1. Tipping policy
Tipping is not customary, but leaving small change is appreciated. Most upscale restaurants include a service charge in the bill.
For traditional ao dai dresses, head to the shops surrounding Tan Dinh market, off Hai Ba Trung Street on the border of districts one and three. A custom-fitted outfit, including design and fabric, costs VND400,000 for cotton and VND1,200,000 for silk.
The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), which has an approximate exchange rate of £1 = 35,000 Dong. The US Dollar is also widely accepted by most restaurants, hotels and shops – although expect to receive your change in Dong.
There is no point in trying to obtain Dong in the UK, just take Dollars and withdraw Dong from ATM machines in Vietnam. It can also be awkward to change Dong back into Sterling in the UK so try to withdraw smaller amounts to cover your immediate needs towards the end of the holiday.
You will find ATMs all over the country that accepts international VISA and Mastercard cards – common banks include Vietcombank, Agribank, Vietin Bank and Sacombank. Frustratingly, there is normally a single withdrawal limit of 2,000,000 VND (about £65). However, you can do multiple withdrawals until you hit your own account limit. To withdraw higher amounts, look out for the ANZ bank, which offers 4,000,000 VND withdrawals per transaction and Commonwealth ATMs, which offer up to 9,000,000 VND per transaction. Most banks charge 20,000 VND per transaction.
Despite Ho Chi Minh City attracting tourists from around the world and developing at a fast pace, the level of English in the country is often very poor, especially outside the cities. Even when English is spoken it can be very hard to understand what is being said because the Vietnamese language, which is tonal, uses completely different sounds to English, making our language a tricky one to master. This is why we almost always send English-speaking guides with all drivers – even for airport transfers.
5. Time Difference
Ho Chi Minh City is six hours ahead of GMT in British Summer Time and seven hours ahead of the UK during the winter.
6. Late nights
To satisfy hunger pangs that strike late in the night, head to the end of Tran Dinh Xu Street, District 1, where all households band together with stalls that serve rice, noodles and spring rolls till 2:00 in the morning. This food street is packed during lunar holidays.
Single phase voltage of 220V and a frequency of 50Hz, primarily two-pin sockets.
8. Telephone, Post and Wi-fi
To dial the UK from Vietnam you must dial 0044 and then drop the first 0 of the number . The Vietnamese country code is 0084. Airmail to Europe can take up to a week but the wi-fi here is abundant – almost no matter how remote you are, you will find hotels restaurants and cafes with wi-fi.
9. Visa extensions
Thirty-day extensions are issued in Ho Chi Minh City. Some people have managed to obtain second and even third extensions, usually in Ho Chi Minh City. Applications have to be made via a tour agent. In general they take three to five days to process and cost $25 for the first one-month extension.