FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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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Where can I renew my visa in HCMC?

There are two options to renew your visa in HCMC. You can either have a travel agency do it for you or do it on your own.  Some services charge you from $40 to $160 depending upon for how long you want to extend or renew your visa and what types of visas - multiple entry or single entry.

It often takes 5 working days to process. If you prefer to do it on your own, you first need to download the application form for visa renewal, replacement or modification, length of stay extension (Form N14/M). Then, fill in the form and attach it to your passport and bring both in person to the Immigration Office.

Vietnam Department of Immigration
Address: 161 Nguyen Du, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

In case you are sponsored or invited to stay longer in Vietnam, a certification signature from the chief of the receiving, sponsoring agency/organization of the applicant or of the Chief Police of the Ward/Commune where the sponsor resides is required. It costs you from $25 up to $100 for renewing a visa depending upon your length of stay you want to renew. If you are not clear what to choose, you can ask the officers for explanation.

Don’t forget to get a receipt when submitting your documents at the Immigration Office.  On the due date, bring your receipt and personal ID to get back your passport with the new visa. 

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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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What is the most popular food in Vietnam?

Pho is arguably the most popular food in Vietnam. It is served both at restaurants and in families, eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This famous dish is basically rice noodle soup but the broth is seasoned in a very unique way that appeals to almost everyone.

You can try pho in one of the street corners where every local gather or at more upscale restaurants such as Pho Vuong or Pho 24. Pho 24 also has a vegetarian option for pho, replacing beef and chicken with a variety of mushrooms.

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We are an Aussie family travelling to Hanoi this August, where should I take them to? I would prefer somewhere without too much noise and traffic.

If you have a family and want to visit places with little noise and traffic, you may take your family to museums, historical relics or traditional music theaters because these places barely have local people visiting so there are not too many people around. Below are some suggested popular places that you might consider:

- Thang Long Imperial City: This is a group of various historical relics in Hanoi with from Ly Dynasty a thousand year ago. The remained parts of these relics reveal many aspects of the lives inside royal palace in the past, and also information about the development of each dynasty in the history of Vietnam. Most of these relics such as Doan Mon Gate, The Flag Tower or 18 Hoang Dieu Relic are located in the central area of the city at Hoang Dieu or Dien Bien Phu Street.

- Ho Chi Minh Complex: This destination is the attractive complex, including some of the most fascinating attractions in Hanoi like Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where Uncle Ho is resting, Ho Chi Minh Museum and also the famous One Pillar Pagoda. You can take a cab and arrive at the complex’s entrance at Ngoc Ha Street to register and get in.

- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: the destination exhibits numerous information about lives, belief and culture of Vietnam’s ethnic groups. The museum is also quite interesting to children with various activities like museum tours, painting or watching movies about Vietnam ethnic communities and traditional games. The museum is truly a haven away from the noise of Hanoi, with green open space and very few people. 

Related Readings:
Family Travel Advice

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What is the weather of Hanoi like in January?

January is undoubtedly the coldest month in Hanoi (see Hanoi monthly average temperature). Though the idea of having 7-12 Celsius degree seems to be associated with a nice, cool and no-sweat atmosphere, the reality is rather dark and ugly. The drizzle that goes on days and nights - though not all the time - make the air wet, humid and chilly beyond imagination. The worst part is probably strong cold wind AND no central heating system available indoors!  

The average temperature in Hanoi in January falls between 13 and 19 degree, not to mention the colder days which can make your trip rather miserable without warm clothing. The good news is that if you cannot afford to take them in your luggage from home, Hanoi has plenty to offer when it comes to shopping for clothes.

Tips: Essential things for Hanoi in January: scarf, mitten, thin layers of warm sweaters, socks and long-johns if you are from a tropical country.

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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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Where can I find dog food in HCMC?

There are two options to get food for your pet in Ho Chi Minh City: Supermarkets and street stores

In Supermarkets:

You can easily find dog food at supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City. There are a variety of brands you can choose from. Unlike Walmarts or other franchising stores, every supermarket in Vietnam has different ways to arrange their products. Therefore, if you are unsure where to get dog food and don’t want to spend time walking around, just ask a cashier or any supermarket staff for direction.

One advantage when buying dog food at the supermarket is fixed price and guaranteed quality. A drawback is there will be a long queue of people checking out at the cashiers during peak hours or the weekends. If you don’t want to wait for long, you can go to the supermarket in the morning or in the afternoon on weekdays. Some recommended supermarkets are Citimart, Coopmart, Lottemart and Maximark

In Street Stores:

Dog food can also be found outside of supermarkets in some pet shops or pet clinics. Unless you are familiar with roads in HCMC, it might be a little hard to find these shops. An advantage about buying dog food at street stores rather than supermarket is being free of queuing and waiting. These shops are small and the sellers often handle a customer each time so you can have advice or recommendations from the sellers.

A drawback is that its quality is not guaranteed. Some stores are just stocked with low quality pet food made in China because it is cheap and more profitable than other brands.  Some recommended pet stores are Saigon Pet clinic (33 street 41 Thao Dien, District 2), KC Pets (6 Hoa Su, Phu Nhuan district), Petit Ange (out in D7. 23 My Hoang, Phu My Hung , Tan Phong ward, District 7).  You may find other stores while walking around also! 

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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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Is it possible to transport my pets with me by train? How about flights?

You can fly with pets inside Vietnam with Vietnam Airlines, all you need is 24-36 hour notice in advance. You cannot, however, bring your pet on the train, as far as I am concerned.

More information about flying with your pet on Vietnam Airlines Website.  Or visit our page on Bringing your pet to Vietnam for advice & tips.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have other questions!

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Should we use travelers check? ATMs?

Question: We will visit Vietnam in February and we are wondering the best way to pay for anything. Should we use travelers check? ATMs?

Answer: You aren’t encouraged to use travelers cheques in Vietnam because it isn’t cheap and convenient at all. Perhaps the cheapest and most convenient way to get cash is to use a bank card or a certain credit card to take it out of an ATM. ATMs are now widely put everywhere in the country, so it is pretty convenient to get cash. Or, you can also bring cash along with you but please watch out pickpockets and bag snatchers.

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