Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. Check with the Vietnamese Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. Securing required documents is the responsibility of the traveler. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
It is good advice to always drink as well as brush your teeth with bottled water. You should only eat fruit that can be peeled, and be sure to wash it well in bottled water before eating. In restaurants, insist that they bring a sealed bottle to your table and avoid ice. Take extra care with hygiene and make sure you wash your hands before and after eating. It is a good idea to bring along hand sanitizer. Carry a kit of the basic emergency medicines you might need for diarrhea, fever, etc., plus mosquito repellent, band-aids and antiseptic ointment. We recommend you see your doctor for advice about local health conditions and precautionary medicines, as you may need to be immunized against certain illnesses.
Vietnam uses the dông. Notes are issued in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000. Coins are minted in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000. You can change money at banks and currency exchange agencies for the best rates, hotels and some shops can also change them for you, but the rate will likely be much higher. ATMs are also an efficient way to get money in the local currency. A passport is required when exchanging currencies.
Vietnam has 120/220 V at 50 Hz, with a type A, C or G socket. The voltage is being standardized to 220, and G-type sockets are found in newer buildings. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you'll need a converter and an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is available in major cities throughout Vietnam. There are also Internet cafés in main cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
While Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have shopping malls and more international goods, you might enjoy the lively local markets in towns and cities across the country, not only for the goods, but for the experience. In the Mekong River Delta you'll find a unique floating market. Hundreds of boats brimming with fruits, vegetables and other local produce gather together and "open" for business.
In many of the smaller shops and markets you can bargain, but many of the shops in major towns and cities don't budge on prices. Generally shopping hours are 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Sunday through Saturday.
Traditional items to look for include wooden water puppets, silk, lacquerware, ceramics, clothes and hand-painted silk greeting cards.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Hotel housekeepers $1-$4 per day (or the equivalent in the local currency), Taxis 10-15% of the fare, Restaurants and bars 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.
For travel within cities, taxis, rental bicycles and chauffeur-driven private cars are all available. To go from city to city, depending on the distance, try a chauffeur-driven vehicle, motorcoach or air.
Generally, casual jeans or slacks, shirts, sweaters, a jacket and comfortable walking shoes are all you'll need. When visiting temples you may be asked to cover bare shoulders or to take off your shoes. Shorts, tank tops or halter tops are sometimes not permitted in temples. Don't forget to pack good outdoor shoes, a hat and sunscreen. Visitors may wish to pack long pants and long-sleeved shirts for hiking, trekking, or outdoor activities.