Things you need to know before travelling to Vietnam

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        The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnam) is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. With an estimated 93.5 million inhabitants as of 2015, it is the world's 14th-most-populous country, and the eighth-most-populous Asian country. The name Vietnam translates as "South Viet", and was officially adopted in 1945. The country is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea (Bien Dong) to the East. The country shares maritime borders with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. There remains a long term dispute with China over sovereignty of islands in the South China Sea. Vietnams capital city has been Hanoi from 1975.

Bài viết tại: Khách sạn sân bay Nội Bài VATC

      Vietnamese is the spoken native language. English is now becoming more widely recognised and is  the second language of choice.

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Map of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

 

 

History

Legend states that Vietnam's origin lies in the union of Lac Long Quan, King of the Sea, with Au Co, Princess of the Mountains. Real life was less romantic as Vietnam's origin, like much of its recent history, is characterised by turbulence in its fight for autonomy.

The country has been invaded by the Chinese, French, Japanese and of course fought a long conflict with America. On each occasion the Vietnamese fought to maintain an independent state.

The Chinese dominated Vietnam between 111BC - 938 AD with just brief interludes of independence. A further brief period of domination occurred from 1407-1427 which ended with Le Loi’s victory over the Chinese.

French colonisation began in 1884  and lasted until 1954, during which time there was also a brief Japanese occupation during World War II. The Communist Viet Minh under the leadership of Hồ Chí Minh fought an insurgency war against the French. With the last Vietnamese Emperor Bao Dai abdicating in 1945 a proclamation of independence was issued. However, the war against the French continued until the decisive defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 when the Foreign Legion were defeated. Both the Chinese and French occupations left a lasting impact on Vietnam in terms of religion, architecture  and  cuisine.

Following the French defeat The Geneva Conference in 1956 partitioned Vietnam along the 17th parallel, dividing the country into North and South.

US support to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the Southern Vietnam government, and although a war was never formally declared it commonly became known as the Vietnam War - although the Vietnamese refer to it as the American War. U.S. armed forces were finally withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, on April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese entered the South's Presidential Palace in Ho Chi Minh City and the war ended. An estimated 3 million Vietnamese and over 55,000 Americans had been killed.

Vietnam now hosts a young population with two thirds being born since 1975. The war has become a memory and American tourists will receive a particularly friendly welcome in Vietnam, as many young Vietnamese aspire to the American culture.

Politics

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         Vietnam has a one party state, with the President as the Head of State, and the Prime Minister as the Head of Government. The Vietnamese legislature is the National Assembly. The Prime Minister holds the main authority in government, with the Presidential role being more one of ceremony.

Economy

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           Post 1975 the initial economic reconstruction of the reunified Vietnam proved to be a difficult task,  an extended period of political isolation followed until 1991, when with the end of the Cold War, many western powers re-established diplomatic and trade relations with Vietnam. The last country to do so, in 1995, was the U.S. In 1986 Vietnam introduced a reformation called Doi Moi to create a socialist orientated market economy. In 2001 the USA and Vietnam implemented a trade agreement which normalised the trade status between the two countries and in  2007 Vietnam became the 150th member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Doi Moi policy has proved highly successful, with Vietnam recording significant economic growth year on year. The economy is much stronger than those of neighbouring Cambodia and Laos.

People

         Most people in Vietnam are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh), though there is a sizeable ethnic Chinese community in Ho Chi Minh City. There are also over 50 other ethnic groups who mainly occupy the mountainous parts of the country, and include the Tay, Tai, Muong and Nung, Hmong, and Dao people. In southern Vietnam the ethnic Khmer Krom largely reside near the lowland border with Cambodia

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        Mahayana Buddhism, is the single largest religion in Vietnam, with over 85% of the population referring to themselves as Buddhist. Due to the influence of the French colonisation Catholicism is the second largest religion, followed by the Vietnamese specific Cao Dai religion. There are also a number of other international and local religions but they occupy a small overall percentage.

