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- For direct dialing to China, the country code is 86, the city codes please contact telephone operator for assistance.
- Hotel telephone operators can dial US numbers for you, but the cost is high.
- You may to bring a calling card, prepaid local phone cards are avail-able at hotel ships or reception.
- You tour guide will assist you in this matter.
- Hotels in China are normally supplied with 220 volt - 50 cycle service. Both the 220 volt (50 cycle, single phase) and 380 volt (three phase) systems are in use throughout China.
- Visitors who bring hair dryers or electric razors should also bring transformers (110V to 220V) and a three-prong (flat, not round prong) plug.
- Use discretion when taking photographs. In principle you can photograph most things except military installations. It is advis-able to ask for permission of a subject.
- It's always wise to avoid having film passed through airport security X-ray equipment.
- Although Kodak and Fuji films are on sale in China, not all types and sizes are available. It's better to bring your own supply of batteries, flashbulbs, films etc.
- For summer, choose clothes that are light-weight, made of fab-rics that breathe in the heat - natural fabrics such as cotton and linen are cooler than synthetics.
- For spring and fall, dress as you would for these seasons in the temperate latitudes such as Europe and the U.S. Light jackets and sweaters should be ade-quate, if supplemented by a raincoat.
For your convenience, we suggest you bring one large suitcase and one carry-on small bag. Do not over pack, leave space for purchases in China. Since your suitcase will be transported frequently during trip. Be sure it is strong enough to withstand all the handing. Also be sure it has wheels and a lock.
- Baggage allowance for USA-China flight may vary by airline and is subject to Change at any time. Travelers are required to check online before departure.
- For China domestic flight, each passenger is allowed one piece of check-in luggage, up to 44lbs., and one carry on bag. Checked lug-gage must have a lock and a luggage tag showing the name and con-tact information of the owner.( please us Signature Tours tags for easy identification by our airport staff). Baggage without a lock maybe refused for transport.
- Do not pack medicine, valuables and other personal necessities in checked luggage. Keep them in your carry on bag.
- Chinese currency is called REN MIN BI(RMB) and is issued by the state bank, the People’s Bank of China.
- We suggest you bring a combination of cash and travelers check for your trip. US dollars in cash form are accepted at many places while traveler’s checks must be converted into RBM first. You need original receipts to convert RMB to US dollars.
- Credit cards are not widely accepted in China but are becoming more popular in major cit-ies. International hotels, department stores and shops frequented by for-eign tourists generally accept them.
- Cash advance by credit cared is not common and is only possible at a few assigned banks.
Food & Drinks
- Meals are included as per itinerary in China.
- Lunch and dinner are Chinese food, and most meals are served as a set menu with 10people per table. One glass of local beer or soft drinks or water is included. Unlimited amount o tea f is include with all meals.
- Additional drinks at mealtime are available for purchase. Please verity cost before ordering.
- Drinks in hotel mini bar are extremely expensive. Do not take drinks from the mini bar and try to replace them later. You will be charged accordingly since the mini bar accounting takes place in the morning, before you can replace anything.
- Hotel stores generally carry a variety of soft drinks and bottle water.
- Tipping encourages and rewards quality service. The tour guides , driver, and other service personnel do their best to make your trip smooth and pleasant. Gratuities are tokens of appreciation.
- For your convenience, the tour guide may collect the gratuities on behalf of the local driver and porter on the last day in each city.
- The following is a guideline, you may use your discretion in this matter if extra services are rendered or some services are not received. The amount for China tour is US$ 8 per person per day.
Tour Guide: US$5
Local Driver: US$3
For the Yangtze River Cruise, tipping is separate from the above. For rec-ommended amount
- It is very important to check in to the airline for transpacific flight at least three hours before the departure time. If you fly on your own, please look for Signature Tours representative at the arrival airport. You must wear the Name Badge at departure and arrival for easy identification. For missed, delayed or cancelled flights or other emer-gency, please contact one of the following office:
5 Oceans Tours—US: 714-899-1288
Emergency contact in China: 011-86-28-8613 4949
- Please keep an eye on your valuables at all time. Watch out for pick-pockets while sightseeing
- Read your itinerary and hotel information before departure. Leave a copy of the your itinerary and hotel info with your family
- travellers can get a taxi through the local travel agency or hotel service desk.
