Saigon Reunion 2009

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  1. What kind of shots/immunization should I have before departure?


  1. 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:
  1. Is water potable? Should I take any medication for any known/potential viruses?

A.  Bottled water is readily available in HCMC and elsewhere.  Bring Cipro or Immodium for stomach virus and medicines like Augmentin as a general antibiotic.


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: 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 the year?

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 vehicle?

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 service?

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 price?

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?

A.   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.