Whose ready for some BEYOND EPIC Vietnam travel tips?
Oh and PS…Good morning Vietnam! Okay sorry, but I just HAD to use that phrase.
How else are you supposed to know that this list of insanely useful Vietnam travel tips is gonna be overflowing with lame puns and quirky little anecdotes that only I find funny?
At the very least, my conscience is totally clear because I have indeed warned you.
Hopefully, my ever-charming personality will seal the deal and win me your undying devotion as you use this post to plan one hella awesome, 10 day Vietnam itinerary.
I actually have been living in Vietnam for over two months.
And in that time:
I have traveled from the South, all the way to the North, and almost everywhere in between.
I feel qualified enough to give you a bit of Vietnam travel advice.
Because of this social media-saturated world of ours, you probably have the attention span of a Goldfish.
I’m gonna assume that you really want me to stop blathering on and on so that I can start giving you some incredibly useful info about Vietnam.
And that’s what I aim to do.
Because coming at you, LIVE, right now, is a list of super delightful tips for traveling in Vietnam; handy Vietnam travel tips that are sure to help make your very Vietnam vacation infinitely more enjoyable.
On with the show, as we cannonball into this list of traveling in Vietnam tips.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
1. DON’T Forget Your Visa!
Google tells me that the majority of the people reading this post are American.
If this is YOU, then you WILL need a visa to travel to Vietnam.
And if you’re not American:
Well, then you should definitely check and see if you need a visa since most travelers will need one to enter Vietnam.
The following is what I did to obtain a visa for Vietnam.
Always remember that this process may differ, depending on what country you’re from.
Be sure to do your research BEFORE you travel to Vietnam.
If you do need a visa, then I suggest that you head to this nifty little website!
It’s an official Government website so you know that you won’t over pay or receive invalid documentation.
***Be careful about the website that you use to obtain your visa documentation. Because it is common for many, non-government websites to either overcharge you or give you improper documentation to enter the country.***
Once you’re on the website:
It’s really easy to apply for a visa on arrival.
- Step 1: Fill out the online application form (Name, Date of Birth, Nationality, Passport Number, Date of Arrival, Airport Where you will be Arriving, Type of Visa)
- Step 2: Confirm Your Visa Details and Pay for the Service Fee (This fee is not for your visa but to process your visa. The fee schedule below lists the services fees for different types of visas).
- Step 3: Receive Your Approval Letter/ Exit and Entry Form within 1 or 2 days (For an additional fee, you can get your application processed in as little as 30 minutes).
- Step 4: Make sure all the information on the approval letter is correct. (if it isn’t, let the organization know so that they can change it. Because if your information is not correct, you may not be allowed to enter the country). FYI, your approval letter will be in Vietnamese and filled with a list of random people who applied for a visa and who got approved at the same time as you. Yeah, this is totally normal.
- Step 5: Print out your approval letter, as well as your exit/entry form..
- Step 6: Fill out your exit/entry form and have 2 passport sized photos (4x6cm) with you. You’ll also need $25 USD, in cash, for a single entry visa and $50 for multiple entry visa. AGAIN, the immigration office will only accept US Dollars for payment and not Vietnamese dong or credit cards!
- Step 7: Submit all of your documentation, and passport, to the Immigration Office, upon arrival, and wait for your visa to be processed. Once your name is called, you can go up to the cashier, get your passport with your visa, and pay for your visa in USD. And yes, the immigration office is incredibly easy to find and sits right before baggage claim.
Some of the different types of visas that tourists can apply for, and their associated processing fees, include:
1 month single entry – $12 USD
1 month multiple entry – $15 USD
3 month single entry – $29 USD
3 month multiple entry – $35 USD
6 month multiple entry – $45 USD
1 year multiple entry – $55 USD
The different fees here are processing fees ONLY and do NOT reflect the actual cost of your visa.
And while this website does offer you additional services (like airport fast-track and airport car pick-up), you really don’t need them since the process is pretty straightforward, even if the wait time at the airport can be a bit long.
Vietnam isn’t super strict about visitors providing “proof of exit” before entering the country.
It is 100% possible for you to enter the country without having first booked either a flight or bus or train out of Vietnam.
That being said:
This largely depends on the officials that you encounter prior to entering the country.
You may wanna play it safe and book either a flight, train, or bus out of the country, just in case.
And if you really want to, you can also learn how to get a Vietnam visa on arrival at the airport.
2. Walking Through Cities in Vietnam is Distinctly UN-FUN!
Yeah, the streets of basically any major Vietnamese city are not really all that pedestrian-friendly.
Minus Hoi An since that city is ancient and FLIPPING beautiful.
But in general:
It’s pretty sucky to walk through basically any city in the county.
There are sidewalks, but they can be uneven (so watch your step), slightly dirty, and are usually overflowing with parked motorbikes that you’ll have to bob and weave through.
Many local restaurants have seating areas that spill out onto the sidewalk.
If you do decide to walk anywhere, you’ll have to traverse through a see of people who are eating at mini, red, plastic tables and chairs.
