General information


Shaped like a giant ‘S’, Vietnam covers an area of over 330,000sq km stretching south from the Chinese border along the east coast of the Indochina Peninsula, shares its borders with Cambodia and Laos to the West. Total coastline and borders stretch 2,500 Km. The country comprises a complex geography with soaring mountains, fertile delta plains, ancient forests filled with exotic fauna, winding rivers and long sandy tropical beaches. Although entirely within the tropics, the diversity of the geography of Vietnam produces enormous climatic variations with the north of the country having cold, humid winters and warm, wet summers, whilst the south is generally warm all year with a monsoon season from May to November.

Country’s area: 330,991 km2 (Length: 1,650 km, width: 600 km at the widest point and 50 km at the narrowest point). A long, narrow coastal plain links the two major river deltas Hong and Mekong. The highest peak in Vietnam is Fan Si Pan (3,143 m) in the extreme North.

National Flag:

The red flag with a yellow five-pointed star in the center. The five points of the star represents the workers, the peasants, the soldiers, the intellectuals, and the merchants.


Vietnam has  86 million inhabitants with 88% of the population is Viet, and 54 others ethnic minorities.

Vietnamese is the official language, although English is increasingly spoken by younger Vietnamese in main cities. Some people and especially elderly still speak French, while middle-aged speak German and Russian. However, there may be a problem outside of the cities for people who have no knowledge of Vietnamese.

Culture & Religion:

Buddhism is the dominant religion in Vietnam, with a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Animism and Tam Giao (triple religion). About 10% of the country's populations are Catholic and there are also communities of Protestants and Muslims. Vietnam is also home to a unique religion called Cao Dai, a religious cocktail of all the world's major faiths.


·         The official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000 (little value); 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 500,000 and coins of 200; 500 (silver) and 1,000; 2,000; 5,000 (gold)

·         US Dollar are widely used in hotels and shops. However, it is advisable to exchange some currency for market shopping, small tips and taxi fares.

·         At the time of writing exchange rate is US$ 1 = 19.500 VND

Credit Cards & Foreign Exchange:

·         Major credit cards (Visa, American Express, JCB, MasterCard) are accepted in Hanoi and Saigon at mid-level hotels, restaurants and upmarket shops. But if you are planning to go outside the major cities or tourist areas make sure you take dong.

·         Traveller’s cheques can be cashed only at major banks and usually charge from 2 to 3% transaction fee.

·         Visa and Master cards are accepted in most of hotels, restaurants and shops in tourist cities of Vietnam, but can also be subject to 3 to 3.6% transaction fees.

·         You can also get cash advances with your credit card from automated teller machines (ATM) everywhere (amount generally limited to 20.000.000 VND, that is around 1,000 USD depending on the bank).

Vietnam time: GMT+7

Business hours

·         All the government offices are open from 07:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m (with a one-hour lunch break) from Monday to Friday - closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

·         Banks are open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m  - close on Saturday and Sundays.

·         Private shops are open from 8:00 or 8:30 a.m to 8:00 p.m or 9:00 p.m.

Public holidays

January 1

New Year's Day: one day holiday

April 30

Saigon Liberation Day: one day holiday

May 1

International Labour Day: one day holiday

September 2

National Day of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: one day holiday

Lunar New Year Festival - Tet Holiday: four day holiday

Tet usually falls in late January or early February. This holiday includes the last day of the lunar old year and the first three days of the new year.


Getting around

  • Public bus: From Hanoi or Saigon there are many difference public buses connect with others city with cheap prices. You’d better use Opentour Bus if you go from Hanoi to the cities in the south or from Saigon to the cities in the north. From Hanoi and Saigon International airport you could use the shuttle mini bus to go to the city.
  • Taxi: Metered taxis are plentiful in the major cities. Whether you are arriving at Hanoi or Saigon it is best to take a metered taxi to the hotel. In the free time you can use the local metered taxi.
  • Air plan: There are 03 airlines companies with daily flights between the main cities inside Vietnam and also from Hanoi & Saigon to outside as Vietnam Airlines, Jesta Pacific and Mekong Air. You can find the time table of domestic flights of Vietnam Airlines in this website.
  • Train: Vietnam's railway system is mainly built in the early years of the 20th century. Since then Vietnam Railways have been improved a lot. Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh city Reunification Express E1 trains take 30 hours, equivalent to 55 km/ph. It is still rather slow, but more and more travellers use trains for sightseeing on the way, and importantly, for lower fare. It is also a good chance to get more knowledge of local people. Get the information about train in the Services of this website.
  • Jeep: For individual travelers, it is better to rent a car or a 4x4 with a driver. The traffic in Vietnam can be scarry and thus you are recommended not to drive yourself while being new to the country and not knowing how the traffic works

·         Motorbike & bike: These kinds of transportation are a favorite of adventurers and also an excellent way to get around town. It is very convenient to travel by motorbike in the cities and rural areas. Motorbikes for rent are available in the big cities such as Hanoi, Saigon, Danang and Sapa. Renting requires your passport or a deposit. For your safety, always park the motorbike and bike in a public parking lot and check the ticket number before going out. Be careful with the traffic on the road.

  • Waterway: Most travel by water is for sightseeing or on ferries - there are no routes that link more than a couple of coastal centers. Where water travel is essential, there is usually a choice between fast and slow boats.

·         Cyclos: inexpensive and pleasant means of transportation. Though it is quite safe in Hanoi, Saigon and the big cities. You’d better avoid using cyclo in the late night.

