Getting There

By Plane

In Vietnam, there are four international airports in total. If you want a direct flight, e. g. from the U.S. or Europe to Vietnam, you can either fly to HCMC (with the biggest airport, the Tan Son Nhat International Airport) or to Hanoi (with the second biggest one, the Nội Bài International Airport).

Alternatively, you can take a flight to China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan or Singapore, and get a connecting flight to Vietnam:

Da Nang has an International Airport (flights from/to Seoul/South Korea, Bangkok/Thailand, Singapore).

Can Tho Airport in South Vietnam provides international service, too (flights from/to Bangkok/Thailand, Tokyo/Japan, Phnom Penh/Cambodia).

Phu Quoc Island now has its own International Airport.

If you buy a ticket for a flight to Vietnam in a nearby country, you might get it for half the price of a Vietnam Airlines’ flight. However, during holidays it will be hard to get a reservation. Especially during Tet you should make reservations in advance. You can also travel into Vietnam overland or on the waterway from one of the adjacent countries.

By Boat

From Cambodia:

On the banks of the Mekong, there is a river border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam. Regular fast boats shuttle between Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Chau Doc, Vietnam, with a change at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border.

You can also cross the Cambodian-Vietnamese border on the waterway at Vinh Xuong – Kaam Samnor, which is next to Chau Doc. Boat cruises between HCMC and Siem Reap are offered by the more expensive Pandaw Cruises (www.pandaw.com) and the smaller Cambodian company Toum Teav Cruises (www.cfmekong.com).

By Bus

From Laos:

If you like to travel from Hanoi to Vientiane, be aware that the trip might take 24 hours – due to shady bus drivers who stop in the middle of nowhere, trying to renegotiate the price.

Laos has six border crossings in total:

The most popular crossing between Laos and Vietnam is the Lao Bao – Dansavanh, 80 km west of Dong Ha. Across the border, there’s the southern Lao province of Savannakhet, where a bus runs to from Hue every other day at 6 a.m. (9 hours, US $15), passes Dong Ha (7.5 hours, US $12). The bus from Savannakhet to Vietnam leaves at 10 p.m.

Cau Treo – Nam Phao: If you choose this border crossing, expect the bus to be overcrowded and the journey to take 24 hours, also because the driver might stop for taking a nap.

Nam Can – Nong Haet: links Vinh with Phonsovan and the Plain of Jars. Buses run three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays at 6 a.m. (US$12, 11 hours, bookings at Mr Lam’s: 038-383 5782).

Cha Lo – Na Phao: This rarely used border links Dong Hoi and Tha Khaek. Buses run twice a week between these cities.

Na Meo–Nam Xoi: This border connects Thanh Hoa, 153 km south of Hanoi, with Sam Neua and the popular Pathet Lao caves of Vieng Xai. You have to change several times on this trip and, on top of that, you are likely to be overcharged.

Boy–Attapeu: Buses from Attapeu to Pleiku depart every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m., buses from Quy Nhon to Pakse leave four times a week (250,000 VND).

From Cambodia:

To cross the Bavet – Moc Bai border, you can take the bus, a cab or a private car. Several buses run daily between Phnom Penh and HCMC, departing at 8 a.m. (US $8).

From Thailand:

There are trains from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, from where you can take the bus to Hanoi.

If you want to travel from Thailand to Cambodia, you can take the train or bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. Then take a motorcycle, taxi or tuk-tuk to cross the border and travel by train (12 hours) or bus (5 hours) from Battambang to Phnom Penh. From there, buses leave for Saigon.

By Train

From Europe:

You can take a train/flight from Europe to Moscow, and then travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Bejing.

From China:

Between China and Vietnam, there are three border crossings:

Youyi Huu Nghi Quan (the Friendship Pass): located at Dong Dang, 164 km northeast of Hanoi, connects Hanoi with Nanning.

Lao Cai – Hekou: The border town on the Vietnamese side is Lao Cai, 294 km from Hanoi. The Vietnamese train only goes until the border. You have to cross it, and take a bus in Hekou, which is 468 km south of Kunming.

