You must have a valid passport and tourist visa to enter Vietnam. Tourist visas are valid for a 30-day period from the day you enter and you should be able to get one at your local travel agent.
If you are travelling through Asia the easiest place to get a visa is in Bangkok, although you should be able to get one in any of Vietnam’s neighbouring countries. If, once you reach Vietnam, you decide you wish to stay longer than a holiday permits you (30 days) you can get 30-day extensions in most big cities.
The currency used in Vietnam is the “Dong”. When written it is abbreviated to a ‘d’ following the amount. Banknotes come in denominations of 200d, 500d, 1000d, 2000d, 5000d and 10,000d. The currency has no coins.
Vietnamese is Vietnam’s official language. There are different dialects spoken throughout the country. The country’s ethnic minorities speak various languages also.
Due to it’s geography, Vietnam’s climate varies greatly in different regions throughout the country, particularly north and south. The whole country is in the tropics and subtropics with the monsoons occurring between May and October.
Make sure to check your travel insurance to see if you are covered medically in Vietnam. Any medical cover you have in your own country probably won’t be valid.
Vietnam is five hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and twelve hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Perth is one hour behind while Sydney is three behind (this varies between seasons).
Business opening hours are between 7.30am-12pm and 1.30pm-4.00pm. Vietnamese stick to these hours very strictly.
There are tourist offices in all the main cities, big towns and main tourist destinations. Vietnamese tourist offices are different to other countries’ offices. Instead of information centres with free glossy brochures to pick up they are more like travel agents with everything depending on sales. Even the brochures are for sale!
VAT (value added tax) was brought into practice in 1999 adding 10% on to your bill.
The best place to exchange your currency is in banks which are open on Mon-Fri between 8am-11.30am and 1pm-4pm. If you are travelling direct to Vietnam the best way to bring money is in US dollar traveller’s cheques.
Electricity in Vietnam is 220V at 50Hz. You may find in some cases that it is 110V at 50Hz.
When ringing overseas from Vietnam, dial 00 plus the international code of the country you are calling.
Ringing Vietnam from a foreign country, their international access code is +84.
It won’t be hard posting mail from Vietnam as opening hours are long (6am-8pm, 7 days a week) and stamps are extremely cheap.
Some restaurants charge 5% service charge, but this should be stated on their bill. Drivers and guides are usually tipped also.
Vietnam’s public holidays are 1st Jan (New Years Day), late Jan-Feb (dates vary – Tet festival), 3rd Feb (founding of Vietnamese Communist Party), 30th April (Liberation of Saigon, 1975), 1st May (International Labour Day), 19th May (Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday), June’s eighth day of the fourth moon (birthday of Buddha), 2nd September (National Day) and 25th December (Christmas Day).