6 USEFUL TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS TO VIETNAM
Which country in South East Asia that attracts you the most? Would it be Vietnam? Vietnam might be known as a country with an evocative and rich history in the past. However, with its significant development in the past decades, Vietnam now is a must-visit destination for visitors from all over the world. Travelers tend to visit Vietnam not only because of its beautiful and unique landscapes, but also the insanely diverse cuisine and age-old cultures of Vietnam. There are so many unforgettable experiences that will make you love this lovely country. If you are planning to visit Vietnam for your next trip, let us help you out with these useful travel tips for the best preparation.
1. Visa for Vietnam
Most travelers need to obtain a Vietnam visa for entering this country, except for some regions and nations in the list of Vietnam visa exemption. Applying for visas may be one of the most complex and time-taking aspects of travel planning. However, the applying procedure for the Vietnam visa is not as complicated as other countries. At the moment, you can apply for a Vietnam visa in 3 different ways:
Applying for E-visa: the first option to get a visa for Vietnam is that applying for E-visa which is valid in 1 month with a single entry. This type of visa is perfectly matched with those who want to enter Vietnam by air, cruise or land borders. There are also some additional notes that you should strictly check and follow:
- The E-visa is a single-entry visa that is valid for 30 days (from the proposed date of entry indicated during the application).
- Passports must be valid for at least 6 months since your arrival date
- Foreigners using the e-Visa must enter Vietnam via the designated port of arrival.
- You can exit Vietnam at one of the ports of entry in the following list (Hyperlink to the ports of entry)
- The E-Visa fee is non-refundable for any reasons
Visa for Vietnam
Applying for Vietnam visa on arrival: this second option is more popular and easier for those travelers entering Vietnam by air than others. The whole process includes 3 steps only:
- Step 1: Apply online: fill out your personal information on the application form.
- Step 2: Make a payment: pay for the service charge with credit cards or debit cards
- Step 3: Get visa approval letter: get your visa approval letter by email in 2 working days (normal service) and 1 working day (urgent one). It is also possible to get the letter in 30 minutes for the emergency
- Step 4: Get visa
Upon landing, you must have all the things on the list below in your prepared package. And then bring it to an Immigration officer to get your visa stamp at the Vietnam international airports
+ The printed visa approval letter and the entry-and-exit form
+ 2 passport-sized photos 4x6cm
+ Cash for stamping fee ($25 for single entry; $50 for multiple entry visa)
+ Visa approval letter can be used as a normal Visa when you board the plane.
+ Original passport
Applying for Vietnam visa at Vietnam embassy: this is the last and traditional option to get Vietnam visa. You can contact any Vietnam embassy near your living country for assistance. Please be noted that the visa procedure and the charge are varied in each Vietnam embassy. Getting a visa by this option seems more frustrated than 2 other ones because you need to apply for it in person.
Weather in Vietnam
As Vietnam first time travelers, you might wonder when is the best time to visit Vietnam. Apparently, the answer depends on the destinations you want to reach since the weather in Vietnam is diversified from region to region:
- Northern Vietnam: the climate in the North of Vietnam is divided into four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The winter months with the cool and dry conditions that last from November to April is the best time to travel here. But you should be aware of the extremely cold climate in December or January. There may be chances of snow in the mountainous areas. Therefore, hiking or sailing maybe not suited in these months and packing more coats is necessary. During the months May to September, this region experiences its hot, high humidity, and rainfall which may be out of visitors comfort zone.
- Central Vietnam: Best time for traveling to central Vietnam is from January to August when the weather is dry and warm. However, the climate may become uncomfortable when temperatures often reach 35°C from May onwards. Heavy rains in October and November may stop you planning to visit this region, as it usually comes with strong breezes and dangerous typhoons.
- Southern Vietnam: Unlike the North, this area has only two seasons: the rainy season from May to October and the dry one from November to April. If you want to comfortably enjoy city tours in Ho Chi Minh city or bright sunny days in Phu Quoc Island, the dry season will be the perfect time for you.
The Vietnam Dong is the official currency in Vietnam. The latest on USD to VND exchange rate is 23,208 dong. Although there are some places accept USD, exchanging your currency to the Vietnam Dong is one of the top things that you should do, as you will need to pay for your services in cash most of the time here. Here are some places for getting your money exchanged:
- Airports: After landing in Vietnam, you may need some money handy for the taxi transfer to your hotel. At this point, you can exchange currency at the arrival hall of Vietnam airports. However, you will not want to make exchanges with a large amount of money at these spots since they offer a low rate.
- Banks: Most banks in Vietnam can help you change your currency and the exchange rate are more competitive than in other places.
