Details about traveling in Vietnam can be hard to come by on the web, and also seem to be changing frequently. Here's some more detailed information about our trip along with some other useful information gleaned from our travels.
Yes, you need one. Every visitor does except holders of passports from some member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). How long it takes, and even how much it costs, seems to vary from place to place. Two days seems to be the shortest amount of time, and involves extra charges. The Bangkok embassy of Vietnam has a good reputation for issuing visas in four days, but can do it the next day if you pay about 25% more. Your travel agent can usually take care of this for you. You will need to supply two passport photos along with your application. Your visa application has to specify the purpose of your visit, length of stay and where you will enter and exit the country. These cannot easily be changed, so make sure your travel plans are finalized before you go.
The departure tax at most airports for international flights is US $14, payable in US Dollars only. The tax should be paid after checking in for your flight and before going through customs.
Money & Currency in Vietnam
The local currency is the Dong. Until recently, Vietnam had no coins. Coins were introduced in denominations of 200, 500, 1,000 and 5,000 Dong but note that bills are still widely in use. Bill denominations range from 10,000 to 50,000 Dong. See our currency converter to check current exchange rates.
Unlike a few years ago, Dong is now preferred over US Dollars for most transactions. You may still find items priced in Dollars in souvenir shops, but elsewhere prices are usually displayed in Dong. There are still few banks in Vietnam, although they are becoming more common, as are ATM machines. You can change money at your hotel, which is something you usually don't want to do, but there really isn't another option once you get outside of the big cities. You should try to travel with at least some cash in US Dollars, in smaller denominations. Most ATM machines are part of the major international networks, so you should be able to get local currency this way, but check your bank's charges for this first.
Power in Hanoi is 220 volts at 50 cycles. Plugs in most hotels will take either round or flat two-pronged plugs. Some older buildings may take only round prongs. Power supply can be erratic at times but is relatively stable.
Internet Access in Hanoi
Internet cafes are not as common in Hanoi as they are in other parts of Southeast Asia, but they are easy enough to find in Old Quarter, which is full of shops catering to tourists. Elsewhere in the city, free wireless ('wi-fi') access is quite common in many cafes and coffee shops.