VIETNAM VOYAGER TOUR
Tour at a Glance
|HANOI||1 - 4|
|HUE||4 - 6|
|DA NANG||6 - 8|
|HO CHI MINH CITY||8 - 10|
|Scheduled||Noi Bai International Airport [HAN]||Phu Bai International Airport [HUI]|
|Scheduled||Da Nang International Airport [DAD]||Tan Son Nhat International Airport [SGN]|
|Transfer||Noi Bai International Airport [HAN]||Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi|
|Transfer||Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi||Noi Bai International Airport [HAN]|
|Transfer||Phu Bai International Airport [HUI]||Azerai La Residence|
|Transfer||Azerai La Residence||Fusion Maia Da Nang|
|Transfer||Fusion Maia Da Nang||Da Nang International Airport [DAD]|
|Transfer||Tan Son Nhat International Airport [SGN]||Caravelle Saigon|
|Transfer||Caravelle Saigon||Tan Son Nhat International Airport [SGN]|
From the remarkable beauty of Sam Mountain and Halong Bay to the numerous sacred temples and pagodas, Vietnam has a lot to offer. It is a country that features everything from exotic culinary delights to breathtaking scenery. Seemingly endless, tranquil rice paddies stand in stark contrast to bustling cities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi which embrace all the technology and conveniences that the modern world has to offer. The well-preserved colonial buildings of Hoi An play host to a slew of charming boutiques and tempting cafes while, further north, the local hill-tribe people of Sapa sell a wide variety of exquisite crafts and handmade trinkets. Beyond the urban areas, this diverse country is characterised by vast, verdant jungles and lush mountainous regions as well as an enticing coastline peppered with golden sand, palm-lined beaches.
BANKING AND CURRENCY
Dông (VND; symbol ₫). Notes are in denominations of ₫500,000, 200,000, 100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500. Coins are in denominations of ₫5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500.
Import and export of local currency is limited to ₫15,000,000. Import and export of foreign currency over US$7,000 should be declared at customs.
The US Dollar is the most favoured foreign currency. Australian, British, Japanese, Singaporean and Thai currency, as well as the Euro, can usually be changed in the larger cities; great difficulty may be encountered in trying to exchange any other currencies. There is a commission charge for changing money in banks.
Banking hours vary from bank to bank but are generally open from Monday-Friday 08h30-16h00; some may close for lunch. Many banks are also open on Saturday morning; all banks are closed on Sunday.
An increasing number of outlets accept MasterCard and Visa credit cards. However, outside main towns and cities, it is wise to carry cash. There are ATMs in many major towns, but not in rural areas. ATMs issue Dông, and the single withdrawal limit varies, depending on the bank, ranging from ₫2,000,000 to much larger amounts.
Travellers’ cheques are accepted in banks, money changers and some hotels although most travellers now use debit cards because of the increased number of ATMs. It is best to take US Dollar travellers’ cheques to avoid additional exchange rate charges and expect to pay a high commission.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
Vietnam Airlines (VN) (www.vietnamairlines.com) operates daily flights between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hué, Danang and Nha Trang. Jetstar Pacific (www.jetstar.com) also operate flights on these routes. Regular services are also provided by Vietnam Airlines between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ma Thuot, Dalat, Phu Quoc, Pleiku and Qui Nhon.
The road situation has improved dramatically so flights are used for long distances and to save time. It is still easier to fly to places like Dien Bien Phu. Flights are particularly busy around the Tet holiday in January/February and it is essential to book ahead.
The road network throughout Vietnam is reasonable but the standard of the roads varies dramatically from good to appalling. Road conditions can deteriorate during the rainy season. It is possible to hire chauffeur-driven cars from travel companies. Self-drive car hire is non-existent. Seat belts are not compulsory in Vietnam. Cars drive on the right.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap. They can be flagged down on the street or arranged through your hotel or the restaurant where you are eating. Always make sure the driver has set the meter before starting the journey.
Bicycles can be hired for a day or longer from shops in the main towns and cities. Many Vietnamese people still have a bicycle as their main form of transport but now there are many more motorbikes as well as cars and lorries. Particular care must be taken when cycling in towns and on main roads outside the towns as drivers do not always observe road rules and are not cyclist-aware.
