Frequently Asked Questions

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Most Frequently Asked Questions

Vietnam Travel - Questions and Answers

Cambodia Travel - Question and Answers

Laos Travel Questions and Answers

Vietnam Travel - Questions and Answers

How do I create a tailor made tour itinerary?

If you have no idea how to plan your Vietnam and Indochina tour, or if you have already had a plan and now you need a tour operator to help, please send us an email at info@sapaelitehotel.com. Your private travel consultant at holidaytoindochina.com will create a tailor made tour itinerary that meet your personal needs and budget.

 

How do I book the trip?

As soon as we receive you requests, we will reply at soonest time (within 0,5 - 23 hours) and send you the itinerary with best quote. You can make many changes as you want until the tour and price suit you. To start the booking, we will need your confirmation with some information such as; your full name(s) for booking the hotels, flights, or applying for Vietnam visa and your arrival/departure flight details for airport transfers. The more information you send us, the better arrangement we can make for your trip!

How do I pay for the trip?

After all arrangement we have made/booked/reserved, we will send you an email to confirm all services, and take notes if any changes, upgrade. We will need a deposit of 30% of the total tour cost. You can choose to pay by wire transfer or credit cards (online, please advise if you would like the other payment methods). The balance or the remaining, you can pay before your arrival (one week), or on arrival in cash, by credit cards.

Are there any hidden costs you do not mention?

You can check at your confirmed tour itinerary, what is included/excluded we mention clearly. For more information, please contact us at info@sapaelitehotel.com or ask your private travel consultant.

What about tipping when traveling in Vietnam and Indochina?

Generally, tipping is not compulsory. If you are satisfied with your guides, drivers, a small gratuity is an appropriate way in which to show appreciation to them. We suggest that you US $10-US $15 per day for guides and US $7-US $10 per day for drivers. Other specific tippings, please ask your tour guides when on tour.

 

When is the best time to travel Vietnam and Indochina?

There is no real best or worst time to travel Vietnam, with travel possible all year, but the seasons vary across the country and you should be prepared to encounter some rain whenever you decide to travel.

 

Hanoi
Summer in Hanoi runs from May to September and brings heat and humidity, with average temperatures reaching 32°C (90°F)  accompanied by refreshingly short bouts of heavy rain. These tropical downpours generally arrive in the afternoons, and despite being wet, summer months have the highest number of hours of sunshine. Winter is cooler and can bring fog and clouds but little rain, and the average temperature is 17°C (62°F). The best time to go is October and November, as days are not too hot with averages around 21°C (70°F) with less rain and plenty of sunshine.

 

Halong Bay
Halong Bay is often covered in mist, which reduces visibility but adds to the atmosphere. From March to May, skies over Halong Bay are usually clear and blue and temperatures are pleasant. During summer, from May to November, you can expect days to be warm and humid with refreshing afternoon showers.  Winter, from December to February, can be quite cold. The best time to travel is spring or autumn for the best chance of warm days and clear skies, perfect for cruising.

 

Beaches
If you plan to visit Vietnam for its beautiful beaches, deciding when to go depends on which beach you want to visit. Reaching all the way from Central to Southern Vietnam down the east coast, there are beaches for every season.

The central coastline around Danang and Hoi An is warm year-round with temperatures peaking at 38°C (100°F) in the height of summer (July and August) and around 24°C (75°F) in winter. The dry season lasts from February until July. Go towards the end of the dry season if you like it hot, or the beginning if you prefer milder temperatures. From August to November rainfall increases and water levels rise. Occasional typhoons hit during this season.

Beaches in the south boast warm temperatures year-round with highs around 30°C (86°F). Nha Trang is affected by monsoon season from September to January, when typhoons do occasionally hit they often cause torrential rain and long drizzly days. Phu Quoc and Mui Ne experience wet season from June to September, and while Mui Ne has a microclimate with less rain, it still experiences some light afternoon showers. Con Dao is hot and humid year-round, with a wet season from May to November. Afternoon showers are generally brief, while July through September can see heavy rain at night.