How are you supposed to get anywhere?
Say hello to your new best friend, in Vietnam travel tip number 2!
Yes, my friends:
Grab is the answer to all of your Vietnam public transportation problems.
Just think of it as Southeast Asia’s version of Uber.
Because not only is this rideshare app available almost anywhere in the country, but it’s also cheap (it’ll cost you about $2 for a 20-30 minute ride on a Grab motorbike), easy to use (you just type in your start address and destination address, and Grab will find you a driver and tell you how much the ride will cost), allows you to pay with a credit card (this depends on what card you have since I couldn’t register mine), and is typically the fastest way to travel through any major city.
Because in truth:
There actually aren’t any metros or subways in Vietnam (Yet. They’re working on it). And while you can ride the bus (which is WAY cheaper than Grab), Google maps don’t always have the most reliable, up to date, bus information for Vietnam.
I really have taken more than one wrong bus in Vietnam.
But sigh, I guess no one is perfect.
Just make sure that you have mobile data on your phone (or access to WIFI) and you too can start using Grab like a champ.
A few notes though, since nothing is perfect.
- Always make sure your that driver has a helmet for you to wear (at least if you’re getting on a motorbike). Because no helmet = no ride. Okay? And not just because it’s dangerous. See, it’s actually illegal to not wear a helmet in most major cities. And I have actually seen the police pull people over for it. So yeah, just don’t do it.
- Before getting on any motorbike, always verify that this is, in fact, YOUR driver. Just match the license plate number of the driver that Grab chose for you, with the license plate number of the person standing in front of you. If they match, then this is your driver du jour and life is good. If not, DO NOT get on the bike. This person may be a total creepy creep. Or, you may just be stealing someone else’s Grab. Either way, it’s no Bueno.
- Don’t assume that Grab will automatically get your starting location correct. Because in truth, there have been many times when Grab said I was somewhere that I actually wasn’t. Because of this, I would then have to haul ass to some other, random location, just so that I could catch my driver before he (or she) left. So, moral of the story? Always manually type in the address of your start and end location, just so that you are 100% certain of where you’re going and where you’re driver will be meeting you/taking you.
- Sometimes Grab drivers get lost. And no, they’re not trying to abduct you. They just might be traveling to a part of the city that they have legit never been to. So, if you’re in a rush to get somewhere or need to be somewhere at a designated time, be sure to give yourself an extra 15 minutes to get there, just in case your driver gets lost or there’s a lot of traffic.
- And if you don’t like the idea of riding on a motorbike, not to worry because there are also Grab cars that you can order. They are just a bit more expensive than motorbikes.
- DO NOT get a ride from that RANDO guy sitting on the corner who has a Grab shirt on. I know it’s tempting since he’s literally right there, but because you’re not using the app, you really have no idea who this person is. Plus, these drivers typically charge you 50% more than an actual Grab driver since there’s no set fare, like when you’re using the app. So, if you’re in a major rush and need to use one of these guys, always discuss how much the ride will cost before you get on the bike. Also, be sure to consult your handy Grab app and see how much the ride should cost, just to make sure that you’re not getting majorly ripped off.
And because Grab is SOO useful…
4. Get a Local Sim Card
Before I went all digital nomad, I never actually needed a local sim card since I had T-Mobile and they gave me unlimited international data for just $50 per month (Hint, hint. This is a great plan for anyone who travels a lot but who lives in the US permanently).
Once I stopped going back to the US regularly, I inadvertently violated the terms of my contract (WHOOPS) and needed another way to get access to mobile data while I was abroad.
But I am both literally and figuratively lost without regular access to Google maps (Yes, I tried downloading maps and using Google offline but it just never really worked for me and always took me FOREVER to get anywhere).
And even though Vietnam has WIFI just about everywhere:
I still recommend getting a local SIM card for convenience, especially if you want to use your new Grab app.
Depending on your personal call/texting needs while abroad, you can get a local SIM card, with 2 GB of data, for as little as 200,000 VND (about $8) in most major cities (Just go to a super touristy area since more tourists = more SIM cards for sale).
If you’re really worried about it, you can always just get a SIM card upon arrival, at any one of Vietnam’s major airports.
There will be a HUGE desk with signs advertising “Local Sim Cards”, just past baggage claim.
To install the SIM Card (which the person you bought it from will likely do for you), just make sure that your phone is unlocked, and the rest is super easy.
Also be sure to hold on to your old sim card, so that you can put it back in your phone before you return home.
You’ll also need a paper clip to remove your Vietnamese sim card and replace it with your old one.
***When you switch Sim Cards, your phone number will change to the one that is associated with your new Sim Card. Therefore, you will not be able to receive any calls or texts using your home cell phone number, until you put your old Sim Card back in your phone. However, you CAN receive calls and texts with your home cell phone number on Whatsapp, which is an awesome app to use if you want to either call or text friends/family for FREE while you’re abroad.***
5. DON’T Flush Toilet Paper Down the Toilet
Not gonna lie:
This is one of those cultural differences that definitely took me a while to get used to.
