Vietnam’s tourism is booming as of lately and in 2018 it was estimated that the country received 15.5 million international arrivals. The numbers are expected to increase which means more tourists – and more responsibility. Vietnam is already battling issues such as an overwhelming amount of pollution and environmental degradation. It’s more important than ever to live as sustainably as possible and also become a responsible traveler. What does this even mean? It means that you spend your money wisely on where it can make a positive impact on local communities, choose local transportation rather than flying, and respect the local culture, amongst other things. So if you’re interested on where to go in Vietnam if you want to be a responsible traveler, check out this list.
It may come as a surprise that Hanoi is recommended since it’s quite polluted, but there’s so many things to explore in Vietnam that you simply can’t miss the capital city. Even better, Hanoi is starting to progress on the sustainability front and there’s even a few shops where you can shop eco-friendly and fair trade gifts. Even better, instead of going with a motorbike around the city, you can rent bicycles instead and do it the old fashion way. Biking will not only reduce your carbon footprint but it’s also so much more fun to explore the city in this way – and safer! In Hanoi you can also come across a few social enterprises that works with various social projects to support the local communities. If you want to put your money where it’s worth, always support the local businesses!
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park
Tourism is just starting to in Phong Nha Ke-Bang so now is the perfect time to go. Since many places in Vietnam is almost starting to become overly touristy, it’s important to spread out travelers so certain places doesn’t get too pressured. What’s great about Phong Nha Ke-Bang national park is that there’s so much to see. It’s in fact home to the largest cave in the world – the Son Doong cave. It’s quite difficult to access though since there’s only one company that gives tours of the caves and it’s usually fully booked. But if you plan it well in advance, you could be one of the lucky few who gets to enter the cave (note: you cannot enter it on your own). Besides caves, you also have lush jungles, rivers and mountains that will satisfy any nature lover.
The northern parts of Vietnam offers some of the most spectacular sights in the country. It’s the perfect place for hikers who wants to immerse in the natural sceneries of Vietnam. Sapa is also home to the hill tribes of Vietnam. Tourism is an important income for them so if you’re going to travel to Sapa, make sure to go with a local tour guide from the hill tribes. They’ll also know the most about the area, so why not go with a guide that can give you both a fantastic tour while also supporting the local communities and their economy. CBT (community based tourism) is becoming more popular in Sapa too. If you’re staying overnight in Sapa, make sure to stay in a homestay where you’ll both get some delicious home cooked meals and sleep in an authentic Vietnamese home.
There’s always more you can do if you want to be a responsible traveler. You can minimise your waste as much as possible, don’t bargain when not necessary, don’t give to beggars (you’re supporting a business that will just continue then) and finally educate others about what you know. Perhaps there’s lots of travelers who would like to travel in a better way, but they’re not sure how to do it. Now, more than ever, we need to start educating others about how we can minimise our carbon footprint, respect the locals and help support local communities by empowering them. We should all try to do our part.
Just remember that you have to apply for a Vietnam visa before going there. Most nationalities are required to have a valid Vietnam visa but there are a few exceptions. If you’re one of them, you can skip applying for the visa. But if you’ll need a visa, there’s a few options you can choose from. You can either get an online visa by applying for the ‘Visa on Arrival’ or ‘e-Visa’ (only eligible for 81 countries). The online visas are easy to apply for, fast to get and you can apply safely from wherever you are in the world. The third option is to go to the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate and apply with them. You will have to book an appointment then and bring all the necessary important documents to the embassy.