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You are here:  » Travel Destination » Vietnam Information » Country Introduction

Viet Nam

Fast fact

Full Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Capital city: Hanoi

Official language: Vietnamese

Religion: Buddhism

Population: 89.6 million

Area: 331,210 km2

Currency: Dong

Time Zone: GMT +7 Hours

International calling code: +84

From the exciting pace of the cities to breathtaking rural landscapes and villages, Vietnam’s diversity is astounding. In the capital Hanoi, you will find peaceful lakes, wide tree-lined boulevards, and a fascinating Old Quarter. From Hanoi you can take an overnight boat trip on Halong Bay, with its thousands of limestone islands, or head to the mountains of Sapa.

With its modern vibe and frenetic energy, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) makes for a complete contrast, and is a great jumping off point for an exploration of the Mekong Delta, a mountain getaway to Dalat or a beach holiday in Nha Trang. And don’t forget the central Vietnam towns of Hue and Hoi An. Here you will find history, culture, cuisine, beaches and some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in all Asia.


You can travel to Vietnam any time of year and each season has its own special appeal. The most popular time for travel is between November to April. You should book well in advance if you wish to travel to Vietnam at this time. Temperatures are generally lower, especially in the north, where it can be quite cool in the winter months (December to February). Halong Bay is often covered in mist, which reduces visibility but adds to the atmosphere. In the south of the country, days are usually warm and clear, but be prepared for some instability and possible flooding in Central Vietnam during the months of October and November.

During summer, which is also the monsoon season (May to November) you can expect days to be warm and humid with refreshing afternoon showers. Travel is rarely affected by the rain and everything is lush and green at this time. Skies over Halong Bay are usually clear and blue.










The official national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt), a tonal Mon–Khmer language which is spoken by the majority of the population. In its early history, Vietnamese writing used Chinese characters. In the 13th century, the Vietnamese developed their own set of characters, referred to as Chữ nôm. The folk epic Truyện Kiều ("The Tale of Kieu", originally known as Đoạn trường tân thanh ) by Nguyễn Du was written in Chữ nômQuốc ngữ, the romanized Vietnamese alphabet used for spoken Vietnamese, was developed in the 17th century by the Jesuit Alexandre de Rhodes and several other Catholic missionaries. Quốc ngữ became widely popular and brought literacy to the Vietnamese masses during the French colonial period.

Vietnam's minority groups speak a variety of languages, including Tày, Mường, Cham, Khmer, Chinese, Nùng, and H'Mông. The Montagnard peoples of the Central Highlands also speak a number of distinct languages. A number of sign languages have developed in the cities.

The French language, a legacy of colonial rule, is spoken by many educated Vietnamese as a second language, especially among the older generation and those educated in the former South Vietnam, where it was a principal language in administration, education and commerce; Vietnam remains a full member of the Francophonie, and education has revived some interest in the language. Russian – and to a much lesser extent German, Czech and Polish – are known among some Vietnamese whose families had ties with the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. In recent years, as Vietnam's contacts with Western nations have increased, English has become more popular as a second language. The study of English is now obligatory in most schools, replacing French. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean have also grown in popularity as Vietnam's links with other East Asian nations have strengthened.

Vietnamese                                                          English

Sin chow                                                               Heloo (or hi)

Kwhere khom                                                       How are you?

Toy kwhere, come on                                            I'm fine, thank you

Come on                                                             Thank you

Ten la zee                                                           What is your name?

Ten toy la...                                                         My name is...

Bao new toy                                                         How old are you?

Toy...too-ee                                                        I am...years old

...Bao new                                                           How much is...?

Muk kwar                                                            It's too expensive!

