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Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 7/12/2004 4:44 AM

Like a dragon floating in the sea, Vietnam winds its way some 1,030 miles up from the South China Sea to the Gulf of Tonkin, with its head caressing the border of China to the north and its back resting snuggly against her Southeast Asian neighbors, Laos and Cambodia, to the west. The total land area of Vietnam covers about 128,000 square miles (larger than Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina combined). Vietnam’s main cities, for population and importance, are Hanoi, Haiphong, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Vietnam’s northern terrain is mostly mountainous or hilly, with some highland areas covered by a thick green blanket of jungle (about half the total land area). The Red River Delta and coastal plains in the lowland part of the North are heavily populated and intensively cultivated (almost entirely by rice fields). Although much of this Delta Region is seasonally flooded, a complex network of dikes and levees helps to prevent serious flood damage.

The southern part of Vietnam is dominated by the estuary of the Mekong River system and is low, flat, and frequently marshy. The rich soil in the Mekong Delta is the most fertile in the country. Areas immediately north and east of Ho Chi Minh City in the Mekong Delta are much more varied with low-lying tropical rain forest, upland forest, and the rugged Annamite Mountain chain.

Vietnam is largely a tropical monsoon country. In the north, a hot rainy season prevails from May to September. The average temperature in Hanoi is about 86°F during this period, with very high humidity. Due to the lack of proper drainage, flooding caused by heavy rainfall and/or typhoons can create conditions hazardous to ones health and property. Flooded streets slow down traffic and provoke accidents. Houses and furnishings can suffer as a result of leaky roofs and other sources of water damage. Food supplies are also affected. During the cooler, dry season in the north from December to March, the average temperature is 68°F, with overnight minimums sometimes around 40°–42°F. Due to the lack of heating in most shops and offices during the dry season, it will feel considerably colder.

In the south, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta experience a year-round tropical climate with daily temperatures normally exceeding 88°F. The rainy season in Danang and Hue in the center of the country lasts from October to March.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual Mean Temperature 79 79 83 85 84 82 82 81 80 80 79 80 80 Av. Daily Max Temp (F) 85 86 92 91 88 87 86 86 86 86 86 86 88 Av. Daily Min Temp(F) 72 72 74 76 76 76 76 76 74 74 74 72 72 Relative Humidity (%) 51 40 52 57 63 65 69 70 71 68 63 57 80 Precipitation (Inches) 1 .5 1 2 9 14 13 11 14 11 5 2 76

Population Last Updated: 8/17/2005 9:40 PM

In 2005, Vietnam’s rapidly growing population was estimated between 82 and 84 million, making it the twelfth most populous country in the world. The population makeup is roughly 86% ethnic Vietnamese, 1% ethnic Chinese, and the remaining 13% a mixture of over 50 ethno-linguistic groups, including Khmer, Cham and Muong. The largest single minority group, the Tay, live mostly in the Northern provinces such as Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Lang Son , Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang, Ha Giang and Quang Ninh. Vietnam’s infant mortality rate is 21/1,000. Life expectancy for males is 70 years and 73 years for females.

Vietnam has one of the most complex ethno-linguistic mixes in all of Asia. Aside from the Kinh or Vietnamese, the rest of the country's 54 nationalities inhabit the Central Highlands and the mountainous regions in the north. The official language is Vietnamese (a hybrid of Mon-Khmer). English is increasingly favored as a second language. In addition to English, many Vietnamese officials and businessmen speak some French, Russian or Chinese.


The predominant religion practiced by most Vietnamese is Mahayana Buddhism, which is often referred to as a way of life or a philosophy rather than a religion. It advocates moderation in all facets of life and sees material objects as standing in the way of greater happiness. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, with the actions of your current life determining the role of your next life.

By living simply and selflessly, a person will be reincarnated many times over. This continues over many lifetimes until the soul reaches a stage of eternal happiness – nirvana. Other religions practiced in Vietnam are Confucianism, Taoism, Catholicism, Animism, Cao Daism and Islam.

Cultural Characteristics

The Vietnamese family unit (particularly in the rural areas) is patriarchal in nature with strong familial ties. It is not unusual to find three or four generations living in the same household. Personal names are written with the family name first, middle name second, and the first name last. It is common practice to address people by their first names, e.g. a woman by the name of Nguyen Anh Tuyet would be addressed as “Miss Tuyet.”

Observing the following local customs will help keep you from embarrassing yourself with the Vietnamese. Crossing your index and middle finger (our way of wishing it were so) is considered to be a lewd gesture. Direct eye contact is seen as a sign of disrespect. Touching someone, especially on the head, is not welcomed. Motioning for someone to come with your palm up is considered rude. Handing a pair of chopsticks or a toothpick to someone is considered bad luck. And, last but not least, the Vietnamese (like most other Asians) do not like to lose face. When they don't understand a request or question, they will still respond affirmatively so as not to “lose face.” Although they might disagree, they will nod affirmatively just to avoid confrontation. The Vietnamese are not prone to show their emotions in public.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 8/17/2005 9:44 PM

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) is a one-party state controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party, with the Political Bureau (Politburo) as the top organ of the Party. Its national flag is red with a large yellow star in the center. The Party’s constitutionally mandated leading role and the occupancy of nearly all the senior Government positions by Party officials ensure the primacy of Politburo guidelines. The National Assembly (chosen in quadrennial elections) elected non-Party members for the first time in 1997. But, despite some increased activism, it remains largely controlled by the Party. Party intrusion into Government operations has diminished somewhat, allowing Government officials to have more latitude in implementing policy. The Party and State have also diminished their intrusion into the daily lives of the people.

Vietnam’s administrative bodies are divided into the following four levels: 1) central, 2) provincial and municipal (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, and Haiphong), 3) quarters (urban) and districts (rural), and 4) precincts (urban) and communes (rural). Vietnam has 59 provinces, 5 municipalities under central government control, and one special zone. All these different levels have a fair degree of independence in implementation of policy and administration of local resources.

There are a number of “mass organizations.” The Women's Union (approximately half of the total labor force), the Farmer’s Union, and the Youth Union are called on to represent the interests of various sectors of the Vietnamese public and serve as a political link between the people and the Communist Party on the one hand, and the Party and Vietnamese Government on the other. The Vietnam Fatherland Front, an umbrella organization under the Communist Party, coordinates and oversees the activities of these mass organizations. The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) represents the commercial interests of both state-owned industries and the private sector and informally advises the Vietnamese Government on economic policy.

Vietnam obtained membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July 1995 and in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in November 1998. The SRV also belongs to the following international organizations: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), WHO (World Health Organization), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), ADB (Asian Development Bank), INTELSAT, Mekong Committee, Nonaligned Movement, and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council. Vietnam also has observer status in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It hopes to join WTO in 2005.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 7/12/2004 5:09 AM

The art scene in Vietnam reflects the perception of a people surrounded by a rich cultural heritage that at the same time are striving to stake their place in the modern world. There are dozens of art galleries in Hanoi, many with high-quality paintings available, but just as many with trendy commercialized “souvenir” artwork churned out for the tourist trade. Other popular art forms include ceramics, religious wood carving sculptures and lacquer ware. Hanoi’s Art Museum contains a smattering of work from different eras but probably does not have as good a collection as some of the private galleries. Also of interest are Hanoi’s History Museum, which contains artifacts from 1,000 years ago, and the Ethnological Museum.

The capital city of Hanoi is sometimes referred to as “Asia’s architectural pearl,” with its mixture of traditional Southeast Asian/Chinese Art Deco and French Colonial styles. Juxtaposed among these quaint and pastel-colored turn of the century houses and office buildings are the recently constructed hotels and high-rise buildings of shiny steel and glass. There is an international movement, Friends of Vietnam's Heritage, actively engaged in preserving the architecture of the past in the face of the temptation to tear it down to build more commercial enterprises.

The Opera House is one center of culture in Hanoi. It is the home of the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra. International cultural groups also perform at the Opera House or at Hanoi’s Music Conservatory. There are several smaller theaters for traditional Vietnamese opera, "cheo", and water puppet performances.

Although the quality of education has improved significantly here, Vietnam’s reputation as a highly educated country exceeds the reality. Vietnam’s population is probably better educated than other countries enduring similar levels of economic development. However, for the most part, the academic curriculum in this country still focuses on rote memory and “the one right answer.” Schools operate on double and sometimes triple shifts, meaning little actual classroom time for many students. Educational facilities are frequently inadequate. Oftentimes, families cannot afford the fees for attending school beyond the very basic levels.

The National University has many branches, the most prestigious of which is located in Hanoi. The SRV is striving to improve its comparatively low level of technological knowledge, particularly in the field of computer science.

Initiated in Vietnam in 1992, the Fulbright Program enrolls some 30 Vietnamese officials, scholars and professionals annually in graduate programs at leading American universities. Last year the program began funding American graduate student research in Vietnam. This year’s Fulbright agenda included placing American lecturers at seven Vietnamese universities to teach and consult in various disciplines. In addition, there is a Fulbright-run program in HCMC, which trains mostly provincial level officials in economic decision-making.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 7/12/2004 5:15 AM

After a decade of political isolation brought on by its invasion of Cambodia, Vietnam began to open its doors in 1986, seeking both to enter the marketplace and participate in the international community. As in China, reforms started with the agricultural sector and an opportunity for farmers to hold land for extended periods of time and decide on what crops to plant and how to sell much of what they produced. The “doi moi” (renovation) reforms also tried to create an atmosphere to attract foreign investment.

