20+ Most Useful Vietnam Travel Tips
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a diverse and friendly nation everyone should visit at some point, better sooner than later. Exceptional sightseeing opportunities, delicious cuisine, and excellent shopping are some features making this Southeast Asian nation famous. To help you take home only pleasant memories from a trip to Vietnam, we reveal 20+ useful travel tips and insights every traveler should know.
1. Check do you need a Vietnam visa
Most foreign visitors need a tourist visa to travel to Vietnam. However, nationals of certain countries, such as France, the UK, Thailand and Malaysia, don't need this document. Furthermore, residents of around 80 countries can apply for a Vietnam e-visa.
Fees are 25 or 50 USD, depending on the duration of the stay. Besides, make sure your passport is valid at least six months beyond the date of your departure. Also, you will need one empty page in the passport for a visa stamp.
2. Traveling Vietnam is safe
Traveling Vietnam is safe, even for solo female tourists, so long as you practice elementary precautions. Like in every country frequented by foreign visitors, you may encounter a scammer wishing to take advantage of careless vacationers.
To stay on a safe side, avoid any imposed or "free" services and be 100% sure which banknote you handed to pay (in a taxi, for example). Also, practice utmost caution when crossing the street and don't leave your things out of sight or reach.
3. When is the high season to travel to Vietnam?
In general, the high tourist season is from November to April in Vietnam. However, there are exceptions to this rule, depending on the purpose of your trip and destinations you intend to visit.
For example, spending time outdoors in North Vietnam is best from late autumn to mid-spring. On the other hand, enjoying the seaside of Central Vietnam (its southern part, in particular) is best during summer months.
4. How about the shoulder season?
If you have a limited budget but wish to holiday on Phu Quoc, come to this island in late spring or early summer. In Sa Pa, North Vietnam, shoulder seasons are from September to November and during spring. For vacationing in and around Da Nang without tourist crowds within sight, go there from late winter to late spring (February-May).
5. Touring Vietnam is incredibly cheap
Travelers usually manage well with $30 or $40 per day when traveling the easternmost of Southeast Asian countries. With these budgets, you shouldn't have issues traveling between destinations, sleeping in decent accommodation, and eating well.
If these amounts exceed your budget, you may do even with $20 per day. In this case, however, be ready for certain compromises regarding lodging and overall comfort in the first place.
Vietnam is a super ideal destination for backpacking.
6. The locals are friendly, but money driven
While having your Vietnam vacation, you are likely to meet many friendly locals. When doing commerce, though, you need to be careful since many vendors are money-driven. Having an exact change is a precaution for being overcharged in various circumstances.
For example, street vendors selling fruit might walk away before giving change. Also, sellers might try to give you a delicacy or something else instead of a small change.
7. Feel free to bargain
Bargaining is a way of life in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Quite a few travelers were shocked when asking for a price at first. But, haggling is likely to lower the amount significantly. Settling for around 2/5 of the initial price at markets is typically a good bargain.
8. Pay in Vietnamese Dong
Whenever possible, pay in Vietnamese Dongs since paying in US Dollars is usually more expensive. Before you go shopping, practice converting Dongs to American Dollars since 1 USD is worth over 20.000 VND. Convert money at large hotels and jewelry shops since most of these establishments offer fair exchange rates.
9. English is only spoken in larger cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi
According to recent studies, over 50% of Vietnamese speak English. However, most of these live in major cities, such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, or work in tourism. In remote areas, you may struggle to find an English-speaking local. If you know French, try communicating with elderly Vietnamese since some of them are familiar with this language.
10. WiFi in Vietnam is great
The wireless internet is readily available in tourist-related areas, hotels, and hospitality facilities in the republic. WiFi is strong and reliable most of the time. So, you can share photos and impressions about your Vietnam trip with the outside world without effort.
11. Consider buying a SIM Card
If you plan to travel extensively, buy a SIM card for around $10 in the local currency. Some reputable providers you should consider are Viettel, Vietnamboile, and MobiFone.
12. Opt for tourist instead of local transport
Traveling by tourist bus brings various benefits compared to those transporting locals. Buses serving travelers are often in a better state than vehicles used by Viets. Additionally, tourist buses might pleasantly surprise you with the price.
