Vietnamese prefer to deal in cash, credit cards are increasingly used in hotels, restaurants, and shops in big cities. Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars can be exchanged at Vietcombank, the state bank. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) and Vietcombank have ATM machines that dispense only Dong. Most will accept foreign ATM cards, but travelers should check with the bank for special requirements. For cash advances, travelers can go to ANZ in Ho Chi Minh City (11 Me Linh Square., D.1, Ho Chi Minh City, Telephone: 829 9319) or in Hanoi (14 Ly Thai To Street, Hanoi, Telephone: 825 8190). Some traveler’s cafes will provide cash advances at higher rates. One should not accept torn or soiled bills, as they are difficult to spend.

Entry Requirements
Passport/Visa Requirements
 
Valid passports and visas (dip- lomatic, official, tourist or business) are required. Person- nel will be issued an entry/exit permit on arrival that must be presented when leaving Viet- nam. A copy of all documenta- tion should be carried at all times. Originals and other valuables should be left in a hotel safe or other secure area.
Thirty-day tourist visas are issued by Vietnamese Embas- sies through a travel agent or tour operator. Extensions are obtained at the Immigration
U.S. Embassy, Hanoi
Office at 7 Lang Ha, Thanh Cong, in Hanoi, telephone: +84-4-3850-5000. Even with a valid visa,travelers may be refused entry. Changing the type of visa issued requires permission
from the appropriate Vietnamese authority.
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Passports should never be used as security for rental vehicles, collateral for hotel payments, etc. It is common for hotels to retain a passport until checkout. In the event of a lost/stolen passport, the U.S. government may issue a new passport to a U.S. citizen. The Vietnamese government may seize passports and block the departure of foreigners involved in
commercial disputes
Customs Restrictions
 
When entering Vietnam, visitors must declare all precious metals, jew- elry, cameras, electronic devices, alcohol, and tobacco products. Travel- ers may need to produce these items upon departure to prove they weren’t sold on the black market. Foreign currency in excess of US$3,000 (D5 million) must be declared on arrival and departure. In addition to illegal drugs and weapons, the Vietnamese government authorities have seized documents, audio and video tapes, compact discs, literature, and personal letters they deem to be religious, pornographic, political in nature, or intended for religious or political proselytizing. Importing and exporting dong and live animals is forbidden. Receipts must be shown for all purchases that are leaving the country.
 
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Geography
Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia. It is north of the Equator but south of the tropic of Cancer. It borders China to the north and Laos and Cam- bodia to the west. The South China Sea (called the East Sea by the Viet- namese) runs along its eastern border. Vietnam is roughly the size of New Mexico.
Vietnam’s claim to territorial islands increases its total area to 329,560 square kilometers (127,200 square miles). Vietnam’s land boundaries total 4,639 kilometers (2,878 miles). Extending 1,650 kilometers (1,025 miles) north to south, the country is only 50 kilometers (31 miles) across at its narrowest region. 
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Statistics
Total land area 325,360 sq km (125,600 sq mi)
Coastline 3,444 km (2,138 mi)
International borders Cambodia: 1,228 km (763 mi) China: 1,281 km (795 mi) Laos: 2,130 km (1,320 mi)
Land use Arable land: 17% Permanent crops: 4.7% Forests and woodland: 30% Other: 48.3%
Elevation extremes High: Fan Si Pan 3,144 meters (10,315 feet)
Low: South China Sea: sea-level

Boundaries

Vietnam’s maritime claims along the eastern border are the following, in order of north to south: the Gulf of Tonkin, the South China Sea and the Gulf of  Thailand for a  coastline of 3,444 kilometers (2,138 miles) (excluding the islands). Vietnam has a 200-nautical-mile exclusive eco- nomic zone, 200-nautical-mile continental shelf, 24-nautical-mile con- tiguous zone and 12-nautical-miles of territorial waters.

Border Disputes

Vietnam has many border disputes. The maritime boundaries with Cam- bodia and China are not defined. Land boundaries with Laos are still under discussion. The Paracel Islands are occupied by China but, claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The most serious border dispute is over the Spratly Islands. The islands are located in the South China Sea, which is one of the world’s busiest international sea lanes. They are part of a region that contains oil and gas resources. They are strategically located near large, energy-consuming countries. Six nations have com- peting claims for the territory in the South China Sea that could poten- tially threaten Southeast Asia’s long-term stability. China, Vietnam, and Taiwan all have claims based on history. Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei have claims based on international law. Without China’s cooper- ation, a solution is impossible, Beijing refuses to accept a multi-lateral solution. There appears to be no sign of resolution.

1979 tranh chap bien gioi

Bodies of Water

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Vietnam’s two rivers, the Red River and the Mekong River, provide both water and transportation making them immensely important to the Viet- namese. The Mekong River, the tenth largest in the world, flows by 50 million people in 6 nations. The Mekong River begins in the forested mountains and uplands of southwestern China, and flows 4,200 kilome- ters (2,610 miles) to the South China Sea, passing through Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The river has a fresh water lake that acts as a reservoir during flood stages, greatly reducing the danger of dev- astating floods. The Red River, flowing for 1,200 kilometers (746 miles),may increase in size by more than 60 times at the peak of the rainy season. Extensive flood control, including dikes and canals has resulted in dense population and rice growing.

Topography

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Vietnam is a land of contrasts. Mountains and hills cover 80 percent of Vietnam’s territory with the Truong Son range stretching more than 1,400 kilometers  (870  miles).  Mount  Fan  Si  Pan,  3,144  meters (10,315 feet), is the highest peak in Southeast Asia. In the south, sea- level lowlands dominate Vietnam’s border with Cambodia. The Red River Delta in the north and the Mekong River Delta in the south are Vietnam’s most cultivated and populated areas. Ho Chi Minh City and the capital, Hanoi, both lie in these delta regions. A low-lying, narrow coastal plain connects the two deltas.An unspoiled coastline, a preserved Asian way of life, and spectacular areas of beauty have contributed to Vietnam initiating a tourist industry. While the government has made investments developing a tourist indus- try, poor transportation remains a problem.

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