FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does Vietnam mean?

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.

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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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What is the best way to travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City?

There are several methods to get from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City such as travelling by motors, cars or airplane, but the most interesting way should be travel by train. Thanks to the significant investment of the government, the Unification Trains (also called North-South Express Train) now connect Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in one integrated route, with the direct travel time often less than 40 hours. The magnificent scenery outside of the train windows is also the attractive point of travelling by trains. Along the road from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, there are a considerable number of beautiful attractions such as mountains, valleys, oceans and forests for you to witness and enjoy. The only worth considering point of travelling by train is that the safety of the train is not totally ensured with sometimes serious accidents occurred on the route, but It is still in the acceptable level, especially in the modern trains. More information about the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City can be found at the North – South Express Train of this site.

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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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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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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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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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Is it possible to withdraw US dollars from ATMs in big cities in Vietnam?

Question: Is it possible to withdraw US dollars from ATMs in big cities in Vietnam?

Answer: No, it isn’t, even if in the biggest cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, and so forth. You can withdraw VND only!

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When is Vietnamese new year 2012? Will Cu Chi Tunnel be open during Tet?

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:

• 5 things to know about travelling during Tet

• Tet in Ho Chi Minh City - what to do

• 7 tips for travellers in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet

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I am interested in advertising for my travel agency on Vietnam Online. Who should I contact?

Hello,

We do not have any advertising plan for business. If you are a travel business and would like to get listed in our directory you can contact us: editor@vietnamonline.com

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Should we use travelers check? ATMs?

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.

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