Language

Vietnamese is the official language. The modern written language uses the Vietnamese alphabet, a Romanized representation of spoken Vietnamese.

While English is increasingly favored as a second language, other languages used to a lesser extent in Vietnam are French, Russian, Chinese, Khmer and mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian).

Government and Political Structure

Vietnam is a one-party state run by the collective leadership of the Communist Party Secretary-General, the Prime Minister (PM) and the President. Policy is set every five years by the Party congress and adjusted twice a year by plenary meetings of the Central Committee. The Government and other state organs are responsible for implementing policy. The National Assembly has the power to approve and revise the Constitution and Laws, make important decisions on national matters (policies on internal and foreign affairs, socio-economic factors, political factors, security factors, operations of state bodies), and supervise operation of bodies.

The President, as Head of State, represents The Socialist Republic of Vietnam on internal and foreign affairs. The Government is the highest administrative state body of The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and responsible for executing and managing political, economic, cultural, social, national defence, security and foreign affairs of the state bodies. Ministries are responsible for the execution of state power in the certain industry or sector. People’s Committee (province, district, and commune) governs management affairs within administrative location, manages, directs, operates daily activities of local state bodies and executes policies of the relevant People’s Council and higher state bodies.

Time

Vietnam local time is seven hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. Business hours in Vietnam are generally from 8:00 am to approximately 5:00 pm. Shops tend to be opened from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Climate

Northern Vietnam has four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Spring from January to March, summer is from April to end of July, autumn is from August to end of September and winter is the rest of the year. Autumn is the best and the most beautiful weather in the north with the average temperature on the day ranging from 270C to 320C and decreases to 240C or 270C at night. In contrast, Central Vietnam is subject to occasional typhoons. The South is generally warm with two seasons: dry and wet. During the hottest months at the end of the southern dry season, March through May, temperatures reach the low 300C. The period is followed by the May-October monsoon season.

Housing

Rent for houses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City ordinarily range from US$1,500 to US$6,000 per month, with many of the lager houses featuring gardens and swimming pools. Houses can be either furnished or unfurnished.

In addition, many serviced apartments have been built in the last few years, resulting in good quality accommodation being available from between US$500 to US$5,000 per month, depending on location and service facilities.

In general, accommodation in Hanoi is slightly more expensive than in Ho Chi Minh City.

Six months’ rent in advance may be required for some accommodation, but advance rent of one to three months is more common. Many foreigners choose to employ household staff, such as maids, cooks, drivers or guards. Wages range from US$100 to US$400 per month, depending on the services performed.

Education

Vietnam had 128 occupational colleges, 308 intermediate vocational schools, 908 vocational centers and over 1,000 other vocational establishments.

Several privately run international schools are located in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for foreign children. These schools educate children of all nationalities from pre-school to high school and offer examinations under the International Baccalaureate program. Standard Aptitude Tests are also available at certain schools. Each school established its own curriculum, but the Australian, American and French education systems appear to be the most common. Annual tuition at these schools ranges from US$5,000 to US$20,000.

Medical services

Vietnam had over 13,467 state owned hospitals and clinics with 246,300 patient beds and over 61,400 doctors.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are home to international medical facilities and foreign doctors operating in private practice, providing a range of services from general medical advice and medical testing, to gynecology, obstetrics and dentistry. The doctors are internationally trained and come from various countries.

Clinics can arrange medical evacuation, if required, at a cost of upwards of US$30,000. As a result, foreigners living or traveling in Vietnam are advised to buy medical and medical-evacuation insurance.

Leisure and tourism

Vietnamese culture and civilization have existed for more than 4,000 years. Traditional farming methods as well as traditional clothing can still be seen in the countryside; while Vietnam’s lively urban Street life remains one of its most characteristic features. Tourism is a booming sector in the economy. Vietnam as over 9,350 hotels with around 184,830 rooms, including 25 five-star hotels, 85 four-star hotels and 166 three-star hotels.

