Vietnam Travel Tips: Crucial things to keep in mind before your trip

14 minute read
Vietnam Travel Tips: Crucial things to keep in mind before your trip
Vietnam Travel Tips: Crucial things to keep in mind before your trip
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Travel to Vietnam

The moment you enter Vietnam, you know you have stepped into a whole new world. Buzzing cities fused with endless gobsmacking landscapes and heavenly calm oceans. Boasting unique cultures reflecting rich history, the S-shaped country brings a mesmerizing vibe to the heart of travelers.

However, Vietnam can be a tricky nation to discover that may leave unprepared visitors with unhappy experiences. Streets might be full of trash, petty crimes occur at every corner, and bizarre traffic poses hazardous threats. Acknowledging what to do and what not to do in Vietnam is of the utmost importance. 

Therefore, Visa2Asia provides you the ultimate list of must-know Vietnam travel tips to ensure you achieve a wonderful and worry-free trip in this angelic country. Let’s begin! 

Tips before you land in Vietnam

Prepare your visa

Visa to travel to Vietnam

First things first – the visa. Needless to say – Vietnam requires international visitors to have a valid Vietnam visa, except citizens from Vietnam visa exemption countries. Yet, an unbelievable amount of foreigners who enter the country have no idea what to do or how to get an appropriate visa. 

So, before packing your luggage, make sure you check for visa requirements and types of visas in accordance with your travel purpose. Go for the Vietnam tourist visa if you enter Vietnam solely for a refreshing tropical getaway

Looking for a shortcut? Luckily, there is a much faster and more convenient way to earn a Vietnam visa. We offer our beloved tourists visa on arrival services. 

All you have to do is to fill an online application form, bring your pre-approval letter to the landing airport and get the visa stamped on your passport. Piece of cake!

Prepare copies of essential travel documents

It is highly recommended that you make some copies of your passport, visa, and other travel documents and carry them on your trip. This is enormously helpful for your safety in case you lose your official documents while staying in Vietnam.

Be extra careful with your checked-luggage

Man dragging his luggage

Picture this. You just arrive in this charming country. The minute you open your luggage, you see that something was taken, your trip is ruined. Freaking pissed, isn’t it?

You may be in shock, but this is not uncommon at Vietnamese airports, even in other countries. So how to deal with this?

Putting valuable items in your luggage is not a good idea. Even if you have prepared locks, they still have their way to open them. Stuff everything precious in your carry-on bag, or only bring what you truly need. 

Another tip to consider is wrapping your suitcase, though it is a little time-consuming. Nevertheless, you would rather spend some extra time doing everything necessary to protect your belongings than carrying outraged anger throughout your supposed-to-be dream vacation, right? 

Plan a smart itinerary 

A tourist wandering around Vietnam

Don’t underestimate the size of Vietnam. You have no idea how massive and spread out the country is until you google map destinations. Accompanied by the crazy traffic, getting from point A to B will take surprisingly longer than expected in Vietnam. 

First-time visitors to Vietnam tend to make a rookie mistake: trying to put everything in their itinerary. It will rush you to take flights and transportations, taking away your precious time to enjoy every bit of the lovely country. 

To fully discover South, Central, and North Vietnam, allow yourself to have at least 3 weeks of vacation. If time does not permit, prioritize the attractions you want to visit most so that you can fully revel in the country’s wonders. 

Tips you can’t miss when discovering Vietnam

Learn the art of haggling

A tourist haggle with a local stall holder

Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia. From food, transportation to just about everything, your money goes really far here. Things are so inexpensive that with a $100 bill, you can travel like a king for a day. Though the country sounds budget-friendly as it is, get ready to bargain for things. 

“Why would I even need to haggle when everything is already so affordable?”

When you splurge on souvenirs or other essentials at local markets, sellers always inflate the price much higher than what you are supposed to pay. Sounds like these cheeky locals are trying to rip you off, doesn’t it? Don’t be in shock because that is the way some Vietnamese have been conducting businesses for years. 

Bargaining can be daunting at first. But the more you do it, the more you get used to it. 

Here are some pro tips to knock off the haggling game:

  • Commitment: start low and stick to the price you are willing to pay no matter what. Don’t be afraid to politely walk away when you can’t get your deal. The ideal rate to settle is around 40% of the original price.
  • Browse before purchasing: huge chaotic tourist markets are full of side-by-side stalls selling the exact same products. So remember to take a scouse to find out which stallholder offers the most attractive prices.
  • Act like you don’t need it: this is a splendid opportunity to practice your nonchalant acting. Expressing too much enthusiasm for the product will put you in a lower position in the bargaining game. Even though keeping a cold head and pretending to walk away does not work every time, in many cases, the stallholders would reconsider their price. 
  • Don’t show off luxury belongings: In the eyes of the locals, wearing luxury watches or pieces of jewelry means you are a big shot who is willing to spare a few extra dollars. It makes your bargaining request less convincing to the sellers. 

