Quick facts about Vietnam

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Territorial boundaries: North: China; South-West: Gulf of Thailand; East: Gulf of Tonkin, South China sea; West: Cambodia, Laos

Area: 331 210 km2

Most important waterways: Mekhong river, Gulf of Tonkin, South China Sea, Gulf of Thailand

Capital: Hanoi

Important cities: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (also called Saigon), Hue, Danang, Haiphong (Halong Bay)

Highest point: Fan Si Pan (3 144 meters) (Sapa region / North)

Lowest point: Sea level (0 meter)

Time zone: ICT (Indochina time) (12h ahead of Montreal time)

Environment – current issues: Logging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Climate: ›Tropical in the South; Dominated by monsoons in the North; Both high in temperature and humidity; ›From May to September: rainy season and warm, which continues intermittently until the end of October; ›From November to March: dry season; Be careful: The north can be cold in December and January (Sapa region)

Tourist seasons: ›From November to the end of February is the high season, and the best time to visit Vietnam; ›From December 15th to January 4-7th + Spring break (last week of February + 2 first weeks of March) is the peak of the high season (July is starting also busy because of the school holidays); ›Low season (and rainy season) is from the end of May to October; ›First week of Feb.: TET holidays (a lot of things are close)

Political regime: Communist state / Also known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Population: 93 611 728 (2014); 13th most populated country in the world; 60% of the population is younger than 40 years old

Languages: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French (population over 65 years old), Chinese, Khmer and mountain dialects (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)

Ethnic minorities : 54 ethnic minorities : 7% Kinh (Vietnamese), 1.9% Tay, 1.8% Thai, 2,7% Hmong, 1.5% Khmer (Cambodian), 1.1% Nung, others 5.3%

Religions: 3% Buddhist, 6.7% Catholic, 1.5% Hoa Hao, 1.1% Caodaism, 0.5% Protestant, 0.1% Muslim, 80.8% none 

The teachings of Confucius influence the position of the individual in Vietnamese society; Confucianism is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relationship

They also believe in Taoism (reincarnation, ying & yang)

Main sources of revenue: agriculture in general (70% – 2nd world exporter of coffee and rice), food processing, clothes (good quality), shoes, machinery, mining, chemical fertilizer, glass, rubber, mobile phones, tourism

Currency: Vietnamese Dong VND (1 CAN $ = 21 000 Vietnamese Dong) – xe.com; US$ is well accepted

Gastronomy: ›A melting pot of various culinary heritages (500 national dishes); ›5 most healthy cuisine in the world; ›Strongly influenced by China (north) and France during colonial times (also India (south), Holland, and Portugal); ›Unique fusion of ingredients; Sweet and sour; ›Mix of taste of limes, chili, fish sauce and fresh herbs; ›Soup as a complete meal (Pho or Tonkin soup from north); ›Cooking classes with a family, in a restaurant or cooking school (Hanoi, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh)

Protocol: Avoid public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex; Do not touch someone’s head; Pass items with both hands; Do not point with your finger – use your hand; Do not stand with your hands on your hips; Do not cross your arms on your chest; Do not pass anything over someone’s head; Do not touch anyone on the shoulder; Do not touch a member of the opposite sex

Accessibility from Montreal – Main airports: ›International airports: Hanoi, Ho Chi Ming (Saigon); ›Domestics main airports: Hue, Danang, Haiphong (Halong Bay)

Main airlines: A wide range of flights is offered as is a very popular leisure and business destination – Prioritize a Asian or Middle-Eastern airline: Japan (JL), Korean (KE), Quatar (QR), Singapore (SQ), Cathay Pacific (CX), Eva (BR), (+ or – China CI); European airlines: AF, BA; North American airlines: AC, AA, DL, NH

Entry requirements: Valid passport

Tourist Visa: 1 month visa should be obtained prior to arrival (about 95$US (not CAD) – The visa at arrival is still not working well and needed an invitation letter from a travel agency

Business Visa: Required

Safety issues: Petty crime against tourists is increasing, particularly in larger cities (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang). Motorcyclists grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians and passengers or drivers on motor bikes, resulting in injury

Hotels and tourist areas are more likely to be targeted by criminals. Theft also occurs on crowded buses and trains, in shopping centers and markets
Travelers should only use registered taxis, which are located outside the terminal building. Fares to the city are fixed and displayed at the taxi rank. It is advisable to check the fare with the driver before departure

Improper farming and production practices, as well as overall poor hygiene in food preparation, make food safety a concern

Scams targeting tourists occur. Specifically, there have been reports of cases in Ho Chi Minh City, where tourists have been victims of gambling scams. This scam usually starts with a friendly invitation to someone’s home to meet a relative interested in visiting or studying in Canada. Gambling outside of licensed casinos is illegal in Vietnam
There have been reports of credit card forgery in Vietnam and South-East Asia. Credit cards are “cloned” after a purchase at a local establishment and subsequently used as a “real” credit card by fraudsters. Avoid using your credit card in smaller establishments.

Travel near military facilities, some parts of the central highlands, and some border areas with China, Laos and Cambodia is restricted. Unexploded landmines are a hazard in some rural areas of central Vietnam.
Hotels require guests’ passports in order to register them with local authorities and may insist on keeping your passport until departure. However, there is no legal reason for them to do so. Travelers may request the return of their passport once the hotel staff has completed the required registration with local authorities.

Health issues: Be very careful when advising clients about health, as you are not a travel doctor. Strongly recommend that they should go to see a specialist!

Tap water is not good to drink

The sun can be very strong, risk of insolation – Recommend use of a sunblock 30 – Wear a hat

Reminder about food: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

There is a risk of malaria in certain areas (along the Mekhong river) and/or during a certain time of year in this country (rainy season) – Recommend a mosquitos repellent with at least 30% of DEET

Vaccines to consider:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Influenza (flu)

Japanese Encephalitis

Rabies

Typhoid

Good medication to bring for:

Anti-malaria

Antibiotic to treat diarrhea

Antibiotic to treat salmonella

(Ariane)

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