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Travel Tips for Vietnam

By Lori Fleening

Lori Fleening traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in early 2003. In this helpful list of tips she shares some of my thoughts on travel in the hopes that they may help others who are traveling for their adoptions.

1) The Baby Bjorn carrier is great! My precious little angel is teeny tiny (8.5 lbs. at 2 months) and she loved it! I think we will use it a lot when we get home.

2) We stayed at the Rex Hotel in a suite -- it was great! They were very attentive to our every need and was very helpful with things for the baby. I would recommend a suite as opposed to a regular room because you will have much more room. The "baby cot" takes up a lot of room, but with a suite, you have plenty of room to move around and a separate seating area. If you get a suite facing the street, you will have to deal with the street noise, which was very loud almost 24/7. If you get a suite on the inside of the hotel, you will have to deal with the noise from the weddings. But the weddings end by 9:00 p.m. We're going to try an inside suite for our next trip.

3) We used the Internet in the hotel quite a bit until we discovered the Internet cafe in the Saigon Center, just a few blocks from the Rex. It is very nice and very cheap. It is on the second floor of the Saigon Center.

4) We flew Continental from Houston to Tokyo and loved it! It was a Boeing 777 airplane, and the seats were very nice and the service was great. We will be flying Eva Evergreen Deluxe for our second trip, but I would highly recommend Continental, especially for your first trip.

5) We flew Japan Air and All Nippon for the leg from Tokyo to HCMC and then HCMC to Tokyo. While both were good airlines, I would recommend All Nippon over Japan Air. The plane was bigger and nicer. But I can't complain about either airline.

6) We had about a 10-hour layover in Tokyo on the return trip home (we didn't have the baby -- this was my first trip). The Tokyo airport has "day rooms" that you can rent for a very reasonable price. We rented a room for $7 an hour (for 2 people) that had two double beds and a bathroom complete with shower. The single rooms are even cheaper. We were able to sleep a couple of hours and clean up. Then they have a lounge area that has recliners that you can rest in. It was a very nice way to spend a long lay over and not have to leave the airport. I would highly recommend this if you have an extended layover in Tokyo and don't want to leave the airport.

7) Pack light! I don't know how many times I have heard people say this, but it is so true! I didn't take too many clothes, but took too much stuff that I didn't use. You can buy just about anything you need in HCMC, so you don't have to carry it over. However, I am still going to take most of my meds. with me.

8) Clothing -- It was so weird to go from freezing cold weather to 90+ degrees and extreme humidity. We were so hot! :) A few suggestions for cool clothing: I took loose cotton pants with a drawstring at the waist. These were very comfortable to wear. I also had some Cool Max shirts from Travel Smith. They are more expensive, but they really do make a difference. And you can wash them out overnight and they will be dry by the next morning.

I also had a vest that was invaluable. It is a fairly plain vest that buttons down the front with pockets on each side. In one of the pockets is an invisible pocket with a zipper where I kept my money when I went to the market. It was very easy to unzip it and get out what money I needed, even with a sweet little baby strapped to my chest! :) I felt secure carrying my money there. I also got it from Travel Smith.

I also had a split skirt that had an invisible pocket in it. It was very light-weight and cool to wear. Again, I got it at Travel Smith. They are online at http://www.travelsmith.com.

9) I am having an ao dai made for me and my sweet baby girl at the Saigon Center. There is a department store on the second floor and one of the ladies there is making me an ao dai for the G&R ceremony. It was very reasonable -- $20 for me and one for my baby. And I'm a big woman -- 5'10", size 14.

10) Backpacks are great for the plane and the airport. However, don't get it so full that it is too heavy. I think I was carrying at least 30 pounds on my back (no joke!) and it wasn't fun running through the airport with it on my back!

11) When you leave Vietnam, you must pay an airport tax of $12 per person. You can pay in American dollars or Vietnamese dong. Just be prepared to pay this because you can't get out unless you do.

12) We took lots of comfort foods -- cookies, crackers, etc. You can buy this kind of stuff in the supermarket in the Saigon Center, but it was nice to have without going to the store.

13) Long distance calling -- you can call direct from the hotel ... it's not cheap, but it does work easily. We may try to investigate other solutions a little further.

14) I wore a security pouch around my neck and around my waist -- I would highly recommend this. It takes a little getting used to having something around your neck and waist, but I felt better about carrying large amounts of cash, passport, etc. in a more secure place.

15) Our hotel (The Rex Hotel) had a safe in the room that was great. We were able to leave our plane tickets, passports, money, etc. in there and not worry about them.

16) About your passport -- we were told that once we got to Vietnam and checked into our hotel to leave our passport locked in the safe at the hotel. You need to carry a copy of your passport with you at all times, but it is best to leave the original in a locked safe. There will be times that you need it to do your paperwork, but it is safer if you don't carry it around with you all of the time.

17) Before you land in Vietnam, you will have to fill out immigration papers on the airplane. These are very important. The flight attendants were very helpful in helping us to fill them out. When you go through immigration at the airport (a very serious event), you will be given a yellow copy of your immigration paperwork. YOU MUST KEEP THIS PAPER IN ORDER TO GET OUT OF THE COUNTRY. This made me more nervous than losing my passport. You need to keep this yellow immigration slip with your passport in the locked safe. You must have it to leave the country.

18) It is important to stay hydrated -- drink lots of bottled water. It is very accessible for a very cheap price.

19) Take lots of $1 bills. They will come in very handy. You can usually pay the taxi driver with dollars. Also, a lot of the vendors in the market with take dollars. It's just handy to have them.

20) The hot tea at breakfast is wonderful! I cannot tell you how wonderful the tea is in Vietnam! We brought some back, so I can enjoy it here back in the States.

21) If you are craving American food (we were not very adventurous eaters) the Paris Deli in the Saigon Center is a good place to go. You can get hamburgers, sandwiches, etc. there. Also, the Rex Hotel restaurant serves great macaroni and cheese! Talk about comfort food! :)

22) Don't think twice about buying something you see if you like it. Everything is so inexpensive. You will regret it later if you see something and don't buy it. I bought several things for my sweet baby girl as she grows up. Just remember that you have to get it home! :) My suitcase had a "heavy" tag on it when I got home -- it weighed 68 lbs. and I was allowed 70 lbs.!

23) Take an extra duffle bag or suitcase for all of those treasures. You can also buy luggage fairly inexpensively over there, also.

24) Take lots of pictures and videos. The only way I am surviving right now without my sweet baby girl is by looking at her pictures and watching the video of her every day, sometimes more than once! :) I miss her so much ... I just can't wait to get back to her!

25) Take warm clothes for the baby while you are in the hotel. You will definitely want to use the air conditioning, and sometimes it is hard to control where it is blowing. Make sure you have enough warm sleepers, blankets, etc.

26) Have your pictures developed in Vietnam. It is much cheaper than here. And you get to look at all those wonderful pictures! :)

Well, I guess I'll stop for now. This turned out to be a lot longer than I meant for it to be. I hope some of this is helpful for you! :)


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