 

Hue
Near Hoi An in central Vietnam, Hue has a wet season from September to December with brief but very heavy rains in October and November which can cause flooding. January to August is dry season though afternoon showers are still common, with average temperatures rising to the mid-thirties in the middle of summer.

 

Central Highlands (Dalat)
Set in the mountains of central Vietnam, Dalat has pleasant temperature year-round which only vary by a few degrees month to month with minimum temperatures around 16°C (61°F) and maximums around 24°C (75°F). The green season is from May to November when the rainfall is heavier but the surrounding countryside is bursting with colour.

 

Saigon
Much closer to the equator, Saigon experiences consistently warm temperatures year-round, with balmy days averaging around 28°C (82°F). This tropical climate is marked by wet and dry season. From May to November, expect tropical downpours in the afternoon. Travel is rarely affected by the rain and everything is lush and green at this time.

 

Note:

The best time to visit Vietnam if you want to see the whole country is Spring and Autumn. The temperatures are more moderate and rainfall is lighter. In spring, March and April have the lowest rainfall across all destinations and temperatures are pleasant (though still cool in the far north).

Any time between November and April is a popular and busy time to travel to Vietnam, so bookings should be made well in advance.

Tet is the Vietnamese New Year celebration and falls in late January or early February. During this time, most Vietnamese take their holidays, so transport and accommodation options are often full and prices rise.

 

What is the time difference?

Before your Vietnam holiday, please note that Vietnam is twelve hours ahead of New York and seven hours ahead of London, one hour behind Perth and three hours behind Sydney.

What is Vietnam visa procedure?

Most visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country. Visas are exempted for the citizens of the countries, which have signed a bilateral or unilateral visa exemption agreement with Vietnam, tourist visa may be valid for 15 to 30 days.

 

Visa exemption:

Vietnamese people that hold foreign passports and foreigners who are their husbands, wives and children are exempt from visa requirements to enter Vietnam and are allowed to stay for not more than 90 days. In order to be granted visa exemption certificates at Vietnamese representative offices abroad, overseas Vietnamese need conditions:

- Foreign-issued permanent residence certificate (PRC) with the validity of at least six months since the date of entrance. Visa exemption paper (VEP) is granted by Vietnamese appropriate authorities.

- Those who expect to stay more than 90 days must apply for visa according to current stipulations before their entrance.

 

Bilateral visa exemption agreement

Citizens of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Laos holding valid ordinary passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 30 days; Philippines is allowed to stay for not more than 21 days.
   

By February 2011, citizens of China, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, and Rumania holding valid ordinary passports for official mission. Citizens of 60 countries holding valid diplomatic or official passports are exempt from visa requirements including:  Argentina, Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela.

 

Unilateral visa exemption

Visa with 30-day validity is exempted for officials from ASEAN secretariat holding different kinds of passports.
Citizens of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Japan, South Korea and Russia holding different kinds of passports are exempt from visa requirements and are allowed to stay for not more than 15 days.

Others who want to enter Vietnam must be provided with a visa.

 

Tourist visa is valid in 30 days.
Visa is issued at the Vietnamese diplomatic offices or consulates in foreign countries. Visa is possibly issued at the border gates to those who have written invitations by a Vietnamese competent agencies or tourists in the tours organized by Vietnamese international travel companies.


Application files for visa: the entrance application (printed form); two 4x6 cm photos; passport and fee for the visa issuance.

Visa extension: Served by all international travel companies.

How I can get Vietnam visa on arrival?

Apply Vietnam Visa - Vietnam Visa upon arrival is legitimated and supported by the Vietnamese Immigration Department. We recommend that you choose visa upon arrival, as picking up visa at the Vietnam int'l airport is quite simple, easy, reliable, cheap, no additional charges and no fail.