- If you speak Chinese, you may call the taxi com-pany directly.
- Taxi fares are charged according to the cab model and mileage driven.
- It is not necessary to tip drivers.
- China is a multi-racial country with 56 ethnic groups. In the long course of its development, all the nationalities have jouned in the effort to create the great culture that China represents.
- Apart from the principal Han nationality, the other 55 ethnic groups, with a total of more than 96.5 million people, constitute roughly 8% of the total population.
- Those with more than one million people are: Zhang, Hui, Uyghur, Yi, Miao, Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, Tujia, Bouyei, Korean, Dong, Yao, Bai and Hani.
- Chinese family names came into being some 5000 years ago. There are more than 5000 family names in China, of which 200/300 are popular. The order of Chinese names is family name first.
- The official language is Mandarin, the natinal tongue. Other widely spoken dialects include Cantonese, Shanghai nese, Fujianese and Sichuanese.
- English is widely understood in major hotlesand the Friendship Stores.
- China's vast territory spans five time zones from the west to the east.
- For convenient communication in daily life, Beijing Standard Time (GMT+8) is used throughtout the country, which is 13 hours ahead of New York
The Vietnamese language is derived from Latin characters. English is widely spoken throughout the country, especially in tourist areas. The Lonely Planet Vietnam Phrasebook is recommended for those wanting to learn more about the language.
- 12hrs ahead of Canada Eastern Time
- 15hrs ahead of Canada Pacific Time
- 12hrs ahead of US Eastern Time.
- 15 hrs ahead of US Pacific Time.
Vietnam is fast becoming known as a “shopper‟s paradise”. Ceramics, lacquer ware, bamboo, silk and embroidery are just some of the many good buys. Many travelers also have clothes tailored due to the low prices - standards vary. A few guidelines to follow when shopping:
- Except in department stores, bargaining is the norm. To get the best price you will have to haggle hard.
- Export of certain antiques is not permitted. Make sure you are aware of relevant regulations before purchasing.
- Fake reproductions are common. Make sure you know what you are buying, especially in the case of antiques.
The electric current in Vietnam operates mostly on 220 volts but occasionally you will find 110-volt sockets. Electric plug types vary throughout the country, however the two-rounded pin standard Asian plug is usable in most parts of the country. You will need to purchase a power adaptor suitable for this region prior to your departure.
The official unit of currency in Vietnam is the dong. Approximate exchange rates at the time of printing are:
- 1USD equals 15,500 dong
- 1CAD equals 12,000 dong
You are able to bring your home currency in cash or travelers‟ checks (CAD or USD). All international currency, with the exception of US dollars, must be changed into the local currency, the Vietnamese dong. You can pay for goods and services in US dollars or dong, however you will get better value for your money if you use local currency. Most hotels change traveler‟s checks (with a 1% to 2% commission) and cash at reasonable rates. Credit cards (Visa or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted) can be used in a limited number of shops and restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi, however they are not widely accepted outside these cities. Cash advances can be obtained using these cards at the major banks and ATM‟s in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Danang, Hoi An and Hue. Please note if traveling to remote areas of Vietnam it is advisable to carry dong or USD cash.
Weather conditions vary between the north and the south of Vietnam. Average temperatures year round range from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit so there is no particularly good or bad time to visit Vietnam.
In southern Vietnam tropical conditions prevail, and there are two seasons – the wet season lasts from May to November and the dry season from December to April. The wet is characterised by high humidity levels and a refreshing afternoon downpour. Humidity in the south during the months of June and July ranges between 75% and 85%. The hottest months are from March to May.
Central Vietnam is usually dry from May to October and wet from December to February. October and November may experience unstable weather conditions and flooding.
Northern Vietnam also experiences two seasons though conditions can change dramatically throughout the day. The winter months from November to April are usually cold and humid. The months of December and January can be particularly cool with temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures can drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit in Sapa (in the highlands near the Chinese border) in winter. Summer, from May to October, can be quite hot and wet with regular downpours and occasional typhoons. The hottest months are July and August in Hanoi.
