December 24, 2015
Best Time to Visit. Spring time late February to May, and Fall/Winter-September to December are the best times to visit Vietnam. The weather is usually temperate and enjoyable during those months.
Pack Light. Space is at a premium. Leave big luggage at home. Take only the essentials; clothing that can multi-task, a lightweight backpack, one closed-toed pair of shoes, a pair of sandals or flip-flops and a hat. Less is more. Leave expensive jewelry, purses and electronic gadgets at home.
Holidays. The Vietnamese New Year,‘Tet’ falls in late January or early February. Vietnam bases this holiday on the lunar calendar year so each year Tet dates change slightly. Tet is the most important holiday in the Vietnamese culture, combining national, family and religious ceremonies. In 2016, Year of the Monkey, Tet will be celebrated from February 6-12. Many businesses and national sites close during Tet, so a visit for business reasons is best done after those dates.
2016 Vietnamese Holiday Schedule
Getting There. Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) is the biggest airport in southern Vietnam. Hanoi Noi Bai International (HAN) is the north region’s largest airport. Airlines servicing Vietnam from the US are Japan Airlines, Asiana, United, Virgin America and Korean Air. Vietnam is in the ICT (Indochina time zone), 12 hours ahead of New York EST, and 15 hours ahead of California PST time zones. A multi-hour nap on the flight is recommended to help deter jet lag.
Don’t drink the water. Vietnam is trying to get more clean water to the masses, but they aren’t there yet. Illness and e-coli infections are common from tap water, ice cubes and street vendor drinks. Drink only bottled or canned water and liquids to avoid problems. A unique method of chilling bottled or canned drinks is to roll the unopened container in a bed of ice using a 360-degree rolling motion known as the “beer spin.” In just minutes you will have a chilled beverage.
Crossing a street requires artful skill, timing, and your undivided attention. Stay off your phone and don’t text when crossing. Over ten million moving vehicles are on the streets of Vietnam every day. Motorbikes, cars, bicycles, bus and tuk-tuks accommodate incoming traffic and the pace is fast. If you are walking, be alert to your full surroundings. If you are riding a bike or open vehicle of any kind, wear a helmet.
Getting Around. Vinasun is the largest taxi company, and Uber is now operating in the largest cities in Vietnam. Taxi rates are very reasonable. Do not take a taxi-motorbike if you don’t have a helmet. Guided tours of city sights can be arranged through your hotel before you leave home.
Money. Do not bring large amounts of cash into Vietnam. $5,000.00 US dollars is the maximum cash you are allowed to bring in. Credit and Debit cards are accepted almost everywhere, and many places in Vietnam accept US Dollars. ATM’s are the best way to exchange dollars into the Vietnamese Dong if you want cash. Vietcombank.com and online currency conversion sites can give you the most current exchange rate. Tips are usually added into your meal costs. Leaving something extra is considered generous and respectful but is not expected. Bartering for goods and services is expected, however.
Etiquette. Pointing at people, statues, monuments, being excessively loud, and entering a home with your shoes on are all considered rude, unacceptable behavior. Never photograph anyone without asking their permission first.
Vinaphone, Viettel and Mobifone are the top mobile companies in Vietnam. If you need a SIM card you will get the best price buying from an airport kiosk or vending machine when you fly in. It will be much cheaper than buying from stores in town or your hotel. An advantage of buying from a kiosk is that the person who can help you register and activate the SIM card.
Emergency contacts. The US Embassy is in the Northern part of the country in Hanoi vietnam.usembassy.gov. The US Consulate is in the southern region of the country in Ho Chi Minh City hochiminh.usconsulate.gov.
Electricity. Be prepared for various types of electric connectivity as many regions use different power outlets. If you can take a universal power adapter, that is best. Otherwise, here are examples of outlets you can expect to be using.
Discover the New Vietnam!
Go to Expedia.com to start your Vietnam trip.
Did you know there’s a Sheraton in Saigon? For all available hotels in Vietnam, take a look at Hotels.com.
Want to make your friends envious? Tell them “I stayed in a Bed & Breakfast at Ho Chi Minh City.”
Last of all, don’t forget Travel insurance. Like glue, boring but necessary.
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