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Map of Vietnam

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VIET NAM IS A LAND OF RICH NATURAL AND CULTURAL BEAUTY. FROM ROMANTIC LIMESTONE MOUNTAINS AND DENSE JUNGLES TO FERTILE RIVER DELTAS AND PRISTINE BEACHES, VIET NAM’S NATURE ALONE MAKES IT A UNIQUE DESTINATION. THOSE WHO LOVE ADVENTURE AND THE OUTDOORS CAN EXPERIENCE CYCLING, KAYAKING, TREKKING AND VISITS TO ISOLATED HILL TRIBES. AND FOR THOSE WHO JUST WANT A RELAXING BREAK, WE TRAVEL TO SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN ASIA. VIET NAM OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE – FROM SOLO TRAVELLERS, GROUPS AND FAMILIES TO CORPORATE GUESTS, HONEYMOONERS AND HUMANITARIAN VOLUNTEERS, WE HAVE A TRIP FOR ALL. ENCLOSED ARE SOME IDEAS TO INSPIRE YOU, OR YOU CAN CONTACT US FOR YOUR CLIENTS’ VERY OWN CUSTOMISED TRIP.

BEST TIME TO GO

Vietnam’s elongated shape includes tropical and subtropical zones and is the reason for the varied climate in the country. Generally speaking the best time to travel in Vietnam is when there is a reduced chance of rain; that is during April – May and October – November.

THE NORTH (HA NOI TO SA PA)

Summer in the north lasts from May to October when temperatures range between 300C – 350C with high humidity and bursts of heavy rain. The temperature varies from 100C – 150C in Winter (December to March). February and March can be damp with drizzle and overcast skies.

THE CENTRE (NHA TRANG TO HUE)

For most of the year, Nha Trang is bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, between November and December the area has heavy rain. Da Lat, at an altitude of 1,500 metres is cooler than the coastal area, particularly from November through to March. Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue experience typhoon activity from mid-October to mid-December when the climate becomes cooler, more overcast and wetter.

THE SOUTH (HO CHI MINH CITY TO PHAN THIET)

The South is hot all year round and has two seasons: one wet and the other dry. The wet season lasts from May to October and you can expect daily downpours. These are usually brief and easy to predict. The dry season from November to April is generally sunny and humid.

High Season:                  November to March

Low Season:                   April to October

Peak Season:                  Approximately 20th December 10th January

Time:         GMT + 7 hours2.

VISAS/PASSPORTS

Visas are required for most nationalities and can be obtained in the guest’s home country or Discover East can arrange them in advance. Visitors can obtain a visa on arrival but must have a letter of approval. Otherwise, a valid visa must be obtained prior to arrival. Passports must be valid for 6 months after final departure date.

All Viet Nnam visas are SINGLE ENTRY – unless you have specifically requested MULTIPLE ENTRY and this is stamped into your passport. Please ensure you have a multiple entry visa if you are entering Viet Nam twice. The status of a tourist visa cannot be changed from SINGLE ENTRY to MULTIPLE ENTRY once a client has arrived in Viet Nam.

AIRPORTS

Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat airport is approximately 7 kilometres northwest from the city centre. Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport is approximately 35 kilometres north from the city centre.

FESTIVALS AND EVENTS VIETNAMESE NEW YEAR

Vietnamese New Year (Tet) will start from 28 December until 3 January on each lunar year. Please check with us for the correct dates. Discover East generally recommends avoiding travel one week either side of this date. Although the country is in a celebratory mood at this time, train, buses and flights are often booked out or very expensive; restaurants, shops, tailors, and some key sites are closed; and the floating markets in the Mekong do not operate for one week after Tet.

TRA CO VILLAGE FESTIVAL

The Tra Co Village festival will be held on June 30th 2011. Held in Quang Ninh Province, the festival is in memory of the establishment of the ancient fishing village which was founded 600 years ago.

SLEEPLESS IN MOC CHAU LOVE FESTIVAL

Moc Chau is a mountainous district approximately 60 kilometres from Mai Village. On the 1st of September each year, thousands of White Flower, Black, Yellow and Green H’mong ethnic minorities descend on Moc Chau for an annual festival that is essentially a ‘love rendezvous’.

LIM FESTIVAL

Taking place every year on the 13th day of the first lunar month, tens of thousands of visitors attend in order to enjoy the dialogue performances between ‘Lien anh’ (male singers) and ‘lien chi’ (female singers). The country’s most skilled Quan Ho singers take centre stage. Held in Lim village just 18 kilometres outside of Ha Noi, the event celebrates the ‘Quan Ho’ folk song which has become a part of the national

 

culture.

HOI AN FULL MOON FESTIVAL

The Full Moon Festival in Hoi An is held every 14th day of the lunar month. Under the full moon, Hoi An becomes a hive of activity where locals participate in numerous cultural activities. The entire town is lit with colourful silk lanterns. This is a magical, romantic time to take a peaceful stroll around the old narrow streets.