13. Be ready for the heavy traffic
Traffic conditions are typically chaotic in big Vietnamese cities, with things being a little better elsewhere. The number of accidents is high since many participants interpret regulations their way. Therefore, be extra careful while driving and crossing the street.
Be confident when you encounter the heavy traffic of Vietnam.
14. Don’t drink tap water
Tap water isn't good for drinking in most of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. Thankfully, bottled water is available for purchase everywhere. Before opening, check whether the bottle is properly closed.
Because of high temperatures, you will need to drink a lot of water during your trip. Due to this fact, water tends to be pricier than beer here.
15. It’s a paradise for foodies, also vegetarians
Vietnamese cuisine is famous throughout the world. Sweet and savory meals are available for both gourmands and vegetarians. Pho, Bun Cha, Banh Xeo, and Goi Cuon are some dishes every visitor to Vietnam should sample. Buy street food at stalls where locals eat for the best dining experience.
Vietnam is a famous paradise for foodies.
16. Always ask for the price before buying
Remember tips about bargaining and money-driven locals? Then you know that you should ask for the price before purchasing anything in Vietnam, including street food. If you don't have that habit, your trip is very likely to cost you much more than it should.
17. Skip a few dollar accommodation
Unless you travel on a very tight budget, you should avoid the cheapest accommodation when visiting this Southeast Asian country. Lodging usually isn't on the expensive side in Vietnam. And you can have a much better room for a slightly higher price here.
18. Enjoy Halong Bay
High limestone formations and islands crowned with vegetation and emerald sea are synonymous to Halong Bay in northern Vietnam. Cruise ships and other vessels crisscross its waters in search of visited and secluded sandy beaches. Besides cruising, swimming, and discovering the underwater world, you can have a great time exploring caves of Halong Bay.
Take your time to explore the water world of Vietnam Halong Bay.
19. Travel to Dalat or Hai Van Pass by motorbike
Once you feel the pulse of traffic, renting a bike for a trip to Dalat or Hai Van Pass may be a great idea. The pass is a hot spot for helmeted motor-bikers and bikers who can pull over along wide roads to admire the scenic panorama. Dalat, "the City of Eternal Spring," and its environment abound with gems of nature, such as waterfalls, lakes, and flowery fields.
20. Take an overnight train from Hanoi to Sa Pa
Journeying overnight from the capital of Vietnam to Sa Pa by train is like traveling in a luxury hotel. Train compartments feature the utmost comfort and service. What's more, you arrive in the nation's most popular trekking destination fresh and eager to conquer mountains and admire rice fields.
21. Hike through terraced rice fields of Sa Pa
Rice fields of the Sa Pa region are among the most scenic scenery of Southeast Asia. Moreover, readers of Travel and Leisure had included them among the top seven rice fields in entire Asia.
These will impress you whenever you come to visit. But September is the best time of year for a Sa Pa hike since rice fields feature shades of green and golden.
22. Explore Phong Nha Caves
Consisting of networks of caves and underground waterways, Phong Nha Caves will awake a speleologist in you the moment you set foot there. Various parts of the system feature different fauna and ancient fossils dot limestone formations. So, if you are up to spelunking, taking striking photos, or boating with a stone cover overhead, Phong Nha is a dream destination for you.
Enjoy your adventurous time in Vietnam Phong Nha Caves.
23. Experience Tet Holiday in Vietnam, similar to Chinese New Year
Vietnamese Lunar New Year is the most significant celebration in the socialist republic. Tet Festival falls in late January or in February and features decorated streets and special programs in some hotels. Note, though, that some tourist-related businesses, such as restaurants and museums, might close during the celebrations.
24. Dress and act respectfully when visiting temples
When visiting religious objects, dress and behave as you would anywhere else. Ensure you enter with knees and shoulders covered and take off your footwear when entering Buddhist temples.
25. Avoid taking photos of official and military structures
To avoid inconveniences caused by breaching national security, don't take photos of governmental and military structures and equipment. The penalty for violating this rule is imprisonment.
26. Tipping etiquette in Vietnam
While not expected, tipping is highly appreciated in Vietnam. Many Viets don't earn much, and offering them a tip, either in Dongs or Dollars, means a lot to them.
By adhering to these basic rules and tips, you don't need to worry about the quality of your stay in Vietnam. Additionally, dress conservatively and don't mention the Vietnam War while getting around.
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