1. What is the group size on your tours?
Private basis with minimum 2 to go!
Frustrated at group tours that are cancelled at the last minute due to poor response? Do not worry, all our trips are based on a private basis with the luxury of having your own knowledgeable guide and transport. Being in a private tour, you can now choose your own departure dates and enjoy great flexibility during your tour, without having to follow strictly to a pre-fixed schedule.
2. What is the best time to travel?
The best time to visit Vietnam is in the months of November through to March. September, October, April and May are also popular though the weather is not as good. However, Vietnam can be at its most attractive during the monsoon due to lush growth of the vegetation.
3. What are the inclusions and exclusions of the packages?
Most items have been included in the initial cost of your fully inclusive package; Internal airfare, all accommodation, 2 or meals per day as per detail itinerary, entrance fees to scenic attractions, all transportation and daily tours, services of local guides on each location, domestic taxes within Vietnam and Departure Taxes. Tipping is not included in the tour price but is payable in country in VND or in USD ( pls check our tipping guide as in the 11 article). The only items not included in your fully inclusive package are items such as beverages and personal expenditure.
4. Will my plugs fit into overseas power points?
There is an electricity supply of 220 volts throughout Indochina, in the cities and most towns. 240-volt appliances will work safely with this supply. However, there is no universal power point; they vary not just from one country to the next but from one hotel to another. You can buy adaptors, also known as conversion plugs, from hardware, department and Duty free stores in most places in Vietnam, they generally use the vertical two-pin (Japan) plug, or the round two-pin (Europe) plug.
5. What types of meals are served on tour?
All of our package tours include 2 or 3 meals per day. Breakfast is always included with your hotel in Vietnam. For Package Tours most of your meals are included as part of your package. Breakfast is a combination of Vietnamese and western style food, whilst lunch and dinner is in local Vietnamese restaurants. Seafood is the specialty in Vietnam but there will be a wide range of cuisine to choose from such as rice, noodles, meat and vegetarian dishes, including regional specialties. Beverages are at an additional cost and are readily available from street vendors. If you wish to have meals specially prepared for you, based on dietary requirements, you will need to advise Absolute Vietnam Travel at the time of your booking so that these arrangements can be made.
6. Can I drink the local tap water?
Do not drink tap water, nor take ice with your drinks. Do not drink water in the shower and only use bottled water to clean your teeth. Most hotels provide 2 bottles of drinking water per day free. Bottled water is readily available for purchase throughout Vietnam and is very cheap. (appox 50c for 1.5L)
7. Is it worthwhile to have travel insurance?
It is a condition of travel take out travel insurance for your overseas travels, to cover you against any situations that may arise. Please enquire with one of our friendly staff or ask your travel agent for further details.
8. What immunization do I need, when traveling to Vietnam?
A Health Certificate is not required for travel to Vietnam. Please consult your doctor or contact the Travellers Medical and Vaccination Centre in your capital city for your vaccination requirements. .
9. How far in advance should I book?
As a general rule, it is best to book as soon as you have made a firm decision on a particular tour in order to get the best price & best services arrangement. To make a booking, contact our office to check for availability, then simply fill out our booking Form and send a deposit of 30% of the tour cost to our bank account.
10.How much money should I allocate for tipping?
Tipping in the Vietnamese tourism industry is not compulsory though it is appreciated and it is normal for guides and drivers to receive them from tourists. For independent traveler, a tip of USD 3 to 5 each per driver and guide per day is a good guide depending how much you do with them.
11.What are the transportation and train compartments like on the tours?
The travel modes on our Vietnam tours have been planned with both variety and enjoyment in mind. Car, Van, Coach, the Reunification Express train, boat trips of various sizes and varieties and flights are employed to make your holiday more enjoyable and enrich your ‘authentic’ Vietnam experience. You need to be of average mobility to be able to climb on and off small boats if you intend on going to the Mekong Delta or Halong Bay. Boat trips also occur in Hue,Hoian and Nha Trang.
