FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

When is Vietnamese new year 2012? Will Cu Chi Tunnel be open during Tet?

Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, is the biggest festival and holiday of a year in the country. In 2012, Vietnamese New Year will fall on Monday - January 23rd. Most public offices will be closed from Saturday (January 21st) and will be reopen on Monday (January 29th). The main Tet days are January 23rd, 24th and 25th.

Many attractions will be closed, while those like Hue citadel will be open during the three days of Tet with free admission. Cu Chi Tunnel, for your information, remains open during Tet holiday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.

For more information about Tet and Tet travel advice, read visit our Vietnamese Tet page or take a look at the following articles:

• 5 things to know about travelling during Tet

• Tet in Ho Chi Minh City - what to do

• 7 tips for travellers in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet

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How much money should I bring to travel to Ho Chi Minh City?

Hi,

As you do not mention clearly about your travel time as well as your budget condition, so we can only give some general advices.

To travel to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, you need to have enough money for these main spendings: transportation, food, accommodation and entrance tickets to tourism destinations, not to mention your spending on shopping and other unexpected fees.

Saigon is such a big city that in order to visit all of the most well-known tourism destinations, you need at least two or three days.

Normally, the minimum budget spent for accommodation will range from VND 150,000 to VND 300,000/day, depending on the quality of the hotel and its location. Public transportation is quite cheap, which will cost you about VND 50,000 to VND 70,000/day if you move around inside the city. However, if you choose taxi as a means of transportation, the fare will be about VND 11,000/ km so each journey will cost you VND 50,000 on average.

As every other city and province in Vietnam, Saigon is a heaven of street food. If you do not mind eating like the locals at street vendors, you will only need to spend about VND 100,000 each day to have very good meals. The ticket for museums will take you about VND 10,000- VND 30,000; while most of other tourism destinations like Notre-Dame Church or Central Post Office have free entrance.

In sum, if you want to travel on a shoe string, you can do so with only VND 1.5 million (or $75) for 3 days in Saigon. $120 will probably give you mid-range hotel and more flexibility with travelling. For top hotels and sit-down restaurants, expect your budget to start from $500 for 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City. You can also refer to our guide to cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City for further information.

We hope this helps!

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What are the main airlines that fly from Singapore to Hanoi? Which one is the cheapest?

From Singapore to Hanoi, there are several options for you:

Vietnam Airlines: The national flag carrier, operates two daily flights back and forth between Singapore (SIN) and Hanoi (HAN). Flights depart from Hanoi at 10:30 and 14:00; return from Singapore at 15:50 and 19:20. The cheapest option (Saver rate) is $300 return tickets, taxes and fees included.

Vietnam Airlines Baggage Allowance
Vietnam Airlines Meals
Vietnam Airlines Contact

Singapore Airlines: The national airlines of Singapore or Singapore Airlines is among the most quality airlines in the world. There are daily flights between Singapore and Hanoi, leaving Hanoi at 9:50 and departing Singapore at 13:15. Return ticket costs between $320 (Sweet Deals) and $400 (Flexi), taxes and fees included. 

Singapore Airlines Baggage Allowance
Singapore Airlines Meals
Singapore Airlines Contact

Tiger Airways: Tiger Airways have mixed schedule of flights between Hanoi and Singapore and have different departing time everyday. In specific, it departs at 19:50 (Monday and Wednesday); 12:40 (Tuesday and Thursday);  21:15 (Friday); 13:00 (Saturday) and 10:50 (Sunday). Return ticket costs $200 on average and Tiger Airways offers the lowest cost for flight ticket on this route. Note that there is no meal offered on this flight.

Tiger Airways Baggage Allowance
Tiger Airways Contact

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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 am intolerant of gluten products and therefore not able to eat foods containing wheat. I would appreciate your advice on whether gluten free meals are available in major cities Vietnam?

Thank you for writing to us. Gluten-free travellers will not have a hard time in Vietnam, because the main meal in Vietnam involves rice instead of wheat (see how rice is used in Vietnam). Major dishes such as "Pho" (beef noodle), "Nem" (spring rolls) are made purely from rice.

The concept of gluten allergy and gluten free meal are not popular in Vietnam at all. You may find these niche products, however, in the expat area of Hanoi (Xuan Dieu road) and Ho Chi Minh City (Pham Ngu Lao street).

