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Beautiful beaches, sense-punching cities, delicious cuisine and direct flights from NZ to Ho Chi Minh with Air New Zealand, there's every reason to visit Vietnam. But it pays to be prepared - these are the questions you need answered before you go.
1. What do I need to enter the country?
The MOST important thing to remember is your passport expiry date. Primarily, before you even board the plane, actually, before you even think about boarding the plane, your passport must be valid for six months after your arrival in Vietnam.
2. Do I need a visa?
All New Zealand citizens need a visa prior to arrival. The easiest option is to talk to your House of Travel consultant for guidance. They will ensure your visa is obtained well in advance and you'll have peace of mind that there won't be any unexpected hiccups.
3. What’s the 'deal' with haggling?
Fixed prices aren't common in Vietnam so everything is negotiable (all except mall prices). That also means everything comes with a heavy mark-up. The good news is, the Vietnamese, with only 20 years of tourism under their belts, aren't always slick at bartering. Expect all vendors to state an outrageous starting price and then haggle; be firm but polite.
HOT tip: Smile at the initial price and shake your head. Tell them you're Vietnamese and you want the local price. A little humour added to your haggle will go a long way.
4. How do I ensure I get the right price?
Keep your dong well out of sight. Otherwise eager vendors will spy your cash and try to sell you something worth the entire amount.
HOT tip: Flash them a very meagre amount and tell them that’s all you have. If it’s only a very small amount you won’t be out of pocket.
5. What's the currency?
In Vietnam, dong is used. Be aware that the extra zeros in all that dong can be very confusing and 10,000 dong looks a lot like 100,000 dong. Triple-check before handing over your notes and remember, one NZ dollar is roughly 16,000 dong.
6. Can I drink the water?
Not unless you want to play Russian roulette with your intestinal tract. Even to brush your teeth, we recommend using filtered water.
HOT tip: If you’re not keen on sourcing bottled water every hour of the day, buy a few water purifying tablets before you go. Roughly $15NZ for 50 tablets, they’re small enough to carry in your wallet. You’ll almost always get bottled water in your hotel room, so take it with you when venturing out.
7. I should just be brave and eat everything, right?
Trying Vietnamese food is one of the most exciting things to do, but if you don’t want to eat a household pet, learn the words thịt mèo for cat meat and thịt chó for dog meat. Serving cat is actually illegal but is still sold. Look out for 'little tiger' which is also cat meat.
HOT tip: Everyone loves Pho. Pronounced “fuuh” - like the first syllable in “phenomenal".
8. How do I cross traffic in big cities?
Start by following the locals. But hang back because they don’t get it right all of the time. Go slow and with caution. But throw a tiny bit of caution to the wind – or you’ll be standing on the curb for a lifetime.
HOT tip: The golden rule is to avoid hesitation; once you step out, you need to follow through because drivers will be anticipating your move.
9. How do I get about?
Taxis are obviously convenient but be wary of of illegitimate drivers. They are known to roam the airports so book a transfer through your consultant. Once in town, try to use Mai Linh or Vinasun taxis as much as possible as they are comparatively reliable. Keep an eye on the metre – they tend to ‘jump’ around a bit.
HOT tip: Cyclos are three-wheeled bikes with a seat. Negotiate a fee up front and try to get the amount written down before you hop aboard. Sounds pedantic but it’ll save you some dong.
10. How do I recharge my gadgets?
The most common electric plug used is the European two-pin. Some areas still use a British three blade or North American/Japanese two-blade, so we’d advise you take an international all-in-one.
11. What’s going to surprise me the most?
Leaving passports at hotels and guesthouses in many of the larger cities is commonplace so don't freak out. And if you have fair hair, expect your barnet to get a lot of attention. Vietnamese are renowned for loving children so they may have their head stroked. And if you have fair-haired children, they might start to feel like a Hollywood star.
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