Shopping in Vietnam

What if you have browsed, bargained, and even walked away as if you don’t need the stuff and yet the seller is stony?  Chances are you have to quit the haggle. But don’t be too furious. After all, it is just a game to help you get a slightly better deal. It wouldn’t kill to sometimes fork out the original price.

Exchange currency at the gold shop

Exchange currency at gold shops

The majority of tourists tend to exchange currency at the airport. But you may not know that jewelry shops are a great place to switch your dollars to Vietnamese dong. These shops offer better rates than airports and banks. The procedure is straightforward with no form needed to be filled out. 

Do some research or ask your local friends for well-known jewelry shops at tourist hotspots that offer good rates and the staff speaks good English. 

Bring toilet paper with you all the time

You are strolling on the streets of Vietnam on a delightful day. Suddenly, your belly started rumbling. All you can think of is the restroom. If you are lucky enough, you will find a public toilet. After you finish your business, you breathe a sigh of relief, until disaster falls – there is no toilet paper. 

Generally, public toilets in Vietnam are not well-maintained, resulting in empty toilet rolls. To save you from this bitter plight, remember to always bring toilet tissue along with you. 

Prepare for the abnormal weather

Vietnam is humid and hot in general. The heat can get extremely intense, usually in the middle of the day.

However, the weather varies significantly throughout the regions in such an elongated country. Saigon can knock you up with burning heat while Sapa of Northern Vietnam can be freezing with snow. 

Don’t underestimate the bizarre weather of this country. Remember to bring a rain jacket or an umbrella for an unexpected downpour, a coat to keep you warm, and drink lots of fluids so that you won’t faint from a heat stroke.

Book train tickets in advance

Traveling around Vietnam by train is exciting. Not only does it get you to all major cities, but you also get to gaze at the alluring scenery along the way.

Since train stations are centrally located, they are usually extremely crowded. Getting tickets at train stations means waiting in long queues and facing pickpockets. To save you time from going up and down the station, booking tickets online in advance or through a reputable travel agency is highly recommended. 

Use Grab instead of taxi services

A tourist taking photos with a Grab bike driver

When you hop on a cab in Vietnam, rather than having a nice friendly chat with the driver while being taken to your desired destination quickly, it is likely to be the opposite. The shady taxi driver gives you a run-around and charges an absurd rate. 

The thing called taxi scams is not something odd in this country. To avoid this obsolete means of transportation, switch to Grab ride-hailing services.

A tourist taking photos with a Grab driver

Grab is like the Uber of Vietnam and it is the game-changer of visitors going around the country. The Grab app sets you free from stressing about being driven around aimlessly by a taxi driver to jack up the fare. When you book a Grab driver, either bike or car, the fee is set in advance. As a result, there is no hassle from the Grab driver. Just fire up the app and a driver will be on the way. 

Tips to deal with snatchers 

A snatcher tries to snatch a tourist's camera

You may have heard some stories about tourists losing their important documents, jewelry, cash, or phone to sneaky snatchers while enjoying their vacation in Vietnam.

There is no such thing as being too careful. Anything can happen! So bear in mind these tips so that you won’t say goodbye to your things.

Wear your bags in front of you

It is highly recommended that you wear your bag in front of you when going to crowded places. You have no idea how skilled the snatchers are in Vietnam. They somehow can slit the bottom of your backpack with a paper-knife so fast that you won’t even be aware of it, and things inside fall to their hands.  

Don’t listen to your phone when you are on the street

Taking a phone call while you are on the road means you are inviting thieves riding on motorbikes to whisk your phone out of your hands. Therefore, stay far away from the street or get inside a building if you need to take or make a phone call. Be extra careful when using your phone on the street to navigate directions.

Don’t wear expensive jewelry 

Wearing high-priced jewelry will certainly attract unwelcome attention from muggers. It’s best to put away all luxurious items or wear as little jewelry as possible. 

Put your wallet in the front pocket

Always keep your wallet in the front pocket. If you carry it in the back pocket and go to places packed with people, get ready to farewell your money, ID card, and passport.  

Reminder: Though snatching does exist in Vietnam, the possibility that you get snatch is very low. The tips above will guarantee that your belongings are secured when staying in Vietnam. And even if something does happen, the local citizen and police department will be there to fully support you.

