Vietnam Travel Guide
Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in Asia. Spreading along the eastern edge of the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam covers a land area of 330,900 sq. km with the legendary world of Halong Bay, the colorful charm of Central Highlands and the criss-cross waterways of the Mekong Delta. The country boasts a marvelous coastline of 3,260km dotted with white sandy beaches, tranquil bays and vivid coral reefs. Vietnam also shares land borders of 3,700km with Laos, Cambodia and China. Moreover, with a tropical monsoon climate, all parts of the country are mostly warm the whole year round, which is ideal for those who love sunny weather.
Q: Is Vietnam a safe place to travel?
A: Yes, Vietnam is a very safe place to travel and you will find the local people very warm and welcoming. However, common sense and necessary precautions still need to be taken. Remember to keep your valuables locked in the hotel, never wear excessive flashy jewellery and always carry bags as well as cameras strapped over your arm and head.
Q: What is the best time in year to go to Vietnam?
A: Vietnam can be visited at any time in year. This country is split into 3 weather zones and as most trips encompass more than one zone, there is never really a bad time to go.
In the South, there are two seasons. The wet season is from around May to November, when humidity is high and storms tend to be short-lived. This area also often witnesses refreshing changes. The wettest time of year in the Center is generally October to January and the hottest months usually range between May to July. The best time to visit this zone is around January to April. Weather in the north can see numerous changes within a short time frame. From December to January it can be quite cool and overcast. May to September is usually quite hot and humid with peaked temperature reaches its top around July.
Q: What is the quality of courses like in Vietnam?
A: Magnificent! The quality does of course vary but ATS only works with the finest courses in Vietnam and we know them like the back of our hands from our years living here and playing at those places regularly. Some of golfs’ biggest names have their own courses here – Norman, Faldo, Montgomerie, Donald, to name but a few. Give us a call, let us know the type of courses you are interested in playing in terms of difficulty and scenery and we can suggest the best courses for you.
Q: What is included in the cost of golf?
A: At the time of booking, we will discuss with you exactly what level of inclusions you are looking for. On our set departures and packages, we include all transfers by modern, private air-conditioned vehicle, green fees, and caddy fees. Carts can be included on request but as a general rule we leave these out as many prefer to walk such beautiful courses. If you feel you would require a cart on the day, for whatever reason, one can easily be arranged at the club.
Q: Do we arrange non-golfing holidays?
A: Yes, we can arrange any kind of holiday you are looking for. This may be culinary, spa and wellness, historical, adventure, luxury, sporting team trips, nature – you name it and we can do it. Simply give us a call, let us know your interests and we will come up with an itinerary tailored to your exact needs. We field many requests for couples which one person is interested in playing golf and the other is not. Many of our trips for couples have split itineraries so both parties get exactly what they are looking for.
Q: Do I need to tip the caddies?
A: Yes, the courses in Vietnam go to great lengths to train these caddies. It is important to remember that these are NOT professional caddies, they will NOT speak fluent English but the directors of Golf au Vietnam believe these caddies to be the most knowledgeable ones about golf in Vietnam. Tipping is always discretionary but as a guideline, this amount should be roughly 10 – 20 USD (210.000 to 400.000VND). ATS will not accept any inappropriate behaviors, regardless of forms, towards the caddies. Any exhibition of such behavior may result in you being asked to leave the tour. You will be given a caddy evaluation card at the end of each round which will be delivered to the club house for their ongoing training. (Exchange Rate: 1 USD = ~ 21.000 VND)
Although it is not obligatory, tipping is widely practiced and expected
Porters: USD 1 per bag/check-in/check-out
Waiters in restaurants: 5-10% of total bill.
Taxi drivers: 10% of total bill.
Tour guides: USD 4 – USD per client per day
Drivers: USD 2 per client per day.
Q: Do I need to pay extra luggage fee regarding flights for my golf bag?
A: Generally, you do not. For all flights which ATS arrange on your behalf (both domestic and international), we include your golf bag as luggage within our price structure. Most airlines will not count sporting equipment in the same category as your general luggage. The exception lies with many budget airlines which make their money form baggage and additional in-flight/check in sales. For any flights you arrange yourself, make sure you check the terms and conditions carefully.
Q: Can I pay for my trip by credit card?
A: Yes, booking by credit card will incur a 3% – 3.5% surcharged on your quoted cost depending on your provider.
Q: Can ATS arrange my International Flights?
A: We do arrange many international flights. However, we have found most people would prefer to arrange their own flights. This may be due to membership in frequent flyer clubs, preferred airlines they wish to travel with, etc. Making changes to any international flights can often be problematic if the flight was booked by a separate party to the person travelling. All flight bookings can be discussed and organized at the time of booking and ATS is happy to recommend the best operators if we cannot offer you a preferential price.
Q: What is included in the cost of my holiday?
A: We can include as much or as little as you want when you book a holiday through ATS. Generally, we include: accommodation, daily breakfast, a few other key meals, golf rounds including all green fees and caddy fees, all transport and transfer fees, domestic flights, entrance fees, local English speaking guide service fee, tour arrival and departure transfers in private vehicle.
Q: What is NOT included in the cost of my holiday?
A: Again, this will all be dependent on what you request at the time of booking but generally, we exclude: tipping, most meals, porterage, insurance, cart & club hire and golfing equipment (if needed), drinks, personal items, international flights to and from Vietnam.
