Government offices and museums open early, around 8am, and close between 4pm and 5pm. Avoid doing business from 11.30am to 2pm, when people are either at lunch or napping.
Vietnam uses 220V electricity nationwide. In the south, outlets are often US-style flat pins. In the north, many out-lets fit round pins. As the electrical current varies, use a surge protector when running sensitive electronic equipment like laptops.
The currency in Vietnam, the Dong (VND) which can not be purchased outside Vietnam, has coins. The current exchange rate is around VND 20,500 to the US dollar. US dollars remain widely accepted at hotels, but you should have local currency tor use in taxis and shops. For exchanging into VND, go to the banks or exchange desk everywhere.
You can easily use Credit cards in big cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in almost hotels, restaurants and shops. ANZ and Vietcombank have automated teller machines (ATM) for cash advance (in VND). Do not accept old, faded or ripped bills (dong or dollars), as you may have trouble spending them
Travellers' cheques now is more difficult to use since passport are requested to show when cashing. And remember about second signature rule when using Travellers' Cheques
You can change cash and travellers’ cheques at exchange desks in big hotels, shops licensed to sell gold and at authorised foreign exchange banks in the main cities
Among the banks, Vietcombank usually offers the best exchange rates and charges the lowest commission (around 1-2%). Note that commission rates are slightly lower if changing travellers’ cheques into dong rather than dollars. Vietcombank does not levy commission when changing dollars cash into dong, though some other banks do. It’s worth bearing in mind that you get a slightly better exchange rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations
Outside the main cities and tourist areas, authorised foreign exchange banks are few and far between. So if you’re heading off the beaten path, stock up with enough cash (dollars and better dong) to last the trip. Wherever you are, you’ll always find someone willing to change dollars cash into dong, though rates will vary
When departing, change any Dong back to US dollars.If you have a lot of dong left over when leaving, can change back to the currency you entered with by showing the yellow customs slip that you were given on arrival. The amount you take out must be less than the original amount you brought in. But it's better change back into Dollars when in the city
International phone charges are steep in Vietnam and many hotels, especially upmarket ones, add extra fees, Check the rates before dialing. One long-distance service offers a flat fee of around US$0.75 per minute to 50 countries; dial 171 followed by the country code and number
Public phones require phone cards, which are available at post offices. To rent a mobile phone call 821 8465 in Hanoi and 824 2382 in HCM City. Faxes can be sent from hotels, business centers or post offices. Again, rates vary. Hanoi and HCM City offer dozens of Internet cafes
January 1 - Western New Year's Day
January or February - Tet; Vietnamese and Chinese New Year celebration; this most important Vietnamese festivity of the whole year is celebrated an entire week from the first to the seventh day of the new year according to the traditional moon calendar; as the celebration depends on the phases of the moon, not the sun, it is celebrated on different dates of the Western calendar; traditionally, during the Tet days large amounts of food are consumed, because the Tet days are considered an omen for the course of the entire year; the belief is that if you eat a lot during the Tet days, there will be enough food during the whole year
April 30 - Liberation Day of South Vietnam and Saigon; national holiday
May 1 - Labour Day; national holiday
September 2 - National Holiday
Vietnam has a particularly complicated climate and, like elsewhere in the world, weather patterns have been changing over recent years. The situation described below is therefore only an indication of the type of weather you can expect
Starting in the north, autumn (September to December) is undoubtedly the most pleasant season. At this time of year it’s generally warm (average temps above 20°C), dry and sunny in the delta, though you’ll need warm clothes up in the mountains and on the waters of Ha Long Bay. Winter (December to February) can be surprisingly bitter as cold air sweeps south from China bringing fine, persistent mists and temperatures as low as 10°C. Things begin to warm up again in March, which ushers in a period of good, spring weather before the summer heat begins in earnest in May, closely followed by the rainy season in June. This combination makes for hot, sticky weather which takes many people by surprise
Temperatures, which can occasionally reach 40°C, average 30°C, while humidity hovers around 70-75%. The rain comes in heavy downpours, causing frequent flooding in Hanoi and the delta. By mid September, however, the rains are petering out, and from October onwards it’s perfect sightseeing weather
The coastal region from Hanoi south to Hué lies in the typhoon belt. Around Hué, typhoons seem most prevalent in April and May, while further north the season generally lasts from July to November. However, typhoons are incredibly difficult to predict and it really is a matter of luck - or bad luck, rather - if you are caught. Flights are usually only disrupted for a matter of hours, but in recent years the main road and rail routes heading south have been cut by floods at least once during the typhoon season. The good news is that they usually get everything moving again incredibly quickly - within four or five days, depending on the severity of the damage
The central region of Vietnam has a notoriously wet climate, particularly around Hué, where the annual average rainfall is a generous 3m. The so-called “dry” season lasts from February to May, though you’ll need an umbrella even then. After this it gets wetter and hotter (av temps 30°C) until the rainy season begins in earnest in September, gradually easing off from November through January. Winter temperatures average a pleasant 20°C or above
Southern Vietnam is blessed with a more equitable - and predictable - climate. Here the dry season lasts from December to late April/May, and the rains from May through November. Most of the rain falls in brief afternoon downpours, so you can still get out and about, though flooding can be a problem in the delta. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 20°C, occasionally reaching 40°C in the hottest months (March to May). Once the rains start, humidity climbs to an enervating 80%
Everyone in Vietnam seems to be learning English. Standards are relatively high considering the country has only been open for just over a decade. Most young people and many of those working in the tourist industry speak sufficient English to communicate at a basic level. You’ll find more and better English-speakers in the south - a legacy of the American presence - but even here don’t expect to find English spoken at small restaurants, in markets or anywhere off the tourist trail. For such situations it will help to have a basic phrasebook.
People over 60 years old, especially in the north, speak wonderfully old-fashioned French. Other northerners might speak Russian or German, depending where they were sent to be educated or as “guest workers”
If you’re having real difficulties communicating, it sometimes helps to write things down in English. As a last resort, someone will probably go and find an English speaker to help sort things out
Though you will certainly be able to get by in English, it’s worth learning a few Vietnamese phrases before you go. The pronunciation is a bit tricky, but otherwise Vietnamese is not a particularly complicated language. A few standard phrases (such as hello, thank you, how much is it? and goodbye) always go down well. It will also help if you learn the numbers, though this can be circumvented by asking people to write down prices, times etc.