Visitors should be sensitive if discussing the Vietnam War as more than 3 million Vietnamese died in the conflict and some conversations could be seen as offensive. In saying that, the Vietnamese do not feel any hostility towards visitors from countries who were involved in the conflict with some even respecting their military efforts. However visitors should be aware that some attractions do present a rather anti-American perspective on the legacy of the war and should be prepared for this. It's fairly common, particularly in the central and northern areas of Vietnam, for visitors to be stared at by locals. Visitors (particularly men) should also avoid travelling alone with Asian women as this can attract attention and may even cause the woman to be harassed or insulted as an escort, lover or even prostitute.
Vietnam's national currency is the dong and can be difficult to exchange outside the country, so visitors should change their money on arrival and try not to have any left by the time they leave. USD$1 is currently worth approximately 21,000 dong. Credit cards are widely accepted but attractions a 3% surcharge similar to travellers cheques which are also accepted by can incur a small fee. ATMs are readily available in all big cities and major tourist destinations.
Most accommodation features wireless or broadband internet access however internet cafes are also readily available in tourist hubs with rates ranging from 2,000-10,000 dong per hour. This is quite a cheap rate for high connection speeds. Vietnam electricity operates on the American plug in the south and European plug in the north (220V/50Hz).
For international dialling use 0011 + country code + area code + local number. The international telephone country code for Vietnam is 84 while the local area code for Hanoi is 04 and Ho Chi Minh is 08. When trying to contact home, particularly by phone remember the time difference. Vietnam's time zone is UTC/GMT +7.
Trains are the most comfortable way to travel in Vietnam although they are more expensive than buses. There is one 1723km major train line through Vietnam which connects Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The journey is more than 30 hours but offers sleeper cars or overnight hops to major destinations and is a great way to see the countryside and meet the locals.
There are a number of bus services available in Vietnam, the main two being a long-distance service that connects most major cities in Vietnam as well as public buses that service within the cities. Long-distance services depart early in the morning while public buses are the most convenient way to reach the city centre. All buses are in reasonably good condition however it is worth noting that average speeds are slow, even on the long distance services and a 276km trip from Ho Chi Ming City to the Mekong Delta usually takes about 8 hours.
Visas are required to enter Vietnam and although the country has a system of 'visa on arrival', this term is misleading as a letter of approval is required before your arrival. An agent in Vietnam obtains a letter of approval featuring the visitor's name, nationality, date of birth, passport number and date of arrival from the Department of Immigration and then forwards it to the traveller. Once you arrive at the international airport in Vietnam you must proceed to the 'visa upon arrival' counter and produce the letter before filling in another form to receive an official sticker on you passport.