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Travel Tips

Check Your Passport
It is a standard requirement for entry into any country in the world that you have a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to complete your travels. If your passport has less than 6 months validity, you should to apply for a new one before you start your trip. If you do apply for a new passport, make sure you can get it before your travel date. If your passport has only a few blank pages left, you should have more pages inserted.

In most parts of Vietnam, you will have to show your passport when checking in to hotels, resorts and guesthouses. You will also need it when buying airline tickets, changing airline dates, and sometimes for changing money.

 

Passport Copy
When cycling or traveling though Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, it is highly recommended that you make a photocopy of your passport; the first page with your information and photo on it, as well as a copy of the visa page. Keep this copy separate from your passport. If you your passport is lost or stolen, report it at once to your tour operator office, local guide or tour leader. You must also report it to the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate of your country. We will assist you with this.

 

Visa Information
The following visa information is meant only as a general guide. You should always check with the embassy or consulate in your country for visa requirements. Travel Loops can provide assistance with your visa if required. Please contact us for further information regarding our visa services.

 

Vietnam
Most travelers to Vietnam need to apply for a visa. Travel Loops can help you arrange your visa.

A Vietnam entry visa must be obtained by all travelers before entry into Vietnam. This is except for citizens of countries with visa exemption agreements, who may stay up to 21 or 30 days without a visa. Exempted countries include most Asean countries, Cambodia, Korea, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Philippines. All other citizens are required to have an entry visa before arrival, or have a pre-approved entry visa. This is a visa that is issued on arrival at Vietnam’s international airports, and has been arranged before your arrival in Vietnam. Please check with the Vietnam Embassy or Consulate in your country for visa requirements.

Vietnam Visa Services

There are two ways to apply for your visa to Vietnam: 

First Way:
 Make application yourself at the embassy or consulate of Vietnam in your country of origin, or you may apply at any Vietnam embassies and consulates around the world.

Documents needed: Passport with six months’ validity, visa application forms, passport sized photo, and any other documents requested by the embassy or consulate. Visa forms are available directly at any Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your country, or by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the embassy or consulate Visa Section. Fees vary between embassies, and it will take 4 to 10 days, depending on the country you are applying in.

Second Way:
 Get your visa instantly by using Travel Loops. In the event that there is no Vietnam embassy or consulate in your country, or you want to make Vietnam a part of a multi-destination trip, we recommend Visa on Arrival as your best option. This is most likely the easiest way to obtain your visa without having to go to the embassy or consulate prior to your trip. This is a valid alternative when applying for a tourist visa. The entry visa will be stamped in your passport as you pass through the immigration checkpoint at the airport. It will be valid for thirty days, and can be extended once inside Vietnam. However, with this type of visa, you only can enter the country by air at an international airport.

For this process we use the service at Travel Loops, and we are one of the best travel agencies to offer this service. We obtain what is called an “Approval Letter” for you from the Vietnam Immigration Department in Hanoi, and after we obtain the approval for you, we will forward a copy to you by fax or e-mail. Copies of the same document will be forwarded on your behalf to Vietnam Immigration checkpoints at International Airports, so that when you arrive in Vietnam, the immigration officers will have those documents on hand, and will be able to issue your entry visa without delay. For further information please Send Us An Email.

 

Travel Documents & Vouchers 
When you book your tour, you will be issued with a Confirmation Invoice. Please ensure that all the services which you have booked and paid for are shown on your travel documents, and that all names have been spelled correctly. If you have booked additional services (ex. extra night accommodation, transfers or excursions), please make sure that these are shown on your Confirmation Invoice, and that you have been issued with a voucher for these services. (Please contact the sales agent regarding service vouchers)

 

Money

Currency Exchange

There are a variety of ways you can obtain, or carry money overseas, including credit cards, ATM cards, Traveller's cheques, and cash. Traveller's cheques are a useful back-up which are popular for security reasons. Foreign currencies and Traveller's cheques can be changed into Vietnamese Dong at banks and foreign currency exchange agencies in most cities of these countries. Credit cards can be used in most cities and large tourist centers. Before leave Vietnam, local currencies can be changed into foreign currencies at the airport.

