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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are sending something to Vietnam, you can leave the address in English or ask the recipients for the Vietnamese version. In general, the number of the house comes first and followed by lane number of street names, districts and cities.
Here are some useful words:
Quận/ Huyện: District
Ngách: smaller than lane unit
Số: House number
Khu đô thị: Apartment building complex
Example of an address:
Chu Ngoc H.
So 4, ngo 12, pho H.H, Dong Da, Hanoi.
Note: Vietnam does not have postal code.
You have two options to obtain your visa to Vietnam from Hong Kong:
Option 1. Apply for a visa at the Vietnamese consulate in Hong Kong:
Address: 15/F, Great Smart Tower, 230 Van Chai Road, Wan Chai
Tel: (852) 2591 4517 or (852) 2591 4510.
Visa forms may be obtained by sending a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope or faxing to the Number: (852) 2591 4524.
Fee and Duration: Tourist visas cost between $30-80, depending on the length and number of entry.
Option 2: Apply for a visa-on-arrival. Note that this type of visa applies to air travel only, and it costs $45 - 85, depending on the duration of stay ad number of entries. The process of applying online at a travel agency is very fast and you do not have to show up at the embassy to submit the application.
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.
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!
Taking place every Sunday’s morning, Bac Ha is the local market where ethnic communities living in Lao Cai Province gather to exchange and trade goods. Bac Ha Market attracts tourists from all over Vietnam as well as foreigners for the original and diverse features of culture. People can visit Bac Ha Market by catching buses from Lao Cai Terminal or Sapa Terminal, as it is located 70km far from Lao Cai City and 80km from Sapa Town.
Every day, there are three buses departing from Lao Cai Terminal at 6 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m., with the fare around VND 70,000. In addition, passengers who travel by train can get off at Pho Lu station, which is only 50km far from the market; and then use local buses or motorbike service.
From Sapa, tourists have several alternatives to go to Bac Ha Market: buses or motorbike. There are direct buses from Sapa Terminal with the ticket price of VND 80,000; and it will take up to three hours to reach Bac Ha Market.
Tourists can also hire motorbike (Minsk is the most popular) for VND 100,000/day and enjoy the wildly picturesque sceneries on the way to Bac Ha. The route passes through Ban Phiet; then following Highway 70 for about 40-50km, turning left at the three-way crossroad leading to Bac Ha.
Tips: Use our Route Planner Tool (http://routeplanner.vietnamonline.com/) to find the best way to get from Sapa to Bac Ha.
Can Tho airport is 12 km away from the town, and it may cost anywhere from VND 120,000 ($6) to VND 150,000 ($7.5) to travel to town, depending on where you go.
It is suggested that you travel with a reputable taxi companies such as Mai Linh taxi to avoid taxi scams when you first arrive. A list of reputable taxis companies in Vietnam can be found here: Taxis in Vietnam.
Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam. December is in the winter in Hanoi. Therefore, it is cold but is still ok for travellers, especially those from temperate zone like you will not have a difficult time at all. The temperature is about 16 Celcius degree on average, with light rain and windy weather. You can go out for sightseeing comfortably, but make sure that you bring some warm clothes because Vietnam does not have central heating system like North America so it might be colder than it sounds.
Many Hanoians talk about having ice-cream and walking around the tree-lined Hoan Kiem Lake as a leisure activity during the winter days. Winter food in Vietnam is not about apple cider and fresh-from-the-oven brownies, but there are sure things to enjoy: sweet potatoes grilled on charcoal or toasted corn on the cob; chicken skewer and a hot bowl of pho will definitely give your stomach a satisfying feeling like you never feel before.