Facts for the Visitor

Visas (obtained in Battambang, Cambodia)
US citizen: US$30 for a 30-day visa. The visa is issued on the same day, about 2 hours after application. In Phnom Penh, next-day issuance costs US$33. The expected date of entry must be specified on the visa application form. Entry is possible on that date or thereafter. Visa validity is for one month from the specified expected entry day. Visa extension is easy in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for US$30.
Japanese citizen: Same as for US citizens.

Language Skills Needed
English is sufficient for travel.

Cash Machines
Vietnamese Dong can be withdrawn from the 24-hour HSBC ATM in Saigon or the 24-hour ATMs at HSBC and ANZ in Hanoi. These ATMs are on Plus and Cirrus international networks.

Currency & Money Exchange

The national currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). US$1 = 15,200 VND on 15 April 2002.

Prices for many tourist items are quoted in US$, but most places accept 15,000 VND in lieu of each US$. It's therefore advantageous to carry and pay in Dong,

220V, 50Hz. Sockets fit US/Japan style 2 straight pin plugs and European style 2 round pin plugs.

International Certificates of Vaccination are not required.

Tips are not expected.

Pay phones are rare, international calls are absurdly expensive (US$10 per minute to many western countries), and collect calls are not permitted. Forget the phone. Use email.

Internet is cheap and available everywhere. Cheapest is in Hanoi at 50 VND per minute, no minimum charge. That works out to about US$0.20 per hour. Internet is 100 VND per minute in Saigon, and up to 300 VND per minute in more remote areas.

Trains and tourist buses are clean, comfortable, and run on published regular schedules. For the same distance, a tourist bus tends to be slightly cheaper than a reserved train seat and about half price of a train sleeping berth. Overnight, a sleeping berth on a train is the way to go. Train tickets are best purchased directly at the train station.
Tourist Bus Bus tickets are best purchased from Sinh Cafe because their buses are more comfortable than those operated by TM Brothers or Kim Cafe. (Note: Sinh Cafe overcharges for day tours. We found it best to travel long distances with Sinh Cafe and day tour with TM Brothers.) Tourist bus tickets can be purchased in US$ or VND. Sales offices are impossible to miss.
Train The "hard sleeper" has some padding and is plenty comfortable. There are 6 sleepers per compartment so space is somewhat limited. If traveling as a couple in a hard sleeper compartment, request a middle and top berth The top and bottom berths have luggage storage space; the middle has none. The bottom berth is likely to have friends of compartment mates occupying your space. The "soft sleeper" has more padding and more space. There are 4 soft sleeper berths per compartment. Train tickets purchased at the train station must be paid for in VND. Train tickets purchased at a travel agent or bus company can be paid in US$ but they carry commissions ranging from US$1 to the full price of the ticket. If buying a train ticket from an agent, try TM Brothers. TM Brothers seemed to charge the least commission.

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