CAU NGU FESTIVAL

Organised annually on the 12th day of the first lunar month in memory of the Village tutelary genie Truong Quy Cong. The Cau Ngu festival is a celebration of Truong, a native of the north who came to the village which is located near Da Nang. There, he settled and taught the locals how to fish and trade junks. Late at night the ‘fish worshipping ceremony’ occurs, where people pray for peace and the abundance of fish.

LANGUAGE

Vietnamese is the official language while English is widely spoken throughout the country.

ELECTRICITY

220/110 AC. 50 Hz. Plugs are either a round or flat two-pin.

PHOTOGRAPHY

There are ristriction of photography at ports, airports, harbours and military base. It is courteous to ask for permission first before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes.

CURRENCY & CREDIT CARD

The currency in Viet Nam is the Dong (VND). You are able to bring foreign currency in cash (EUR, AUD, GBP, CAD or USD) which can be changed into the local currency. You can pay for goods and services in Viet Nam Dong and in many cases USD. However, you will get better value for money if you use VND. Some large hotels change traveller’s cheques (commission is applied), although the use of traveller’s cheques is becoming less and less common and therefore are not recommended. Credit cards (Visa or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted) can be used in a number shops and restaurants in major cities and towns, however they are not widely accepted outside these cities despite their use constantly increasing. ATM’s are now plentiful throughout the country at all major cities and towns and all dispense VND only. Please note if travelling to remote areas of Viet Nam it is advisable to carry VND or USD cash.

Hotels often change foreign currency cash, although rates may be slightly better at banks and currency exchange outlets.

FOOD & DRINK

Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and tasty and one of the many highlights of a visit to the country. Most food presented is well cooked, however some optional dishes may be served cold. Travellers should note that raw, cold food presents a higher risk of stomach upsets than well cooked food. Lunch should cost around 6-12 USD and dinner approximately 10-25 USD, depending on the restaurant.

Drink only bottled water throughout Viet Nam. Most hotels provide daily complimentary bottled water.

HEALTH & FITNESS

No vaccinations are officially required by Vietnamese authorities. Travellers to Viet Nam should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. In remote areas medical facilities can be particularly basic. Some of the diseases known to exist in Vietnam include malaria, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/ AIDS. We recommend you take adequate preventative measures to minimise your risk of exposure to these health risks.

SAFETY & SECURITY

Vie Nam is generally a safe country; however petty street crime is on the rise as tourist numbers increase. In Ho Chi Minh City we recommend that as little jewellery as possible

is worn and that when on the street your spending money is kept close to your body in a secure place. We further recommended that you take taxis rather than cyclos at night. Taxis are metered and inexpensive. Carry a hotel card so that you can show your taxi driver where you want to go. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes at all times and carry photocopies of your passport, credit card numbers, and airline tickets, and keep a record of your uncashed traveller’s cheques. These papers should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals.

SHOPPING

Viet Nam is known as a ‘shopper’s paradise’. Ceramics, lacquerware, bamboo, silk and embroidery are just some of the many good buys. Many travellers also have clothes tailored due to the low prices – standards vary. A few guidelines to follow when shopping:

Except in department stores and established retail stores, bargaining is the norm. To get the best price you will have to politely negotiate

Export of certain antiques is not permitted. Make sure you are aware of relevant regulations before purchasing

Fake reproductions are common. Make sure you know what you are buying, especially in the case of antiques.

Do not buy any animal products which may be potentially linked to the illegal wildlife trade

BUSINESS HOURS

Government offices and banks are open Monday to Friday. The banks close at 3:30 p.m. If you need to visit a government office do not do it during lunch periods. These usually last 1 to 2 hours. Post offices are open 7 days a week.

 

Most shops will be open until around 9 p.m. Snack shops and bars will close around midnight, but there are a few new nightclubs in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City stay open until mid- night.

INTERNET ACCESS & COMMUNICATION

Internet services are widely available in main urban centers, and rates are usually minimal. Most of the larger cities and towns’ restaurants, cafes, hotels and bars have complimentary Wi-Fi.

Fixed line phone calls and faxes, most often found in hotels, can be the most expensive, usually from 4 USD to 6 USD per minute.

It is possible to use your cell phone in Indochina, although you may need to organise roaming with your service provider prior to travel. Coverage will be less consistent in rural regions. You can also opt to purchase a local SIM card when you arrive if your phone has been ‘unlocked’, or you can purchase a basic mobile phone handset from around 20 USD. SIM cards are available in varying amounts from 5 USD and can easily be ‘topped up’ throughout your journey.

TIPPING

If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides, drivers and your tour leader, a tip is appropriate and appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, tipping inspires great service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across Asia. You are free to tip as much or as little as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.

Should you be dissatisfied with the services provided by your local guide, driver or tour leader, please let us know.

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