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Indochina Travel Service Newsletter
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Luang Prabang, Laos
Siem Riep, Cambodia
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Frequently Asked Question About Vietnam
Is there any airport departure tax in Vietnam?
Yes, an international departure tax is payable by all travellers leaving Vietnam. It is not included in
the price of your flight ticket and must be purchased at the airport before departure.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the International departure tax is USD 12.
In Hanoi, the International departure tax is USD 14.
In Danang, the International departure tax is USD 12.
Domestic flights are not subject to airport tax. It is already included in the price of your ticket.
NOTE: You can purchase your international departure tax in US$ or in Vietnamese Dong.
Airport tax is subject to change without prior notice.
How can I get to Vietnam by air?
Ho Chi Minh City's (Saigon) Tan Son Nhat Airport is Vietnam's busiest international air hub,
followed by Hanoi's Noi Bai Airpot. A few international flights also serve Danang. Bangkok
has emerged as the principle embarkation point for Vietnam but it's still possible to get
direct flights from a number of major Asian cities and a few Australian cities including:
Cheap airlines are limited to Air Asia operated between Hanoi and Bangkok, Hanoi and
Kuala Lumpur, Jetstar between Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney, Tiger Airway between Hanoi/
Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore.
It is much more expensive to buy a ticket in Vietnam than your native country.
Depending on your country of origin, ask your national carrier - they may have convenient
flights for you. You can also consult your local travel agent for routings, fares and
availability on flights to Vietnam. Check on the Internet: discount websites and flight
search engines may offer some good deals
Other means of transportation?
There are currently six border crossings for travellers coming to Vietnam, but more may
It's become very popular to cross the border at Friendship Pass or Dong
Dang, 20km (12mi) north of Lang Son in northeast Vietnam, to get to/from Nanning.
There is a twice-weekly international train between Beijing and Hanoi that stops at
Friendship Pass. The other popular border crossing with China is at Lao Cai in northwest
Vietnam, which lies on the railway line between Hanoi and Kunming in China's Yunnan
Province. There's also a seldom used crossing at Mong Cai.
If you travel from Laos by road via Savannakhet and Sepon, you will get to
Vietnam by the Lao Bao (Vietnam) border crossing. This crossing links Laos to central
Vietnam (Danang and Dong Ha). If you travel from Vientiane, you will cross Lak Sao
before entering Vietnam by Cau Treo border crossing in Ha Tinh Province (Vietnam).
Nam Can border crossing connects Nghe An Province (Vietnam) and Xieng Khuang
If you travel from Phnom Penh by speedboat, you will enter Vietnam at
Chau Doc, in the Mekong Delta area. If you arrive from Cambodia by road into Ho Chi
Minh City, you will enter Vietnam at Moc Bai, which connects Vietnam’s Tay Ninh Province
with Cambodia’s Svay Rieng Province.
Each means of transportation has its pros and cons, contact the local transport
companies for more information and review them carefully before investing your budget.
Also note that if you enter Vietnam by land, you should and must obtain the visa before
arrival. Refer to our VISA section below for more information.
Do I need to have any vaccinations to enter Vietnam?
No vaccinations are mandatory except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where
the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis
A - B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take
precautions, especially if travelling off the beaten track. Medical facilities are rather limited and
it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling in case evacuation
NOTES: Consult your doctor for up-to-date information and prescriptions for vaccinations,
anti-malarial tablets and any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst travelling in Vietnam.
Some vaccination courses may need time to be completed. If you plan to take anti-malarial tablets,
you usually need to start one week before arrival. We recommend that you carry a first
aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses).
Money - Currency
What is the local currency in Vietnam?
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) although US Dollars and Euros
are accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops. Banks are open Monday to Friday
and some on Saturday morning.
Vietnamese Dongs come in the following forms:
Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 500,000.
Coins: 200; 500 (silver) and 1,000; 2,000; 5,000 (gold)
• Most hotels offer the opportunity to change USD and Euros
at a reasonable exchange rate.
