kind of shots/immunization should I have before departure?
- This depends on where you will visit other
than in Ho Chi Minh City where there is limited risk. At least six weeks before travel, update
your Tetanus shot and then consult with your primary care physician or
review CDC recommendations at: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinationVietnam.aspx
water potable? Should I take any medication for any known/potential
A. Bottled water is readily
available in HCMC and elsewhere. Bring Cipro
or Immodium for stomach virus and medicines like Augmentin as a general
Q. As far as currency, what should I bring? Cash or Travelers checks?
Are there ATMs that would
accept stateside banks? Credit cards?
A. There are ATMs everywhere
and so it is easy to get dong. Although the tour books say merchants accept dollars, that has been less the
case during the recent fall on
the dollar. Many merchants near Ben Thanh market do quote prices in dollars, but restaurants and smaller
merchants want dong--not dollars, not charge cards. The
more expensive stores accept credit, but most charge a premium of 2- 3%.
Traveler’s checks have to be cashed at banks.
Q. Do I require a Visa? How do I get one?
A. Yes. A visa is required.
You can go on the web to the following site: http://www.vietnamembassy.us/consular_services/visa_info/
and print out an on- line form
and fill it out and send it with your passport and required fees. Or, if you are going through a travel agency, they
can do it for you. Tourist visas are usually for
15 days or 30 days duration. Make sure you supply stamped return address envelopes for them to send you your
passport. Don’t wait until the last minute. Also,
make sure that your passport expiration date is at least 6 months from the planned departure date from Vietnam. And
make Xerox copies of your passport (leaving
one at home and taking one with you) in the event you lose your passport.
Q. What should I plan for as far as clothing/apparel for that time of
A. In March of 2008, weather
in HCMC was about 80-90 degrees every day with high humidity only about two
days in the month. It rarely rains in
March. Bring loose fitting clothing with short sleeves for walking/touring, but
bring a sweater and/or over-shirt for Western hotels and restaurants where they
tend to crank up the air conditioning. Many Western tourists wear shorts, but
the Vietnamese are modest and prefer that bodies not be too exposed. Black really attracts heat and so it is
desirable to stay with lighter colored clothing. Many people wear open-toed shoes such as
sandals; leather shoes such as loafers can get hot fast.
Q. Do most Hotels supply 120 volt service?
A. Best to bring a converter
to be on the safe side.
Q. Do I need an International Drivers License if I choose to rent a
A. You can not rent a car in Vietnam without
a driver and perhaps a translator. Scooters and mopeds are rented on beaches.
Q. Can I get Hotel room Internet Service?
A. Most hotels—even 3 star
ones—have Internet connections. Many
have a “business center” with a couple of Internet-connected desktop computers,
and most have Wifi. Additionally, there
are many Internet cafes available all over HCMC.
Q. Are tips expected at most restaurants or are they included in the
A. It depends on the
restaurant. The more expensive ones that
cater to Westerners add a service charge, although sometimes it can be
disguised as something else. When you
eat at a smaller place, it is usual to round up or leave a 10,000-20,000 dong
tip (75 cents to $1.25).
Q. Is bargaining an excepted practice or should I accept the quoted
A. Many of the merchants in
and around Dong Khoi (formerly Tu Do) and in the Ben Thanh central market are
not very interested in bargaining.
Further, they probably don’t need to because another tourist will be
along soon. Probably the best thing to
do is check out prices on items that most interest you, then return to places
where prices are best. For example, to
get an idea of prices visit grocery stores like Co-OpMart where they offer
jewelry, sunglasses, and other interesting items. In smaller markets and
outside the city, bargaining is more typical.
A March visit to Nha Trang
revealed merchants in the local market would sell items at 1/3 to ˝ of their opening offer. My guide hurriedly left
one place because he overheard the merchants propose to charge me three times
the norm because I am foreign. Be
prepared to walk away more than once.
Q. What is the city like these days?
HCMC is now a city of some 10.5 million people. There are not enough roads, but there are
plenty of motorbikes and cars. The
result is that the traffic moves very slowly (usually at 5-10 kilometers per
hour), the air is polluted, and the noise level is quite high from early
morning to late night.