Business hours in Vietnam are usually 8:00am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday. Some businesses open from 8:00am to 12:00pm on Saturdays but this trend is slowly disappearing. Banks usually open from 8:00am to 4:00pm and most are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Retail shops are usually open from 9:00am to 9:00pm
Dining out in Vietnam can stretch from a street side stall to a lavish buffet at one of the ve-star hotels in town. The range of food available is wide and everyone should be able to nd a venue to suit both taste and budget. Keep in mind that the sanitary levels at the street food level won’t be as high as Singapore’s famous hawker stalls.
If you plan to eat street food, keep some Imodium in case you run into digestive or intestinal problems. Stick to well-frequented venues, and always peel fruit. Malaria is not endemic in the cities but dengue fever is still a possibility, so be mosquito-aware and make sure to include mosquito repellent, especially if you are travelling in more remote areas. Anti-malarial tablets can also be taken (there is no prophylactic against dengue yet). Contaminated water is a major cause of a sickness, so make sure to drink only bottled or boiled water – the ve-litre containers of bottled water from supermarkets are cheap. In terms of vaccinations, the Centre for Disease Control recommends Hepatitis A & B, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies and Typhoid vaccinations.
When checking into a hotel, you will have to surrender your passport so that the hotel can register your presence with the local police. Once registered, ensure that your passport is returned to you and keep it in a safe place. Passports should not be used as a deposit for renting hotel rooms, or in place of a ne in the event of any possible traf c offence. It is advisable to carry photocopies of the data and visa pages from your passport, which can be used as proof of identity.
Travel is restricted near military installations, and some areas of Vietnam are fairly inaccessible. Do not stray off main routes in rural areas and check with your tour operator before travelling. Follow safety guidelines and procedures and ensure that such activities are undertaken under the supervision of reputable guides.
Though Vietnam traditionally has many holidays, religious or otherwise, these are the only ones publicly recognised by the government:
Vietnam has a few English-language publications. Thanh Nien News (thanhniennews.com), Tuoi Tre (tuoitrenews.vn) and Vietnam News (vietnamnews. vn) are the main players in Vietnamese news. For business news, get the monthly Vietnam Economic Times magazine and weekly Vietnam Investment Review newspaper.
Petty crime is not con ned to the backpacker districts and also occurs in the main tourist shopping areas. Do not walk in secluded locations alone, or with people you do not know. To minimise risk, be on your guard against pickpockets and avoid carrying handbags or wearing expensive-looking jewellery or watches.
Use hotel safety deposit boxes to store valuables, money or passports and carry a photocopy of the data and visa pages of your passport.
There have been reports of scams targeting tourists, involving fake charities, gambling and taxis. Fortunately, violent crime is rare.
Penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs can be severe.
In Vietnamese law, anyone found in possession of even a small amount of drugs can face the death sentence. So remember to just say no.
The call centre (they can speak English) will give contacts of your location’s nearest station.
The Vietnamese language is considered one of the hardest languages in Southeast Asia to learn due to its reliance on tones. When rst heard, it has an almost sing-song sound and can be confusing to understand for Westerners who aren’t used to a tonal language. This can be quite frustrating at times, especially when people don’t understand your attempt to speak Vietnamese because you can’t get the tones right. On the plus side, the modern written language is entirely based on roman script and is much easier to read compared to some of its neighbours
There are six distinct tones and each word can have a different meaning depending on the tone.
When addressing Vietnamese, use Anh (male) or Chi (female) if the person you are addressing is older than you, and Em if they are younger. Also, if they are a lot older than you, use Bac (male) and Co (female). Yes, it sounds a bit pedantic but language etiquette is very important.
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are kid-friendly with attractions galore. Vietnamese love children, so don’t be alarmed at all the attention your child receives.
Also, for those travelling with babies, supplies are readily available but stock up if you plan to travel outside major city centres. Child safety seats are not readily available for any type of transportation and it’s best to bring your own. Be aware that there are few facilities for changing diapers in restaurants.
The standard electrical supply in Vietnam runs at 220V, 50Hz. If you have appliances that run at lower voltage, make sure you have a converter if the appliance doesn’t convert automatically. The most common sockets are two round pins without a ground pin, which will often take two- at-blade plugs as well. Hotels with international clientele may also have combined sockets that take a wide variety of plugs. If you just need an adaptor, you can nd them at most markets.
If you are looking to give back to the community, there are a number of non-governmental organisations based in Vietnam. Do your research to ensure that your money and efforts go to a good cause. For more information, check the NGO Resource Centre (ngocentre.org.vn).