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FAQs

Vietnam Travel FAQ

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Q: What is the climate like in Vietnam?

A: Vietnam has a particularly complicated climate and, like elsewhere in the world, weather patterns have been changing over recent years. The situation described below is therefore only an indication of the type of weather you can expect.

Northern Vietnam Climate

Starting in the north, autumn (September to December) is undoubtedly the most pleasant season. At this time of year it’s generally warm (average temps above 20Ai??C), dry and sunny in the delta, though you’ll need warm clothes up in the mountains and on the waters of Ha Long Bay. Winter (December to February) can be surprisingly bitter as cold air sweeps south from China bringing fine, persistent mists and temperatures as low as 10Ai??C. Things begin to warm up again in March, which ushers in a period of good, spring weather before the summer heat begins in earnest in May, closely followed by the rainy season in June. This combination makes for hot, sticky weather which takes many people by surprise. Temperatures, which can occasionally reach 40Ai??C, average 30Ai??C, while humidity hovers around 70-75%. The rain comes in heavy downpours, causing frequent flooding in Hanoi and the delta. By mid September, however, the rains are petering out, and from October onwards it’s perfect sightseeing weather.

Central Coast Vietnam Climate

The coastal region from Hanoi south to HuAi?? lies in the typhoon belt. Around HuAi??, typhoons seem most prevalent in April and May, while further north the season generally lasts from July to November. However, typhoons are incredibly difficult to predict and it really is a matter of luck – or bad luck, rather – if you are caught. Flights are usually only disrupted for a matter of hours, but in recent years the main road and rail routes heading south have been cut by floods at least once during the typhoon season. The good news is that they usually get everything moving again incredibly quickly – within four or five days, depending on the severity of the damage.

The central region of Vietnam has a notoriously wet climate, particularly around HuAi??, where the annual average rainfall is a generous 3m. The so-called “dry” season lasts from February to May, though you’ll need an umbrella even then. After this it gets wetter and hotter (av temps 30Ai??C) until the rainy season begins in earnest in September, gradually easing off from November through January. Winter temperatures average a pleasant 20Ai??C or above.

Southern Vietnam Climate

Southern Vietnam is blessed with a more equitable – and predictable – climate. Here the dry season lasts from December to late April/May, and the rains from May through November. Most of the rain falls in brief afternoon downpours, so you can still get out and about, though flooding can be a problem in the delta. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 20Ai??C, occasionally reaching 40Ai??C in the hottest months (March to May). Once the rains start, humidity climbs to an enervating 80%.

Central Highland of Vietnam Climate

The central highlands follow roughly the same weather pattern as the southern delta. In the rainy season (May-November) roads are regularly washed out, but it can also be very beautiful at this time, with tumbling rivers, waterfalls and misty landscapes. You just have to build a bit more flexibility into your schedule.

Q: What is the time difference in Vietnam?

A: Vietnam is fifteen hours ahead of Los Angeles, twelve hours ahead of New York and seven hours ahead of London, one hour behind Perth and three hours behind Sydney (give or take an hour during daylight saving time).

Adopt Vietnam Resources:
Vietnam Time

Q: Where can I find current exchange rates for Vietnamese money?

A: Current dong exchange rates are available on the internet. Please try one of the links on the page given below. Note: You can not buy or exchange dong outside Vietnam.

Adopt Vietnam Resources:
Vietnamese Money

 

Q: Is language a problem in Vietnam, or can I get by in English?

A: Everyone in Vietnam seems to be learning English. Standards are relatively high considering the country has only been open for just over a decade. Most young people and many of those working in the tourist industry speak sufficient English to communicate at a basic level. You’ll find more and better English-speakers in the south – a legacy of the American presence – but even here don’t expect to find English spoken at small restaurants, in markets or anywhere off the tourist trail. For such situations it will help to have aAi??basic phrasebook.

People over 60 years old, especially in the north, speak wonderfully old-fashioned French. Other northerners might speak Russian or German, depending where they were sent to be educated or as “guest workers”.

If you’re having real difficulties communicating, it sometimes helps to write things down in English. As a last resort, someone will probably go and find an English speaker to help sort things out.

Though you will certainly be able to get by in English, it’s worth learning a few Vietnamese phrases before you go. The pronunciation is a bit tricky, but otherwise Vietnamese is not a particularly complicated language. A few standard phrases (such as hello, thank you, how much is it? and goodbye) always go down well. It will also help if you learn the numbers, though this can be circumvented by asking people to write down prices, times etc.

Adopt Vietnam Resources:
Vietnamese Language Books & Tapes

 

Q: Should I take my money to Vietnam in cash or travellers’ cheques?

A: Vietnam’s official currency is the dong, which can not be purchased outside Vietnam. The main banks in Hanoi and HCMC can handle a fairly broad range of currencies nowadays, but the dollar is still the most widely accepted. I therefore recommend taking a combination of US$ cash and US$ travellers’ cheques, with the bulk in travellers’ cheques for safety. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are the most recognised brands.

