Some handy hints...
Getting to Vietnam
As part of your holiday planning for Vietnam it is essential you have the correct Visa. See below a brief guide as to the types of Visa’s available to Australian visitors. For a complete guide please refer to the official websites provided.
Tourist Visa Information
Go to our VISA INFO page
Hiring a car in Vietnam
This fact may come as a surprise to you, but Vietnam does not permit foreign visitors to self-drive. This explains why you don't see many, if any car hire companies at airports selling car hire.
You can, however, hire a driver, and a car to take you wherever you want to go.
You can also hire a scooter (usually around 50cc) on the basis you can show your passport and drivers licence. Be aware the operators offering this service vary in quality of scooters and back up services. You take on this kind of thing at your own risk and in the knowledge you may not be covered by your travel insurance in the case of an accident. 90% of Travel insurance covers DO NOT cover motor bike accidents.
Prior to arrival we recommend you arrange airport transfers either though your travel agent, or hotel. What About Vietnam can provide this service through local contractors and with English speaking guides. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org to have us arrange this for you.
For further driver and car hire options, please refer to local tourist desks or have one of our guides arrange this for you.
Motorbike free zones
One of the loveliest things you can do during your stay in Hoi An is walk the Old Town. During the middle of the day it is normally very hot from April – May though to October, but it will be at its quietest during the middle of the day if you can tolerate the heat and the humidity.
In addition, there are sections of the Old Town cordoned off as walk free or “Bike Free” zones.
This means from 9-11am and from 3-10pm some areas are zoned as motor bike free. This doesn’t mean that trikes, cyclists cannot go there, so keep an eye out!
Plus, make sure your scooter isn’t parked in one of those areas, as it will be impounded and you will need to advise your hirer and arrange to get it back from the Police station.
ATM’s – Foreign currency
You will find plenty of ATM’s working in Vietnam. Maximum withdrawal per day is 3, 000,000 VN
As you get around, you will find some bank ATM's are better placed than others. In and around Cua Dai beach there are not many, same for An Bang Beach, so come prepared with VN Dong when going into those areas. Your hotel or Homestay will advise you where the nearest one is.
In the Old Town there are many locations. The best ones are situated in booking offices or on street corners. The only bank I know of that does not accept Australian issued cards is VIETCOm bank. At least that has been my experience. As a travel tip always take more than one form of access to your money in the form of cards ie, Best Practice is to take a travel card, credit card and maybe an ATM card. Be aware most banks do charge a small fee to issue cash. The cost is similar to what you would pay in Australia at any bank other than your own.
As for the exchange rate, 1,000,000 VN Dong is usually worth between $60-64 AUD. Or to put it another way, $10 AUD is worth about 160,000 VN Dong.
As far as access to VN Dong per day; The maximum any one bank will issue you, per card is 3,000,000 Dong. So make sure if you are picking up a lot of shopping or tailoring from the markets that you don’t leave yourself short.
Taxis will only accept cash but most restaurant’s and established tailors will accept credit cards.
The cost of having your laundry done in Vietnam can be extremely cheap.
If you choose to have your hotel do the laundry it will cost you maybe twice as much as if you were to use a service close by to the hotel. Now in saying this, as with all things in Vietnam, you have to trust your instincts when choosing a local service, and make sure not to include any items that require any special care. You can ask for it, if you do need it, but to prevent any issues we would suggest you either hand wash yourself or just get that one article done by the hotel as they will accept responsibility.
Laundry services mostly do not offer dry cleaning!
Dry cleaning can be organised in Vietnam but it is not a service easily accessible to tourists. Please check with your hotel or arrange with one of our guides through What About Vietnam to have this done for you. We mention this for anyone getting married in Vietnam as suits and bridal wear may need this kind of service. A typical laundry service operator does not offer dry cleaning and while they may nod to say yes, they may understand your requirements, so best to not risk it and have your hotel advise where this can be done.
What is a Homestay
Their origins stem back to the concept of a family offering their home up to guests to come and stay, and experience some “good home cooking” and a family friendly local environment.
Staying in a homestay you not only get to visit a destination, you get to really live it too. You see how the locals live their lives – something that is almost impossible to do when staying in other types of accommodation. What make homestays different to other types of accommodation are the hosts. They can be truly instrumental in influencing the kind of stay you have in a location such as Hoi An or for that matter any place in Vietnam.
They come in varying classes and styles. Over time they have become less traditional and more luxury accommodations or Airbnb’s. This is a shame as the authenticity of the stay is diluted somewhat in these set ups as they become just managed residences, with many bedrooms. However, they can often be run by wonderful people who play an active role in helping their guests get the best local and authentic experience they desire. To that point, What About Vietnam will be introducing some of these in the coming months.
Using a phone (SIM card) or Free wifi Apps
This is very much a personal choice. How do you want to use your phone? Sim cards are available and can be purchase at the airport and in local booking offices.
However, WIFI in Vietnam is everywhere. And its free in almost 99% of hotels and Home stays. So, if you are happy to use Apps, like WhatsApp, Viber or Messenger you will never need to use a normal phone.
If you are not using a local simcard, make sure you put your phone on flight mode, then re-enable wifi. This will ensure you don’t accidentally rack up any international roaming charges.
Given you are a tourist who cannot speak good Vietnamese, then the phone to a local retailer or company may not prove successful. If in the case you do need to call a local company its always best to ask your host or hotel staff at reception to do this and 99% of the time they will do for you with their compliments.
If you are worried about booking a massage place, restaurant or tour company most of these are accessible on Facebook and Messenger so you will find it very easy to connect with them if you know their Facebook address.
Tipping in Vietnam
It's always one of those subjects in travel that comes up. Thankfully in Vietnam, it's not like the USA where it is expected, or for that matter many countries in Europe. It's quite the opposite in Vietnam, most Vietnamese think they have to earn it!
In saying that, tipping is very much appreciated. If the service is good and you think well deserved, then why wouldn't you when you know the basic wage is so low.
Tipping in some ways is a very personal thing, it is totally up to the individual and the circumstance and service provided. Geepaz, how politically correct can I be?
When you visit Vietnam, it won't take you long to find out how your exchange rate works out, compared to what you can buy, and then how cheap things are. Most things are still very cheaply available in Vietnam. Good food, accommodation, taxi’s, shopping and services.
I don't have any steadfast rule, but I do keep enough Dong on me so that if I think the service and circumstances are definitely warranted I can tip that person. Here's where the trick comes in! Getting it to the right person. Always where you can give directly to the person. Sometimes the management doesn't give it to the person you wish to get, but if the overall service is good and the management is fair, the person deserving your tip will get a good share of the tipping for the day.
I allow about 10-20% as a tip, as a general rule, but again depending on the service I may go more or less. If you come back to the place regularly, then be sure to tell them that, and that you will tip again on your next visit. Sometimes if you want a particular person to provide you the service ie at the Tailors or Massage Spa, then I would also tip to ensure I get that person.
Taxis can be difficult to go short distances so it may serve you to tip there if you want the air conditioning versus a slow hot walk back to your hotel. For an extra dollar or two it could be worth it for you, and some other poor tourist who finds themselves in the same situation.
I also found this great article to support in far more detail what I have been talking about.
Basic rule of thumb. Be generous with your tip if you think the service is worth it.