Luxury Travel to Vietnam and Indochina

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Country Guide

When is the Best Time to Visit Vietnam?

The peak season is from September to April where the weather is beautiful though North to South Vietnam.

 

Vietnam's elongated shape, stretching from the tropics to the subtropics zone, accounts for the varied climate in the country. Vietnam is a year round destination, when one part of Vietnam is cloudy and rainy, there are other parts of the country that can be sunny and warm.  North Vietnam enjoys four seasons, meanwhile Central and South have four, rainy and dry seasons. Heat and humidity are typical weather of Vietnam. Weather is often a determinant factor in travel planning. Since Vietnam covers several climatic zones, the weather can change significantly traveling north to south. The most travelers come to Vietnam from September to April.

 

How about the summer time, is from May to August is good time to holidaying in Vietnam?

Discerning visitors often plan a journey to Vietnam with a single query in head,“Is the summer ia good time to discover the place and enjoy beach holiday getaways?”  The simple answer is, absolutely!”

 

Visa to Vietnam

Visitors must obtain visa approval prior to entry. A tourist visa for Vietnam can be obtained from any Vietnam embassy or consulate office worldwide. Visas are valid for 30 days and can be extended through our head office in Vietnam.

1. Apply for a Visa at an Embassy

REQUIREMENT and PROCEDURE

  • Passport valid for 6 months beginning from the first day of travel
  • Visa application form.
  • 2-3 of 4*6 inch photo 
  • Visa fee: in a range of 50 - 85US$ if applied directly to Embassy or 25-45 US$ if your visa has been pre-approved. This fee depends on Embassy and type of visa you have required.

The visa application form may vary from embassy to embassy, so you need to take the form from the embassy where you will get the visa. Submit this form filled with your original passport, 2 or 3 photos, and visa fee. If you apply directly to the embassy, your information is then sent to Hanoi for approval, so it takes about 4 to 10 days (depending on the country from which you apply). 

2. Pre-Approved Visa

To save your time and money, we can help you to arrange approval visas at reduced cost for visitors who book one of our tours.

The procedure is as follows:

  • Passport details, arrival and departure dates are faxed to our company no later than 14 days before passengers' departure to Vietnam.
  • We submit details to the Immigration Department.
  • The Immigration Department notifies our company of visa approval and sends a fax/telex approval to the embassy or consulate in the country of the visitors' residence.
  • We send a fax copy of the approval to the agent or individual concerned.
  • When your visa is ready at the Vietnam Embassy, we inform you and you must go to Vietnam Embassy or Consulate to pick up the visa and pay visa fees.

 3. Visitors can obtain Visa on Arrival (VOA). It is EASY and RECOMMENDED under Luxury Travel's care.

Visitors can obtain a visa upon arrival in Vietnam. We can apply for you to get a visa upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, at Danang airport or Noi Bai international airport, Hanoi.

The visa is done by us. Normally an urgent visa upon arrival (3 working days before arrival) costs USD$75 and a normal one is UDS$50.  Both need 2 passport sized photosand we provide this VOA service free of charge for all in house guests who book tours with us through our travel partner.

Please provide the following information so we can apply for your visa.

1. Full name on passport
2. Gender
3. Passport number
3. Date of expiry
4. Date of birth
5. Nationality
6. Date of arrival
7. Flight number and time

If we receive the above information, we will process the visa within 3 working days. Upon receiving the pre-approved visa, we send it to you right away. Kindly print it out and show it when needed.

Upon arrival at Vietnam's airport, expect a simple form to fill in. Kindly prepare 2 pictures, 45 USD for stamp fees per person and expect 15 minutes waiting time.

VIP Airport Fast Track Services by Luxury Travel Ltd.

 

With these extra services, luxury travelers will no longer need to queue in a long way for immigration and to get visa stamped, as the airport staffs will greet them at the arrival terminal with a sign board and assist them in completing all entry immigration forms.  Their baggage will be sorted and located at a separated area in front of the Custom Area, and then the airport staff will assist passengers to pick up and put baggage through X-ray machines. They will then help passengers with the luggage while exiting the terminal and meeting the tour guide. Contact our Luxury Travel Advisor for this fast visa service at the airports in Vietnam.

