Vietnam First Time Family Travelers

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What are some tips for Vietnam First Time Family Travelers?

Visas:

Travelers from Australia, New Zealand, and USA do need a visa to come to Vietnam, as of February 2015. Some Vietnam travel companies can help you to obtain the Vietnam visa on arrival for a fee, while some of them offer free help. The stamping fee is 25 USD per visa, to be paid upon arrival and directly to the Immigration Office at either Noi Bai or Tan Son Nhat International airports, which you will usually fly in and out of Vietnam. Visitors sometimes feel that it is not safe to send passport information (in PDF or JPEG format) to as supporting document for the visa application. While this is a concern, sending such information to tour operators in Vietnam is very safe and none of them dares using it for a different purpose.

Safety

Vietnam is probably the safest place in the world (or in SE Asia) in many ways. You hear about extreme groups in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, etc but luckily they do not exist in Vietnam. However there are small, tiny personal unsafety in main cities. Snatching (mobile phones, bags) does happen in Ho Chi Minh City. In other destinations, snatching rarely occurs. There have been no reported cases of raping, killing or shooting international tourists. Remember that Vietnamese police have done everything to protect you than to serve the locals!

Medicines:

You do not need to bring along lots of medicines. Pharmacy shops are everywhere in key cities (Hanoi, Saigon, Hoi An, etc) and in rural Vietnam. Medicines for common symptoms such as stomachache, cold and fever, etc can be easily found. If you need a particular prescribed medicine, you should bring the prescription and write down the names. They will mostly find it for you. You should also check expiry date and prices, as prices can differ greatly between two adjacent shops. Nappies, baby food etc can be found fairly easily in the streets. Things like sunscreen, bug spray can also be found in the supermarkets and pharmacies. Don’t worry about these things.

Nha Thuoc(Remember to look for the word Nha Thuoc or Tiem Thuoc)

Culture shocks:

The Vietnamese people love Westerners, and you should be prepared for lots of crazy questions, some of which are weird to you (For instance: how old are you? What is your income? How much does your watch cost, etc). Children will be adored, especially if they have fair complexion as it is so different from Vietnamese kids. Some street vendors might want to take a photograph with your kids too. Don’t be shocked by these different things. Keep a big smile and enjoy it.

Traffics:

Almost everywhere in Vietnam, roads are chaotic. There are countless thousands of motorbikes and they carry all kinds of things: kids, huge banners, pigs, food and foot, etc. They follow all the directions and rules are just broken so often (traffic rules are there to be broken J). Therefore take extra precautions when crossing the streets. Find a zebra crossing, and if it is not available, look for some locals who are crossing, then follow them. Remember that motorbikes will not stop or give way. Instead they will just go in front or behind you. Don’t take it for granted that walking on the pavement is safe, as some nasty bikers do roar on the pavement.

Vietnam Traffic

Vietnamese language

Vietnamese people are very friendly, and one way your family can be friendly to them is to speak their language (with some broken words of course). If possible, learn a couple of words of Vietnamese. These phrases will help you get closer to Vietnamese people whenever you go, and they will appreciate that you are being friendly to their land and people.

Hello – xin chao

Thank you – cam on

How much? – bao nhieu tien?

Beautiful – dep qua!

So good – tot qua

So delicious – ngon qua

Price bargaining:

The key principle is never to buy anything without haggling! It is a piece of culture in this country to list the price higher than the expected sale price. It happens in all the street malls and shops. Even a street vendor does that too. So when you buy something, make a good bargain by offering 2/3 of the price. Never get angry or frustrated. That is it in Vietnam. Definitely it is fun to make a bargain too, as you will be surprised by the final sale price. Remember that street vendors in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or in Sapa can be very persistent, and they will even follow you for a long distance to sell something to you (couple of fruit, banana, eggs, etc). These people often earn just some dollars a day, so approach it with an understanding.

Scams

Unfortunately these things happen in Vietnam. Some people try to riff off international tourists tactfully. Find out what things cost. Don't accept the rip off price but accept the reasonable price. Always ask for the price first before jumping to buy. When you rent something (a bike, motorbike, etc), check the rental conditions. Remember that not always people are trying to scam you, and not all people do that trick. Luckily things are changing and these habits may be disappearing gradually.

Shopping malls:

You can buy anything in the streets, shopping malls. Street shops run by families sell all kinds of things you will usually need (water, fruit, biscuit, nappies, medicines, coffee, pottery, silk, cameras, etc you name it). One bottle of water (330ml) costs 5000 VND. In key destinations, these shops are very well catered for tourists. Open markets sell all kinds of food you can imagine, and it is totally different from a Western style super-market selling frozen, processed food. Frogs, chickens, fish, snails, are all freshly processed right there for you. Don’t take your kids to chicken/frog/fish stalls in any open markets, as there are some horrific scenes there.

Clothing:

It depends on where in Vietnam you are heading to and at what time of the year, as weather patterns are quite different. The Northern part of Vietnam has 4 seasons, and in the winter (Nov – March) there are monsoon winds which can be very cold. Kids can get some respiratory and cold symptoms, so bring some warm clothes for kids. In the summer (June – August) it can be very hot and humid, which sometimes also cause illness. In the south, the rainy season (May – Sep) will receive torrential rain, why the dry season (Oct – March) can be very hot. Look for weather updates and forecast before you come.

When is the best time to visit Vietnam for Vietnam first time travelers?

