Vietnam is the land of mystery and excitement full of pleasant surprises at every turn. Whatever your expectations they will often be exceeded. No matter the place, activity or adventure, Vietnam will never disappoint.
The first thing you must do right is to correctly follow the visa on arrival instructions. The authorities do not allow mistakes to occur here so pay close attention or you may find yourself headed back home before your trip even gets started. If done correctly your off and running on the trip of a life time.
Your first big decision will be which end of the country to start your trip. To begin in the north or begin in the south. Shall I start in the northern ancient capital city of Hanoi or the modern sophisticated city of Saigon in the south. Moving south to north is the route most chosen by travelers traveling by motorbike. This is an adventure that is rarely equaled anywhere else in the world.
Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City since renamed after the American War, is best recognized for it’s incredible skyline featuring dozens of skyscrapers topped by dozens of popular sky bars. Here you can get an amazing view of the river and city below while enjoying music along with your favorite alcoholic beverage.
The sooner that you can adapt to the cultural ways of the Vietnamese the easier and more enjoyable your trip will be. You will discover that the price of various goods and services boil down to what you or someone else is willing to pay for it.
The original price is always inflated as it is expected by the merchant to be reduced before it is sold. The unscrupulous sellers often claim that you have agreed to a higher price or will give you false change after the sale. Be aware that this all the normal way in Vietnam of doing business.
While the Vietnamese government is ruled by the Communist Party, on the street it is hyper Capitalism that is at work. Seemingly every sale is the product of some level of negotiation so get ready to bargain for everything if you want the best possible prices. In the Vietnamese culture there is nothing wrong with doing or saying whatever it takes to get the business. People will often lie to get the business, it’s just the way it is at every level of business in Vietnam.
Be prepared to walk away. Set a fair price and stick to it. Politely walk away if the seller does not accept. Vietnamese hate it when a customer walks away. They will call you back if your offer is a fair one and give you their lowest price.
Don’t be confused by the difference between 15 thousand dong and 50 thousand. A favorite trick of vendors is to claim you agreed to 50 dong when actually it was only 15 that you actually had agreed to. You can eliminate all confusion by taking 15 dong out in cash and showing it to the seller.
Don’t let the “ breakfast included” trick be the determining factor in your decision where you choose to stay. You can buy an amazing bowl of pho and a cup of Vietnamese coffee no matter where you are for next to nothing. And the hotel breakfast is probably terrible anyway.
When considering riding a motorbike in Vietnam remember that traffic accidents are the number one cause of death worldwide. Only experienced riders should consider riding while in Vietnam. However for the experienced rider, touring Vietnam on a motorbike, is an amazing way to see this beautiful country in an up close and beautiful manner.
You can easily rent a bike for between $5-$7 a day. Many experienced riders choose to buy a bike at one end of the country for around $300 and then sell it for about the same price when they arrive at the other end of the country in about 3 or 4 weeks.
Vietnam is bigger than most people think. An uninterrupted train ride alone between Saigon and Hanoi takes about 34 hours to complete. While a direct non-stop bus ride requires about 50 hours to complete the trip. Traveling from Hanoi to Saigon or visa versa is about the same as going from Los Angels to New York.
The good news is that Vietnam has a lower backpacker quotient than any other country in Southeast Asia. The country still feels very Vietnamese – wild and off the beaten path – as long as you make the effort to get lost.
With 100 million citizens living in country it is easy for the 15 million annual tourist visits to be easily absorbed into the local population.
Hanoi is famous for tradition and attractions. Ho Chi Minh City is recognized to be a model city for modern culture and sophistication. These two great cities await the new visitors to Vietnam offering each one a menu of its own particular treasures waiting to be enjoyed in the weeks to come.