Culture

        Due to its long history as a tributary state of China, as well as several periods of Chinese occupations, Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by that of Southern China, with Confucianism forming the basis of Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese language also contains many loan words from Chinese, though the two languages are unrelated. Buddhism remains the single largest religion in Vietnam, though like in China but unlike in the rest of northern Southeast Asia, the dominant school of Buddhism in Vietnam is the Mahayana School.

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         Nevertheless, Vietnamese culture remains distinct from Chinese culture as it has also absorbed cultural elements from neighbouring Hindu civilisations such as the Champa and the Khmer empires. The French colonisation has also left a lasting impact on Vietnamese society, with baguettes and coffee remaining popular among locals.

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Location, Geography, & Climate

       Shaped like an elongated S, Vietnam stretches the length of the Indochinese Peninsula and covers an area of 331,689 km2 making it roughly the size of Italy.

       Topographically, Vietnam has an abundance of high mountains, fertile deltas, primeval forests, winding rivers, secluded caves, cascading waterfalls and sun kissed beaches. The elevation varies between the lowest point at the South China sea (0 m) and the highest point at the peak of  Fan Si Pan mountain (3,144 m). The country extends 1,650 km north to south, but is only 50 km across at its narrowest point in central of Vietnam.

        For convenience, the country can be thought of as comprising three unique areas: north (Tonkin), central (Annam), and south (Cochin China). The north is known for its mountainous peaks, the Red River Delta, the plains of Cao Bang and Vinh Yen, enchanting Halong Bay, and the capital city of Hanoi.

        Central Vietnam is home to numerous ethnic minorities, it is characterised by high temperate plateaus rich in volcanic soil and by spectacular beaches, dunes, and lagoons. It is the location of the ancient imperial city of Hue, the seaport of Danang and the atmospheric and beautiful town of Hoi An.

       In the South, the commercial Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) dominates but the fertile alluvial delta of the Mekong River provides a rural balance.

Vietnam's territory also encompasses thousands of archipelagic islands.

        Vietnam's climate is complex and can be confusing for the visitor. The country lies entirely within the tropics but its diverse range of latitude, altitude, and weather patterns produces enormous climatic variation.

       The South has three distinct seasons: hot and dry from March to May/June; rainy from June/July to November; and cool and dry from December to February. April is the hottest month, with mid-day temperatures of 33°C (91°F) or higher. During the rainy season, downpours happen daily, and flooding can be an issue. Temperatures range from stifling hot before a rainstorm to pleasantly cool afterward. December to February is the most pleasant time to visit, with cooler evenings around 20°C (68°F).

      The North has four seasons, including comparatively cool winter (temperatures dipping below 15°C/59°F in Hanoi), a hot and wet summer and pleasant spring (March-April) and autumn (October-December) seasons. The Highlands experience extremes, with occasional snow in the winter but temperatures reaching 40°C (104°F) in the summer.

Holidays

     By far the largest holiday of the year is Tết, the Vietnamese New Year, which is celebrated between late January and March - the exact date depending on the lunar calendar. Just prior to Tet, the whole of Vietnam is engaged in preparations. In the last few days before Tết begins residents start to return to their home towns and families.  On the first day of the new year nearly all the shops and restaurants close  and the streets empty for three days as a strange quietness descends.

    City streets are decorated with lights and organised festivities including firework displays are organised but primarily for the Vietnamese, Tết is a private, family affair.

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         Visiting Vietnam during Tết is a mixed blessing. On the down side: transport is crammed just prior to the holiday, hotels fill up, especially in smaller towns; and shops and restaurants will largely be closed for unto a week. On the positive side, you can observe the preparations and enjoy the public festivities; pagodas are especially active; no admission is charged to those museums and historical sites that are open; the foreigner-oriented travel industry of backpacker buses and resort hotels continue as usual.

