Visas and Stuff
Dear Valued Customers,
Please find the attachment for your official Vietnam Visa Approval Letter.
This approval letter is valid to obtain your visa stamp at Vietnam airports only.
Required Document Checklist for Visa Stamp Procedure at Vietnam Airports for each applicant:
1. Original passport (valid at least 6 months beyond date of arrival);
2. One completely written form NA1 to save your time at Vietnam airport – downloaded at: https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/form-on-arrival.pdf.
3. 02 passport sized photos – (4cmx6cm).
4. Official Visa Approval Letter (all pages printed in colour or black&white)
5. Visa stamping fee: $25.00 USD for Single entry & $50.00 USD for multiple entry/ CASH only in USD.
- Take a taxi to district one its cheap and easy.
- Vietnam has Family Mart, and Circle K plus local type quick stores 7/11 is there but not that many yet.
- There is talk of a law change but as it stands now its illegal to ride without a Vietnam drivers licence which is not straight forward to get. Your home country nor an International drivers permit are not recognised either.
- We hired a 125cc scooter in every city we stayed, the cost is about $8/day and gives you absolute independence to go where you want anytime. I’m not sure about licensing.
We flew from Gold Coast Via Kuala Lumpur and onto Ho Chi Minh City with Air Asia.
I fully recommend the sleeper busses ill give you some tips on surviving the bumpy kaos with the neverending beeping horn by the bus driver. The air-conditioned buses run between HCMC and Hanoi (and other routes) and passengers can hop on and hop off the bus at any major city along the route. Prices are reasonable. Depending on the operator and exact route, HCMC to Hanoi is US$35 to US$70, while HCMC to Hue is around US$25.
- If you want to travel relatively spontaneously and without hassle, booking an open bus ticket is the way to go. With tickets ranging from 3-8 stops, deciding which bus company to book with is much like deciding on which dentist to go to. All will do the same job, but some will be more painful than others.
- Our open bus ticket included six stops from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi costing just VND 830,000 (AUD$50). Essentially, you just book each leg of the trip at your leisure, with the bus company just requiring 24-48 hours notice. Booking with a legit tourism company means you won’t be put on a public bus – many of which double as a delivery service for anything ranging from food, mechanical parts or mysterious packages (unless you’re into that kind of thing).
- Sleeper buses will generally have 41 reclining seats. Looking more like narrow dentist chairs stacked like bunkbeds, there is a row on either side of the bus and one down the centre, allowing two aisles to separate them. If you’re under 5”5 you’ll be relatively comfortable, however any taller and you’ll either be in a fetal position all night, or your feet will be making enemies with the person in front of you (waking up to a random foot in your face at 2am is not a great way to make friends – unfortunately I speak from experience).
- Now listen carefully: At the back of your bus you’ll find five seats all lined up to make one mega seat. Seats 40 and 38 in this row will line up with the aisle (see below photo). Here’s the kicker: both of these coveted seats are fitted with a hinged 30cm flap of precious extra leg room, so you can stretch out to your heart’s content! You’re welcome.
- Made it to your destination safely? Most buses will arrive in the early hours of the morning, and you’ll most likely be feeling like a squashed potato when you step off the bus. Unfortunately, your welcoming committee won’t be sensitive to this fact as you’ll be swarmed with offers for taxi rides and cheap hostels. Make sure you have an idea of your hostel’s address, or of a nearby cafe you can head to (just be sure to check their opening times!). So there you have it, my key tips for surviving a sleeper bus in Vietnam. If you get more than three hours sleep, you can count your trip as a success!
Ho Chi Minh City- Saigon
Total flying time from Gold Coast to HCMC was about 9 hours give or take. We usually stay inn District 1 where all the action and entertainment is eg Bui Vien Area. The fare to most hotels in District 1 should be around 150,000 – 170,000 VND and you will have to pay extra 10,000 VND to cover the Airport surcharge. Mai Linh counter in the terminal building. The Mai Linh taxi company has a counter that is on your right after you clear customs.
Ho Chi Minh City (commonly known as Saigon) is a city in southern Vietnam famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. It’s also known for its French colonial landmarks, including Notre-Dame Cathedral, made entirely of materials imported from France, and the 19th-century Central Post Office. Food stalls line the city’s streets, especially around bustling Bến Thành Market.
