Vietnam is a country filled with beauty and diversity. In the north you have the splendid rice terraces, which turn golden during harvest season. It’s also here where you get the unique chance to meet the Hmong people, the biggest ethnic minority in Vietnam. If you go to central Vietnam, you have the huge underground caves which you can find in Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park. More and more tourists are starting to find their way to Phong Nha and it’s quickly becoming one of Vietnam’s most beloved destinations. In the south you can find plenty of white sand beaches where you can swim around all day long. It’s also here where the country’s biggest city, Ho Chi Minh City, is situated. It’s a chaotic, fascinating and lively city, where tradition meets modern.
When you’re traveling in Vietnam, it’s important to learn about the culture and customs. This way, you’ll avoid any awkward moments or cause offence to anyone. Here are some tips to help you along your journey:
It’s slightly different in the bigger cities to how women and men dress, but you should always respect religious sites and dress accordingly. This means covering your shoulders and knees. Always remember to remove your shoes before entering a temple. When you’re at the beach, in your pool, or just outside your balcony, don’t sunbathe nude. It might be appropriate in your country, but it’s definitely not in Vietnam.
Next time you leave your chopsticks in your rice bowl, make sure that they’re not sitting vertically since it looks like the incense sticks that are burned for the dead. In fact, this is not appreciated anywhere in Asia.
The Vietnamese aren’t much for hugging or kissing on the cheeks. Instead, press your hands together in front of your body and make a slight bow. It’s the traditional way of greeting and the locals will most likely appreciate this gesture more. But shaking hands is nowadays acceptable as well, and you’ll find that a lot of locals will shake your hand the first time you meet and greet.
Leave your shoes outside
The Vietnamese always leaves their shoes inside and never walks with them inside their houses. So, if you do get invited into someone’s house, always remember to leave your shoes outside. Another important thing to remember is to never point the bottom of your feet towards people since this is considered really rude. This is especially important when you’re visiting a sacred place.
Don’t bring up the war
Although many locals don’t mind talking about the war, it’s still a sensitive topic and some still have mixed feelings about the war. It’s better to just avoid talking about politics altogether.
Don’t pat someone’s head
The head is the symbolic highest point in Asia, so you should never try to pat or touch an adult on the head. You should also remove your hat and bow politely when you address elderly, or other esteemed people. It’s a sign of showing respect.
Vietnam is still quite a traditional country so it’s not recommended to show public displays of affection on the streets with a member of the opposite sex. In the bigger cities, such as Hanoi, you’ll often see the younger generation holding hands and being more open minded towards PDA, but in the countryside, it’s more traditional and by showing public displays of affection, it might make the locals uncomfortable.
Bring a gift
If you’re invited to someone’s home, do remember to bring a gift. It can be everything from bringing fruit, flowers, sweets or even incense. It’s even better if these gifts are wrapped in colorful paper. What you should avoid giving as a gift is yellow flowers, anything black or chrysanthemums.
Now when you feel prepared to travel to Vietnam, you must remember to apply for a Vietnam visa before you enter the country. Depending on which country you’re from, you can apply for three types of visas: Visa on Arrival, E-Visa or go to your nearest Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate and get a visa with them. The first option is the most popular amongst travelers because almost everyone can apply for this type of visa and it’s all done online. This means you don’t have to travel anywhere in order to get your visa, all you have to do is to fill out a form online, send it and wait for your confirmation letter. When it’s all done, follow the rest of the instructions and remember to print out your visa for the immigration officers in Vietnam. This option is good if you’re going to fly to Vietnam. However, if you plan on arriving to Vietnam by other means of transportation, you must apply via the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate.