Free maps and tourist publications featuring up-to-date information on towns, cities, and events are available free from most major airports and popular destinations throughout the country. The local Vietnamese papers provide slanted news coverage with little emphasis on the arts or leisure. In Vietnam, private and state-run travel agencies, tourist cafés, and hotels are your best sources of information.
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism operates two helpful websites: www.vietnamtourism.com and www.vietnamtourism.gov.vn.
The office of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) in Vietnam is involved in building long-lasting ties and increasing understanding between Vietnamese and Americans. VVAF organizes cultural exchange programs and a prosthetics clinic. Veterans returning to Vietnam are encouraged to contact VVAF, either in Hanoi or at its Maryland office. At least once a year VVAF organizes tours to Vietnam; contact the Maryland office for information.
Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. 8605 Cameron St., Suite 100, Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910. 301/585–4000; 301/585–0519; www.vva.org.
Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. Viet Hong Building, 58 Tran Nhan Tong, 4th fl., Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi, Ha Noi. 24/733–9444; www.ic-vvaf.org.
In large cities English is practically a second language, and is commonly used in the tourist trade; in the countryside, particularly outside tourist spots, communicating can be difficult if you don't speak any Vietnamese, so it's best to use a phrase book as a point-and-show device. A little Vietnamese goes a long way, and a few words—numbers and some important verbs and pronouns—you may find such matters as bargaining with cyclo drivers much easier. Some helpful phrases and words are listed in the Vocabulary and Menu Guide. French is still spoken among an elite but shrinking crowd of older Vietnamese.