In the United States and Europe, toilet paper obviously goes down the toilet.
Where the hell else would it go? It’s gross and has various, nasty AF, unmentionables on it that you 100% NEVER wanna see again.
Toilet paper is specially designed to dissolve in water and easily go down the toilet.
Guess what? Yeah, you’re not in Europe or the US. You’re in Vietnam.
And in Vietnam:
The plumbing can sometimes be, well, no bueno.
To avoid a clogged toilet, most places will ask you to place your used toilet paper in the garbage bin right beside the toilet and not in the toilet itself.
You’ll even have a handy little water hose, right by the toilet, that you can also use to help wipe off your bum (Come on, I know one of your New Year’s resolutions was to be a more eco-friendly traveler. WINK, WINK.).
And while you may be tempted to ignore this rule, DON’T.
Because trust me, you really don’t wanna be THAT guy (or girl) who completely disregards the rules and totally clogs up the toilet.
Now, since we’re already discussing toilets…
6. Always Carry Some Extra Toilet Paper With You! (And Hand Sanitizer since Many Bathrooms Don’t Have Soap)
Because in truth:
Not ALL toilets in Vietnam have a ready to use, supply of toilet paper (especially in rural areas or at rest stops along the highway).
Something that can get pretty awkward when you really have to go to the bathroom but just don’t have anything to wipe yourself with.
To avoid a SUPER awkward situation that I’m not gonna describe in detail (because that would be REALLY gross), just do yourself a GIANT favor and always carry some toilet paper with you.
Like AT ALL TIMES.
And while we’re on the subject of slightly GROSS things.
7. Tampons are NOT Common in Vietnam. Therefore, if you Use Them, Make sure that You Bring Some with You (Guys, feel free to ignore this section and move on to the next tip).
I’m gonna assume it’s a cultural thing.
But, regardless of the reason:
I just have not been able to find any tampons in Vietnam. Only pads. Which is fine since I don’t really care all that much (FYI: I had no problem finding them in Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, and Malaysia, but not Vietnam).
If it’s that time of the month and you feel like you simply cannot function without tampons, then just be sure to pack some in your bag before you leave for Vietnam.
Because you just can’t really find them ANYWHERE.
And the same goes for sunscreen and facial creams/moisturizers.
You can find both in Vietnam, but sunscreen can be SUPER expensive and tends to be a WHOLE lot cheaper when purchased at home.
And facial creams?
Well, most of the ones that you’ll find in Vietnam have skin whiteners in them since, over here, lighter skin is seen as more desirable (If only my pasty AF, nearly translucent self was born in Vietnam).
If you can, be sure to add sunscreen, tampons, and face cream to your suitcase, just before leaving home.
***I know. I for one hate talking about periods. But, I just have to share this with you since I have found this product to be incredibly useful while traveling. And I’m referring to THESE PERIOD PANTIES by Funcy. Not only are they comfortable and super absorbent, but they also wick away excess moisture away, keep you feeling dry, are easy to wash (so no gross, residual period stains), and don’t retain odors. Now, are they the most attractive pair of underwear I’ve ever owned? No. They also aren’t great for super heavy days. That’s why I always wear them in tandem with some other form of protection. But, they are awesome if you’re looking to travel more sustainably and want something that will help protect you against leaks. They’re also perfect for when, surprise, your period comes without warning. Once you use them, I would also try and wash them immediately (with extra cold water) since it’s kind of gross to carry them around in your bag when they’ve just been, um, gently used. Yeah, super gross.***
8. Be Prepared For Everyone Around You to Be Smoking
Unlike in the US, where cigarettes are basically seen as the devil and are like this HUGE, social taboo, cigarettes are incredibly popular in Vietnam.
You’ll see, and smell, a lot of people around you smoking, even if you’re inside a restaurant or cafe since people in Vietnam are still allowed to smoke indoors.
If you’re allergic to cigarette smoke or are incredibly irritated by it, I would recommend either packing an inhaler or wearing a mask to help reduce the amount of cigarette smoke that you inhale.
Speaking of masks…
9. Always Carry Some Cash With You
Cash is king in Vietnam (and the same holds true for most other countries in Southeast Asia).
Walk around with just a credit card, and you probably won’t be able to buy much, especially if you’re traveling anywhere outside of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
To avoid that incredibly awkward moment where you can’t afford to pay your bill because they only accept cash and you only have a credit card, always try and carry enough cash with you to get you through the day.
And while the amount you need largely depends on what you do and where you go, 500,000 VND should be more than enough cash to get you through a typical day in Vietnam (Keep the rest of your money in a safe, back at your hotel. This way, if your wallet does get stolen, you still have some money, and credit cards, available to you, back at your hotel).
ATMs are not all that hard to come by and are found just about EVERYWHERE in Vietnam.
Which is why:
Getting cash is never really all that hard to do.
The withdrawal limit here is usually pretty low and can range anywhere between 1.5 and 5 million VND.
Which is kind of annoying since every time you withdraw money from a foreign ATM, you’ll incur a foreign transaction fee (On the plus side though, foreign transaction fees in Vietnam are much lower then they are in nearby Cambodia).
