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Visiting Vietnam

Vietnam at a glance


        • Location: Southeast Asia
        • Area:  330,991 sq. Km
        • Capital: Hanoi
        • Deltas: Red River Delta in the North and Mekong River Delta in the South
        • Main Cities: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Thanh Hoa, Nam Dinh, Hue, Can Tho, Nha Trang, Vung Tau.
        • Banks: 77
        • Telecoms: 2 million telephones (2.6 sets per 100 persons)
        • Export Processing Zones: 3
        • Industrial parks: 154
        • Hotels: 3,050 with 55,600 rooms including 500 international standard hotels
        • Universities and colleges: 109 with 297,900 students
        • Technical workers: 58,700

1. Visa

 A visa is necessary to visit Vietnam from most countries.  Business and tourist visas for Vietnam are available and can be obtained from Vietnamese diplomatic or consular offices in foreign countries upon submission of:

(i) an application form,

(ii) photographs,

(iii) a passport (valid for at least 6 months) and

(iv) an invitation letter (or other documents indicating the purpose of the visit). 

No later than five days after the fulfillment of formalities for a visa application, entry visas will be issued by an office managing entry and exit under the Ministry of Police, a consular office under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a foreign representative diplomatic office, or a Vietnamese consulate overseas.

Passport holders from some countries with whom Vietnam has signed bilateral agreements with, including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Philippines do not need an entry visa for a definite stay.


If a foreigner wishes to enter the country for fact-finding or exporting the possibilities of doing business or is arriving for the first time, tourist visas should most likely be appropriate.  Tourist visas obtained through travel agents are valid from thirty (30) days to six (6) months and cannot be extended in Vietnam. 

Foreigners entering Vietnam without an invitation from any agency, organization or individual are only issued a 15–day visa.

Foreign investors, including their relatives, who enter Vietnam to implement licensed investment projects may be granted a single-entry visa or a multiple-entry visa valid for use within a period not exceeding five (5) years. 

Upon expiry of the period of a visa, if the person holding the visa still needs to enter and exit Vietnam, he or she must complete the application procedures for a new visa.

2. Arrival

On arrival, you must make a written customs declaration and an entry/exit form. Your will be given copies of these documents. Keep them carefully because you have to present them when leaving the country. You could face fines or other hassles if losing it.

Keep your baggage claim stickers (attached to your air-tickets) in order to get your luggage out of the airport.

Customs regulations

  •  Tan Son Nhat airport is making use of the dual channel system for passenger baggage inspection. Passengers may choose either the green or red channel for customs clearance.
    Passengers not carrying restricted or prohibited articles may go through the green channel. Personal belongings of gold, silver, precious metals, gemstone and foreign currencies not falling into the duty-free baggage will be subject to the foreign exchange control by the Government.
  • Visitors should also declare other valuables like cameras, camcorders, computers and other electronic equipment not for personal use, but foreign and Vietnamese currency equivalent to under US $3,000 and VND 5 million respectively need not be declared. There is no restriction on books or other printed matter except for pornographic or politically sensitive materials. However, books and other media like video cassette tapes or discs must be screened. CDs and tapes will be returned in a few days after screening. It is illegal to remove antiques from Vietnam.
  • Mineral water, soft drinks... (other than alcoholic beverage) are allowed to carry in a reasonable quantity. Tobacco and cigarettes are prohibited from import, any excess of permitted amount will be confiscated. Duty-free allowances are 200 cigarettes, two litres of alcohol, and perfume and jewelry for personal use.
  • Temporary import of goods for the trip must make a customs declaration at the port of entry. Such goods must be re-exported when you leave the country.

Flight information

  • Operation Control Center: (04)8865318 in Noi Bai (Ha Noi); (08)8446662 in Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

Lost and found

  • Lost and Found Service: (04)8840008 or 8865013 in Noi Bai;  (08)8446662 ext: 7461 in Tan Son Nhat.

3. Getting around in Vietnam

Travel within Vietnam is becoming easier with domestic flight, trains, buses and cruises to all cities. Air travel has also been upgraded to international standard, a round trip ticket between HCMC and Hanoi is currently about $190 for economy class and $260 for business class. International departure tax is $12.00. Vietnam Airlines and Jetstart Pacific are the only carriers allowed to fly domestic routes.

Trains and buses in Vietnam have extensive routes and offer a cheap way to travel. A car with a driver is also an option for transportation, it can be rented for between $25 and $100 per day including cost for driver. Cars can be booked through most major hotels or tour companies.

  • Taxis in Ho Chi Minh City

§         Mai Linh Taxi (white) : 8226666

§         Airport Taxi (white) : 8446666

§         Saigon Taxi (blue) : 8424242

§         Saigon Taxi (white) : 8226688

§         Saigon Tourist Taxi (red) : 8222206

§         Star Taxi (white with yellow stripe) : 8636363

§         Tanaco Taxi (red) : 8226226

§         Taxico (white) : 8350350

§         Vina Taxi (yellow) : 8422888

  • Taxis in Ha Noi City

In Ha Noi, a cab ride from Noi Bai airport to the center city costs approximately USD15.