Tourist visas

The tourist visa is only for single entry and one month stay, but extendable after you enter Vietnam. Diplomatic, official visas, business and other types of visas should be applied for through the official agencies or government or business sponsor. 

Business visas

Very convenient as they allow you to stay from 3 to 6 months, with multiple entry options (a lot of expats like to visit nearby countries such as Thailand or Cambodia for long weekends). If you are here as an investor, then you can ask for extended visas.

Important Notes: If you enter and exit Vietnam more than one time, you must process a multi entry visa. For example, if you visit Vietnam then you travel to Cambodia and back to Vietnam for a few days, you must have a multi entry visa beforehand.

Vietnam visa exemption:
Vietnamese people that hold foreign passports and foreigners who are their husbands, wives and children are exempt from visa requirements to enter Vietnam and are allowed to stay for not more than 90 days. In order to be granted visa exemption, overseas Vietnamese need to meet these conditions:

• Foreign-issued permanent residence certificate (PRC) with validity of at least six months since the date of entrance.
• Visa exemption paper (VEP) granted by Vietnamese appropriate authorities.

Those who expect to stay more than 90 days must apply for visa according to current stipulations before their entrance.

Country and citizens who do not need Vietnam visa:

Asian Countries: Thailand (exempt validity: 30 days), Indonesia (30 days), Singapore (30 days), Malaysia (30 days), The Philippines (15 days), Laos (30 days), Kingdom of Brunei Darussalam (30 days), Japan (15 days), South Korea (15 days), Cambodia (14 days)

European Countries: Sweden (15 days), Denmark (15 days), Finland (15 days), Norway (15 days), Russia (15 days)

Clothing

Light, comfortable, easy to launder clothing is recommended. Winter months in Hanoi and rainy season in the central region can get cool so a sweater or light jacket will come in handy. Good walking shoes and sandals that can be easily removed are recommended especially when visiting temples and people's homes. Ensure you have suitable clothing packed for visiting temples and pagodas that you can cover up with. (e.g. shirts and long pants). No dresses, shorts, singlet, string tops or revealing clothing should be worn to temples and pagodas. 

What to Pack

Vietnam is generally a casual country by western standards although people do like to dress in their Sunday best whenever the opportunity arises therefore simple and casual clothes are appropriate for almost any occasion.

The year round heat and humidity in the south, especially Ho Chi Minh City, makes lightweight quick dry clothing the most appropriate. The north and central highlands get cool enough for sweaters or light jackets for much of the year but the northern highlands will require cold weather clothes in the winter.If you are not participating in any trekking tours, sandals and lightweight shoes are sufficient. If trekking is included in your itinerary you will need trekking boots. 

Food/Cuisine

The cuisine of Vietnam is excellent. Rice and noodle dishes are the staple of Vietnamese food and are garnished with aromatic lemon grass and/or fresh coriander. Fish, chicken, and/or pork dishes along with cooked vegetables and rice form a typical meal.Asian and European food is available throughout the country.

Drinks

Drinking tap water or ice is not recommended. Bottled water is readily available but remember to check the seal for possible tampering. You should be drinking a minimum of 1.5 liters of water per day. This should increase as the temperature increases or if you are engaging in physical activities.

Vietnamese coffee is usually very strong and has a punctuated mix of aroma and flavors. It is usually served in a small glass or cup with a drip filter and additional hot water in a thermos. As the filter empties you top it up from the thermos until you have the required amount of coffee. Condensed milk is added as a whitener and sweetener as it is usually not possible to find fresh milk away for the main cities.

Beer is available just about everywhere. Most places stock a selection of local and some imported brands. Draught beer comes in two varieties, Beer Hoi or Beer Tuoi. Beer Hoi is draught beer found on the street stalls and poured straight from the keg. Vietnamese quite often add ice to their beer when drinking. Beer Tuoi is found in the bars and restaurants and is chilled and served under pressure from the keg in a more conventional method. 

Getting There & Away

Ho Chi Minh City's (Saigon) Tan Son Nhat Airport is Vietnam 's busiest international air hub, followed by Hanoi 's Noi Bai Airpot. A few international flights also serve new Danang International Airport.

Singapore, Hongkong and Bangkok have emerged as the principle embarkation points for Vietnam but it's still possible to get direct flights from a number of major Asian and European cities and a few American and Australian cities.