When a tour uses overnight train travel, all travel will be in 4 berth first class ‘soft sleeper’ carriages, the best available in Vietnam. However, they are not of the same standard as your train at home. It is advisable to take with you onboard any drinks or snacks you want to have during that journey. There is a western toilet per carriage but the facility is basic.
12. How much free time do we get whilst on tour?
As indicated in our itineraries daily activities are planned, however the programs are flexible, as whilst at the attractions a period of time is allocated where you are free to roam as you please. Generally, apart from a few perFormances, the evenings are at your own leisure.
13. What type of guides escort the tour?
Our local expert tour guides who specialize in a particular region will meet you upon arrival at the airport or train station and travels with you on a day to day basis. By doing this our client will get the most benefit from our tour guide as they always share all the local knowledge of each destination as well as the insight culture & history of Vietnam.
14. How do I get my visa?
A Vietnamese entry visa is required for all foreigners wishing to visit Vietnam except for citizens of countries having bilateral agreements on visa exemption with Vietnam. Only citizens of certain countries can visit Vietnam without an entry visa (valid for visit within 30 days). Those countries include: most Asian countries, Korea, Japan & Scandinavians (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland). All other citizens are required to get an entry visa before departure or a pre-approved entry visa (visa is issued on arrival at Vietnam’s International Airports) supplied before arrival in Vietnam.
*Vietnam Visa Application (Apply by yourself at your country)
Applying to any one of the Vietnam Embassies and Consulates in the world.
Documents needed: Passport of 6 months’ validity, visa application Forms, and probably some others required by the embassy or consulate. Visa Forms are available by getting directly at the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your country or by sending there a stamped, self-addressed envelope addressed to Visa Section. Fees are varying from embassy to embassy. It should take between 4 to 10 days depending on your country of origin.
*Vietnam Visa on Arrival
In the Event that there is no Vietnam embassy or Consulate in your country, or you just want to make Vietnam part of a multi-destination trip, then we recommend Visa on Arrival as your best option. Visa on arrival most likely the easiest way to obtain your visa without having to chase down embassies, consulates and the like prior to your trip, and is a valid alternative when applying for a tourist visa. The entry visa will be stamped on your passport as you pass through our immigration check point at the airport. Though valid for thirty days, it can be extended once you enter Viet Nam. With this type of visa, you only can enter the country by air. You need a paper which is called an “Approval Letter” from the Viet Nam Immigration Department in Hanoi. After we obtain the approval for you, we will forward you a copy by fax or email. Copies of the same Document will be forwarded on your behalf to Vietnam immigration checkpoints at International Airports only, so that when you arrive in Viet Nam, the Immigration officers will have those Documents on hand and will be able to issue your entry visa expediently.
What should I prepare to apply for my visa?
· Full name
· Date of birth
· Passport numbers
· Passport Expired date
· Arrival day
· Departure day
· Flight details (optional)
What Document do I need at the airport?
· Orriginal passport
· 02 photos 4x6 CM
· Letter of visa upon arrival ( Approval Letter)
· 25USD stamping fee
15. Are there any baggage restrictions?
All passengers are limited to two (2) items of luggage each:
One suitcase or backpack, with a maximum weight of 20kg and maximum size of 70 liters. One piece of hand luggage, with a maximum weight of 7kg. It is advisable that your hand luggage consist of a day “daypack”- a small bag which you can access during the day and carry items like your camera, drinking water, toilet paper, hat etc.
It is essential that you have a lock for each piece of luggage. Without one, railway and airline staff may refuse to handle it.
Official Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Population: aprox 90 million
Capital City: Hanoi, population 6.5 million
People: Viet (Kinh) and 53 other ethnic minorities including Muong, Tay, Khmer, H’Mong, Dao, Kadai, Han, Tang
Currency: Vietnam Dong (VND)
Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours
International Dialing Code: +84
For a country that is only a little larger than Italy, Vietnam has immense geographic and cultural diversity. The country’s varied climate and landscape range from four seasons in the mountainous north, to year-round tropical temperatures in the lush south. Its intriguing history spans back over 4,000 years, with occupations from both the Chinese and French who have left strong foreign cultural influences, evident in buildings, cuisine and much more.
