Electricity

Electrical current in Vietnam is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are either the two flat-pin or the two round-pin type. Three-blade plugs can be found in some of the newer hotels.

Language

The official language in Vietnam is Vietnamese, but Chinese, English and French are also spoken. Some tour guides may speak Russian and Japanese; numerous ethnic languages are also prevalent in particular areas.

Money

The official currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND), and currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and larger hotels. Visa and MasterCard are becoming more widely acceptable, particularly in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and all major tourist centres; travellers who plan to take money out of Vietnam can leave with amounts of less than 15 million dong or USD 5000 (or equivalent in other foreign currencies) without having to declare to customs.

Tipping

Most restaurants and hotels in Vietnam now add a five to ten percent service charge to their bills, though porters in top hotels will expect a small tip. Hired drivers and guides are usually tipped, and it is customary to round up the bill for taxi drivers in the cities.

Health

Health risks in Vietnam include Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, bilharzia and diarrhoea. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for travel outside the main cities and towns, the Red River delta and north of Nha Trang; reported cases of dengue fever have increased in recent years, so visitors should take care to protect themselves from mosquito bites, particularly in the southern Mekong Delta region.

Travellers should seek medical advice about vaccinations at least three weeks before leaving for Vietnam, and everyone 12 years of age and older should get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before visiting. Most visitors prefer to drink bottled water, even though the local tap water is drinkable.

Decent health care is available in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where there are English-speaking doctors, but more complicated treatment may require medical evacuation. Pharmacies throughout the country are adequate, but travellers should check expiry dates of medicines carefully and be aware that some medicines are counterfeit. Health insurance is essential.

Safety

Vietnam is a relatively safe travel destination and violent crime is uncommon. However, petty crime occurs in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and other large cities and tourist hot spots, so visitors should be wary with their belongings when in crowds and on public transport. Travellers are advised to leave valuables in their hotel safe and avoid obvious displays of wealth. During the monsoon season (usually between June and October) the country is prone to serious flooding and typhoons (until December), particularly in the Mekong Delta and Central Region.

Local customs

Travellers should try to dress modestly when away from the beaches (shoulders covered and shorts below the knee) and avoid excessive public displays of affection. Shoes must be removed on entering religious sites and a donation is expected when visiting a temple or pagoda. Photography is restricted at ports, harbours and airports, and it is polite to ask permission before taking photographs of people, especially of ethnic minorities. Visitors should never leave chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl of rice, as it has strong connotations of death. Travellers should use a hand as opposed to pointing with a finger.

Doing business

Pride and tact are important to bear in mind, as practices tend to be more formalised than in Western countries. Often it is best to be introduced rather than approach the person with whom business is intended to avoid creating suspicion. Negotiations and settlements may take longer as the Vietnamese like to examine contracts thoroughly. Formal clothing is common but the dress tends to be more casual in summer months. It is important to be on time for business appointments, as the Vietnamese consider lateness rude.

Business people are always addressed as Mr., Mrs., and Ms., followed by their personal name (not family name), unless otherwise referred; it is worth finding out in advance. Shaking hands with both hands is the most respectful greeting, though bowing is still popular among the older population, and meetings always begin with the exchange of business cards, which should be given and received with both hands; each person expects to receive one, so it's best to bring a vast supply. Business hours are typically 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch, and 8am to 11.30am on Saturdays.

Duty free

Travellers to Vietnam over 18 years do not have to pay duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes, 20 cigars, 250g tobacco; 1.5 litres alcohol with alcohol content higher than 22 percent and 2 litres below 22 percent; up to 5kg tea and 3kg coffee; perfume and items for personal consumption within reasonable amounts; other goods to the value of 10 million Vietnamese dong.

Communications

The international country code for Vietnam is +84. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States or Canada). WiFi availability is widespread, expecially in the cities; travellers can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones.

Passport & Visa

All visitors must have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay, onward or return tickets, and all documents needed for next destination. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

Visas are required. US passport holders must have a passport valid for a minimum of 30 days beyond the expirty of the visa.

Visas are required. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 30 days beyond the expirty of the visa. Visas are not required for stays of up to 30 days for UK nationals arriving at Phu Quoc (PQC).

Visas are required. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 30 days beyond the expirty of the visa.

Visas are required. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 30 days beyond the expirty of the visa.

Visas are required. South African passports must be valid for a minimum of 30 days beyond the expirty of the visa.

Visas are required. Irish passports must be valid for a minimum of 30 days beyond the expirty of the visa.

Visas are required. New Zealand passports must be valid for a minimum of 30 days beyond the expirty of the visa.

Useful contacts

113 (Police); 115 (Ambulance); 114 (Fire)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of Vietnam, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 861 0737.

Embassy of Vietnam, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7937 1912.

Embassy of Vietnam, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 0772.

Embassy of Vietnam, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6286 6059.

Embassy of Vietnam, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 362 8119.

Embassy of Vietnam, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 473 5912.

Embassies / consulates in Vietnam

United States Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3850 5000.

British Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3936 0500.

Canadian Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3734 5000.

Australian Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 377 40100.

South African Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3936 2000.

Irish Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3974 3291.

New Zealand Embassy, Hanoi: +84 24 3824 1481.