History - Now known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the land of the Vietnamese has undergone many changes through many struggles over the centuries. A thousand years of Chinese rule, followed by another thousand years of consolidation, expansion, civil wars, wars against the Cham empire and the Kmers, further expansion, colonialisation by the French, Japanese occupation, war against the French, partition into 2 countries, the Vietnam War, reunification of North & South, and finally, after ridding the world of the murderous Pol Pot regime in neighbouring Cambodia, they found peace.
The North has been the cradle of the Vietnamese people (Dai Viet) for over 4,000 years - including a time when they led the world in technical advancements during the Bronze Age. Over the past 1000 years the Vietnamese from the Red River area have gradually expanded southwards and displaced the Cham peoples and then the Kmers along the coastal strip linking the Red River and Mekong River deltas. Today, this prime piece of real estate resembles the shape of the letter "S" and serves as home to around 87 million people from over 54 different ethnic groups.
Rich in natural beauty and endowed with many World Heritage listed sites, Vietnam’s re-awakening has finally gained the attention of the world. When we first toured Vietnam in 1989 and the early 90s it was like witnessing a country that had been encapsulated in a time bubble ...the asia of yesteryear.
Now, in the 21st century, the resilient Vietnamese have hit the Refresh button, joined ASEAN, and are modernising at a fair clip ...the next generation has arrived! Sadly for tourists but happily for the Vietnamese, the thatched houses are quickly being replaced by brick & concrete structures ...who knows where they’ll be in 2020!
Major Cities -The Capital of Vietnam is Ha Noi. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the largest city and the country’s commercial centre. The 3rd largest city is the northern port of Hai Phong, and 4th is the port city of Da Nang in central Vietnam
Language - Official language is Vietnamese (Tieng Viet). English is now spoken widely by the younger generation ...particularly school-age children.
Time - Vietnam is 3 hours behind EST (Eastern Standard Time in Australia) and 7 hours ahead of GMT (GMT +7).
Entry Requirements - Travellers must be in possession of a Passport valid for 6 months beyond last day of tour. Visas are required for entry to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. FRANKO’S ensure all clients have a valid Visa for Vietnam before arrival in Vietnam. Cambodian and Laos Visas are obtained upon arrival in each country. Visa costs are additional to tour price.
FRANKO’S also provide Visa advice and assistance to non-Australian clients on tour.
Currency -Vietnamese currency is called "Dong" (meaning Brass). Tourists can take US Dollars, Euros or Australian Dollars and have no trouble exchanging for local currency (Dong) whenever required. ATMs are now everywhere in Vietnam ...these machines allow withdrawals in Vietnamese Dong.
Electricity - Power supply in Vietnam is 220 Volts ...just like Australia. Travellers need a conversion plug or adaptor to fit the round"2 Pin" powerpoints in hotels, on the train, etc. (See picture of adaptor under Travel FAQs).
Hotels - Since 1992 we’ve been keeping an eye open for the very best tour hotels. Most of FRANKO’S hotels are of 4 Star Standard. DELUXE Tours use 5 Star hotels throughout. All of our hotels are sited centrally in each destination ...close to the action! Our policy on hotels? Position, position, position! *Every FRANKO'S Rail Tour starts at the Continental Hotel in Saigon (oldest hotel in Vietnam) and ends at the newest hotel in Hanoi
(currently Golden Silk Hotel).
Clothing Needs -It’s nearly always warm to hot in Vietnam (except for the North between Nov-Mar) so there is little need for warm clothing. Loose fitting summer clothes are the go ...with perhaps a warm top for nights on the train, or in the higher altitude of Sa Pa in the far NW. That warm top might be handy for flights too!
Shopping Opportunities -Saigon offers the widest range of shopping experiences (air-con department stores, markets, street sales, specialty stores) selling modern and cultural items of interest ...not to mention clothing, watches, jewellery, artwork, cameras, laquerware, electronic gizmos, etc. Tailor-made clothing and wonderful silk products are best around Hoi An and in Hanoi’s Old Quarter; while curios and souvenirs are available everywhere. FRANKO’S know where to shop!
o0o0o0o Further information on Climate can be found at Travel FAQs page
Country Information on CAMBODIA and LAOS can be found under "Tour Destinations".