Pre Departure Check List
- Travel Insurance
- Valid Passport (at least six months remaining) and visa (or two passport pictures as well as 25US$ for visa on arrival in case)
- Foreign currency (US$) or ATM card
- Flights tickets
- Photocopy of passport either scanned into email account or separate from the original in case
Travel Insurance (Compulsory)
Absolute Vietnam Travel will do everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. However, certain risks are involved and should be recognized by participants. Thus, we require all guests to purchase travel insurance prior to their trip. Travel insurance is a cost effective way of protecting yourself and your equipment in the Event of problems due to cancelled trips, delays, medical emergencies, baggage loss or damage. It also gives you peace of mind for your trip.
A passport with at least six months validity is necessary. Visitors must obtain visa approval prior to entry. You can not obtain a visa on arrival and must have either an approval letter or valid visa on arrival.
Absolute Vietnam Travel can arrange visas at a reduced cost for visitors who book one of our tours. We will contact the Immigration Department to arrange an approval letter, which you then bring to Vietnam and deal with upon arrival.
Arriving in Vietnam
We will arrange your transfer to and from the airport unless otherwise specified.
Health & Well-being
Be aware, as with other parts of South-East Asia, your health can be put at risk due to lack of effective medical treatment facilities and poor sanitation. In Vietnam, rural areas can have a lack of pharmacies and hospitals so be sure to have any drugs that you regularly take already with you.
If you feel particularly ill, you should return to either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City
Each traveler is responsible for his or her health. First and foremost make sure that you have travel insurance for your trip. Also, consult your doctor or local travel clinic before departure for the latest inFormation on traveling to Vietnam.
Vietnam has been voted one of the safest destinations in the world. Women and independent travelers have found it relatively hassle-free and easy to travel throughout the country.
Before traveling to Vietnam, it is important to ensure that you have adequate protection about disease. About two months before your holiday you should consult you doctor who will advise as to the whether you need vaccinations before you travel. These will vary depending on where you are planning on visiting. Bear in mind that there is a malaria risk in rural parts of Vietnam. In general, most visitors to Cambodia will require the following vaccinations:
- Hepatitis A and B
If you have any special conditions or allergies that may require attention overseas, have your GP write a letter describing the nature of the condition and the treatment. Always carry the letter on your person. It is also a good idea to bring your own basic medicine kit with you containing some basics like paracetamol and diarrhoea relief.
+The official currency is Dong. The Dong is non-convertible outside of Vietnam. American dollars are however widely accepted in larger stores and supermarkets.
Visa and MasterCard are becoming more accepted in many of the bigger hotels and restaurants, especially in the larger cities. ATM’s are widely available throughout the country, as well as a number of international banks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Allow $8 to $15 per meal for additional lunches or dinners not included in the trip price. You may also want to have some money put aside to try some local foods at the markets.
+Tipping is a personal matter, and passengers are encouraged to tip an amount they find appropriate. For your convenience we have included a tipping guide below; please however note that these amounts are suggestions. We encourage our passengers to reward guides based on their perFormance:
- Meal (restaurants): In fine restaurants you may find that the tip is already included, in other restaurants and local ones a tip is not expected but you may wish to leave loose change on the table
- Bellboy: average amount is $1 or 20.000 VND
- Chambermaid: average amount is $1 per day or 20.000 VND
+ Tips for guides are completely at your discretion, but here are some guidelines: $3-$5 per day for guides (depending on group size), $2-$3 per day per person for drivers
Post and Telecommunications
The Vietnamese postal service is reliable and offers you most telecommunications. Courier services are widely available. However do not put postcards into letter boxes; either gives them to your hotel to post or to post offices.
- Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available, however they aren’t cheap
- Internet access is available in all major tourist places
Clothing and Suggested Packing List
- Personal clothing items, toiletries, medication
- Insect Repellent
- Light weight clothing (summer months)
- Warm clothing (winter in Hanoi and mountainous areas)
- Adaptor – 220V, 50Hz; 2 pin plugs
- Small daypack for day tips and overnight trips to Halong Bay
- Appropriate shoes for trekking, cycling or walking in caves
- Water bottle and helmet (for cycling trips only)
Please note: Domestic airlines do impose restrictions on baggage at approx 20kg maximum, so travel lightly where possible. Also the train cabins and boat cabins in Halong Bay have limited space so consider this when packing.