There are currently six major border crossings for travellers coming to Vietnam, but more may open soon. All crossing points suffer from heavy policing and often requests for 'immigration fees'.

For getting t/ from China, it's become very popular to cross the border at Friendship Pass or Dong Dang, 20km (12mi) north of Lang Son in northeast Vietnam , to get to/from Namning. There is a twice-weekly international train between Beijing and Hanoi that stops at Friendship Pass. The other popular border crossing with China is at Lao Cai (near Sapa) in northwest Vietnam, which lies on the railway line between Hanoi and Kunming in China 's Yunnan Province. There's also a seldom used crossing at Mong Cai, Quang Ninh Province.

It's possible to enter Laos from Lao Bao in north-central Vietnam; there's an international bus from Danang to Savannakhet ( Laos ). The other crossing is at Keo Nua Pass/Cau Treo, west of Vinh or Tay Trang in Dien Bien Phu in the mountainous North Vietnam. 

The only crossing to Cambodia is via Moc Bai; an international bus links Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh City.  

ENVIRONMENT

Vietnam borders Cambodia, Laos and China and stretches over 1650km along the eastern coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. The country's two main cultivated areas are the Red River Delta (15,000 sq. km) in the north and the Mekong Delta (40,000 sq. km) in the south. Three-quarters of the country is mountainous and hilly, and the highest peak is the 3.143m high Fansipan in northwest Vietnam.

Vietnam is made up of equatorial lowlands, high, temperate plateaus and alpine peaks. Although Vietnam's wildlife is rich, it is in precipitous decline because of the destruction of habitats and illegal hunting. Less than 20% of the country remains forested, and what remains is under threat from slash and burn agriculture and excessive harvesting. Fauna includes elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, leopards, black bears, snub-nosed monkeys, s and turtles.

Vietnam has more than 10 national parks: The more popular ones being Cat Ba , Ba Be Lake and Cuc Phuong national parks in the north; Bach Ma National Park in the center; and Nam Cat Tien National Park in the south. In an attempt to prevent an ecological and hydrological catastrophe, the government has plans to set aside tens of thousands of sq. km of forest and to create 87 national parks and nature reserves.

Although Vietnam lies in the inter-tropical zone, local conditions vary from frosty winter in the far northern hills to the year-round subequatorial warmth of the Mekong Delta. At sea level, the mean annual temperature is about 27 degrees C in the south, falling to about 21 degrees C in the far north. 

PEOPLE

The majority of the population is comprised of the Viet or Kinh people who speak the Vietnamese language. The minority population is made up of 54 ethnic hill tribe people who mainly live in the extreme south, central and northern mountainous areas of the country. The best-known hill tribes are the Tay, Hmong, Zao, White and Black Thai, Muong (both mainly from the north), and the Hoa, and Khmer in the South. Each hill tribe has its own unique customs and dialect and some are able to speak official the Vietnamese language. 

LANGUAGE

Vietnamese is tonal and monosyllabic, which means the meanings of the word change according to the pitch they are pronounced at. The accents and some words are quite distinct among the three regions of North, Central, and South.

Today, English, French and Chinese have replaced Russian as the most studied and spoken languages. Travelers can communicate in English in all luxury shops, restaurants and hotels in big cities. 

HOLIDAYS

The most important and widely celebrated public holiday of the year is Tet, the Lunar Chinese New Year, which coincides with the cycle of the moon. This public holiday usually takes place in late January or early February and lasts officially for four days although many businesses are closed the entire week. Other important public holidays include The Hung Temple, Saigon Liberation day (30 April), International Worker's Day (May 1), and Vietnamese National Day (September 2).

 

MONEY

The official currency is the dong and is non-convertible. There are coins (200, 1,000, 5,000) used in the local currency and the notes come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 (2 notes), 100,000 (2 notes) and 500,000 dong.

The US dollar, preferably crisp clean bills, is widely accepted among major shops and restaurants. Travelers’ checks can be cashed at authorized foreign exchange outlets and banks, and require presentation of passport. There is normally a 2 to 5 percent transaction fee for cashing travelers’ checks. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in some of the bigger hotels and restaurants. Prices are usually quoted in USD, so if you are paying in dong check the exchange rate first.

ATM machines are available in major cities: Hanoi, Halong, Haiphong, Hue, Danang, Nha Trang and Saigon.

