Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Meantime (GMT) and does not observe Daylight Saving.
Standard voltage is 220 volts. Primary sockets generally require 2 flat prong plugs, 2 round pin plugs, and many of the new 4 and 5 star hotels use British standard 3-pin plugs. We recommend that you pack a universal travel adaptor. You will need a voltage converter, and plug adaptor in order to use U.S. appliances.
The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong.
Euro, British Pounds, US Dollars and other major currencies can be exchanged locally at the airport, bureau de changes or banks. US Dollar notes are widely accepted and shopkeepers use both currencies interchangeably. You can often pay for items in USD and receive your change in USD notes and coins in VND. Make sure that your USD bills are crisp and clean and you will have no problem using or exchanging these throughout your stay. ATM machines can be found in all major cities though it is not common to pay with credit card in restaurants, cafes or shops for purchases. It's advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from large notes and smaller notes are handy for smaller purchases and gratuities.
Traveller's Cheques are not recommended as they're often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Vietnam from your local health practitioner and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus are strongly recommended.
Areas with malaria: Rural only, except none in the Red River Delta and the coast north of Nha Trang. Rare cases in the Mekong Delta. None in Da Nang, Haiphong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Nha Trang, and Qui Nhon. Estimated relative risk of malaria for travellers is low.
The tap water in Vietnam is generally considered safe to drink, but as a precaution against stomach upsets you may want to drink bottled mineral water, which is readily available from shops, hotels and restaurants.
Vietnamese cuisine is very tasty and diverse. While the staple food is rice and noodles, served with vegetables and meat, cuisine varies geographically between the north and south. The north is renowned for its meat and seafood stir-fries and delicious noodle soups (heavy on the soy sauce), while the south is influenced by Thai, Chinese and Cambodian cuisine, with more colourful, spicy and sugary dishes. Blessed with over 3,000km of coastline, seafood is the region’s speciality.
Vietnamese classics include Pho – a large bowl of rice noodles flavoured with sliced beef or chicken in a fragrant broth (served at breakfast), spring rolls and shrimp paste grilled on sugar cane.
The most popular draft beer among Vietnamese is Saigon Do (Red Saigon). 333, pronounced ‘ba-ba-ba’ is another local brand but possibly the best is Bia Saigon found in a green bottle and Biere Larue that is also available for export. Vietnam adopted a tradition of viticulture from the French colonial times. Dalat is the centre of the wine lands, and you can get very good red and white wine for about USD4, elsewhere you’ll probably be served international wines (often Australian) at international prices.
Coconut water and sugar cane juice is a favourite in the hot southern part of the country. Another thirst-quencher is the fabulous Sinh To, a selection of sliced fresh fruit in a big glass, combined with crushed ice, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. Coffee or ‘cà phê’ can be found on every street corner. It’s incredibly strong and delicious served black or with sweetened condensed milk. Vietnamese cuisine is very tasty and diverse. Whilst the staple food is rice and noodles, served with vegetables and meat, cuisine varies geographically between the north and south. The north is renowned for its meat and seafood stir-fries and delicious noodle soups (heavy on the soy sauce), whilst the south is influenced by Thai, Chinese and Cambodian cuisine, with more colourful, spicy and sugary dishes. Blessed with over 3,000km of coastline, seafood is the regions specialty.
Vietnam is a shoppers delight! Wonderful arts, crafts, jewellery and textiles abound in even the most remote locations and savvy souvenir shoppers can drive a hard bargain! Bustling markets, modern shopping malls and small street stalls sell all manner of things from beautiful handicrafts and war souvenirs, to colourful gem stones and high quality silk and clothing, which can be tailored for a small fee. Some of the most popular souvenirs include the ubiquitous conical hat, lacquer paintings, water puppets and ao dais (the female national costume). For a wide variety of souvenirs, head to Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh City and Dong Xuan market in Hanoi.
This magical festival is held on the 14th day of each lunar month and it’s a wonderful time to visit Hoi An in central Vietnam. The town becomes a hive of activity under the full moon, as locals participate in numerous cultural activities and the entire town is lit with colourful silk lanterns. See our special Full Moon Vietnam departures for more information.
The most important and widely celebrated public holiday of the year in Vietnam is Tet, the Lunar New Year, which coincides with the cycle of the moon. This public holiday usually takes place in late January or early/mid February and lasts officially for three days, although many businesses are closed the entire week.
We discourage travel over the Tet period (usually one week on either side of the holiday). Although the country is vibrant and colourful during this time, trains, buses and flights are often booked out or expensive, restaurants, shops, tailors and some key tourist sites are closed, and the floating markets of the Mekong do not operate for one week after Tet. If you have to travel during this time, then please be aware that services may not match what you would receive at other times of the year.
Other important public holidays include the Liberation of Saigon (30 April), International Worker's Day (01 May), Ho Chi Minh's birthday (19 May), and Vietnamese National Day (02 September).
A Junk is an ancient Chinese sailing vessel still in use today in Southeast Asia. We stay overnight onboard a Junk boat on most group tours at Halong Bay in Vietnam. The simply rigged sea going vessels where designed by the Chinese boat builders of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). The flat bottomed wooden boats, like the Sampan have no keel instead they rely upon a large rudder to prevent sideway slip in the water. The interiors traditionally panelled in soft wood or teak are equipped with a dining room, lounge, 5 – 12 fully equipped cabins and a number of bathrooms. Many junks have an alfresco dining area and all have deck space kitted with comfy loungers for sunning, relaxing and taking in the views.
A short video on the typical hotels we use for our group tours to Vietnam.