Vietnam

Through the mass media, Vietnam has widely been known by her unique images being pointed lampshade-style hats, a war-ravaged country and economic repression. But Vietnam, in a narrower sense, would be much more familiar to travellers via its natural beauty, ethnic culture, imperial history, lovely sea resorts and dynamic cities.

Visiting Vietnam
Stretching along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam deserves it’s place among the Asian’s leading tourist destinations. Its appeal lies on the perfect weather throughout the year, breathtaking scenery of colorful hill tribes and towering mountains, and real nature of islands.

Most travelers to Vietnam are attracted by the wonderful natural beauty of the country: From green rice fields dotted with the conical hats of workers in the north stretching to the fascinating bustle of the Mekong Delta in the south.

For all you need to know about visiting Vietnam and planning your trip, visit www.vietnamtourism.com - the official website of Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Vietnam, in Southeast Asia, stretches 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) north to south, but is only about 40 kilometers (25 miles) wide at its narrowest point near the center of the country. The Red River delta lowlands in the north are separated from the huge Mekong Delta in the south by long, narrow coastal plains backed by the forested Annam highlands. Hanoi, the capital, is the main city on the Red River and Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is the main city on the Mekong.

Independent for almost a thousand years, Vietnam fell prey to French colonialism in the mid-19th century. During Japanese occupation in World War II, communist leader Ho Chi Minh formed the Vietminh, an alliance of communist and noncommunist nationalist groups. Armed struggle won independence in 1954 and led to the partition of Vietnam.

For two decades noncommunist South Vietnam, aided by the U.S., fought North Vietnam, backed by China and the Soviet Union. American troops withdrew in 1973, and two years later South Vietnam fell. In 1976 the country was reunified under a communist regime.

To replace support lost when the U.S.S.R. dissolved, economic policy encouraged a free-market system as well as trade with the West. Vietnam saw dramatic economic progress throughout most of the 1990s. In 1995 the U.S. resumed diplomatic relations. Economic growth stalled, however, with the Asian financial crisis. A stock exchange was launched in 2000, and Vietnam has seen increasing levels of foreign investment.

Useful Travel Tips

Wear particularly conservative clothing if you visit a culturally sensitive area such as a temple or pagoda – generally, the less bare skin the better and specifically, no shorts, dresses, skirts or tops with low neck lines and bare shoulders.

DOs in Vietnam
- Learn about Vietnam prior to your trip (the best source is friends or relatives who have visited Vietnam).
- You should note some typical features of Vietnamese culture.
- Follow Vietnam’s laws – avoid getting involved in illegal issues!
- Leave your passport, papers, air tickets and other important things in the hotel safe.
- Take a hotel card before going out, so you can easily contact your hotel in case you lose your way.
- Respect the habits of the local people.
- As a courtesy, take off your shoes before entering someone’s house.
- Try to learn some useful Vietnamese for emergency cases.
- Bargain when purchasing something (except for fixed price).
- Take a careful look before crossing streets, especially in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
- Practice food safety; cheap or street food may be understood as low quality or made in poor conditions.
- Hire a tour guide if you think it is necessary to help you avoid unnecessary problems.

DO NOTs
- Do not bring highly valued things when going out.
- Pointing your fingers at people is considered to be rude.
 Also, do not point at local altars or other religious icons.
- Please respect the environment. Do not throw away water bottles while trekking outdoors.
- Shorts are inappropriate attire when visiting temples or pagodas.
- Should not photograph someone if he/she does not want you to.
- Avoid getting involved in the issues and conflicts of local people.
- Do not approach restricted areas, especially army zones!

What to Wear
The Vietnamese are used to European styles and western dress has been adopted this means that travellers can dress as they would in the west when visiting restaurants or the bars of the main cities.

Ho Chi Minh is pretty westernised and there are lots of students on gap years as well as bank workers from the west living out there, so really what you would wear in any western city will fit in. There is no big need to cover up that there is in the rest of Vietnam. As a general rule though the North is noticeably more conservative than the South.

During most times of the year but particularly during our summer months, The Mekong Delta region can be plagued by mosquitoes so long sleeves should be worn from dusk to avoid being bitten.

Clothes are really cheap here so you do not really need to pack too much and its a great excuse to go shopping when you arrive. Laundry services are also very reasonable.

Electrical Items
Electrical current in Vietnam is 220 volt AC, although 110 volt AC is sometimes available (240 volt appliances can operate at 220 volts but not at 110 volts). The two pin European adaptor plug is needed if you wish to use Australian appliances.

Email
Email is offered in all cities in Vietnam. Most of the hotels have an email service or there are numerous internet cafes. It can be slow, however, it is cheap.

Medications
If you use prescription items, please make sure you bring sufficient with you for the entire tour. Toothpaste etc. is readily available.

Miscellaneous Needs
Do not forget such things as UV cream, sunglasses, toiletries, some reading material, medications, a conveniently accessible wallet for travel documents, camera, film, small binoculars, important addresses/phone numbers, a small notebook, etc. If your camera or other gadgets rely on batteries, carry spares.