War Remnants Museum The War Remnants Museum is a war museum at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists. The cost is $3.00 and hours of operation are 7.30am till 6pm seven days a week. My son and I visited here on our first day in Saigon. Out front there is an impressive collection of tanks, guns, planes and helicopters from the American war. Inside there are several well air conditioned rooms displaying pictures and artefacts from the war. Be sure to check out the displays dedicated to photo journalists on both sides of the conflict as well as the agent orange memorial. Also be aware that like most attractions in Vietnam, the museum is closed at lunch time.
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon built in 1880, officially Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception is a cathedral located in the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Address: 01 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.
Mekong Delta – Cu Chi Tunnels
The Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a vast maze of rivers, swamps and islands, home to floating markets, Khmer pagodas and villages surrounded by rice paddies. Boats are the main means of transportation, and tours of the region often start in nearby Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) or Can Tho, a bustling town in the heart of the delta. I went on a river cruise to check out the Mekong Delta, Chocolate factory, Cu Chi Tunnels and Weapons firing range. This was a one day excursion where i was picked up from my hotel and driven to the boat terminal in Saigon. The cost for the whole day was $80. If firing military weapons is your thing, you can do it here, check the prices.
Đà Lạt, the capital of Lâm Đồng Province in southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands, is centered around a lake and golf course, and surrounded by hills, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its distinctive temperate climate, Đà Lạt was developed as a resort by the French in the early 1900s, and many reminders of its colonial heritage remain. The bus ride here is crazy so make sure you’re not hungover or just eaten a huge meal.
What to explore at Datanla Falls?
Dalanta Falls is situated 5km outside of Da Lat. The road is a long windy one up the hills, with stunning view of the valley and endless tea and coffee plantations. The waterfall itself is really cool. Walking around across the rocks is certainly good fun and again, the views are absolutely stunning from the bottom of the fall across the valley. The greatest part of the falls is certainly the toboggan. Yep, you heard right. When you arrive you have the option to travel to the bottom of the fall by roller coaster. It costs around 25,000 Dong for a return journey and it is totally worth it. The track is 1km long and takes about 2 minutes to complete, winding down the side of the mountain through woods and ending up at the foot of the falls. So much fun.
The roller coaster system at Datanla waterfall is regarded as the unique one in Dalat city. Its length is 1.000m, and there are sensor brakes to slow down the speed of the sled which goes too fast to keep a safe distance between sleds. A sled is enough for 2 people with hand brakes to adjust its speed. The average speed 10-20km, and the high speed is 40km. Visitors wishing to visit Datanla must walk through hundreds meters of steep tracks and it took 10-15 minutes to go on foot, but now it takes only 2 minutes to go up and down the falls. Adventurous couples want to experience the maximum speed (40km / h) to enjoy marvelous feelings when the sled tear wind to go down very fast down to the bottom of the ride.
Datanla roller coaster is used both as a thrill attraction and also as a real transportation system. The coaster is used to reach and visit Datanla Falls which are at the bottom of a gorge. Unlike other roller coasters, the departure is located at the top of the track and the sleds have to go down the slope to reach the bottom of the ride. Then visitors leave the sled to visit the falls, and after their visit visitors take another sled which takes them back up to the top with a cable car system which is a real funicular.
Alpine roller coasters are quite famous now and you may find many of them in mountain resorts where they are used as summer sled attractions. They are built by Wiegand, a German company. They are small roller coasters where individual sleds are pulled up to the top of the ride with an automatic cable car system. Then the sled is dropped in a steep slope with many curves.
We walked down the hill to get to the falls at the bottom of the gorge and we took the coaster back up to the top and apparently we missed most of the thrill of the ride.
With the average speed (10 – 20km/h), visitors are pleased to watch a mysterious and dreamlike tourist destination which is 5km from Dalat city and is still keeping its original beauty. Visitors also listen to birds’singing and sounds of pine trees.
Da Lat is so very much off the radar, in terms of Vietnam. Located in the south between Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, it is a very quiet, quaint town. Rich in French architecture and oddities, you’ll feel miles away from Vietnam here. It shares none of the characteristics of other Vietnamese towns, such as the hustle bustle of daily life, thousands of motorbikes and general noisiness. Why more people don’t visit is beyond me, but with a little time to explore you can uncover some gems in this beautiful town. Here’s a run down of my faves.