To save money and limit the number of ATM withdrawals that you make, always try to pay with your credit card (when possible) and take out as much cash from the ATM as possible.
Not all ATMs in Vietnam accept Visa or Mastercard.
Always check the ATM first and see if it accepts foreign debit cards.
***FYI: Many ATMs in Vietnam won’t accept Visa cards. Therefore, you may need to go to several different ATMs if you want to withdraw money, especially in Hanoi. In contrast, many other countries in Southeast Asia readily accept Visa cards but won’t accept Mastercards, so plan accordingly.***
10. Wear a Hospital Mask to Help Reduce the Amount of Air Pollutants That You Inhale
Spend even a day in any major Vietnamese city and you’ll immediately notice that almost everyone around you is wearing a hospital mask (some even have nifty little designs on them).
The not-so-chic ones that the doctors in Grey’s Anatomy wear to help prevent the spread of some super infectious diseases like Ebola (Okay, real doctors wear them too).
Locals aren’t wearing them because Vietnam has one giant, uber-diseased population.
People wear these masks to help reduce the amount of dust, and various other pollutants, that they inhale walk walking, or driving, through the city.
Most major Vietnamese cities really do have high levels of pollution.
To avoid developing a wicked awful cough that just never seems to go away, consider buying, and wearing, a hospital mask, especially if you’re going to be in Vietnam for a prolonged period of time.
***FYI: You can get these masks just about ANYWHERE in Vietnam. But, if you’re super worried about it, you can always order yours here from Amazon! I use them myself and find that the cotton material is not only super breathable but incredibly comfortable too! And while they definitely aren’t very “fashion-forward” (unless your goal is to look like Micheal Jackson), you actually get three masks for just $9.99. So yeah, the price really can’t be beat.***
11. Watch Out for Pickpockets in Ho Chi Minch City (AKA Saigon)
Vietnam is an incredibly safe country to travel to.
I have solo traveled through Vietnam for well over two months and have never felt even a little bit unsafe.
The one exception to that rule is Ho Chi Minh city, where I caught some guy trying to pick my pocket, right after I made a withdrawal from an ATM.
When traveling to Ho Chi Minh city, always be aware of your surroundings and always keep an eye on your belongings (You also don’t want to carry all of your credit cards and cash with you, just in case the worst should happen and someone steals your wallet).
You also don’t want to walk around with your phone in your hand since it’s quite common for motorbike drivers to steal phones from people as they drive past.
This is JUST in Ho Chi Minh city. I have felt 100% in every other place that I’ve visited in Vietnam.
***Still feeling a little nervous? Well, then you can also travel with some of my favorite safety devices for solo female travelers! These include the Pacsafe Messenger Bag (It has a wire running through the shoulder strap so that no one can slash your bag), a locking electronics bag, a personal safety alarm, and a lock. And for more info on ANY of these products, just check out my post on 24 Travel Essentials for Women. Also, always carry only what you need for the day with you, and leave everything else (credit cards, cash, passport, etc.) securely inside the safe back at your hotel.***
12. Light Sleeper? Bring Earplugs Because They Don’t Believe in Insulation in Vietnam!
If I had one major complaint about Vietnam, this would be it.
As a notorious insomniac and incredibly light sleeper, I have difficulty sleeping under the best of circumstances.
Vietnam takes my insomnia to a whole new level since it’s loud.
No, like REALLY loud.
See, because most of the houses in Vietnam are small and cramped (especially in major cities), many people tend to spend the majority of their time outside.
As a result:
It is not at all uncommon for locals to be publicly honking, shouting, eating, and basically living their lives, well into the night… right outside your door.
And because many of the buildings in Vietnam (hotels included) have paper-thin walls with basically no insulation, you get to hear it all!
You beyond lucky traveler you! That’s why:
If you’re a light sleeper like me, then you’ll probably get woken up by anything and everything that happens, right outside your door.
You may want to consider adding Melatonin (a natural supplement that helps you fall asleep) and earplugs to your Vietnam packing list, just so that you can at least try to get the rest that you most definitely deserve.
13. Be Prepared for Lots of Honking!
In my hometown of NYC, there is a lot of horn honking.
People basically honk their horns to tell you to, “EFF OFF” or to “watch out” so that they don’t hit you (You being either a car or a pedestrian).
I’m quite used to hearing the not-so-beautiful sound of blaring horns everywhere I go.
Vietnam takes horn honking to a whole new level.
If you’re not used to it, the cities here can feel incredibly noisy.
That makes sense once you realize that there really are basically no rules of the road here.
Drivers in Vietnam tend to be mildly crazy and will basically drive anywhere they want, regardless of any “traffic laws” that might exist (this includes going through red lights, driving on sidewalks, and driving in the opposite direction of traffic).
And that’s where the honking comes in.
See, because of all this urban chaos, drivers need some way of letting people know,“Hey, I’m coming”, which is why you’ll hear an excessive amount of honking, no matter where you travel in Vietnam.
