This list is mostly for first time visitors to Vietnam who could benefit from a few useful tips and tricks to ensure a safe and worry-free travel. But even if you’ve visited Vietnam before, it can be good to refresh your memory.
Vietnam is one of the safest countries to travel around in and is a delight to visit. The people are warm and welcoming, the landscape is breathtaking, the food is out of this world and the culture is so vibrant. There’s so much to love about Vietnam that it’ll be hard to leave the country once it’s time. But I’m not gonna lie: it can be difficult at times too. No country is perfect and Vietnam is far away from it. The neighboring country Thailand can be easier to travel around in just because of the tourism infrastructure for example. Still, Vietnam is a country that shouldn’t be missed. That’s why I compiled this list of useful things to know before visiting Vietnam so you can have the most amazing trip in one of Southeast Asia’s gems!
First of all: Get a Visa!
Sort out your visa first and foremost. Most nationalities need to get a visa in order to enter the country. But if you’re one of the nationalities who are on the visa exempt list and don’t wish to stay for longer than your visa-free period, you can skip this part. But if you do need a visa, make sure that you apply for it well in advance. There are three types of visa you can apply for, depending on where you’re from. The first option is the most recommended one. It’s called ‘Visa on Arrival’ (VOA) and is an online visa that you can apply for from wherever you are in the world. It’s super easy to apply for and you can get the visa within a few days only. If you do need an emergency visa, you can pay an extra fee and get your visa within 48 hours. There’s also another online visa called ‘E-Visa’ which is a 30 day, single entry visa. You can’t extend this type of visa so if you’re unsure if you only want to stay for 30 days, apply for the VOA instead. The third and last option is to go via the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate and apply for a visa with them. This option is good if you’re planning on arriving to Vietnam by land, from example the border of Cambodia. There has been instances where foreigners have applied for an online visa and tried to cross the border from Cambodia to Vietnam and has been denied. So just make sure you apply for the right type of visa!
The weather varies a lot
Pack lightly but also pack for all kinds of weather. You will for sure need a rain jacket for example, even if you’re not going during rainy season. It also depends where you are in the country. For example, in the winter months, the north is cold and you’ll need warm clothes. But if you head down south, the weather is tropical and all you’ll need is shorts and a t-shirt. So just do some research before you go and pack for all kinds of weather.
Brush up those haggle skills
Do you love going to markets? That’s great because there’s plenty of them in Vietnam. The thing with markets is that there are no fixed prices. You’ll need to haggle and you’ll need to haggle hard. The locals will, unfortunately, try to rip you off because you’re a tourist. Try to hide all your items that makes you look rich, like your watches, jewelries, etc. If you’re not willing to pay a certain price, just walk away and see if they stop you. If they don’t, you’ll be sure to find whatever you want to buy in another stall.
Hanoi has a lot of hidden gems
The capital city of Vietnam may be a bit noisy (okey, very), traffic might be crazy and there will be times when all the honking will drive you insane. So when the crowd gets a bit too much for you, head in to one of the smaller streets and find a quiet café where you can collect your thoughts, read a book or perhaps sit and work. There’s plenty of cute, hipster cafés in the city which offers a calm oasis. Hanoi is filled with surprises and you can happily wander around for weeks discovering all of these little hidden gems.
The locals are loud, but they’re not angry
This is probably the biggest misunderstanding about the Vietnamese – they’re rude. And yes, there are definitely times when you’ll encounter really rude locals who are trying to rip you off. But the majority of the locals are very warm people and would gladly invite you to their home for dinner. The younger generation are all very curious about foreigners and want nothing but to brush up their English skills with you. You’ll also discover that the Vietnamese will gladly share a lot with you, even if they don’t have much to offer. They’re very hospitable people who only wants you to get a good impression of Vietnam. So don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them, they’ll most likely just be surprised but happy about it.
PDA is still a bit taboo
Public display of affection isn’t very popular amongst the older generation in Vietnam, and some may even feel a bit uneasy if you’re walking hand in hand with your loved one for example. The younger generation are definitely more open towards it, but PDA is still a bit taboo in Vietnam. So just be respectful towards the locals and perhaps don’t be all over each other in public spaces.
Eat as much food as you can
The food here is cheap, hearty and so, so tasty. The only thing I wish every time I leave Vietnam is that I ate more food. And it’s not because I skipped meals – quite the contrary, I ate a lot. But the food there is so delicious that you’ll always wish you had more. It also helps that it’s incredibly affordable. You can get a banh mi ( Vietnamese style baguette) on the street for 1 USD for example, and it’ll probably be the best banh mi you’ve had. So make sure to indulge, you’ll be very regretful otherwise.
Rent a motorbike
This is by far the best way to see the country. But if you’re not comfortable driving a motorbike, you probably shouldn’t rent one and drive cross country. However, the roads are quite developed these days and there are certain routes that you can do where the roads are easier to drive on, such as Hue to Hoi An for example. With a motorbike, you can decide wherever and whenever you want to go. There’s so many hidden gems around the country that’s only accessible with a bike too, so you’re likely to discover a lot more this way. Just be very aware of your surroundings, don’t take any unnecessary risks, stop when you’re feeling tired and always have a backup plan.
Want to be a digital nomad in Vietnam? You should!
The most important thing for anyone who wants to work from their computer is good WiFi. Luckily, Vietnam has excellent internet and you can find it almost everywhere you go. There’s also a big café culture here, so you can find cafés almost everywhere, at least in the bigger cities. There’s also cheap SIM cards you can get if you want to stay connected at all times. Besides good WiFi, the cost of living here is very affordable as well and that’s why many digital nomads flock to Vietnam.
Don’t drink the tap water
Bring a reusable water bottle instead and buy a water filter. Don’t give in and buy all the plastic water bottles, but be kind to the environment instead and always refill your reusable water bottle.
Transportation works very well here
You might be surprised but transportation works excellent here. Since the distances are long in Vietnam, there’s overnight buses where you can actually lay down. Well, at least half ways, depending on how tall you are. Still, the transportation works very well here and you can get almost everywhere with buses or trains. Traveling in Vietnam is so easy and it’s also fun, so make sure you spend at least a few weeks here so you can experience everything that Vietnam has to offer!