Long-distance coaches operate throughout the country, between Hanoi, Hué, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City. Tickets must be bought in person at the bus station.
There are local bus services in Ho Chi Minh City and in Hanoi. It is also possible to travel by taxi, motorbike or cyclo (cycle rickshaw; motorised version also exists). Most foreigners forego the bus, preferring to use these. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, but it is welcomed. Hopping on the back of a ‘moto’ is the cheapest way to travel, if you have the stomach for the crazy driving. Agree the price first and make sure they have a good helmet.
Visitors may use the rail transport system independently or as part of a rail tour. Express long-distance trains are faster than local services, more reliable and more comfortable. Although a few carriages now have air conditioning, facilities are still short of international standards. The main rail route connects Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the journey can take between 30 and 40 hours. There are also services from Hanoi to Haiphong, Dong Dang and Lao Cai. Contact Vietnam Railways (tel: (04) 3942 3949;www.vr.com.vn) for more information. Tickets should be bought at railway stations.
There are private tourist carriages attached to long-distance trains on the Hanoi to Danang (tel: (04) 3942 9919; www.livitrans.com) and Hanoi to Sapa routes (tel: (20) 387 1522; www.victoriahotels-asia.com; also served by Livitrans) where the standard is higher and there is a dining car.
Cat Ba Island, in the north, is a popular place for visitors and can be reached by hydrofoil from Haiphong. A hydrofoil also serves the beach resort, Vung Tau, with a daily service from Ho Chi Minh City. The tropical getaway island of Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand can be reached by hydrofoil from Rach Gia in the Mekong Delta.
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. However, bottled water is widely available and cheap; make sure the seal is unbroken before drinking. Unpasteurised milk should be boiled. However, pasteurised milk is widely available now. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit should be peeled.
Vietnamese cooking is varied and usually superb, as the profusion of Vietnamese restaurants in New York, London and Berlin contest. It is a mixture of Vietnamese, Chinese and French traditions, with a plethora of regional variations. As in all countries of the region, rice or noodles usually provide the basis of a meal. Not surprisingly, fish is plentiful. Pride is taken in the fact that the freshest of vegetables are used and the vegetables and fruit served is seasonal.
Tipping is now quite customary, especially in tourist areas, and is much appreciated in a country where salaries are still low. Upscale restaurants and hotels may add a 5-10% service charge to the bill.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Because of its geography, the climate in Vietnam varies greatly from north to south with three distinct climatic zones. Tropical monsoons occur from October to April in the centre and from May to September in the north and south. It is almost totally dry throughout the rest of the year. It can get exceptionally hot, however, all year round, but the north has a cooler time between October and April. Temperatures around the country can reach up to 40C in the height of the hot and rainy season (May to September), but the northern highlands and Hanoi can often seem chilly and damp in the winter.
There is no one ideal time to visit Vietnam as a whole but at any time of year there will be sun somewhere. The high season is from September to March but bad weather can disrupt travel in the centre of the country during this period, particularly from September to December. For the beaches in the centre of Vietnam, Danang, Hoi An and Nha Trang, it is best to go between May and August. The autumn is the best time to visit Halong Bay when there should be clear skies.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
Loose, natural fabrics all year, but warmer clothing is required in the highlands, and in the winter in north Vietnam. Rainwear is essential during the wet season.
ELECTRICITY AND PLUG STANDARDS
The standard household (hotel) electrical supply in Vietnam is 220 volt, 50 Hertz, but you may find that 110 volt, 50 Hertz outlets are still in use in some places. In Vietnam, the standard socket accepts a two round pins plug without a ground pin (Type A), but non-standard two flat blade (Type B) or two rectangular blade sockets and plugs are still in use.
Some modern hotels and office blocks have three pin round (Type D) or UK three pin square sockets (Type C).
Before traveling to Vietnam, it is wise to survey your various items that you will need and that require electricity to operate. Verify you have the proper adapters, converters, or transformers to get electricity in Vietnam.