Forward planning is essential to any successful trip. Be prepared for all eventualities by considering the following points before you travel.
Passports and Visas
Visitors from the UK and many EU countries do not need to apply for a visa for stays of up to 15 days. For stays of more than 15 days, a visa is required. Those from the US, Australia, and New Zealand will need to apply for a visa to enter the country for any length of time. Visa requirements change regularly, however, and it’s strongly advised to check the latest regulations online or with your nearest Vietnamese embassy.
If you are arriving by air into one of the six international airports in Vietnam, you can obtain a visa online from Vietnam Visa Center or Vietnam Visa Choice. It takes three working days, after which you’ll be e-mailed a visa confirmation letter. Those not arriving by air must apply for a visa from their Vietnamese embassy.
Travel Safety Advice
Visitors can get up-to-date travel safety information from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the US State Department, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
On entering Vietnam, you’ll need to fill in a yellow customs declaration, and the duty-free allowances are as follows:
- Tobacco products 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco
- Alcohol 1.5 liters of spirits over 22% volume or 2 liters of fortified wines or liqueurs under 22% volume or 3 liters of other alcoholic drinks. Cash US$ 5,000 or more must be declared
A general travel insurance policy is greatly advisable. Make sure that, in addition to illness, injury, and theft, it covers medical evacuation in case of an emergency
The only official vaccination required is yellow fever if you’re arriving in Vietnam from an area where the disease is present. However, it is a good idea to be inoculated against typhoid, hepatitis A, tetanus, and polio. Consider rabies and hepatitis B vaccines if you’re traveling to remote areas. Check the latest vaccination requirements with your doctor 4–6 weeks before traveling. Ask your doctor about malaria and Dengue fever prevention as some remote areas of Vietnam carry a risk of these diseases.
The official currency is Vietnamese dong, but US dollars are also widely accepted across Vietnam. Most establishments catering to tourists accept major credit, debit, and pre-paid currency cards. Cash is needed for smaller purchases and can be withdrawn from ATMs, which are prevalent even in small towns. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks for a better rate than at private bureaux de change
Most accommodations can be booked online, and this is especially advised during the high season in July–August and during Tet Nguyen Dan and other festivals when prices can also increase by up to 50 percent. When checking into a hotel or private accommodations, you’ll have to hand over your passport so that the hotel can register your presence with the local police.
Travelers with Specific Needs
Facilities for disabled access are quite rare in Vietnam. Elevators are not very common, toilets for the disabled are virtually unheard of, and regular bathroom doors are often less than 23 inches (60 cm) wide. Nonetheless, many high-end hotels and resorts are now well-equipped to accommodate those with special needs, while travel agents can hire an assistant for those who require one. Neither trains nor buses are fully accessible, so hiring a car/van and driver is the best option. With planning and advice from specialist agencies such as Disability Travel Advice, Accessible Journeys, and Disability Horizons, inconveniences can be minimized.
The official language is Vietnamese but in cities and tourist areas English is widely spoken, especially by younger people, while French may be spoken by the elderly.
- Public holidays Most offices and businesses close for public holidays. The major national holiday is Tet Nguyen Dan when much of the country closes for 3–7 days
- Opening times Basic business hours are 7:30– 11:30 am and 1:30–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Banks and offices are usually closed over the weekend, though banks can be open longer in tourist areas. Shops and markets generally open seven days a week and often until late, though it’s common for private shopkeepers to take an afternoon nap.
- Museums Most museums shut for public holidays, and one day a week, usually Monday.
Most power sockets are type C, fitting two round pins. Standard voltage is 220V (occasionally 110V in remote areas)