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Viet Nam Plus 3 Study Abroad Program

Travel Tips


Given the length of the country off the South China Sea (which the Vietnamese call the East Sea), Viet Nam lies in both tropical and subtropical climatic zones. The southern regions of Viet Nam, however, are characterized by a tropical climate, and you should dress accordingly. The temperature will be at its warmest in early May, around an average of 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius). In addition, southwesterly monsoon winds hit Ho Chi Minh City during May and/or June bringing the monsoon rains which may require the purchase of an umbrella while there. The rains usually come during mid to late May or even in June, but the advent of the monsoon season increases the humidity in the air. In other words, we will be in Viet Nam during the hottest and most humid time of the year.

Note that the rooms at Victory Hotel will have air conditioning as will many shops and facilities. Check www.weather.com and punch in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, prior to departure for the 10-day forecast.


The time difference between Pittsburgh and Ho Chi Minh City is +12 hours. In May, with daylight savings time, the time difference is +11 hours.


Make copies of your passport and your visa as well as any credit/debit/ATM cards. Bring several copies of your passport with you and carry one copy on you, in lieu of your passport, at all times. Keep these copies well protected and separate from the originals. Note that upon your arrival at the Victory Hotel, the receptionist will ask for your passport which you will surrender to her as a standard procedure. You may pick up your passport at the reception desk the next morning.


The official currency of Viet Nam is the Vietnamese dong, and the exchange rate as of March 2015 was around 21,510 dong to one US dollar. Note that the market value of the dong could appreciate or depreciate between now and our trip and even during our trip. You can check on the rate before you leave at http://oanda.com/convert/classic.

You can change dollars to dong just about anywhere on the street, but to be safe, you should use an ATM card or a credit card although you may be charged a small user's fee. We suggest that you take an ATM card, a credit card, cash and perhaps traveler's checks. Today in Viet Nam, you can use credit cards for purchases in most stores and in some restaurants, but there is usually a small service charge. In many local restaurants, cafes, and bars you will need to pay cash. The use of traveler's checks today is confined to major hotels and selected restaurants and businesses.

Also, you may want to get a money belt (not a fanny pack) which you wear around your waist or a pouch that you carry around your neck.

Note that ATM machines are available in major hotels and department stores although there is no ATM machine in the Victory Hotel.

Note also that you will need money for meals on your own as well as for souvenirs and entertainment. Students on the Viet Nam trip last year spent perhaps $300 give or take, but the dollar has depreciated since then.


In regard to telephones, phone service will be available in our hotel rooms, and the Victory Hotel number is: 08-930-4989. If calling from the United States, add 011 prior to the number.

You may also purchase a cell phone and/or phone card in any number of locations in Ho Chi Minh City. If you are considering bringing a mobile phone, contact your service provider to see if your phone will work in Viet Nam. Although I have an international cell phone, and my provider indicates it will work in Viet Nam, I can make calls only from select locations to the degree that it is non-functional. In this regard, I have purchased a cell phone in country for about $60 along with a sim card, and I use this cell phone both for in country calls as well as international calls back home.

In regard to email service, the Victory Hotel has a small business center with computers available for use by their guests. There are internet cafes in the areas. You may be able to use the computer lab at the university. For those who bring a laptop, the hotel has free wireless.


The US uses 110 volt with a US plug. Viet Nam current runs at 220 volt with a European/Asian plug (two round prongs). In order to use your electronics in these countries, you need to convert the current from 220 to 110 volts and you need to convert your plug with an adapter. Viet Nam is rapidly adapting to American tourists so, in some cases, facilities that cater to Americans may have adapters available.

Some products such as laptops and some hairdryers can handle either voltage. Laptops usually adjust automatically; hairdryers have a switch. For most other products you will need a transformer that you can buy separately to change 220 to 110 volts. Even for the laptop and the hairdryer, you will need to adapt your US plug to a European plug so that you can plug your device into the wall. You can usually find these at luggage and hardware stores.