• Shall you want to pay a bill calculated in VND by using USD,
ask for the exchange rate.
Is it better to use Vietnamese Dongs or US Dollars?
For everyday expenses, we recommend carrying a mix of US Dollars and VND in cash.
For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use US Dollars.
For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use VND.
In either case, make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to
worry about change.
Are Travellers’ Cheques accepted in Vietnam?
Banks such as CitiBank, ANZ Bank. HSBC and Vietcombank can change
your Travellers’ Cheques for VND or US Dollars but a commission applies (1% to 2%).
Very few shops, hotels or restaurants accept Travellers’ Cheques.
NOTE: Travellers’ Cheques can be difficult to change outside of the major cities.
Can I use credit cards in Vietnam?
Most credit cards are accepted in Vietnam. VISA and MASTERCARD are the most
widely accepted. JCB and AMERICAN EXPRESS are also accepted in some outlets.
Not all hotels,commercial centres, shops and restaurants accept credit cards.
Check with the cashier whether card is accepted.
Bear in mind that a surcharge usually applies for credit card purchases.
VISA and Mastercard: 3% surcharge
JCB: 3% surcharge
American Express: 4% surcharge
NOTE: Surcharges can change without prior notice.
Check the percentage charged before you buy.
Where can I withdraw cash?
ATMs for withdrawal of Vietnamese Dong are available in major airports, hotels,
towns and capitals of provinces throughout Vietnam. Most ATMs have an English language
version. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.
What is the exchange rate for Vietnamese Dong (VND)?
Commission rates are slightly lower if changing Travellers’ Cheques into Vietnamese
Dongs rather than US Dollars. Vietcombank does not charge commission when changing
US Dollars cash into Dong, though some banks do. You receive a slightly better exchange
rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations. When cashing Travellers’
Cheques you may be asked for your passport.
You can check real-time official exchange rates with the combination of a currencies
How safe is Vietnam?
Vietnam is a relatively safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your belongings
unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder
bags. Avoid cyclos late at night and choose reliable metered taxi companies. Ask your
guide for advice on safety issues.
How can I get in touch with my family, workplace and friends?
Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes
from hotels and post offices although these services are expensive. It may not always be
possible to make international calls in remote areas.
If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to
make domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the
costs before using it abroad - it may be expensive.
Major hotels have Business Centres with PCs connected to the Internet. Some
of them have wireless broadband access in rooms or public areas. Cyber cafes are
becoming popular and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable,
usually below US$1 per hour. In many Internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid international
phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline or mobile phone worldwide. Most
Internet cafes are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post
offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs VND 9,000 to send
and takes up to two weeks to reach the country of destination.
What is the time difference in Vietnam?
It is GMT + 7
Can I rent a car and drive myself?
Vietnamese law does not allow foreigners to rent and drive a car. It is highly advisable to
rent a car with a driver who knows the roads and can speak Vietnamese in case of any
problems. Traffic and roads conditions may be very different to what you are used to.
Can the driver speak English and act as a guide?
No, he cannot. In Vietnam, drivers are just drivers. Tour guides need to be licensed by
the National Tourism Authority. Tour guides are the only persons legally entitled to escort
tourists. Indochina Travel Service specialises in arranging tours with private drivers and
qualified professional tour guides.
Can I rent a bike and ride myself?
Yes, you can buy/rent bike easily and ride it yourself in Vietnam. However, please
remember the traffic and roads conditions may be very different to what you are used to.
Only young team is recommended for bike riding in Vietnam.
Do I need to get a tourist visa for Vietnam?
Most visitors to Vietnam require a visa to enter the country. Since the 1st of May 2005,
nationals from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland travelling to Vietnam and staying
for 15 days or less no longer need to apply for entry visas, provided that their passports
are valid for at least three months and they can show their return ticket. Those who wish
to stay longer than 15 days will need to apply for a visa. Tourists holding Thai,
Indonesian, Lao, Malaysian and Singaporean passports do not need a visa for a visit up
to 30 days. Philippines passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 21 days.