The advice we have for you is to check with the hotel and restaurants to verify that the ingredients do not contain wheat (bot my in Vietnamese). If you stay at upper-scale hotels in Hanoi or in Ho Chi Minh City, check with the hotel chef or restaurant head to ensure a gluten free meal.

A few popular food that will contain gluten for sure that you should avoid (this may help with the Vietnamese vocabulary):

- Any food with a "banh" (including baguette, baked goods, ..)

- Any food with a "my" (including egg noogle, instant noodle)

- Any food with a "quay" (fried fritter dough)

- Any food with a "tam bot" (Vietnamese term for fried fish or meat with a flour coating)

We hope this is helpful to you and your family. Bon Voyage!

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What is the best way to travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City?

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.

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I am planning to visit Vietnam in the next days. I know several parts are still flooded, my questions is in how far this affects tourists? Is it safe to come? Are busses still running?

Thanks for your email and your interest in visiting Vietnam in the next few days. You are right, there are several parts still flooded in Vietnam (information as of October 26th, 2011). At this time every year, the Mekong Delta area often gets flooded because it is rainy season in the South of Vietnam. However, if you travel around Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, it’s not a big deal at all. You can find more information about weather in Ho Chi Minh City here

There are foreigners visiting Vietnam and being on the Mekong Delta Tour, though. For safety reasons, booking a tour at a travel agency is recommended. Floating market is a piece of Mekong Delta culture you should experience.

Besides, there are usually some upcoming storms in the Centre of Vietnam at this time of the year which makes the weather cooler than usual and more appealing to foreigners. If you are planning to stay in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi only, weather would be calm and will not to ruin your vacation.

Buses won't be affected by the weather. You may also check out News and Events section - we have reviews about weather on the VNO Weekly articles and update them regularly.

Hope you find it helpful.

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Paintball place in Ho Chi Minh City?

Question: Is there any place I could play paintball in Ho Chi Minh City?

Answer: In the city center, you may not find a place for paintball. However, if you travel 70 km away from the center and reach Cuchi Tunnel, you can have the feeling of a gun there. Besides discovering the tunnel, they offer the paintball service. A bullet is charged at VND 4,000 each.

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Where can I find a cozy café with nice music in Hanoi?

There are a number of good coffee shops in Hanoi though music is a frequent offer like those in Ho Chi Minh City. You can browse through our listing page of coffee shops in Hanoi and try them out one by one.

Align Café (1B Ma May and 10A Khuc Hao), for example, is an ideal place to relax. Align has drawn customers ‘attention by its luxurious appearance of a wooden house with windows looking out on to old streets. Coming to Align, consumers are able to enjoy the cozy atmosphere offered by yellow light, old style furniture and trees with changing colour leaves. The music here is nice and soft, with classic rock, blues, souls and sometimes country/funk. It will easily take away your stresses and brings you relaxing moments. Drinks here vary from regular ones like tea, coffee, fruit juice to special drinks like cocktails, mocktails and alcohols. You can order sandwiches, French fries, salad or soup if you want some snack  and the most famous food here is the unique takoyaki (octopus meat balls) of Japan.

You need a place to hang out with friends, you yearn for somewhere to rest, or you just want some privacy with your favourite books? The Bookworm cafe at 44 Chau Long street can fulfill all of your demands. This cafe also functions as a bookshop with the largest collection of English books in Hanoi.

Near Westlake area- the expats district of Hanoi, there are also many options: the Donkey Bakery (8 Nguyen Hoang Ton),  Joma Bakery and Cafe (54 To Ngoc Van), Le Pub (9 Xuan Dieu) are all worth not one but many visits.

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Where can I find microwaveable food in HCMC?

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. 

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Where can I get custom-made silk clothes in Hanoi?

Hello,

Hang Gai Street, just some steps from Sword Lake and where many silk shops are located, is surely the place you want to go. Here, you can find a lot of eye-catching silk clothes which are diverse in color, design and size. Especially, many shops here offer guests one-day-tailoring service that provides guests with customized silk clothes within one day only.

Just come here, speak out your wish and get your dream clothes done.

On a side note, if you dare venture outside of the city for better deals, Van Phuc Silk Village may be a worthwhile option too. You can combine making your clothes into a half day trip as there are plenty to see in this hometown of silk. Read more about Van Phuc Silk to have all the information you need. 

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