Vietnam, land of the blue dragon

With her origins shrouded in the mists of time, Vietnam has evolved a rich oral tradition of myth and legend. Vietnamese mythology contends the people are descended from a dragon and a fairy. The union of the dragon, King Lac Long Quan, and the enchanting mountain fairy Au Co produced one hundred offspring. The eldest son became the first King of the thousand year Hung Dynasty. This dynasty is commemorated to this day as the bud from which the Vietnamese nation ultimately flowered. Read more...

Throughout time, Vietnam has forged her identity through the highs and lows of history. Today she has become a robust and vibrant commercial hub and thriving travel destination in the heart of Southeast Asia.

With her 3,000 km coastline bejewelled with sun-drenched sandy beaches imbued with a vast array of resorts and hotels, Vietnam has established a growing reputation as a first-class beach destination.

Possessing a unique cultural and historical heritage, Vietnam is an idyllic choice for travellers in search of exotic travel experiences not to be found anywhere else. A grand exploration delves deep into the heart-warming natural hospitality and charm of the peoples and soul-stirring landscapes of Vietnam.

Travel tips

The Vietnamese trace their beginnings to legendary kings that ruled nearly 5000 years ago, making the Vietnamese culture one of the oldest distinct cultures on Southeast Asia. Over thousands of years, this distinct culture has been influenced by neighbouring and ruling cultures as well, including the Chinese, Cham, Khmer and French, among others. Visitors to Vietnam can see an overall unifying Vietnamese culture throughout the country, with regional unique features in different areas.

Some of the most interesting Vietnamese festivals are unique to small localities. When planning to travel to Vietnam, contact your travel consultant to see if any local festivals will occur during your itinerary. Some of the larger festivals in Vietnam are celebrated nationwide:

Tet: Also known as the Lunar New Year, Tet usually falls between mid-January and mid-February. This is the largest and most important Vietnamese holiday when people travel to their hometowns and many businesses close for several days. There is a special festive atmosphere in the air during Tet.

Vu Lan: This festival is when Vietnamese people honour their parents, especially their mothers, whether living or deceased. The date is on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month.

Mid-Autumn Festival: The hallmarks of this festival, called Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam, are colourful paper lanterns, mooncakes and lion dancing. With such exciting activities, children especially enjoy this holiday. It falls in the middle of the 8th lunar month, and is also a time for families to spend time together drinking tea and eating sweet mooncakes.

In general, there are no serious health or safety risks when traveling in Vietnam. However, it never hurts to take precautions. Please consult your healthcare provider to see if they recommend any vaccinations or other medications when traveling.

In large cities and other crowded areas, be mindful of your belongings such as cameras, mobile phones and wallets/purses.

The Vietnamese Dong (VND) is pegged to the US Dollar and the current exchange rate is 1 = 22,200 (as of January 2016). ATMs are widely available in all cities and many of them work with overseas ATM cards. Some larger hotels and shops accept credit cards, and this method of payment is becoming more common. Keep in mind that some merchants may charge small fee and that international transaction fees may apply.

The Vietnamese postal system can mail letters and postcards worldwide for less than $2 US. International shipping companies such as FedEx, UPS and DHL are available in Vietnam as well if there is a need to ship something quickly.

SIM cards for mobile phones are cheap and widely available. Short term data packages for mobile phones are very inexpensive and easy to set up. Get in touch with your travel consultant to arrange a SIM if you wish to use your mobile phone upon arrival.

Updated

A visa is required for entry into Vietnam and the regular tourist visa is valid for up to 30 days from the date of the first arrival date in Vietnam.

Tourist Visa exemption is available for passport holders from some Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Laos are exempted from visa when entering Vietnam. Vietnam also has a visa exemption for Japanese, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish citizens. Passport holders from these countries can travel to Vietnam up to 15 days without applying for tourist visas.

There are two kinds of tourist visas. The first, Vietnam Associates (VNAS) for Australians can assist and expedite obtaining, or, you can contact direct to the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra or the Consulate in Sydney. The cost whether you obtain a tourist visa from us or direct is AU$95.00 per person per visa for a Single Entry Tourist Visa, however if you are stopping in Vietnam more than once then a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa is required and costs AU$150.00.

The second is a Tourist Visa on Arrival which can be obtained at the international airports (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang) on arrival in Vietnam provided that it has been pre-approved by the Immigration Office. VNAS offers visa procurement services for individuals and groups. Approval Letter costs vary and may depend on how long before date of arrival - from US$25.00 pp to US$45.00 pp. To board your flight you must show this Approval Letter before you will be allowed to fly. On arriving at the Vietnam international airport you will need to take your Approval Letter to a "LANDING VISA" counter to fill in a form (a passport photo is required) and obtain your tourist visa (cost approximately US$35.00 pp) before proceeding to Immigration. Please be aware that if there are numerous flights arriving at the same time this process may take one hour or so - as reported by clients. Please be patient.

CUSTOMS

The basic principle of customs policy in Vietnam is that visitors should enter and exit with the same goods and personal possessions with the following exceptions:

  • Cash amounts greater than US$ 7,000 (formerly US$ 3,000) should be declared upon entry or exit.
  • 1. Souvenirs: Visitors are free to buy products in Vietnam for personal use. The exception to this principle is antiques. Antiques considered of "national interest" will be confiscated without refund or recourse. In general this applies to articles of ancient (over 50 years old) or religious nature. "National interest" is interpreted by an expert at the airport. In cases where a visitor is unsure of the acceptability of the export of any goods purchased, they can check with the Customs Office in either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi for prior ruling without risk of confiscation.
  • 2. To avoid confiscation of goods not purchased, visitors must be sure an accurate description appears on the Customs Declaration form upon arrival. Particular note should be taken of antiques purchased in other countries in the region which might possibly be deemed of Vietnamese origin. Also, extra care should be taken to declare loose gemstones and jewelry.
  • 3. Firearms, narcotics and other internationally prohibited goods are banned and those found in possession of such items are liable to prosecution. Items that you cannot bring into Vietnam include weapons, munitions, explosives and inflammables, firecracker of all kinds, opium and drugs, toxic chemicals, and cultural materials unsuitable to Vietnamese society (pornographic seditious publications, films and photos), harmful child toys.

If you break these rules you will be subject to Vietnamese law.

AIRPORT TAX

Airport tax is already included in the air ticket effective from 1 November 2006.

MEET & GREET

On exiting the Arrivals Hall, passengers will be met, greeted and welcomed by our partner VIDOTOUR whose guide will ne holding holding a VIETNAM ASSOCIATES / VIDOTOUR sign. Guests will then proceed to an air-conditioned vehicle for the trip to the hotel.

When traveling to Vietnam, remember to be flexible and keep an open mind. Many traveler frustrations begin with differing expectations and miscommunication. If there is an issue, try to stay pleasant, smile and enjoy the experience. Vietnamese people are very proud of their country and culture and are proud to showcase their nation to international visitors.