Q: Do I need a Visa for Vietnam?
A: Yes, all travelers to Vietnam require a valid visa. These may come in the form of single or multiple entry visas. All information can be found at your embassy website, for United States (USA) residents: www.vietnamembassy-usa.org. ATS strongly recommends obtaining your visa prior to departure. If for some reasons, this is not possible, ATS has a range of visa on arrival options which we can arrange for a nominal fee.
Q: Where else do I need a visa for in Asia?
A: There are many other countries such as China, Laos and Burma where you will need tourist visa to visit. Often the requirement and cost of a visa will be dependent on nationality. Please enquire with ATS at the time of booking if a visa is necessary.
Q: What are the hotels like?
A: The hotels in Vietnam and South East Asia are amazing and represent tremendous value. All major hotels chains are represented and there are some internationally acclaimed to be luxurious and convenient. ATS only uses reputable hotels they know directly and generally, we do not offer anything under 3 stars. If you have any specific requirements for a hotel such as location, room inclusions, etc., please let us know at the time of booking and we will find you the perfect one.
Q: Where should I keep my valuables?
A: All hotels we use come with in-room safes to store your valuables. Alternatively, you can use the safe located at the reception desk.
Q: What currency should I use while travelling in Vietnam?
A: The local currency – Vietnam Dong (VND) is a perfect choice. While other currencies (AUD, USD, GBP, EUR, etc.) may be accepted in some places, you will receive a poor exchange rate and in many cases, it is illegal. Therefore, VND is the way to go.
Q: Where can I exchange currency?
A: There are many banks and licensed money exchange venues in major cities. However, most hotels have money exchange service at reception desk. The rates here are usually around the same value that you would receive at banks or other venues so this is often the best way to go. Never exchange money with black market dealers and always double check your amounts as different note denominations have similar appearances such as 100,000 and 500,000 VND notes. For other countries, we will advise at the time of booking.
Q: Should I bring traveler cheques?
A: No, traveler cheques are pretty archaic now and not readily accepted.
Q: Are ATMs readily available?
A: Yes, ATMs are available throughout Vietnam (withdrawal and conversion fees will depend on your bank and the ATM used but in general, they are quite reasonable). Some ATMs have a single withdrawal limit of 2 million VND (Approx. $95 USD) but multiple transactions can be made. We recommend using the Commonwealth Banks ATMs when possible which have higher withdrawal limits. ANZ is also a good option. ATMs are available right at the airport in Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang.
Q: Can I pay for things in Vietnam by credit card?
A: Yes, most hotels, restaurants and shops will accept credit cards. Please take the usual precautions when using your credit card.
Q: Why don’t you include more meals?
A: The food in South East Asia is one of the greatest attractions of this region, especially Vietnam! While living in Vietnam, we found it extremely depressing to see some tourist groups taken to diner style eateries for their meals with extremely poor food being fabricated as authentic Vietnamese cuisine. At ATS, we enquire at the time of booking your culinary preferences and then provide each booking with a range of our recommended restaurants to visit based on individual taste, along with order recommendations and approximate pricing. To see more about our suggestions and Vietnamese cuisine in Saigon.
Q: What is the average price of a meal?
A: It varies quite a lot depending on the dining venue. Vietnam is the home for a range of multicultural dining options but we strongly recommend the local cuisine. For a 3-course meal, prices range from 8 – 40 USD for lunch and dinner. A bowel of Pho (noodle soup) will be around 2 – 4 dollars
Q: Is it safe to drink the water?
A: Generally, it is not. Some hotels do have potable drinking water from the taps but they are rare. All hotels will provide limited bottled drinking water in the room. Bottled water is readily available for a very low price (Approx. 50c per bottle). Always check the seal before opening. If water is provided at restaurants, always check with them where the water is from.
Q: What about ice in drinks?
A: Large scale of restaurants and bars will use safe processed ice. Street vendors selling coffee and other drinks may not. Generally, if the ice is cylindrical with a hollow center then it is safe. If you are in doubt, please leave it out.
Q: Do I need travel insurance?
A: Yes, local medical facilities across Vietnam are at times unable to provide the full range of medical services that may be available in more developed countries, making evacuation a requirement in some non-life threatening medical emergencies. The costs of evacuation as well as international standard care can be very high. For this reason, it is a condition of travel with Golf au Vietnam that all clients are adequately covered by travel insurance prior to their arrival.
Q: Are there any cultural taboos I need to be aware of?
A: There are a few general rules to follow to ensure that you do not offend the locals and these will always be guided to you by your local guide. A few more general rules which pertain to most of the region are: do not touch children on the head, do not wear singlets, no shirt, small shorts, etc. to Temples, Wats or Pagodas. If you are wearing shorts, ensure your knees are covered. Some places will require the removal of shoes, please follow the lead of the locals in these places. Physical displays of affection are frowned upon in Vietnam and much of South East Asia. In your dealings with local people, there is no possibility that anger or aggression will achieve any worthwhile outcome. Rather it will only cause you and your fellow travelers to lose face. Furthermore, the owners of Golf au Vietnam have spent years living in Vietnam to form relationships here that embraces different cultures and ideas. It is important to exercise patience, goodwill, flexibility, open-mindedness and above all, a sense of humor. The most memorable moments of your journey are quite often the ones which are not on your itinerary.
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