The Vietnam We Know

Most people would not be surprised if we said that Vietnam has been shaped by the many wars it has experienced. The wars with China, Cambodia, France, Japan and America have brought such diversity to a relatively small country. You will find influences of all of these other cultures in such things as food, architecture and traditions through out Vietnam. When you then consider that there are 54 ethnic minority groups even further influencing the charm of this amazing asian culture you begin to get an idea of just how diverse Vietnam is. This slender country has over 3,200 km of coastline and its Western edges border with Cambodia and Laos while to the North, China is it's neighbour. The country is 1,650 km long but at it's narrowest points is only 50km wide.

There are five regions each with different climates, cuisines, and cultures .

AREA

330,991 square kilometres

POPULATION

85.7 million

WEATHER

There are roughly three weather patterns that occur in Vietnam.

  1. North Vietnam has two seasons. November to April is cold and humid. The temperature can be down around 5 C. The summer months can reach 37 C and you should be prepared for a wet season that can include typhoons.
  2. The Centre has a longer dry season with a 3 month wet season from October to the end of December.
  3. The South has a wet season that lasts from May to November; however it typically is a short heavy downpour in the afternoon. South Vietnam is a more temperate region. The temperature usually ranges between 21 C and 28 C, Climbing higher from May to March to possibly reach 30 C.

With the many international weather channels available online today, we recommend that all travellers check weather sites for any deviation to the above information before travelling. 

TIME

Subtract 3 hours from Australian EST

CURRENCY 

Vietnamese Dong (VND) Many places will accept USD but make sure you have plenty of small change as correct money will need to be given.

Customs & Etiquette in General

CUSTOMS AND ETIQUETTE

We trust that while on your Vietnam tour or holiday that you will enjoy as we do the very gracious and friendly Vietnamese people and their appreciation of a much simpler life than we lead. One of our fondest attributes of the Vietnamese people is their adherence to tradition, with this in mind we ask that you read the points below and respect this culture while in their country.

  1. You will observe that the majority of Vietnamese are a very modest people. So please dress appropriately. Modest attire will gain you far more respect from the locals.
  2. Do not raise your voice if you have a disagreement with someone, even if it is amongst yourselves. The local people will find this quite shocking and rude. Try to deal with problems in a calm way
  3. Do not touch people on the head. The head is sacred and this is insulting to the Vietnamese. This is something visitors must be especially careful of when meeting the cute young children in the villages.
  4. Pointing your feet at people is also insulting. Even worse would be to point your feet at Buddha in a temple.
  5. Taking your shoes off when entering a home is common practice. If you are unsure follow your host’s example or ask your guide for clarification.
  6. Public displays of affection between men and woman are uncommon amongst the Vietnamese people. Please refrain from these actions in public as it will embarrass the local people.
  7. Never use your left hand to pass things to other people. Use both hands or your right hand.
  8. Always respect private property and sites where access may be limited, by asking permission.
  9. If you see people begging we ask that you consider the following. In much of Southeast Asia the assistance given to beggars by Westerners has created a new culture that undermines the traditional, cultural and social structures that has existed for many years. It also inhibits the work of many local organisations that work tirelessly to uplift and uphold the dignity of the people they are trying to help. We ask that you refrain and ask us about reputable groups worth assisting in the area you are visiting.
  10. Do not fall into the belief that because the people in the tribes and other areas of Vietnam have few possessions that they are poor or live in poverty. Yes, poverty does exist in some areas but many of these beautiful people live fruitful and extremely happy lives without the trimmings many of us expect. It is just simpler and probably much healthier than our lives.
  11. Always remember you are in a different country with different rules and regulations. Please adhere to these laws.
  12. Very few people speak English well. Why not give your hosts language a go. Its fun and the local people will do their very best to help you. Learn a few key phrases before you leave.
  13. When entering a Buddhist Temple it is useful to know to...

              i)             Take shoes off before entering temple buildings.
              ii)            Keep your head lower than Buddha or monks. (If possible, they are often much shorter than you).
              iii)           Don’t touch Buddha.
              iv)           Don’t turn your back on Buddha.
              v)            Women, please don’t touch monks (they’ll have to spend days ritually cleansing themselves).
              vi)           Ladies if you need to hand something to a monk, place it within his reach.
              vii)          Photos are usually OK, but ask first, it’s just plain good manners.
              viii)         Shoulders and knees should be covered in temples and remember don’t point your feet at Buddha or monks.

  

 LANGUAGE AND USEFUL PHRASES

Vietnamese is a fusion of Mon-Khmer with Thai and Chinese elements. It is a tonal language in which every syllable is a different word and depending on the tone markers, a completely different meaning! e.g. the word Viet Nam, in English is one word. In Vietnamese the word Nam could mean man, people, south, there is a vegetable called a Nam and a few others!

There are six tones in spoken Vietnamese, and depending which way the tone markers go, will dictate what the word means! This makes life difficult for the first time speaker. Very few westerners speak Vietnamese so your efforts to communicate in Vietnamese will be enormously appreciated and it’s always a great ice breaker. Here are a few key phrases to get you going. There are some variations between the North and the South. Indicated by (N) and (S)

You will find that English and French is spoken by many people in the major cities. 