However, it is recommended that you do carry some cash with you (a small amount is sufficient). Local currency is useful for making small purchases, and in more remote areas. It is a good idea to change an amount of money on arrival at the airport. This can be very useful for any immediate expenses. If you are entering at a border crossing, change only a small amount of money at the money changers, and wait until you can get to a bank to change more money. Banks and airport exchange services generally offer the best exchange rates. Private money changers will have the worst exchange rates. ATMs are widely available in the cities, but not all are open 24 hours a day. US dollars are not widely accepted in all cities in Vietnam, however you are advice to change to local currency.

When you leave, be sure to change any local currency back into dollars at the airport or when you cross the border.

 

General Security and Safity

Crime
Most visits to Vietnam are trouble free but you should take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Petty crime occurs in the backpacker districts and the main tourist shopping areas. There has been an increase in reports of handbags being stolen in Ho Chi Minh City.

Safeguard your valuables against pickpockets and avoid carrying handbags or wearing expensive jewelry or watches. Carry a photocopy of the pages from your passport with your personal details and visa for ID and leave the original document in a safe place.

Violent attacks against tourists have been reported in towns, as well as popular tourist areas like Nha Trang in the early morning or late at night. Some tourists have been attacked while on a motorcycle taxi. Sexual assaults are rare, but you should travel with friends and take normal precautions. Don’t walk in secluded places alone, or with people you don’t know.

There have been reports of arguments over hotel, restaurant or taxi bills turning violent or abusive. It is well worth researching places to stay before you arrive. To avoid potential disputes, make sure you are clear about the level of service you can expect to receive and any associated charges.

There have been reports of scams targeting tourists, involving fake charities, gambling and taxis.

 

Local travel
Travel is restricted near military installations and some areas of Vietnam are fairly inaccessible. Don’t stray off main routes in rural areas and check with your tour operator before setting off. There have been mountain climbing accidents in the north of Vietnam. Follow safety guidelines and procedures and make sure you are supervised by a reputable guide.

Undertake any leisure activities which include firearms at your own risk and make sure you are supervised by a reputable guide. There have been reports of hearing loss from those close to these activities.

Unexploded mines and ordnance are a continuing hazard in former battlefields, particularly in central Vietnam and along the Laos Border, formerly traversed by the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Mined areas are often unmarked.

 

Road travel
You will need to get a Vietnamese driving license to drive a car or motorcycle from the Hanoi Department of Public Works and Transportation or the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Public Works and Transportation. Don’t use your passport as a deposit for hiring vehicles or in place of a fine in the event of a traffic offence.

The standard of driving and vehicle maintenance is poor. There are frequent fatal crashes.

Traffic accidents tend to attract a large crowd. If you are involved in a traffic accident you could face criminal charges and you may need to pay compensation to the injured person even if the injuries are minor. If you are subject to an investigation, offer the police your full co-operation and inform the British Embassy or Consulate. There have been reports of traffic police seeking payments from motorists to compensate for traffic offences.

Riding a motorbike can be dangerous. There are fatal accidents daily. These can result in costly medical bills and you may not be covered by your insurance. It is illegal to be on a motorbike without a helmet. Helmet safety standards vary.

Larger metered taxis are generally reliable. There are many taxi operators and meters are set at different prices. The meter should start at around 8,000 to 20,000 VND. Where possible get hotels or restaurants to book you a reputable taxi.

There have been reports of overcharging for taxi journeys from airports. Check the published fare near the taxi stands before starting your journey.

Bus and coach crashes are not unusual. Vehicles are often poorly maintained. The risk of death or injury on the road increases if you travel at night. When travelling by bus be vigilant against petty theft. Don’t accept offers of free transfers to hotels, as these are likely to be bogus.

Rail travel in Vietnam is generally safe. Be vigilant against petty theft. There have been numerous reports of personal belongings being stolen while people are asleep on the Sapa to Hanoi train.

 

Sea travel
There have been a number of fatal boat accidents in Vietnam, some involving foreign nationals in Halong Bay. The most recent fatal accident was in October 2012. Safety regulations and standards vary greatly and are not at the same level as the United Kingdom. Check with your tour operator about the safety record and registration of boats, and the certification of personnel before setting off. Make sure you receive a full safety briefing when joining any boat. Consider safety standards carefully before taking an overnight boat trip on Halong Bay as boats can sink quickly and without warning.

