open4.gif (8565 bytes)                                                        open4.gif (8565 bytes)

 
Vietnam travel, tour and other information to help make your holiday in even better.
 

General Information

 
Vietnam is one of the last countries in the world that hasn't been the stomping ground of tourists.  For that reason many people are making Vietnam their destination of choice.  The magnificent coastline of Vietnam is 3260 Km's long- beaches, bays & islands abound.  The jungles still have tigers, bears, panthers, elephants and even rhinoceros.  The people of Vietnam are very friendly, helpful and always keen to have a chat.  Vietnam is one of the few Asian countries that has not been a stomping ground for millions of tourists.
 

Weather

 

Vietnam has some truly remarkable weather patterns. 

In the north, regardless of what you may have read in 1 of the guide books in particular, there are 4 distinct seasons.  In the mountains up on the Chinese border it even snows sometimes. 

In the south it's the typical 2 season, tropical climate with both wet and dry

CNN have a good weather forecast page as do the BBC & you can do a search for anywhere in Viet Nam that you would like a forecast for & it's a good idea especially with so much silly advice about monsoons, typhoons and the like in Viet Nam.

 

Local Currency - VND

 
The currency in Vietnam really is the "Dong" & yes we've heard all the 1 liners about it we ever want to hear !                      

Currently the VND is worth approximately;

$1.00 USD   =  21,000 VND (Approx)

$1.00 AUD   =  15,000 VND (Approx)  

What's your currency worth in Vietnam ?

Try XE.com Personal Currency Assistant

It's a great web tool, it's accurate & easy to use.

 

Foreign Exchange

 
The (State) Vietcom bank is the main bank for foreign exchange and accepts most major currencies. They have branches & even sub branches in many of the gold/jewellery shops, all over Vietnam. 

Do I need to take USD to Vietnam ?

NO YOU DON'T !

We're often surprised when we hear from people (only ever tourists & the authors of that 1 particular guide book) that "you need to take USD to Vietnam".  You don't & haven't needed to for years now.   

An Australian/New Zealand bank (the ANZ) was, in fact, the 1st foreign bank of exchange to open in Vietnam in 1993

These days you name it, you can exchange it.  Aussie & Canadian dollars, Japanese Yen, the Euro (naturally), Singapore dollars & of course, the UK Pound Sterling.  Taking your own currency with you to Vietnam will definitely save you quite a bit of money.  There's usually a commission you have to pay your bank to change into USD & the rate your bank gives you is rarely the latest market rate so you get got at twice.  Bringing your own currency to Viet Nam is much easier to deal with because it's familiar to you & using the local Vietnamese currency whilst in Vietnam helps their economy too & that's a good thing to do in any developing country.

When you're leaving Viet Nam you simply change your VND back to whatever currency you like at the airport, no fuss, no bother & you'll get the REAL, daily full market rate too.

Please Note:  The Vietnamese are very familiar with the Aussie currency in particular. When choosing the technology to use for their new bank notes, the Australian technology was chosen above all the others.  If however you feel like you really want to have some USD to carry even though it's completely unnecessary, please make sure that it's not from the '90, '93, '96 or 2002 series as those series were widely counterfeited & are often rejected

Also make sure any USD notes are not ripped, torn, are clean & in new or near new condition.

 

Scams & rip-offs

 

Vietnamese people are, on the whole, very decent & honest people.  There are exceptions of course & you always need to be a bit circumspect when travelling to any foreign country.  We've listed some of the most popular scams below.

Money Changers

The old "changing money on the street" thing is still the most common trick so please don't do it.  People still ask us (???) about changing money on the "black market" as if there's free money to be had ???? 

When you see pigs flying, that'll be the time when there's lots of free money up for grabs !

Airport taxi & mini bus scams

The airport taxi ($15 USD including tolls) & mini bus scam is still the most frequent & the one where they'll only take you to hotels that give the drivers a "drink". 

 

The airport taxi service is $15 & that’s for the car NOT per person & includes all tolls etc.  Not all of them are crooks but it really is stating to look like there’s more bad drivers than good !!!

 

Next thing to be on the look out for is the “phone call” along the way to town.  Just after you get into Ha Noi city someone alleging to be from your hotel will jump into the taxi & apologise that the hotel is full but don’t worry they’ve got plenty of room at their sister hotel.  All these kinds of hotels are so crook that the only way to get anyone in the door at all, is to pay some ugly tout to drag them in there. 

 

Wait till you see the dump you’re headed to next !  It’ll be like a Vietnamese version of the Bates hotel & the staff will appear to be friendly at first, but see what they're like if you don't do what they tell you to !  The only way you can get away is to tough it out. 