Baggage & Clothing
Your baggage should be clearly labelled and kept to a reasonable minimum. Luggage limits on airlines are strictly enforced and space on vehicles and trains can be limited. Porters are not always available, so be prepared to carry your own bags. Comfortable casual clothes made of cotton are best in tropical and semi-tropical climates. Packing one set of smart casual clothes is advisable. Laundry services are available throughout the country, although hotel laundry costs can be expensive. Make sure you bring:
- Flat walking shoes and sandals
- Hat & sunglasses
- Money belt
- Raincoat or umbrella
- Basic first aid kit (see below)
- Insect repellent
- Alarm clock
- Power adapter
- Women‟s sanitary products
- Slide or any specialized film if used (print film is widely available in Vietnam)
- Ear plugs
Please note that airlines insist all sharp items (knives, scissors, nail clippers etc.) are packed in your „check-in‟ luggage!
Travelers to Vietnam should take precautions as they would elsewhere in Asia. There are now a number of international standard medical care facilities available in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Outside the cities, medical care facilities are basic. We strongly recommend you consult your preferred doctor for the most up to date health advice at least one month prior to travel.
We also suggest you bring a simple medical kit. Your doctor should advise you what to include, however as a minimum we suggest you bring:
- Aspirin (for pain or fever)
- Antihistamines (for allergies and itches)
- Cold and flu tablets
- Anti diarrhea medication
- Something appropriate for nausea and vomiting
- Rehydration mixture (to prevent dehydration)
- Insect repellant
- Antiseptic and bandages
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Antibiotics (discuss with your doctor)
As part of the travel registration process at the start of your journey, you will be asked to declare any serious pre-existing medical conditions or allergies.
Food / Water
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and tasty and one of the many highlights of a visit to the country. Most food presented is well cooked, however some optional dishes may be served cold. Travelers should note that raw, cold food presents a higher risk of stomach upset than well-cooked food. Breakfast is included each day on our tours and is usually a mix of buffet and continental style. Drinking local tap water is not recommended, even in hotels. Bottled water is readily available throughout Vietnam.
Safety & Security
Vietnam is generally a safe country. However petty street crime is on the rise as tourist numbers increase. In Ho Chi Minh City we recommend that as little jewelery as possible is worn and that when on the street your spending money is kept close to your body in a secure place. We further recommended that you take taxis rather than cyclos at night. Taxis are metered and inexpensive. Carry a hotel card so that you can show your taxi driver where you want to go. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes at all times and carry photocopies of your passport, credit card numbers, and airline tickets, and keep a record of your traveler‟s checks. These papers should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals.
Post & Communication
International mail generally takes 7 to 10 days to reach its destination and prices are generally equivalent to western postal charges. Reverse charge (collect) calls are not possible from Vietnam. International phone and fax charges are expensive and vary between
$US1.50 (at some post offices) and $US6 per minute (at some hotels). Email services are inexpensive and available in major tourist areas.
Print film is widely available and of good quality at $US3 to $US4 per roll. Vietnam has good, fast, and inexpensive film processing facilities. Slide films and Hi8/V8 video cassettes are not widely available outside Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. X-ray machines at airports are film safe.
Most hotels will have private western style bathrooms, hot water, air-conditioning, satellite television, IDD telephones, laundry and other facilities. Many have swimming pools. Coffee and tea making facilities are generally not available. Where possible we will endeavour at passenger request to accommodate couples in double rooms. Please note however that on occasions during your journey, this may not be possible and a twin room will be provided.
Check in and check out times can vary but most hotels in Vietnam require guests to check out by 12 noon and do not allow check in until 2pm. Many hotels may allow an earlier check in or later check out subject to availability on the day. However, if you are arriving early in the morning to a destination or leaving late in the evening you should consider pre-booking a guaranteed early check in/late check out. The additional cost varies from hotel to hotel but is usually between 50-100% of the nightly rate.
On the road, air-conditioned buses are generally used with either 25-40 seats - depending on the size of the group. These vehicles are designed with excellent viewing windows and a high roof. Modern sedan cars and minibuses are used for transporting smaller numbers of people. Some tours include domestic flights. Vietnam Airlines operates a modern fleet, however schedules frequently change and this can result in alterations to your tour program.