§         Airport : 8254250

§         Cienco Taxi : 8555888

§         City Taxi : 8222222

§         Duong Sat Taxi : 8645645

§         Five Star Taxi : 8555555

§         Hanoi Taxi : 8533171

§         Red Taxi : 8568686

§         Taxi 25 : 8252525

§         Taxi 52 : 8525252

§         Taxi CP : 8241999

§         Taxi Tai : 8731313

4. Climate

Vietnam is located between 9 and 23 degrees north. Eastern Vietnam has a long coastline on the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. It has a tropical monsoon type of climate; from May-Sep the south monsoon sets in, and the country is dominated by south to southeasterly winds. From Oct-April, the north monsoon is dominant with northerly to northeasterly winds affecting the country. There is a transition period between each monsoon season when winds are light and variable.

Vietnam has a single rainy season during the south monsoon (May-Sep). Rainfall is infrequent and light during the remainder of the year. Rainfall is abundant, with annual rainfall exceeding 1000mm almost everywhere. Annual rainfall is even higher in the hills, especially those facing the sea, in the range of 2000-2500mm.

For coastal areas and the parts of the central highlands facing northeast, the season of maximum rainfall is during the south monsoon, from Sep-Jan. These regions receive torrential rain from typhoons which move in from the South China Sea at this time of the year. The weather at this time is cloudy with frequent drizzle.

During the north monsoon, northern Vietnam has cloudy days with occasional light rain, while southern Vietnam tends to be dry and sunny.

Temperatures are high all year round for southern and central Vietnam; but northern Vietnam has a definite cooler season as the north monsoon occasionally adverts cold air in from China. Frost and some snow may occur on the highest mountains in the north for a few days a year. In the southern Vietnam, the lowlands are sheltered from outbreaks of colder northerly air and the dry season is warm to hot with much sunshine.

5. Language

Vietnamese is the official language. Use of English is becoming more common, especially in the larger cities and in the rapidly expanding tourism sector. English is widely understood in Vietnam, particularly in HCMC and major cities. French is also spoken in some areas while Chinese is spoken by many living in Cho Lon town.

If you hire an interpreter, make sure he/she has knowledge of the northern or southern language as the accent and pronunciation is quite different.

The Vietnamese are very polite people and will often smile and agree with you when in fact they may not have fully understood what you have said.

6. Currency

Vietnamese currency is Dong, abbreviated as VND. Bank note denominations are 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; 50,000; 100,000 and 500,000 dong. The 2,000 and 5,000 notes predominate in circulation. Coins come in denominations of 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 dong in Vietnam now.
Using ATM machine is becoming common in large cities and you can get money exchange in most major metropolitan areas. Credit cards are increasingly accepted at major hotels, some restaurants and a few shops but are not widely used in other establishments.

7. Clothing

In summer, temperatures are generally hot throughout Vietnam. Lightweight cotton clothing is best. If you intend to stay in Hanoi in winter or to visit mountainous areas, warm clothes should be needed. A suit and a cravat are expected for formal occasions. A shirt with a cravat is quite sufficient all year in HCMC and the South or in the hot weather of the North.

8. Telecommunications

International Direct Dial (IDD) and fax services are available at post offices and most business standard hotels. Communication costs in Vietnam have declined significantly in recent years.

Internet services can be accessed through hotel business centers or from a growing number of Internet cafes.

International Roaming for mobile telecommunications is available in Vietnam for users from many countries (usually those that share Vietnam's GSM standard). All international postal services are available.
9. Food and drink

Within tourist areas, a wide range of food acceptable to the international palate is freely available, restaurants are usually clean and menus often have English translations. Elsewhere, the variety is far less, dishes and menus are often unrecognizable and preparation and eating areas are a long way from international standards of hygiene.

Apart from the most expensive establishments, hotel food is nearly always offered as a buffet with a mixture of Asian and international dishes. Although the quality may be good, the variety is often unimaginative. Haivenu usually leaves you to your own devices in the evening so that you can choose the type of food and level of restaurant that you prefer.

10. Accommodation

Most of the major destinations have sufficient accommodation. Both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have top class hotels, as does Ha Long Bay, Sapa, Nha Trang and Hue. Most of hotel rooms are mostly of a pretty high standard with air-con, hot water often being standard and rooms are frequently cleaned daily.

11. Time – Business hour - Public Holidays

Vietnam is twelve hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 11 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. Vietnam consists of a single time zone. During the weekdays, business hours are typically 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a onehour lunch break. On Saturdays, work hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Vietnamese Government offices have recently moved to a 5-day workweek and are no longer open on Saturdays.

During the Lunar New Year, falling in January or February, business and Government activities in Vietnam come to a virtual standstill for the weeklong Tet holidays. Business travel at this time is not advised.

    • Western New Year: January 1
    • Lunar New Year: 4 days
    • Kings Hung’s Anniversary (10th of the lunar third month)

    • Victory Day: April 30

    • International Labor Day: May 1

    • National Day: September 2

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