 

If you're having trouble with one (and sadly there's plenty of them) of the cute taxi drivers, please feel free to get them to drop you over to the REAL Kangaroo Café

 

Tell them that you don’t have any money & that you’re meeting your Mum, Dad, Uncle etc at the cafe & they’ve got all your money.  Max will explain the error of their crooked ways to them in no uncertain terms on your behalf. 

 

Don't forget that Viet Nam as a nation & the Vietnamese people in particular take pride in their country, culture & tourism. 

 

The Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (Ha Noi Dept) are most intolerant of people trying to harm Vietnamese tourism industry in any way. 

 

They're on the 2nd floor at No 3 Le Lai St, Ha Noi (844) 824 7652 & it's very simple to lodge an official complaint.

The old Hotel tour & services scam

Please don't fall for the lousy tours, ticketing & services the hotels offer.  They're not licensed tour operators & they'll flog you off to any old mob that offers them a drink, regardless of what it is that the end company actually provides. 

It's the same with 90% of the Travel Agent & Traveller Cafes too & it doesn't matter what kind of review you've read & the reviews are usually posted by some tout getting paid to post. 

The hotel &/or dud travel agent/cafe mob usually charge between 50 & 200% on top of what they pay for the tour voucher & it's just not fair. 

If you must take 1 of these el-cheapo tours go & buy it yourself from the actual tour operator & you'll not only save lots of money but you'll be able to get some real details on the tour you're paying for.

Ask yourself this.  Just why are they so desperate for you to buy ?  I think the reason is very obvious.

The Tailor Shop scam in Hoi An

A word of warning about the tailor shops in Hoi An.  Our guides (& luckily for all of us that they're honest enough to say something) have complained that they come under unbelievable pressure from a number of the Tailor Shop owners.

They're being offered very substantial sums of money to recommend various tailor shops.

A number of the big group tour mobs, western & local have been turning a blind eye to the practise for some time now.  It came to our attention after a couple of tour guides we had to let go for various reasons, were bragging to some of our other staff about it. 

"We're making a fortune", they claimed & "the stupid tourists haven't got a clue" ! 

The commissions are of course being added to the price of  everything you buy & run between 50 & 500% !!!!  With the big tour mobs running at between 10 - 50 persons a time, well, you do the maths.

Unfortunately, this is an attitude that is all too prevalent in the tourism industry & not just in Viet Nam.

Highway robbery is right !!!

Please be very careful & we think it in everyone's best interest to go to the tailor shops on your own & with over 350 tailor shops in Hoi An you've plenty to choose from.

We felt it was high time someone spoke out about it, so we did !!!

Tipping, is it compulsory ? & what's the story with this new assisted tipping ?

In Viet Nam tipping is not expected, not the done thing & as is the case in any other civilised country, something that you may or may not wish to do. 

A gratuity or tip is voluntary.  It's entirely up to you because a tip is something that we give because we want to, because we want to show our thanks to a particular person but when the tip is compulsory it's a tax or a scam, no more no less.

Compulsory/forced tipping is when the greedy boss refuses to pay his workers a living wage & that's where our trade unions come in very handy indeed.

Compulsory/forced tipping is simply someone charging us extra but doing it on the sly & we never did or will support this kind of backdoor approach to upping the ante.

Here they are again, the usual suspects, the big tour mobs & they force their customers to pay extra for tips at the start of a tour on the basis that someone is going to dole out these tips for you (secretly) along the way !!!  Do they think normal people are too stupid to know how to hand some one some money !!! 

The latest scam tipping rate is $15+ USD for the guide & $10+ USD for the driver - Per day, Per Person no less !!!

What a cheap & nasty trick this one is & it's incredibly rude too !  Reminds me of the Little Johnny saying if they add a 10% VAT tax to everything the price of everything will go down ???

You can tip our staff but only if you want to - it's NEVER, EVER compulsory ! 

Rest assured that our staff all get decent "living" wages & all their other conditions too like annual leave, sick pay, public holidays etc.  They don't have to survive by constantly sucking up to the customer, arranging not so secret commissions or resorting to other forms of nasty &/or demeaning behaviour.

Street kids, sick buffalos & all that stuff !

Let's not forget the old "street kids" scam.  Assisted by some very wealthy Charities/NGO's & other luxury car driving spivs, they'll tug at the old heart strings & are still doing the old "sick buffalo needs a heart transplant" rave which has definitely got whiskers on it.

Even more alarming are the seedy, old codger, boiled lolly types, allegedly helping out these youngsters (boys in the main) & spending far too much time unsupervised in the company of young kids. 

