Vietnam Adoption Travel FAQ
By Joyce Yiu, Lotus Travel
Travel advice for adoptive parents traveling to, from and in Vietnam.
Prior to your Departure to Vietnam
- Reconfirm your flights with specific airlines once you've received your paper/electronic plane tickets to ensure seat availabilities; most airlines required reconfirmation at least 72 hours prior to departure.
- Seat assignments, baby bassinets, meals and other special requests on major U.S. airlines can be made upon reconfirmation.
- Bulkhead seats are usually allocated to those who have physical disabilities and special needs first.
- If the airline you are traveling with do not pre-assign seats, make sure to arrive at the airport airline counter to receive better seat assignments.
- Remember to bring along your adoption agency's emergency contact number in case you need assistance while in Vietnam. At the same time, leave the number with your relatives and friends so they can help reach the agency for you if you failed to contact its staff.
- If you planned to use your credit cards in Vietnam, inform the companies before your trip if you normally don't make too many transactions with the cards as they might decline the charges out of suspicion.
- Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are acceptable in most places, but a three percent bank fee applies.
Weather in Vietnam
The country has a tropical-monsoon climate and most areas will only have two seasons: a rainy season where it is hot, humid and will rain most days during the months of May through September; and a dry season where it will be sunny but colder and dry in the months of November through April. Some areas in the north, such as Haiphong and Hanoi will experience all four seasons as we do in North America. Please refer to the following table for the average temperatures.
City Average Rainy Dry Hanoi 73 84 62 Haiphong 73 82 64 Hue 77 82 73 Da Nang 82 84 80 Hoi An 80 84 77 Nha Trang 79 84 75 Qui Nhoh 82 84 80 Da Lat 79 84 75 Ho Chi Minh City 80 84 77
Packing for Vietnam
Pack light! It is easy to forget that you are able to purchase items while you are in Vietnam, or the amenities that hotels provide for your convenience.
- Laundry service is available in most hotels so it is unnecessary to bring an outfit for every day. One nice outfit for special occasions, a light jacket, and three sets of casual clothes should be adequate. Keep in mind that if you happen to need an extra shirt, you can always purchase one at a nearby store.
- Hairdryers are also readily available at most hotels so you can take them off your packing list.
- Other than snacks for the plane-ride, it is unnecessary to bring along snacks for your entire trip. Snacks and treats are available at any nearby store. However, if you are traveling with young children who have a particular favorite snack, you may want to bring an extra few for the trip.
- If you are bringing any prescribed medications, be sure to keep them in their original case. It may also be important to make a list of the medications as well as which doctor they were prescribed from and their office phone numbers. This list will be helpful if you lose your luggage or left your prescriptions at the hotel.
- You will have access to over-the-counter medications while in Vietnam; however, you may want to make a small "illness kit" including: aspirin; heartburn medication; diarrhea medication; daily vitamins; calcium tablets; and any other medication that you may use on a regular basis.
- A small sewing-kit may also come in handy. Be sure to have this in the bag that you will check due to the new airline regulations.
- A small collapsible umbrella is helpful if you will be traveling during the rainy months.
- You should pack an empty extra bag for additional purchases you make while on your trip.
Checked-in Luggage and Carry-on Restrictions
- Most U.S. domestic and international flights allow two checked bags per person, up to 50 pounds per bag and one carry-on bag per person (no larger than 14"x9"x22").
- All airlines reserve the right to charge an additional fee for excessive luggage, in which varies from airline to airline. Check with your airline for specific charges.
- Note that the aircraft may not have enough room for over-weighted luggage if the flight is completely full. Pack light! Necessities such as clothes, medications, toys, and baby milk formula are fully available in Vietnam.
- Contact the airline counter immediately in the case of a luggage loss; you may want to consider purchasing a travel insurance plan with luggage loss and delay coverage to play safe.
Intra Vietnam Travel
- The major airports in Vietnam are the Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) and Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN). The former is located 28 miles north of Hanoi, whereas the latter is just 4.5 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. Metered taxis and buses are widely available as your means of transportation upon your arrival.
- Jot down the taxi driver's registration number (displayed on rear side of the vehicle) for security reasons while traveling by taxi.
- Although Vietnam is rated one of the world's safest travel destination, pick pocketing and handbag snatching are not uncommon. Be cautious with your personal belongings, such as cameras, wallets, jewelries, passports and identity cards; it might be a good idea to store all your valuables in your hotel room's safe.
- Bring along photocopies of your passports and identity cards in case of theft.
- Noted that you will need to present your original passports during the hotel check-in procedures.
- A five to ten percent charge is included on bills in most hotels and restaurants; however, additional tips are still expected.
- When crossing the streets, remember to keep walking; do not stop or jump back so bikers know how not to hit you. It is acceptable for pedestrians to go from one side of the street to the other side anywhere.
- General office hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, whereas banks operate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Offices and banks are closed during Saturday, Sunday, the Tet/Lunar New Year holiday, the Liberation Day on April 30th, the International Labor Day on May 1st, the National Day on September 2nd and the New Year's Day on Jan 1st.
- Dress nicely and formerly when visiting government offices (such as during your consulate appointments) as government officials in Vietnam are very important and need respect.
Important Social Etiquette
- Handshaking and vocal greetings are the norm.
- Footwear should be removed when entering Buddhist pagodas.
- Never touch the Vietnamese on their heads, as it is highly inappropriate.
- Photo taking is prohibited at ports, airports and harbors; always ask for permission before taking pictures of people.
- Vietnamese might laugh during occasions in which other cultures found inappropriate; do not take this as an insult or offense.
- Vietnamese might decline gifts during the first offer because they are frightened of not showing enough gratitude or appearing to be greedy.
- In general, Vietnamese are very friendly and eager to offer assistance whenever applicable; however, they sometimes can be over enthusiastic.
Traveling with Children
- Pack light. Try not to have more than one carry on luggage. It is hard to get onboard/off the plane with children and a few carry-on baggages.
- Bring along sufficient clothes, medication, snacks, children activity and storybooks and crayons in a carry-on bag.
- Bring hand sanitizer (travel size) for hand wash.
- Bring food, such as instant noodles in case kids get hungry during a flight delay or happened to miss their meals.
- Children easily get tired due to travel schedule and jet lag. It is important to make sure they sleep on a routine schedule in order to recover from jet lag soon and avoid busy tour schedule at all times.
Food and Beverages
- Avoid street side eateries as Americans are not used to the food they offer and may have troubles with the dishes.
- The traditional dipping sauce/fish sauce might be too strong for Americans.
- Western restaurants are widely available in Vietnam.
- Avoid drinking any beverages served with crushed ice.
- Tap water is undrinkable.
- In order to deter drug abuse and drug trafficking, the Vietnamese government imposes severe penalties for possession or trafficking of illegal drugs (even small amounts). If convicted, defendants can be sentenced to death. Therefore, never look after or carry any luggage for strangers.