Our small group journeys provide you with a good balance of group activity and personal discovery. Travelers need to be aware of certain personal responsibilities when traveling with a group. Simple things like being ready at agreed times and keeping to schedule will ensure the smooth running of the programme. Furthermore, the traditions and culture of the country you are visiting should be respected. Correct behavior includes wearing the appropriate dress when visiting religious sites, and refraining from making comments or acting in a manner that would be viewed as unacceptable by your fellow group members or by the local people in the country you are visiting. Please ask your tour leader for further clarification of the issues mentioned above.
Visa requirements & Departure taxes
To enter Vietnam you will require a passport (with at least 6 months remaining validity) and a tourist visa. This visa must be obtained prior to arrival. A combined entry/exit and baggage declaration form will be issued to you prior to arrival and the yellow copy of this must be retained until your departure from Vietnam. Please ensure this paper is kept in a safe place while you are in Vietnam. It is your responsibility to ensure all visa and entry requirements are met prior to your arrival in Vietnam.
Please Note: All Vietnam visas are SINGLE ENTRY - unless you have specifically requested MULTIPLE ENTRY. Please ensure you have a multiple entry visa if you are entering Vietnam twice. The status of a tourist visa cannot be changed from SINGLE ENTRY to MULTIPLE ENTRY once a client has arrived in Vietnam.
We strongly advise that all passengers are fully ensured. Insurance should include coverage for personal accident, medical expenses, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of your holiday. Note that travel insurance may be „attached‟ to your credit card, although usually such cover is effective only if your travel arrangements have been purchased with the card. Insurance cover from credit cards often does not include payment of medical expenses. Please check your policy carefully. You must have adequate insurance to cover you in the event you suffer a medical problem while traveling.
Thailand is a Southeast Asian, predominantly Buddhist kingdom almost equidistant between India and China. For centuries known by outsiders as Siam, Thailand has been something of a Southeast Asian migratory, cultural and religious crossroads.
With an area of some 510,000 square kilometers and a population of some 60 million, Thailand is approximately the same size as France. Thailand shares borders with Myanmar to the west and north, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the east, and Malaysia to the south.
Geographically speaking, Thailand is divided into six major regions: the mountainous north where elephants work forests and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches; the sprawling northeast plateau, largely bordered by the Mekong River, where the world's oldest Bronze Age civilization flourished some 5,000 years ago,- the central plain, one of the world's most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas; the eastern coastal plain, where fine sandy beaches support the growth of summer resorts', western mountains and valleys, suitable for the development of hydro-electric power; and the peninsular south where arresting scenic beauty complements economically vital tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishin
Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with 3 distinct seasons - summer from March through May, rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to September and cool from October through February. The average annual temperature is 28' C (83' F), ranging, in Bangkok, for example, from 30' C in April to 25' C in December.
Time in Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+ 7).
Throughout her long history, Thailand has gently absorbed immigrants. Many were skilled as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and architects, and helped enrich indigenous culture.
People inhabiting Thailand today share rich ethnic diversity - - mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian stock - - with the result that there is no typically Thai physiognomy or physique. There are petite Thais, statuesque Thais, round-faced Thais, dark-skinned Thais and light-skinned Thais.
Some 80% of all Thais are connected in some way with agriculture which, in varying degrees, influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals that help make Thailand such a distinctive country.
Spoken and written Thai remain largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket where it is almost the major commercial language. English and other European languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants, in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nationwide.
The Thai unit of currency is the baht which is worth a little less than 4 US cents.
One US dollar = approximately 37 baht.
The baht is divided into 100 satang. "Copper" coins are valued at 25 and 50 satang. "Silver" coins are in denominations of 1' 2 and 5 baht. A 10 baht coin is composed of both "silver" and "copper". Banknotes are valued at 10 baht (brown), 20 baht (green), 50 baht (blue), 100 baht (red), 500 baht (purple) and 1,000 baht (khaki).
Traveller's Cheques / Cheques / Credit Cards
US dollar traveller cheques can be conveniently cashed at all provincial banks and authorised money changers. Traveller cheques in other currencies are best changed in Bangkok where better rates prevail. Generally, hotel exchange rates are lower then those offered by banks and authorised money changers.