There's even one codger who regularly trolls the Thorn Tree (Mr Nookie no less) & other travel forums who claims to live in Ha Noi & is spending lots of time helping (???) the "street Kids".

He reminds us of that former UK pop singer Gary what's his name who came to grief in Nha Trang.

The bona fide NGO's (and there's actually quite a few of them) have nothing to hide & more importantly have very, very strict guidelines about who they employ.  We believe they genuinely try to help out the local communities in an honest, up front & transparent way & anything else is simply not on.  When you're in Ha Noi & if you're approached by anyone or any mob asking for your money, please feel free to ask us & we'll tell you what we know about them. 

We've been here since 1994 & if you have any problems at all, please pop into our cafe & we'll do all we can to help.

 

ATM and Credit Card Facilities

 

Credit cards are accepted in most places, although we'd advise Master or Visa card to be on the safe side.  ANZ, Citi Bank (they still around ?), the Bank of America (they still around ?)and many other banks, now have branches in Vietnam.

The Vietcom Bank now has ATMs at most of its branches throughout the country. You'll certainly find plenty of them (approx 3,500 + nation wide) in all the bigger cities like Ha Noi, Hue, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City.   

The ANZ bank has branches in both Ha Noi & HCM City with ATM machines that accept Visa, Master & Cirrus as well as ordinary ANZ access cards.  For those with ANZ accounts it's really a great service being able to withdraw from your savings account at home while on holidays in Vietnam.  Much safer too with all the counterfeit USD in Asia these days.

 

Travellers Cheques

 

The biggest problem with travellers cheques is that various providers have yet to open offices here in Vietnam.  We've had to help a number of people who simply couldn't get replacement cheques until they went to Bangkok.  If you do plan to use travellers cheques then make sure you get a Vietnam office address from the supplier before you purchase them, just to be safe.

 

Electrical Appliances

 
The electricity current in Vietnam is 220 volts. So for most people you can use your appliances here.  For our American friends, please bring an adapter if you wish to use 110 volt appliances.
 

Transport

 
We only ever recommend the safest and most comfortable forms of transport by licensed, registered operators.  We don't believe in taking silly risks just to save a few dollars. 

The mini bus rides throughout Vietnam whilst being ridiculously cheap are usually very uncomfortable & often dangerous. The trains & planes are of a very good standard & they're safe too, which is always more important than saving a few dollars.

 

Health

 
At different times we've needed medical services.  In the bigger cities like Ha Noi & Ho Chi Minh City we can put you in touch with the places we have either been to ourselves, or can highly recommend. 

Services like doctors, dentists, optical, alternative medicines, massage and even cosmetic surgery.

 

Travel Insurance

 
For anyone travelling to Vietnam (or to any other country) we strongly recommend that you take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before your departure.  The rate for Asian destinations is very reasonable when compared with Europe or the USA.

If you're going to try something out of the ordinary (windsurfing, scuba diving, motor cycle tours etc) please check with your insurance company before you purchase your policy. 

People have found out later that they weren't covered & the results have been absolutely disastrous.  

When choosing your travel insurance company, please be very careful.  Some insurance companies are very nice when it comes to taking your money but have incredible difficulty remembering who you are if you need their help. 

 

Shopping

 
It's the usual thing in Vietnam to bargain for things but please remember to keep things in perspective. In Vietnam the "fixed price" stores that are always cheaper than you'll get things for on the street.
 

Special Interests

 
If you have a special interest or requirement or would like to make contacts in a particular area whilst in Vietnam, let us know prior to your trip. We'll assist in any way we can.
 

Visas

 

It's necessary to have your visa issued prior to arrival in Vietnam.  Tourist visas are generally for 1 or 3 months but business and other visas can be obtained for longer stays if required.  

The best place to obtain a Viet Nam Visa is in your own country

The best person to help you with it is a licensed travel agent. 

People who get someone they've never dealt with before to do it in other countries are often very disappointed.

For Aussie customers especially, the best & cheapest way to get a visa for Viet Nam is to get a licensed travel agent to do it for you or if you really want to do it for yourself, you can arrange a visa by contacting the Vietnamese Embassy in either Sydney, NSW or Canberra in the ACT.

 

Export/Import

 
Vietnam is an exciting developing country with many opportunities.  We are happy to introduce you to reputable local companies, not some operator working out of a briefcase, who can't be found when they're needed.
 

Customer Bookings

 

Griswald's Vietnamese Vacations are licensed by the NSW Govt, Dept of Fair Trading. 

Our Licence number is - 2TA5568. 

For your airline tickets, visas & travel insurance, please contact your nearest, licensed travel agent. 

You can purchase your tour directly from us & you can contact us by e-mail, phone or with any & all enquires or if you'd prefer you can get your travel agent to contact us on your behalf. 

