VIETNAM COUNTRY DOSSIER

printing version

 

1. COUNTRY SHORT PROFILE

 

Country

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Cities

Hanoi is the Capital. Ho Chi Minh City (normally called Saigon) is the largest city and more exciting industrial centre. Hue, the Capital of the last Kingdom up to 1945 is still maintaining traces of the old reigns. Main seaports are Haiphong, Danang, Saigon.

Population

84 millions. 54 ethnics. The Kinh (or Viet) ethnic forms around 85% of population and mostly inhabit in larger towns. A larger Chinese community of less than 2 millions inhabit mainly in Hochiminh City.

Area

331,211 km square, roughly the area of Italy or Japan

Land Borders

North to China, upper West to Laos, lower West to Cambodia, East and South to Pacific Ocean.

Sea Borders

Northeast to East Sea or so-called East Sea, Southwest to the Gulf of Thailand.

Climate

Tropical monsoon. 4 seasons in the North, dry and rainy seasons in the South. Conditions vary North to South with elevation changes.

Geography

75% of the territory is limestone mountains, the rest are river deltas, fertile highlands, and small deserts

Language

Vietnamese. Don't ask the local people do they understand Chinese naturally. Vietnamese is a tonal language using Roman letters together with tone markers - main problems of foreign students. English is the most popular foreign language and French, Chinese, Japanese are expected to speak at service points. Literacy rate is 88%

Religion

Figures are different. Estimated 60% – 70% of population believe in Buddhist tenets with strong Confucian and Taoist influences. Catholic account for perhaps 8% – 10% of the population. Cao Dai and Hoa Hao, local sects of Buddhism, are strong in the Mekong delta.  Small group ( of about 50,000 people ) are Islamic followers living in the central part of the central coast of Vietnam.

Government

Sole-party Socialist Republic under the leadership of the Communist Party. Important persons to name are the Party's General Secretary (Mr. Nong Duc Manh), the country's president (Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet), the Prime Minister (Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung). The leading offices are Politburo and National Assembly.

Economy

Market-based economy. Third world leading rice exporter and coffee exporter. Other exported goods are rubber, timber, garment, shoes, seafoods, tea, crude oil, coal, and electricity.   

Public Holidays are

Jan 01 International New Year Days
Mid Feb Lunar New Year
  Mid Apr Country Anniversary of the first King
Apr 30 Liberation Day
May 1 Labour Day (May Day)
Sep 2 National Day

 

2. Preparing to go

 

Passport

Each passenger must be in possession of a valid passport which must be valid for more than 6 months AFTER the return date of travel. Passport number, date and place of issue, and birth date is now required by airlines and trains, and may be required to confirm services. Names on your airline tickets must match the first and last name listed on your passport.

Visa

Entry visas are obtainable at Vietnamese diplomatic missions and required for all visitors with valid passports irrespective of nationality. Please allow 3-7 days for processing. Travel permits are only required for trips to off-limit areas such as border provinces, military bases and remote islands.

Bilateral visa exemption agreement

Unilateral visa exemption agreement

In case visa approval is arranged by Threeland Travel, we would like to offer you two ways to obtain visa: through Embassies & General Consulates of Vietnam  or on arrival

IMPORTANT: Please take a note that visa on arrival in Vietnam means visa stamped on arrival. Guests must get visa approval by Vietnam Immigration office in advance. Being misunderstood, some of our clients missed some days in airport to arrange the visa.

What to take with you
There are a few things you should not travel without:

* A map, certainly
* Photocopies of your passport and visa.
* Cash in US$ 20’s and $ 100’s.
* A folding umbrella if you plan to visit during the rainy season. The wettest months are July and August.
* Zip lock bags. They are cheap, disposable, and keep all kinds of things fresh and dry.
* Hotel cards: You should keep your hotel cards or brochures to show people to get guidance in case of missing way back home.
* Business Cards. You will discover that practically everyone in Vietnam has a calling card of some kinds. The proper way to offer your card is to hold it by the corners with both hands.

 

What to wear

Appropriate dress differs from North to South. Southern Vietnam is tropical year round and people dress comfortably and casually. Lightweight cotton and wool fabrics will be comfortable at any time of year. While they may resist wrinkles, synthetics and are blends miserably hot. Generally, short pants are inappropriate anywhere but a beach resort or a farm and you will look like a foolish tourist on the streets of most cities. Jeans are almost always fashionable except for business occasions.
Winter (November through April) can be cool in Hanoi, and a coat may be necessary. Dress here is a bit more formal and somber than the fashionable South. If traveling on business, jackets and ties are usually appropriate, regardless of the weather. Saigon’s business community is very image oriented. It’s alright to ask your business partners here what kind of attire is appropriate and expected.

Remember that Vietnam is a tropical country. Most of the year it is warm and humid. If you are not used to tropical weather, be prepared to shower and change your clothes two or three times a day. During rainy season in Saigon the rain is often short (20-30 minutes) and some times quite sudden. Practically every hotel in Vietnam has laundry service, which is usually quite inexpensive.

