A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.
Many reputable travel agencies offer pre-arranged visas, which are available to citizens of most countries, including the United States, but only to those landing in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, or Danang. This makes for a convenient option for those who don’t live near a Vietnamese consulate but note that in high season, you may be stuck waiting in line for some time. You’ll need to pay your visa fee in cash; as of this writing, the cost for American citizens is $45 for a one- or three-month single entry visa, $65 for a 30-day multiple-entry visa, and $95 for a longer multiple-entry visa.
Make two photocopies of the data and visa page of your passport (one for someone at home and another for you, carried separately from your passport). If you lose your passport, promptly call the nearest embassy or consulate and the local police.
Several vaccinations are advised before traveling to Indochina; consult your GP or travel clinic six to eight weeks before departure to ensure you have time to complete all the series of injections.
Malaria is also present, so you will need to bring anti-malarial medication. Be aware that some malaria strains here resistant to some forms of medication, so be sure to bring the appropriate type. Wearing long sleeves and trousers is also advised, as well as insect repellent – which also serve to protect against other insect-borne illnesses such as dengue fever. Remember, malaria can develop up to a year after exposure, so keep an eye on any symptoms.
The quality of hospitals varies greatly from region to region– ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance which covers emergency medical evacuation as you may not be able be treated locally. In general, Thailand’s private hospitals are excellent, while Vietnam’s cities provide decent basic healthcare. If traveling in Cambodia or Laos, or in any rural area, health services are extremely limited.
Bring any prescription medicines with you, along with a basic medical kit, particularly if you are visiting rural areas. As well as first aid items, consider bringing medicines for stomach upsets, rehydration sachets, and painkillers.
Tap water is unsafe to drink- also be wary of ice in drinks and unpeeled fruit and vegetables.
Schistosomiasis – also known as bilharzia – is a disease which can be caught in freshwater. It is present in Cambodia, soavoid swimming or bathing in lakes and rivers. Symptoms may not occur until after you return home; be sure to visit your GP if you are unwell.
The most common health hazard in Indochina is waterborne stomach infections and diarrhea, usually in a mild form, but uncomfortable given the lack of developed bathroom facilities. In both instances, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and replace lost salts with rehydration sachets.
Rice wine is part of the culture in Vietnam – but avoid the homebrew, and opt for recognized brand names.Super-strength rice wine can contain lethal levels of methanol.
Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun across Indochina, especially when traveling on the water. Temperature and humidity can take time to adjust to, so apply sunscreen regularly, wear loose clothing and drink lots of water.
All generally safe destinations, but petty crime can happen. Be sensible – don’t flash cash or valuables, and don’t wander off from the safety of your tour group.
The local currency is Vietnam Dong (VND), but US dollars are also accepted. It is almost impossible to change VND into US dollars without a flight ticket showing your onward destination.
Only change money at official money exchange counters with a clear sign showing this status. Illegal exchange places like gold shops may offer a higher rate you may risk losing your money.
Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, but outside main centers, you may find cash the only acceptable currency. It may be difficult to cash travelers’ cheques.
ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas.
In Vietnam, the standard voltage is 220 V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type A / C / G. Below you find pictures of these power sockets and corresponding plugs. And we provide more information about the voltage and frequency.
At Restaurants: Scan the bill first: The gratuity usually isn’t included, in which case you should leave about 10 percent, preferably in cash, and a bit more if you tip on a credit card. If the gratuity is included, throw a few more bills in on top.At Hotels: Give the concierge about $20 if he does you a favor (like securing special reservations outside the hotel). Cleaning staff get about $2 a day, left at the end of your stay on the nightstand, where it’s easily visible. You don’t need to tip doormen.
Lightweight packing is the best way for traveling; avoid a suitcase or a large backpack with a frame. Cotton or cotton polyester works well in the hot climate of Vietnam. You can buy clothing there. Be prepared for adverse weather conditions. Carry a hat and sunglasses with UV protection. You will need lightweight walking shoes; make sure they’re not too tight, as your feet can swell in a hot climate. You can have extra sandals to wear in southern Vietnam. Most basic necessities can be obtained through the hotel. However, some hotels may or may not provide hair dryers, so you might want to bring your own. In that case, you will also want to bring a converter and multiple prongs as shapes of outlets will vary even within the same city. Laundry and dry cleaning service are excellent and available at most hotels. Other items to pack include camera, plenty of film, batteries, flashlight, money pouch, medical kit, and bug repellent. Electrical outlets in Vietnam are mostly 220V and 50 Hz; with some 110V and 50 Hz, so a kit of adapter plugs is recommended.