All our contact details are listed at the bottom of this page.

 

Emailing us about your tour - This bit's important - Please read the following !!!

 

For a long time now, we haven't been able to reply or send email to Hotmail accounts, the emails just keep bouncing back to us.  We know that the Hotmail mob (as do all the others too) get millions of spam emails each day to the millions of free email accounts they have & so the filtering they use has to be very strong to try & protect them & their customers from spam, phishing, the many internet scams & even those crazy Nigerian love letters !!! 

 

It seems better with other Free Email accounts like Gmail and Yahoo etc, but with most of the Free Accounts & because we send you copies of our itineraries as attachments, our emails can often end up in your spam folder.

 

Often attachments can be malware, a virus just a head ache so we understand the security aspect of this.

With
normal email software please check that your settings allow you to receive attachments so we can send you some comprehensive itineraries including all the relevant details of our tours including the price too, of course.

 

People emailing from where they work may want to check to see if they have permission to receive personal emails & attachments during work time so you might like to add your personal email address too.  The free accounts are OK but there's really nothing better than your own account & at about $2 a week, it's not such a bad idea. 

 

And lastly, we know it's old fashioned but the best form of communication is still the spoken word & it's really worth a try.  For just $1 or $2 call us here in VN (our Numbers are below) if there's anything you'd like to discuss.

 

Home The Griswalds Travel Services & Tips Vietnam Tours Maps of Vietnam Spectacular photos of Vietnam Happy Campers Links Kangaroo Cafe Thumbnails of Other Vietnam Photos


 

The best way to receive more information about us &/or our tours, is to E-mail us.

Our Email address is: griswalds@vietnamvacations.com.au  

(Please check your spam folder for our reply !!!)

Griswald's Vietnamese Vacations

P.O. Box 501, Leichhardt N.S.W. 2040 Australia

& our REAL Kangaroo Café

open4.gif (8565 bytes)                                                        open4.gif (8565 bytes)

18 Bao Khanh St, Hanoi

To chat, person to person (it only costs a Dollar or 2) please phone us direct.

Our Office Number in Viet Nam - +844 382 899 31

Our Mobile Number in Viet Nam - +84 913 506 223

Australian Company Registration Number: 107 709 384 

Aust Govt Travel Agents Licence Number (your international protection): 2TA5568

Doing business with companies over the internet still makes some people, understandably, nervous. Australian Travel Agents, like us, are licensed by the NSW Government Dept of Fair Trading & all our bona fides are available online through the Department's web site.

Only REAL Travel Agents can offer you this security & protection.

 
This page was last updated on  18/09/15

Griswald’s Vietnamese Vacations & our Kangaroo Café in Hanoi have been operating good quality, reasonably priced tours to Vietnam for over 20 years.

Griswald's specialise in tailor made tours to Vietnam, travel in Vietnam, holidays in Vietnam and private tours to Vietnam. 

For those travelling independently to Vietnam, from our Kangaroo Cafe in Ha Noi we can assist with Tours to Halong Bay and Tours to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island as well. 

We're well known for our signature Halong Bay Tours & our tours to Sapa & our focus is on genuine, small group travel in Vietnam.

  Sapa Tours start with our 2 nights on the train & 1 Night hotel, Tour to Sapa. We also have Sapa Home stay tours & our mixed Sapa Hotel and Home stay tours too.

For more about our tailor made Vietnam Travel, Vietnam Tours, Customised Vietnam Tours and Vietnam Holiday packages, please email us.


Griswald’s Vietnamese Vacations & our Kangaroo Café in Hanoi have been operating good quality, reasonably priced tours to Vietnam for over 20 years.

Griswald's specialise in tailor made tours to Vietnam, travel in Vietnam, holidays in Vietnam and private tours to Vietnam. 

For those travelling independently to Vietnam, from our Kangaroo Cafe in Ha Noi we can assist with Tours to Halong Bay and Tours to Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island as well. 

We're well known for our signature Halong Bay Tours & our tours to Sapa & our focus is on genuine, small group travel in Vietnam.

  Sapa Tours start with our 2 nights on the train & 1 Night hotel, Tour to Sapa. We also have Sapa Home stay tours & our mixed Sapa Hotel and Home stay tours too.

For more about our Tailor Made Tours to Vietnam, Vietnam Travel, Vietnam Tours, Customised Vietnam Tours and Vietnam Holiday packages, please email us.

For all other information on Vietnam like tours to Ba Be Lakes, Hoa Lu & Tam Coc, The Perfume Pagoda, Mai Chau & of course Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island & Sa Pa, The Kangaroo Cafe is great.