Japanese and South Korean passport holders do not need a visa for a visit up to 15 days.
• A tourist visa is a single entry visa which means that if you exit Vietnam, you will
require a new tourist visa to enter Vietnam again.
• All travellers must have a passport valid to 6 months after their planned exit from
• The above information may change without prior notice. It is your responsibility
to check whether or not you are subject to a tourist visa for Vietnam.
• For visa information, click here to contact your nearest Vietnamese embassy or
How long is a tourist visa to Vietnam valid?
A one-month tourist visa is usually sufficient for most visitors though it is possible to
arrange 3-month and 6-month multiple entry visas.
How do I apply for a Vietnamese visa?
There are 2 ways to obtain a visa:
If you arrive to Vietnam by land, it is NOT possible to get a visa on arrival. You must
obtain the visa beforehand, as outlined in Case 1. (The one exception is the Moc Bai land
crossing, at the Cambodian border –see Case 2)
Collect your visa before arrival from your closest Vietnamese embassy or
consulate. To apply for a visa, the requirements are as follows:
• Entry permit form (which can vary from one Vietnamese embassies or consulate
abroad to another) - There are two categories of this form: for foreigners and for
• Two photos (4cmx6cm or 3cmx4cm)
• Original passport
• Visa fee.
You should send your application and photos to a Vietnamese embassy or consulate
abroad, which is most convenient to you. On your requirement, the reply will be returned
by post (you must provide stamped envelopes with your name and address).
Collect your visa on arrival at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Danang International
• In both cases, Indochina Travel Service can help you obtain your visa prior to arrival or
upon arrival. WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU OBTAIN YOUR VISA BEFORE ARRIVAL
TO AVOID LONG DELAYS AND POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS AT THE AIRPORT.
Indochina Travel Service can process your visa application and obtain the necessary visa
approval from the Vietnamese Immigration Department. For this, we need the following
details from all applicants:
• Full name as it appears in your passport
• Date of birth DD/MM/YY
• Passport number
• Issue date and expiry date of your passport
• Place of issue (e.g. Paris, France)
• Entry and exit dates
In Case 1 only: Location for you collection of visa, e.g. Vietnam embassy in Paris
In case 2 only: Arrival date in Vietnam and flight number (e.g. 24th of March 2006 by
Vietnam Airlines flight VN532) and Port of entry (e.g. Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Son Nhat
The process usually takes about 5 working days after we receive the above information.
After this, we will send you the official document approved by the Vietnamese
The official document in Case 1 is an “approval letter”.
The official document in Case 2 is a “visa picking up upon arrival approval letter”.
Case 1: Visa before arrival
Bring the “approval letter”, your passport and two recent passport-sized photos to the
Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate. The person collecting the visa must also complete
two application forms at the embassy or consulate. A visa stamping fee is charged by the
Vietnamese embassy or consulate. Fees vary from one country to another.
Case 2: Visa upon arrival
Please remember to take your passport, 2 recent passport-sized photos and the “visa
picking up upon arrival approval letter” with you to check in for your flight to Vietnam.
NOTE: if you do not have this letter at the time of check-in, the airline staff will not allow
you to board the aircraft. Before departure, prepare some bank notes in USD to clear
visa stamping fees on arrival. On arrival at Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or Danang
International Airports, head to the Landing Visa Counter. Present your “visa picking up
upon arrival approval letter”, passport and 2 pictures to the officer who will charge you a
Visa stamping fee. Then, head for the Immigration desks.
• Always allow plenty of time for your visa arrangements to ensure a good start to
• Indochina Travel Service charges a service fee to obtain your “approval letter”
from the Vietnamese Immigration Department if you do not travel with us.
What are the immigration procedures on entering Vietnam?