As in much of developing Asia, the influence of Western culture is growing. Western compact discs and DVDs are available in local stores, and shopping malls and supermarkets continue to emerge. Sports popular in more developed countries, such as golf and tennis, are being played here. Cycling is a highly visible recreational pastime.

The Mekong River which flows for approximately 4,023 kilometers (2,500 miles) down through the Himalaya Mountain and the country’s 2,897 kilometers (1,800 miles) coast offers beautiful beaches and recreational opportunities. Vietnam’s tourism infrastructure, including first-class hotels and resorts, has been extensively developed. Over the last few years, resorts have opened in Dalat, Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, Da Nang and Sapa and numerous first-class hotels have also opened in these cities.

Entry Visa

To visit Vietnam, nationals of most countries require a visa which must be obtained in advance from an overseas Vietnamese embassy or consulate. Visa are only issued on entry to the country in exceptional circumstances, such as natural calamity or departure from a country that does not have a Vietnamese consulate or diplomatic representative. A business or tourist visa for Vietnam can be obtained on submission of the relevant application form, photographs, passport (valid for at least six months) and an invitation letter or other documents indicating the purpose of the visit.

Citizens of the following countries do not require a Vietnamese entry visa for stays of specified periods, ranging from 15 to 30 days: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, South Korea; and ASEAN member countries (including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand). Moreover, those entering Vietnam with diplomatic, official and special passports enjoy entry visa exemption for up to 90 days in accordance with bilateral treaties (to date, Vietnam has signed 54 bilateral treaties on entry visa exemption).

Single or multiple-entry visa are available for business and tourist visas. After entering Vietnam, individuals may obtain an extension to their current visa, allowing a maximum stay in the country of twelve months, after which a new visa must be obtained. The fee for obtain a new visa and a visa extension in Vietnam is from US$25 to US$100. Business visas require the sponsorship of an organization operating in Vietnam. Single visas, valid for 15 days, can be granted to those persons applying entry without any invitation or sponsorship.

Foreign investors or their assistants who enter Vietnam to implement licensed investment projects may be granted multiple-entry visas for one years. These may be renewed for an additional one year period in accordance with the term of the contract. Residence permits are available to long-term expatriates working and living in Vietnam.

Work Permits

All foreigners working in Vietnam and enterprises and organizations in Vietnam which employ foreign employees for more than three (3) months are required by law to obtain a work permit. This is in accordance with their Vietnamese labor contract or assignment letter, except for the following: those working for less than three (3) months, owner of a one member limited liability company or a member of a limited liability company with two or more members, on the Board of Management, entering Vietnam to offer services, entering Vietnam to work/resolve an emergency technical or technologically complex situation and foreign lawyers.

To obtain a work permit, a work permit application form must be submitted with the required documents attached (as listed on the application form). Work permit application forms can be obtained from the local Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (DOLISA), which issues the work permits.

The work permit is separate from and in addition to the need for a valid visa. The employer is required to apply for a work permit; however, the employee is to provide all the necessary personal paperwork required for the work permit application dossier.

Once issued, the work permit remains the property of the employer and must be returned to the Labor Department when an employee ceases employment with the employer.

Work permit can be extended for a maximum duration of thirty six months for each extension The application to file for extension must be lodged with DOLISA at least thirty days prior to expiry date.

Residence Permits

Temporary Residence permit/cards (TRC) are required for long-term foreigners living in Vietnam. To obtain a TRC, an individual must apply to the Police Department and establish that he or she is currently employed in Vietnam by producing a work permit. The period of TRC will be depended on the length of time on the work permit. The TRC replaces the need for a visa.

Public Holidays

National public holidays are listed below. Dates for the Vietnamese New Year (Tet) vary from year to year, because they are based on the lunar calendar.

1 January – New Year’s Day

January or February – Tet. This is the most signification Vietnamese annual holiday and is celebrated for the last day of the old lunar year to the third day, or later, of the New Year according to the traditional lunar calendar

10th day of the 3rd lunar month – King Hung’s death anniversary (Gio to Hung Vuong)

30 April – Liberation Day

1 May – Labor Day

2 September – National Day

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