This is also why you’ll want to…
14. Be Extremely Careful When Crossing the Street (It’s like a very Un-Fun Game of Frogger. And if you have no idea what that is, then I’m old and you should Google it)
Even though I’m originally from NYC (an extremely chaotic city where taxi drivers WILL hit you if you get in their way), I still consider the traffic in Vietnam to be next-level crazy.
Not only are there herds of motorbikes flying through some not-so-well-maintained roads, but the majority of the drivers don’t really follow any rules of the road and basically do whatever they want; a reality that can transform something simple, like crossing the street, into a near-impossible task that feels a whole lot like trying to fit 3 weeks worth of clothes into one, tiny, carry on bag.
So, if you want to cross the road:
Then the trick is to, DUH, look both ways before you cross the street; an obvious Vietnam travel tip that we all learned at the ripe old age of four.
Once you find a small gap in traffic and are ready to scamper across the road:
Hold your hand out, in the direction of oncoming traffic, and make a stop-like gesture, just so that people know to go around you.
It’s just a matter of moving with the flow of traffic and letting motorbikes drive around you as you try to safely bob and weave through traffic.
Once you’re used to it, it’s really not as difficult as it first seems.
15. Be Careful When Riding a Motorbike (If You Decide to Ride One) and Always Wear a Helmet.
Before we even talk about motorbike safety, let’s first decide IF you should actually drive one.
Because while I know it may seem like a good idea, and a great way to save money, motorbikes can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you’ve never driven one before.
I’d recommend NOT driving your own motorbike while in Vietnam. Unless of course you know what you’re doing and have tons of experience with it.
Because for me, the risk is just NOT worth it.
I mean, not only are the roads here incredibly narrow and curvy, but drivers here tend to do whatever they want on the road, making it even more difficult for you to drive safely.
If you’re planning your very own Vietnam itinerary, and only have 2 weeks in the country, do you really want to commandeer a motorbike and risk spending your entire vacation in the hospital?
And lest you think I’m exaggerating about the number of motorbike accidents here, I promise you, I’m not
Because during my short time here:
I’ve met no less than four different people (some of whom were locals) who got into serious accidents while driving motorbikes (all resulting in hospital stays).
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE consider your own safety first, before trying to drive a motorbike.
I totally sound like your mom right now.
Motorbike safety is a HUGE concern in Vietnam, especially since, sadly, no one is immune to personal tragedy while going on vacation.
If you do decide to ride a motorbike (as either a passenger or driver), ALWAYS wear a helmet, go slowly, and never, ever, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, drink and drive.
And if you do decide to drive a motorbike:
Then be prepared to get stopped by the police.
Because in Vietnam:
The police tend to be kind of corrupt.
They like to pull over foreigners, even when they’re not doing anything wrong, just so that they can get a nice little bribe for letting them go free.
Be prepared because it is not unheard of for foreign drivers to get pulled over at least four different times, within the span of a month.
And added awesomeness (note my intense level of sarcasm here)?
These bribes are not always cheap and can cost upwards of $200.
If you do decide to drive a motorbike, be prepared and know EXACTLY what you’re getting into.
This is also why you should…
16. NEVER Travel to Vietnam WITHOUT Travel Insurance!
I am gonna keep it SUPER real here.
Because in truth:
I am the undisputed queen of travel blunders and mishaps.
When it comes to travel essentials, travel insurance is ALWAYS a must for me, no matter where I go!
It would not be unlikely for me to literally plummet down the side of a mountain and, whoops, end up in a body cast after a leisurely stroll through a local park.
So clearly yes:
I NEVER leave home without travel insurance.
I think the real question is, “What is the best travel insurance out there?”
In my not-so-humble opinion, I think that is without a doubt, World Nomads Travel Insurance!
Their policies may be a little on the expensive side, but so what?
Because let’s be real here.
If you can’t afford travel insurance then you probably shouldn’t be traveling (Sorry but it had to be said).
Insurance is just one of those things that you REALLY do not want to skimp on.
This is one of those unique situations where you can’t really afford to be cheap since your life and personal well being could be at stake here (trust me, I’ve tried about a billion different companies and they are the best).
But, lest you think I’m being a bit melodramatic:
I actually had one friend who got bitten by a dog, another who was in a train accident, and another who broke her leg while riding a motorbike.
They were all traveling in Vietnam and, thankfully, all had World Nomads Travel Insurance.
Which makes sense since World Nomads Travel Insurance covers pretty much any destination that you might want to visit (besides SUPER offbeat places like Pakistan), gives you an amazing level of coverage that includes almost any travel disaster imaginable (short of being abducted by an Abominable Snowman), is super easy to customize, and can even be extended, or changed, while you’re still on the road.
Amazing no? However, the real question is, what plan should you get?
Well, if your gear is worth less than $1000, get the basic plan.
If you’re a not-so-fancy travel blogger like me and travel with your camera, laptop, tablet, and phone, all of which EASILY cost well over a $1000, then the explorer plan is where it’s at.
Both plans offer up to $100,000 worth of emergency medical coverage.
