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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I get cash on my credit card in Vietnam?
Cash advances on credit cards are available at the ATMs in Hanoi, HCMC and other major cities, for which you will be charged around 3%.  

2. What means of transportation are available for traveling in Vietnam?
By air: You can get almost anywhere while visiting Vietnam, but scheduled flights to some Vietnam travel destinations are few and late changes in aircraft type can impact travel plans.
By train:  Rail is still slow. The rail network is limited. Lines run between Hanoi - Saigon, Hanoi - Lao Cai - Hekou (China) - Kunming (China), Hanoi – Langson - Beijing (China). The train to China departs from Hanoi train station. You can join the train to Kunming at the Lao Cai station, but you can only join the train to Beijing from Hanoi. The train stations for some Vietnam travel destinations can be literally in the middle of nowhere. The rolling-stock is generally serviceable, but old and spartan by western standards. 
By local bus: Bus travel used to be available only packed sardine-style into hot and stuffy, smoke belching reject Russian 40-seaters with bicycles, motorbikes and maybe the odd pig strapped to the roof. For the true adventurer only! These buses are still around and popular with the locals
However, there is now a system of privately owned buses, open-tour buses, minivans (usually 12, 15 or 16-seaters) connecting most sizeable population centers with neighboring towns and cities. 
Bicycle or motorbike rentals can be found in major cities of interest, like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh or Hue, Hoi An, but make sure that you understand the traffic rules before riding. 
3. What medical precautions do I need to take when traveling to Vietnam?
It is important to visit a doctor or specialist travel clinic as early as possible (preferably two months) before departure to allow time for the recommended courses of vaccinations. This is particularly important if you suffer from any medical condition and/or are travelling with young children.
At the time of writing, no vaccinations are required for Vietnam (with the exception of yellow fever if you are travelling directly from an area where the disease is endemic). However, typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations are normally recommended, and it's worth checking that you are up to date with boosters for tetanus, polio etc. Other injections to consider, depending on the season and risk of exposure, are hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, meningitis and rabies. It is best to discuss these with your doctor. 
There is obviously a lot that you can do to protect yourself by taking a few common-sense precautions. In tropical climates it\'s easy to get run down, so one of the keys is to keep your resistance high by getting plenty of rest and allowing time to acclimatise to the heat, humidity and unfamiliar diet. It\'s important to eat well, especially peeled fresh fruits, and to keep up the intake of liquids - bottled water is readily available and hot tea is offered at the drop of a hat.
Personal hygiene is also crucial. Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating, and clean all cuts, scratches and bites carefully. Note that tapwater may be infected, especially during floods, so use an antiseptic spray on open wounds after washing. 
Malaria is present in Vietnam. However, at the time of writing both Hanoi and HCMC have very low incidences, while the northern delta and coastal regions of the south and centre are also considered relatively safe. The main danger areas are the highlands and the rural areas, where Plasmodiumfalciparum, the most dangerous strain of malaria, is prevalent. Your doctor will advise on which, if any, anti-malaria tablets you should take. 
Again you can help yourself considerably by not getting bitten in the first place. (Other mosquito-borne diseases include dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis.) Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, when you should wear long sleeves, trousers and socks, avoid dark colours and perfumes (which apparently attract mosquitoes), and apply repellent to any exposed skin. Sprays or lotions containing around 40% DEET (diethyltoluamide) are the most effective, but it is toxic - keep it away from the eyes and open wounds - and not recommended for young children. Other, less worrying alternatives are Mosi-Guard Natural, X-Gnat or Gurkha repellents. Most hotels provide mosquito nets where necessary; make sure you tuck the edges in well and check for holes in the mesh. Air conditioning and fans also help keep the little blighters at bay. 
When it comes to eating, the most important thing is to choose places that are busy and look well-scrubbed, and to stick to fresh, thoroughly cooked foods. Despite appearances, often the small local restaurants with a high turnover of just one or two dishes are safer than expensive, Western-style places. Restaurants where the food is cooked in front of you - for example, steaming bowls of pho soup at a street stall - are usually a good bet, as well as being lots of fun. However, steer clear of shellfish, peeled fruit, salads and raw vegetables. On the other hand, yoghurt and ice cream from reputable outlets in the main cities shouldn't cause problems.
Bottled and canned drinks, such as Coke, 7UP, Fanta and beer, are widely available even in the countryside. Bottled water is also plentiful and very cheap, though check the seal before you buy and if the water looks at all cloudy, give it a miss. It's not a good idea to have ice in your drinks and never drink water from the tap.
If you do fall ill, pharmacies in Hanoi and HCMC stock a decent range of imported medicines (check they are not past their "use-by" date). Both these cities also now have good, international-class medical facilities. Elsewhere, local hospitals will be able to treat minor ailments, but for anything more serious head back to Hanoi or HCMC. 
4. What are Electrical Plugs available for Electronic Devices in Vietnam ?
Two prong plugs are common in Vietnam. Many of the new 4 and 5 star hotels use the British standard 3-pin plug  
5. When are the public holidays in Vietnam?
January 1: New Year Day
January / February: Tet or Vietnamese Lunar New Year. The actual dates vary from year to year according to the lunar calendar. Officially 4 first days of the 1st month of Lunar Calendar but many businesses close down for a full week. This is the busiest time of the year for traveling in Vietnam and hotels, flights and trains are often full.