Built by Dang Viet Nga, a daughter of a Vietnamese communist party leader, it was opened to the public in 1990. It was quickly dubbed ‘the crazy house’ and it’s easy to see why. There is hardly a square edge in the tree shaped building. Staircases intertwine with branches to take you up and over the roof. The garden comes complete with toadstool chairs and fake, giant spiders. You could be forgiven to think you have fallen into Alice’s Wonderland. You also have the option to stay here for one night. It costs around $35USD per night, and you get to stay in one of the country themed rooms, or the wedding suite if you are newly weds. This is a real cool place to visit and well worth the walk if you are in town.
4 hours East on the dreaded sleeping bus brings you to Nha Trang which is a coastal resort city in southern Vietnam known for its beaches, diving sites and offshore islands. Its main beach is a long, curving stretch along Tran Phu Street backed by a promenade, hotels and seafood restaurants. Aerial cable cars cross over to Hòn Tre Island, and the nature reserves of Hòn Mun and Hòn Tằm islands, reachable by boat, have coral reefs.
Getting there from Da Lat.
Things to do
The Vinpearl Land Cable Car System is a gondola lift built April 2006 and opening in March 2007. This giant cable car is 3320m long and supported by 9 pillars, making it the longest over-water cable car in the world at the time (this has since been superceded by a cable car built by Sun Group on the island of Phu Quoc, Vietnam). At night, the cable car’s cabins and the 9 pillars (which resemble the Eiffel Tower) are lit by a laser system. Vinpearl has a cable-car system with lengths of 3320m that are the longest cable-car system in Vietnam, which connects the Vinpearl amusement park and Nha Trang beach. The cable-car system is not just only used as the transportation, but it also is a wonder of the Nha Trang tourism industry. The system could carry 1000-1500 people in the 48 cabins in an hour, each of which contains 8 people. While visitors sit in the cabinets, they can enjoy the big picture of Nha Trang city embraced by paradise-like beauty of Nha Trang Bay, one of the world’s most famous bays.
Vinpearl Operations Hours
The cost of the entrance to Vinpearl is 880,000VND (Approx. $39USD) for a person over 1.4m in height, which is the basic ticket for the entire day and gives access to almost all rides and attractions. Nha Trang Vinpearl operations hours for the visitors in the weekdays and there is some attractions close at 11 p.m. The water park is open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Water attractions: open from 10:00 until 18:00. Aquarium: open from 9:00 until 20:30. Pool and beach: open from 9:00 until 19:00. Area restaurants: open from 10:00 to 21:00.
Parasailing is not a new thing in Nha Trang but in fact a common water sport that everyone can enjoy. If you want to know the feel of flying, but in a way much less dramatic (and less expensive) than the Flyboard, Parasailing is always available. After fastening the belt and wearing a life jacket, a canoe or a boat drives off, carrying the parasail wing and person into the air. If the canoe is powerful and fast enough, it can carry two or three people behind at the same time. A ride with parasail wing in Nha Trang lasts about fifteen minutes. You can find parasailing service along Nha Trang beach and. On islands, the fee for this game is more expensive.
Caution: When the canoe starts to pull, you have to run forward under you are off into the air. Always wear life jacket during your parasail.
- On islands: VND 450,000 per adult
- On land: VND 350,000 per adult
Built between the 7th and 12th centuries, these impressive Cham towers are still actively used for worship by Cham, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists. Originally the complex had seven or eight towers, but only four remain, of which the 28m-high North Tower (Thap Chinh; AD 817), with a terraced pyramidal roof, vaulted interior masonry and vestibule, is the most magnificent. The towers stand on a granite knoll 3km north of central Nha Trang, on the northern bank of the Cai River.
Long Sơn Pagoda
Long Son Pagoda, also known as Chua Long Son, is situated on the foothill of Trai Thuy Mountain in the city of Nha Trang. The temple is famous for its large white Buddha image, which sits atop the mountain crest and can be seen from anywhere in town. Built in 1886 in the style of Taoist architecture, Long Son Pagoda has been home to many high-ranking Buddhist monks and the Vietnam Buddhist Studies Foundation was founded here in 1936.
About 10 hours North of Nha Trang is Hoi An, a city on Vietnam’s central coast known for its well-preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals. The former port city’s melting-pot history is reflected in its architecture, a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda.
