by Mark Albert
Top Travel Tips in Two Minutes
Love it? Live it!
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
From The Wall Street Journal: An archipelago off Vietnam’s coast is unspoiled by tourism
-In Ho Chi Minh City, Mark stayed at the Aquari Hotel.
-In Da Nang, Mark stayed at the Sanouva Hotel.
–>PODCAST: Destination Vietnam (10/31/17). Recorded in Danang, Vietnam, with local interpreter Gee Nguyen, who translated for Mark while he taught journalism in the country.
Most major transportation services are available, including trains, rental cars, tour groups, and drivers for hire.
The country’s largest airport is Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi, the capital, in the northern part of Vietnam. Terminal 1 is for domestic flights; Terminal 2 is for international.
In the south, Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) is the major airport for the region, and is near Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon.
The largest airport in the country’s central region is in Danang, the Danang International Airport (DAD).
-–>SAVE: The Best Day to Book Airfare
Cruise ships dock in Ho Chi Minh at the HCMC Cruise Port Terminal along the Saigon River and in Halong Bay to the north, about a three-and-a-half hour drive from the capital, Hanoi.
A 30-day, single-entry tourist visa is available for citizens of many countries, and Vietnam recently implemented an e-visa program at a cost of $25 per visitor to streamline the process. Citizens of 40 countries are eligible to apply in advance of arrival, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Other countries, but not including the United States, are on a visa-exempt list where no visa is needed.
The currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Don’t be thrown off by the number of zeros in the currency; 100,000 VND is about $4.40 USD.
Electric plugs are generic throughout public areas and hotels in the country and no adapter is needed for most major electronics from the Americas or Europe.
Credit card acceptance is low to moderate, and generally only includes Visa and MasterCard. Prepare to conduct most transactions in Vietnamese Dong, which is roughly 22,000 for each $1 USD.
Helmets are required for motorcycles and scooters.
Wifi is nearly ubiquitous in cafes, restaurants, and shops. Most are secured networks with passwords displayed on the counter, menus, or the bottom of your receipt.
Vietnam is a communist country and as such, certain communications, demonstrations, and speech are restricted or censored by the government. Take care when expressing political opinions and do not insult the Vietnamese system of government or its leaders.
Vietnam often operates on what locals call “rubber time” or “rubber band time.” Time is elastic; a 9am meeting or pick up may, or may not, occur near 9am. Patience is a virtue.
Many Vietnamese know some English. Impress the locals by saying hello (Xin chao – “sin chow”) and thank you (Cam On – “cahm oon”). Many restaurants have menus with English subtitles. If not, just point to the picture of the dish you wish to order.
The emergency number (equivalent to 911 in the United States) is 113 for police, 114 for fire, and 115 for emergency medical services such as first aid.
For cheap travel within cities and villages, negotiate the services of a tuk tuk vehicle or bicycle, which typically seats six to eight in an tarp-covered, open-air seating arrangement behind the driver. Negotiate with the tuk tuk drivers; never pay the price initially proposed unless you’re feeling especially generous.
For inexpensive meals, consider eating at food halls or at one of the many, many vendors cooking in carts along the sidewalks. Street food in Vietnam is some of the best in the world. Even famous fashion designer Christian Louboutin thinks so.
Save money by traveling to Vietnam in October, November, and December. Avoid January or February for national holidays and the Tet festival.
Consider taking a sleeping bus between major cities to save on hotel costs. An overnight bus route from a reputable country may cost just $5 USD.
For more in-depth—and often candid—travel advice when visiting Vietnam, consider LONLEY PLANET’S VIETNAM guide on Amazon.com, which you can check out via our referral (“affiliate”) link.
What did you do on your visit to Vietnam? Share your favorite tips and tricks in the comment section below!
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