Kom                                                                   No

Ya(south), vang(north)                                         Yes

Sin loy                                                                Excuse me / I'm sorry

Kom can                                                             No need

Come ern, noong toy kom can too-ee nee long      Thank you, but i don't need a plastic bag


For much of Vietnamese history, Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism have been the dominant religions, strongly influencing the national culture. About 85% of Vietnamese identify with Buddhism, though not all practice on a regular basis. According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam's report for 1 April 2009, 6.8 million (or 7.9% of the total population) are practicing Buddhists, 5.7 million (6.6%) are Catholics, 1.4 million (1.7%) are adherents of Hòa Hảo, 0.8 million (0.9%) practise Cao Đài, and 0.7 million (0.9%) are Protestants. In total, 15,651,467 Vietnamese (18.2%) are formally registered in a religion. According to the 2009 census, while over 10 million people have taken refuge in the Three Jewels of Buddhism, the vast majority of Vietnamese people practice ancestor worship in some form. According to a 2007 report, 81% of Vietnamese people do not believe in God.

About 8% of the population are Christians, totalling around six million Roman Catholics and fewer than one million Protestants, according to the census of 2007. Christianity was first introduced to Vietnam by Portuguese and Dutch traders in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was further propagated by French missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, and to a lesser extent, by American Protestant missionaries during the Vietnam War, largely among the Montagnards of South Vietnam. The largest Protestant churches are the Evangelical Church of Vietnam and the Montagnard Evangelical Church. Two-thirds of Vietnam's Protestants are reportedly members of ethnic minorities.


The official currency in Vietnam is the Dong (VND) which is a non-convertible currency. American dollars are widely accepted in larger stores and supermarkets. Visa and MasterCard are becoming more accepted in hotels, restaurants and large stores, especially in the bigger cities. ATM’s are widely available throughout the country, and there are a number of international banks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  Vietnamese Dong (VND); ATMs and Money changers throughout the country. USD widely accepted. As of Aug 2011: 1USD = 21500 VND


Vietnamese cuisine traditionally features a combination of five fundamental taste "elements" (Vietnamese: ngũ vị): spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth). Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, sory sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird's eye chili, lime and basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables, and is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.

The most popular dish is called Pho and is often referred to as the "soul of the nation". It's quite simply a noodle soup dish eaten every day, predominantly for breakfast. It is served in most Vietnamese restaurants and street food vendors. Don’t be afraid to try the street food, there are plenty of options, including:

  • Nem Ran or Cha Gio (fried spring roll)
  • Banh Chung (sticky rice cake)
  • GioLua (lean pork pie)
  • BanhCuon (rice flour steamed rolls)
  • Banh My (pate and egg rolls)
  • Mivoithitbo/ga (noodles with beef/chicken)



Visitors with passports from these countries do not require a visa for stays up to the days specified:

  • 15 days - Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Russia
  • 21 days - Philippines
  • 30 days - Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand

All other nationalities will require a visa in advance to visit Vietnam.

The term "visa on arrival"is a bit of a misnomer in the case of Vietnam as a letter of approval has to be obtained before arrival. This is handled by a growing number of on-line agencies for a charge of USD15-21 (Feb 2014). Most agencies accept payment by credit card, some accept payment by Western Union or Paypal. You also have to pay stamp fee at the airport when arrival. You need 1 photo.

The visa on arrival fees 2014

  • One month – single entry USD45
  • One month – multiple entry USD65
  • Three months – single entry costs the same with one month single entry
  • Three months – multiple entry USD95
  • Six months – multiple entry USD135



Airport departure tax for domestic flight is $2 and for international departure tax is $14. The taxes are included in the air tickets, even low cost carriers like Air Asia often include the airport tax so you do not have to worry about paying extra. 


Though it Vietnam is considered safe by world standards, you should apply common sense when travelling as you would anywhere. Petty crime in Vietnam’s major cities has risen along with rising numbers of tourists.

We advise you to take a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers, and keep these in a safe place separate from the originals. In large cities, such as Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi, it is advisable to keep valuables in your hotel safe, and wear as little jewellery as possible when you are out. Keeping your money and other valuables close to your body in a secure place is also a good idea.

We recommend you take taxis rather than cyclos when travelling at night; taxis in Vietnam are numerous, metered and inexpensive. To assist in finding your way back to your hotel, make sure you obtain a hotel address card to show drivers.