Vietnam stretches over 1,800 km from north to south, with an area of 332,000 square km, Vietnam’s topography varies from coastal plains to mountain ranges, therefore weather patterns in the principle cities are very different.
Northern Vietnam – humid subtropical climate, having four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn & winter but divided in two main seasons
The rainy season from May to September (hot, heavy rain, occasional violent typhoon) – July and August are the wettest months.
The dry season from October to April (cold, little rainfall) – December and January are the driest months that can get quite frosty in the far north of Vietnam. January – February (fog and drizzle) that can get quite frosty in the far north of Vietnam, this time of the year can also see heavy mists that can run for days, these can reduce visibility in places like Sapa and Ha Long Bay to frustratingly short distances.
The annual average temperature is 23oC, but in winter the average temperature is 17oC. The lowest temperature ever recorded was -5 degrees in January 2016. The average summer temperature is 22 – 27oC, with the highest ever recorded being 50oC in July 2015. On average, there are 114 rainy days a year with around 1,800mm of rainfall.
Central Vietnam – experiences a transitional climate, with heavy rainfalls between November and December and dry, hot summer months.
Between September and December, the northern section of Central Vietnam (Hoi An and Da Nang through to Hue and Dong Ha) receive considerable rain. This region can also be affected by typhoon season in the Western Pacific, which can see severe storms lashing the coast from August to November — Hoi An in particular often floods in October or November. Further south though, the southern coastal strip from around Nha Trang to Mui Ne is less affected by the rain and sees a longer dry and sunny season.
The average annual temperature is between 28oC and 29oC, and storms hit the area every year in September and October.
Southern Vietnam – tropical climate: divided into two seasons
The rainy, wet season lasting from May to October, the average annual temperature is 27.5oC without winter, and yearly rainfall totals 1,979mm. Tourism is convenient for all 12 months of the year.
The dry season runs from November to April, the hottest period is June and July.
The Mekong Delta, gets plenty of rain and hot, humid weather during the southwest monsoon from April to September, with June and July being especially wet and hot. At this time you’ll most likely see some flooding in Saigon and the southern island of Phu Quoc can see persistently poor weather and rough seas.
Highland areas: In the hill resorts of Dalat (1,500 m), Buon Me Thuot and Sapa, nights are cool throughout the year, and in the winter months, October to March, it can be distinctly chilly with temperatures falling to 0C or under 0C. Even in the hottest months of June and July the temperature rarely exceeds 26C.
Customs and Formalities
All visitors to Vietnam must fill in declaration forms and show their luggage to customs officials on request.
Visitors can bring with them unlimited amounts of foreign currency, objects made of gold, silver, precious metals and gemstones or plated with silver or gold, all of which must be declared in details on the customs forms (foreign currency exceeding 5,000USD or local currency exceeding 15,000,000VND). Commercial Video films and printed materials that are considered offensive are normally confiscated and sent to Ministry of Culture for inspection.
Goods prohibited to import: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, drugs, toxic chemicals, debauched and reactionary products, firecrackers of all kinds, toys with negative impacts on the dignity education, social security and safety, cigarettes beyond the stipulated quantity, etc.
Goods prohibited to export: weapons, ammunition, explosives, military technical equipment, antiques, drugs, toxic chemicals, wild animals, rare and precious animals and plants, documents related to the national security, etc.
What to bring
Bring as little as possible. Keep in mind that you can and will buy things in Vietnam, so do not burden yourself. If you do forget to bring any ‘essential’ items, it’s quite likely that they can be bought in Vietnam, at least in the cities.
Currency, Exchange and ATM
The local currency is the Dong (abbreviated “d” or VND). Bank notes are 1000 VND, 2000 VND, 5000 VND, 10.000 VND, 20.000 VND, 50.000 VND, 100.000 VND, 200.000 VND, 500.000 VND.
Money and travelers cheques, particularly U.S. Dollars, can be exchanged at banks, hotels and authorized money- exchangers. It is advisable to carry U.S. Dollar bills in small denominations.
Current exchange rate: 1USD equal to 22.000 VND, 1EUR equal to 25.000 VND, 1GPB equal to 27.000 VND
Credit cards are generally only accepted in mainly hotels and in some up-market shops and restaurants in metropolitan cities: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc .
Some places are unable to pay by creditcard are: Visa on arrival check-in counter at the airport, floating village shops and Cruise in Halong Bay, ticket counters at monuments and tourist attractions, taxi service, street stalls or some local restaurant, local shops do not accept creditcard payment that you have to pay in cash.
ATMs are available in all major cities or at International Airports or at the bank’s branches.
You can withdraw VND at an ATM in Vietnam, it is necessary to inform this to your bank prior trip to be advised if your card works overseas and the creditcard fee charge. Having limited money of VND which can be withdrawn from ATM, varies to 8.000.000 VND to 20.000.000VND (400usd to 1000usd) please check with each bank for more details.