Please pack light! Please make sure you can carry all of it since you will be transferring your luggage to and from the airport. You are advised to bring one suitcase plus a backpack or sports bag for carry-on. You might want to take an empty duffel bag (packed inside your suitcase) for souvenirs.

Do not pack valuables in your suitcase and do not lock it as it may be inspected. The Victory Hotel now has safes in the hotel rooms so that you can lock your valuables while you are out. Please do not bring things you cannot afford to lose.

Put your camera, laptop, medicine and other valuables in your carry-on. You might also put in your carry-on a change of underwear and a toothbrush as luggage is sometimes delayed and occasionally lost. Please do not bring expensive items like jewelry.

Don't forget to bring a travel alarm clock and watch. Your cell phone may not work as a clock/watch there and if it gets stolen, it will be more expensive than a clock to replace.

Also useful is a Vietnamese phrasebook and perhaps a guidebook.


You will need clothing that is acceptable for the business visits and professional occasions, most notably, with our counterparts at the University of Economics and Finance. For men this means slacks, button-down shirts, a sports jacket and a tie. For women, slacks or skirts are fine, but nothing too short or revealing. Since you will be in a foreign country, we recommend that you dress conservatively. It is best for young women not to wear very revealing clothes.

Please be sure that your shoes are comfortable since we will be doing some walking. Flip-flops are not appropriate except after hours on your own personal time, and shorts are unacceptable during the professional portion of the program. Bring clothes that mix and match, do not show dirt, are easy to wash (there is laundry service at the hotel) and do not have to be ironed.

However, you may want to bring some gym-type clothing along for jogging or sports activities, and there is a swimming pool at the hotel.


While tap water in Viet Nam, in Ho Chi Minh City, and in the Victory Hotel, in particular, is usually safe to drink, in contrast to earlier years, a general recommendation is to drink bottled water, or carbonated mineral water. Since the weather in Ho Chi Minh City in May will be extremely hot and humid, pay attention to your body, carry a bottle of water or liquid drink with you, and continually hydrate yourself. In general, it is better to avoid ice when drinking at a local restaurant and, in general, it is better to drink bottled water than tap water.

The topic of Vietnamese food would take a book to write, so I will simply say that the food has a unique flavor all its own, not to mention that there are hundreds of wonderful Vietnamese restaurants all over the city. However, be careful of eating vegetables off the street that is not cooked, and fruit that is served without its cover. You should carry some type of stomach medicine, immodium, for example, with you should an intestinal problem arise.


Make sure your family has your contact and flight information. Leave them a copy of your flight schedule, the Victory Hotel location and contact number, as well as contact information for the Study Abroad Program here at Pitt.

The streets of Ho Chi Minh City are at least as safe, if not safer, than the streets of Pittsburgh. However, please do not walk around Ho Chi Minh City late at night by yourself. Have a "buddy" and look out as well as take care of each other. Even though Viet Nam is relatively safe, you need to be aware of your circumstances at all times. As an American tourist, one concern is the pickpocket, so please do not carry valuables on the street, and please be aware of how you carry your bags as you would in any urban setting. Please do not invite anyone other than your Pitt colleagues into your hotel room. Meet and leave visitors at the reception area only.

Perhaps the major safety hazard is the traffic, automobiles and especially motorbikes, and you confront these hazards while crossing the street. If at all possible, cross the street at an intersection with a traffic light or at least a safety crossing. Traffic lights are a relatively recent phenomena and even at lights, motorbikes will move from the street to sidewalks to make right turns and avoid the lights. Please be aware of the setting while walking the streets.


If you take prescription medications, you should take enough for the entire duration of the program. Your prescription medicine should be in your prescription bottle or container, and if it is not, then make sure you have a copy of your medication as prescribed by the doctor. If you take over-the-counter medications, you should pack them as well. You might want to take your favorite cold and stomach remedies as well. However, you should also note that you can now buy most basic over-the-counter medication in Viet Nam these days.

As far as vaccines are concerned, I would refer you to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and specifically, to their website entitled, "Health Information for Travelers to Viet Nam," for more information. Here you can find Vietnam-specific information: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/vietnam.htm.