All visitors to Vietnam
(except Thai and Philippine nationals) require a visa. Tourist visas are
usually issued with a validity of one month.
Visa directly from the Vietnamese Embassy
in your country :
Processing Time : Approximately
10 working days, excluding postal delivery time.
Requirements : Two Visa application
forms, two passport size photographs, valid passport, bank cheque for
visa fee (cashiers check or similar), self-addressed, stamped envelope
Procedure : Once the Vietnamese
authorities approve the visa, the passport is ready back for you (the
visa covers one full page in the passport).
Visa fee : Please contact
the respective embassy in your country as fees may vary.
Validity of Visa : The visa
is valid for four weeks of travel, within three months from date of issue
and is single entry only.
The currency of Vietnam is the Dong.
Every service and good can and should be paid for in Dong. Exceptions
are made in hotels and when buying international air tickets. Shops and
restaurants in the bigger cities will also accept US Dollar, but you should
be aware of the fact that usually a lower exchange rate will be used.
It is therefore advisable to change a certain amount of Vietnamese Dong
to cover your day-to-day expenses.
The foreign currency of
choice is the US Dollar. Clean USD 100 notes receive the best rates. You
can change money at banks, authorized exchange bureaus and in hotels.
Major hotels in the bigger cities act as agents for banks and offer the
same rate as them. Smaller private hotels will charge a service fee. The
Vietcombank in the popular tourist destinations will also be able to exchange
Thai Baht ; Australian, Canadian, Hong Kong, and Singaporean Dollars ;
Deutsche Marks ; French and Swiss Frances ; Pounds Sterling and Yen.
Must be US Dollars. You can change them
to Dong or to US Dollars (with a 2% commission). Those issued by American
Express, Bank of America, Citicorp, First National City Bank, Thomas Cook,
and Visa are accepted. They are also accepted at major tourist hotels,
but not in most shops. Vietnam is still very much a cash economy.
CREDIT CARDS :
Visa, Mastercard and – with exceptions
– American Express are accepted in virtually every hotel in major cities
throughout the country, as well as in upmarket restaurants especially
in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. More and more shops the two cities start
to accept credit cards.
When planning your trip abroad,
take steps to protect yourself from crime or theft. Crimes against travellers
are a growing problem worldwide. Tourists are particularly targeted by
criminals because they are usually carrying cash and are often easy to
distract. Any traveler can become a victim of crimes such as pick pocketing,
robberies and muggings.
It is strongly recommended that
you carry a small first aid kit with you, even if you are travelling on
business. Pack some adhesive bandages for minor injuries, scissors, tweezers,
aspirin or Panadol for pain and fever, antiseptic for cuts and scrapes,
antihistamines for allergies and insect bites, medicine for stomach upsets,
dehydration mixture for treatment of severe diarrhea, water purification
tablets, insect repellent, and sunscreen.
In the event of an accident or emergency
health problem in Vietnam, you should have a travel insurance policy with
coverage that includes emergency evacuation to Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala
Lumpur, or Bangkok for treatment. Medical attention in Vietnam is reasonable,
but equipment and medicines are in chronic short supply. You will be given
priority treatment in Vietnam – especially if you are prepared to pay
US Dollars – but you need to check the expiration date of any medication
and be extremely wary of anything you cannot read.
No vaccinations are officially
required by the Vietnamese authorities, but immunization against cholera,
hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus, polio, and Japanese encephalitis is advised.
Rabies is widespread in Vietnam, so you are advised to avoid dogs and
other animals that may bite as a precaution.
FOOD & WATER
As with most underdeveloped
countries, stomach upsets and diarrhea are a common problem and can ruin
a visit. Most problems stem from contaminated water. Unless it has been
thoroughly boiled, do not drink tapwater. You should also avoid ice in
drinks, especially in the countryside. Imported bottled water is available
in most cities, but beware of bottles that have been refilled with tapwater.
Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are fine and in hotels, you can use
the hot water in your room to make Chinese tea. You should have no problems
with thoroughly cooked food, but stay clear of anything that looks like
it has been reheated from a previous meal. Take care with seafood and
avoid undercooked meat. Only eat fruit that you have peeled yourself,
but salads should be given a miss.
Malaria is widespread
in Vietnam, especially in the Central Highlands and some parts of the
Mekong Delta. The disease is spread by the Anopheles mosquito and the
best protection against it is to avoid being bitten in the first place.
Since the malarial variety of mosquito
is active at night, you should take extra precautions after dark. These
include having screens on the windows if you like fresh air while you
sleep, mosquito netting, a high concentrate DEET insect repellent (you
may have trouble finding it, so bring your own ; Deep Woods Off is good),
or mosquito coils. When going out, be sure to wear long-sleeved shirts
and pants. Also, it is not a good idea to wear perfume or wash with scented
soap ;mosquitoes are attracted by the odour. Check with your physician
about taking a course of anti-malaria’s. If it is considered necessary
given your itinerary, you will need to begin before your trip and continue
for a time after you return. Be warned that especially with prolonged
use,some anti-malarial drugs can have side effects and should only be
taken on professional advice.
Dengue fever, which is also transmitted
by mosquitoes, is often mistaken for malaria, but is not fatal and does
not recur. Aside from avoiding being bitten altogether, there is no prevention
available. Only its symptoms can be treated, which are severe pain in
the joints, high fever, and extreme headache. Taking several weeks to
pass, the fever typically lasts two or three days, subsides, and then
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