 

Piracy has been known to occur in coastal areas off Vietnam. Mariners should be vigilant, reduce opportunities for attacks, establish secure areas onboard and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.

Safety on the adventure/active or cycling trip
With Travel Loops you can be assured that your safety and well-being is our prime concern. Over the years we have built up a network of local staff and local offices which enables us to maintain constant contact, and to monitor events on the ground in each of our destinations, and thus ensure that every aspect of your tour goes as smoothly as possible.

Do not worry about all the terrible things that “might” happen to you while traveling in Indochina. Remember that in these countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand) traveling is quite safe, and group travel is even more so.

 

Health & Medical

Insurance
Please remember that our tour prices do not include insurance. However, it is a condition of joining our tours that travelers are fully insured for any medical expenses they might incur while traveling. At the start of your tour, the tour guide or coordinator will request to see your insurance documents, and will note down the policy number and emergency contact numbers.

Travel insurance is compulsory for all participants in our tours, and you need to have travel insurance coverage before your departure. This insurance is needed in the event of a medical emergency, and it will cover hospital and medical expenses, and evacuation if it is needed. It covers expenses related to accidents and unforeseen illnesses which may arise.

 

Vaccinations & Medication
Vaccinations are officially required by the local authorities; however immunization against cholera, hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus, polio and Japanese encephalitis is advised. Please consult your health care provider for advice. It is also a good idea to bring mosquito repellent and wearing long-sleeved shirts and slacks from dusk onward, and avoiding perfume is also recommended. In addition, you should bring a supply of any prescription drugs you are taking. Your prescription medication may not be available here. You should also have your prescription with you in case your medication gets lost. Medical standards outside of Hanoi, Saigon or outside major cities in the country, are generally lower that those found in western countries.

 

Personal Medical Kits
It is your discretion to bring a personal supply of basic medical items like band aids, aspirin, insect repellent etc. You may also want to bring medicine for headaches, diarrhea, constipation, insect bites, sore throats, eye drops, etc. For traveling in/outlying areas with limited medical facilities, some travelers prefer to bring their own emergency medical kits. This may also aid local medical staff in case of accident or illness. Our Active/Adventure/Cycling tour leaders are equipped with a comprehensive First Aid Kit (including a sterile pack) for emergencies, however they cannot dispense medicine.

 

Existing Medical Conditions
All persons participating in our tours are assumed to be in good physical health, and to have a sufficient level of fitness to complete the itinerary. If you, or anyone in your group, have an existing medical condition or disability you must make this known to us at the time of booking. If you are accepted on the tour, you must also make this condition known to the tour guide/leader.

 

What to Pack

Travel Light
The first thing to remember when you are packing for your trip is that your airline baggage allowance is almost certainly going to be no more than 20kg. You should also remember that apart from those few occasions when a hotel porter will take your bags from the hotel out to a tour bus, you will be carrying your own luggage.

 

Luggage
For ease of use and carrying, the best type of bag to bring is a backpack, or a hold-all with some sort of shoulder strap. This type of bag is much easier to handle than a rigid suitcase. Wheeled suitcases might be useful for airport concourses, but not for on the road.

In addition to your main bag, we also recommend that you bring:

1. A smaller day pack for items like camera, water, sun cream, hat, etc.

2. A money belt or waist pouch (bum bag) for your travel documents and money.

Remember that your luggage, bags and personal belongings are your responsibility at all times.

 

Luggage Requirement Checklist

As a guideline we have compiled a list of things that you might need on your tour. Naturally you will have your own ideas, so please remember that with the exception of The Essentials, these lists are only intended as a guide, and you should choose the items you wish to bring.

