Vietnam is a beautiful country, and should be on top of every traveller’s must-visit list. Its fascinating history, rich culture, mesmerizing landscapes, mouthwatering food, and friendly locals will captivate you from the moment you arrive.
Vietnam, however, is far from perfect. As with other travel destinations, you will hear or read mixed reviews about it. You will come across travellers who fell head over heels in love with the country. And others who’ll say it’s their least favourite country in Southeast Asia because they got sick on the road or fell prey to opportunistic locals.
But travel necessitates preparation. If you don’t prepare, you are doomed to fail. There are certain things you can do to make your trips as hassle-free and glitch-free as possible.
Here are ten things for you to remember when you’re travelling in Vietnam.
1. Travel to Vietnam requires a visa. If you are travelling from Australia, you will need a visa to travel to Vietnam. You can obtain one before you leave or get a visa upon arrival at your point of entry with a Visa Approval Letter.
2. You need to watch your belongings. Vietnam isn’t really a dangerous travel destination but petty crimes – theft and snatching – do exist so you should keep watch of your belongings, especially important documents, cash, gadgets, jewellery, and other valuables.
When heading out, it is advised that you only bring a reasonable amount of cash with you, just enough to buy food and drinks.
3. Beware of scams and rip-offs. We’ve heard about the plight of travellers who got scammed or ripped off in Vietnam, and the best advice we can give is for you to use your best judgment. Watch out for fake airline and travel agencies and fake tour operators who use the name of reputable companies. These bogus companies jack up prices or provide subpar service.Do you research in advance to find the best travel agencies offering the best affordable tours in Vietnam.
When taking taxis, stick to reputable ones so you won’t be charged exorbitant fees. In Ho Chi Minh City, use the services of Vinasun and Mai Linh taxi. For Hanoi travellers, Hanoi Taxi and Mai Linh are the recommended taxi companies.
4. It rains a lot in Vietnam. Even if you time your visit to avoid the monsoon season, you will experience rain at some point during your travel. Bring a small umbrella or a light raincoat or poncho.
5. You will do a lot of walking. Even if your trip just brings you to the key cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, do take note that you will do a lot of walking as the attractions are best explored on foot. So aside from the usual sandals, it would be wise to bring a pair of lightweight walking shoes and comfortable clothing. A word of advice on clothing though, the Vietnamese are on the conservative side so wear clothes that are comfy yet modest. When visiting temples or other places of worship, wear the appropriate clothes. If you have to wear jewelry during your trip, keep it simple.
6. Keep hydrated, but stick to bottled drinks. As you may already know, it can get hot and humid in Vietnam so you need keep hydrated. Yes, you need fluids and lots of it but never drink from the tap. Drink bottled water instead. Bottled water and drinks are cheap and plentiful in Vietnam.
7. The traffic is crazy in Vietnam. Vietnamese traffic is like no other, and you should be prepared for it. In HCMC, for example, crossing the streets is a big challenge for tourists due to the overwhelming number of motorbikes. While this may sound crazy, braving the traffic in Vietnam means crossing the streets with confidence. How? Just cross the streets slowly and let the motorists avoid you. Trust us, they know what to do.
8. Learn to haggle. Haggling is acceptable in Vietnam so when meaning to purchase anything, be prepared to haggle as vendors never really quote the original price in the first place. They tend to give tourists a figure that’s two or three times higher the actual price. Also, be careful when handing out cash when paying for purchases because the different Vietnamese dong notes can look very similar.
9. Be careful with street food. Vietnam is a haven for foodies and we never really had problems with the street food the times we were there. But that doesn’t mean you can be complacent because truth be told, we’ve heard about travellers getting sick from eating bad food. So to ensure food safety, only buy food if they are still hot. And it’s also wise to buy from stalls patronized by locals.
10. Do not forget to pack your travel essentials. Aside from your travel documents, cash, cards, toiletries, rain gear and clothing, you also need to bring medications, sun protection, insect repellant, smartphone (that you can use with a local SIM), chargers, and shape converters. Pack your things in a lightweight luggage, and then bring an extra backpack or daypack for your side trips and short excursions. This way, you don’t have to bring a heavy luggage with you as you tour Vietnam.
Finally decided on travelling to Vietnam? Let us help you put together the best Vietnam itinerary with these tours and activities.
By: Brendelyn Balaga