Vietnam Tips and Tricks
TALK ABOUT CULTURE SHOCK! I thought coming from Japan would be a good cushion for my arrival to Vietnam, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into for my first visit to Southeast Asia...
Vietnam is at the top of my list for favorite countries I've visited. Although I did have two of the worst things happen to me during my 28 months of traveling in Vietnam, the country is breathtaking and shocking all wrapped into one with friendly locals and more motorbikes than humans. There are a few things I wish I would have known before heading to "Nam" and hope they help you out!
- You must get a visa before entering Vietnam. You can get an e-visa but be sure the date is correct. You can enter any date after the date on your visa. You must also pay a stamp fee when you arrive at the airport. Mine was $45 stamp fee and the visa itself was $49. I got it two days before arriving from Japan.
- Be sure the taxi you get in a legitimate taxi. You can see by the licensing normally on their windshield and by using the designated taxi lines at the airport. This is how I ended up in a very dangerous situation. You can read the whole story in my entry about Hanoi...
- You will be a millionaire when in Vietnam. The exchange rate is about 22,700 Vietnamese Dong is equivalent to $1 US. Enjoy the cash flow, but do not flaunt it as you will make yourself a target for robbery!
- Be careful what ATM's you use. Using an actual bank's ATM is more secure than using the single ones on the street. Many a times you find they are messed up and will end up taking more money out of your account than you receive. Watch your bank account online while visiting this country.
- Bring a lock for your locker. Make sure it is a skinny lock because the fat pad locks do not fit most of the lockers!
- Drink lots of water. It is humid and hot in Vietnam, be sure you are hydrating in order to avoid heat exhaustion.
- Don't accept any doughnuts for free when walking down the street. This is a trick. You will be charged.
- Try the famous Vietnamese coffee. It's delicious!
- Watch out for motorbikes. In Vietnam there are more motorbikes than there are people. Do not hesitate when crossing the street or you will cause an accident. The best way to do it in just walk and they will go around you.
- Be weary of the night buses. Unfortunately, on the way to Na Trang from Hoi An our night bus driver fell asleep behind the wheel and we were in a pretty intense accident at 3am. It is a great form of transportation, but it is important to know what you are getting yourself into.
- Book hostels in advance when visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh because they are bigger cities. If you want a good deal with a decent bed and breakfast included you are better off booking a couple days in advance. Easy Tiger Hostel in Phong Nha also needs to be booked a few days in advance.
- Instead of booking the expensive tours in Sapa, you can just show up and pay a fourth of the price to a local inviting you into their home.
- Be careful driving around on motorbikes. As I said previously, there seems to be more motorbikes than humans at times. If you feel uncomfortable driving a motorbike yourself you can book trips with Easy Riders, where a local drives you on the back of his bike.
- Travel light. There is so much to buy in Vietnam. BARTER BARTER BARTER. Cut the original price in fourth and you'll get a smoking deal.
- Instead of booking the expensive tours for Ha Long Bay, visit Cat Ba Island for a fourth of the price and see much more beauty on the daily boat and kayak tours.
- Take a cooking class. Vietnamese cuisine is delicious. Enjoy the pho & spring rolls galore!
- Shoes tend to go missing when in Vietnam. If you have expensive Birkenstocks like I did, don't leave them at the door at night bring them into your room where they are safe.
- Be smart and be weary of scams. There are scammers everywhere in Southeast Asia. Don't pay before a taxi or tuk tuk service ever and always agree on a price before you get in. Have the taxi driver take you there and bring you back before paying for roundtrip.
- Don't get drunk if you don't have a buddy, you hear of many people getting robbed and it's normally because they are belligerent.
- Download Maps.Me for hot spots and places of interest!
- "Come on" means "thank you" in Vietnamese!
I spent a month in this beautifully unique country. Travelers either go North to South or vice versa. My itinerary went as followed: Hanoi, Sapa, Cat Ba Island (Ha Long Bay), Phong Nha, Hue, Hoi An, Na Trang, Da Lat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh. In my next few entries I will break down what to do in each city/town. I hope you enjoy the beautiful country of Vietnam!