There is no real best or worst time to visit Vietnam. The country can be visited anytime in a year particularly during November and May, but remember that weather conditions vary across Vietnam. Therefore you should be prepared to encounter some torrential rain, typhoons or monsoon winds. Northern Vietnam, (e.g. Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa) can be quite cold, humid and misty from November to March. You may need warm clothing for children. The central Vietnam (Hue, Hoi An, Danang and Nha Trang) is at its wettest from September through to December. This period has some monsoon rains and occasional typhoons which can cause flooding. Southern Vietnam will be very humid, and there are sometimes thunderstorms, but these generally clear the air and do not prevent you from sightseeing.

What are the key Vietnam attractions / destinations for Vietnam first time family travelers?

Hanoi (3 nights including the arrival night) is a great city to explore. The Old Quarter streets are bustling and kids may be fascinated by sights and sounds of all the products, industries and daily life activities not usually seen in the west. A visit to the Museum of Ethology is a must. Remember to take kids out for some nice ice cream in the Trang Tien Street, which the locals enjoy during summer. Ho Tay Water Park is something catered to Vietnamese kids and serves best in the summer only.

Sapa (1 night there and 2 nights on the train) is one of the most beautiful and tranquil destinations in Vietnam. It is home of a number of ethnic minority communities in Vietnam including the Black H’Mong and Red Dzao, etc. Sapa beauty comes in the forms of hills, valleys, mountains, streams, waterfalls, as well as the hospitality of the locals there. A short trek can be fun for your kids.

Ha Long Bay (2 nights) is a few hours out from Hanoi. However, an overnight boat trip out from Ha Long Bay is a great thing to do. Kayaking or cave exploration will thrill the kids. Kids who enjoy nature will love the view and appreciate its beauty. 1 night cruise can be fantastic, but consider taking a 2 night cruise if you have time.

Hue (2 nights) is beautiful and different from the rest of Vietnam. This place has unique royal cuisine that kids will love. The landscape and its people are just awesome. You can visit key cultural complex and historic sites. Or just have day trips out to rural villages.

Hoi An (3 nights) is very attracting in any aspect. If you love shopping then this is heaven. You can have shoes made, or suits and summer dresses made. If you love beach activities, then Cua Dai beach is amazing. A half day bike tour to Tra Que herbal village to explore local life activities and having lunch with farmers can be a great option for children.

Nha Trang (3 nights) has a nice beach. For kids, the main attraction is Vinpearl theme park. Take a cable crossing the sea and you will reach the island. There is plenty to do around the Water Park and Amusement Park.

Mui Ne (optional - 2 nights) is the windiest beach in Vietnam. This is the great place for kite surfing, due to the ever present afternoon wind. It has a nice long stretch of beach lined with a variety of family friendly hotels. There are some spectacular bright red sand dunes there then kids can sled down on bits of cardboard, great fun!

Ho Chi Minh City (3 nights) is another interesting city. Places to visit include Cu Chi tunnels (60km) where kids can crawl like a real guerilla. The city and historical tour is worth going on for kids. However, the war remnant museum is not recommended for children since its photography is horrific.

Mekong Delta (1 night) can be interesting. Kids will love the experience of a home-stay in the middle of nowhere on earth. This is the low-lying flat delta where traffic is mostly done by motorized boats. Cruising along channels and rivers and biking to rural paddy rice fields can be a memorable experience.

What are the family friendly hotels for Vietnam first time family travelers?

Hotels have improved much of late in HCMC. Downtown has many 4 or 5 star hotels. Hotels need not cost much either with rooms in the backpackers area costing around $20 USD for a room with air conditioner, fan, hot water and double bed. An additional bed can usually be included but at extra cost. For a comfort look for at least 3 star hotels with extra beds for kids or connecting rooms.

Want a tailor made holidays in Vietnam for Vietnam first time family travelers?

This kind of holiday is intended to take all the hassle out of travelling and ensure that the custom itinerary you take on is suitable for every member of your family. You have the assistance of a guide when you need one and the convenience of family friendly hotels booked. You travel in air conditioned transportation, enjoy fun meals for the kids. In particular, there are range of interesting activities that are ideal for your kids.

Some tips:  

  • Choose the right tour operator: check if the one you are contacting has International tour operator license or not. The license is given to accredited travel companies by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. Without this license, that company will not be a reliable and legal one.
  • Design a suitable itinerary: Look at our suggested nights per destination above. Private operator will often consult your travel plan and customize your ideas to fit your needs and budget. Look for something unique and memorable (visiting a school, a social orphanage centre etc). Kids will learn more than visiting classic places.
  • Vietnam hotels: This is very important and can save some cost. Look for inter-connecting rooms so that you can keep an eye on your children. There are thousands of family-friendly hotels there and costs can vary but always ask for a family discount.
  • Tour Guide: When the tour is pre-organized, do not forget to let your Vietnam tour operator know about the tour guide's requirements. A good, experienced, child-friendly... tour guide will make 70% of a successful tour.
  • Transportation: Pay for a private transportation and try to avoid shared buses as much as possible. In Vietnam, there are a millions of motorbikes, trucks, vans, etc. So just remember to ask your tour operator to arrange a nice car/van/bus, experienced, good driver.
  • Timing: You can book your Vietnam holiday 2 weeks before your arrival. However it is always best to book your trip far in advance because you will save a lot of money on flights and discounts, promotions, early bird from your Vietnam tour operator.
  • Tailor made Family Tour: if you want to arrange your family travel to Vietnam the way you want, please feel free to contact us at info@redcranetravel.com. Red Crane Travel's specialists will get back shortly with a tentative tour itinerary and a free quote for your consideration.

If you love Vietnam, plan for your holiday. Contact Red Crane Travel consultant to get ideas and support at info@redcranetravel.com. Or browse our website for sample tours, http://www.redcranetravel.com/tours/family-holidays.

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