Tips to stay healthy in Vietnam

Poor hygiene and sanitation are among the top factors making Vietnam less attractive to a large number of travelers. Clearly, you don’t want to end up in a hospital in the middle of your trip.   

Never ever drink tap water

Tap water

Rule of thumb: never think about consuming tap water even when you are so thirsty in Vietnam. Unlike developed countries, tap water is undrinkable in Vietnam. You need to boil it before drinking. Prepare bottled water to keep yourself hydrated all the time.

Watch out for the delicious street food

Street food in Vietnam

Vietnamese cuisine holds a solid spot in the world’s elite culinary map, especially street food. You will miss a huge part of Vietnamese culture if you don’t try street cuisine.

Vietnam is renowned for its diversity of stunning mouth-watering treats cooked on the spot for under a dollar that seduces every foody. From savory to sweet treats and sometimes bizarre food – the streets of Vietnam serve you all.

Two travelers having food poisoning

Can’t wait to dig in every single dish, can you? Not to demoralize your craving, but the country has a huge problem with food safety. There have been numerous reported cases of tourists suffering diarrhea or food poisoning from eating street food. Follow these advises to not killing your tummy while reveling in local street delicacy:

  • Go for the food stall where most locals prefer. Pay attention to how the cooks wash and prepare the food.
  • Only eat well-cooked food and steer away from anything raw. 
  • Eating raw veggies will do more harm than good to your inners. 

And always keep medicine for diarrhea beside you in case your stomach gets tortured. 

Bring a mask, period!

Tourists wearing masks

With thousands of motorbikes pumping out carbon dioxide on the street, the air quality of major cities in Vietnam is considerably low. Cleanliness is also quite an issue in urban areas. 

If you arrive in Vietnam for the first time and your body is not accustomed to the air quality here, having a mask is a must. Not to mention COVID-19 prevention reasons.

Traveling in Vietnam means spending a lot of hours on the motorbike and exposing yourself to dust and pollution. And like people always say, health is wealth. So, protect your health with a mask.

Tips to avoid overpayment in Vietnamese restaurants

Local eateries and restaurants are where tourists come to dig in the best regional specialties. However, stories abound of patrons being conned into paying 3 to 5 times more than what they should have paid is not rare. Surprisingly, even Vietnamese sometimes get themselves in the same ungodly situation.

Always ask for the price before ordering

Scores of local restaurants and eating venues do not display the price on menus to facilitate their play. What do you do? Insist on knowing the price before ordering. This applies to street food as well. Hence, don’t forget to check the bill to see if you are charged the same price that you had been told. 

In the worst scenario, staffs of these dining venues often are unable to communicate in English well. When you ask for the price, they would deliver vague answers or promise their food is low-priced. So alternatively, research beforehand and only visit restaurants with good reviews, or simply opt for dining venues that show prices of the food.

Be careful on extra add ons

And you may as well need to be cautious when the local restaurants provide more than what you order. It is not an act of exceptional services. It is a cheeky trick to rip you off an exorbitant amount. Keep in mind that in Vietnam, you only get what you pay for. 

Tips to cross the street like a true Vietnamese

Cross the street in VietnamCross the street in Vietnam

Nowhere in the world do you see as many motorbikes as in Vietnam. Crossing the street in Vietnam feels like a game of life and death, but it is an interesting experience for non-Vietnamese. Some tips to nail the Vietnam street-crossing challenge:

Don’t cross the road right when the red light is on

The first piece of advice to keep you from scratches when crossing the street is to wait a little bit when the red light is on. Many drivers show disregard to the traffic rules by ignoring the red light. 

Always look on both sides of the street

Cross the road in Vietnam

Again, some people disobey the regulation by going in the opposite direction. So it is important to keep your eyes on both sides of the road. Vietnam traffic drives on the right side of the road, remember.  

Avoid distractions

Texting while crossing the street

Do not text on the phone, or check the map when crossing the street. Always stay 100% focused on the road. 

Keep a steady pace

To survive crossing the road, slowly blend into the traffic on the road. It is vital to keep a steady speed. Don’t be afraid when you see motorbikes driving towards you that don’t appear to slow down. The traffic flow will adjust to your pace. 

And most importantly, do not stop 

Cross the street steadily

Stopping in the middle of the road, walking backward, or running will get you in trouble. Walk slowly with confidence and in just a few moments, you will find yourself on the other side, with a little heart-rate.

