Most banks tend to work Monday to Friday 8–11.30am and 1–4pm, though some stay open later in the afternoon or may forego a lunch break. In tourist centres you’ll even find branches open evenings and weekends.
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Basic hours of business are 7.30–11.30am and 1.30–4.30pm, though after lunch nothing really gets going again before 2pm. The standard closing day for offices is Sunday, and many now also close on Saturdays, including most state-run banks and government offices.
Most banks tend to work Monday to Friday 8–11.30am and 1–4pm, though some stay open later in the afternoon or may forego a lunch break. In tourist centres you’ll even find branches open evenings and weekends. Post offices keep much longer hours, in general staying open from 6.30am through to 9pm with no closing day. Some sub-post offices work shorter hours and close at weekends.
Shops and markets open seven days a week and in theory keep going all day, though in practice most stallholders and many private shopkeepers will take a siesta. Shops mostly stay open late into the evenings, perhaps until 8pm or beyond in the big cities.
Museums tend to close one day a week, generally on Mondays, and their core opening hours are 8–11am and 2–4pm. Temples and pagodas occasionally close for lunch but are otherwise open all week and don’t close until late evening.
Rates for international calls are very reasonable, with international direct dialling (IDD) costing around 4,000đ per minute (depending where you are calling). Using the prefix 171 reduces rates by a further 10–20 percent. The 171 service can be used from any phone, except for operator-assisted calls, mobile phones, cardphones or faxes: post offices will charge a small fee for using it.
Nearly all post offices have IDD (inter-national direct dialling) facilities, and most hotels offer IDD from your room, but you’ll usually be charged at least ten percent above the norm and a minimum charge of one minute even if the call goes unanswered.
If you’re running short of funds, you can almost always get a “call-back” at post offices. Ask to make a minimum (1min) call abroad and remember to get the phone number of the booth you’re calling from. You can then be called back directly, at a total cost to you of a one-minute international call plus a small charge for the service. It’s also possible to make collect calls to certain countries; ask at the post office or call the international operator on T110.
Local calls are easy to make and are often free, though you may be charged a small fee of a few thousand dong for the service. As in many countries, public phones are turning into battered monuments to outdated technology as mobile phones become ubiquitous (there’s now more than one phone per user in Vietnam). However, transport centres like airports and bus stations still maintain a few functioning machines, which accept only pre-paid phone cards, not coins. All post offices also operate a public phone service, where the cost is displayed as you speak and you pay the cashier afterwards.
In late 2008, all phone numbers in Vietnam acquired an extra digit after the area code and before the actual number, so phone numbers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City now have eight digits and other towns have seven digits after the area code. For subscribers to Vietnam Post and Telecommunications (VNPT), which is over 95 percent of the country, the extra digit is 3, though subscribers to smaller service providers have added a 2, 4, 5 or 6. We have included the new digits in this Guide, though you may still see some old numbers in Vietnam itself, and many businesses have yet to update their websites.
If you want to use your own mobile phone in Vietnam, the simplest – and cheapest – thing to do is to buy a SIM card and a prepaid phone card locally. Both the big phone companies, Vinaphone (Wvinaphone.com.vn) and Mobiphone (Wmobiphone.com.vn), offer English-language support and similar prices, though Vinaphone perhaps has the edge for geographical coverage (which extends pretty much nationwide). At the time of writing, Vinaphone starter kits including a SIM card cost 120,000đ (with 100,000đ worth of calls credited to your account). Further prepaid cards are available in various sizes from 100,000đ to 500,000đ. Phone calls cost slightly more than from a land line, while sending an SMS message costs 100–300đ in Vietnam and about 2,500đ internationally. However, rates are falling rapidly as more competitors enter the increasingly deregulated market.
The other, far more expensive, option is to stick with your home service-provider – though you’ll need to check beforehand whether they offer international roaming services.