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 have some question about the weather in Vietnam. What it’s like in December?

The weather in Vietnam in December is totally reverse between in the North and the South. The weather in the North at that time is extreme with freezing atmosphere and dry air in almost any place. The temperature in this month can go under 0oC in some place, and snow and ice can be seen in this area, mostly in Sapa, Moc Chau or Dong Van. This is not a good time to visit any destination in this region. Weather in December in the Middle and the South of Vietnam is different from the North with warmer, rainier and more pleasant climates. The temperature in this month is kept around 20-25oC, which are perfect to the foreigners to come to avoid the extreme winter in their home countries.

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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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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 places with free wifi in Vietnam?

Believe it or not, it is a lot easier to find a free wireless network hotspots in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City than major cities in North America. In Vietnam, visitors can get free access to the Internet at some places:

1. Coffee shops:

Free Wi-fi is available at most coffee shops in Hanoi, Danang, Hoi An and  Ho Chi Minh City. A coffee shop is a great place when you are waiting for someone and need to access the Internet in the mean time. Or it can be a place for a short appointment with your clients as well. All you need to pay is your drink which varies from $1 to $2.5. If the Wi-fi is secured by passwords, don’t hesitate to ask the staff for it. They are willing to give you without any surcharge. Some suggestions: Trung Nguyen Coffee Shop, Highlands Coffee Shop, Gloria Jeans, Angel in U.S.

2. Fast food franchises:

At fast food franchises in Hanoi Ho Chi Minh City, customers can both have meals and finish their work on the Internet. KFC, Lotteria, Jolibee, Pizza Hut are four major franchises in Vietnam. 

3. Hotels and office buildings:

Some free wi-fi hotspots can also be found inside and outside hotels and office buildings. Check with your hotel receptionist and see if they have complimentary internet service. In case of office buildings, unlike coffee shops, these free wi-fi hot spots don’t offer a comfortable seat in an air-conditioned room with a tasty drink. Therefore, it might not be your choice at noon when the sun is shining too brightly or it is raining.

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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 can I do during Tet in HCMC?

Tet is one of the most exciting festivals throughout the year in Vietnam. It is a wise choice to visit Saigon in Tet because there are a lot of activities going on on this special occasion.

Nguyen Hue Flower Street on Nguyen Hue Boulevard

The whole street is decorated with many kinds of flower and plants. However familiar you are with Nguyen Hue Street in daily life, you are still amazed how beautiful it is during Tet. The theme for the whole street is different from year to year. Thousands of colorful flower baskets of all kinds: orchids, daisy and carnations, gathered and arranged in an artistic way, will surely impress visitors. A gorgeous outfit with a nice camera can work out a good memorial album of Tet in Saigon. Spring can’t be better with the warmth of sunshine, the colorful flowers and happy people smiling everywhere on the street!

Flower Festival at Tao Dan Park

Tao Dan Park, located on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai-Cach Mang Thang Tam crossroads, is a place where Flower Festival is held every year. Different from Nguyen Hue Flower Street, Flower Festival brings visitors more chances to see much more kinds of flowers in an open and vast area. Besides, rocks and limestone are also exhibited. In another area, there are Vietnamese traditional games, such as: beating the pot with blind eyes or walking on a thin bridge (Cau Khi).

While Nguyen Hue Flower Street is free, Tao Dan park charges about $1-$1.5 for entrance ticket to the Flower Festival.

Besides these two major activities, you can also see lion and dragon dances in front of luxury hotels on the first days of Lunar New Year. Lion and dragon dances are believed to bring prosperity and luck for people in the upcoming year. Another fun activity to attend is to try the largest Banh Tet, a kind of tradition cake in the South Vietnam at Dam Sen Amusement Park (03 Hoa Binh St, Wd 3, Dist 11, HCMC) or join the fruit festival at Suoi Tien Theme Park (Tan Phu Ward, Dist. 9). 

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Names of walking streets in Hanoi Old Quarter?

Question: Names of walking streets in Hanoi Old Quarter?

Answer: From 2014, authorities in Hanoi officially opened six walking streets in its famous Hanoi Old Quarter including:

1.    Hang Buom Street

2.    Ma May Street

3.    Hang Giay Street

4.    Luong Ngoc Quyen Street

5.    Ta Hien Street

6.    Dao Duy Tu Street

All vehicles are prohibited on these streets every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 7.00pm to 12.00pm in the summer and from 6.00pm to 12.00pm in the winter.

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Buckwheat Flower Season in Ha Giang?

Question: Hi, I’m planning to visit Ha Giang in April. Can I see Buckwheat Flower Season in this month?

Answer: Buckwheat Flower or Tam Giac Mach in Vietnamese is a special flower growing in northern mountainous provinces of Vietnam. It is noted that this flower doesn’t grow naturally, it is planted by farmers, therefore, the time of buckwheat season really depends on these farmers.

Normally, buckwheat flowers are in blossom in October & November in Ha Giang Province and in March & April in Bac Giang Province. Hence, if you want to see buckwheat flower season, you should visit Bac Giang Province in April, instead of Ha Giang as your planning. In addition to admiring the beauty of buckwheat flowers, you should try wine and cake made from them, it is very special.

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How much do people generally tip in Vietnam?

Previously, Vietnamese people did not have the habit of tipping; however, a boom in tourism allows this western life style to be adapted by the local. The most common situations to give tips are eating at restaurants, taking a taxi or hiring a tour guide. It all depends on the quality of services they provide you as well as yours’ satisfaction. To a taxi driver, 50 cents to $1is greatly appreciated, but not common. In a luxury restaurant, you can leave the change or a VND 50,000 note (about $2.5) which is really generous. In some upscale spa or hotels, a service fee of 10% is often added, so tipping is not necessary.

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I’m going to travel to Hanoi and want to taste some street food here. Can you please give me some suggestions?

Welcome to Hanoi.

There are variety of street food here which is offered by both vendors and small shops that utilize the pavement to accommodate customers.

Just walking around the Sword Lake or Hanoi Old Quarter for a while, tourists easily meet a number of vendors selling “bánh rán” (deep-fried glutinous rice donut), spiced fruit, “tào phớ” (tofu pudding), “cốm” (green young rice), boiled corn on the cob, or grilled sweet potatoes. Besides, one can enjoy “Phở” and other kinds of noodle for breakfast or lunch in various small shops. Some streets which is famous for its typical food located in Hanoi Old Quarter hat you should drop by is To Tich (selling sweetened mixed fruits), Ho Hoan Kiem (selling sweet, chilli and sour grated salad), Tam Thuong lane (selling deep-fried fermented pork roll).

Read The 5 street vendors you cannot miss in Hanoi for information.

Enjoy!

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