PASSPORT & VISA
Citizens of most countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia, will need a visa in order to travel to Vietnam. There are a couple options available to you to obtain a visa. You can apply online for an e-visa here. The e-visa is typically processed in 2 to 3 business days. Once approved, you will need to take the printed e-visa form with you, along with your passport and two passport photos, to present to customs agents upon landing. Additionally, you can expect to be charged a stamping fee upon landing, which must be paid in cash, so come prepared. The fee is typically about $50, depending on the type of visa, length of stay, etc.
Your other option for obtaining a visa is to do so prior to ever departing your home country. This involves visiting an embassy of Vietnam in your home country, in person, and processing all paperwork and fees there prior to your departure date. If an embassy is too far away, there are many companies you can hire to take of this task for you, for a fee of course. These methods can be preferable as you can be confident that you've obtained your visa prior to actually boarding a plane, as well as gain expedited entry upon arrival.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Vietnam is generally safe, but do exercise common sense and take reasonable precautions against general crime targeted towards unassuming tourists. More concerning are the air quality levels of major cities in Vietnam. Consult your doctor prior to traveling to Vietnam if you have concerns about the potential impact air quality may have on your health. Additionally, you can visit the AirNow website for up-to-date air quality levels in major cities around the world.
METHODS OF PAYMENT
The Vietnamese Dong is the official currency of Vietnam. At the time of this writing, $1 USD was equal to about 23,000 Vietnamese Dong, which makes for some large numbers and difficult math. US dollars are accepted by large vendors and hotels, so it can be beneficial to bring some along, but only clean, crisp bills will be accepted. If you try to pay with US dollars at smaller vendors it may be accepted, but you will likely receive a worse exchange rate than if you went to the bank and converted your dollars beforehand. Credit cards are also accepted by larger vendors, but for smaller vendors cash remains king.
Haggling is accepted, and anticipated, at all street vendors. In fact if you don't you will grossly overpay for whatever you buy. That said, some modern shops may have fixed prices, but it can still be worthwhile to negotiate in a less dramatic way, such as asking for two items for a discounted price.
Tipping is still a relatively new concept in Vietnam, and one that was primarily brought through tourism. Generally, tipping is not expected, though we do recommend it in all of the typical circumstances where service was outstanding. The amount to tip may not be as high as is customary in the United States. For example, a tip of 10% is generally acceptable at a restaurant or for spa services.
There are a few options for getting around Vietnam. For longer distances, a bus, train, or plane are your best options. Those prices are typically fixed, and fairly self-explanatory. Getting around congested cities offers more options which can be easier to navigate if you know what to expect.
- Motorcycle Taxi
- Have you ever been in a church service and the preacher takes an English word from the scripture and goes back to the original language to help uncover the original meaning? The word for Motorcycle Taxi in Vietnam is Xe Om. Xe means motorcycle. Om means hug. There you go. Don't bring much luggage, and negotiate the price hard beforehand. These taxis are everywhere, and are the typical way to get around town. Hold on tight!
- Safer than a motorcycle (probably, traffic is still crazy), you can take a normal taxi to your destination. This is obviously preferable if you have more luggage, but be cautious about whose car you step into. There are rare cases, just like anywhere that taxis operate, of fast meters or drivers that charge too much. Make sure you find a reputable taxi company to help avoid this, such as Vinasun.
- Buses are a less typical form of transportation due to availability of taxis and xe om, but are still a viable option as long as you're comfortable navigating a bus map.
WHEN TO GO
Summers in Vietnam, generally from May to September, are hot, humid, and bring an abundance of rainfall. This means the best time to visit is actually during the winter, from October to April. The temperatures are still pleasant, and the dry weather means more time to enjoy the beautiful landscape. It is still advisable to bring a poncho or some rain gear, in case you do get caught in a heavy shower.