Mong Cai – Dongxing: Mong Cai is located in the northeast of Vietnam, near Halong Bay. Border-crossing hours are in general between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Vietnam time). Trains leave from Bejing and Nanning to Hanoi.

From Thailand:

There are trains from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, from where you can take the bus to Hanoi.

If you want to travel from Thailand to Cambodia, you can take the train or bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet. Then take a motorcycle, taxi or tuk-tuk to cross the border and travel by train (12 hours) or bus (5 hours) from Battambang to Phnom Penh. From there, buses leave for Saigon.

Inside Vietnam:

The Reunification Express between Saigon and Hanoi stops in Nha Trang, Dieu Tri, Quang Ngai, Da Nang, Hué, Dong Hoi, Vinh, Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh.

By Car/Motorbike

You can travel by car or motorbike, too. Border crossing with these vehicles only works for Laos and Cambodia. Yet, the cumbrous bureaucracy will make you think twice whether you really want to do this to yourself. You need your driver’s licence and an international driving permit, as well as the vehicle’s registration papers and a liability insurance. Last but not least, you will need the "carnet de passage en douane", a document for customs, serving as a duty waiver.

Visa & Passport

You can apply for a visa at an embassy, or commission a travel agency to arrange it beforehand, so that the visa can be issued at the airport on your arrival.

Tourist visas:

They are valid up to a 30 days. The application process takes approximately four to five working days. It is also possible to request an express visa, for which an additional fee will be charged.

If you plan to stay longer and travel in and out of Vietnam during that time, apply for a three-month multiple entry visa. You can ask any travel agent in a Vietnamese city to do the paper work for you in a few days.

Business visas:

They are valid either for three or for six months and allow several entries, as well as the right to work and study in Vietnam. To get a business visa, the traveler has to ask his Vietnamese partner to apply for an entry clearance at the responsible authority in Vietnam. In case of a permission the authority will inform the Vietnamese representative, who accordingly will fax the traveling person a reference number for the leave to enter. Subsequently, he may send it to the embassy along with the application.

For current visa charges, please contact the corresponding embassy.

The Vietnamese Embassy in the United States is located in Washington. D.C.:

Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th St NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202.861.0737
Fax: 202.861.0917
E-Mail: [email protected]
Website: www.vietnamembassy-usa.org

Visa upon arrival:

In case you are on a multi-destination trip and decide spontaneously to enter Vietnam, you can obtain a visa at the moment of your arrival. This type of visa is only available at the immigration office of international airports. Within 24 hours, you can receive a quite cheap tourist visa, which is is valid for up to 30 days and can be extended easily. You can either settle the stamp fee (US$ 25) at the immigration office, or pay a travel agent in advance. He can also organize the Approval Letter from the Viet Nam Immigration Department in Hanoi. After three to four working days you will receive a copy by fax or email.


Furthermore, you can apply for your visa online very fast and easy. The website evisaasia.com offers you application-forms for whole Asia. The procedure hereby is very simple and less buereaucratic than the way explained above. The big advantage - you can do it from your home, before leaving for your travel. This saves you some walk and paperwork in your destination-country and allows a little bit more relaxed start in the trip. Best of all, you only have to fill in one application for all the countries you want to visit. The website provides you with much individual information about the certain destinations. All you need is a internet-accessible device and some digital passport-photos with a nice smile.

10 Rules of Etiquette

In Asian countries it is important to behave with integrity and discretion. Here are some useful tips to make your time in Vietnam a successful stay:

1. Learn some words of the Vietnamese language. Basics such as "Hello", "Goodbye" and “Thank you" will be appreciated and make your dwelling easier.

2. Do not exuberantly show affection in public. It is common practice to just shake hands when welcoming someone, whereas the eldest person is the first to be greeted.

3. If you would like to take a photo of Vietnamese people, remember to ask them kindly and respect a possible "No".

4. Respect the local dress code, especially in rural areas. Dress decently: Never swim and sunbathe nude or topless. At religious sites do not wear shorts or sleeveless, low-cut tops and take off your shoes.

