Vietnam Travel Tips - Know before you go

If you already have a trip planned to Vietnam or if you are thinking about heading there, this short list of tips could be a helpful start to getting yourself all set. These 10 Vietnam travel tips are just some questions and general facts that you should know when planning and taking trip to Vietnam.

Vietnam Travel Tips - Know before you go

  • Tip #1: Getting Into Vietnam – Visa Requirement
  • Tip #2: Where to Stay – Accommodations
  • Tip #3: Getting Around
  • Tip #4: Money
  • Tip #5: Crossing the Street
  • Tip #6: Beware of Scams
  • Tip #7: Get Your Bargain On
  • Tip #8: Be Prepared For Some Propaganda
  • Tip #9: Weather & When To Go
  • Tip #10: The Cheap Day Trips (SIC tour)
  1. Getting into Vietnam - Visa requirements

Most visitors will need a visa to enter Vietnam. Vietnam offers visa exemptions to travellers from 24 countries holding valid ordinary passports, and e-Visas to travellers from 80 countries. You can find the full list of countries with visa exemptions to know whether you need to apply for visa or not. You may have choice of making visa on arrival or e-visa. Read more at Visa to Vietnam

  1. Where to stay - Accommodation in Vietnam

Due to increasing volumes of tourism, accommodation in Vietnam has also expanded to cater to the demand of this sector.  You can find a wide range of service here, from budget hostels to five stars hotel. As a rule of thumb, big cities have a large number of choices while in small towns; it is harder to find upscale accommodation.  

Unlike many countries in Europe and South America, there is no central square where most tourist attraction and accommodation concentrates. Instead, they spread out in several districts. For example, in Hanoi, while the Old Quarter provides a range of accommodation with historic attachment, hostels and hotels near West Lake offer scenic view of the largest lake in Hanoi. Or in Ho Chi Minh city, tourist often choose hotels in District 1, nearest to Ben Thanh market.

  1. Getting around

​You are bound to use all types of transportation options throughout your trip:

Flights: between major cities you can book flights for a pretty reasonable price. Vietnam Airlines is one of the most efficient and reliable airlines in Vietnam. They are even part of the SkyTeam Alliance. You can also check out budget airlines such as Jetstar Pacific, VietJet or Bamboo airways as other options.

Trains: Going along the coast of Vietnam you also have the option of taking some longer and potentially overnight train rides. If you are not tight on time but are tight on a budget this option could be for you. Check out this helpful train website that goes into more depth about train times and options.

Taxis: There are plenty of taxi scams going on around Vietnam with “fake” cab companies that will charge a hefty price for a quick trip. However, you now can have more choice when using taxi/riding apps like Grab, Bee.,etc.

Busses: If you decide to bus between cities you should be just fine planning that once you arrive at your hotel or hostel. Speak to the front desk or concierge and they should already have schedules and options for different destinations. They will be happy to book you on a bus/minibus that could even pick you up directly from the hotel.

  1. Money

The local currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (1 USD = 23,550 VND). You will definitely want to order some VND before the trip to ensure you are ready to go when you land.

Once you start running low on cash there will be plenty of ATM’s around where you can use your debit card. Just realize that there is about a $5 fee each time you take out so it could also be smart for one person to take out for everyone and then have someone else do the same time next time around.

For the most part you will be using cash in all situations but might be able to use a credit card at a fancier restaurant or hotel. Also to note – there are no coins used in Vietnam – only paper bills, which can help with any money confusion.

  1. Crossing the street

​This one might seem like a silly one but once you arrive in major cities like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi you will see firsthand the incredible amount of people driving their motorbikes around the streets. At one point or another you will have to cross the street where there is no crosswalk.

Do not worry though – as you start to walk the motorbikes will go around you. It might seem crazy at first but once you see others doing the same you will see that all drivers are used to getting around pedestrians.

  1. Be aware of scams

Being a foreigner in Vietnam can definitely get you into some tricky situations among locals. I came across this mostly dealing with taxi drivers and cyclos. First off as mentioned earlier, not all taxi companies are “legit”.

That is not saying they will not take you from point A to point B but they will vastly overcharge you. Take a look a the link above in the getting around section that will better prepare you for what to look out for.

While in Hanoi, there were a couple times where we wandered around further than expected and wanted to catch a ride back on a cyclo (a guy on a bike pushing a seated cart). However each time we entered one they wanted to take us on a tour of the city and started to point at different price points on their sheet of paper.

Some were understanding that we just wanted to get back to our hotel – and we agreed on a price beforehand. Others pretended to understand but then at the end of the ride would point at their sheet again demanding more money than necessary.

Lastly make sure you know what currency bills you are giving and receiving during transactions. This is not the only country this has happened to me, but you might find yourself needing back 200,000 VND bill but you only receive a 20,000 VND bill. Some people try and trick foreigners hoping they will not realize and take more money than required.

  1. Get your bargain on

While the prices in markets and on the streets might be one number, odds are there is plenty of room to do some negotiating. Don’t be afraid to go back and forth on a souvenir, or food, or transportation if you think the price is an unfair one.

You will most likely save a few dollars during each transaction, which can add up over a longer trip. You will find this very common around Southeast Asia if you are planning on heading out to some other countries before or after Vietnam.

  1. Be prepared for some propaganda

If you are not as familiar back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s the Vietnam War took place between the communist North along with the Vietcong, and Southern Vietnam along with their American allies.

If you make your way to some places like the Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi or the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh, you will read a lot of information from the perspective of the Vietnamese.

Now while a lot might be true, there are definitely some questionable insights in there as well. For example at Hoa Lo (the prison where John McCain was held) they had the following plaque there that read “Vietnamese government had created the best living conditions to US pilots..”. As always there are two sides to everything.

  1. Whether and when to go

The weather in Vietnam can be all over the place by time of year and by region so it might be difficult to find the perfect time to go to every place on your itinerary. However a couple rainy or bad weather days should not stop you from enjoying your trip. If you are looking to go from south to north, a good time to go is probably in that Spring time period (March – June).

During the summer it can get wet in the south and north, in the fall rainy in the central region, and the winter can get cool as you head up north to Sapa. But do not let the rain stop you from going! Even though it may say “rainy season”, it rarely rains all day long, rather just a few showers here or there. Read more about weather in Vietnam and best time to visit.

  1. The cheap day trips (SIC tour)

No matter where you are in Vietnam you are sure to come by day trip options offered by your hotel and tourism shops at very cheap rates.

Some people will recommend to avoid these and hire a taxi to do it on your own, others will say go for it as its all part of the experience. I had no problem with the few I did but just be ready with what to expect.

The group tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels, Mekong Delta, My Son, Halong Bay etc can be filled with a bus load of people, as it makes stops all throughout the city to pick others up.

Even though the drive might be an hour on Google maps, it will probably take double that as they will most likely also always stop at a souvenir pit stop for tourists.

Some experiences might not feel as genuine or local as you might expect since they are geared towards tourists, but at the end of the day you will not be able to experience any of these sitting at home.

So go out and enjoy Vietnam and all that it has to offer. Safe travels!


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