Agriculture, especially wet-rice cultivation, accounts for nearly 30% of overall production and employs a large majority of the population. Important cash crops include coffee, rubber, tea, and mulberry (for silk production). Vietnam has significant deposits of crude oil and natural gas lying mainly off the southern coast, as well as coal and limestone. Other minerals are present, but not in marketable quantities, using locally available technology. Forty percent of the industrial sector is still in the hands of state-owned companies. The country's main exports are garments, textiles, crude oil, rice, seafood products, coffee, footwear and other agricultural products. Export of light manufactured goods, especially textiles, footwear and processed foods, is growing in importance. Major imports include petroleum products, industrial machinery, vehicles, consumer electronics, telecommunications equipment, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals.

European and Asian investors came first, and remain among Vietnam’s top ten investors even today. The U.S. trade embargo was not lifted until February 1994, after a long period in which the U.S. sought to strengthen Vietnamese commitments to cooperate on the humanitarian MIA issue. Vietnam also focused on re-establishing both regional and international ties, establishing diplomatic relations with over 100 countries. As a member of ASEAN, Vietnam committed itself to the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) as a part of the requirements for further economic reforms and tariff reductions.

Vietnam’s reform process had already slowed by 1997, due to a two-year process in which Vietnam moved from a generation of eighty-year-old leaders to a government and party led by men in their sixties. The new leadership pledged to continue the reform process and has not rolled back any of the earlier reform policies. But they have yet to move past the earlier stages of reform to attack the inefficiencies of a State-run system, preferring instead to sustain a lower level of growth while maintaining basic social stability and control by the Communist party.

The initial boom in foreign investment began to create the trappings of modernity in larger cities like Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Hanoi, Haiphong, Hue and Danang got new hotels, taxicabs, and the start of a tourism industry. The hotel boom, most notably in Hanoi and HCMC, became a bust in 1997-98 when the over supply of three, four, and five-star facilities tumbled room rates. Unfortunately, this did not fill Hanoi's 3,000 new, higher-end hotel rooms because tourist levels had already begun to fall as a result of the Asian financial crisis. This crisis has also taken a deep bite out of foreign investment levels, which have been declining since 1996. By the end of 1997, U.S. investment in Vietnam reached $1.4 billion, putting us seventh behind the French and a host of regional countries with significantly more money invested than the U.S. Two-way trade at about $700-800 million is a fraction of its potential because of the absence of normal trade relations (formerly called MFN or most favored nation status).

The U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA), which went into effect on December 10, 2001, is the centerpiece of our efforts to open Vietnam’s market and promote reform of its trade and investment regime. The BTA includes provisions that over time will eliminate a broad array of non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports; cut tariffs on goods of high interest to the U.S., especially agricultural items; provide effective protection and enforcement of U.S. intellectual property rights; open Vietnam’s market to U.S. services providers; and create fair and transparent rules and regulations for U.S. investors.

In November 2000, the U.S. and Vietnam signed a framework for science and technology cooperation. In 2003, the U.S. and Vietnam concluded a bilateral textile agreement, a civil aviation agreement and a counter narcotics agreement.


Automobiles Last Updated: 8/17/2005 9:46 PM

Having your own car or recreational van will add a great deal of convenience and independence to your life. Retaining a full-time driver is highly recommended, particularly if you have school-aged children with extracurricular activities and active social lives. Approximately one-third of all USG personnel in Vietnam ship POVs to post. A handful of American employees occasionally do drive their own vehicles, including motorcycles. A valid U.S. driver's license is required to obtain a local drivers permit. (NB: International drivers licenses are not valid in Vietnam.) Please note that you may not import a vehicle over four years old or a motorcycle of over 175cc into Vietnam.

Driving in Vietnam is stressful and requires a great deal of care and vigilance to avoid accidents. Most people do not obey standard rules of the road. Traffic moves on the right, but operators sometimes do not stay on their own side of the road. There are very few traffic lights or stop signs. In principle, the bigger you are, the more right of way you have. Another basic rule of thumb for driving in Vietnam: Those behind need to watch out for those in front or alongside. If you plan on operating a motorcycle or riding a bicycle, bring a sturdy helmet. Department of Transportation approved helmets provide excellent protection; however, some people find that the limitation of peripheral vision from a full-face helmet is not always a good tradeoff in Vietnam, given the need to watch for lane intrusion from all directions. An open-faced helmet or even a bicycle helmet may be appropriate, but riding bare headed is not.

Virtually everyone in HCMC owns a motor scooter and operates it like there's no tomorrow. With this seemingly endless stream of motor vehicles, HCMC is, without a doubt, one of the noisiest cities in the world. At first glance, one might think HCMC's mostly straight and perpendicular roads would be safer to navigate than Hanoi's winding streets, but one quickly realizes that havoc reigns supreme down south. People make U-turns wherever they please. Motor scooters dodge in and out pushing your nerves to the limit. If that weren't enough, the motor scooter operators drive significantly faster and are terrifyingly more reckless than in Hanoi. If the speed doesn't get to you, the abundant exhaust fumes will.


Local Transportation Last Updated: 8/17/2005 9:47 PM

Taxis are plentiful and the taxi drivers usually understand enough English to take you where you want to go. Cities still have many cycles or pedicabs you can use for short distances and/or more scenic rides. There are also “hugging” motor scooter rides available for the more adventuresome traveler (riding behind a Vietnamese on a 100cc Honda Dream).

Office Shuttle. The Embassy provides a shuttle service to and from the office for a reasonable monthly fee. Consulate General employees either use their own cars or take taxis to and from the office.

Mission personnel and their dependents may also rent USG vehicles, when available, for recreational travel in the city and/or surrounding areas. The charge for this service is currently $0.32 a mile, the driver’s hourly OT salary, and per diem for any overnight travel.


Regional Transportation Last Updated: 7/12/2004 5:23 AM

Using local buses is not recommended. They are not only crowded and uncomfortable, but are also considered unsafe for most foreigners. Trains in Vietnam only service coastal cities. Not only are they limited in service, but also they run slowly on a narrow gauge track and, except for a special group of cars used from Hanoi to Sapa in the northwest highlands, are uncomfortable, unsafe, and noisy. Vietnam Airlines and Pacific Airlines monopolize the domestic air service and have flights to most major cities within Vietnam.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 7/12/2004 5:25 AM

Local and international telephone service is available and reliable. International direct dial service is excellent. A one-minute call to the U.S. or other foreign country costs approximately $1. Direct calls from the U.S. can be received in Hanoi without cost.

Residences of all USG personnel are equipped with telephones. Employees are responsible for paying the monthly residential telephone bill.

Through the International Voice Gateway (IVG) Program, the Embassy has four IVG telephone trunks directly connecting the office with the State Department Telephone Switch at Beltsville, Maryland. This IVG connection was installed as both a cost-saving and morale-boosting program. Calls to the greater Washington area (703/202/301/410) are free. All 1-800 numbers are also free of charge to Embassy personnel. When placing personal calls, a commercial telephone calling card can be used for numbers outside the D.C. area. These personal calls will be billed to the employee as if the call originated from Beltsville, Maryland.


Internet Last Updated: 8/16/2005 10:06 PM

Internet service is available at residences in both dial-up and ADSL formats. Dial-up is at a 1200 baud rate. Service can be provided via prepaid cards or monthly billing. In addition to ISP charges, users incur a per-minute telephone charge. ADSL is available at certain locations and costs a maximum of approximately $60 USD per month. Using both dial-up and ADSL users can expect outages. Although the outages are infrequent and short in duration, they are unexpected and an annoyance. All users are strongly advised to use some form of personal software fire wall, to protect against hackers and viruses.


Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 8/16/2005 10:09 PM

FPO service is available in the Embassy for all eligible employees and their dependents. U.S. Mail and Pouch arrive twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays and depart twice a week on Mondays and Saturdays. HCMC Consulate General mail also departs and arrives twice a week via Hong Kong. Average transit time from the U.S. for both posts is two weeks. DHL or other delivery services, are available in Hanoi and HCMC. Because HCMC does not yet have direct FPO service, outgoing parcels must be hand-carried to Hanoi or Bangkok and sent through the military postal system. Address official and personal correspondence as follows:

Hanoi FPO Address Full Name (for State Dept.) American Embassy Hanoi PSC 461 Box 400 FPO AP 96521-0002

Hanoi Pouch Address Full Name (for State Dept.) 4550 Hanoi Place Washington, DC 20521-4550

Ho Chi Minh City FPO Address Full Name American Consulate General HCMC PSC 461 Box 500 FPO AP 96521-0002

Ho Chi Minh City Pouch Address Full Name 7160 Ho Chi Minh City Place Washington DC 20521-7160


Radio and TV Last Updated: 8/16/2005 10:11 PM

The Vietnamese Government operates two radio stations, which broadcast classical music, traditional Vietnamese music, the news in Vietnamese, and several other languages including English, Russian, French and Chinese. American pop music is found on the dial a couple of hours per day.

