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Vietnam Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

Direct flights from London Heathrow to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are available from Vietnam Airlines. Indirect flights are also available. Thai Airways fly via Bangkok to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and other airlines including Emirates, Malaysian, Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways travel via their regional hubs.

Flying times from UK

Direct flights take around 12 hours. Flights with stops en-route take around 16 hours.

Time zone

Vietnam is +7 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

If you are a British passport holder travelling before 30th June 2021 then you can enter the country for up to 15 days without a visa. Stay for longer, revisit within 30 days of leaving or depart after 30th June 2021 and you will need a tourist visa which must be arranged prior to travel.

Do's and don'ts

The Vietnamese have quite a conservative attitude towards dress sense, especially when it comes to women but equally there is no need to cover every inch of the body.

Whenever entering someone's house make sure you remove your shoes.

Make sure you don't lie down with your feet facing in the direction of anyone.

Money

The national currency in Vietnam is the Dong.  ATMs are plentiful and credit cards are widely accepted. Although US Dollars, British Pounds and Euros are all often taken, it does depend on the particular vendor and their chosen exchange rate at the time. Whatever currency you are using, make sure the notes are well-kept and not torn, otherwise they will not be accepted.

Tipping

You will not be expected to tip in most places in Vietnam, yet when you do it is very much appreciated. If you liked the service you received then a generous tip is most appreciated. A guideline for tipping drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

Rice, noodles, fresh vegetable and herbs all play big roles in Vietnamese food making it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. You will find that each region tends to have its own range of specialities although as a general rule southern dishes contain more spice than their northern counterparts. Whereas the bulk of the restaurants are based in the major cities, smaller vendors and stalls can be found virtually anywhere. And no matter where you go, everyone drinks the national beverage at all social gatherings – green tea. There is still a strong French influence in Vietnam’s cuisine, baguettes and patisseries are readily available, and there are numerous French restaurants.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Of all the Vietnamese holidays – and there are many – Tet Festival is the biggest. Celebrated across three days, it marks the beginning of the Vietnamese New Year and is the time to forgive and forget, and to pay off debts. It is also everyone’s birthday – the Vietnamese do not celebrate each individual’s birthday, everyone is one year older on Tet. Leading up to Tet expect many shoppers in the streets, but during the three days of celebrations most shops and restaurants will be closed.

New Year's Eve is a major occasion as well, with homes decorated in red and gold alongside woodcut prints of that year's zodiac animal. Do not be surprised if you see lots of long bamboo poles – they are stripped of most of their leaves as a symbol of good luck and for protection against evil spirits. Other big festivals include Wandering Souls Day – when food and gifts are offered to the souls of the dead – and mid-Autumn Festival when children release brightly-coloured lanterns made from bamboo into the sky.

Shopping

With countless street markets, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to handicrafts ranging from lacquerware to textiles. Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An especially offers excellent value for money when it comes to tailored clothing, fine cotton goods, hand embroidered fabrics and various jewellery and shawls.

Suggested reading

The usual good sources of information, such as Bradt and Footprint, are always helpful. If you want a more visually appealing guide to Vietnam, then Nguyen Van Huy's ‘Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind and Spirit’ carries a number of stunning photographs from journeys through the heart of the country. ‘Vietnam: A Traveller's Literary Companion’ is interesting and Qui Doc Nguyen's collection of stories by various local writers allows you to get an insight into the country's culture through its own folklore and literature. We would also highly recommend a couple of books by Pam Scott, namely 'Vietnam: Hanoi Stories' and 'Life in Hanoi'.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Vietnam the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

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