Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vietnam Travel Guide

Social Conventions
Handshaking and a vocal greeting is normal. Clothing should be kept simple, informal and discreet. Avoid shorts if possible as they are usually only worn by children. Footwear should be removed when entering Buddhist pagodas. Vietnamese people should not be touched on the head. Photography: There are restrictions at ports, airports and harbors, and in similar areas elsewhere. It is courteous to ask permission first before taking photographs of people.

Officially prohibited but widely practiced, especially in the south. Discretion is advised.

International Travel:

Penalties for illegal drug importation and use are severe and can include the death penalty.There have been renewed outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) throughout Vietnam. Coming into contact with poultry should be avoided and care should be taken when consuming poultry dishes that the meat is sufficiently cooked.

Vietnam’s national airline is Vietnam Airlines (VN) (website: The most usual routes to Vietnam are from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Paris, Singapore and Taipei. Most Asian carriers have flights to Vietnam, as do Air France and Qantas.

Approximate flight times
From Hanoi to London is approximately 17 hours, including two hours' stopover in Bangkok.

International airports
Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) at Noi Bai is 45km (28 miles) north of Hanoi. Buses and metered taxis are available. The airport has basic facilities.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) is 7km (4.5 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City. Buses and metered taxis are available.

Departure tax
US$12 (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi) and US$8 (Da Nang), payable in US Dollars or New Dông.

The major ports are Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau, Haiphong, Da Nang and Binh Thuy. International cruise facilities are available.

It is possible to cross into China by rail from Lao Cai to Kunming in the Yunnan province of China or through Lang Son to Nanning. There are trains from Beijing-Dong Dang-Hanoi and back twice weekly.

There are routes to Guangxi, China through Lang Son, Cambodia through Moc Bai and also to Laos at Lao Bao and Cau Trieu.

It is important to remember that all Vietnamese visas are issued with a specified exit point. If this exit point needs to be altered, it must be done so at an immigration office or through a travel agent in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

Duty Free
The following items may be freely imported into Vietnam by foreign visitors without incurring customs duty:
400 cigarettes; 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco; up to 5kg of tea and up to 3kg of coffee; 1.5l of liquor at 22 per cent and above, and 22.2l of liquor below this amount, and 3l of all other alcoholic beverages; a reasonable quantity of perfume and personal belongings; other goods not exceeding D5 million.

Prohibited items
The importation of non-prescribed drugs, firearms and pornography is prohibited.

Internal Travel:

Vietnam Airlines (VN) operates daily flights between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang and Nha Trang. Regular services are also provided between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ma Thuot, Dalat, Na San, Phu Quoc, Pleiku, Qui Nhon and Vinh. The Northern Airport Flight Service Company operates flights by helicopter to Halong Bay from Hanoi.
Departure Tax: D20,000 from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong and Da Nang. D10,000 from other airports.

A local network operates between ports. Cruise facilities are available. Contact the Embassy before departure.

Visitors may use the rail transport system independently or as part of a rail tour. Long-distance trains are more expensive but are faster, more reliable and more comfortable. Although a few carriages now have air conditioning, facilities are still short of international standards, and foreigners’ rates are comparable to the air fares. 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, Lao Cai, Thai Nguyen and from Yen Vien to Ha Long. Contact Vietnam Railways (website: for more information.

There is a reasonable road network. Traffic drives on the right. Roads, especially in the north, are often in a bad state of repair and may be impassable during the rainy season. Driving in Vietnam can be a hair-raising experience as the normal rules of highway discipline are rarely followed by the majority of drivers. There is a good highway from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Bus: Services are poor and overcrowded. Minibuses often run between tourist hotels in the major towns. Car hire: It is possible to hire chauffeur-driven cars. Documentation: An International Driving Permit and a test (taken in Vietnam) are required.

There are local bus services in Ho Chi Minh City and in Hanoi, which also has a tramway. It is also possible to travel by taxi, motorbike or cyclo (cycle rickshaw; motorized version also exists); the last of these options can leave the traveller vulnerable to theft from opportunistic passers-by and the government is trying to phase them out. When traveling by taxi, it is advisable to note down the driver’s registration number (displayed on rear side of taxi) for security reasons.

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