read more about Tipping culture in Vietnam.

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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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Where can I buy English books in Hanoi?

It is quite hard to find a decent English bookstore in Hanoi, since the demand is pretty low and not frequent. The first and only English bookstore in Hanoi until now is Bookworm, which located on 44 Chau Long Street, near Truc Bach Lake. This bookstore trades only English books and magazines, both used and new, with a limitted French collection. There are also many discounted fictions if you want a quick read for your next trip.

Another bookstore, Trang Tien bookstore (44 Trang Tien Str., Hoan Kiem Dist.) also sells many English books, though it is mostly about learning and teaching. The majority of books here are still in Vietnamese.

In order to find English books, you might need to venture out to other book stores around the city. Phuong Nam company has three bookstores in Hanoi: one inside Vincom tower (191 Ba Trieu Str.), one at 20 Ly Thai To Str and one at 87 Lang Ha Str. All of them have foreign sections, with some books, magazines, artbooks and CDs/DVDs in English.

Fahasa bookstore (338 Xa Dan Str, Dong Da Dist) might be worth visiting as well, with around 100 English books of different types. Moreover, Fahasa recently open a new book store at 39 Kim Lien Moi Str., Dong Da Dist, doubling the number of English books, which include some famous classic novels such as Frankenstein, Gone with the wind, Breakfast at Tiffany, The lords of the rings, etc.

In addition, wandering around Dinh Le Str. (the so called book street of Hanoi), you can sometimes find good English books/novels/artbooks at quite low prices. In general, to find a good English book in Hanoi, you must have patience and time but the price is pretty reasonable. 

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I am an Australian with a Singapore permanent resident status, do I need a visa for Vietnam?

Hi,

Yes you need a visa for Vietnam. Only Singapore passport holder can come to Vietnam for a 30 day visit without a visa (see full list of countries with visa exemption agreement with Vietnam). 

Australians can get a visa to Vietnam in 2 ways: applying for one at the embassy in Canberra or consulate in Sydney. An alternative option is get one on arrival (read full instructions about how Australians can get a visa for Vietnam).

Hope this helps.

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