 

Baggage

Airline baggage allowance regulations are based on a weight and measurement system. Combined overall dimensions for checked baggage can not exceed 106 inches. Carry-on luggage cannot exceed 45 inches. For flights within continents baggage is limited to 44 lbs. (20 kilos). One bag not to exceed 106 inches may be taken on escorted programs. For additional bags, there will be an additional charge of approximately $3 per bag per handling

 

Customs regulations
Arriving in Vietnam, all visitors must fill in Declaration Forms and show their luggage to Customs Officials upon request. There are no limited amounts of foreign currency, objects made of gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones or plated with silver or gold but visitors must declare these in detail on the customs forms.

ENTRY: Tourists are authorized to bring in the following items duty-free: Cigarettes: 400 pieces; Cigars: 50-100; Tobacco: 500 gram; Liquor: 1.5l.

Personal effects of a reasonable quantity. Small gift items valued at not more than US$ 500.

Note: There is no limit to the amounts of cash, precious metals and gems people can bring in, but amounts of over US$ 7,000 must be declared.

It is prohibited for any visitor to bring into Vietnam the followings:

* Weapons, explosives and inflammable objects.
* Opium and other narcotics.
* Cultural materials unsuitable to Vietnamese society.

EXIT: Goods of commercial nature and articles of high value require export permits issued by the Customs Office. Antiques, some precious stones and animals listed in Vietnam's red-book may not be brought out of the country.


COUNTRY FACTS

Currency
The currency of Vietnam is "Dong" (abbreviated "d" or VND). Bank coins are 200d, 500d, 1000d, 5000d. Bank notes are 1,000d; 2,000d; 5,000d; 10,000d; 20,000d; 50,000d, 100,000d, 200,000d and 500,000d. Unlike most of Vietnam's neighbouring countries, the US Dollar is widely accepted. At this the official rate of exchange is approximately VND 18,500 to USD 01.

Credit Cards and Travellers' Cheques are accepted at most of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops but in major cities only. Visitors are recommended to carry US Dollar in small notes. Travelers can change their money for Vietnamese Dong (VND) at banks, hotels and jewelry shops throughout the country.

At present there is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that a visitor may bring into Vietnam, however very large sums should be declared on arrival.

Exchange rate at Jan 2010

    1 Pound Sterling = 32,000 VND

    1 US Dollar = 18,500 VND

    1 Euro = 21,000 VND

Check the last update of exchange rate at Vietcombank

Food
Vietnamese food often comes as a wonderful surprise! It has a very distinctive style, although it is also clearly influenced by Chinese and, to a lesser extent, French cuisine. Freshness is of paramount importance so ingredients are bought fresh from the local market on a daily basis.

Meals will usually include rice or noodles as staples along with a vast array of vegetables, and meats like chicken, duck, beef, and pork. Good quality seafood (fish, calamari, prawns and crab) is widely available and you’ll find that fish sauce is a condiment which accompanies almost every meal. The most famous Vietnamese dish is spring rolls either deep fried (known as cha gio in the south and nem ran in the north) or served fresh (bi cuon/bo bia) with a combination of raw vegetables and grilled prawns, crab, pork or chicken. Pho (noodle soup) served with either chicken or beef, fresh green leaves, beans sprouts, and red chilly is also found throughout the country. If you are after a snack try a banh cuon, a steamed dumpling stuffed with minced pork or prawns, black mushrooms and bean sprouts.

The French colonial period has left a legacy of delicious continental food. Often street cafés have a distinctly French feel with crispy baguettes, pate, crème caramel, banana flambé, and sweet pastries on the menu.

Vegetarians: Vegetarians should not have any difficulty in finding a great selection of food in Vietnam as there is a strong Buddhist influence and Chinese and Vietnamese vegetarian dishes abound.
Food Allergies: If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour guide who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.


Drinking
Bottled water and mineral water are obtainable at any shops in most cities. It is advisable to drink boiled water and not to drink ice and tap water. The most reliable local brand is LA VIE (Don’t confuse them with the imitations such as La Ville or La Vierge). Aquafina of Pepsi and real Evian also available at many shops.

Approximate costs for drinks bought in a shop in the street are shown below.

Note: Prices in restaurants and hotels can be as much as double those specified.
Tea, similar to Chinese green tea, is one of the most common drinks in Vietnam. Coffee was introduced by the French and is usually strong, thick and served complete with drip filter, so you know it’s fresh! If you ask for milk it will usually be sweet condensed milk.

Popular beer are: Local brand: 333, Hanoi beer, Saigon beer and international brand Carlsberg, Heineken, Tiger and Foster

 

Film and developing
Fresh negative film is widely available. Popular brands are Kodak, Fuji, Agfa and Konica. Memory cards for digital camera could be found easily, but be careful with its quality. Image printing from both negative film or digital file are obtainable in cities and towns. The tourists say that the negative film is cheaper than abroad.
One-hour service photo shops have become ubiquitous in places where tourists abound. Positive film can be developed only in Saigon and Hanoi. Most reliable and centered-located Film developing shops are 19 Nguyen Cau – Ba Trieu St. and Photocen – 77 Ly Thuong Kiet in Hanoi and Shops on Nguyen Hue Blvd., District 1 in Saigon.