It’s a good idea to arrive with at least some small denomination dollar bills ($1s, $5s and $10s) to get you from the airport into town and to a bank. Even if they’re open, the airport exchange desks offer unfavourable rates. If you do bring dollars cash into Vietnam, make sure they are not badly tattered as they may be refused.

Q: How safe is Vietnam?

A: Vietnam is a relatively safe country to visit. As a woman, I have travelled extensively in Vietnam on my own with absolutely no problems. Despite people’s fears, there is almost no animosity towards Americans.

That said, there are increasing instances of theft, especially in HCMC where pickpockets and snatch thieves on motorbikes are the worst menace. The best tip is to be vigilant at all times. Often cute kids or old grannies have deft fingers. Leave all valuables (expensive watches, jewellery, glasses, etc.) at home, and don’t even wear flash costume jewellery. Make sure you have a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags at all times and never leave anything you value lying around unattended. I would also not advise taking cyclos late at night, especially in HCMC or as a female on her own.

The other problem area is on the trains, especially the night trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Again, make sure all your luggage is safely locked, preferably stowed out of sight or attached to an immovable object, and don’t leave things near open windows. It’s also wise not to accept food or drink from people you don’t know (there are reports of one or two people being drugged and robbed this way).

You might also have read warnings about unexploded shells, mines and other ordnance lying around. This is still the case in the DMZ, around My Son and certain border areas, particularly along the Chinese border. It is advisable to visit such areas only with an experienced local guide and never stray off well-trodden footpaths anywhere in Vietnam.

Finally, there’s the traffic. Trying to cross the street in Hanoi or HCMC is an adventure in itself! You’ll be faced with a tightly-packed stream of scooters, bikes and cyclos which looks completely chaotic at first. But don’t give up! Either walk till you find some traffic lights or just go for it. The key is to walk slowly and steadily out into the traffic. As long as you keep a steady pace and make your movements clear, the traffic will flow round you. Problems arise if you stop or move too quickly and the drivers/riders can’t anticipate your progress.

Unfortunately, driving standards are pretty poor. Vehicles are badly maintained and the roads are becoming ever more crowded, especially Highway 1. As a result the number of serious accidents on the highways is on the increase.

But don’t get paranoid! Thousands of people visit Vietnam each year without experiencing any problems whatsoever. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the situation in Vietnam is certainly no worse than many big European and American cities. Just take the same precautions you would in any unfamiliar place, and you should be fine.

Adopt Vietnam Resources:
Essential Government AgenciesAi??- State Department Advisories

Q: Is language a problem in Vietnam, or can I get by in English?

A: Everyone in Vietnam seems to be learning English. Standards are relatively high considering the country has only been open for just over a decade. Most young people and many of those working in the tourist industry speak sufficient English to communicate at a basic level. You’ll find more and better English-speakers in the south – a legacy of the American presence – but even here don’t expect to find English spoken at small restaurants, in markets or anywhere off the tourist trail. For such situations it will help to have aAi??basic phrasebook.

People over 60 years old, especially in the north, speak wonderfully old-fashioned French. Other northerners might speak Russian or German, depending where they were sent to be educated or as “guest workers”.

If you’re having real difficulties communicating, it sometimes helps to write things down in English. As a last resort, someone will probably go and find an English speaker to help sort things out.

Though you will certainly be able to get by in English, it’s worth learning a few Vietnamese phrases before you go. The pronunciation is a bit tricky, but otherwise Vietnamese is not a particularly complicated language. A few standard phrases (such as hello, thank you, how much is it? and goodbye) always go down well. It will also help if you learn the numbers, though this can be circumvented by asking people to write down prices, times etc.

Adopt Vietnam Resources:
Vietnamese Language Books & Tapes

Q:Should I take my money to Vietnam in cash or travellers’ cheques?

Vietnam’s official currency is the dong, which can not be purchased outside Vietnam. The main banks in Hanoi and HCMC can handle a fairly broad range of currencies nowadays, but the dollar is still the most widely accepted. I therefore recommend taking a combination of US$ cash and US$ travellers’ cheques, with the bulk in travellers’ cheques for safety. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are the most recognised brands.

It’s a good idea to arrive with at least some small denomination dollar bills ($1s, $5s and $10s) to get you from the airport into town and to a bank. Even if they’re open, the airport exchange desks offer unfavourable rates. If you do bring dollars cash into Vietnam, make sure they are not badly tattered as they may be refused.

Q: Where can I change Vietnamese money?

A: You can change cash and travellers’ cheques at exchange desks in big hotels and at authorised foreign exchange banks in the main cities. Among the banks, Vietcombank usually offers the best exchange rates and charges the lowest commission (around 1-2%). Note that commission rates are slightly lower if changing travellers’ cheques into dong rather than dollars. Vietcombank does not levy commission when changing dollars cash into dong, though some other banks do. It’s worth bearing in mind that you get 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, though this practice seems to be dying out.