 

Steps to apply Vietnam Visa on Arrival

Step 1: Get started by sending us the below information to: info@holidaytoindochina.com

1) Full name on passport (male/female)
2) Passport number
3) Date of birth
4) Nationality
5) Date of arrival
6) Date of issue
7) Date of expire
8) Please make sure that your passport is still valid for 6 months1) Full name on passport

 

Step 2: Upon receipt of your information and payment, we will start processing your visa and send it (Approval Letter)to you by email in within 2 - 3 working days. You then will need to print the file (color preferred, but not required), prepare at least 2 photos of passport regulation size (2in x 2in, or 5.08 cm x 5.08 cm but not too strict), 25 USD for stamp fees per person. (Single 1 month)

Step 3: Upon arrival at Vietnam's airport, expect a simple form to fill in, present the approval letter, passport, photos, and pay for the stamping fee to get your visa done. The actual process takes around 15 minutes without hassle or trouble.


Vietnam Visa Fee

Applicants will have to pay 2 fees. First is the fee to get the Vietnam visa approval/authorization letter, which is US $ 6- US $8/person (pay holidaytoindochina). Second is the visa stamping fee, which is US $45-US $65 per person that you will have to pay at the airport on your arrival (Pay government)

 

How safe is Vietnam?

Vietnam is a relatively safe country to visit but there are increasing instances of theft, especially in HCMC where pickpockets and snatch thieves on motorbikes are the worst menace. The best tip is to be vigilant at all times. Often cute kids or old grannies have deft fingers. Leave all valuables (expensive watches, jewellery, glasses, etc.) at home, and don’t even wear flash costume jewellery. Make sure you have a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags at all times and never leave anything you value lying around unattended. I would also not advise taking cyclos late at night, especially in HCMC. our guides will advise you what are “do's and don’ts” case by case..

What medical precautions I need to take?

At the time of writing, no vaccinations are required for Vietnam Travel (with the exception of yellow fever if you are travelling directly from an area where the disease is endemic). However, typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations are normally recommended, and it’s worth checking that you are up to date with boosters for tetanus, polio etc. Other injections to consider, depending on the season and risk of exposure, are hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, meningitis and rabies. It is best to discuss these with your doctor. Malaria is present in Vietnam. However, at the time of writing both Hanoi and HCMC have very low incidences, while the northern delta and coastal regions of the south and centre are also considered relatively safe. The main danger areas are the highlands and the rural areas, where Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous strain of malaria, is prevalent. Your doctor will advise on which, if any, anti-malaria tablets you should take. If you do fall ill, pharmacies in Hanoi and HCMC stock a decent range of imported medicines (check they are not past their “use-by” date). Both these cities also now have good, international-class medical facilities. Elsewhere, local hospitals will be able to treat minor ailments, but for anything more serious head back to Hanoi or HCMC.

What about medical insurance?

It is advised that travelers should have some form of medical insurance before arriving in Vietnam. Although there are several international medical clinics in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, generally the country still lacks adequate medical care for serious illnesses and injuries, especially in other areas. Therefore, we advise that travelers have sufficient cover for emergency medical care as a precautionary measure.

Should I take my money in cash or travellers'cheques?

The official currency of Vietnam is the dong, which cannot be purchased outside Vietnam. The main banks in Hanoi and HCMC can handle a fairly broad range of currencies nowadays, but the dollar is still the most widely accepted. I therefore recommend taking a combination of US$ cash and US$ travellers’ cheques, with the bulk in travellers’ cheques for safety. American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook cheques are the most recognized brands.

Where can I change money?