There are four Vietnamese television channels, which include short English-language news segments. With the significant increase in the expatriate population during the past couple of years, installation of satellite dishes on detached houses and service apartments has brought a myriad of international television channels to Vietnam, including (but not limited to) CNN, BBC, CNBC, FOX TV, MTV, HBO, CINEMAX, and Hong Kong's Star World, Star Movies and Star Sports (which show selected British, Australian and American programs). Other channels available come from China, France, Australia, Indonesia, India and Malaysia. In Hanoi, one can obtain cable service from Vietnam TV for an initial fee of $60 and a monthly fee of about $2-$5.

In HCMC, the following cable channels can be viewed in all major hotels and service apartments: CNN, CNBC, DIS, HBO, MTV, TNT, National Geographic and the Cartoon Network. Other channels come from Australia, France, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Germany, Malaysia and the UK. Radio stations play both Vietnamese and Western music.

Locally purchased televisions and VCRs use the NTSC PAL system. Both PAL-system and multi-system televisions and VCRs are available here at reasonable prices. The wide variety of CDs and DVDs on sale are almost all pirated.


Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 7/12/2004 5:34 AM

Personnel are advised to bring reading material from home, because English-language books and magazines are scarce. Moreover, what little supply of English-language material is available in Vietnam costs two to three times what we would pay in the U.S.

The local print and broadcast media are run by the Communist Party and Government of Vietnam. Reporting of local developments is therefore heavily controlled and coverage of international events is limited. Both the Embassy and Consulate General subscribe to several copies of international newspapers and magazines, including the International Herald Tribune, Time and Newsweek. Both posts also subscribe to a number of local English-language periodicals, including Vietnam News and Vietnam Economic Times. Most USG employees receive their personal subscriptions through the FPO.

The Public Affairs Section’s library has a small collection of periodicals and books. E-mail and Internet services have recently become available but can also be censored. Because of power outages, service is often unreliable and subject to interruptions.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 7/12/2004 5:36 AM

The medical care available in Vietnam does not meet U.S. standards. Anything involving broken bones or other surgical procedures will entail a medevac. Medevac patients are flown either to Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore.

Embassy Hanoi has a Health Unit, which co-ordinates medevacs, provides basic outpatient care, vaccinations, etc.

There are three medical facilities in Hanoi approved by the USG for basic medical treatment: Hanoi Family Medical Practice, International SOS and the Hanoi French Hospital. In HCMC, the three approved medical facilities are International SOS, HCMC Family Medical Practice and the French Vietnam Hospital. All of the above medical facilities have a number of qualified foreign doctors on staff that speak English. While each can treat routine illnesses and stabilize trauma, they are not full-service medical facilities. Dentists are also available in Hanoi and HCMC and the caliber of general dental care is considered good.

Health and Medicine

Community Health Last Updated: 8/16/2005 10:13 PM

Non-potable Water. Tap water is not considered safe to drink. All Mission employees are issued water distillers or filters for home use. Bottled water can always be purchased in most restaurants and grocery stores. Consuming ice made from unfiltered water poses a risk when having refreshments outside the home.

Preparation of Food. The RMO recommends all fruits and vegetables eaten raw be thoroughly cleaned using an acceptable washing/soaking procedure. Reports by several Western doctors have noted that Vietnamese farmers rely heavily on DDT and night soil.

Sewage. The sewage system is inadequate and in many places within cities is totally nonexistent. Since the majority of Vietnamese homes in the city do not have indoor plumbing, it is not uncommon to see the Vietnamese using trees and walls as urinals, or to see the children use runoff channels in the street next to the sidewalks as toilets. Spitting, nose picking and nose blowing on the sidewalk, are also common practices. During the rainy season, the aforementioned practices are even more of a health hazard due to flooding on the streets and sidewalks.

Sanitation. Shopkeepers and residents place garbage in small piles outside in anticipation of the evening garbage collector, who then hauls away the debris in an open cart. Oftentimes, people can be seen sitting along the streets sifting through a day’s collection of garbage to recover recyclable material. A neighborhood site serves as the pickup point for the city’s garbage trucks.

Health and Medicine

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 8/16/2005 10:16 PM

Be aware of both the medical and physical health hazards in country. Try to avoid exposure to mosquitoes and/or use mosquito repellant. Mosquitoes are the most common transmitter for Dengue fever, Malaria and Japanese encephalitis. Recurring parasitic infestations (e.g. worms) are a problem. Individuals usually suffer some form of intestinal disorder (from mild to severe) within a few weeks after arrival in Vietnam. Diseases prevalent in Vietnam include Tuberculosis, Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis, STDs and Malaria. Prophylaxis for some of these diseases is available through the Embassy and Consulate General. Inoculation against Cholera and taking Malaria suppressants are not necessary.

It is recommended that both adults and children get vaccinated against Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis, Typhoid and Hepatitis A. Children should continue to follow their childhood vaccination schedules. Employees are advised to limit their purchase of medication to the U.S. Government approved medical facilities, or the few local pharmacies approved by the Regional Medical Officer/ Regional Nurse Practitioner /Post Health Unit. Most local pharmacies are known to carry contraband or counterfeit medication. Bring at least a three-month supply of medicine for chronic conditions, and over the counter medications (e.g tylenol, pepto-bismol, etc.) and arrange for regular renewal of supplies to be sent through the FPO.

Contact lenses and solutions are available in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, though they may be limited in selection, difficult to find and expensive. With increasing pollution levels, those using extended-wear lenses may find them inappropriate. If you wear eyeglasses, however, there are many shops offering a wide variety of fashionable styles. Acceptable eye care services are available in Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore.

Pick pocketing and handbag/camera snatching are common occurrences (much more so in HCMC than in Hanoi), particularly before the Lunar New Year (late January/early February). Fortunately, most of these petty crimes are economic and non-violent in nature. Should you be the unfortunate victim of such petty crimes, it is wise not to resist. Stolen cameras, wallets and handbags can be replaced; they are not worth risking life and limb.

While most people are more concerned with threats of infectious disease, traumatic injuries resulting from automobile or motorcycle accidents are the greatest hazard. Be sure to bring a sturdy helmet if you intend to ride either a bicycle or motor scooter in Vietnam.

The Regional Medical Officers and the Regional Psychiatrists from Bangkok and Singapore visit Hanoi and HCMC approximately every three months.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/16/2005 10:17 PM

The Embassy and Consulate currently have a number of positions that are generally filled by eligible family members. Other employment options include full or part-time teaching positions with the international schools and language institutes, non-governmental and international organizations, and free-lance work. Speaking Vietnamese is an advantage, but it is not an absolute for becoming gainfully employed. There is no bilateral work agreement, but no special work permits are required. Local wages are low and those who do not hold a diplomatic passport will be subject to Vietnamese personal income tax.

American Embassy - Hanoi

Post City Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:12 PM

Hanoi is the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and has a rapidly increasing population of about three million people. It is located in the north of the country on an alluvial plain along the Red River. The city is about 150 kilometers from the coast and is surrounded by rural countryside consisting largely of rice paddies.

Security Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:12 PM

Cities in Vietnam have the typical crime problems of other large cities throughout the world. Pickpockets and petty crime occur and appear to be increasing. Although violent crimes such as armed robbery are still relatively rare in Vietnam, perpetrators have grown increasingly bold, and we have received recent reports of knives and razors being used in attempted robberies in Ho Chi Minh City. Drug use is becoming more and more of a problem in Vietnam. The Embassy recommends that travelers’ use only metered taxis. Traffic in Vietnam can appear chaotic, and there is a real threat of being involved in a traffic or pedestrian accident. Pedestrians unaccustomed to walking across the street in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or other Vietnamese cities, should be extra cautious.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:04 PM

The Embassy staff includes approximately 56 direct-hire American, 12 family member appointment, 6 MSG, 7 U.S. PSC and 267 local employees. The post is growing, and these numbers are moving targets. Agencies represented at post are: Department of State (DOS), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Department of Defense (DOD) Defense Attaché Office, Marine Security Guards (MSG) and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control (HHS/CDC), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Embassy is located at 7 Lang Ha, Dong Da District in a Vietnamese-built, USG-owned nine-story building. The Chancery building houses all DOS, DAO, and DEA offices. Public Affairs Section, Consular Section, Medical Unit, HHS/CDC, FAS and FCS are in the Rose Garden Annex, 6 Ngoc Khanh Street, Hanoi. USAID and JPAC are located on a separate compounds far from the Embassy. Negotiations are under way for a new off-site commercial space, which would consolidate all of the agencies, which require greater public access, under one roof. The Detachment from Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command will remain separate from the Embassy due to the requirement for access by the Vietnamese public.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 7/12/2004 5:47 AM

The Embassy makes every effort to move newcomers directly into their permanent quarters.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:10 PM

Designated housing is provided for the Ambassador, DCM, and the Marine Detachment. Centrally located in the downtown area, the Ambassador’s Residence is the former colonial mansion of the French Governor of the Bank of Indochine. The DCM’s Residence is presently located in an apartment building close to a lake. The majority of Section and Agency Heads and married employees with dependent children are living in detached homes or spacious apartments. Single employees and married couples without children are assigned to apartments.

Housing assignments are based on the position being filled and family size. With the increasing availability of four-bedroom apartments, the Housing Board is assigning families with children to these units.