Outside the main cities and tourist areas, authorised foreign exchange banks are few and far between. So if you’re heading off the beaten path, stock up with enough cash (dollars and dong) to last the trip. Wherever you are, you’ll always find someone willing to change dollars cash into dong, though rates will vary.

When receiving dong, you’ll be presented with a huge pile of notes. The largest bill is only 50,000d (roughly $4), so bear this in mind when changing $100! Refuse any badly torn notes (you’ll find it hard to get rid of them – the same goes for dollars) and ask for a mix of denominations so that you always have a few low-value notes in hand.

Adopt Vietnam Resources:
Vietnamese Money

Q: Is it better to use American dollars or Vietnamese dong for daily expenses in Vietnam?

A: Despite government attempts to outlaw the practice, the US$ still acts as an alternative currency which is almost completely interchangeable with the dong. Many prices, especially for hotels, tours and expensive restaurants, are still quoted in $, though you can pay in dong if you’d rather – just check what exchange rate they’re using.

For everyday expenses, I recommend carrying a mix of US$ cash and dong. For larger items (hotel bills, train tickets, etc.) or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use dollars. For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use dong. In either case, make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to worry about change.

Q: How widely accepted are credit cards in Vietnam?

A: Major credit cards (Visa, American Express, JCB, MasterCard) are gradually becoming more widely accepted in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi and HCMC. All top level and many mid-level hotels accept them, as do a growing number of restaurants and upmarket shops catering to the tourist trade. But watch out for the extra taxes they wap on when using a credit card – these can amount to an additional 5 percent. Outside the major cities you will have to rely on cash and travellers’ cheques.

Q: Can I get cash on my credit card in Vietnam?

A: Cash advances on credit cards are available at the central Vietcombank in Hanoi, HCMC and other major cities, for which you will be charged around 4%.

Hanoi and HCMC also boast 24hr ATMs where you can withdraw cash on MasterCard, Visa and other cards in the Cirrus/Plus networks. In Hanoi, go to the ANZ Bank beside Hoan Kiem Lake; in HCMC both ANZ Bank and HKSB have ATMs.

 

Halong Bay FAQs

Q: How far is that from Hanoi to Halong Bay?

A: The distance between Hanoi and Halong Bay is 180km that often takes you around 4 hours to reach the harbor in Halong Bay (Tuan Chau or Hon Gai harbor). On the way, you can have a short break in some workshops in Hai Duong Province, which are full of hand-made souvenirs and pottery products. After about 30 minutes, the car will continue to transfer you to the harbor in Halong.

Q: Do we get pick up at our hotel in Hanoi?

A: If you choose shuttle bus transportation, please kindly notice that the shuttle bus only picks up customers at hotels located in the Old Quarter at around 7.30 – 8.30 AM. Outside this area, you are advised to take a taxi to Hanoi Opera House and wait for the shuttle bus to pick you up there. The pick-up time cannot be fixed as the bus has to move around to pick up several ones.

Meanwhile, the private car is much more convenient because it can pick you up at anywhere in Hanoi at 8.00 am and then travels straight to Halong Bay.

Q Can we get pick up at Hanoi Airport?

Pick up request at Hanoi Airport is not available with shuttle bus transportation. It can be handled by private car only.

Please kindly note that the shuttle bus cannot pick you up or drop you off you in Hanoi Airport but the private car can.

Q: All cruise trips are included meals on Board?

A: All meals on board are included in the price.

You will pay extra for drinks as a part of personal expenses.

 

Q: How safe are cruises in Halong Bay?

A: All the boats in Halong Bay are well equipped with life vest in cabins and public area. Not to mention, all of them are maintained every six months with the technical supervision.

When checking in on board, you will be guided carefully about safety instructions and equipment.

Also, the staffs are well trained to deal with emergency situation.

Q: When is the best time to visit Halong Bay?

A: Halong bay has a humid tropical climate. There are four seasons in a year. Winter lasts from December to March; temperatures can drop down to 12Ai??C-17Ai??C. Summer is from May until September, mostly sunny but rain showers are frequent as the humidity is higher. Spring and Autumn are nicely warm.

Summer is good time to Halong Bay because you can enjoy swimming and kayaking. However, summer is not the high season in Halong Bay because of its hot weather.

In fact, the high travelling season in Halong Bay is during fall and spring (from October to April) because the weather seems to be cool and you experience the best time of a year.

Q: Is there any risk that the cruise maybe cancelled?

A: Cruising and sailing in Halong Bay is strictly regulated by a local board: the Halong Bay Port Authority. Every morning, the Port Authority delivers a permit to each cruise company allowing them to sail in Halong Bay. Both day cruises and overnight cruises are regulated this way.

In case of bad weather conditions and risks of tropical storms, the Port Authority might limit the possibilities of cruising and even decide to cancel all cruises.

In those cases, we will inform you as soon as the information is available, which unfortunately might only be upon guest’s arrival at the harbor.

You will be refunded money for the itinerary that you have not experienced and only pay for the service you used