 

Essentials

- Passport (also keep a copy separate from the passport)

- Money (Keep a note of the emergency contact number for your Visa or ATM card, and the  serial numbers of any traveller's cheques)

- Copies of Travel Insurance Documents

- Airline Tickets or Printouts

- Travel Documents / Service Vouchers

 

Our Suggestion

- Comfortable clothing for cycling allowing your legs to move freely

- Helmet

- Cycling gloves

- Stiff soled Cycling shoes

- Insulated water bottle

- Waterproof jacket (rain is always possible in South East Asia)

- Spare inner tube

- A bicycle (If you have your preference bicycle)

- Front and rear bike lights

- Cycling Water bottle

- Money belt or pouch

- Flashlight and batteries

- Personal washing / shaving kit

- Camera and film / memory cards

- Sun-glasses

- Swiss Army Knife / Leatherman

- Lightweight wind / waterproof jacket

 

Our Recommendation: Better to hire the bicycle from us as it is convenience with a light travel.

 

Medical / Personal

- Insect repellent

- Sun cream or sunblock

- Lip balm

- Moisturizer / After Sun lotion

- Personal medical supplies (aspirin, paracetamol, plasters, bandage, safety pins, antiseptic      cream, diarrhea tablets, tampons, etc.)

- Antihistamine / insect bite cream

- Dehydration solution - Personal medication

Note: Our cycling tour leaders & guides carry comprehensive First Aid Kits, but these are for emergency use only.

If you are taking any medication, or you have a condition that needs specific medicines (e.g. asthma) you must bring all necessary medication with you. You must also inform the tour leader or guide of your condition at the start of your tour.

 

Clothing
As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, sturdy and easily washed. Most people tend to bring too many clothes, so try to travel as light as possible.

Please remember that special cycling clothes and shoes are not easy available in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos (although some may be available in Thailand). You may want to bring SPD shoes or sandals with overshoes. You do not want to have to go looking for specialized cycling clothes and shoes during your journey, so bring what you will need with you.

 

Photography

Still photography is not a problem at historical sites, but please remember that climbing or leaning on statues and walls is not acceptable. Also, always ask before taking photos of other people.

However, if you want to take video at historical sites, special permits are necessary. Also be aware that video cameras must be declared at customs on arrival in many countries.

 

Film vs. Digital 
Film may not always be available locally and can be of variable quality, so you should bring plenty with you. If you use a digital camera, be sure you have an adequate supply of memory cards, and bring spare batteries, especially if they are of an unusual size. (Although batteries and most memory cards can be bought in the cities) Two sets of rechargeable are best so one set is always full. Don't forget to bring the charger as well as a travel plug adapter.

Many internet shops or photo shops can burn photos from memory cards onto a CD, but do not delete any images from the card until you have checked the CD on a different computer.

 

Emergency Contact 
If someone needs to contact you while you are on tour; the best method is for them to contact your sales agent, who can then pass on the message. If your sales agent is unavailable, and someone needs to make urgent contact with you, they should telephone our hotline in the tour operation department in Travel Loops office. Emergency Contact details are shown in each service voucher. We recommend that you leave a copy of your trip itinerary, service voucher and details of how to contact us / you with someone at home.

 

Phoning Hotels
We do not recommend that your friends and relatives try to contact you by phoning tour hotels. It is not possible for us to provide the details of hotels where you will stay before the tour starts (except for the Meeting Point hotel) because hotels are subject to change.

 

E-mail
The internet is everywhere, in internet shops, hotels cafes, guesthouses, etc. Chat and and webcams are also widely available. Internet use is free for guests in many hotels and guesthouses. Using the internet in internet shops is about US$0.50/ hour, depending on the location.

 

Mobile Phones

You can use your own cell phone if you come from Europe, Asia or Australia (GSM 900/1800). If it is not yet unlocked, it can be easily done here. For those from the USA or Japan, you may need to buy a cell phone when you get here. You may want to do this anyway. If you have an expensive mobile phone, you may want to leave it at home, and buy a cheap one here in case it gets lost, stolen, or broken.

There are regular prepaid refill cards and international prepaid cards. You can get a SIM card now for as little as $0.50 USD. You will need to show your passport, and/or give them a copy of it.

 

Cell phone shops can be found almost everywhere in the countries we operate in, even in the most remote parts of the country. However, not all mobile phone companies cover all parts of the country, especially in remote areas there may not be any coverage.