We currently have personnel living in the following apartment complexes: Thanh Cong Villas, Rose Garden Tower, Mayfair, Hanoi Lake View Apartments, and Coco Villa. The Thanh Cong Villas and Rose Garden Tower are within walking distance of the Embassy. The other complexes are approximately 10-15 minutes from the Embassy by car. As the local housing market expands, and four-bedroom apartments become available, the Embassy is placing families with children in those complexes.

Vietnam continues to struggle with the problem of quality versus quantity in constructing homes for foreign occupancy. As the real estate market grows, the Mission is constantly striving to improve the housing pool. In recent years, landlords have upgraded electrical system in some units and have expanded kitchens in others. Houses are normally furnished with a small garden, a separate laundry area, and have storage space.


Furnishings Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:11 PM

The Embassy provides employees with basic living room, dining room, and bedroom furniture procured from Lifestyle in ELSO and/or the U.S. Appliances include a refrigerator, electric oven range, microwave oven, water distiller or filter, washer, dryer, air conditioning units (landlord provides), dehumidifiers, and a vacuum cleaner. Two telephone sets are provided per residence and are usually located in the master bedroom and the living/family room. Only three transformers will be available to each residence. Any additional units can be purchased by the employee on the local market at reasonable prices. The Embassy does not provide televisions, stereos, personal radios, coffee pots, toasters, other small kitchen appliances, UPS or area rugs.

Only queen and twin beds are available at post, and only one queen-size bed is provided to each residence. In residences lacking built-in closet space, the GSO will provide a large wardrobe for storage of clothes and linens. Other household items the Embassy will provide are: locally made curtains with sheers and shower curtains that are off-white in color.

The Embassy provides the standard Welcome Kit, which includes a television. The employee is required to return the welcome kit when their airfreight/UAB arrives at post. GSO recommends the following items incoming employees should include in their air freight/surface shipment: bathmats, bed pillows, linens, dishtowels and bathroom towels, ice chests, thermos and lunch boxes for kids, stainless steel flatware, party decorations and paper goods, personal hygiene products, children’s toys, sports equipment, clothes, shoes, small kitchen utensils, and small 220v or multi-voltage kitchen appliances (220 volt appliances are available in Hanoi, but prices are high).


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:12 PM

Electricity in Hanoi is 220v/50-cycle AC (with two round pin electrical plugs). Voltage regulators are recommended for most appliances, especially computers, as electrical power in Hanoi is unstable and prone to voltage fluctuations, which could damage sensitive electronic equipment. The Embassy can provide 3 transformers for home use. Small UPS (uninterrupted power supply) units and a full range of transformers are available on the local market.

Food Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:14 PM

Local. Local open-air markets sell a variety of fresh meat, poultry, fish and seafood. If cooked properly there should be no health problems. However, the local beef is usually not of good quality. Open-air markets also sell a variety of fresh fruit and produce either grown locally or imported from the cooler mountain regions near Dalat or from Ho Chi Minh City, China or Thailand.

Most other basic foodstuffs, including imported fish, seafood and meats, are available in the western-style supermarkets and delicatessen. Pasteurized, full-cream fresh milk is available. Long life UHT milk (whole, low fat, and skim), powdered milk, butter and imported cheeses are readily available. You may not find a wide selection of products available at one location.

Thus, from time to time, you will need to shop around before you find a certain item on your shopping list. There is a duty-free shop operated by the Vietnamese Government for foreign officials. It is stocked with some canned sodas, liquor, wine and a very limited variety of food items and some small appliances.

Pets. A limited and expensive selection of low to medium quality pet products is available. Post recommends that employees with pets bring an ample stock of any specialty foods, treats, medicines (including flea and tick products), and litter.

Bangkok Commissary. As a special favor, the Joint Pacific Accounting Command (JPAC) allows U.S. Embassy personnel the use of their military aircraft for occasional "group" shipments of goods ordered from the Commissary in Bangkok. The goods are brought into Vietnam duty free. These shipments occur approximately every three months or so and are coordinated by CLO and GSO. These shipments are not considered part of your consumables allowance. In order to participate, you have to be a member of the Bangkok Commissary Association (ACSA). The membership fee is minimal.

Consumables. Employees posted to Vietnam are authorized to ship 2,500 lbs. of consumable goods.

Clothing Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:14 PM

Dress in Hanoi is very similar to that in Washington, D.C. for both business and recreational activities. Even though the temperature may not indicate it, winters in Hanoi can be very chilly. Include some warm jackets, sweaters, scarves and hats in your HHE. Also, bring an adequate supply of dress and sports shoes for everyone.


Men Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:15 PM

Most Embassy officers wear long-sleeved shirts and coat and tie to the office. Others wear sport shirt and slacks. Bring your tuxedo since there are a number of black tie functions during the year. Dress for National Day receptions and most official at-home dinners are coat and tie. A couple of employees have had suits made locally comparable to U.S. standards and less expensive than what you can find in Hong Kong, China or Thailand.


Women Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:15 PM

Business suits, pantsuits and dresses are all acceptable at the office. There are a number of formal events at which you can wear either long or short evening attire. Mostly cocktail dresses or business suits are worn a National Day receptions and dinner parties. There are a number of reputable women's clothing shops, which sell off the rack for those who can wear the smaller sizes. For most Western women however, the only option is to have clothes made to order with varying degrees of success. There are a number of seamstresses and tailors who can custom make clothing at reasonable prices.


Children Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:15 PM

Clothes and shoes for children are widely available. The price for sports shoes is equal to those in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:44 PM

Items you may want to include in a consumables shipment are traditional holiday foods, ethnic foods, dietary products, baby foods and snack foods and treats for children.

Those who like to cook and/or bake should bring Crisco, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, chocolate chips, spices and seasonings.

Clinique and Shisheido make-up and skin care products are available, but those with specific skin care requirements should bring their own supply. Bring prescription medicines and vitamins. Also if you have any preferences on first aid supplies such as Hydrogen Peroxide (not available on the local market), flexible bandages, healing ointments ect, it is advisable to bring a supply of each as well, as the supplies can not be found locally or not at the same standard of quality as what the U.S. has available.

Breakfast cereals are available, but the variety is limited and expensive. Most cereals are imported from third countries and may not taste the same to picky eaters. Although most paper products are quite acceptable, good quality paper towels are not. If you use dryer sheets and/or Liquid Laundry soap, it is advisable to ship those in your consumables as well. Neither is widely available on the local market and if they can be found it is in small quantities and for a premium price. Both are available through the Bangkok Commissary.

For infants and toddlers, good quality disposable diapers are not available and should be brought to Post. Local infant formula has sugar added, and the variety of baby food is limited. Good quality toys are also hard to find and most are dangerous for small children. Sports equipment for baseball is not available.

Supplies and Services

Basic Services Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:24 PM

Dry cleaning is good and relatively inexpensive. Shoe repairs are fair. You can get a replacement battery for your watch, but it won’t last more than six months. Men can get their hair cut on the streets with a head and shoulder massage thrown in for less than $2. Women’s hair cuts range from $3 to $25. There are several good unisex beauty shops in town with both Vietnamese and international hair stylists offering a complete range of services. Automobile servicing is acceptable for Japanese cars. However you should bring car parts for American cars. Picture framing is good and inexpensive.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:25 PM

The number of staff needed and their salaries differ according to individual households, with varying emphasis on their responsibility and ability. Below are examples of staff responsibilities and average salaries. Salaries are stated in U.S. dollar equivalents and usually are paid in U.S. dollars. At the higher end of the salary range are staff that speak good English, demonstrate initiative, and have several years experience working for Westerners. Giving your staff a TET bonus -equivalent to one month's salary- is standard practice in Vietnam. Locally employed domestics do not live in. The Vietnamese government will allow diplomats to bring in non-Vietnamese domestics for the duration of their tour of duty.

Cook/Housekeeper. $120-220 per month. Plans the meals with you, shops for food, supervises any work done in your house, supervises other household staff, keeps a kitchen account book, does the laundry, and cleans the house.

Maid. $130-150 per month. Cleans the house, washes dishes, irons clothes, may prepare meals on the cook's day off, and may do some marketing. It is possible to have part-time domestic help for a couple of days per week for well under $100/month.

Nanny. $120-150 per month. Takes care of the children. May help with some light cooking and general housecleaning if the family is small.

Driver. $120-150 per month. Acts as chauffeur. Purchases the gas and oil, keeps your car in good operating condition, may tend the garden, and may help out during social functions.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:25 PM

Hanoi has a large Catholic cathedral, but the regular services are only in Vietnamese and French. However, a non-denominational Christian service in English is held every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on the Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound. Protestant services in English are conducted every Sunday in the Daewoo Hotel. Islamic services are held every Friday. Jewish services are not available.

Education Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:10 AM

At the high and middle school level there are no schools in Hanoi considered "adequate" by the Office of Overseas Schools. Students are entitled to the away-from-post allowance.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:15 AM United Nations International School (UNIS). UNIS was established in 1988 and is a private, non-profit, coeducational, English-language day school. Most of the Embassy children from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 attend UNIS. Student enrollment for the 2003-2004 school year was 550. The school offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (grades 11-12), the IB Middle Years Program (grades 6-10), and the IB Primary Years Program (Pre K-grade 5). The curriculum does not follow any specific national system, but draws from a variety of English-language programs consistent with the needs of an international student body. Currently, more than half of the 49 full-time teachers are American or Canadian.