        Lesser holidays include 1st May, (May Day), 2nd September, (National Day), 12th April (King Hung celebration) and the 30th April (Liberation Day). On all these holidays, hotels, trains and planes tend to be busy or sold out, - so it is best to book well in advance.

Customs

       It's still common to be stared at by curious locals in some of the rural regions. The habit has become much less prevalent in the cities especially in the Southern area as the sight of Westerners has become more commonplace.

       Asian women travelling with non-Asian men can still attract local attention though this behaviour have lessened it has still not disappeared.

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        Whilst Vietnam is still most famous for the War the Vietnamese do not generally bear any animosity against visitors from the countries that participated. Two-thirds of the population were born after the war and are demonstrate a fondness for the west.

       When entering a Vietnamese home it is usual to remove shoes.

       The Vietnamese are respectful to their elders still and it is polite to follow suit.

       Traffic especially in the cities is chaotic. They do not give way on pedestrian crossings so beware and careful on the roads. The use of horns has decreased and are used as an indication of proximity rather than demonstration anger. If you are involved in an accident it is likely to be assumed your fault as you are Westerner or because you were in the larger of the vehicles.

Money:

      The national currency is the dong (đng, VND). 

      Notes are available in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 and 500,000 dong 

Emergency numbers

  • Police 113, Fire Brigade 114, Ambulance/First Aid 115, Information 1080

Vietnam telephone numbers

  • Country calling code: +84
  • International call prefix: 00
  • Trunk prefix: 0
  • Most area codes starting with 9 are now used for mobile phone numbers (84-9).

 

City/Province

Phone Code

 

City/Province

Phone Code

An Giang

84-76

 

Kien Giang

84-77

Ba Ria - Vung Tau

84-64

 

Kon Tum

84-60

Bac Giang

84-240

 

Lam Dong

84-63

Bac Kan

84-281

 

Lang Son

84-25

Bac Lieu

84-781

 

Lao Cai

84-20

Bac Ninh

84-241

 

Long An

84-72

Ben Tre

84-75

 

Nam Dinh

84-350

Binh Dinh

84-56

 

Nghe An

84-38

Binh Duong

84-65

 

Ninh Thuan

84-68

Binh Duong

84-650

 

Ninh Binh

84-30

Binh Phuoc

84-651

 

Phu Tho

84-210

Binh Thuan

84-62

 

Phu Yen

84-57

Ca Mau

84-780

 

Quang Binh

84-52

Can Tho

84-710

 

Quang Nam

84-510

Cao Bang

84-26

 

Quang Ngai

84-55

Da Nang

84-511

 

Quang Tri

84-53

Dak Lak

84-500

 

Quang Ninh

84-33

Dien Bien

84-230

 

Soc Trang

84-79

Dong Nai

84-61

 

Son La

84-22

Dong Thap

84-67

 

Tay Ninh

84-66

Gia Lai

84-59

 

Thai Binh

84-36

Ha Giang

84-219

 

Thai Nguyen

84-280

Ha Nam

84-351

 

Thanh Hoa

84-37

Ha Tinh

84-39

 

Thua Thien Hue

84-54

Hai Duong

84-320

 

Tien Giang

84-73

Hai Phong

84-31

 

Tra Vinh

84-74

Hanoi City

84-4

 

Tuyen Quang

84-27

Ho Chi Minh City

84-8

 

Vinh Long

84-70

Hoa Binh

84-218

 

Vinh Phuc

84-211

Hung Yen

84-321

 

Ba Ria - Vung Tau

84-64

Khanh Hoa

84-58

 

Yen Bai

84-29

 

