NOVN TRAVEL – NORTH OF VIETNAM TRAVEL
VIETNAM – GENERAL INFORMATION
Mainland Territory: 331,211.6 sq. km
Population: 85,789.6 thousand inhabitants (Apr. 2009)
National capital: Hanoi
Lying on the eastern part of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is a strip of land shaped like the letter “S”. China borders it to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the East Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the east and south
The country’s total length from North to South is 1,650 Km. Its width, stretching from east to west, is 600km at the widest point in the North, 400km in the South, and 50km at the narrowest part, in the center, in Quang Binh province. The coastline is 3,260km long and the inland border is 4,510km.
Vietnam is also a transport junction from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Climate: Vietnam lies in the tropics and monsoon
Topography: Three quarters of Vietnam’s territory consist of mountains and hills (detail)
Administrative Units: Vietnam is divided into 63 provinces and cities
All year round here, there is always a perfect place where it is pleasant to stay. Basically, the whole country falls into the tropic and subtropics but its stretching length and diverse topography allow it to span several different climate zones. The weather thus, tends to vary considerably from season to season and also from region to region.
The North of Vietnam is generally cooler than other South East Asian regions in the same longitude. It experiences two main distinct seasons. In winter months, the weather gets colder and colder from November to March and considerably warmer in April (a leap into summer). This is also time to observe much cloud and frequent drizzle. The average winter temperature is 17.2o C (62.9o F). Particularly, the mountainous areas (Northwest) are often much colder, temperature may keep below 10oC (50oF) for long period. Ice and snow even cover Hoang Lien Son Mountains and nearby Sapa town for some times with the lowest record of -3oC (26.6oF) in Feb 2008
In the summer (from May to October), the whole region is quite hot. Temperature may rise to 37o C (98.6o F) in the peak of June and July. Hanoi and coastal provinces around the Red Delta generally enjoy equitable weather with high average humidity (80 %) all year round though they may occasionally be subjected to typhoons and heavy rain in late summers (September to November). Vietnamese people even identify four seasons in the Northern provinces (from Hai Van Pass toward the North) with their distinct features: pleasant spring (typically March – April) and autumn (October-December), a chilly winter (December-February) and a hot summer (June-July)
The Central Vietnam with two sub-regions, coastal lowlands and central highlands, can be seen as an in between climatic area of the North and the South. The coastal strip is usually dry and hotter than the rest in the summer, as the Truong Son Mountains do not allow it to enjoy most rainfall of south-western monsoon (From April to October). Unprotected coasts in their turn, however, make it wet and colder than the rest in winter monsoon season (from November to March). Also, storms and typhoons strike this area more frequently than the northern coasts in the summer months (from July to November). The Central Highlands in particular enjoys nearby double the average rainfall of the country. Two biggest towns in this plateau, Dalat and Pleiku, are ideally cool throughout the year. Near the south coastal cities, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang and Phan Thiet, on the contrary, experiences steamy hot weather (21oC – 32oC/70oF – 90oF) all year around.
The South of Vietnam, merely 8 degrees north of the Equator, is typical of humid tropical climate which is excellent for growing rice. The region’s temperatures experience little variations in a year (around 27-32oC/ 80-90oF). There are two main seasons: the rainy and dry. During the rainy/monsoon season (from May to November), downpours are expected to happen nearly afternoon, resulting in occasional street flooding in and around Saigon. In the dry season, it is hot from late February to April then slightly cooler when first downpours come. Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) enjoys rather equitable tropical climate with high humidity all year around. December to March is said to be the most pleasant time to hit this region’s center.
REGION AND BELIEF
The major religious traditions in Vietnam are Buddhism (which fuses forms of Taoism and Confucianism), Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), Islam, Caodaism and the Hoa Hao sect
Vietnam’s currency is Dong issued by State Bank of Vietnam. Abbreviated form: “VND” before the amount or “D” after the amount
Small denominations included VND 200; 500; 1000; 2000; 5000 in both coin and paper notes (in the past), now coins do not exist anymore. Bigger denominations include VND 10,000; 20,000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000; 500,000 in both polymer and normal paper notes (now only polymer).
Note: Vietnam uses colon “,” as decimal symbol and “.”, in digit grouping (opposite to the US standards).
Cheques issued in Vietnam include VND 500,000 and 1,000,000 – mostly used for commercial transaction in the South.
Exchange rate is virtually quoted everywhere now: banks, newspaper, internet, ect. You can check it any time at http://www.xe.com. Money is exchanged at the airport, hotel reception, official exchange bureaus or banks. However, if you want to change with higher rate from these transactional branches, contact to Novn Travel and we can help you to save a bit for your trip. Thanks to low valuations of Dong compared with other major currencies, it is extremely exciting to find yourself a Dong millionaire in such an instant.
In small towns and remote areas, however, these facilities are currently limited or none. On heading to these places, hence, you should consider stocking up a bit more Dong but too much as you may have less chance to pour it. Particularly, there is no official exchange service in border crossings other than black market which must be dealt with high alertness. Miscalculation and fake money cost you a lot.
Generally, all major currencies can be converted into Dong without any hassle but American Dollar is normally much more preferred. It is wise to cash your traveler cheques into US Dollar before jumping into anywhere. You may be charged o.5 to 2% commission for this, still much lower than in black market.