April 30: Liberation of Saigon Day
May 1: International Labour Day
September 2: National Day
Day 10 of the 3rd lunar month: Traditional holiday commemorating the mythical Hung King
6. Where to stay in Vietnam, what hotel should we select? What are the room rates, is breakfast included?
There are many different options for hotels, both in cities and other destinations. We select and recommend the best hotels in all budget ranges. For our package tours that include accommodation, we choose the best hotels in the touring area. Breakfast is included at most hotels, our sales staff will inform you if it is not. For our package tours, hotels are pre-booked and cannot be changed. On a private tour, the choice is yours.
7. What do I need to know regarding visa to enter Vietnam?
Only citizens of certain countries can visit Vietnam without an entry visa (valid for visit within 30 days). Those countries include: most Asean countries, Korea, Japan & Scandinavians (2005). All other citizens are required to get an entry visa before departure or a pre-approved entry visa (visa is issued on arrival at Vietnam’s International Airports) supplied before arrival in Vietnam. Tourist visa can be extended to a period of maximum of 30 days 
8. What should we bring along on our trip to Vietnam?
It is best to travel light in Vietnam. There are lots of consumer goods in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, so do not worry about running out of something and if you forget something you can find it here. Before you leave home, please complete the following checklist:
Lightweight and quick dry clothing is most appropriate for the summer months and warmer clothing for the winter months, sun hat, swim suit, ultra lightweight rain jacket.
Travel Documents: Passport, Visa, Travel Insurance, Air Tickets (you should scan them and email them to yourself incase you loose them)
Health requirements, medications, and travel insurance arranged.
Flashlight, alarm clock, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, small personal first aid kit, personal toiletries
Money: US dollars or travelers cheques and/or credit card.
Raincoat or umbrella, good hiking shoes for trekking tour
Cable locks or padlock for luggage
Camera with charger  
9. Do we need to buy travel insurance at home before traveling to Vietnam?
Yes, you do. It is strongly advised to have travel insurance covered before your depart to Vietnam. Insurance will be really helpful in case of medical emergency evacuation. The travel insurance will cover against hospital and medical expenses and other expenses as a consequence of accidents occurring to the bearer during the period of Insurance and/or unforeseen illnesses which arises during that period as well. 
10. What is the climate like in Vietnam?
Vietnam has a particularly complicated climate and, like elsewhere in the world, weather patterns have been changing over recent years. The situation described below is therefore only an indication of the type of weather you can expect.
Vietnam Climate
Starting in the north, autumn (September to December) is undoubtedly the most pleasant season. At this time of year it's generally warm (average temps above 22°C), dry and sunny in the delta, though you'll need warm clothes up in the mountains and on the waters of Ha Long Bay. Winter (December to February) can be surprisingly bitter as cold air sweeps south from China bringing fine, persistent mists and temperatures as low as 10°C. Things begin to warm up again in March, which ushers in a period of good, spring weather before the summer heat begins in earnest in May, closely followed by the rainy season in June. This combination makes for hot, sticky weather which takes many people by surprise. Temperatures, which can occasionally reach 40°C, average 30°C, while humidity hovers around 70-75%. The rain comes in heavy downpours, causing frequent flooding in Hanoi and the delta. By mid September, however, the rains are petering out, and from October onwards it's perfect sightseeing weather.
Central Coast Vietnam Climate
The coastal region from Hanoi south to Hue lies in the typhoon belt. Around Hue, typhoons seem most prevalent in October and November, while further north the season generally lasts from July to September. However, typhoons are incredibly difficult to predict and it really is a matter of luck - or bad luck, rather - if you are caught. The central region of Vietnam has a notoriously wet climate, particularly around Hué, where the annual average rainfall is a generous 3m. The so-called "dry" season lasts from February to May, though you'll need an umbrella even then. After this it gets wetter and hotter (av temps 30°C) until the rainy season begins in earnest in September, gradually easing off from November through January. Winter temperatures average a pleasant 20°C or above.
Southern Vietnam Climate
Southern Vietnam is blessed with a more equitable - and predictable - climate. Here the dry season lasts from December to late April/May, and the rains from May through November. Most of the rain falls in brief afternoon downpours, so you can still get out and about, though flooding can be a problem in the delta. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 20°C, occasionally reaching 40°C in the hottest months (March to May). Once the rains start, humidity climbs to an enervating 80%.
Central Highland of Vietnam Climate
The central highlands follow roughly the same weather pattern as the southern delta. In the rainy season (May-November) roads are regularly washed out, but it can also be very beautiful at this time, with tumbling rivers, waterfalls and misty landscapes. You just have to build a bit more flexibility into your schedule. 
11. What zone does Vietnam time belong to?
Vietnam is fifteen hours ahead of Los Angeles, twelve hours ahead of New York and seven hours ahead of London, one hour behind Perth and three hours behind Sydney (give or take an hour during daylight saving time)
12. Should I take my money to Vietnam in cash or travellers  cheques?
Vietnam's official currency is the Dong ( VND), which can limitedly be purchased outside Vietnam. The main banks in Hanoi and HCMC can handle a fairly broad range of currencies nowadays, but the dollar is still the most widely accepted. I therefore recommend taking a combination of US$ cash and US$ travellers cheques, with the bulk in travellers cheques for safety. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are the most recognised brands