You can change cash and travellers’ cheques at exchange desks in big hotels and at authorized foreign exchange banks in the main cities. Among the banks, Vietcombank usually offers the best exchange rates and charges the lowest commission (around 1-2%). Note that commission rates are slightly lower if changing travellers’ cheques into dong rather than dollars. Vietcombank does not levy commission when changing dollars cash into dong, though some other banks do. It’s worth bearing in mind that you get a slightly better exchange rate for $1 and $5 notes than for smaller denominations. When cashing travellers’ cheques you may be asked for your passport, though this practice seems to be dying out. Outside the main cities and tourist areas, authorised foreign exchange banks are few and far between. So if you’re heading off the beaten path, stock up with enough cash (dollars and dong) to last the trip. Wherever you are, you’ll always find someone willing to change dollars cash into dong, though rates will vary. When receiving dong, you’ll be presented with a huge pile of notes. The largest bill is 1,d (, so bear this in mind when changing $1! Refuse any badly torn notes and ask for a mix of denominations so that you always have a few low-value notes in hand.

Is it better to use dollars or dong for daily expenses?

Despite government attempts to outlaw the practice, the US Dollars still acts as an alternative currency which is almost completely interchangeable with the dong. Many prices, especially for hotels, tours and expensive restaurants, are still quoted in $, though you can pay in dong if you’d rather - just check what exchange rate they’re using.

For everyday expenses, I recommend carrying a mix of US Dollars cash and dong. For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use dollars. For cyclos, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use dong. In either case, make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to worry about change.

What about eating in Vietnam?

Holidaytoindochina.com strongly recommends you try the small local restaurants, especially the street kitchens which consist of a few tables and a stove in an open-fronted dining area. Most of expensive restaurants usually price their menus in local currency. In the middle of the range it could be in either dollars or dong, but at this level prices are often not indicated at all, which makes for tedious ordering as you go through each dish. When it comes to eating, the most important thing is to choose places that are busy and look well-scrubbed, and to stick to fresh, thoroughly cooked foods. Despite appearances, often the small local restaurants with a high turnover of just one or two dishes are safer than expensive, Western-style places. Restaurants where the food is cooked in front of you - for example, steaming bowls of pho soup at a street stall - are usually a good bet, as well as being lots of fun. However, steer clear of shellfish, peeled fruit, salads and raw vegetables. On the other hand, yoghurt and ice cream from reputable outlets in the main cities shouldn’t cause problems.

Where to Shop and What to Buy in Vietnam?

Many tourists can’t help but throw themselves head-first into shopping while in Vietnam. Why? Probably the variety of quality goods and the tempting prices have a lot to do with it. Many low-budget travelers considered Vietnam a heavenly place because in many shopping situations they can bargain the prices down to as much as a third of the original cost.

The list of Vietnamese bargains is seemingly endless and features bespoke tailoring and the national dress, the 'ao dai' from high-quality silk and many other types of material and textiles while many shoppers cannot get enough of the local handicraft, art and jewelry.

Cambodia Travel - Question and Answers

Do I need a visa to enter Cambodia?

Most travellers shall be issued entry-visa upon their arrival. For further information, please directly contact the Immigration Police Unit at the Phnom Penh Airport International or the Siem Reap Airport. Some countries where the Royal Embassies and Consulates of Cambodia installed, travellers shall then apply for an entry-visa prior to their departure. Multi-entry visa can be extended at the Department of Foreigner of the Ministry of Interior.

Where else can I obtain an entry-visa?

Beside the Phnom Penh Airport International and Siem Reap Airport, there are additionally few of border gateways where travellers can apply for an entry-visa upon their arrival.

Visa can be obtained at the following points of entry:

Airports
  - Phnom Penh International Airport
  - Siem Reap International Airport

Cambodia-Vietnam border
  - Bavet International Check Point
  - Kha Orm Sam Nor International Check Point

Cambodia-Thailand border
  - Cham Yeam International Check Point
  - Poi Pet International Check Point
  - OSmach International Check Point

Application for an entry visa requires:
  - A completed visa application form
  - Passport valid at least further 4 months
  - One recent photograph (4x6)
  - Appropriate visa fee
  - Supporting documents for business and official visas

In particular, the entry-visa is free for Cambodian nationals who live abroad and Malaysians. Also, the entry visa is free of charge for the Service and Diplomatic Passport holders from Myanmar, Brunei, Philippines and Vietnam.

