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Why going to Vietnam?

Vietnam is a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life. Its highlands and rain-forest regions yield new species and teem with exotic wildlife. Its islands and beaches are among the finest in all of Southeast Asia and its cuisine offers exquisite dishes. Over three decades have passed since Vietnam was officially united, and the war was over. Today, this gracious and graceful country is an outstanding travel destination with among its major destination Hanoi, Halong Bay, the northern mountainous regions, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon, Mekong Delta along with the beaches on the coast lines and the islands

Quick facts

Neighbouring countries: China to the North, Cambodia to the south-west and Laos to the West. The South China Sea borders the country to the East.

Area: 331 041 km².

Population : 94,933,248 (Dec 2016)

Capital: Hanoi

Time Zone: GMT+7 hours.There is no daylight saving time (DST) used in Vietnam.

Religion Buddhists: (75 %), Catholics (7%), Caodaïstes (2 %), Hoa Hao (2%), Protestants (0.75%), Muslims (0.1%).

Language : Vietnamese

Currency: Vietnamese Dong VND ($1 = 22 573 VND – Dec 2017).

National Day : September 2nd

Visa & travel permissions


Best time to visit

Access & Transportation

Travelling to Vietnam by air is quite easy as many airlines offer direct or indirect flights and more and more airports in Vietnam are open to international destinations. Today, the international airports are: Noi Bai in Hanoi, located around 45 minutes from the city-center (45km), Cat Bi in Hai Phong, Danang airport only 4km from the city-center, Cam Rang located at around 40 minutes from Nha Trang city-center (30km) and Tan Son Nhat located just 20 minutes from the center of Ho Chi Minh City (6km).

You can also travel to Vietnam by land, with the bus being the best means of transport to travel from Cambodia or Laos for example. Vietnam has land borders with China, Laos and Cambodia.

Land borders China/Vietnam: (you must have a visa before going through immigration and customs)

– Mong Cai (Quang Ninh) – by land: located at the northeast end of the country, this land border is accessible by road.
– Huu Nghi (Lang Son) – by land: located 18 km from Lang Song city.
– Dong Dang (Lang Son) – railway
– Lao Cai (Lao Cai) – by land or railway: accessible by train from Hanoi, the route goes via the Hekou bridge.

Land borders Laos /Vietnam (land): (visa available at most land borders)

– Cau Treo (Ha Tinh): located 80 kilometers from the city of Vinh on the route to Vientiane (Laos’ capital city).
– Cha Lo (Quang Binh): in Dan Hoa province, accessible via the road 12A from Ba Don – Quang Binh province.
– Lao Bao (Quang Tri): at 150 km of Hue, on the route to Savannakhet in the South of Laos.
– Tay Trang (Dien Bien Phu) : from Diên Biên province
– Na Meo (Than Hoa)
– Nam Can (Nghe An)
– Bo Y (Quang Toum)

Land borders Cambodia /Vietnam: (visa available at most land borders).

– Moc Bai + Sa Mat (Tay Ninh) : at 70km from Ho Chi Minh this land border is accessible by bus and taxi and is located on the route between Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh (capital city of Cambodia)
– Vinh Xuong + Tinh Bien (An Giang): enables access directly to the Cambodian seaboard.
– Bo Nue (Binh Phuoc)
– Thuong Phuoc (Dong Thap)
– Xa Xia (Kien Giang)



Taking the bus is the cheapest way to travel around cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang etc. The tickets usually cost 7000 dong ($0.35)

The bus network is fairly well developed in the big cities and is also a good way to get out of the inner city to visit some villages or other sites located in the suburbs and beyond. The inconvenience is that long distance buses usually depart from bus stations located some kilometers from the city centre, so it is necessary to take a taxi to first reach the bus station.

The bus is also a good means of transport to travel from one city to another and discover other outlying regions of the country. Many private companies offer bus services. Most of the time, buses are minivans, but you can also take night buses (buses with bunk beds) for longer trips.

Those night buses are generally a very good alternative to the train which is often substantially more expensive. You can buy tickets and ask information at travel agencies and hotels in order to choose the bus service that matches your requirements (time of departure/arrival, place of departure/arrival, price etc).

Please bear in mind, that even though the bus network is quite well developed, roads are often in bad condition and buses have to go slowly sometimes and stop often to pick up and drop off passengers. Transfer times are usually counted in hours and not in kilometers.

Moto-taxis (Xe Ôm) are everywhere! On any street corner, parked on sidewalks, moto-taxi drivers will enthusiastically offer you their services wherever you want to go. Moto-taxis are a good alternative to a car taxi as they are more able to infiltrate the dense traffic of cities such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and can save a lot of travel time. Besides, travel by motorbike taxi is fun and a great way to get up close and personal with the sights and sounds of Vietnam. Please be aware that you should fix the price before the departure. Don’t hesitate to bargain.

