GMT + 7 hours,
Differences time between Hanoi and Paris - 5 hours in summer: 7.00 am in Paris - 12.00 in Hanoi, and 6 hours in winter.
The climate in Vietnam differs greatly from North to South due to geographical diversity.
In the North, the rainy season is from June until August. In summer, during these months, it’s very hot at around 30-33ºC on average and there are sometimes storms, floods. Typhoons are sometimes a problem, but quite rare. In autumn, it is cool; the sky is green, sunny, transparent without clouds from August to November. The North can be quite chilly from December to February. The sky is always grey. The temperature drops at 14ºC, especially at 9 or 10ºC in mountainous regions such as Sapa, Cao Bang, Lang Son.
In Central Vietnam experiences a transitional climate, with heavy rainfalls between November and December and dry, hot summer months. Heavy rain and flooding can interrupt travel and Hue, Danang and Nhatrang may have to be missed if traveling overland.
In the South, temperatures are fairly constant through the year: 25-35ºC. The climate in the Mekong Delta is sub-equatorial with two main seasons. The wet season lasts from May to October with short, sharp drenching downpours occurring almost every day. The dry season runs from November to April. The hottest period is March and April. Typhoons are quite common in coastal areas between July and November.
Currency & Exchange
Nowadays, the currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Notes are available in denominations of VND 500,000; 100,000; 50,000; 20,000; 10,000; 5,000; 2,000; 1,000; 500; 200 and rare 100. Coins are no longer used. Exchange rates vary largely with US$, euro due to economic situation in Vietnam, and monetary & economic fluctuations, political unrest around the world. The USD is widely used in Vietnam’’s cities. The Euro is now welcome and exchanged, particularly at hotel or at banks, but not as popular. Larger notes (i.e. 100; 50 USD) often get a better exchange rate than smaller ones.
It is not good to exchange at the “black market” with some women on the streets, because the exchange rates aren’t interesting and you can maybe loss money by mistakes or miscounts.
VISA, Master Card and American Express cards are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, and shops in the main cities. Travelers Cheques are easily changeable at banks and authorized moneychangers all over the country. You have to pay about 3-4 percent as banking commission.
Foreign visitors to Vietnam have the opportunity to buy souvenirs made of rattan, gold, silver and stone. There is a diverse range of products, from woodenware, such as wooden buttons or sindora beds to lacquer paintings, bowls and chopsticks, bamboo screens and stone tea sets. In addition, you have a large choice of local products: lacquer-ware, mother-of-pearl inlay, and ceramics, colorful embroidered items (hangings, tablecloths, pillowcases, pajamas and robes), greeting cards with silk paintings on the front, woodblock prints, oil paintings, watercolors, blinds made of hanging bamboo beads, reed mats, carpets, jewelry and leatherwork. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping but Hoi An in central Vietnam is also a very good place to look for souvenirs.
Food & Beverage
Vietnam has abundant food supplies and an elaborate cuisine. Cooking is seen as an art and some Vietnamese dishes have international fame, including such traditional dishes as noodle soup (pho), pork sausage (gio lua), spring rolls (nem), fish sauce (nuoc mam) and fish balls (cha ca). However, Vietnamese restaurants can also offer a broad selection of international cuisines including French, Italian, American, Indian, Chinese and Japanese.
Seasonal fruits such as dragon fruit, rambutans and longans, fresh vegetables and local seafood are nationwide available, although supply can vary by region and season. All fruits and vegetables should be cooked or peeled before eaten. Drinking water or ice is generally not recommended, even in the cities. Bottled water is cheap and readily available, so we recommend you don’’t take the risk. In Vietnam, there are plenty of local as well as imported brands. 333, Carlsberg, Hanoi, Tiger, Saigon, Halida and Heineken are some common brands, especially, you can see in Hanoi draught beer (bia hoi) which is highly appreciated by local people.