Get World Nomads Travel Insurance NOW, be happy, and travel Vietnam like a total BOSS!
17. Don’t Leave You’re Checked Luggage Unlocked While Flying to Vietnam.
If I’m being brutally honest here:
I never actually check luggage and always travel with just a carry-on.
I PERSONALLY haven’t encountered this problem.
I do know people who have had airport baggage handlers tamper with their luggage and steal their belongings.
If you’re planning to travel to Vietnam with checked luggage (or you’re going to fly within the country itself), always make sure that your bag is locked, prior to the start of your flight.
You could always just keep all of your valuables on your person and store them inside your carry on bag.
If the worst should happen and you think that something has been stolen, IMMEDIATELY report the incident to the airline so that airport authorities can address the issue!
18. Don’t Drink the Tap Water!
Not gonna lie:
This one is pretty obvious.
I’ll share this Vietnam travel tip anyway since I really don’t want you spending half your trip inside the bathroom.
WOMP, WOMP, WOMP.
So, to no one’s surprise, much of Vietnam’s drinking water is actually contaminated with all manner of amoebas and aquatic sea creatures since much of it is transported through chronically out-of-date pipes.
You should avoid drinking tap water (that includes using it to brush your teeth) and consume only bottled water/pre-boiled water (I love mermaids but I really don’t want radioactive ones floating around in my water).
This traveling in Vietnam tip really isn’t all that difficult to adhere to since most hotels will provide you with complimentary bottles of water any way.
And if you are in DESPERATE need of some clean drinking water:
Then just head to your local convenience store and buy a HUGE AF jug of bottled water (You could also just carry a filtering water bottle instead and help save the environment!).
But, if you do buy bottled drinking water:
Always make sure that the cap is properly sealed first since people have been known to resell empty bottles of water that are filled with tap water (This isn’t an issue in Vietnam but just a good, general, safety practice)!
***Okay, so while I love this Brita Filtering Waer Bottle, there are two big downsides to it. The first is the price since each water bottle costs $35. And the second is the weight since It’s just TOO damn heavy for me to carry around while traveling long-term. That’s why I’ve replaced my filtering water bottle with a Lifestraw Personal Water Filter! Not only is it light and incredibly easy to use (no moving parts or batteries required), but each Lifestraw costs just $17.47 (They even come in packs of two and three if you wanna buy in bulk). Plus, each life straw can filter over 1000 liters of contaminated water (all without the use of iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals) and removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria (that actually is an exact number) and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites. So yeah, just throw one inside your collapsible water bottle and you’ll be one hell of a space-saving, eco-friendly, budget-conscious traveler!***
19. People Will Ask You How Old You Are (Even if You’re a Full-Fledged Grownup)
Not gonna lie:
As I’ve traveled through Southeast Asia, I’ve been asked a number of different, super fun questions like, “How much do you weight?”, “Are you married?” and my personal fave, “How old are you?”.
And what I’ve come to realize is that, at least in Vietnam, there is a very practical reason behind any question about your age.
Because in this country:
Age and having respect for your elders is VERY important.
Which is why locals will always ask you about your age!
See, they want to know if you’re either older or younger than them so that they understand exactly how to speak to you.
Because in Vietnamese:
You use very different language to speak to someone who is older than you, someone who is younger than you, and someone who is the same age as you.
Don’ be offended because this question really is all about properly respecting anyone who is seen as an elder.
20. Remember, Vietnam is Flipping HUGE!
If it’s your first time in Vietnam, then you probably don’t realize just how BIG this country really is!
It puts the ass in massive, and I am NOT wrong.
Lest you think I’m exaggerating, a train ride from Hanoi (in the North) to Ho Chi Minh (in the South) will take you a WHOOPING 35 hours, and will cover more than 1700 miles of terrain.
That journey doesn’t even fully represent the true size of this country since there are many points North of Hanoi and many places south fo Ho Chi Minh.
When planning your perfect Vietnam itinerary, always factor in the length of time that it will take to get from point A to point B.
These distances are sometimes, not so short.
This is also why you shouldn’t…
21. Don’t Over Plan Your Vietnam Itinerary
Look I get it.
If you’re from the US then you get MAYBE two weeks of vacation per year.
As a result:
You probably wanna make the most of your once in a lifetime trip to Vietnam.
I can understand why you might want to cram as many destinations into your Vietnam itinerary as humanly possible.
Because this would be a HUGE mistake.
I already mentioned how BIG Vietnam is.
If you try and visit a ton of different places within a short amount of time, you’ll basically spend your entire vacation traveling (You’ll also spend most of your budget on transportation too).
And I’m sorry:
But that sounds incredibly un-fun to me.
I’d suggest picking a region (North, South, or Central) and spending at least one week there.
You can make the most of your trip by exploring places that are relatively close together and limiting the amount of time that you spend in transit.
22. The Weather in Vietnam Varies A LOT from the North to the South
Since Vietnam is part of Southeast Asia:
I think that most people just assume that the country is basically hot and humid, all year long.