The school is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), and the European Council of International Schools. Students are not required to wear uniforms. Classes begin the second week of August and end early June. The school is scheduled to move to their new campus in the West Lake area in September 2004.


2C Van Phuc, Kim Ma Road, Hanoi Tel: (84-4) 823-0820 Fax: (84-4) 846-2967 E-mail: Website:

Hanoi International School (HIS). HIS offers an academic program to meet the individual needs of students from pre-school through high school. The Pre-School program for three and four-year olds offers a balanced day of free and structured play, story-time, and directed group time. The school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program is divided into IB Early-Years (kindergarten to fifth grade), IB Middle-Years (grades six to ten), and the two-year pre-university IB diploma curriculum (grades eleven to twelve). The school year begins in August and ends in June. All students speak and study in English. HIS has an international staff of 13 full-time and 7 part-time teachers from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.


Local - Lieu Giai Street, Hanoi, Vietnam Tel: (84-4) 832-7379 Fax: (84-4) 832-7535 E-mail: Website:

In the U.S. – P.O. Box 2876, Reston, Virginia 20195 No E-mail.

Lycee Francais Alexandre Yersin. Recognized by the French Ministry of National Education and operated in collaboration with the French Embassy in Hanoi, the Lycee Francais provides an academic curriculum in French for pre-school to high school aged children. LFAY has a teaching staff of 35. Enrollment for the 2001-2002 school year was approximately 400 (which includes 30% French, 30% Vietnamese and 40% students from 30 different nationalities). Classrooms are large and fully air-conditioned. The cafeteria offers a choice of Vietnamese or Western food. The kindergarten has a well-equipped playground with flowers and trees. The new school building houses a gymnasium, two state-of-the-art laboratories, a well-equipped library, and a research and information center with multimedia computer equipment. Classes begin in September and finish around June 20.

Address: Truong Phap Quoc Te, Ptth Hanoi Amsterdam, Giang Vo, Hanoi, Vietnam Tel: (84-4) 843-6779 Fax: (84-4) 823-2023 Website: E-mail:

In addition to the pre-K program at UNIS, Hanoi has several good pre-school options:

The Rainbow School, nursery through kindergarten, takes children as young as 15 months if accompanied by a parent or nanny. Tuition ranges from $3,000 for part-time nursery to $4,500 for kindergarten. The Rainbow School is located about 20 minutes from the Embassy in the West Lake area. Their e-mail is

Morning Star International Kindegarten, nursery through kindergarten, take children from 18 months to 5 1/2. Tuition ranges from $2,000 for part-week toddler to $4,000 full-day kindergarten. The school is conveniently located to the Embassy and to most of the Embassy housing. Website:

Kinderworld International Kindergarten, Pre-nursery through preparatory level (6 year olds), take children from age 19 months. Tuition ranges from $3,200 for half day to $4,300 for the full day program, meals are included. Kinderworld is located about 10 minutes from the Embassy in a modern high-rise office/apartment complex. The school's e-mail is:

System's Little House, was established in 1992. The Center is open from 8 am until 3 pm, Monday to Friday. Toddlers 2 - 2 1/2 may attend the Center 2 or 3 times per week. Children from 3-6 years must attend 5 days a week. Teacher/child ratio is 1/10-12. Fees are approximately $4,500 for 2 and 3 year olds, $5,500 for age 4, and $6,000 for age 5. The school is located in the northern suburb, the West Lake area. Tel 823-8997, fax 829-0480.


Dependent Education

Away From Post Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:16 AM Middle and high school-aged children of personnel assigned to Vietnam qualify for Away-from-Post educational allowances. Please consult the pertinent FAM regulations for details or check with the Family Liaison Office in the State Department.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:18 AM

Studying Vietnamese Language training is available at the Embassy and Consulate General and through a number of local resources.

Art Classes The Hanoi Fine Arts Institute offers instructions in a variety of art mediums, including Vietnamese lacquerware and the application of watercolor on silk.

Adult Education The Hanoi National University School of Business offers a two-year MBA program with the University of Hawaii. Classes are held in the evenings and on weekends. UNIS offers a number of evening courses. You can study art, learn a foreign language, play tennis, do aerobics, surf the Internet, and lots more. In the Fall of 2004, an Australian University, RMIT International University, will open its doors. They will offer several undergraduate and graduate programs.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:20 AM

Tennis. There are plenty of tennis courts in Hanoi, but the demand still exceeds the supply unless you are able to play during the week in the daytime. Most courts are in good condition and adequately maintained. Court surfaces are either hard or carpeted. There are, unfortunately, no indoor tennis facilities. Court fees vary between $3 and $5 during the day, with evening hours (5:00-10:00 p.m.) at double rates. If you provide the string, you can get your racquet re-strung in Hanoi for $1. Most Vietnamese tennis coaches will charge $10/hour. Major hotels, the Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound, and a couple of Embassy housing compounds, have tennis courts.

Golf. About 35km west of Hanoi is Kings Island, a scenic 18-hole golf course. The golf club is situated at the base of Ba Vi National Park and is surrounded by historic temples and pagodas, natural caves, waterfalls, hiking trails, hot springs, and ethnic minority villages. A new highway to the course is almost finished, making it about an hour’s drive from Hanoi on Highway #11. Facilities include a fully-stocked pro shop with golf club and shoe rentals, and a clubhouse which serves both Asian and Western food. Membership fee is USD 15,000. Green fees for non-members are $70 during the week and $100 on the weekends.

Swimming. Most of the larger hotels and service apartments have swimming pools. The schools do not have swimming pools. Avid swimmers usually join a health club with swimming privileges included in the package. One of the larger hotels in the city has the only indoor swimming pool with a retractable roof.

Bowling. There are two large bowling centers. One is located in a hotel just across from the Embassy (24 lanes) and another within walking distance. A game will cost $3. Bowling shoes rent for $1.

Volleyball. The American Club has an outdoor volleyball court, which can be scheduled for use. Regular groups get together on Sunday afternoons at the Club to play.

Health Clubs. Virtually every hotel has an exercise room with state-of-the-art equipment, showers, saunas, and whirlpools. Annual fees range from $550-$2,000. Most also offer massages and reflexology at a reasonable fee. The Marine House has a fully equipped exercise room, which Embassy personnel can use free of charge.

Hash House Harriers and Ultimate Frisbee also have regular activities in Hanoi.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:21 AM

Several scenic and historic sights, including national parks and pagodas, can be done via a day trip from Hanoi. Additional trips from Hanoi are listed under HCMC Touring Section. Although road conditions and traffic flow are steadily improving, travel can be a bit uncomfortable and stressful, due to poor road conditions. There are also several craft villages within a one-hour drive from Hanoi to view paper making, snake farming, noodle making and silk weaving. Popular attractions are the nearby factories for making ceramics, lacquerware and crystal.

Halong Bay. A three to four hour drive from Hanoi, Halong Bay (a UNESCO World Heritage sight) is considered by many to be one of the most scenic areas in Asia. The bay consists of hundreds of small islands filled with caves and grottoes full of stalactites and stalagmites. Cat Ba, one of the largest islands in Halong Bay, is home to one of Vietnam’s national parks and includes a large seven-acre freshwater lake in the center of the land.

Sapa. Built originally as a hill station, Sapa now is one of Vietnam’s major tourist attractions in the northern most part of the country. By road (some of it very bumpy), Sapa is an 11- hour scenic drive from Hanoi. For those travelers who prefer a more comfortable ride, the Victoria Hotel, a nine-hour overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa, has luxury sleepers and a restaurant car. During the weekend, you can mingle with the colorfully dressed hill tribe people (mostly women) who come into Sapa to peddle their home-made garments and textiles. Using Sapa as a base, you can also hike to several minority tribe villages while taking in the panoramic view of Vietnam’s Hoang Lien Mountains.

Photography. Vietnam is a photographer’s paradise. Camera shops are everywhere. Film can be developed inexpensively in a couple of hours. It is not allowed to photograph military and police installations.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:23 AM

Restaurants. There are enough Western restaurants in town to titillate the gourmet’s taste buds, ranging from traditional French cuisine to nouveau California fare. There are also some very good Asian restaurants for Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Chinese food. For fast-food lovers, Hanoi offers several restaurants/delis for pizzas, hamburgers and hotdogs, and sub-sandwiches.

