Electrical current in Vietnam is 220 volts, 50Hz.
Plugs are either the two flat-pin or the two round-pin type. Three
rectangular blade plugs can be found in some of the newer
The official language in Vietnam is Vietnamese. Some
Chinese, English and French are spoken. Tour guides can also speak
Russian and Japanese. Numerous ethnic languages are also spoken in
Most restaurants and hotels in Vietnam now add a five to 10
percent service charge to their bills. In top hotels porters expect
a small tip. Hired drivers and guides are usually tipped, and it is
customary to round up the bill for taxi drivers in the cities.
Tipping is not generally expected, but some small change for most
services is appreciated.
Travel in Vietnam is generally safe and violent crime is
uncommon. Pick-pocketing is rife, and in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
drive-by purse snatching is a common trick. When transferring from
airports only use pre-arranged hotel pickups or licensed taxis to
avoid theft from opportunists. It is best to leave valuables in a
secure hotel safe and avoid obvious displays of wealth. During the
monsoon season (usually between June and October) the country is
prone to serious flooding and typhoons (until December),
particularly the Mekong Delta and Central Region. In August and
September 2008, Northern and Central Vietnam experienced torrential
rain resulting in severe flooding, causing considerable damage to
local infrastructure, including road and rail links.
The wearing of shorts in Vietnam should be avoided away from the
beaches if possible. Shoes must be removed on entering religious
sites and a donation is expected when visiting a temple or pagoda.
Photography is restricted at ports, harbours and airports, and it
is polite to ask permission before taking photographs of people,
especially of ethnic minorities. Never leave chopsticks sticking
upright in a bowl of rice as it has strong death connotations.
Business practices in Vietnam are conducted in a similar fashion
to those of China, Japan and Korea rather than their Southeast
Asian counterparts. Pride and tact are important to bear in mind,
as practices tend to be formalised more so than in Western
countries. Often it is best to be introduced rather than approach
the person with whom business is intended for fear of suspicion.
Negotiations and settlements may take longer as the Vietnamese like
to examine contracts thoroughly. Formal dress is common but in
summer months the dress tends to be more casual. It is important to
be on time for business appointments as the Vietnamese consider
lateness rude. The person is always addressed as Mr., Mrs., and
Ms., followed by their personal name (not family name), unless
otherwise referred. It is worth finding out in advance. Shaking
hands with both hands is the most respectful greeting although
bowing is still popular among the older population, and meetings
always begin with the exchange of business cards, which should be
given and received with both hands; each person expects to receive
one, so be sure to bring a vast supply. Business hours are
typically 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch,
and 8am to 11.30am on Saturdays.
The international country code is +84. The outgoing code is 00,
followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United
States or Canada). City/area codes are in use, e.g. Hanoi is (0)4
and Ho Chi Minh City is (0)8. GSM 900 mobile networks cover the
major urban areas. Internet cafes are available in Hanoi, Ho Chi
Minh City and Internet access is often available at post offices in
Travellers to Vietnam over 18 years do not have to pay duty on
the following items: 400 cigarettes, 100 cigars or 500g tobacco;
1.5 litres alcohol with alcohol content higher than 22% and 2
litres below 22%; up to 5kg tea and 3kg coffee; perfume and items
for personal consumption within reasonable amounts; other goods to
the value of five million Vietnamese dong.