The South (Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet)
- May to October: Hot and wet
- November to April: Hot and humid
The Centre (Nha Trang to Hue)
- Nha Trang – sunshine all year round apart from November and December when the area has heavy rain
- Dalat – Cooler than the coastal area – particularly from November to March
- Danang and Hue – Experience typhoon activity from mid October to mid December, climate becomes cooler, more overcast and wet
The North (Hanoi to Sapa)
- April to October: Temperatures between 30-35°C with occasional bursts of heavy rain
- December to March: Temperatures between 10-15°C. February and March can be damp with drizzle and overcast skies
Cuisine, Special Dietary Requests and Drinking Water
Vietnamese food is delicious and varies through the whole country. The 3 main regions of North, Central and South each have distinct cuisines. Vietnamese food is usually not spicy and is accompanied with chili sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce. Generally food in the South of the country tends to be a little hotter with a greater abundance of spices available.
If you are a vegetarian, vegan, allergic to any foods or adhere to a special diet, please advise us prior to your trip so we can comply with your dietary requirements.
It is not advisable to drink tap water in any South East Asian countries. Bottled water is recommended and widely available. Ice is widely used in Vietnam and it is produced with treated water.
Experiencing cultural differences is one of the joys of traveling, and it is important that these differences are encouraged and respected. Things in Asia are done differently to the rest of the world and we ask you to please accept the differences and respect the cultural rules of the areas we travel to.
Saving Face and Manners
- Getting angry and showing it by shouting or becoming abusive is extremely impolite and a poor reflection on you. In addition, it is unlikely to achieve much.
General Points of Etiquette
- As in Thailand, it is improper to pat children on the head
- If you would like someone to come over to you, motion with your whole hand held palm down - signaling with your index finger and your palm pointed skyward may be interpreted as being sexually suggestive
- When using a toothpick, it is considered polite to hold it in one hand and to cover your open mouth with the other
- When handing things to other people, use both of your hands or your right hand only, never your left hand (reserved for toilet ablutions!)
- Public displays of affection are considered to be quite offensive in Vietnam – defiantly no kissing! It is also extremely rare to see couples holding hands. On the contrary it is quite common to see friends of the same sex holding hands
Donations and Gift-Giving
Although there is poverty in certain areas of Vietnam, please read the following points about donations and gift-giving.
- Do not give to begging children as it reinforces for these children that begging is an acceptable to make a living. However in many places, it is considered acceptable to give to the elderly or disabled as there is no social security or other way these people can earn money.
- Giving money and goods away to random individuals can result in the local communities acting like beggars. It accentuates an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely ‘money givers’. We do not want to encourage the development of a society that equates every human action as potential money making scheme – for example paying to take photographs.
- Do not give sweets to children in villages that we visit. Local people do not have access to dentists, nor can they afford them and again there is the issue of turning children into beggars. Pens, toothbrushes, clothing or other ‘worthwhile’ items are best distributed via a local charity, school teacher or community leader.
- Avoid feeling that you necessarily have to give ‘material’ things. The best giving can be sometimes shared interactions: a smile, a joke, a sing-song, dance or playing a game. Giving something of your friendship, time and interest to interact with locals can be the best gift of all.
Recommend books for reading
Vietnam by Insight Guides
Vietnam - A Travel Survival Kit by Lonely Planet.
Vietnam by The Rough Guide
Vietnam A History by Stanley Karnow
In Retrospect by Robert Mc Namara
One Crowded Hour by Tim Bowden
Live from the Battlefield by Peter Arnett
Heroes by John Pillager
Chickenhawk by Robert Mason
Gen• Child of War, Woman of Peace by Le Ly Hayslip
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip
The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh
A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan
Two Cities, Hanoi & Saigon by Neil Sheehan
Turtle Beach by Blanche d'Alpuget
Page After Page by Tim Page
Bridge Across My Sorrows by Christina Noble