Three hours North of Hoi An is Huế, a city in central Vietnam that was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century Đại Nội Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City (Tử cấm thành), once the emperor’s home; and a replica of the Royal Theater. Do not come there expecting to see military bases or weapons. Only the foundations remain of the former American military bases buildings as they were completely destroyed by Americans upon evacuation. As a result, the most prominent original monument of this area is a pile of rocks used to host the outpost, and a dirty airstrip. The area also has some spectacular mountain scenery and rugged jungles, although those could be found much closer to Hue. Otherwise this area offers few photo opportunities, and is more of a tourist trap.
Perfume River is a River is a river that crosses the city of Huế, in the central Vietnamese province of Thừa Thiên-Huế Province. In the autumn, flowers from orchards upriver from Huế fall into the water, giving the river a perfume-like aroma, hence the sobriquet.
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. There are many little temples, including Bach Ma, honoring a legendary horse, plus Đồng Xuân Market, selling household goods and street food.
Hạ Long Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Junk boat tours and sea kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets. The region is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking, particularly in mountainous Cát Bà National Park.
Halong Bay Cruise I opted for the two day one night tour option for about $100 AUD, this included all meals and an air-con room (yes air con on a Junk boat ) The itinerary included the caves and floating markets, and of course jumping off the boats upper deck into the water.
How To Get From Hanoi To Halong Bay
Cruise passengers from Hanoi will not need to worry about how to get to Halong Bay. The shuttle bus to and from Hanoi is included in the price of the cruise. A guide will ride in the bus as well, which allowed us time to ask questions and learn more about Vietnam. Not everyone on the shuttle bus boarded the same junk boat. There is a stop mid-way through the drive for a bathroom break and souvenir shopping.
How Far is Halong Bay from Hanoi?
The Hanoi to Halong Bay distance is about 175km. It takes about 3.5 hours, once all of the Halong Bay boat tour passengers have been picked up from the various hotels.
Halong Bay Cave: Amazing Cave
After a quick breakfast of Pho (they eat it for every meal here in Vietnam!) we tendered to Amazing Cave, which was, in fact, amazing. The limestone karsts often contain caves as rain and sea water have left their mark over the past couple million years, but this is one of the largest. Stairs and paths led us through three connected caves, each one bigger than the previous. Enormous stalactites dripped from the ceiling onto their counterpart stalagmites below. Colored lights illuminated the stones, which somewhat disturbed the natural setting, even though it was pretty. Getting a glimpse of the rocks both inside and out made us wonder just how much more there was to discover in the bay.
5 hours South from Nha Trang on the sleeping bus is Mũi Né is a beach resort town, along the South China Sea in Southeast Vietnam. With a long, palm-lined stretch of sand, it has steady wind conditions (in the dry season) that make it a top destination for windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing and other water sports. It’s also a popular weekend getaway from Ho Chi Minh City, with a busy strip of hotels, restaurants and shops.
The tourist season is from December to April. The average temperature is 27°C, and the climate is hot and dry much of the year.
Mui Ne is well known for unique white sand dunes, featuring several lakes and even swamps straight in the middle of sandy terrain. It is also the only place in Vietnam with hot air balloon ride service for adventurous tourists.
Vũng Tàu is a port city and the capital of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province, on a peninsula in southern Vietnam. Once a French colonial town, it’s now a popular seaside resort that draws many visitors from Ho Chi Minh City, who arrive by hydrofoil. Its long, busy stretch of sandy coast, including Front Beach and Pineapple Beach, has the verdant Small Mountain and Big Mountain as backdrop. My son and i enjoyed VT and i would have to say its our favourite place to go in Vietnam.
Returning to HCMC – Saigon
The return journey from Ba Ria – Vung Tau to Ho Chi Minh City also takes around 90 minutes and costs the same. There are also three departures each day, leaving at 10.30, 12.30 and 14.30, so you’ll arrive back into Ho Chi Minh City at 12.00, 14.00 and 16.00 respectively. Each service has a capacity of around 60 passengers so it is worth booking ahead if possible as there are only three departures each day fare is VND310,000 per person each way. All the boats used by Greenlines Ferry are fast and comfortable; in fact most of them will be virtually brand-new so you’ll feel safe throughout the journey. The standard of boats on this route is likely to be superior to many other ferries and speedboats you may have been on across Vietnam.