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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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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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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Where to go in Vietnam in January?

Question: Where to go in Vietnam in January?

Answer: January weather is cold and occasionally chilly in the Northern Vietnam but gradually warmer when heading southwards. The temperature in the Northern parts, typically, Hanoi, is around 150C. Meanwhile, in the Central and Southern regions like Hoi An or Saigon, the temperature fluctuates around 200C and 300C respectively. With the weather conditions like this, the best places suggested for travelers to visit Vietnam in January is in the Central and Southern cities/ provinces such as Saigon, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hue, Hoi An, etc. Nonetheless, if you still desire to visit Hanoi or other Northern provinces, you can visit Huong Pagoda (Perfume Pagoda), Halong Bay, and Sapa. Perfume Pagoda in January is cool and windy but pretty tranquil. The main festival of Perfume Pagoda often takes place in Late-February, therefore, it is hardly crowded in this month. Besides, it is a bit chilly to visit Halong Bay and Sapa as well, however, if you want to avoid the crowd, this is the best time to go.

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Are there any restrictions on photography in Vietnam?

Yes. Vietnam is a country with full of photographic opportunities with such diverse landscape, beautiful coastline and mountain. However, please do note that photography in or near military installations, airports or similar locations is strictly prohibited. Anyone caught doing so will have the film, and possibly the camera or camcorder, confiscated and may be arrested.

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When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

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

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

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 South

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

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We have been invited to a friend’s family home for a typical Vietnamese meal. We want to bring a gift to them. Is a bottle of wine or flowers appropriate? Or is there anything particular that we are e

Hi,

Thank you for your question.

Frankly, there is no strict rule or code for gifts and presents when you are invited to enjoy a family meal in Vietnam. Without any wine or flower, the diner guests are still warmly welcomed by hospitable Vietnamese hosts.

However, fruit is always a nice gift and seems to be well received. So, you are highly recommended to pick up some nice fruits for the dessert. Besides, one could bring something nutritious for the elder, some alcohol, pastries for the family, or candy for the kids, though these gifts may make the dinner a lot more formal than it should.

You are also recommended to ask the host if there is anything you could help, and be willing to give them a hand in preparing the meal. Remember to wait for the oldest to eat first, ask once before the meal and once after your finish.

Enjoy the meal.

Read our Article "Visiting a Vietnamese Family" for more detailed insights. 

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Hi, I have only 2 weeks in Vietnam and I want to include Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City in the trip. Is that over-ambitious? Should I just stay at some of these and if so, what would

Thank for your question. If you have only 2 weeks, it might be a bit over-ambitious to do all of those above-mentioned destinations. Instead, you can choose some of those for discovery. For example, a trip to Hanoi, Hue and Nha Trang is suitable for the 2 week length. In such an itinerary, you can have a 5 day stay in Hanoi capital to come and visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ba Dinh Square, Old Quater, Hoan Kiem Lake. You might include Halong Bay in your itinerary as well.  

The next 5 days can be spent in Hue and Hoi An to discover the forbidden city and the surrounding areas such as DMZ zone, Hoi An, My Son Sanctuary, especially Hue's typical food.

The rest of the time can be finished nicely with a short visit to Nha Trang, a luxury paradise for travellers. You can also take a look at our suggested travel itinerary for more information how to spend your two weeks in Vietnam!

Have a meaningful trip to Vietnam!

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What is the most popular food in Vietnam?

Pho is arguably the most popular food in Vietnam. It is served both at restaurants and in families, eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This famous dish is basically rice noodle soup but the broth is seasoned in a very unique way that appeals to almost everyone.

You can try pho in one of the street corners where every local gather or at more upscale restaurants such as Pho Vuong or Pho 24. Pho 24 also has a vegetarian option for pho, replacing beef and chicken with a variety of mushrooms.

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Where can I find the visa exemption form for Vietnamese overseas? What is the process?

Greetings,

Please visit our page on visa exemption for Vietnamese American where we explain in details the process of obtaining a visa exemption for Vietnamese overseas. You can follow the link next to the Application form to fill out an e-form and make a hard copy of the completed form. The rest of the process is also fully explained on the page.

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What to do on the long plane trip to Vietnam?

The long plan trip across the ocean can be a nightmare for many travellers, including those experienced ones. A plane trip to Vietnam, unless departing from Hong Kong or Southeast Asia, will be a great pain for some. For example, from Toronto or New York to Hanoi, it takes 17 hours onboard, excluding the transiting time. Here is what you can do to alleviate the long trip pain:

1. Read your travel guide book: Sections in the Lonely Planet such as History and Geography are often scantily skimmed when you arrive. The time on the plane, however, can be an ideal period to know more about Vietnam. Imagine when you talk to the locals, you can be proud to think of yourself as "just-not-another-tourist".

2. Start your travel dairy: the boring landscape inside an airplane, with neither internet nor your favourite baseball match, can be an ideal environment for reflection. Think about where you are now, what you have prepared for the trip and what you are expecting. You will have fun revisiting these pages upon returning to your home country.

3. Make your to-do list: what food do you want to try, where do you want to visit, what do you want to learn, whom will you be telling your story along the way. Making to-do list can be a great way to make yourself satisfied after the trip to Vietnam.

4. Talk to your seat-mate: you never know whom you are sitting next to, until you TRY. Break the ice and make a new friend. Why not? You are going to Vietnam, a most-likely-totally-foreign place anyway.

5. Sleep: Sleeping is the best way to kill time and to help you avoid jetlag later when you land. Avoid caffeinated drinks whenever possible.

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