Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Vietnam. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
ENTERING VIETNAM: A passport valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry and with at least one blank page for an entry stamp. A Vietnamese visa is required and it must be obtained from a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate prior to traveling to Vietnam.
Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check with the nearest Vietnam embassy. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information for Vietnam at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/vietnam.html , and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Vietnam at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/vm.html.
PACE OF TOUR: The tour is a relatively strenuous and require a good degree of physical fitness due to the high temperatures in the south, some longish walks and a moderate amount of ascent and descent. Some days will involve walking about six miles, for example the walk to Crocodile Lake and back at Cat Tien National Park. However most walking is fairly easy and will include plenty of stops for birding. Some uphill and cross-country walking is required in the sites around Dalat, as well as Tam Dao in the north on the extension.
Our birding days will normally begin around 5:30 a.m. with a quick early breakfast before birding. Some days we might take a light packed breakfast. Bird activity usually drops off by 11:00 a.m. and lunch would normally be taken at the park headquarters, hotel or nearby restaurant followed by a siesta before resuming birding around 2:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. or dusk. There are some three/four hour drives and one long drive of around eight hours.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.
The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/vietnam.
Malaria: The CDC recommends a malaria preventative. Please consult your physician.
Elevation: Our highest elevation will be at Tam Dao where we will be birding at 930 m/3050 ft. Elsewhere our birding will be in the lowlands or foothills.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
Insects: The abundance of biting insects varies from year to year and place to place. Generally biting insects are not numerous although mosquitoes and ticks occur locally. A can of spray repellent should provide adequate protection.
Miscellaneous: At the time of our visit there should not be any terrestrial leeches present but there is always a small risk we could encounter a few.
CLIMATE: Unlike much of Southeast Asia, Vietnam’s climate is complex and varied. It is a mix of humid tropical, sub-tropical, and cool at the respective locations. Our tour takes place during the spring in North Vietnam and during what is the dry season in South Vietnam. Daytime temperatures are likely to be in the range 30-35°C (86-95°F) in the south and 20°C-25°C (68-77°F) around Da Lat. At Tam Dao, situated at 930 metres, and Cuc Phuong, night time temperatures may drop to 5°C (40°F), whilst daytime temperatures are likely to be around 8°C-14°C (47-57°F). In the north we may encounter some rain at times and colder temperatures.
ACCOMMODATION: In the north we stay at national park accommodations at Cuc Phuong. The accommodation is in simple rooms at the park headquarters with air-conditioning, private bathroom facilities and hot water while at Tam Dao we use a comfortable resort hotel. In Dalat we stay at a cosy family-run hotel. At Cat Tien National Park the accommodations are similar to those at Cuc Phuong National Park. The hotels in Central Vietnam are the best available at each location and although simple all rooms have air-conditioning and private bathrooms with hot water.
WiFi, Internet and Cell Phones: Internet access is generally available in almost every corner of the world, and wireless (Wi-Fi) is increasingly common in hotels, airports, restaurants and cafes. In the hotels in the main towns free wifi is generally available. Most require a password, which we’ll receive on check-in.
Cell phones can be useful while on tour but keep in mind that many countries operate on a different cellular technology than US or Canadian carriers. Your phone may be incompatible with the local system, so please check with your local carrier.
FOOD: Vietnam is rightly famous for its delicious and healthy cuisine. Rice is, of course, the staple and most Vietnamese eat it at every meal. Breakfasts often consist of bread or noodles, though. Our meals will vary from quite fancy to fairly simple depending on our location but always tasty. As is the custom throughout much of Asia, a variety of dishes will be placed on our table by our hosts and the group will share the meal. Usually, we will have two or three vegetable dishes and one or two meat dishes, generally chicken or pork. Meals are eaten with chopsticks in Vietnam but a fork and spoon can usually be provided if preferred. In the cities Western food can be found for variety and the French-style Vietnamese bread is delicious and ubiquitous.
Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
Drinks: Bottled water and/or a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. Bottled water is provided in our vehicle during the day. Personal drinking water for use in your room is the responsibility of the individual.
TRANSPORTATION: Ground transportation is by air-conditioned mini-bus. Domestic flights are operated by Vietnam Airlines. We will take a short boat trip in shallow waters at one site near Cuc Phuong. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles and are expected to change seats with others daily.
Updated: January 2015