At least I did before I spent 3 months here.
That really just isn’t the case since the weather can vary dramatically from the North to the South.
Below is a REALLY general idea of what you can expect from the weather in South, Central, and North Vietnam.
- South Vietnam – This region has a tropical climate that is typical of many countries in Southeast Asia. As such, the weather here is very hot (temperatures hover between 26 and 30°C all year long) and humid, with one distinct rainy season (from May to November) and one distinct dry season (December to April).
- Central Vietnam – This region experiences very hot and dry weather from mid-January through late August (think temperatures in the mid-’30s… Celcius. So yeah, REALLY hot). In contrast, the weather throughout the winter is very cool (temperatures can fall below 20 °C) and wet, with typhoons becoming common throughout October and November.
- North Vietnam – Winters here are between November and April and can be quite cold and dry, with temperatures around 17-22°C. In contrast, summers here are between May and October and can be quite hot (expect temperatures between 28 and 30°C), humid, and rainy.
***They SAY that the winters in Northern Vietnam are dry, but this wasn’t my experience. I spent much of December and January in Hanoi and found that it basically rained every single day. So, if you plan to visit Northern Vietnam, be prepared and pack either a raincoat or umbrella. Also, the weather in both North and Central Vietnam gets quite cold in the winter, so be sure to pack at least a light jacket***
23. Be Prepared to Haggle
Unlike in the ye olde US of A, haggling is a way of life in Vietnam.
And while some things do have a set price (Think nice restaurants, retail stores in malls, sit down coffee shops, etc.), many things do not.
If you find yourself in a local market or are out enjoying some of Vietnam’s wicked awesome street food, then be prepared to get your haggle.on.
I am TERRIBLE at haggling.
Don’t ask me why, but I usually feel totally weird about trying to get a discount and end up paying them whatever they want.
If you’re infinitely cooler than me and wanna haggle like a total champ, then here’s what you do.
This is all advice from a super savvy local since I have ZERO idea what I’m doing when it comes to haggling.
When the vendor says the initial price of the item. immediately counter them with a price that is 50% less than what they asked for.
Well, if you’re reading this then you’re probably a foreigner in Vietnam.
As a result:
The retailer is probably charging you an inflated price since you’re not from Vietnam and are, therefore, seen as “rich”.
To counteract this unofficial “tourist tax”, start haggling at a price that is 50% less than the asking price.
Negotiate by incrementally increasing the price by 10%, until you reach a price that you are both satisfied with.
And TADA! You have JUST mastered the fine art of haggling!
24. Learn Some Basic Vietnamese Before You Visit.
I’m not gonna lie to you.
Vietnamese is an incredibly difficult language for native-English speakers to learn.
Not only are the words pronounced using a part of the throat and the mouth that is not commonly used in English, but this language also has a whooping SIX different tones.
Say one word in a slightly different way and, KAZAM, you’re magically saying something totally different; even though the two words are exactly the same and are only being said with a slightly different tone.
Confused? Yeah, me too.
Since you’re a guest in someone’s country, it’s always a good idea (AKA polite) to learn a few simple phrases.
Because even though you’re pronunciation might be totally heinous:
Locals will still appreciate the fact that you’re TRYING to speak Vietnamese.
Some useful phrases that you might want to learn before your trip to Vietnam include:
HELLO – xin chào (Sin Chow)
GOODBYE – Tạm biệt (Tam Biet)
THANK YOU – cảm ơn (Cam uhn)
SORRY – lấy làm tiếc (lay lam tiec)
HOW MUCH – bao nhiêu (Bow Niew)
MY NAME IS – tên tôi là (Ten toy la)
25. Vietnam Realy is as Cheap as Everyone Says!
I’ve traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia and have found Vietnam to be one of the cheapest countries in the region!
It is not unheard of for backpackers to spend $30 a day on food, accommodations, and transportation!
Bump your daily budget up to $60 a day and you could also go on some nice tours or enjoy some nice meals at some uber-posh restaurants.
Pretty awesome, right? So:
When visiting Vietnam, expect to spend about 40,000 VND ($1.70) on a bowl of Pho, 20,000 VND for a domestic beer ($0.87), 40,000 VND for a cappuccino ($1.70), 7,000 VND ($0.30) for a local bus ticket, 200,000 VND ($8.65) for a meal at a mid-range restaurant, 700,000 VND for a nice day tour, and 470,000 VND ($20) for a private room at a mid-range hotel.
***If you’re into shopping, do not leave Vietnam without getting some leather belts (real leather belts will cost less than $10), “designer” clothes (Many companies have factories in Vietnam. Therefore, you’ll find high quality, imitation goods here for about a 1/3 of the price that you’d pay at home), Sportswear (Think Nike, Under Armour, Northface, etc. And no, they are NOT real), accessories for your electronics, coffee (Vietnam is known the world over for its amazing coffee), etc.***
26. Cover Up When Visiting Temples
Truth be told:
When it comes to clothing, Vietnam really isn’t a SUPER conservative country.
You could walk around in a tank top and shorts and no one would even look twice at you.