American Club. The American Community Association (ACA) supervises the operations of the American Club. Patrons and their guests can enjoy an informal meal in the air-conditioned restaurant/bar area or outdoors in the bamboo pavilion. Also on the premises are areas set up for a variety of sports, including darts, billiards, badminton, basketball, and sandlot volleyball, as well as a playground for the younger children. The facilities are available for rental and catered functions. Full Membership is automatic for all Embassy U.S. citizen employees, and Associate/Affiliate Membership is available to the expatriate business and diplomatic community ($115 for singles/$225 for families annually). Guest, corporate, and monthly memberships are also available. The Club offers a good video selection of movies for both adults and children at a weekly rental fee of $1 per tape.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:24 AM American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). The largest business group in Vietnam, AmCham offers opportunities to help international corporations operate and thrive here. There are about 330 members in the Hanoi Chapter and 480 in HCMC. Through its committees, AmCham adopts positions on a variety of general business issues in Vietnam. These committees work on such issues as reducing tax burdens for U.S. companies, individuals and their staff. Efforts have also been made to improve access to foreign exchange and to reduce bureaucracy and red tape in business dealings with the Vietnamese Government. Both the chapters in Hanoi and HCMC host a number of working luncheons with keynote speakers throughout the year. AmCham also organizes social activities, including an annual formal dinner/dance.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

International Contacts Last Updated: 7/12/2004 6:26 AM The Hanoi International Women’s Club (HIWC). Open to all foreign women, the Club has approximately 325 members. The HIWC promotes good will between the host country and the expatriate community through its annual Festival Charity Bazaar and work throughout the year with local orphanages and rural support systems. It also serves as a great morale booster for non-working spouses by organizing a multitude of activities, including tennis, bridge, shopping and sightseeing excursions, foreign language classes, cooking demonstrations, book reading groups, and aerobics. The HIWC also organizes monthly luncheons, coffee mornings, and orientation programs for newcomers. A non-profit organization, the annual membership fee is reasonable and includes a monthly newsletter. The Club also publishes a helpful booklet the "Hanoi Guide". Embassy newcomers automatically receive a copy of the booklet in the CLO Welcome Packet.

Friends of Vietnam Heritage. FVH is a non-formal group of mainly Hanoi residents from many countries including Vietnam, whose purpose is to enhance and deepen the understanding of Vietnam's culture. In close collaboration with Vietnamese scholars, local experts and museums, FVH organizes a wide range of activities including study groups, tours to historical and cultural sites, and lectures. The group also maintains a reference library.

International Business Women’s Club. A group of Hanoi’s working women, expatriate and Vietnamese, exchange thoughts and network during an informal dinner meeting once a month.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:46 PM

Hanoi is a relatively informal post, with few protocol requirements. Only the Ambassador is required to make formal calls. Official entertaining usually involves receptions and dinners. Home entertainment by the Vietnamese is rare.

Junior officers and staff personnel lead an active social life within the international community. Although they have fewer social requirements than senior officers, they attend and host official and semi-official functions.

Official Functions

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:47 PM

Soon after arrival, all personnel are expected to pay courtesy calls on to the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission. Senior officers should make formal calls on their counterparts at the Vietnamese Ministry and selected Embassies. In making these outside calls, it is appropriate to leave your calling card. Employees can come with a supply of calling cards or have them printed here. Hanoi and HCMC have facilities for printing reasonably priced bilingual cards and invitations. Exchanging calling cards is a very common occurrence in Vietnam. You can conceivably go through several hundred cards in your first year at post.

Special Information Last Updated: 8/16/2005 9:27 PM

Not all sections of the post report will pertain to military personnel assigned to Vietnam. Military personnel should contact their respective commands and sponsors for specific information concerning their assignment, housing, medical and dental care, privately-owned vehicle issues, etc.

DAO Personnel. All military personnel are required to wear military uniforms to official meetings with Vietnamese Armed Forces or foreign military representatives, functions, and designated social events. Civilian business wear is the normal day-to-day attire while on duty at the office. Dress uniforms are worn to formal affairs and ceremonies. All attachés require business cards.

Marine Security Guards. All members of the MSG detachment are provided with furnished living quarters. Marines wear uniforms only on duty and on formal occasions such as the annual Marine Corps Ball. The Department of State provides Marines with a civilian clothing allowance prior to their departure from the U.S. For further information, see the annual Marine post report for Hanoi.

Post Orientation Program You will be met at the airport by your sponsor and an Embassy expeditor and accompanied to your living quarters. Your sponsor will make sure you have the standard Welcome Kit to use in your new accommodations and basic foodstuffs will be on hand. Throughout the following weeks, your sponsor and the CLO will be available to take you shopping for additional groceries and on orientation trips around the city. You will receive a Welcome Folder with information on checking in, which will include health, medical, and security information, a map of the city, talking cards and other subjects related to the Mission and life at post.

The CLO arranges for a comprehensive check-in schedule during your first several days at Post. You will be provided with a briefing schedule for the Mission offices and agencies upon arrival. Employees are encouraged to include family members in the check-in process whenever possible. Sponsors are given liberal car use privileges to help newcomers get settled in. There is a Saturday grocery run which newcomers are encouraged to use for food shopping.

Consulate General - Ho Chi Minh City

Post City Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:20 PM

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is Vietnam’s largest city and river port, covering an area of 761 square miles on the Right Bank of the Saigon River, stretching from the shores of the South China Sea to within a couple miles of the Cambodian border. With a teeming population of seven plus million, it is also the economic capital and cultural trendsetter of Vietnam. There are 22 districts (15 urban and 7 rural) with 75% of the population in the urban districts. Only a few degrees above the Equator, the city has a tropical, monsoon climate with an average annual temperature of 83°F. April is the hottest month with an average temperature of 86°F. There are two seasons— rainy (from June to November) and dry (from December to April). Average number of rainy days annually is 159, with 90% of the rainfall occurring in the rainy season.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual Mean Temperature 79 79 83 85 84 82 82 81 80 80 79 80 80 Av. Daily Max Temp (F) 85 86 92 91 88 87 86 86 86 86 86 86 88 Av. Daily Min Temp(F) 72 72 74 76 76 76 76 76 74 74 74 72 72 Relative Humidity (%) 51 40 52 57 63 65 69 70 71 68 63 57 80 Precipitation (Inches) 1 .5 1 2 9 14 13 11 14 11 5 2 76

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:32 AM

The Consulate General has 35 American personnel (DOS, USFCS, DHS, USDA) and over 200 Foreign Service Nationals. Most Department of State offices are located at 4 Le Duan, District 1 (tel: 84–8 822–9433). Offices for DOC, DOA, and DHS are on the 9th floor of the Saigon Center, 65 Le Loi St., District 1, as is the office for the DOS Public Affairs section. The office for the RRS (Refugee Resettlement Section) is currently located on the 8th Floor of the Diamond Plaza office building, a short 5 minute walk from the Consulate. CDC is co-located with RRS.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:24 AM

The Consulate makes every effort to move newcomers directly into their permanent quarters.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:25 AM

Because of the high level of crime in HCMC, Mission policy requires all USG employees to be housed in apartment buildings with 24–hour security or in single family homes in gated residential compounds outside of the city. The Consul General has a spacious representational home outside of the city. The majority of other Consulate General personnel live in either in the Somerset Chancellor Court, Somerset HCMC or Indochine Park Tower buildings. All these serviced apartments have swimming pools, tennis courts or access to tennis courts, health fitness rooms, common activity areas, play areas and equipment for children, convenience stores, and built-in clothes closets. The Somerset Chancellor Court even has a beauty salon on the ground floor. There is very limited storage and representational space. Thus, most representational functions (aside from the Consul General’s) are done outside the home. Consulate General employees are either in three or four bedroom apartments, which fall within the allowed USG space requirements. While residing in these 24–hour security apartment buildings enhances employee safety, it does reduce one’s privacy and living environment, depriving families of individual yards for recreational space. Regarding pets, the management at the Indochine does allow tenants to have small pets.


Furnishings Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:25 AM

All serviced apartments are fully furnished by the landlord, including dishes, a television, a stereo, and even the artwork on the walls. No VCRs are provided. The Consulate can provide employees with supplemental pieces of furniture, such as beds, bookcases, china cabinets, and desks. However, swapping existing apartment furniture for your own or Consulate General-owned furniture is not an option, because the landlords have no storage facilities. The Consulate General will provide washers and dryers to employees who have room for them in their apartments. The Consulate General has very little space in its warehouse and will not be able to store excess HHE for anyone. Single family homes are furnished by the Consulate General.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:26 AM

HCMC experiences frequent power outages. Ranges with ovens are not standard issue in service apartments; and, due to space limitations, some tenants only have stove tops. Like the Embassy, the Consulate General provides water distillers to all housing units. (See Hanoi section for additional)

Food Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:25 PM

The information on food in Hanoi also generally applies to HCMC. There is, however, a wider selection of fruits and vegetables available in HCMC, due to the proximity of HCMC to Dalat, where most of the fruits and vegetables are cultivated.

Clothing Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:26 PM

Cotton and/or loose clothing is recommended for HCMC. For travel to the northern part of the country (e.g. the highlands or Hanoi) during winter months, it is advisable to bring a sweater or light jacket.


Men Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:26 PM

High-quality business attire for men is difficult to find. Imported shoes are expensive and not widely available.


Women Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:27 PM

Locally-made silk clothing is attractive and reasonably priced. Many fabrics are available here, and tailoring can be done within few days. The workmanship is hit-or-miss, but in general it is acceptable and inexpensive. Tailors can copy clothing from pictures in magazines or catalogues. Locally-made women's sandals and cloth shoes are inexpensive. Larger sizes (8 and up) are not commonly available.


Children Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:28 PM

Locally made clothing for children is plenty and reasonably priced.