Tips to fit in Vietnam society and culture etiquette

Finally, there is a huge cultural difference between Vietnam and many other nations. Gaining knowledge of what you should do and what to never do will go a long way in keeping you from displeasing the locals or even making your way to prison. Learn to comply with these social manners and common taboos in Vietnam. 

Don’t engage in physical displays of affection in sacred places 

Engaging in physical gestures showing affection above holding hands such as cuddling or kissing in sacred places is considered inappropriate and frowned upon. So if you are your partner can’t resist each other – find a private spot.

Dress appropriately in certain circumstances

Luckily, Vietnam is anything but a conservative country in clothes. It’s a tropical country, and surely tank tops, shorts, mini dresses, and flip-flops are your choices of clothes. 

The line is drawn when visiting sacred destinations or religious sites namely pagodas and temples. To show respect, it is recommended to cover up as there are also restrictions to inappropriate outfits. Save the skimpy attire for vibrant cities and alluring beaches.

By any chance you come across a military event, don’t ever point your camera towards it and take a shot. You may get to see the inside of Vietnamese jail since taking photos of anything to do with the military is a breach of national security. 

Don’t be too camera-friendly to the ethnic minority

A group of ethnics

Vietnam is home to diverse ethnic tribes boasting unique cultures, drawing adventurer’s inquisitiveness. Immersing in the life of ethnicity is beyond words. When visiting ethnic villages, certainly you can’t take your hands out of the video camera capturing some rare footage of the locals’ life. Unfortunately, you can not do it since filming in small villages is considered intrusive. 

Take your shoes out when getting inside a local house

When Vietnamese invite you to their home, it shows they genuinely welcome you. And to prove yourself a charming polite guest, always remove your shoes before entering the house. 

Don’t sit with your feet pointing towards a family altar

Every Vietnamese has an altar to pay respect to their ancestor. It is a crucial part of the Vietnamese culture of commending the older generation. 

A small act, but absolutely necessary when you are inside a Vietnamese house is to never sit with your feet pointing towards the altar. It is perceived as extremely offensive and disrespectful. Learn by heart this tiny thing to not show discourtesy to the host. 

Reminder: Vietnam is under consideration on “vaccine passport” issuing

COVID-19 vaccinations are soaring around the world. The application of a “vaccine passport” to travel internationally is gaining more attention globally. The manufacturing and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, however, has not yet proved to be totally efficient. Doubts on whether issuing a vaccine passport to enter a country is beneficial or harmful are inevitable. 

As one of the safest countries since the coronavirus began to shatter the world, Vietnam’s sole priority has always been its citizen’s safety. In order to prolong this status, the country currently does not accept the “immunity passport”. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has urged the relevant authorities to imply an official policy for holders of COVID-19 vaccine passports to revive the tourism and aviation sectors. 

Until further notice, foreigners entering Vietnam are mandated to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Contacts of embassies in Vietnam for assistance

US Embassy in Vietnam

US Embassy in Hanoi

Address: Rose Garden Building, Second Floor, 170 Ngoc Khanh Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Contact: (024) 3850-5000 within Vietnam or (84-24) 3850-5000 internationally

US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh city

Address: 4 Le Duan Blvd., District. 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Contact: (028) 3520-4200 within Vietnam, or (+84)(28) 3520-4200 internationally

UK Embassy in Vietnam

British Embassy in Hanoi

Address: Central Building, 4th floor, 31 Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi, Vietnam

Contact: (024) 3850-5000 within Vietnam or (84-24) 3850-5000 internationally (GMT+7h)

British Consulate in Ho Chi Minh city

Address: 25 Le Duan Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Contact: +84 (0)28 3825 1380 or +84 (0)24 3936 0500

Canada Embassy in Vietnam

Embassy of Canada to Vietnam in Ha Noi

Address: 31 Hung Vuong Street, Hanoi, Vietnam

Contact: +84 (24) 3734 5000

Consulate General of Canada in Ho Chi Minh city

Address: 10th Floor, The Metropolitan, 235 Dong Khoi Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Contact: +84 (28) 3827 9899

Australian Embassy in Vietnam

Australian Embassy Ha Noi

Address: 8 Dao Tan Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Contact: +84 (24) 3774 0100

Australian Consulate Ho Chi Minh city

Address: 20th Floor, Vincom Center, 47 Ly Tu Trong Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Contact: +84 (28) 3521 8100

Vietnam will blow your mind away

The vital tips above are not only for first-time comers. They are helpful for anyone desiring to venture into the beautiful country of Vietnam. Apply them, and you will fall in love with the hearty people, the lively culture, and the breathtaking nature that melt your heart.

Buckle up and fly to Vietnam now!

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