Major international credit cards, such as American Express, Diners, Carte Blanche, Master Card and VISA are accepted by major banks, restaurants, hotels and shops.
Thai and foreign banks provide standard services nationwide, Monday through Friday, except public and bank holidays, between 9.30 AM and 3.30 PM.
Major banks such as Bangkok Bank, Thai Danu Bank, Thai Farmers Bank and Siam Commercial Bank operate currency exchange centres in most tourist areas from 7.00 AM to 9.00 PM, seven days a week, including holidays.
Many first-class hotels provide 24-hour money exchange services, but only for major currencies such as American dollars, British pounds, German marks and Swiss francs. Travellers cheques are generally accepted only from bona fide hotel guests.
- Foreign tourists may freely bring in foreign banknotes or other types of foreign exchange. Upon leaving Thailand, a foreign tourist may freely take out foreign means of payments which he brought in with him, with the exception that foreign notes or coins are limited to a maximum equivalent of US$ 10,000 or the amount declared in writing to Customs upon arrival. Failure to do so may lead to arrest, confiscation of the excess amount involved and/or prosecution.
- For travellers leaving Thailand, the maximum amount permitted to take out without prior authorization is 50,000 baht per person
- Foreign visitors may bring in personal effects and other goods which are not prohibited by current customs regulation. Other than personal effects, departing visitors are also allowed to take out merchandise bought from duty free shops, precious stones, gold and platinum ornaments.
- Foreign visitors are welcome to open a foreign currency account with any commercial bank in Thailand. As a special gesture to nonresidents, no restrictions are imposed on the maintenance of and withdrawal from the account, as long as the funds originate from abroad.
Light, loose cotton clothing is best. Nylon should be avoided. Sweaters are needed during Cool Season evenings or if visiting mountainous areas and remote national parks. Jackets and ties are required in certain restaurants and nightclubs.
The electric current is 220 Volt AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. There are many plugs and sockets in use. Travellers with shavers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug-adapter kit. The better hotels will make available 110 Volt transformers.
Film and photography
Major international film manufacturers maintain excellent photofinishing laboratories.
Instant developing can be done within one hour. Popular films are available countrywide at reasonable prices.
Still photagraphers are free to shoot almost everything. Movie cameras are not allowed without permission in Bangkok's Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Chapel complex. Photography is also prohibited in certain branches of the National Museum.
Newspapers and Magazines
Thailand's English-language newspapers, the Nation, the Bangkok Post and Thailand Times keep readers abreast of local and international events. Major English language magazines and newspapers such as International Herald Tribune, Wallstreet Journal, Newsweek, Time and Asiaweek are readily available at hotel newsagents, supermarkets, department stores and leading bookstores.
It is not necessary to tip cinema ushers. It is customary to tip porters and hotel personnel who have given good personal service. A 10%15% tip is appreciated in restaurants, particularly where service charge is waived.
Radio and Television
AM radio is heavily commercial - - there are some 200 stations nationwide - - and appeals to popular taste. FM radio offers popular music, classical music, jazz, English-language news broadcasts and the original sounctracks of certain imported filmshows shown on local television's five channels. Leading hotels have colour televisions in each room, offering either video features, satellite and / or cable television or tourism-related English-language programmes.
Polite behaviour is welcomed everywhere, and what is considered polite in other countries is probably considered polite in Thailand, too.
However, there and a few cultural pitfalls, mainly social and religious taboos, the breaking of which can cause offence:
- For example, Thais revere their royal family. Even social malcontents who ignore legal and community standards refuse to tolerate a faintly implied slight on the Thai monarchy.
- Outward expressions of anger are regarded as crude and boorish. The visitor who remains calm and smiles appreciatively will find all sorts of doors open to him.
- Visitors should dress neatly in all religious shrines. They should never go shirtless, or in shorts, hot pants or other unsuitable attire.
- Shoes should be removed when entering private Thai homes; chapels where Buddhist images are kept; and any of the Islamic community's mosques.
- Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is regarded as being a sacred object. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything that might show lack of respect.
- Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. Westernised Thai couples may hold hands but that's as far as it goes in polite society.
- It is considered rude to point your foot a person or object.
- Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, both literally and figuratively. Therefore, they do not appreciate anyone patting them there, even as a friendly gesture.