Heath Requirements & Travel Insurance
No vaccinations are officially required. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding the advisability of inoculation against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B and Malaria.
Those visitors taking medicine for certain conditions such as diabetes or heart problems should make sure that they carry these medications in their hand luggage at all times in case the main luggage could be delayed.
It is recommended that all travellers buy from your home country a Personal Travel Care Insurance to cover any stress during vacation as a result of losing baggage, a sickness, a flight delayed, an emergency medical treatment, ect… to protect you from the financial burden.
Domestic Flights and Airport Tax
Vietnam Airlines is the biggest and most popular one in Vietnam, the others are: Vietjet Air, Jetstar Pacific. It is more convenient to check-in online 24 hours prior departure time to save your time and choose your wished seats in advance. Check-in time is required to 1 hour prior the flight departure time or even sooner in peak period or festival days.
On Vietnam Airlines’ flights, the passengers are offered baggage allowance free of charge depending on the ticket type: Business & Premium Class: 30kg checked baggage + two pieces of hand luggage. Economy Class: 20kg checked baggage + one piece of hand baggage. Each piece of hand luggage must not exceed 7kg.
Cheap airlines are not inclusive of check-in luggage. Fares are based on airline policies.
We cannot be held responsible for the loss or damage to passenger’s belongings. Domestic flights schedule and cost are prone to last minute changes/cancellation without any prior notice.
Airport tax included in airfare cost, need to check with your airways while booking tickets.
Internet, 3G and Wifi
Vietnam joined the global computer age and internet-service providers are currently operating in most of the Cities. You can access the free-Wi-Fi or internet through hotels, Cyber Cafés & Internet/Computer Service Centers, taxi now are all available.
ADSL technology is widely used in major cities. You can buy a pre-paid sim card everywhere, starting from 100.000VND to activate and use a 3G from your phone. Vietnam Reunification trains from the North to the South had planned to have Wi-Fi on several express SE trains but still not yet running.
Vietnamese is the official language. Learning foreign languages, particularly English, is currently popular among young people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Danang and other cities. Tour guides are available for English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian speakers.
Local Time and Working Hour
Local time is GMT + 7 hours.
Governmental agencies work Mondays to Fridays from 8.00am to 4.00pm (including one-hour lunch) and are closed Saturdays and Sundays.
Banks are open Mondays to Fridays from 8.00am to 11.30am – 12.00 and from 1pm to 4pm and are closed Saturdays and Sundays.
Private shops are open from 8 or 8.30am to 9 or 10pm.
Convenient shops are 24/7 services.
The road system in Vietnam is complicated in urban cities. The drives through the countryside can be a wonderful sightseeing experience. However, it must be noted that the roads are narrow and some parts are poorly paved when outside the main cities, and as a consequence the drives can be rough and difficult at times.
The journey timings described in your itinerary are based on the usual amount of time a particular journey will take. However, please appreciate that not all roads can be checked for their condition throughout the year.
The limited speed ranges from 60-80-120km/h in highways, depending on the sections, 50km/h in the cities or 20-30km/h in mountain routes. Vietnamese drivers do not speak English, if you decide to leave the hotel and go out on your own, there are various means of transport such as taxis, motor taxi “xe om” or “cyclos”. If so, insist taxi driver to switch on the taximeter once starting your trip. Due to an effort to stop pollution, most “cyclos” are pedaled as opposed to motor. It is suggested that you carry the name of your destination or hotel’s carte written in local language to not confuse the direction. Many small streets or car-free street for walking only, ask your hotel staff to assist in this regard.
Popular cars in Vietnam
4 seats: Toyota Vios, Hyundai Lacetti, Toyota Altis, Honda Civic
5-7 seats: Toyota Zace, Toyota Innova, For Everest, Ford Escape
16 seats: Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
25 seats-35 seats: Hyundai County, Hyundai Space, Samco, Thaco Town
45 seats: Hyundai Space, Hyundai Universe
The more luxury cars are available now alike Camry, Mercedes, Lexus, BMW or Limousine
Passport and Visa
Travelers to Vietnam are required to hold a passport valid for at least six (06) months with minimum of 2 empty pages beyond the completion of their visit and must contain a valid visa.
Visa approval code letter can be obtained through a travel agent and the passengers will show this to Vietnam embassy/consulate in your country to get stamp stick in your passport , so all is done prior your flight to Vietnam.
Visas can also be obtained upon arrival at international airport of Vietnam (the approval letter need to be arranged in advance): Hanoi/Noi Bai, Ho Chi Minh City/Tan Son Nhat, Danang and Nha Trang/Cam Ranh airports (Visa on Arrival), the stamping fee will be paid directly upon landing Vietnam airport.