5. Don’t be offended by being asked personal details about your life, e.g. your age, size, marital status.

6. After a meal, put down the chopsticks in the right direction. Do not leave them upright as this offends good manners and, pursuant to superstition, might evoke an event of death.

7. Honor the importance of the ancestral shrine. Do not turn your back to it, point your feet in its direction or even change clothes in front of it!

8. Be aware that the possession and consumption of drugs is illegal in Vietnam and might lead to severe penalties!

9. Do not abuse alcohol.

10. Help to benefit the country by buying domestic food and goods, hiring a Vietnamese tour guide and using the local means of transportation. Thus, you support the country’s economy.

Health & Safety

Health Insurance:

Never travel without a health insurance as there might always happen an accident. Ask your insurance whether, in case of an emergency, a return transport to your home country is included or not. Also, check before your travel, whether the insurance pays for adventure activities and medical expenses.

Pharmaceuticals:

If you need special or even regular medicine, better take it with you, as it might be difficult to find it in Vietnam.

Vaccinations:

The only immunization required in order to enter Vietnam is against yellow fever – but only if you have visited a country affected by the disease (South-America and Africa) within the last six days before your entry to Vietnam.
Keep updated with the current malaria and dengue-fever situation in Vietnam!
For more information, please visit the website of MD Travel Health:
www.mdtravelhealth.com/destinations/asia/viet_nam.php

Prevention:

Use insect repellent, sunscreen and a hat.

Be sure that your tetanus and polio immunization protection is extant.

Annoyances & Dangers:

Unless Vietnam sleeps, its noises in the streets (from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.) can be very annoying. So don’t forget your earplugs!

Keep your eyes open when swimming, snorkeling or diving offshore! Sharks and other dangerous creatures have been sighted in Vietnamese high seas.

Do not touch any artillery shells, rockets or other suspicious objects – these souvenirs from the Vietnam War can still be active and are highly dangerous.

Do not get involved in prostitution. You can encounter it anywhere.

Do not give a beggar money or something he or she can easily sell. Instead, you can buy them food.

Watch out for pickpockets!

Be suspicious when renting a motorbike. It could be stolen by an accomplice and you would have to compensate the rental service owner. Also, parts from a working motorbike could be stolen while it is parked in a “guarded place”, and you would have to pay the repair.

Nevertheless, do not suspect a criminal motive behind every friendly gesture. Try to stay open-minded and get a feeling for whom you can trust and whom not.

Telephone & Internet Information

If you want to make a call to Vietnam from abroad, you have to dial the country code +84.

If you want to call from inside Vietnam, you can go to hotels, post offices or telephone booths. International calls cost about USD 3.
You can purchase a Vietnamese SIM card for your mobile at a favorable price.

You can also phone via internet for free or just a few cents. There are internet cafés in any bigger Vietnamese city.

http://www.worldofinternetcafes.de/Asia/Vietnam

Vietnamese Currency

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).

You can change your money beforehand or at leading banks in Vietnam (e. g. Vietcombank). There, you can also withdraw money at an ATM.

If you do not want to walk around carrying too much cash in your pockets, you can make use of your Visa or MasterCard, too. They are accepted in all major cities.

By the way, it is not allowed to take VND outside the country.

Travel Season

A tropical north, unstable weather in the heartland and a subtropical warmth in the south – Vietnam has a diversified climate.

While winters in the northern mountains can get snowy and frosty, temperatures can climb up to 104°F in the Mekong Delta during the dry season.

Vietnam is afflicted by two monsoons: The heavy rains of the winter monsoon from the northeast fall down from October until March. The summer monsoon, from April to October, comes along with hot and humid weather. From July to November, there can also be typhoons in central and northern Vietnam.

The best time to travel is between October and April, when the average temperatures are 71.6°F in the north and 80.6°F in the south. Yet, prices will soar during the high season, especially during Christmas and Tet.