FOOD/DRINK

Noodles – Pho                       Rice – Com

Yoghurt Sua chua/da-ua     Plain water Nuoc

Tea Che(N) Tra(S)              Coffee Ca-phe

Juice Nuoc trai cay              Milk – Sua

Fruit shakeSinh to tong hop

Chicken Ga                         Pork Heo/lon

Beef – Bo                              Fish Ca 

Egg Trung                           Fruit Trai cai

BananaTrai chuoi                Pineapple Trai thom

Salt Muoi                             Sugar - Duong

Hot chillies Ot trai               Soy sauce Xi dau

Ice – Dar                               Vegetarian Cac mon chay

VIETNAMESE BASICS/GETTING TO KNOW PEPLE

Hello/goodbye Sin Chao                              How are you? - Co khoe khong?

Fine, thank you Khoe, cam un                     I’m not well (I’m sick). Toi om

Thank you [very much] Cam un (rat nhieu) Australia - Op

Excuse me or I’m sorry Sin loi                     I don’t understand Toi khong hieu

I would like Toi moun – Toi                        What’s your name? Ten la gi?

My name is... - Toi la gi...                               I don’t like.....- Toi khong thich......

How much [is this]? [Gia] bao nhieu?           I want to go to ... Toi muon di.....      

Hospital Benh vien                                       Hotel/Guesthouse Khach san/Nha khach

Restaurant Nha hang                                  Toilet Nha ve sinh

 

NUMBERS

  1 Mot     Ha     – Ba     Bon     – Nam     – Sau     Bay     – Tam     – Chin     10 – Muoi     11 Muoi mot     12 Muoi hai    13 Muoi ba     20 Hai muoi     22 Hai muoi hai    30 Ba muoi    100 Mot tram     150 - Mot tram muoi nam     1,000 - Mot ngan

ACCOMMODATION

In Australia and New Zealand we are used to a consistent star rating system for hotels of 2-5 star accommodation. This takes into consideration facilities, style, amenities and a range of comfort and service inclusions. The seasoned traveller will be aware that one countries star rating is not necessarly equivalent to anothers. If this is your first vist to a developing nation we ask that you be considerate of the differences you may experience. 

TET CELEBRATIONS

When planning your Vietnam Holiday it is important to be aware of the Vietnam New Year celebrations called Tet. During the 3 days of official holidays most shops and restaurants will be closed. The festival is at the same time as the Lunar New year and can last as long as a fortnight. This is the most popular holiday among the local people and you will find the roads to be extremely busy and many hotels to be booked out long in advance

PHOTOGRAPHY

Vietnam is a photographers heaven. Whether you are a tourist type photographer or more of a professional the following tips apply. Please ask before taking someone’s photo, and respect his or her wishes. Usually just lifting your camera with a questioning look, a nod and a knowing smile will suffice as a request, although asking in the person’s own language is even better. The smile always goes a long way. We suggest that you don’t pay for taking photos of people – it becomes another form of begging, with similar consequences. Usually; if you take a little time to communicate with your subject, they will agree to be photographed.  You will end up with a far more relaxed subject, and you each have a more enjoyable and memorable experience.

If you promise to send someone a photo, do it! We are more than happy to help out and can deliver prints next time we pass through if you print the photo’s before you leave the tour.

MOTORBIKE TOURS

All riders must hold a current motorcycle licence and obtain the appropriate insurance.

A $300.00 refundable deposit is payable prior to departure to cover any damage to your bike that does not include general wear and tear.

 ELECTRICITY

Vietnam is most commonly 220 Volts but some areas are 110 Volts. Plugs are the 2 round pin type although occasionally you will find the larger chain hotels may have the 3 square pin plug.

VISA'S

All travellers are responsible for acquiring their own Visas and entry requirements to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Information on this website is for Australian Passport holders only. For both Australian and all other Passprt holders we strongly recommend that you check the Vitnamese Embassy site for uptodate information on Visa requirements and applications http://www.vietnamembassy.org.au/Consular.htm  well in advance of departure. 

There are two ways to apply for a Visa to Vietnam. 1. Through the Vietnam Embassy in Australia as detailed on their website prior to departure or...2.Visa On Arrival as detailed below.(VOA).

Visa on Arrival Procedure

What passengers Need for a 1 month Single Entry Visa:

(For multiple entries or longer stays please email for information) 

•Advise our office that you require a letter of introduction. We will apply and forward to you. Allow atleast 2 weeks for this process. (DO NOT TRAVEL WITHOUT A LETTER OF INTRODUCTION.)

•The charge is $15.00 USD per person for the letter issued through our office.

•Travellers valid passport, with 6 months validity

•2 passport photos (of yourself)

•Up to $45.00 USD cash paid on arrival to process your Visa. Bring 3 $10, 2 $5 and 5 $1 to make price changes easy to accommodate without needing change.

 

What Passengers Do:

•Present the Letter of Introduction to check-in staff at the desk in Australia at whatever airline you are flying with. NOTE: Some check in staff will not have come across this yet and may need to be reminded it is official and OK!

•Get on the plane

•Arrive in HAN/DAD/SGN go to the “Visa on Arrival” desk/booth its on the left as you enter the customs hall.

•Get & fill in the form found on the desk at the window ( Takes 2 mins ). If there is a queue, go and get the form and fill it in when in the queue!

•Hand over your passport and 2 x passport photos

•Go to the other side of the booth; stand aside for from 5 – 20 Mins

•When called or your passport raised, as they may not speak English return to counter and pay your cash fee per person & collect passport/s with Visa sticker inside (same looking Visa as is issued here).

•Go through customs.

 

Note- Please be aware the customs officers in Vietnam are very serious about their task and are not required to be friendly and curteous. If you are well prepared with the information they require it will expediate your application. This is rarely a long process, but your patience and compliance will benefit you in minimising the time it will take.