The currency of Vietnam is the Dong. All goods and services can and should be paid for in Dong. Exceptions are made in hotels and when buying international air tickets. Shops and restaurants in the bigger cities will also accept US dollars, but you should be aware of the fact that usually a lower exchange rate will be used. It is therefore advisable to change a certain amount of Vietnamese Dong to cover your day-to-day expenses.
Travellers cheques must be denominated in US dollars. You can change them to Dong or to US dollars (with a 2 percent commission). Those issued by American Express, Bank of America, Citicorp, First National City Bank, Thomas Cook, and Visa are accepted. They are also accepted at major tourist hotels, but not in most shops. Vietnam is still very much a cash economy.
Visa, Mastercard and – with exceptions – American Express are accepted in virtually every hotel in major cities throughout the country, as well as in upmarket restaurants, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
No vaccinations are officially required by the Vietnamese authorities, but immunization against hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus and polio is advised. Vaccination for typhoid fever is recommended for long stay and intensive travelling tourists. Rabies is widespread in Vietnam, so you are advised to avoid dogs and other animals that may bite as a precaution.
– Malaria is widespread in the Central Highlands and some parts of the Mekong Delta. The best protection against malaria is to avoid being bitten in the first place. Check with your physician about taking a course of anti-malarials. If it is considered necessary given your itinerary, you might need to begin before your trip and continue for a time after you return. But if you are not traveling to the Central Highlands nor going on overnight treks in the mountain region of Sapa, no anti-malarial drugs are needed.
– Dengue fever, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes, is often mistaken for malaria. Its symptoms are severe pain in the joints, high fever, and extreme headache. Aside from avoiding being bitten altogether (this mosquito is active in daytime and is often a striped variety), there is no prevention available. Hospital treatment is urgently required.
Food & Water
As with most underdeveloped countries, stomach upsets and diarrhea are a common problem and can ruin a visit. Most problems stem from contaminated water. Unless it has been thoroughly boiled, do not drink tap water. You should also avoid ice in drinks, especially in the countryside. Imported bottled water is available in most cities, but beware of bottles that have been refilled with tap water. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are fine and in hotels you can use the hot water in your room to make tea. You should have no problems with thoroughly cooked food, but stay clear of anything that looks like it has been reheated from a previous meal. Take care with seafood and avoid undercooked meat. Only eat fruit that you have peeled yourself, and salads should be given a miss.
When planning your trip abroad, take steps to protect yourself from crime or theft. Vietnam is a relatively safe destination, with a low record of petty crime experienced by travellers but crimes against travelers are a growing problem worldwide.
Mines & Munitions
Although most of the land mines have been cleared you should avoid walking through jungle or remote areas, especially in the north of the country.
– Telephone: The country code is 84, the area code for Hanoi is 04, Saigon 08, Hue 054 and Danang 0511. International calls from international hotels cost between US $3 and US $5 per minute.
– Mobile Telephone: More roaming contracts being signed with cellular phone providers in different countries.
Standard time in Vietnam is 6 hours ahead of Central European Time (CET), 7 hours ahead of GMT, 12 hours ahead of time in New York, 3 hours behind time in Sydney and in the same time zone as Bangkok.
Electricity: 220V / 50V. However, electricity supply can be unreliable in smaller towns.