EMERGENCY FOREIGN EMBASSY NUMBERS

No

Country

Tel

1

Hanoi Immigration Office

04. 38253076

2

Algeria

04.3 825 3865/933 2151

3

Argentina

04.3831 5262/3

4

Australia

04.3831 7755

5

Austria

04.3943 3050/3051

6

Bangladesh

04.3771 6625/7829

7

Belarus

04.3 829 0494

8

Belgium

04.3934 6179/80

9

Brazil

04.3843 0817/ 843 2544

10

United Kingdom

04.3 936 0500

11

Cambodia

04.39427636

12

United States of America

04.3772 1500

13

Sri Lanka

04.3 734 1894/6

14

Russia

04.3 833 6991/6992

15

Italy

04.3 825 6246

16

India

04.3 824 4989

17

Ireland

04.39743291

18

France

04.3 943 7719

19

Japan

04.38463000

20

Korea

04.38315111

21

Germany

04.3 845 3836/3837

22

China

04.3 845 3736

23

Canada

04.3 734 5000

24

Philippines

04.39437948

25

Indonesia

04.38253353

26

Malaysia

04.37343836

27

Poland

04.38266788


Internet

        Internet access is readily available in all but the most remote areas. Internet cafes are available in most tourist spots and rates are fairly cheap. General cafes often provide free wifi to customers. Connection speeds are good, especially in the main cities.

       Many hotels, cafes and restaurants provide free Wi-Fi  for their customers. If you use your own phone and/or laptop, several providers offer mobile internet services (EDGE/3G) services as well -  though beware of any applicable roaming costs.

Health

      The only high-quality healthcare facilities are located in main cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Options in rural areas are quite limited, and any major medical issue usually means an uncomfortable transfer to one of these centres or an evacuation to Singapore, Bangkok, or Hong Kong.

      In rural areas, the local chemists often acts as a first point of contact for minor ailments. Over-the-counter medications are available anywhere from small storefront pharmacists who, with a brief explanation and description of a problem (with the use of a phrase book or some creative charades), will provide affordable prescriptions for anything from antibiotics to sleeping pills. However, there are a lot of fake medicines for sale, and storage conditions may be poor. Even local Vietnamese are keen to obtain proven western medications rather than relying on the the local ones available.

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        Possible health requirements is an important issue to address prior to a trip to Vietnam, as is the plan to stay healthy during the visit. Top priority is good international health insurance, medical evacuation even to a neighbouring country can prove to be a very expensive experience. Motor vehicle accidents are common place and extreme care is required on the roads. Otherwise the tropical heat and mosquitoes are the biggest day to day dangers, and travellers should also exercise caution over the change in diet and sanitary standards in Vietnam - especially if eating at street food stalls. But with some common sense precautions, you can enjoy a safe and healthy trip. Consult with a GP,  or someone specialising in travel health before your trip about inoculations/vaccinations.  It would also be strongly recommended to check the latest situation and suggestions on your country’s Foreign Office website:

       If travelling in rural areas, it would be recommended to take a small first aid kit that includes anti diarrhoea medication, rehydration salts, antibacterial cream and bandages, and pain relief tablets.

EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS FOR HOSPITALS

Hanoi:

International SOS:

Add: 51 Xuan Dieu

Tel: (84-4) 3934 0666

Regional health care group offering full medical treatments including 24-hour emergency service, dental care and medieval

Vietnam International Hospital 

Add: Phuong Mai Road, Dong Da, Hanoi

Tel: (84-4) 3574 0740

Da Nang:

Danang Family Medical Practice

Add: 50-52 Nguyen Van Linh, Nam Duong Ward, Hai Chau Dist

Tel: (84-511) 358 2699

Email: danang@vietnammedicalpractice.com

24-hour professionally managed and staffed family health clinic with full emergency medical services including dental care and medieval.

Ho Chi Minh City:

International SOS:

Add: 167 A Nam Ky, Khoi Nghia, Dist 3

Tel: (84-8) 3829 8424 – 3829 8520

Regional health care group offering full medical treatments including 24-hour emergency service, dental care and medevac

Colombia Asia Saigon:

Add: 8 Alexandre de Rhodes, Dist 1

Tel: (84-8) 3823 8888

24-hour accident & emergency unit with professional foreign & local doctors

 

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