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Practical A to Z

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Practical A to Z


Budget

A double room in a charming hotel costs around $25, a meal in a traditional restaurant around VND200 000, a half-day bicycle rental VND20 000 and a litre bottle of mineral water VND8 000.

The cost of living in Vietnam is very low, but prices are not generally indicated in shops, so don’t hesitate to barter.


Customs

On arrival in Vietnam you will be asked to fill in customs and police documents that you must carefully keep throughout your stay. The blue police form will be requested by every hotel, which has to declare guests to the local police station.


Eating out

Most of the little street eateries stay open all day long. More upmarket establishments serve during mealtimes: 10.30am-2pm and 5-8pm (9pm in the south and until 11pm in the case of tourist restaurants).

Service is generally included in luxury hotels and restaurants, but, elsewhere, it is neither included nor compulsory.


Electricity

The voltage in Vietnam is generally 220 volts, but check beforehand.


Embassies and consulates

British Embassy –Central Building, 4th floor, 31 Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi – tel 04 3936 0500 – http://ukinvietnam.fco.gov.uk/

Irish Embassy –Vincom City Towers [8F], 191 Ba Trieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi – tel 04 3974 3291 – http://www.embassyofireland.vn/


Getting around

Transport is one of the highlights of a trip to Vietnam and while it provides a fascinating insight into the country and its culture, it can often also be extremely time consuming.

International driving licences are not recognised and tourists have to rent a car with a chauffeur.

It is however possible to rent motorbikes or bicycles. Let yourself be carried along with the flow of the traffic, even if you miss your turning.

In towns, the xich lo is the most picturesque means of transport. Negotiate the price before hopping on board.


Health

Diarrhoea is the bane of many travellers abroad: eat plenty of white rice and vegetable broth and make sure you drink lots of liquid (salted if possible).

To combat malaria, use mosquito repellent, wear trousers, long-sleeved shirts and closed shoes in the evenings and check your mosquito nets.

There is no treatment against dengue (high temperature, headaches, skin rashes, etc.), bar mosquito repellent.

Japanese encephalitis, also transmitted by mosquitoes, can be very dangerous and vaccination is recommended.

Avian influenza is transmitted by contact with the faeces of infected animals. Avoid eating raw food and spending too much time in food markets; wash your hands regularly.

The quality of medical care varies from place to place. Enquire at the nearest embassy or consulate or at a large hotel.

The tap water is not drinkable; so only drink bottled mineral water.

All the large towns are equipped with chemists (cua hang thuoc) that are well stocked in medicines, many manufactured by international pharmaceutical laboratories. Check the use-by date.

Emergency numbers:

- Police: Tel 113

- Fire brigade: Tel 114

- Ambulance: Tel 115


Money

The dong (VND) is the official currency of Vietnam but US dollars are widely accepted.

Banks are generally open Monday-Friday from 7.30-11.30am and from 1.30-3.30pm on Saturdays; some also stay open at lunchtime.

Money can be changed at the Vietcombank (which is very fussy about the condition of banknotes), exchange offices and some jewellers and hotels.

Traveller’s cheques are generally accepted by the major banks and some hotels.

Few establishments are equipped with credit card facilities, but ATM’s are becoming more and more widespread (Visa, Mastercard, American Express).


Post

Post offices are generally open 7 days a week from 6-8am until around 9pm.


Public holidays

1 January.

Tet Festival – mid-January to early February. Many hotels are full at this time and trains and planes are also fully booked. Many shops also close during this festival.

3 February – Foundation of the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1930

30 April – Liberation of South Vietnam in 1975

1 May

Buddha’s Anniversary – 8th day of the 4th lunar month (May)

19 May – Birth of Ho Chi Minh in 1890

2 September – National holiday

25 December


Safety

The Vietnamese soil is still contaminated by live mines and explosives, the presence of which is not indicated. Never leave signposted paths.


Shopping

There is no lack of moderately priced souvenirs from lacquered boxes and trays, ceramics and home decoration objects (fabrics, tableware, vases and furniture) to embroidery, wickerwork, hats and silk.

Antiques cannot be exported without special authorisation.

Clothing prices in particular are extremely competitive, including made-to-measure garments (take your favourite shirt or a pattern).

Bartering is widespread and expected.


Sightseeing

Museums are generally open from 8am to 5pm, closing at lunchtime between 11.30am and 1.30pm; many are closed on Mondays.

Most pagodas and temples are open 7 days a week.

Museum and monument entrance fees range from between VND5 000 and 15 000 (higher at some archaeological sites such as My Son or the Royal Hue tombs).

Some of the Central Highland villages can only be visited if you have a permit (around $10) issued by the local tourist office.


Social etiquette

If you receive an invitation on the first day of Tet: do not arrive the first, don’t wear white (colour of mourning) and don’t talk about death or accidents.

During meals, don’t stick your baguettes upright into your bowl of rice, which is synonymous with the incense sticks burnt when someone dies.

Take off your shoes when entering someone’s house and some Buddhist temples.


Telephone

To call Vietnam from the United Kingdom or Ireland

Dial 00 + 84 (country code for Vietnam) + regional code without the first 0 + the 7- or 8-digit number of the person.

To call the United Kingdom or Ireland from Vietnam

Dial 00 + country code (UK 44 and Ireland 353) + number of the person (without the first 0).

To call inside Vietnam

Dial the regional code (if you’re in a different region) + the 7- or 8-digit number of the person.

Most foreign mobile phones work in Vietnam.

Vietnamese mobile phone numbers generally start with 090 or 091.

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