Vietnamese spiritual life has been influenced by four great religions or philosophies: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. With the passage of time, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have been mixed together to create Tam Giao or the Triple Religion, a sort of Vietnamese Buddhism. Catholicism came to Vietnam with the French and is now followed by about 10% of the population. There are also perhaps one million Muslims among the Cham and Khmer communities. Finally there is the syncretic religion of Caodaism, which blends all the religions above with philosophy and is popular in the south.
No vaccinations are required to enter Vietnam. However, it is recommended that all visitors be innoculated against typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A and B. It is unwise to drink tap water. Prescription drugs are available in urban areas. Precautions against malaria, such as doxycycline or larium, are not necessary for major towns and cities, but are recommended when visiting remoter areas. Travellers should consult their doctor before leaving for Vietnam.
Vietnamese cuisine is well-known for its delicate flavours and huge variety of traditional regional dishes. Fish and seafood dishes are particularly popular thanks to the huge coastline. Chinese and other Asian cuisine is also common throughout Vietnam, as is a variety of western cuisine in tourist centres. Dining out is a highlight of any visit to Vietnam. With such a long coastline, seafood is abundant. Vietnam is famous for its coffee and is one of the world’s largest exporters. The Vietnamese like it strong and sweet with condensed milk. Beer is another popular drink and includes unpasteurized draft beer in Hanoi, probably the cheapest beer in the world.
All urban areas have minimum electricity, which is usually 220 volts, but can be 110 volts. Rather confusingly, sockets are never marked. Most plug sockets are French two-pin, but hotels can usually supply an adaptor on request.
Vietnam offers some pretty good shopping, but visitors must be prepared to bargain very hard to get a fair price. Some of the more popular items include lacquerware, ceramics, embroidery, silk and oil paintings, jewellery, leatherwork and the elegant local costume known as the Ao Dai. Vietnam is also famous for its burgeoning art scene. There are many ‘antiques’ on sale in tourist centres, but many of these are fake and the few real items might be confiscated by customs. Even for non-shoppers, Vietnamese markets offer a fascinating insight into daily life and culture.
There are now three international gateways to Vietnam, Hanoi in the north, Danang in the centre and Saigon in the south. Airlines currently serving Vietnam include local carriers Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific, plus international carriers Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Silk Air, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Dragon Air, Lao Airlines, Air China, China South-west, China Yunnan Airlines, Eva Air, Korean Air, Air France, Lufthansa, Qantas, United and JAL. Direct flights to Vietnam are available from Bangkok, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Guangzhou, Kunming, Macau, Seoul, Taipei, Dubai, Melbourne, Sydney and Paris.
There are extensive domestic services in Vietnam, linking the three principal cities with other regions of the country. The most popular regional airports are Hue, Nha Trang, Dalat and Phu Quoc.
US$14 for international flights. 50,000d for domestic flights, but this is usually included in the ticket price.
Passports & Visas
Tourist visas allow visitors to enter and exit Vietnam at Hanoi, Saigon and Danang airports or at any of its land borders with Cambodia, China and Laos. You’ll need at least one passport-sized photograph to accompany the visa application. Tourist visas are valid for a single 30-day stay. Depending on where you acquire it, prices for single-entry tourist visas cost around US$30 to US$60. Hanuman can arrange a visa on arrival through our travel office in Vietnam. We will need passport details in advance and will send a confirmation for the visa to be issued at the airport of arrival. This is not currently possible at land border crossings.
The Dong is Vietnam’s official currency (US$1 = 19,000d), but US dollars are still widely accepted in hotels, although less so in restaurants, bars and shops. Most hotels accept international credit cards such as Visa and Master Card and travellers checks can be easily cashed. There is an extensive network of ATMs all over the country.