10 Things to Know when Travelling to Vietnam
The beautiful country of Vietnam exudes a vibe like no other. A trip to the diverse land could be quite overwhelming. For starters, it is a vast country and picking a few cities of Vietnam out of the big whole could be quite a task. Second, a trip to its cities requires some careful consideration and insider knowledge. Fret not; we have lined up some tips and tricks to plan your travel to Vietnam.
1. Be street smart:
You have to be street-wise in Vietnam, and by this, we mean stay alive while crossing the road. Barring well-organized cities like Hue, the likes of Hanoi could get really crowded. Look on both sides of the road (and watch the footpath for 2-wheelers that slide from almost anywhere) at least twice before crossing. Gear up for pollution and honking. They are inevitable.
2. Discover various modes of transport:
Unless you love treading the city on foot like we do, you can easily hail a taxi or download the Grab or Uber app for convenience. Alternate modes of commute include bike rentals, shared cabs, hop on-hop off, xe om (motorbike taxi) and cyclo (slow rickshaw). Always ask the bike rental for a receipt.
3. Beware of scams:
Don’t wind up in scams, be it ticket booking or SIM purchasing. You must buy your tickets, mobile connections and exchange money from a valid store only. Do not haggle with middlemen or agents who claim to offer discounts over calls and non-certified agencies.
4. Mind your belongings:
Cling to your belongings at all times. Do not leave them unattended at any instance. Carry as little valuables and cash as you can. If you’re using a small bag or tiny backpack, wear it in front rather than on your back. Cameras and phones must be placed in a zipped bag and not your pocket, especially in crowded streets.
5. Know your food:
The food in Vietnam is delicious and non-spicy. If you like your food red hot, you have to ask for a spicy version at the time of placing the order. Street food is the norm in Vietnam. Every city offers authentic local delights on hawker stalls, night markets and local shacks. To avoid the Delhi belly, you must eat out of a stall that prepares its food hot and fresh. Avoid ice, carry a bottle of mineral water and you’re good to gobble.
6. Buy cheap beer:
Beer is cheaper than water. Can you believe it? Most draught (or draft) beer is drawn out of flasks and served at VND 5,000 (20-25 cents) a pint. They are available at local stalls, on food streets and during happy hours. When beer is this cheap, it has to be diluted. Don’t expect the best taste and kick!
7. Try these money-saving hacks:
Most of the activities in Vietnam do not really require a guide. You can save money by collecting brochures and downloading relevant pieces of information in advance. Important structures issue pamphlets and have information slabs that cover the basics. Buy combination tickets that are discounted to include entry to more than 1 museum or building. To take up day tours, try booking form an external tour agency rather than the hotel to save the commission fee.
8. Careful with passport submission:
You are required to show your passport at the hotels and car rentals. Some bike rentals might even ask you to deposit your passport until you return the ride. If that makes you uncomfortable and you have an old passport, carry that along and submit it to these agencies.
9. Check your visa requirements:
Please note that even if you are eligible for a visa on arrival, you might still require a pre-approved letter. Do not forget to get it issued and mailed to you in advance. Depending on the country you hail from, you ought to check your document requirements before travelling.
10. Deal with language issues:
Language might be a barrier in Vietnam. Most of the good hotels have staff that is trained pretty well. However, you will find it difficult to communicate with locals, vendors and shopkeepers. Download an app to help you translate or take screenshots of items you want to buy or of food you are allergic to. Show the picture and nod ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This trick has always helped us.
Despite the horror stories you hear about Vietnam, it’s safe if you know how to take care of your belongings and health. Check the weather of the cities prior to travel and pack accordingly. Vietnam is a beautiful country. Have fun!
Tips by Aditi Shukla who is a wanderopath with a munchlust who documents her travel and food tales in her blog Lyf&Spice. Primarily covering stories in Southeast Asia and India, she focuses on insider experiences, travel tips and tricks, local food and culture.