No vaccinations are officially required to visit Viet Nam. However, visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding the advisability of inoculation against Polio, Meningitis, Hepatitis A&B, Tuberculosis, TABT (Typhoid, paratyphoid A&B and tetanus), Cholera, Malaria, and Japanese Encephalitis. Vietnam does have a wide variety of medicines, but you may not be familiar with them. You are advised to bring any prescription medications (in the original containers) currently required. You should pack a small medical kit, which includes sunscreen, insect repellent, diarrhea medication, ibuprofen or aspirin and antibacterial ointments. For those who wear eyeglasses, it is recommended that an extra pair be taken, as the quality of local replacement services varies. It is strongly suggested that you have a dental check-up before departure. Medical care facilities are available, but are limited outside of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and can be expensive for emergency care. However, there are international hospitals in Hanoi and Hochiminh city such as SOS emergency, French hospital etc...
Today, Vietnamese is the official language in Vietnam. The language is tonal and monosyllabic. The script of modern Vietnamese is based on Latin alphabetic system with six different accents, and was formed and created by the Jesuit priest Fr. Alexander De Rhodes in the 16th century. Most minorities continue to retain their own languages.
Today’’s main foreign language, especially among the young, is English. In the north, French and Russian are still quite widely spoken. Otherwise, Chinese, Japanese, German are learnt at universities over the country.
Vietnam is home to four of the world’’s great philosophies and religions: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. Over the centuries, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have fused with popular Chinese beliefs and ancient Vietnamese animism to form what is known collectively as the Triple Religion. Confucianism, more a system of social and political morality than a religion, took on many religious aspects. Taoism, which began as an esoteric philosophy for scholars, mixed with the popular Buddhism of the peasants, and many Taoist elements became an intrinsic part of popular religion. If asked their religion most Vietnamese are likely to say they are Buddhist, but when it comes to family or civic duties they follow Confucianism while turning to Taoist concepts in understanding the nature of the cosmos. Nowadays, 80% Vietnamese are buddhist. The rest practice catholicism, and buddhist sects: caodai and hoahao.
There are 54 ethnic groups around the country. The major ethnic group is Kinh or Viet people who represent about 80% of the population living in the two deltas: Red river delta and Mekong river delta, along the coast of central Vietnam and in urban areas. The 53 ethnic groups live in the mountainous regions. The best-known are the Tay, H’’mong, Dao, White and Black Thai and the Hoa (Chinese community living in Vietnam). Each has its own unique customs and dialect making them fascinating to visit. The population is about 82 million in 2004. More than 60% are under 25 years old. Life expectancy at birth is 68 years for men and 70 years for women.
220V, 50 Hz
Post offices are usually open from 8.00 am to 9.00 pm in the main cities Hanoi, Hue, Hochiminh city... Postcards cost about VND 10,000 for a booklet of ten from the post office. Children also sell them, but they are more expensive. Don’’t be too annoyed by them, if they save you a trip to the post office it’’s probably worth paying a few VND more. A postcard with stamp to Europe/USA costs VND 9,000, a letter around VND 10,000 (depending on the weight). They take about from 01 to 02 weeks to arrive to your destination or receiver.
It is easy to telephone inside Vietnam. All hotels will let you make local phone calls, many don’’t even charge you. International phone calls are possible from many post offices. At some places, international direct dialing (IDD) has become commonplace. There is a telephone card, the UniphoneKad. Cell phones are popular. If you have one you can buy a prepaid phone-card and own your private contact number while traveling in Vietnam. The system in Vietnam is GSM.
For international calls from Vietnam, you make: 00 + country code + city code + your number phone.
Vietnam joined the global computer age, internet service providers are currently operating in most of the cities like Hanoi, Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Danang and Hue. You can access to online services through cyber-cafes and computer terminals in the lobbies and business centers in hotels. If you have an established E-mail account with a non-Vietnamese service provider, accessing your mail from Vietnam will require you to download your mail through a Web-based service such as Yahoo or Hotmail. The Internet access fee is cheaper in cafe internet. It is more expensive in the hotels 5 stars.