An Overview for the Visitor

Vietnam lies at the eastern end of the Southeast Asian peninsula and shares borders with Cambodia, Laos and China. The main points of entry by air are Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Cruise ships regularly call at Ho Chi Minh City, and more adventurous travelers can enter the country at Chau Doc (having previously secured a valid visa), on one of the boats from Cambodia.

The main points of entry to Vietnam, by land, are at Moc Bai, Xa Xia, Xa Mat and Le Tanh, if traveling from Cambodia. If you are entering from Laos, the main points of overland entry can be found at Tay Trang, Na Meo, Nam Phao, Na Phao and Lao Bao. From China, the main crossings are at Mong Cai, Lao Cai and Huu Nghi Quan. Be sure to get a visa before attempting to enter Vietnam by land, as visas on arrival are currently usually only issued at airports.

The Vietnamese language is usually written with the Roman script. However, westerners may still struggle to pronounce words correctly, as Vietnamese is a tonal language, which places just as much importance on tones as different sounds. English is taught widely in schools, but isn’t often used outside of the classroom, except in tourist areas. International hotels and hostels may, however, have staff who are proficient not only in English, but also in French, Chinese and Japanese.

The currency of Vietnam is the Dong, and is printed in paper denominations from 200 to 500,000 dong. In hotels, hostels and tourist areas in general, you may see prices quoted in US dollars. It is still expected, however, that you will pay in dong – where US dollars are accepted, you may find that you end up paying more for the convenience. ATMs are quite common in larger cities, but be aware that, while it is easy to change foreign currency into dong, it is not true of the reverse.


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