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Country Guides for Asia

Vietnam

Vietnam

Vietnam is a country of superb natural beauty, from the green, fertile rice patties of the Red River and Mekong Deltas and the glorious beaches of the coast, to the lofty inland mountains and forests. Ho Chi Minh City is a busy industrial center, home to over 5 million people, mixing centuries of tradition and culture with the modern world. The capital city of Hanoi is studded with lakes, parks and leafy boulevards, and enjoys a much more leisurely pace. The Old Quarter offers an excellent glimpse into history. Dalat, with its cool mountain climate and lovely surroundings, is referred to as the nation's honeymoon capital. Emperor Bao Dai's Summer Palace and Dalat's proximity to ethnic hill tribes definitely make it worth a visit. The 3000 grottos, clear green water and beautiful beaches of Halong Bay make it the number one attraction of the north, and the canal laced, historic city of Hue offers the famous Thien Mu Pagoda, the former Forbidden Purple City, and is said to have the country's finest food.

Language: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian).

Major International Airport:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
Ho Chi Minh CityTan Son Nhat Int'lESB5 miles S

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E.coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (Typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

Malaria is a serious, but preventable infection that can be fatal. Your risk of malaria may be high in these countries, including some cities. Prevent this deadly disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. Travelers to malaria-risk areas, including infants, children, and former residents of Southeast Asia, should take an antimalarial drug.

Dengue, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, and plague are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.

Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in certain areas of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, and Thailand to avoid infection with schistosomiasis.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.

The CDC recommends the following vaccines as appropriate for age (See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect):

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in the region, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Japanese encephalitis, only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water. Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Don't eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Don't share needles with anyone.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it. Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Those traveling to Vietnam are at risk from dengue fever and malaria transmitted by mosquito bites. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

The water supply in Vietnam is contaminated with viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

In recent years, Vietnam's Central Highland provinces have been the scene of ethnic minority protests and clashes with security forces. Official U.S. personnel and tourists are sometimes not authorized to travel to the Central Highland areas without prior consent from the Government of Vietnam. These travel limitations hinder the ability of the U.S. Government to provide assistance to private U.S. citizens in those areas.

U.S. citizens have been detained after traveling in areas close to the Vietnamese borders with China, Cambodia and Laos. These areas and other restricted areas are not always marked, and there are no warnings about prohibited travel. Travelers should avoid such areas unless written permission is obtained in advance from local authorities.

Large gatherings, such as those forming at the scene of traffic accidents, can become violent, and should be avoided. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/ where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Cities in Vietnam have the typical crime problems of many other large cities throughout the world. Pickpocketing and other petty crimes occur regularly. Although violent crimes such as armed robbery are still relatively rare in Vietnam, perpetrators have grown increasingly bold and the U.S. Consulate General has received recent reports of knives and razors being used in attempted robberies in Ho Chi Minh City. Thieves congregate around hotels frequented by foreign tourists and business people, and assaults have been reported in outlying areas. The evolving nature of incidents warrants caution on the part of the U.S. traveler. Travelers are advised not to resist theft attempts, and to report them both to police and to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi or the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

Motorcyclists, mostly carrying passengers, are known to grab bags, cameras and other valuables from pedestrians or passengers riding in "cyclos" (pedicabs) or on the back of rented motorcycles. Serious injuries have resulted when thieves snatched purses or bags, which were strapped across their victims' bodies, leading to the victim being dragged along the ground by the thief's motorcycle. In November 2003, an American citizen victim of a drive-by purse snatching was dragged to the ground and seriously injured in this manner.

Passengers in cyclos (pedicabs) may be especially prone to thefts of personal possessions by snatch-and-grab thieves, because they ride in a semi-reclining position that readily exposes their belongings and does not allow good visibility or movement. As some cyclo drivers have reportedly kidnapped passengers and extorted money, it may be risky to hire cyclos not associated with reputable hotels or restaurants.

Travelers are strongly advised to keep passports and other important valuables in hotel safes or other secure locations. Travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of their passport with them when going out. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General. U.S. citizens must obtain a police report from the local police office in order to apply for a replacement passport and a Vietnamese exit visa.

