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.
It is highly recommended that you bring a first-aid-kit with any of your trip. In addition, you might also want to include medication in case of diarrhea, sore-throat or those that you are on use. Consult your family doctor or a travel clinic for further details. If you head first to city centers such as Hanoi, Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City, you can purchase your medication when you arrive.
Hanoi is not the best bet for some pedestrians, but if you really want to go for a walk, there are still some choices.
The Old quarter is supposed to be on your top list with many local shops and street vendors. Old houses with French colonial architectural style dotted along streets are all worth sightseeing. A walk in “night streets” (at weekend’s night markets) is even better with wonderful light and very local feel atmosphere. You would certainly feel the lively nightlife of Hanoi by visiting the Old Quarter at night.
Areas around Hoan Kiem Lake, Thanh Nien Road or Ly Thai To Park are better choices for people who want to contemplate the tranquility of Hanoi, or want to take photos. Another suitable place is Truc Bach Lakeside with wind blowing and the road lined with trees. The trail that curves around the lake has trees and water on the one side and many street vendors on the other. You can always stop for some ice cream or sweet treats along the way. So just off your taxi or tour bus for a while and enjoy a walk for a better health!
Theme parks in Ho Chi Minh City differ by games, decorating themes and services offered to their guests. Hence, the “should go” theme park varies from this to that based on your interest or time of traveling.
Dam Sen Water Park, located at no.3 Hoa Binh Street, District 11 is a “should go” theme park for any one who loves swimming and other exciting water-based activities like twisting in spiral pipe, jumping in the wave pool, or floating along the “wandering river” and so on. This is an ideal place for family tourists, especially who travel in summer time. Parents can relax themselves in massage pool, while children playing in the pool for kids. The advantage of Dam Sen Water Park is its easy reach - it takes only half an hour to get there from Ben Thanh market.
Suoi Tien Theme Park is also a popular choice, about 1 hour away from the city center. Suoi Tien is popular among international tourists for it paints the picture of Vietnam's history. Characters from fairy tales to legends are sculptured after and displayed all through the park. Game facilities are also of better quality than Dam Sen Park.
Lac Canh Dai Nam Van Hien or often called Dai Nam is a huge theme park located at 1765A Binh Duong Boulevard, just 1.5 hour’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City. This 500 ha site consists of an amusement section with modern games and exciting sports, a zoo with more than 1000 kinds of birds and animals, a spacious spiritual area with great temples, towers, statues and accommodation area with hotels in traditional architecture. The grandiose spiritual area on can be seen as the highlight for the park and makes Dai Nam become a destination for cultural tourism also.
Decide on your own how far you want to go and how much fun you want to get!
Vietnamese cooking styles are often based on fresh ingredients which can be easily bought at wet markets. However, a wide range of microwaveable food is available mostly at the supermarkets to satisfy the needs of busy people who do not have enough time for cooking or find cooking so inconvenient. At the supermarket, frozen food is stored separately from canned food. If you don’t know where to get it, feel free to ask supermarket staff. After getting the food, just follow the instructions to make your meals correctly. Some require frying instead of putting in the microwave.
Frozen food in Vietnam might not be stored as long as food in your home country. So, make sure you take a careful look at the expiration date before you buy. Citimart offers more food with Western style in comparison with other supermarkets. You might be lucky enough to find your favorite brands at Citimart also.
If you want to purchase food in bulk, you should visit Metro hypermarket (equivalent to Sam’s Club or Canada Superstore) as long as you have a Metro membership card. Vietnamese food might have different taste from yours and you might not be quite sure which food to get, why don’t you try one of each kind and come back to get some more when you know what your favorites are? To avoid long queues at the check-out, it is advisable that you go to supermarkets on weekdays.
Question: Should I bargain at Ben Thanh Market?
Answer: Yes, you should. It may be your interesting experience with Vietnamese locals. If you do it well, you can pick up a few good bargains which are less than one third of the initial asking price. For example, if a seller says it costs 90,000 VND, you can bargain to get it for more or less 30,000 VND.
Question: Hi, I and my wife would like to take a cruise in Halong Bay. We are wondering whether Halong Bay cruise is suitable for us - both are in our late 60’s? We wouldn’t be interested in activities like kayaking, climbing, or snorkeling.
Answer: A typical program of a Halong Bay cruise consists of many activities: energizing activities like climbing, kayaking, snorkeling; sightseeing tours to well-known attractions such as Surprising Cave, Floating Fishing Village, Pearl Farm; on-board activities like cooking demonstration, spa.... This means you have many options to enjoy Halong Bay cruise at leisure. If you don’t like kayaking, swimming or something else, you can sit on the boat, sip a cup of delicious cocktails, take a massage, or enjoy beautiful vistas of the Bay yourself .
However, please kindly be reminded that you should make clear with the cruise’s company or agent to ensure that they let you stay on board because some cruises off load you to other activities so that they can return to the pier to pick up new passengers.
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).
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 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 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 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