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Cyclo, Clothing, Toiletries, etc.

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We leave for Vietnam in a little over two weeks and so I am in the last stages of planning. I have several small, unrelated, questions (although several have to do with packing).

1. We want to take a bit of a cyclo tour through the Old Quarter on our first afternoon. I assume that it will be easy to find willing "drivers" but am wondering if we just step out onto the street and flag someone down or if we ask at the hotel. Also, what should we agree on for a price? We allowed ourselves to get "taken" by a tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok because we were jet lagged and unfamiliar with what it should cost. There will be four of us - do we need two or four cyclos?

2. Any cultural expectations on attire that we should know about (other than what is in the guidebooks which isn't much)?

3. We like to pack light and do carry on wherever possible, but the 3 ounce rule has put a damper on that. We will be there for three weeks (and then a week in Hong Kong). How easy is it to find things like lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc? Will we be able to recognize it? If we can avoid having to check luggage I would prefer that.

4. Tipping advice? We will have some private guides (especially in remote areas like Ban Gioc waterfall) and will be doing a couple of cruises (Ha Long Bay and Mekong River) as well as connecting up with Hanoi Kids.

5. Most of the guides and cruises we have arranged ahead of time want us to come settle up our invoice with cash (USD) once we get to Hanoi. Will we find a lot of places that prefer cash to credit cards? How much should we exchange into Vietnamese dong? We ended up getting a lot of Cambodian money when we were in Siem Reap and then no one wanted it :-P!

6. Taxis - we will have to take a cab to the various offices in Hanoi. Based on the guidebooks it seems that it is best to have them use the meter. Is that true or is the rate negotiable?

I know these seem to be a lot of random questions, but I have found the advice on this forum often is more accurate than guidebooks that are already a few years old. Anything else we should keep in mind? How safe is Hanoi to just wander around? I love to do that in the afternoons while DH takes a nap :-).

Thanks so much for your advice!

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