How much shall I pay for my entry-visa?

There are two types of entry-visa shall be paid:

Business visa: US$ 25.00
Tourist visa: US$ 20.00

The costs of airport tax are:
Domestic Airport Tax: US$ 6.00
International Airport Tax from REP:US$ 25.00
International Airport Tax from PNH: US$ 25.00

Do I need any vaccinations?

Travellers have very little to worry about in a country where health standards are ranked amongst the highest in Asia.  Vaccinations are not required to enter the Kingdom of Cambodia; you are unless coming from a "yellow" infected area.

What are temperature and climate in Cambodia?

Cambodia has a tropical climate with three distinct seasons – Hot/Dry from March to May, Rainy/Monsoon from June to October and small Winter/Cool from November through February. The average annual temperature is 280C – 320C, this ranges in the capital city of Phnom Penh.  The temperature during the small winter is 140C - 160C at provinces throughout the country but in Phnom Penh is about 160C – 200C. In the early April, it is found that there are some rain showers through the beginning of May. The end of May and the beginning of June the full monsoon starts till the end of October.

What to wear during the holiday in Cambodia?

As Cambodia's climate is hot and humid almost all year round, it is ideal to have light clothing to be worn throughout the year. But during the small winter from December till March, you are advised to wear thick clothing. It is also advisable for ladies and gentlemen, when entering any Buddhist pagoda, in tradition, ladies are inappropriately found to wear shorts, trousers or any sexy attire. Men and women are cultured for a dignitary image is not to wear shorts and cap when you are in the complex of a Buddhist pagoda.  The flip-flops, boots or shoes must specially be taken off before entering into any Buddhist temple. At ancient temples, you are free to wear any as you wish but not bras and under-pan.

What is the time difference?

Cambodia is 7 (GMT+7) hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 12 hours ahead of the United States in Boston, Pacific Time Standard.

What is the best way to travel around Cambodia?

It depends upon your need whether you are in a hurry to get to your destination or you wish to take things leisurely, there is a wide range of choice of transportation.

1. By air, you can travel with Cambodian Airlines for domestic flights by Cambodia Angkor Airs (CAA). The flight routes are set for major tourist destinations and economic zones at the provinces of Siem Reap and Sihanoukville (Charter Flight).

2. By rail, the railway network of Cambodia that stretches from East to West, which run from Phnom Penh to the provinces of Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Bantey Meanchey and other routes: Phnom Penh-Sihanouk Ville and Phnom Penh-Kampot. Be ensured that the Cambodian railway network is under development and time consuming to catch train.

3. By road, Cambodia now has several bus companies and private taxis are also available throughout Cambodia. But the bus operations are still very limited based on the road condition. Travellers can take coach from Phnom Penh to neighbouring provinces such as Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampot, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Cham, Neak Leung (in Prey Veng), Ta Mao (in Kandal) and to two other cities of Sihanouk Ville and Keb. In particular, Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City along the National Road 1 is now available. Taxies are available to make a journey throughout the country.

4. By water, several speedboat firms can be seen along Tonle Sap River. These speedboats carry passengers from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Angkor and further from Siem Reap to Battambang province; also are available for destinations along Mekong River such as from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham, Kratie and Steung Treng. Above all, travellers can make a voyage from Vietnam to Phnom Penh as well.

 

What is the national language?

Cambodia has a unique official language is Khmer or Cambodian. The French and English are widely utilised as second language. Cambodians tend to be trilingual.

What if I were to travel to Cambodia alone?

Not to worry if you are traveling to Cambodia alone. Cambodians are very friendly and Cambodia is especially called a land of smile. Travelling alone is generally safe and relatively comfortable for both men and women.  Plan your trip around your interests and prepare yourself to be flexible enough to take the inevitable glitches in stride.   Visitors who encounter unforeseen problems and difficulties can seek the Cambodian Tourist Police Unit or any other Police Station for any assistance.