Shopping

The following items are quite unique and have good quality:

* Carved wooden furniture, fine lacquer ware (these can be shipped home upon request).
* Traditional Vietnamese hand-made silk, linen and cotton dresses, kimonos, embroideries, etc.
* Simulated antiques, ceramics, old watches or Zippo lighters, etc.
* Copies of famous paintings.


Others
Taxi
: Taxis with meters are available in big cities. The current price is about US$ 0.5 per kilometre. Most metered taxi drivers can speak a little English.

Business hours: (GMT + 7)

* Offices: 07:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 01:00 p.m. to 04:30 p.m., closed on Saturday and Sundays
* Banks: 08:00 a.m to 03:00 p.m, closed on Friday afternoons, Saturday and Sunday.

Electrical current: 110-220 volts A.C.

Telephone: Long distance calls should be made at post offices, hotels or telephone booths (phone cards are available at post offices). Normally, hotels will get 15-20% service charge of the bill. Internet phone is an alternative choice and much cheaper, with around 0,1USD/minute to Europe or America

Internet: Internet cafes with ADSL can be found easily in Vietnam. Cost for an hour is around 0,5US$.

Tip and Gratuities: Tipping is not obligatory in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, however, if you meet with exceptional services or kindness, a tip is always appreciated. A tip for good service might be about 5% of the bill.

Bargaining: Bargaining is a way of life in much of South East Asia. In Vietnam shops don't have fixed prices so the shop keeper will start with a high price which you are then expected to bargain down until you reach a fair price. Bargaining should always be relaxed and can be a lot of fun but you should remember that it is considered disrespectful to agree a price but then walk away.

Laundry: Most of the hotels we use in Vietnam provide a laundry service although this can be quite expensive, sometimes as much as US$1 per item. Alternatively the side streets of most towns and cities are teeming with laundries where the average cost per kilo of laundry is US$0.70.

 

Weather

Vietnam experiences a fair degree of diversity in climate. The north has distinct summer and winter seasons. Summer lasts from May until October, when the weather is hot and very humid with temperatures averaging about 30 degrees Celsius. November to April are the winter months when the weather is mainly dry and average temperatures are about 18-20 degrees Celsius. Please note that in the mountainous regions of the country, temperatures will be much lower than this, so warm clothing is required if you are travelling to hilltribe areas during the winter months.

In the centre of the country (e.g. Hue, Danang and Hoi An) the weather is very hot and dry from February to August with temperatures of around 33-36 degrees Celsius, but there can be heavy rainfall between September and January.

The south of Vietnam has a hot, dry season from December through until April with temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius. May until November is the rainy season, although there are rarely long periods of rain – it is usually short heavy showers.

The following chart shows average daytime temperatures (in degrees celsius):

 

CITY/ TOWN

HUMIDITY (%)

RAINY
SEASON

DRY
SEASON

ANNUAL
RAINFALL (mm)

HOTTEST MONTH (oC)

COLDEST

MONTH (oC)

 Can Tho

82

May-Nov

Dec-Apr

1560

Apr: 33.9

Jan: 21.9

 Dalat

84

Apr-Nov

Dec-Mar

1820

Apr: 26.8

Feb: 10.0

 Danang

83

Jul-Jan

Feb-Jun

1974

Jun: 34.2

Jan: 19.0

 Dien Bien

84

Apr-Sep

Oct-Mar

1567

May: 32.2

Jan: 11.0

 Hanoi

83

May-Oct

Nov-Apr

1680

Jun: 32.8

Jan: 13.8

 Halong

82

May-Oct

Nov-Apr

1994

Jul: 31.6

Jan: 13.5

 Hue

88

Jul-Jan

Feb-Jun

2890

Aug : 34.5

Jan: 17.2

 Nha Trang

82

Sep-Dec

Jan-Aug

1441

Aug: 33.2

Jan: 20.5

 Pleiku

85

May-Oct

Nov-Apr

2684

Apr: 30.7

Jan: 14.0

 Qui Nhon

81

Sep-Dec

Jan-Aug

1647

Aug: 34.5

Jan: 20.6

 Saigon

82

May-Nov

Dec-Apr

1979

Apr: 34.8

Jan: 21.0

 Sapa

87

Mar-Nov

Dec-Feb

2769

Aug: 23.2

Jan: 06.2


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Useful Phrases in Vietnamese

As Vietnamese is a tonal language (with six different tones), the particular tone used determines the meaning of a word. As the same word can mean many different things depending on the tone it is a difficult language to grasp but the locals will certainly appreciate your efforts!

The following words and phrases are spelled phonetically to help you with pronunciation.

Vietnamese Numbers