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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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 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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Can a foreigner drive motorbike in Vietnam?

Question: I am planning to make a motorbike tour in Vietnam. I just wanna ask can I drive motorbike in the country as local people still do?

Answer: Maybe you can but please take note the following information. The international driving license is not recognized in Vietnam, hence, for legally driving a motorbike/ a car, you need to get a Vietnamese license. If you do not have Vietnam license, there is no travel insurance for you. In addition, Vietnam’s traffic law has some different rules from Western countries’. For example, you are required to drive on the right side of the road, not on the left side as in your country. If you can deal well with these problems, you can travel by motorbike in Vietnam.

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