The exception to this rule comes when you’re visiting either a Buddhist temple or a sacred religious site of some kind.
Because in both of those situations:
You need to be dressed appropriately and have your knees and shoulders covered before entering the site (You’ll also need to take your shoes off before entering any temples).
These are incredibly devout places and dressing conservatively is seen as a sign of respect.
Don’t be THAT tourist who completely disregards the rules and tries to visit a sacred temple while rocking a pair of booty shorts and a tank top.
This rule applies to both men and women.
Even though Vietnam is a pretty chill country when it comes to clothing (meaning that you can wear just about anything you want), that doesn’t mean that you should strut around town wearing JUST a bikini or without a shirt on.
Because if you do this:
Then you’ll probably get some epic amounts of shade thrown your way.
27. The BEST Way to Travel Throughout the Country
Even though Vietnam is a HUGE AF country, it’s actually surprisingly easy to get around!
If you’re looking to travel long distances, then consider taking either the train or bus since both forms of public transportation are surprisingly cheap and easy to use.
Buses tend to be slightly more modern and as a result, a bit more comfortable since they have awesome amenities like reclining seats, AC, and WIFI.
Most Vietnamese trains are a bit outdated and really not all that comfortable, even though the train ride between Hanoi and Sapa is incredibly beautiful (as is the journey from Danang to Hue).
And while you can save a TON of time by taking cheap, domestic flights between many of Vietnam’s major cities (try using budget carriers like Jetstar, Lion Air, and AirAsia for the best prices), always be aware of excess baggage fees since these can quickly add up, making this a very not-so-cost effective way to travel.
***Many budget airlines only include up to 7 kg of luggage with the cost of their ticket. Therefore, if you find yourself traveling with A LOT of luggage, then you may want to take either the train or bus since both modes of transportation do not come with luggage restructionc.***
28. The Beaches Kind of Suck
I kind of hate sharing this Vietnam travel tip since I LOVE Vietnam with my whole heart.
I wasn’t really all that impressed with the beaches there.
In fairness though:
Maybe my expectations were too high?
I had just been to Koh Rong (Cambodia), and kind of expected quiet, white sandy beaches that stretched on for miles in every direction.
And what I got?
Well, overcrowded, trash laden beaches that had broken shells everywhere, making it exceedingly difficult to walk.
I could be a total beach snob and this could all just be me having VERY unrealistic expectations.
Feel free to visit places like Nha Trang (the beaches here were nice, but CROWDED. It also feels like you’re in Russia since there is a HUGE Russian population here), Mui Ne (The beaches here were OKAY but definitely had trash and broken shells on the ground, making it difficult to walk. There was also a huge Russian population here so again, you feel like you’re in Russia), and Phu Quoc (If you visit, try to go to the North of the island where the beaches are a bit more pristine and quiet. You’ll also enjoy beautiful views of Cambodia from here) for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.
29. Eat ALL the Street Food (One of my most DELICIOUS Vietnam Travel Tips!)
If you’re like me and enjoy eating about as much as you enjoy breathing, then Vietnam is the destination of your dreams.
Because no matter where you go in the country, you’ll find stalls upon stalls of fantastic street food.
And all for less than $1 a plate.
So, get ready to get your foodie swerve on!
Hygiene can be a concern since you have no idea if the owner of the stall properly washes their utensils and cooks their food.
Always be on the lookout for unsafe cooking practices and if you can, try and go where the locals go.
Because my general rule is:
If it’s safe enough for the locals, then it’s good enough for me.
Do NOT leave the country without trying the following dishes:
Pho – The is a hearty soup that is normally made with beef broth, Banh pho noodles (rice noodles), and thinly sliced beef, with bean sprouts and fresh herbs, served on the side.
Bun Cha (Originated in Hanoi) – This dish consists of grilled, fatty pork that is served over a bed of rice noodles, with fresh herbs and dipping sauce on the side.
Gỏi Cuốn – Fresh springs rolls (not fried) that are made of edible rice paper and traditionally filled with pork, shrimp, rice noodles, bean sprouts, and herbs. These types of spring rolls are also served with a side of sweet and sour dipping sauce.
Cha Ca – Found in Hanoi, this dish consists of pieces of fish that are marinated in turmeric, garlic, shallots, ginger root, salt, sugar and fish sauce. This fish is then fried right in front of you and served with vermicelli (rice noodles), fresh herbs (dill, basil and spring onion), roasted peanuts, chili, and mam nem (shrimp paste).
Chả Giò (AKA Nem Rán) – A fried spring roll that is filled with ground pork and wrapped in rice paper. It’s also served, like most Vietnamese dishes, with a side of sweet and sour dipping sauce.
And there you have cool kids! My list of 29 ultra-amazing Vietnam travel tips!
You can now master the fine art of Vietnam travel and plan a Vietnam vacation that (hopefully) doesn’t include rather not-so-great things like robbery.
And if you found this post even a little bit helpful, then feel free to pin it now and read it again later!
Come on, you know you want to (insert a lame winkie emoji here)!