Caution: the driver should provide you with a helmet for the ride as helmets have been compulsory since 2007. If the driver does not give you a helmet, just find another driver. If you are overly concerned about comfort and safety, moto-taxis aren’t really made for you, however if you are in a hurry and a bit intrepid, moto-taxis will be one of your best friends.
Motorbikes are the main means of transport in Vietnam but even though most locals drive them, the law clearly forbids any foreigners without a valid Vietnamese license from driving a motorbike (international licenses do not apply in Vietnam). Indeed, traffic is really dense and the risk of accidents is real. Besides, most travel insurance policies do not cover travelers for motorbike accidents. However, if you really want to move around and drive like the Vietnamese do, you won’t have any problem finding an agency or a hotel that rents motorbikes (automatic or semi-automatic) with helmets to foreigners.

If you want a means of transport more peaceful you can also rent a bicycle. However, be aware that as for motorbikes, biking in the dense traffic of city-centers may be a bit scary and potentially dangerous. This is why we recommend you to wear a helmet and limit your bike riding to the countryside and suburbs, and outside of rush hours. One thing is for sure, riding a bike in the countryside and through villages will definitely be appreciated by the local people somewhat bemused to see foreigners making such an effort. Expect lots of smiles and happy hellos, even the occasional invite to stop and share a cup of tea.

The train is a convenient means of transport in Vietnam. Transfers are secure and quite comfortable if you choose the “soft seat” or “soft bunk” classes. However, the railway network still has to be improved and travel times remain quite long (even really long). Thankfully, some Express railway services have been created, like the one between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, called the Reunification Express. We recommend you to preferably choose trains registered as SE rather than those registered TN, if you want to save time (a lot of time).

Renting a car is forbidden for foreigners to drive (apart from expatriates with a Vietnamese license); however it is possible to rent a car with a driver if you want to travel alone or with your family.

Flying is the fastest and most convenient way to travel long distances in Vietnam. Moreover, airline tickets purchased in Vietnam are quite cheap, whether you want to take a domestic flight within the country or an international flight to a neighboring country.

Dos or don'ts

Before the departure it is always better to let your guests know about the culture and traditions of their destination to ensure they will have a pleasant trip. That will help them avoid offending the local population as well as have a better understanding of their new environment. Regarding Vietnam, have a look below to discover the DOs and DON’Ts

Greeting & interactions with Vietnamese
– For a Vietnamese, it is important to know the age of a person, before their job or even their wealth, as it is what defines their status. Thus, being ‘old’ is a positive attribute in Vietnam and asking a person how old they are is something common and well appreciated.

When out in public
– Please ask permission from locals before taking a photo. Particularly in the countryside or in the high lands.
– Keep smiling. Being rude to bargain/negotiate prices won’t help you. Traditionally, people in Vietnam (as in other Asian countries) are conditioned to control their emotions and keep calm in order to save face
– Any affectionate physical contact between men and women is not appropriate in public. It is better to avoid showing your affection in public
When visiting a temple or a pagoda
– Take off your shoes and socks before entering any religious place. Let them both at the entrance and walk barefoot in the temple or the pagoda.
– Wear tee-shirt and shorts hiding at least your shoulders and your knees. Ideally, to avoid any problem wear trousers.
– Don’t wear hats or caps in the temples and pagodas
When invited to someone’s home
– Traditionally, when you want to offer something to someone or when you receive a gift/object from someone, you have to use both hands.
– Never hammer (tap) your chopsticks into your food (rice). This gesture reminds people of a ritual performed during a funeral.

Money & budget

The money in Vietnam is the Vietnam Dong. You can find notes of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10 000, 20 000, 50 000, 100 000 and 500 000 VND. The official exchange rate is 22 696 VND = 1 USD (0512/2015).

The US dollar (USD) can be easily exchanged against Vietnam Dong and is also accepted as currency in shops/hotels/restaurants etc. in big cities such as Hanoi, Hue, Nha Trang or Ho Chi Minh as well as at the airports.

The Euro is not as popular as the USD, however it is generally accepted at international airports (to pay your visa for example) or in some hotels, restaurants and boutiques in big cities. The exchange rate is 28 418 VND = 1 Euro (12/08/2014).

International credit/debit cards such as VISA and MASTERCARD are accepted in most ATMs and shops/stores that accept card payments. With a foreign card, a small percentage of the amount withdrawn/paid will be charged; however this amount remains quite low. The money withdrawn at ATMs is always in Vietnam Dong.

Only banks located in big cities such as (Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh) keep accepting traveler cheques. We recommend you to have another means of payment.

Bargaining is part of the Vietnamese tradition. You have to bear in mind that everything (or almost everything) is worth a certain price, but the price varies (sometimes a lot) according to the client. You can be sure that with your foreign face you won’t be offered the best price… so bargaining is essential! You can even halve the price or even more sometimes. Be careful however, not to offend the vendor and to keep smiling and stay polite in any circumstance. Don’t push too much and do not bargain in any place it is not welcome: shops with fixed prices are not open to negotiation.

Tips are not part of the tradition of Vietnam. However, in some situations and thanks to the many generous travellers that have preceded you, tipping is becoming more popular.
For example, you can tip your guide after a whole day or several days of travel. You can also tip luggage porters and taxi drivers.

It is not usual to tip a waitress/ waiter.