There have been occasional reports of incidents in which an unknown substance was used to taint drinks, leaving the victim susceptible to further criminal acts. Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and should avoid going to unfamiliar venues alone. Travelers should also avoid purchasing liquor from street vendors, as the quality of the contents cannot be assured.

Recreational drugs available in Vietnam can be extremely potent, and more than one American has died of an accidental overdose. Penalties for possession of drugs of any kind are severe.

Some U.S. citizens have reported threats of death or physical injury related to personal business disputes. The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Consulate General do not provide personal protection services. U.S. citizens who do not have confidence in the ability of the local police to protect them may wish to depart the country expeditiously.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. In Hanoi, the American Citizen Services (ACS) is located at Rose Garden Tower, #6 Ngoc Khanh, Hanoi. Telephone number is (84-4) 831-4590 Monday thru Friday and (84-4) 772-1500 after hours and weekends. In Ho Chi Minh City, ACS is located at U.S. Consular Section, 4 Le Duan St., Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Telephone number (84-8) 822-9433.



Source: U.S. Department of State

There are two basic climate zones in Vietnam. The south is tropical and hot year round, and the north is hot in the summer and cool to warm in the winter. Heavy monsoon rains and typhoons occur from May to October, and the rest of the year is quite dry with the occasional drizzle.


City
Annual
Precip. Days
Annual
Precip. Totals
Da Nang14480"
Hanoi14566"
Ho Chi Minh City15676"

Viet nam's electrical current is 220/50*110/60 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Please note: Not all electrical sockets in these countries provide grounding. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

A valid passport and Vietnamese visa are required. A visa must be obtained from a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate before traveling to Vietnam; entry visas are not available upon arrival. Americans arriving without an appropriate Vietnamese visa will not be permitted to enter, and will be subject to immediate deportation. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for only one entry. Persons planning to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country should be sure to obtain a visa allowing multiple entries. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Vietnam and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Vietnam web site at www.Vietnamembassy-usa.org for the most current visa information.

Even with a valid visa, some travelers have been refused entry to Vietnam. U.S. citizens are cautioned that Vietnamese immigration regulations require foreigners entering Vietnam to undertake only the activity for which their visas were issued. Change of purpose requires permission from the appropriate Vietnamese authority in advance. U.S. citizens whose stated purpose of travel was tourism but who engaged in religious proselytizing have had religious materials confiscated and have been expelled from Vietnam.

An American whose U.S. passport is lost or stolen in Vietnam must obtain both a replacement passport and a replacement visa. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General can issue limited validity emergency replacement passports in as little as one day, but the Vietnamese government requires three working days, not to include the day of application, to issue a replacement visa. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the Consulate General can expedite replacement Vietnamese visas.

Current information on visa and entry requirements may be obtained from the Vietnamese Embassy, 1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036, tel: 202-861-0737, fax: 202-861-0917, Internet: http://www.vietnamembassy-usa.org/; the Vietnamese Consulate General, 1700 California Street - Suite 430, San Francisco, CA 94109, tel: (415) 922-1707, fax: 415-922-1848, Internet: http://www.vietnamconsulate-sf.org/, or from the nearest Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate overseas.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for Viet nam is 7 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Viet nam would be 12:00 am

The unit of currency in Viet nam is the dong (VND).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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Other Travelers' Experiences in Vietnam

"This country is growing at an alarming pace. I fly to SGN at least 5 times a month and I notice many changes each time I fly there. One of the things I have noticed that in areas that are frequented by many tourists, the government has placed locals in green uniforms just for assistance to tourists. Their main role is to assist tourists crossing streets. Traffic is crazy with the amount of buses moving full steam ahead and taxis maneurvering in and out of the hundreds of locals on scooters and motorbikes. Best to look for these folks in green (mostly found around Binh Thanh Market in Saigon) for assistance crossing streets.
Also, when taking taxis, there are many 'fake' taxis around with meters that run faster than others. I always advise tourists to take taxis infront of major hotels (each hotel has a contract with a specific taxi company that has set meters approved by the government) or if out on the street, to take taxis with the larger telephone numbers printed on them...such as Saigonsun or Vinataxi."