FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where can I go for a walk in Hanoi?

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! 

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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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Where can I buy SIM card in Ho Chi Minh City?

There are three major places you can get a sim card in Ho Chi Minh City.

1. Post offices:

A sim card of any mobile carrier may be found at any post offices, especially, in the city center. Prices vary from $2 to $8 per sim card. A good point of buying a sim card at the post office is its availability. If you don’t care much about the numbers and just want to get one to call other people, you can get one at the post office quickly. The only drawback is its limited numbers. If you really want an easy-to-remmeber-number, you should try other options.

2. Mobile shops:

People can get a sim card at any mobile shops in Ho Chi Minh City. Price is quite the same as getting it at the post office. However, at some shops, there is a variety of numbers for customers to choose. The easier a number to be remembered, the more it costs. A good enough number may cost up to $25 to $50. If you are doing a business and need a number for customer to memorize easily, you may think of these options.

3. Mobile carrier service centers:

At any mobile carrier service centers, you can either get a pre-paid or post-paid sim. Price is a little bit higher than other places. However, if you need a post-paid sim, you need to go to a mobile carrier service center to buy a sim and fill a contract to make it through. Friendly staff is willing to answer all of your questions.

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Where to buy a simcard in Vietnam?

Question: Hi, I am planning to stay in Vietnam for 2 months on business. For the convenience, I want to buy a Vietnam Simcard. Could you please suggest me where to buy and which one should I choose?

Answer: Currently, there are many mobile network providers in Vietnam, however, for the best coverage, you are suggested to choose Viettel, Mobifone, or Vinafone network. The market share of these providers accounts for approximately 90% of Vietnam mobile market. In addition, they offer great coverage throughout the country.

Referring to places to buy Simcard, it is very easy to buy a simcard in Vietnam. From the moment you land in Vietnam, you can buy simcard everywhere, in stalls, stores, booths, or even if in and around the airport. You just need to take a few steps around your place, find the lines “Viettel”, “Mobifone”, or “Vinafone” and walk in the store to buy.

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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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We have been invited to a friend’s family home for a typical Vietnamese meal. We want to bring a gift to them. Is a bottle of wine or flowers appropriate? Or is there anything particular that we are e

Hi,

Thank you for your question.

Frankly, there is no strict rule or code for gifts and presents when you are invited to enjoy a family meal in Vietnam. Without any wine or flower, the diner guests are still warmly welcomed by hospitable Vietnamese hosts.

However, fruit is always a nice gift and seems to be well received. So, you are highly recommended to pick up some nice fruits for the dessert. Besides, one could bring something nutritious for the elder, some alcohol, pastries for the family, or candy for the kids, though these gifts may make the dinner a lot more formal than it should.

You are also recommended to ask the host if there is anything you could help, and be willing to give them a hand in preparing the meal. Remember to wait for the oldest to eat first, ask once before the meal and once after your finish.

Enjoy the meal.

Read our Article "Visiting a Vietnamese Family" for more detailed insights. 

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Where can I rent a motorbike in Hanoi? And how much does it cost for a whole day rental?

Hi,

Motor rental service is available in Hanoi and you can easily find the shops which offer this service on main streets like Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Tran Hung Dao, and especially small streets in Hanoi Old Quarter like Hang Be, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Dinh Liet.

There are many kinds of motorbikes from the most popular ones in Vietnam like Wave, Dream, Viva… to favorite transportation means of backpackers like Simson, Minsk. The cost ranges from $6 to $50 per day depending on motor type.

Foreign tourists just has to leave one hard copy of his/her passport and one kind of identity papers like driving license or passport in the shop, then take the motor and begin a joyful trip. These rented motor taxi is usually empty of gas so you will need to find a gas station to fill it up (see How much fuel costs in Vietnam).

Monthly motorcycle rent is also available with Rentabike (www.rentabikehanoi.com/) starting from $50 a month. If you plan to stay long term in Hanoi, you may purchase a used motorbike from a fellow expat - such as visiting New Hanoian classifieds section.

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How do I get from Hoi An to Hue?

By Bus: The most convenient way you can get from Hoi An to Hue is to by an open tour bus ticket in the ancient town. The trip lasts about 3 hours and you can request for a drop-off at your reserved hotel. Note that the route from Hoi An to Hue is one of the most mind-boggling one in Vietnam.

After passing through Da Nang, you will arrive at Hai Van pass. A new tunnel has been built to reduce traffic accidents and travel time and it is the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia.

By Train: Since there is no train station in Hoi An, you need to go to Danang to catch the train to Hoi An. Travel time is 30 minutes from Hoi an to Danang and 2.5 hour by train from Danang to Hoi An by train.

Note: Before and after the tunnel, you will be blown away by the breathtaking natural landscape of mountains and oceans, sky and trees so get your camera ready!

We offer private transfer directly from Hoi An to Hue for $120/car/way. Contact us via email: info@vietnamonline.com for further information.
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Where should I go to when I feel sick?

Vietnam has public, semi-public and private medical care facility. However, most of the quality ones concentrate in major cities such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Public hospitals are large but often heavily cramped with patients and the staffs do not speak English well. You can visit other healthcare services as listed in our city pages, many of which have foreign doctors. Normally you do not have to book an appointment in advance unless otherwise noted.

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I am planning to go to Hanoi in December, can you please let me know whether the weather will be ok for sightseeing and walking outside at that time? I am from Washington D.C.

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. 

Enjoy Hanoi!

Suggested Readings:
Hanoi Travel Guide
Hanoi weather in December

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Where can I find photographic equipment or camera stores in HCMC?

A camera store can be easily found in the city center. Just walk along Le Loi street, Nguyen Hue Street or Le Thanh Ton street, you can find what you need to shoot a perfect image such as: lenses, films, chargers, battery, tripods.  

If you use traditional cameras which use Fujifilm and need a lab to process, you can find one at 82 Nguyen Hue or 114 bis Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. Kodak process labs are more popular and easily found on these two streets also. For digital cameras, please be aware of having the adapter or outlet conversion for the chargers. These can be found on Huynh Thuc Khang Street. Some camera stores have the adapters also. 

Do not hesitate to bargain unless you want to be overcharged. Lenses cannot cost you much more than what you are supposed to pay in your home country. Charger, depending on its brands and authenticity, has various prices but cannot cost you more than $15. Adapters or outlet conversions are available at less than $5 in some stores. It costs you 15-20 cents on average to develop a 10cm*15cm (6in*9in) image at a lab.

If you are travelling away from the city center, limited camera accessories may be found at camera stores at the place you are visiting. Batteries and films can be found there but lenses might be too costly to sell at these places. 

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