·         Motorbike Hug: For those in a hurry, “xe om” (Motorbike Hug) is convenient. Just stroll along any major streets and you will get an offer from a driver

Health & Vaccinations:

·         Vaccinations are not necessary although Typhoid and Hepatitis A are recommended. It is advisable to take medication precautions against Malaria especially if traveling off the beaten track.

·         Prior to travel, please double check the requirements with your doctor.

·         A Yellow Fever certificate is required if arriving from infected areas.

·         Purified bottled water is widely available. You should avoid drinking water from the taps in Vietnam.


·         220 volts, 50Hz.

·         Two flat-pin or two round-pin plugs.


·         Country code is +84.

·         City/area codes for Hanoi is (0)4 and Ho Chi Minh City (0)8.

·         The country uses GSM 900, 1800 and 3G 2100 networks.

·         Please check with your country operator on your mobile network band compatibility.

·         Broadband internet access is widely available in Hanoi, Saigon and other main tourist areas in the hotels and internet cafes.


·         Vietnamese customs authorities may enforce strict regulations on the import or export of goods of commercial nature and articles of high value.

·         Antiques, precious stones and animals that are listed in Vietnam's red book are prohibited for export.

·         Foreign currency up to a max. of US$7,000 or equivalent is allowed.

·         Exceeding amounts must be declared on arrival.

Duty Free Allowance:

International visitors can bring in:

·         400 cigarettes.

·         100 cigars or 500g of tobacco.

·         1.5 litres of liquor at 22% alcohol proof and above, or 2 litres of liquor

·         below this proof amount, or 3 litres of all other alcoholic beverages.

·         A reasonable quantity of perfume and personal belongings.

·         Other goods up to the value of 5 million Vietnamese dong.


·         Most restaurants and hotels add a 5 to 10% service charge to their bills, but a 5% tip for good service is greatly appreciated in more upmarket places. Porters, hired drivers and guides are usually tipped. It is also customary to round up the bill for taxi drivers in the cities.

Tax & Service:

·         A 10% VAT charge is applicable.



Vietnam has some fantastic shopping opportunities with hotspots including Hanoi, Hoi An and Saigon.

Some of the best buys include gorgeous glazed pottery, lanterns, antiques, lacquerware, art, embroidered tablecloths, fine furnishings, and lavish silk and linen creations. Vietnamese hats are on sale everywhere as a fun souvenir as well as all the famous water puppets. Just make sure you can take it back to your country as a number of items are made from natural products that may not make it through customs back at home.

It is also possible to buy tailor-made cloths. These are made to order and are usually available for collection within 24 hours. Once of the best places to buy tailor made items is Hoian.

Bargaining is a way of life in Vietnam, but should always be conducted in a good-natured way. 


Vietnamese cuisine reflects on many gastronomic cultures which satisfy any gourmet. Famous specialities such as nem (spring roll), cha ca (fish cake), banana flower salad and pho (rice noodle soup) are always highly appreciated by most foreign visitors.

Meals will usually include rice or noodles as staples along with a vast array of vegetables, and meats like chicken, duck, beef and pork. Dishes feature a wonderful fusion of flavors and you will find that fish sauce is a condiment accompanying almost every meal. Anther unexpected delight is the availability of good quality seafood (fish, calamari, prawns and crabs) which is caught along Vietnam's extensive coastline.

Freshness is of paramount importance in Vietnamese cooking, so ingredients are bought fresh from local market on a daily basis. A strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam means that vegetarian food is also widely available.

Some of the legacies left over from the French colonial period include crispy baguettes, pate, hard boiled quail eggs, crème caramel, and banana flambée. An amazing assortment of fresh tropical fruits is usually on offer which will round off a meal perfectly.

Tea is one of the most common drinks in Vietnam. Coffee is also very good. It is thick and strong and is served complete with drip filter, so you know it is fresh! If you ask for milk it will usually be sweet condensed milk. Home brewed rice wine is often offered to guests! Spirits, such as nep moi (a type of Vodka), are also produced locally but be cautious as these are very strong. Light larger style beer is more commonly available.

It is not advisable to drink tap water in Vietnam, but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. Ice in drinks is right in the good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas.

Safety matters

  • Vietnam has been recorgnized one of the most friendly and safest destinations in Asia. It has a stable government and a very low crime rates. You should not be worried about violence, crooks, but anyway be careful  the theft when walking in busy streets or the quite areas during nights.
  • As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Avoid cyclo late at night and choose reliable metered taxi companies. Ensure having a hotel card before leaving hotel. Come back hotel before 10:00 pm.
  • Leave your excess cash, airline tickets, passports and valuables with the hotels safety deposit facility.

Local behavior

·         Shorts should be avoided away from the beaches if possible.

·         Visitors to Buddhist countries should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings

·         Remove shoes when entering somebody’s home.

·         Photography is restricted at ports, harbours and airports, and it is polite to ask permission before taking photographs of people, especially of ethnic minorities.

·         A donation is expected when visiting a temple or pagoda

·         Never lose your temper in public or when bargaining for a purchase.


Your passport, visa number must be handed over to the hotels & private hosts. The passport details should be copied several times & be handed in instead of the original.

Tour guides

All the services provided by our Vietnamese local tour guides are highly evaluated by foreign tourists. Their prestige is built on their ability, kind-hearted character, enthusiasm and high responsibility as well as their deep knowledge of Vietnam and its people.








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