Method of payment:
The most popular method of payment in Vietnam is directly by cash (both in Dong and Dollar), albeit the situation is changing gradually. More and more restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and supermarkets accept credit cards (mainly Visa, Master Card, JBC and American Express). Traveller’s cheques are cashed only in major banks in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city.
It is strongly recommended that you do not quip yourself with lots of cash, neither Dollar nor Dong. In Vietnam now, it is much easier for you to access your money almost everywhere and any time in Hanoi, Saigon or other major cities through an extensive ATM network. It is, therefore, important to check whether your credit card company or bank card company has any ATM access in Vietnam in advance.
Vietnam is one of the safest holiday destinations in South-East Asia. Families can travel in comfort and with peace of mind knowing that the population is friendly, the incidence of crime is relatively low and even walking round at night is quite safe.
Nevertheless, it is always wise travelling practice to have adequate travel insurance in place so you can enjoy a hassle free journey.
Having said this, remember that there are always incidences of petty theft that can spoil your holiday if you do not take adequate precautions. Here are a few tips you can follow:
- In some larger cities, especially Ho Chi Minh city, some cases of picks pocketing, and drive-by bag snatchings have been reported. For this reason, it is important not to wear expensive jewelry, or carry too much cash when walking in the streets. Any outward sign of wealth should be avoided at all costs. Store all your valuables and luggage at your hotel and use the safe if possible.
- Watch out for the traffic! Although this is not an issue exclusive to Vietnam, crossing a major street can be an adventure in itself. The streams of traffic including motor vehicles, cyclists, motorbikes, and scooters move through the street like a solid mass and it appears to be any impenetrable organism! One of the best tips is to simply follow one of the locals or at least watch what they do and then imitate them. You will have to be bold and move with certainty in the trust that the motorists will slow down sufficiently for you to skip your way through. Never under any circumstances stop in the middle of street, once you start to make your move, continue moving so drivers can see what you are trying to do, they will simply move around you.
- Be careful what you eat and drink. Vietnam is a gourmet heaven but that does not mean that you can eat and drink whatever you like. It is a matter of common sense when it comes to drinking the local water and it is probably the safest bet to limit yourself to bottled water. Do not take unnecessary risks because, even though you may have taken out adequate holiday insurance, you do not want to spoil your holiday with an unwanted food poisoning which could have been avoided.
- In Hanoi, if you see some men travelling on the street and pointing on your shoes and you do not know what happened? They will come, take your shoes off, then polish or put glues on it, and then ask to pay a lot of money. Do not let them do any things with your shoes or simply just ignore them
All in all, travelling to Vietnam is an exciting and safe experience. There is no need to worry unnecessarily and by taking these simple precautions you are sure to have a memorable holiday.
Basic Vietnamese Phrases and useful words
At the very minimum it is important to at least know how to say “Hello” and “Thank you” – it takes moments to learn yet can make a big impression, as you will already know more than 90% of travelers arriving in Vietnam
Pronunciations can vary significantly within Vietnam, especially northern vs. southern
(English – Vietnamese – Phonetic pronounciation)
- Hello – Xin Chào (seen chow)
- Goodbye – Tạm Biệt (Tam be-et)
- What’s your name – Bạn Tên gì (Ban thane zee)
- My name is … – Tôi tên là (Thoy thane la….)
- Thank you – Cảm ơn (Gahm un)
- You’re welcome – Không có gì (Khom go zee)
- Yes – Vần (vung)
- No – Không (Khome)
- Sorry – Xin Lỗi (seen loy)
- Can you help me? Bạn giúp tôi được không (ban zoop thoy duc khome)
- I’d like to eat – Tôi muốn ăn (thoy moowan un)
- I’d like to drink – Tôi muốn uống (thoy moowan oowanh)
- Good – tốt (tot)
- Bad – Không tốt (khome tot)
- What is this? – cái này là gì (guy nai la zee)
- How much? – bao nhiêu (bow nyew)
- Hotel – Khách sạn (Khack san)
- Hot – Nóng (nong)
- Cold – lạnh (lang)
- Coffee – cà phê (cah feh)
- Tea – trà (chah)
- Beer – Bia (beer)
- Milk – sữa (su-a)
- Sugar – đường (dung)
- Delicious – ngon (ngon)
- I’d like to go to … tôi muốn đi tới (Doy moon-hn duhp toy)
- Bank – Ngân hàng (ng-an hang)
- Restaurant – nhà hàng (nya hang)
- Hotel – khách sạn (khack san)
- Toilet – Nhà vệ sinh (nya vay sing) or Toilet
0 – không (kumm, kowm, hum, or hown depending on the speaker and adjacent words)
1 – một (mo’oht, though most of the time comes out “moke” with a very slight swallowing of the final “K” sound
2 – hai (high or Hi)
3 – Ba (bah)
4 – Bốn (bone)
5 – Năm (nahm)
6 – sáu (sao)
7 – bảy (bai-ee, almost like “buy” in English)
8 – Tám (tahm)
9 – Chín (chean)
10 – Mười (meui)
100 – Một trăm (Moht cham or often just “cham”)
1000 – Một Ngàn/nghìn (mo’ot ngang/ngeen)
1000000 – một triệu (mo’ot chee’ou)