Supplies and Services Last Updated: 3/31/2003 6:00 PM

See Hanoi for general information.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:30 PM

Western supplies are becoming evermore available in the local markets and supermarkets. However, what is available this week may not be the next. The following items are not commonly available or are very expensive: medications, vitamins, cosmetics, creams, sunscreens, mosquito repellents, quality paper supplies, chicken broth, canned soups, wholefood, gourmet or ethnic food items, diet foods, baking items, spices, and laundry supplies.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:31 PM

It is relatively easy to find household help, although you may find yourself having to train someone according to American hygiene standards. Salaries range from $100-$200 a month.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:32 PM

Houses of worship are available for Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims, and Protestants, but services for most are conducted in Vietnamese. Protestant worshipers can attend services in English on Sunday conducted for foreigners only. There is also a small international Jewish community that observes Jewish holidays. Our Lady Cathedral, located downtown, has a bilingual/trilingual Vietnamese-English and/or French Catholic Mass on Sunday mornings. A Catholic church on Le Van Sy St. (near the airport) holds mass in English for its predominantly Filipino congregation.

Education Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:20 AM

The British International School: The BIS has expanded and establish another campus in An Phu, the suburb of HCMC, in year 2000. It takes approximately 20–30 minutes (depending upon traffic) from the Consulate General to the An Phu campus. This campus offers programs and classes for students 1 ½ to 18 years old. The BIS works within the framework of the National Curriculum for England and Wales. Class schedule is from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm. Annual school fee is from USD5000 to USD11, 000. The two Fundino campuses below belong to the British International School (BIS) in Ho Chi Minh City.

Address: 182 Nguyen van Thu, District 1, HCMC

Tel: (84-8) 822-2324 Fax: (84-8) 829-6416


Address: 225 Nguyen van Huong Street, Thao Dien An Phu, District 2, HCMC

Tel: (84-8) 512-2081 Fax: (84-8) 512-2082

Email: anphu@BIS

Website for all three campuses:

Fundino Preschool: Located approximately 15 minutes drive from the Consulate General, Fundino provides high quality, innovative childcare and recreation for children 1and half to 5 years old. The eye-pleasing, up-beat Clubhouse and grounds are all on one level and colorfully and cleverly decorated with lots of primary colors using a dinosaur theme. All students are required to wear the Club uniform— T‑shirt with a Fundino dinosaur emblem and denim shorts. Fundino’s staff consists of 6 full-time expatriate teachers (one with special education training) and 15 Vietnamese assistants. Indoor facilities include a large floor and wall-padded playroom for the tots, a small kitchen for lunch and snacks, a library, and individual rooms for art, music, reading, computer and dance instruction. The spacious outdoor area includes an elaborate playground and wading pool for the older kids. Annual school fee: USD3000, keep in mind that this fee will change to reflex the inflation.

Class Schedule Monday through Friday, except for Vietnamese Public Holidays.

Play & Learn 8:15 a.m.– 4:00 p.m. (Age 2–3yrs and 3–5yrs)

l:00 p.m.– 4:00 p.m. (Age 1 ½ –2yrs)

Address: 11B Nguyen Gia Thieu, Ward 6, District 3, HCMC; also have classes at their An Phu Campus Tel: (84-8) 930–0514 Fax: 930–0513 E–mail:

Fundino Primary: Serving students 5 to 11 year old under the British system, which is equivalent to Kindergarten to 5th grade of the American system. The Fundino Primary’s staff consists of 7 full-time expatriate teachers and 7 Vietnamese assistants. Class schedule is from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm. Lunch is provided if parents buy a monthly lunch card. Annual school fee is from USD6500 to USD9000.

Saigon South International School (SSIS). This is a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, coeducational school located in District 7 (the industrial zone), between 25 to 45 minutes drive (depending upon traffic) from the Consulate General. SSIS is the only school in HCMC, which provides an American-based curriculum, with modifications made to accommodate the school’s non-American population. Students are required to wear uniforms. Class Schedule: Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.– 3:00 p.m. Tuition: USD3000 to USD9000.

Address: Saigon South Parkway, Tan Phong Ward, District 7, HCMC Tel: (84–8) 431-0901 Fax: (84–8) 431-0902 E–mail:


International School Ho Chi Minh City (IS): Operating in two locations, the Senior Campus for K through 12 is located in An Phu, approximately 25–45 minutes (depending upon traffic) from the Consulate General. The Junior Campus for pre-school to grade 1 is in District 3 about 10–15 minutes’drive from the Consulate General. IS is a privately-owned, co-educational, non-denominational institution. It operates an international curriculum with the International Baccalaureate diploma program offered in grades 11 and 12. All students (except for grade 11) are required to wear uniforms. Lunch can be purchased from the Schools canteen. For recess the School provides its students with nutritional snacks. Tuition: USD3500 to USD14, 000

Senior Campus Address: 649A Vo Truong Toan St., An Phu, Thu Duc, HCMC Tel: (84–8) 898–9100 Fax: (84–8) 887–4022 E–mail:

Junior Campus Address: 236 bis Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St., District 3, HCMC Tel: (84–8) 822–5858 Fax: (84–8) 822-3337 E–mail:

Website for both campuses:


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:21 AM International School (ISHCMC) has two campuses. The preschool campus is in town and is attended by children from two to six years old (pre-school - grade 1). The campus in An Phu provides a broader range: pre-school from two years old to six years old (pre-school - grade 1), elementary (grade 2-5), middle (grade 6-8), and high school (grade 9-12). The ISHCMC is fully accredited with the European Council of International Schools (ECIS), which is recognized in the U.S. through the Recognition Program of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). The high school of ISHCMC follows a curriculum that leads to external examinations for either the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) or the International Baccalaureate (IB).

The British International School (BIS) follows the National Curriculum of England and Wales, and prepares students for examinations of the International General Certificates of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and has applied for their International General Certificate of Secondary Education or the International Baccalaureate. The BIS has educational programs for children between twelve months and sixteen years of age. Fundino Pre-school is for children aged twelve months to four years, and the urban Primary School is for children from reception (four years old) to year four (nine years old). These two campuses are located in the downtown area of HCMC. The campus in An Phu caters for children from pre-school to year 11, which means from twelve months to sixteen years old.

Saigon South International School (SSIS) offers an American-based curriculum, pre-school to grade 12. The school plans to seek WASC accreditation.

The Ecole de Colette offers a French curriculum. Admission is limited to French speaking children of the Consular Corps.

Kinder World International Kindergarten provides full-day and half-day childcare services as well as pre-school education for children from eighteen months to under seven years old.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 5/17/2005 2:21 AM

RMIT, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, offers bachelor degrees in several technology majors and a part-time MBA program. There are opportunities for graduate study leading to MBA programs. These courses are offered through Vietnamese universities in partnership with foreign universities.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:38 PM

Tennis. All major hotels and service apartments have either hard or carpeted tennis courts. However, current supply does not meet demand, unless you can play during the daytime. Sports center and service apartment court fees range from $3 (before 5:00 p.m.) to $5 (after 5:00 p.m.). Hotels charge $6 and $12, respectively. Tennis pro fees range between $5–$8/hour.

Golf. There are three excellent golf clubs in the area. Dong Nai (18-hole) is approximately 1-1/2 hours drive from the city. The other two—Song Be (18-hole) and Thu Duc (36-hole) are approximately 45-minute drives. Each golf facility has a clubhouse with a restaurant. Weekend green fees are $85, with weekday specials starting at $45. Caddies are available at all three clubs. A fourth golf club, Saigon South, (9-hole) opened for business in 1999.

Bowling. There are several bowling centers scattered around the city. Fees are the same as in Hanoi.

Swimming. With year-round temperatures in the mid-80s, swimming and/or lounging around the pool can be a great stress reliever. Having said that, you will still, however, need earplugs or a Walkman to deafen the cacophony of round-the-clock street and construction noise.

Jogging and biking. Unfortunately, the city's hazardous traffic conditions preclude all but the foolhardy from jogging and biking safely anywhere in town. Joggers and bikers are relegated to the safe interior facilities of health centers or obliged to travel some distance outside of the city.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:40 PM

Hoi An. A 45-minute ride outside of Danang, Hoi An was once a prosperous trading town frequented by the Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, French and Chinese. Hoi An is now a quaint, artistic tourist attraction. For architecture buffs, there are a number of well-preserved historic sites in Hoi An over 200 years old, including private homes, chapels, temples, pagodas, bridges and tombs. For the shoppers, Hoi An has lots of art and craft shops, street-side cafes, a large outdoor market, and quality garment tailors who can produce quality dresses, trousers and shirts quickly at very reasonable prices.

Dalat. Approximately six hours by road or one hour by plane from HCMC, Dalat enjoys year round spring weather. Dalat offers something for everyone. There is an 18-hole golf course, botanical gardens, ancient palaces and pagodas, and a large central market full of fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers. After a hearty meal, you can walk along small paths behind waterfalls or on the streets of the French Quarter up on the hill.

Hue. The former capital of Vietnam prior to WWII, Hue is surrounded by a large number of historic Imperial landmarks. Hue is a two-hour plane ride from HCMC and is probably the largest city in Vietnam with the least amount of street traffic. Visitors to Hue can safely explore the inner city on foot. Cycles can be used to tour the Forbidden Purple City and the Citadel. Bicycles or motor scooters can be rented from hotels for the short trips to the numerous Imperial tombs and pagodas.

Nha Trang. This sleepy little resort town has beautiful sandy white beaches with turquoise water, small outer-lying islands and coral reefs to explore, and the best fresh fruit milkshakes and ice cream in Vietnam. You can navigate around town by foot, cycle, bicycle or motor scooter without a hassle. Nha Trang is a one-hour plane ride from HCMC.