On entering Vietnam, all visitors must complete an entry/exit form including a customs
declaration (white/yellow colour). It is important that the bottom copy (yellow sheet) of
this form is kept safe with your passport while in Vietnam and is presented to the
customs and immigration officials on departure.
What is the weather like in Vietnam?
Hanoi and the north of Vietnam have distinct winter and summer seasons. The mainly
dry winter lasts from November to April with average temperatures of 18-20°C. Summer
lasts from May to October and is hot and humid with temperatures around 30°C. Hue
and Danang, in the centre of the country, have very hot, dry weather from February to
August with temperatures reaching the mid 30's Celsius, but can experience some heavy
rainfall between September and January. Ho Chi Minh City and the south have a hot, dry
season from December till April with average temperatures around 28°C and a warm
rainy season from May to November. In the rainy season, most rain comes in short,
When is the best season to travel to Vietnam?
All year round is the good season somewhere!
Vietnam stretches over 2000 km from North to South. The climate differs all year round
from one region to another. The North can be chilly during winter months (December to
March). North and Central Vietnam can encounter tropical storms and typhoons from
October to January. Overall, the north of Vietnam experiences more marked seasons
than the rest of the country with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. The South, including
Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, benefits from sunshine and warm weather all
year round. However, the rainy season lasts from May to November (with showers once
or twice in general) and a dry season from December to April. The Central Highlands can
be chilly. Nha Trang has warm – sometimes hot - weather all year round, with a rainy
season from the end of September until December. Unless you intend to visit friends,
relatives or your family, we do not recommend visiting Vietnam during the Lunar New
Year, Tet holidays (Vietnamese New Year falls between late January and February). The
Tet holiday is the most important period of the year for Vietnamese people who take
time off to visit their families in the countryside. All hotels, buses, trains and flights are
full, and there is almost no activity in the markets and shops. Some hotels and
restaurants are under-staffed and in some cases the quality of the service may suffer.
This period of reduced activity may last from a week before and a week after the Tet
period. It is also impossible to get a “visa authorization letter” processed during this
NOTE: As a reminder, the peak season lasts from October to May. To avoid
disappointment because hotel rooms or domestic flights are fully booked, reserve your
travel arrangements early. Contact us to discuss your travel plans.
Which language will they understand?
English is spoken at hotels, restaurants, shops, airlines offices, and service offices. Guides
that speak English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese are available in big
Do's and Don'ts?
Eating out is no problem at all in major cities where you can easily find good restaurants.
It is advisable to eat in hotels in remote areas unless you have a reliable advice from your
guide. You should avoid uncooked, partially cooked or reheated meat, fish and raw
vegetable, especially when they have been left out exposed to dust and flies. Filtered and
bottled water is usually available and safe.
Cameras, precious jewelleries, cash, passport should be deposited at hotel or taken care
carefully while you are travelling by train or walking in the streets.
Local trains have been renovated and service on trains has been improved in the past few
years. However, the standard is still below international qualification and therefore travel
by train is not recommendable to elderly people.
What food will I find?
Besides rice, which is a staple of every meal, Vietnam has abundant food supplies and an
elaborate cuisine. Some Vietnamese dishes have achieved international fame, including
such traditional dishes as beef or chicken noodle (pho), pork sausage (gio lua), spring rolls
(nem ran) and fish balls (cha ca).
Should I tip?
Tipping is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of
tours. Hotel porters and restaurant waiters should also be tipped, especially in big cities
like Hanoi and in Saigon. In a top-end hotel, feel free to tip bellhops anywhere from
10,000 VND to 15,000 VND (about US$1). Most upscale restaurants throughout the
country now add a service surcharge of 5% to 10%. If they don't, or if the service is good,
you might want to leave another 5%. Taxi drivers will be pleased if you round up the bill
(again, mainly in the big cities). Use your discretion for tour guides and others who have
been particularly helpful.
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