Best time to go: Spring (March-April) and Autumn (October-December) or year-round
Best for: Religious Sites, Historical sites
About: The Vietnamese are friendly and extremely generous, and travelling the country is a real delight. The cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are both chaotic and captivating.
Ho Chi Minh`s mausoleum is a fascinating, if bizarre, place to visit. Join the queues to see the embalmed body of Vietnam`s national hero.
The highlands, a day`s train ride north of Hanoi, is home to several hill tribes whose way of life has changed very little. The residents still wear colourful traditional costumes and offer an insight into a bygone time.
The beaches of Vietnam are superb. Vung Tau, southeast of Ho Chi Minh City or Nha Trang have some superb snorkelling around the many offshore islands. And take the opportunity to slide down the sand dunes at Mui Ne.
For anyone who likes handicrafts, Vietnam is heaven. Wooden water puppets, with ingenious mechanisms, silk, lacquerware, trinkets, clothes – including superb tailors – can be found even in the most remote areas, and everything`s at bargain prices.
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Capital: Hanoi (HAN)
Currency: Dông (VND)
Language: Vietnamese. English, French and Chinese may be spoken, especially in the tourist areas.
Dialling code from SA: +84
Time Zone: UTC/GMT +7 hours (5 hours ahead of South Africa)
Plugs: 220/127 volts AC, 50Hz. Flat two-pin, round two-pin and square three-pin plugs are used.
Drinking Water: All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Milk is unpasteurised. Bottled water is available (ensure that the seal is unbroken).
Health: In the main cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City the hospitals there are adequate and well-equipped medical facilities, however visitors are required to pay for these services immediately in cash. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended and should include emergency evacuation.
Customs: Shorts should only be worn at the beach. Shoes should be removed before entering religious buildings and a donation should be left. Do not leave chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice, as it has death connotations. Clothing should be informal and discreet.
Local Offences / Laws: There are restrictions on photography at ports and airports.
Travel Tips / Warnings: Credit cards are increasingly accepted in the major cities, but it is recommended to carry cash when travelling outside of the cities. There are no ATM’s in rural areas. Pickpocketing and purse snatching is common in the main cities – avoid obvious displays of wealth and leave valuables in the hotel safe.
Duty Free: The following items may be freely imported into Vietnam by travellers without incurring customs duty: • 400 cigarettes or 100 cigars or 500g of tobacco.
• 1.5L of spirits over 22% volume or 2L of fortified wines or liqueurs under 22% volume or 3L of other alcoholic drinks.
• 5kg of tea and 3kg of coffee.
• Other goods to the value of â‚«5,000,000.
Prohibited Imports: The importation of non-prescribed drugs, firearms, anti-government literature and pornography is prohibited. CD and tapes can be kept for screening and then returned after a few days.
Prohibited Exports: All banned imports are also prohibited from being exported, as are antiques and endangered species. You must receive a permit from the state bank to export more than 300g of gold.