Currency in Vietnam
Please bear in mind that:
- Bringing your passport and visa for the procedure at the banks
- The business working hours of most banks are from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. They usually are closed for a lunch break around 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM
- New notes are preferred, any dirty or damaged notes could be charged for additional fees.
- Hotels: Another way to convert your currency to Vietnam Dong is doing exchanges at your hotels. Most hotels offer money exchange service for their guests at the reception. The exchange rate varies from large hotels to smaller ones. You can find the rate is more competitive in large hotels since they do not tack on additional fees as smaller ones.
In addition to the places mentioned above, it is also easy to get money exchange service at stores while walking down the streets.
4. Traffic and transportation
Most Vietnamese people use motorbikes for transporting. And if you are first-time travelers to Vietnam, you will be shocked by the traffic here. Believe it or not, local people do not seem to comply with traffic regulations, especially in the countryside. So it can cause you confusion when crossing the streets. Moreover, the massive number of means of transport in Vietnam will make you tired and annoyed with loud honks and street dust, particularly during the rush hours. Therefore, to avoid any sudden accidents, please be alerted with some notes below:
- You need to wait for a pleasant moment before crossing the streets and do not try to run. Stopping and giving way to you are not people’s habits in Vietnam.
- It is better and wise to cross the streets with local people. They will show you how to do it without getting disconcerted.
- Attempt to not to cross in front of moving cars because cars are way more dangerous than motorbikes.
- The traffic is terrible in the rush hours of 7:00 AM - 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM. So you should avoid these times if you do not want your plan to be delayed
- Be careful when walking on the sidewalks since the motorbikes may be behind you
Traffic and transportation in Vietnam
About transportation in Vietnam, there are many options that you can pick up to travel around Vietnam from cyclo, taxi to bus, train... And the types of transport depends on your budget and where you go also. For example, if you want to take a look at every corner in big cities like Ho Chi Minh or Ha Noi, the perfect option is getting a cyclo. Or if you want to visit Central area with a limited budget while you are in Southern Vietnam, you can hop on the train and enjoy the wonderful view alongside.
It’s time to spend some money! Although the average prices of services and products in Vietnam are affordable, there are a few tips you should know before diving into this shopping paradise.
- Where to buy: Vietnam has plentiful destinations for shopping. In particular, local markets are very popular with thousands of goods ranging from trendy clothes to charming souvenirs. Ben Thanh is one of the most well-known markets in the South and Dong Xuan is the best one in the North. For visitors who travel the central area, you may want to throw yourself into Hoi An market where silk, elegant suits, and dresses, handicraft are its specialty.
- Bargaining: Unless you plan to buy things at supermarkets or shopping malls, you should bargaining most of the time for good deals. Bargaining may be not familiar with your shopping cultures but it is a powerful tool that helps you avoid not to overpay for shopping in Vietnam
- Another tip: Should you reluctant to buy an item you like even though it costs a fortune? No, should not because you can find that exact item in several shops nearby. Taking your time and check around to compare prices.
Shopping in Vietnam
6. Appropriate manners
Like any country in the world, Vietnam has its own customs and etiquette that need to be understood and followed. So if you travel to Vietnam for the first time, it is wise to gain knowledge about that to keep yourself from embarrassing situations. Let’s follow our lead and get some useful tips from our guide below.
- Dining in Vietnam: Vietnam is known as using chopsticks’ country as people use chopsticks for most of their meals. And most of the Vietnamese restaurants or food courts serve food with chopsticks. They are not hard to use as long as you take some time to get used to them.
- Dressing: Vietnamese people has a strict norm for dressing. It is kind of weird to them when seeing someone who wears something sexy. Hence, you should dress up conservatively or wear something modest in public at least if you wish not to be bothered by other people’s looks. Also, you need to cover your legs and arms when visiting temples or pagodas in Vietnam. Going to these places with indecent clothes is considered a rude manner.
- Body language: Hugging and kissing are greeting manners that are very common in the West. However, those are not usually things to do in Vietnam as they are just acceptable for couples or relatives only. When it comes to greeting or saying goodbye, they generally shake hands or nod their heads instead.
- Elderly people always have a certain position in Vietnam’s society, so you should treat them politely.
- It is considered a gentle gesture when using both hands to receive an object from someone
- Remember to remove your shoes when entering pagodas, temples or someone’s house
Obviously, first-time travelers to Vietnam are required to prepare tons of things and you may feel a little overwhelmed. However, that feeling is soon over right the moment stepping in Vietnam. It will be worth! We hope your trip will be supported by the six handy tips mentioned above. If you have any more questions, please comment below or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get our support as soon as possible.
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