When visiting temples or pagodas, you will usually see some donation boxes near the entrance/exit in which you can place some money. In this case, we do not call it tips but donations, dedicated to the maintenance of the site. Vendors and other people within the venue may also invite you to pray with them with an incense stick, but if you accept, some of them will likely ask you for some money in exchange.


Officially, no vaccinations are required to enter Vietnam apart from travelers coming from countries with yellow fever transmission risks. However, if you travel to Vietnam you should do everything possible and take all required precautions to avoid becoming ill during your trip. Make sure that all your vaccinations are current and that you are vaccinated for Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria. Other vaccines recommended include Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (if you are in-country for over 3 months), Typhus and Tuberculosis, vaccinations against rabies and Japanese encephalitis are also advised.

– Drink plenty of fluids during the day (2 liters).
– Do not drink tap water in Vietnam. Only bottled water is drinkable.
– Wash your hands frequently
– Avoid eating unpeeled fruit or raw vegetables and ice.
– Most important: trust your gut feeling. If you don’t like your food, stop eating and do a double check when eating from street vendors.
– Keep a pull-over with you to cover yourself when the air conditioning is too cold or for cooler nights outside

Emergency contacts:

Hanoi head office

English Speaking – Mrs Thu Huong: +84 (0) 969 143 448

German Speaking: Ms Nguyen Thao : +84 (0) 91 498 9556

French Speaking: Ms Quach Linh: +84 (0) 913 27 61 44

Danang Office

English Speaking – Mrs Thuc Trinh +84 (0) 978 252 200

German Speaking: Mr Xuan The : +84 (0) 919 935 977

French Speaking: Mrs Que Chau : +84 (0) 978 737 711

Saigon Office

English Speaking – Mrs Nha Truc: +84 (0) 963 902 079

German Speaking: Ms Kim Oanh : +84 (0) 914 989 556

French Speaking: Ms Quach Linh: +84 (0) 913 27 61 44

Hanoi headquarters:
4th Floor – ATS hotel, 33B Pham Ngu Lao, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: (84-24) 3933 1362
Fax: (84-24) 3933 1307

Danang office:
66 Nguyen Du, Hai Chau, Danang, Vietnam
Tel: (84-236) 3 88 96 43
Fax: (84-236) 3 88 96 42

Saigon office:
Him Lam New Urban, Block M24,
No 154, D1 Street Tan Hung Ward,
7st District, Saigon, Vietnam
Tel: (84-28) 62 98 36 82
Fax: (84-28) 62 98 37 02

Police: 113
Ambulance: 115
Fire department: 114

What to prepare?

Pre-Departure Tasks
Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months before the expiry date and that you have the correct visa. Have a look at the visa requirements for more information. Consider medical, baggage and trip cancellation insurances.
Check with your doctor the vaccinations and medicines needed.

– Clothing should be lightweight and of the drip dry variety. You will be in the sun a lot so long sleeves and a wide hat would be more suitable.
– Underwear should be synthetic and easily washable.
– Sleepwear.
– Shirts should be long sleeved and lightweight with lots of closed pockets.
– T-shirts, short sleeved and again with pockets.
– Cool evenings necessitate the need for pullovers or a lightweight jacket.
– A light weight vest with lots of pockets will be handy for carrying your camera (and film) and binoculars.
– Long trousers made from a lightweight, quick drying fabric should have multi pockets for day trips. Long trousers that turn into shorts are ideal.
– For trekking lightweight long shorts (for modesty purposes) are acceptable.
– Bathing suit should be modest so as not to offend the locals.
– Hat for protection from the sun. Should have a wide brim and a strap.
– A sturdy poncho or parka will help to keep your gear dry in case of rain or waterfall spray.
– Footwear: You will need some sturdy comfortable boots for trekking or just walking around. They will need to support your ankles as well as having a non slip sole.
– Water proof sandals for those short trips and boating.
– Some smart casual clothes for the evenings and visiting restaurants.

– Insect repellent with the percentage of DEET recommended by your travel medicine physician. It’s important that you bring an ample supply of good quality repellent.
– Antiseptic wipes for hand washing and emergency toilet paper.
– Personal First Aid Kit (bring in small amounts and in small containers)
– Aspirin/ibuprofen, etc.
– Cold-symptom relief tablets, antihistamine, cough drops. Adequate quantity of sweat-resistant sun screen with at least an SPF 15 rating or higher, and lip balm with sunscreen.
– Prescription medicines in their original bottles. Acidophilus enzyme (available in capsules in health-food stores). This often helps your digestive system get in shape for “new” flora.
– Immodium, Lomotil, or similar anti-diarrhea medicine. Pepto-Bismol.

Officially, no vaccinations are required to enter Vietnam apart from travelers coming from countries with yellow fever transmission risks. However, if you travel to Vietnam you should do everything possible and take all required precautions to avoid becoming ill during your trip. Make sure that all your vaccinations are current and that you are vaccinated for Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria. Other vaccines recommended include Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (if you are in-country for over 3 months), Typhus and Tuberculosis, vaccinations against rabies and Japanese encephalitis are also advised.

Offer suggestions
Inspiration videos
  • Introduction to Vietnam
  • One day in Hanoi