Phan Thiet. The beach at Mui Ne outside of Phan Thiet is the relatively cleanest beach within a relatively easy drive of the city (three-four hours). Most visitors stay in one of the many beachfront hotels on the seven to eight km long beach, which starts about ten km north of the city. There are fewer vendors than one would expect, and tall yellow, white, and black sand dunes stretch along the length of the beach.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:40 PM

HCMC has a larger variety of restaurants than Hanoi, including fast-food chains (KFC and Jollibees), Tex-Mex, European, Indian, and Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai) cuisine. There are also numerous nightclubs (some with live jazz ensembles), discos, and, of course, karaoke. A couple of the numerous video-rental stores in the city stock movies in English. HCMC also has three large water parks, a go-cart track, and one movie theater that shows movies in their original versions with subtitles.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities Last Updated: 3/31/2003 6:00 PM

American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). See Hanoi section.

Saigon International Women’s Club (SIWC). The Saigon Chapter has approximately 600 members. (See Hanoi International Women’s Club for activities.)

Hash House Harriers (HHH). Membership is approximately 50. All courses are set about an hour’ drive outside HCMC.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/16/2005 11:26 PM

The most direct route to Vietnam from the U.S. is by air over the Pacific. All official travelers are authorized a rest stop along the way. Personnel assigned to HCMC normally travel to post via a couple days consultation in Hanoi. Getting to Hanoi sometimes requires an overnight in Bangkok or Hong Kong to connecting planes.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:43 PM

Only U.S. Diplomatic Passport holders with a Vietnamese Diplomatic Card are exempt from paying the airport departure tax. All others, including TDY visitors with diplomatic or official passports, are now required to pay the tax at the airport. There is no restriction on the amount of currency that can be imported into the country, but all currency must be declared. A separate customs counter is set up at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat International Airports for individuals traveling under diplomatic/official passports.

USG personnel have duty-free entry privileges for airfreight and HHE. There are no storage facilities at post and your HHE cannot be cleared until after your arrival. Do not ship UAB or HHE more than three weeks prior to your arrival. Non-diplomatic civilian and enlisted personnel are officially limited to six months of duty-free import. Address HHE lift vans as follows:

American Embassy Hanoi, Vietnam For (Employees Name)

American Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam For (Employees Name) American Embassy

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Passage Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:43 PM

Visas. Everyone must have a Vietnamese visa. Diplomatic and official passport holders should obtain their visas through the State Department’s Passport Office. This should be done two-three months prior to arrival to forestall last-day panic. You need to fax a copy of your application to the Embassy’s Administrative Office so that a diplomatic note with a parallel request can be sent to MOFA. The Ministry must approve the visa before it can be issued. Non-official U.S. passport holders can obtain their visas at any Vietnamese consular office in the U.S. or in other countries. After arrival, the office will arrange for visa revalidation and obtain exit and re-entry permits from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Citizenship. The SRV considers all Vietnamese to be Vietnamese citizens for life. If you are assigned to post and have not renounced your Vietnamese citizenship, your visa will be of limited (six months) duration. More importantly, you will not have the normal privileges and immunities granted to non-Vietnamese officials and their families. This renunciation procedure can take up to six to twelve months, so you should begin the process as soon as possible. If you or a dependent family member falls into this category, please contact EAP/BCLTV as soon as possible for information on how to proceed. Questions on this matter may also be addressed to post.

No shots are required for entering Vietnam unless you are coming from a country that has had an outbreak of cholera, smallpox, or yellow fever. MOFA will issue I.D. cards to all USG personnel, their spouses, and their children over age 17.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Pets Last Updated: 7/12/2004 11:44 PM

Traveling with pets is becoming increasingly complicated due to airline regulations especially during the peak travel periods. Incoming personnel should check with the Overseas Briefing Center and their airline on current regulations. It is rather easy to import pets into Vietnam.

All animals must have a certificate of health issued by a veterinarian, including certification of inoculation against rabies dated between one to six months before the pet’s arrival at post. Currently, no quarantine is required. Pets are usually brought in as excess baggage or as cargo. You should notify post via telegram or fax as far in advance of arrival as possible to obtain an import permit. It is very difficult to bring pets in via Hong Kong or Singapore. Personnel should carefully check with the airlines when transiting in these cities.

If you are assigned to a detached house, there are no restrictions on the size of pets. Most service apartments, however, will only allow small pets -a small dog, cat or bird. Veterinary services are available in Hanoi and HCMC, but are not up to U.S. standards. The Bangkok commissary stocks basic supplies for cats and dogs (e.g. dry mix and canned food, small treats, and flea collars). Nevertheless, we suggest you include an ample supply of grooming aids and treats for your little charges in your airfreight and HHE.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 8/16/2005 11:27 PM

Post strictly prohibits the importation of firearms to Vietnam by USG personnel. Direct inquiries concerning this policy to the Regional Security Officer, American Embassy Hanoi.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 8/16/2005 11:29 PM

The monetary unit is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). There are new 5,000 Dong, 2,000 Dong and 1,000 Dong coins in circulation. Paper notes bear the portrait of Ho Chi Minh with the smallest note at VND 100 and the largest at VND 500,000. The rate of exchange fluctuates. As of November 2005 it was VND 15,800 to 1 USD. The Vietnamese use the international metric system of weights and measures. Gasoline and other liquids are sold by the liter, cloth by the meter, and food and other weighted items by the kilogram. Distance and speed are measured in kilometers.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 8/16/2005 11:30 PM


USG personnel are exempt from paying local income and airport (international) departure taxes. We are, however, subject to a 10% VAT on all locally purchased items. All items imported duty free by USG employees must be for the exclusive use of the employee and his or her dependents. Such property may not be imported for the sole purpose of sale, barter, or exchange. All sales of motor vehicles must be authorized by the Vietnamese Government and arranged through the Mission’s General Service Office.

Facilities The Embassy operates a cashier’s office for obtaining dollars and dong. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until Noon. The Consulate offers similar services, and some service apartment buildings will exchange dollars into dong for their tenants. There are no U.S. retail banks in Vietnam. The number of ATM machines is growing and some are now open 24-hours a day. ATMs accept VISA or Mastercards to obtain cash in dong up to a limit of 2,000,000 dong per transaction, up to a maximum of 20 transactions per day.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 7/13/2004 0:14 AM

The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on Vietnam. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Abuza, Zachary. Renovation Politics in Contemporary Vietnam. Boulder: Lynne Riener, 2001.

Anderson, Desaix. An American in Hanoi: America’s Reconciliation with Vietnam. March 2002.

Chong, Denise. The Girl in the Picture: the Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph and the Vietnam War. Penguin, 2001.

Crawford, Ann Caddell. Customs and Culture of Vietnam. Charles E. Tuttle Co., Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan

Downie, Sue. Down Highway One. Asia 2000, Hong Kong, 1993.

Duiker, William. Ho Chi Minh, a Life. and The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam. Hyperion, 2001

Westview Press, 1996. Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975. University Press of Kansas, May 2002.

Duong, Huong. Paradise of the Blind. Viking Penguin, 1994.

Elliott, Duong Van Mai. The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family. April 2000.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. Random House, 2001.

Jamieson, Neil L. Understanding Vietnam. Univ. of California Press, 1995.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. Penguin, 1997.

Lamb, David. Vietnam Now: A Reporter Returns. LLC, 2002.

Langguth, A.J. Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975. Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Laurence, John. The Cat from Hue: A 2-wheel Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

McDonald, Stuart. Vietnam - For Travellers by Travellers. McPherson's Printing Group, Australia, 1995.

Morley, James. Vietnam Joins the World. Sharpe, 1998.

Nepote, Jacques. Vietnam, Land of the Ascending Dragon. Passport Books, Lincolnwood, Illinois, 1992.

Pham, Andrew. Catfish and Mandala, 2000.

Storey, Robert. Lonely Planet: Vietnam 2001, Lonely Planet Publication, 2001.

Templer, Robert. Shadows and Wind: A View of Modern Vietnam. Penguin, 1999.

Timberman, Thomas M.F. Vietnam: The No BS Business Guide. LOI, Inc., 1994.

Unger, Ann Helen. Pagodas, Gods and Spirits of Vietnam. 1997.

Wintle, Justin. Romancing Vietnam. Penguin Books, London, England, 1992.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 8/16/2005 11:31 PM

The following Vietnamese holidays, as well as authorized U.S. holidays, are observed by the U.S. Mission:

New Year’s Day* Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday** Lunar New Year Festival (Tet)*** (4 days in late January or early February) President's Day** Victory Day*** International Labor Day*** (May 1) Memorial Day** Independence Day** Vietnamese National Day*** (September 2) Labor Day** Columbus Day** Veterans Day** Thanksgiving Day** Christmas Day**

· Vietnamese and American Holiday* · American Holiday** · Vietnamese Holiday***

The Lunar New Year Festival (Tet) is determined by the lunar calendar. According to ancient Vietnamese custom and tradition, these four days are the most important in the year. Before Tet, the Vietnamese tidy up, rearrange furniture, decorate the house, and do more shopping and cooking in order to entertain relatives and close friends during this holiday period. Incoming personnel should avoid arriving in Vietnam during Tet. Check with post as the Tet holiday varies from year to year. Most stores and offices are closed for four to five days during Tet.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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