What is the electricity supply of Cambodia?

Cambodia's electrical supply is 220 volts AC at 50 cycles per second.

What are the medical services available in Cambodia?

Medical services are available in all towns at government run hospitals and private clinics. Non-prescription drugs are available at pharmacies as well as supermarkets, hotels, and shopping centres. International class hotels also have their individual in-house medical Doctor to service their guests.

Is it safe to drink tap water?

It is generally safe to drink water directly from the tap. However, mineral water is also readily available in shops and supermarkets everywhere.

How do I rent and drive a car in Cambodia?

You will require an international driving permit or a valid license issued by your government to drive in Cambodia. Car rental can be arranged through hotel or through various car rental companies which can be located through the Yellow Pages Directory.

Will there be any customs charges upon arrival?

Items such as video equipment, cameras, radio cassette players, watches, pens, lighters, perfumes and cosmetics are duty free in Cambodia.   Visitors bringing in dutiable goods may have to pay a deposit for temporary importation, refundable upon departure.

How to avoid cultural offence?

To avoid "cultural offences", here are some tips:
- Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship.    
- Dress neatly in suitable attire which covers arms and legs when visiting places of worship.

When handling food, do so with the right hand only.
- Tipping is not a custom in Cambodia.  It is unnecessary in hotels and restaurants where a 10% service charge, unless the service rendered is exceptionally good.    
- Refrain from raising your voice or displaying fits of anger as considered ill mannered.

Do I require medical insurance before traveling to Cambodia?

It is a good idea for you to take have medical insurance before you travel to Cambodia as Cambodia does not have reciprocal health service agreements with other nations

Should I bargain for everything I want to buy in Cambodia?

No. If an item has a price tag then you're not expected to bargain. You are not expected to bargain in a restaurant either.

What shouldn't I do when bargaining in Cambodia?

Yell, scream or behave like a rude foreign tourist;
Throw your money at the vendor;
Refuse to buy something after the vendor has accepted your price;
Go red in the face arguing over 100 riel; or
Lose your sense of humour. You are supposed to be having fun.

Laos Travel Questions and Answers

What are the Laos visa requirements?

A couple of photos, a valid passport and $30 are the official requirements for a one month single entry tourist visa. This can be extended within the country for about $3 per day, most easily through agents.

Are credit cards accepted in Laos?

Not generally, but most top-range hotels and some large-ticket item shops will accept them. Very few restaurants and bars accept them. Most travel agents prefer cash but can organise credit card payment. Most will take a 3.5% fee on top of the price.

Should I tip in Laos?

In most places in Laos, tipping is not expected though as always it is appreciated. If you want to tip, 10% percent is pretty generous

Is Laos safe country to travel?

Generally speaking, yes. Using common sense means you'll probably get out in one piece. Violent crime against foreigners occasionally takes place, but overall it's safe and women in particular find they feel more secure than in the west. The biggest problems are petty theft, scams and traffic accidents.

Should I learn Lao language before I go to Laos?

English is not widely understood outside the main shopping and tourist area.Lao is not a hard languge to learn and you can easily pick up a few words and phrases in  a short time. If you have a more advanced knowledge of Lao language, you can have real conversations and you will gain a deeper understanding of Lao culture and history with the people you meet in Laos, which can be very interesting and will add a new dimension to your holiday.

What is the time difference?

The time in Laos is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +7).

What is business hour?

Government offices are open from 08:30AM-12:00AM, 01:00PM-04:00PM on Monday through Friday. Banks open 08:30AM-03:30PM on Monday-Friday, Shops around 09:00AM-06:00 (holiday depends on each shop).

Is it safe to travel to Laos with children?

Laos is a safe, quiet country with a lot to explore for both adults and children. Lao people love kids. If you bring children, you will have good opportunities communicating with Lao people.

 

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