At the time of writing trades at approximately 22,000 dong to US$ 1 and 30,000 VND to 1 Euro. All other currencies are largely accepted. 

HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

No vaccinations are officially required by Vietnamese authorities.  However, immunization against cholera, hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus, polio and Japanese encephalitis is advised. Please consult your doctors for further medical advice.

You should carry a basic medical kit that includes anti-diarrhea tablets and re-hydration saltsas medical standards outside Hanoi and Saigon are lower than those found in western countries.

 

COMMUNICATIONS & BUSINESS HOURS

Vietnam is seven hours ahead of GMT and does not observe daylight savings time. 

Phones

Communication fees in Vietnam are quite high, but the service is impeccable. You can use pre-paid cards for phone services for your cell phone.  The sim card costs around 15 USD. Prepaid cards cost 100,000/300,000/500,000 VND.

The best international rates are from the post offices that have a pay per call service and a fax service. The central post offices in Hanoi, Saigon and Hue also accept calling cards from various international telecommunications companies. It is not possible to make collect calls from Vietnam.

For lower cost, dial 171+00+ number you wish to dial. 

Internet

Internet and e-mail services are readily available in most major places throughout the country. Some hotels will have this service available and there are many Internet cafes in the major areas. The speed of your connection will vary depending on the time of day. Average charge for Internet usage is around 4,000 VND per hour in a cyber cafe.

Several hotels for business travelers in Hanoi and Saigon are equipped with high speed Internet access in business centers and in guest rooms. 

Business Hours

Government offices and banks are open Monday to Friday. The banks close at 3:30 p.m. If you need to visit a government office do not do it during lunch periods. These usually last 1 to 2 hours. Post offices are open 7 days a week.

Most shops will be open until around 9 p.m. Snack shops and bars will close around midnight, but there are a few new nightclubs in Hanoi and Saigon that stay open into the wee hours.

SHOPPING

Souvenirs to look out for in Vietnam include lacquer ware, silk, conical hats, woodcarvings, hill tribe fabrics and handicrafts, embroidery, marble, ceramics, silver jewelry, antique watches and paintings. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping, but Hoi An is also a very good place to hunt for bargains. 

ELECTRICITY

The national electricity system is 220 volts. Connections are either a round two-pin plug or a flat two-pin plug. Beware if you are using electrical appliances and laptop computers, as there are power surges and frequent power cuts.

 

TIPPING

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in these developing nations. It is customary (though not compulsory) to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped. 

ETIQUETTE

Vietnamese people are very gracious, polite and generous and will make every effort to make foreign guests feel comfortable. Most cafes and restaurants will have knives and forks as well as chopsticks. In the cities and country towns alike, do not be surprised to be invited to the home of someone you have just met to meet their family  These are the experiences that will enrich your visit to Vietnam.

From the worker’s simple outfits in the rice fields, to western style business suits in the city, the Vietnamese are conservative in their dress. Visitors wearing shorts are fine, unless you enter culturally sensitive areas such as a temple or pagoda. Keep in mind that, although tolerant, people may be offended if you wear clothing considered inappropriate for the location.

Unfortunately, you cannot expect hospitality at every turn and you may still experience some problems with petty theft and pick pockets. This is more prevalent in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon ) and Nha Trang. In other areas, especially in the north, reports of these activities are extremely minimal. It is not something to be paranoid about, but be aware of your surroundings. Below is a list of do's and don'ts to help you avoid some social taboos during your visit. Take heed of these pointers and you will be rewarded with a culturally and socially enriching experience. 

FILMS

It is possible to purchase most basic film necessities throughout Vietnam, including Fuji, Kodak and Konica 100, 200 & 400 ISO films and some professional grade equipment in Hanoi, Ho Chi Min city and Danang. Slides and APS film are also available in most places.  However, for more specialized films, you would be better off to bring a supply with you.

If you buy film in Vietnam, check where it has been displayed in the shop (away from heat sources) and the expiry date before purchasing. Lithium batteries are easy to purchase in Hanoi. If your batteries are getting low, you would be better off to carry a spare with you.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

Taking photographs of anything to do with the military, airports, police, etc. is prohibited. When taking photographs of local people (especially the older folk) it is polite to ask their permission first and respect their wishes. We recommend that you develop photos in Vietnam, which is cheaper but still high quality.

 

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