US citizen are required to apply 1 year multiple entries visa with 90 days limited each stay, effective since September 2016. Vietnam Impressive can help you to submit the VOA letter.
Hotels might reserve the right to keep your passport at the reception for registration purpose.
Food and Beverage
Vietnam has abundant food supplies and an elaborate cuisine. Vietnamese gastronomy seems an art and some Vietnamese dishes have achieved international fame, including such traditional dishes as noodle soup (pho bo, pho ga), pork sausage (gio lua), spring rolls or fried spring roll with meat and crab (nem cuon, nem ran), and fish balls (cha ca), rice vermicelli with grilled pork (cha ca), rolled pancake with meat (banh xeo). Vietnamese beverages are also great taste alike rice wine (ruou can), draught beer (bia hoi), green tea or ice tea (tra da), Vietnamese coffee or coffee with milk (ca phe, nau da). In addition to Vietnamese food, larger hotels serve a wide variety of Continental food, European or fusion food and Chinese cuisine or also can easily find Hala/Muslim food in a local restaurant in main cities.
Never drink water from the hotel tap, no matter what category of hotel you are staying in. Bottled mineral water is available at all hotels throughout Vietnam. Travelling to some remote areas, do not take any ice to your drinks as this is often made from water that has not been purified.
Post and Telecommunications
A regular international post service is available. In addition Express Mail Service (EMS) is available to more than 50 countries worldwide with a delivery time of 2 to 10 days, the popular agent in Vietnam are DHL Express, Vietnam Post, FedEx Vietnam or One World Express services.
Vietnam has high international telephone charges. It is important to check the exact amount with the hotel before making a call, as hotel surcharges are often imposed.
VOIP calls which help reduce call charges (for most of International calls from any destination within Vietnam and for domestic calls between the main cities of the country) are now available as well pre-paid internet & mobile card can be bought in the major cities.
You can make a phone call, talking with your relatives in your country with a half cost with 178 or 171 services. With these services, cost is about 0.60USD per minute to most of countries in the world.
How to dial it? Dial 171 (or 178) + 00 + country code + city code + number. Or you can buy a pre-paid sim card to activate 3G or use free wifi from your hotels, calling with Whatsapp or Skype is free of charge with quite good quality.
Mobile networking providers, among the GSM (Global Mobilephone System) telcos, are Vinaphone, MobiFone, Sfone, Viettel and Beeline. Your mobile phone dual band GSM could be used in Vietnam with roaming service. The best way for you to use a mobile phone in the country is to buy a pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone, some case that phone is unlocked then you need to buy a new local phone.
How to dial local number in Vietnam? +84 4 39747543 – fix phone or +84 (0) 912476515 – cell phone
Vietnam Phone Code: 84
Hanoi Area Code: 4 – cell phone code: 0
Hanoi Dial Code: +84 4
Vietnam main cities dial code: Hanoi: 4, Halong/Quang Ninh: 33, Sapa/Lao Cai: 20, Yen Bai: 29, Da Nang-Hoi An/Quang Nam: 510, Hue/Thua Thien Hue: 54, Nha Trang/Khanh Hoa: 58, Ho Chi Minh: 8, Mekong Dela /Can Tho: 71, Long An: 72, Tien Giang: 73, Chau Doc/Long Xuyen: 74
Electricity in Vietnam mostly runs at 220 V (50 Hz), but often you will find 110V (also at 50Hz). In the South, most outlets are US-style flat pins. In the north, most outlets are the Russian-inspired round pins, which usually carry 220V. Electrical sockets are two and three-prong. Vietnam Railways trains are equipped above electrical sockets.
Foreign visitors to Vietnam have the opportunity to buy souvenirs made of rattan, gold, silver and stone. There is a diverse range of products, from woodenwares such as wooden buttons or sindora beds to lacquer paintings, bowls and chopsticks, bamboo screens and stone tea sets. Woven tapestries, “tho cam” handbags and other handicrafts are produced by the traditional skills of the women of ethnic minorities in rural regions of the North like Sapa, Mai Chau and Dien Bien. A must should not miss is to buy an Ao Dai (traditional Vietnamese dress) in Hoian to be ready in 24 hours from the order time.
Bargaining & Tipping
Bargaining is advised to do when visit Vietnam. You should ask the taxi driver or motortaxi (xe om) driver for the price of your travel distance made. The same when you go shoppings. When you are surrounded by street sellers, it is better to say no and mind your way.
Tipping is widely practiced and expected, all depending on your satisfaction, for example a group of 8-10 persons:
Tour guides: 100.000VND per person/per day (5usd)
Drivers: 40.000VND per person/per day (2usd)
Porters: 20.000VND per bag (1usd)
Waiters in restaurants: 5-10% of total bill
Taxi drivers : 10% of total bill
All of the above information is accurate at the time of publication.