Vietnam is a beautiful country indeed. Since 2006, my family has returned to Vietnam three times and definitely would come back in the future. I do have some basic information to share if you are preparing for your first trip to Vietnam.
1. VIETNAM VISA
Holding a Sweden passport, I am exempted for Vietnam visa for a period up to fifteen days. Beyond fifteen days, I need to apply for a visa. I believe this is applied to citizens of Northern European countries, such as Sweden and Norway.
You have two options to request for a visa: 1. At a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate office or 2. Applying online for on-arrival visa.
I took the option 1 for my first trip. When first contacted the embassy, a staff there told me getting visa at the embassy was the only legal way to have a visa. This turned out not all true as I checked with a Vietnamese friend during my visit. On-arrival visa is absolutely legitimate and quite convenient to apply for once you choose a good site, well-recognized by users and especially among friends or relatives.
On my second trip with family, I did some research plus recommendation by Vietnamese friend and finally applied on http://www.getvisavietnam.com/ . The result was great and beyond my expectation. With a cost of USD16-17 and a breeze through quick and simple procedure, I received an approval letter issued by Vietnam Immigration Department within 48 hours. Later we paid additional USD 45 each at Vietnam airport for visa stamps on our passports. Significantly faster and cheaper also.
2. HOTELS & TRANSPORTATION
If your family has children, check carefully the terms and conditions applied for children (e.g.: age getting free charge, baby cot for infant…)
For transportation, you can ask service from the hotel/resort you stay if available but often very expensive. Otherwise, you should arrange in advance with a travel agency. During my last trip to Da Nang – a famous beach town in Central of Vietnam, I searched on the internet for “car rental in Da Nang” and found a local travel agent named Eviva Tour on the top. Although I contacted them so urgently (just 2 days before arrival date), they replied us swiftly, offered reasonable price. At site, we were happy with their very good service.
Other important tips:
– If you go shopping in Viet Nam, bargain should be always in your mind, except for some provinces like Da Nang, Hoi An.
– Crossing the street in Viet Nam’s large cities is always adventurous at first and but yet exciting. You might be shocked for the first time but you would be fine with a tip of “keep walking at a steady pace” from my good Vietnamese friend. This instruction from a foreigner is also helpful and can be found here: http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2012/09/28/how-to-cross-the-street-in-vietnam/
By Paul J Green (United Kingdom)