First things first, you need to sort out the medical side. Your health is the most important thing while you are traveling and picking up a new disease is not advised. At least those barking dogs seem less dangerous if you know you are protected against rabies. Here is a list of immunisations that are recommended:
- Tetanus, diphtheria and polio. A booster shot is usually needed and you shouldnt leave home without it.
- Hep A and Hep B. Maybe you have these already but its worth checking.
- Typhoid. Contaminated food and water is very possible so this should be on your list.
- Rabies. Not necessary but gives you peace of mind, especially if you find yourself far from a hospital.
- Japanese B encephalitis. Not necessary and quite expensive but the disease is fatal, can give you brain damage and is untreatable.
- Malaria. Not necessary for Hanoi but many travellers take it just in case. Taken with tablets but never 100% effective. Dengue fever is a possibility in urban areas, but not as serious, and in any case there is no vaccine.
You should visit your local GP at least a of month before you leave as some vaccinations are taken over a series of weeks and some have side effects, and its best to experience them in your home country. Remember travel insurance.
You need to arrange a visa before you enter Vietnam, either flying or over a land border. To read more about visas click here.
You can buy most things you need here in Vietnam but the quality is not always of high standard, can be difficult to find and sometimes it is more expensive. To help you with pre-departure arrangements we suggest you to bring the following:
- All necessary documents (tickets, passport, visa, travel insurance) including a few photocopies and some passport-size photos.
- US dollars. Dollars are the second currency in Vietnam and very easy to change, either at a bank or a gold shop. Vietnam Dong is not available before you enter Vietnam so $US are neccessary when arriving. ATMs are found in major cities, but don't just bring a bank card, its not 100% reliable like the dollar.
- Backpack, something to carry everything in. It's more convenient than a suitcase.
- Suncream. The cream in Vietnam is very bad and usually has whitening properties.
- First aid kit. For women, tampons too, they are expensive here.
- Mobile phone. You can buy a sim card here for around $6 and using within the country is very cheap. Its not advised to bring an expensive phone, try and bring an old one. Borrow one from a friend if you don't have one, its less likely to be stolen.
- Shoes. Bring a decent pair if you take large sizes. Sandals/flipflops too and maybe some shoes to wear inside (carpet is not common in Vietnam)
- Camera. You can develop film easily and printing digital is just as common. Photos of your life at home would be nice to show your Vietnamese friends.
- Appropriate clothing for season. Summer in Hanoi is hot and humid and winter can get pretty cold (think hats and scarves). Covering your skin actually keeps you cooler in the sun so pack some cool long sleeved shirts/trousers for the summer.
- Some small gifts. Something from your home country such as English books, keyrings, sweets, postcards will be highly appreciated.
Most Western food is available in supermarkets, but relatively expensive. Music CDs, VCDs, DVDs (pirated) are very cheap and can be found easily. Medication and antibiotics are inexpensive and can be bought over the counter. You will find mosquito nets here for a fraction of the price in the West.