Vietnam Travel Tips to help you plan your trip well.
Exotic rice paddies, busy city streets and conical hats – these are the typical images that crop up in anyone’s mind when Vietnam is mentioned. Not just the beauty, but the country is also infamously known for its complexities and scams – which in turn can effect even the most seasoned travelers (like Nomadic Matt – who swore never to go back).
Here’s the thing – at times a little bit of basic research and idea about a country can really make a difference. Don’t take me wrong – we’re all about being spontaneous but total lack of knowledge can sometimes mess up your trip. If you’re heading to this lovely country, then these travel tips for visiting Vietnam will help you in every way.
This S-shaped country has so much to see and do that you should not miss out. Click here to see some of the most beautiful bays in Vietnam. Check these things you need when traveling to Vietnam.
Travel Tips for Vietnam
1) Visa for Vietnam – EVisa, Embassy Visa and Visa on Arrival
At the moment, almost travelers holing a popular passport need to get a valid visa for Vietnam entry, except for citizens of 24 countries benefiting from unilateral or bilateral visa exemption agreements by Vietnam government.
There are now up to 3 ways to get a visa for Vietnam, which are:
- Applying for Vietnam visa at Vietnam embassy;
- Applying for Vietnam visa on arrival; and
- Applying for Evisa
The third option – Vietnam e-visa – is the newest one (since February 2017), applicable to short-term visa (1 month only) and single purpose of visit (tourists) and single entry, and citizens of 46 countries only. It is for those traveling to Vietnam via 28 international border gates.
The first option – Vietnam embassy visa – is the traditional one, in which travelers normally need to complete documents beforehand, travel to the office of Vietnam embassy/consulate for submission and payment of visa fee, and then come back to get the visa. This option is for both business and leisure travelers, with short-term or long-term stay in Vietnam.
The last option – Vietnam visa on arrival – is a popular option among travelers to Vietnam only by air at the moment. It is preferred by a lot of travelers for: convenience (applied online, no need to travel to submit documents); simplicity (no document required for application); time saving and last-minute application (same day, 2-4 working hours processing only) as well. This option is also for both business and leisure travelers, with short-term or long-term stay in Vietnam.
This is just a short summary about Vietnam visa, for more information you can check this detailed Vietnam visa policy covering:
- Vietnam visa types (to define which visa type you need matching your purpose of visiting Vietnam);
- Who does not need Vietnam visa and conditions if any (to define whether you need a visa for Vietnam or not);
- Who needs Vietnam visa and how to get it (to determine which one is the best for you);
- Vietnam visa cost (to well budget a part of your trip);
2) Buying a SIM card in Vietnam
When arrive in Vietnam and land at Tan Son Nhat at Ho Chi Monh City or Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, you will see many options for buying a SIM card. Even if you miss buying at the airport, you will be happy to know that the SIM cards are sold in many stores in Vietnam for around 100,000 Dong. Look for Mobifone or Vietnamobile phone service providers.
Check this post for more information about getting a sim card in Vietnam for tourists.
You are highly recommended saving your emergency numbers to report theft, harassment or kidnapping. The emergency numbers in Vietnam:
- 113: Rapid response police
- 114: Fire service
- 115: Emergency medical services
- 1800 1567: Detection of violence against children and women
3) Money and Currency in Vietnam
Vietnamese national currency is the Dong (VND) and it is locally written as đồng. At the moment the exchange rate is $1 in equivalent to Dongs 23,000 or 1 EUR is 26,000 Dongs.
The denomination of money in Vietnam is quite diverse, some denominations look similar to the other one, so the possibility of confusion is very high. For example, the VND20,000 sheet is as blue as the VND500,000 sheet. The secret for you is to remember the color of each denomination, carefully check each denomination before use.
4) Use Maps Because You Will Get Lost At Lease Once
The streets in Vietnam, especially in the cities will confuse you for sure. There are many back alleys and some of them will look pretty similar and you’re going to think you’re walking around in a circle. You may think that you have memorized the street name where you need to go, but the locals will most likely NOT pronounce it the same way.
Get yourself a traditional old school paper map or just use Google Maps if you’re not in a mood to get lost.
For traveling within Vietnam, you will need to do some journeys by boat and others by bus or train. You don’t have to visit multiple websites and compare the information on your own, you can find all the tickets and other information on Bookaway. I love how this website simplifies planning internal travel.
5) Weather in Vietnam
Vietnam is in a tropical climate. In the summer, the weather is extremely hot, so you should prepare the appropriate clothing such as T-shirts, skirts, and sunglasses. In the winter, the North of Vietnam is very cold, so if coming here at that time, you should prepare the thick jacket.
In Ho Chi Minh city, you often have to suffer from the hot weather, so be prepared for the weather. If you travel to Ho Chi Minh City should always carry an umbrella because the weather here is quite sunny and sometimes rainy.
Here’s an excellent post with information about the weather and when to visit Vietnam to enjoy the sunshine or rain or cold.
6) Taxi Mafia and Unregistered Taxis
Don’t take the first taxi that you see outside the airport because you will most likely get ripped off. Make it a point to take a taxi that’s registered with the authorities. Registered taxi drivers have their meter and contact information displayed inside the cars. Try Mai Linh and Vinasun taxi companies – they’re the most reputed ones in Vietnam.
There are many taxi scams in Vietnam and the drivers are known to overcharge and trick international visitors. Open your route map on Google Maps while you’re in the taxi so that the driver doesn’t take an unnecessarily longer route. Another scam is that your taxi driver will try to unnecessarily sell you a hotel room / tour / restaurant visit for a commission. So never mention to them that you don’t have a hotel booking.
Interestingly, Vietnam also has motorcycle taxies, they’re called Xe Om. They are very popular among the locals and solo backpackers.
7) Shopping on the Streets and Street Vendors Scams
Shopping in Vietnam is cheap and it is important to negotiate as with most of Asian countries. The best time to buy is early morning or late evening because that’s when the prices will be the lowest. South of Vietnam is cheaper than the North for shopping.
Be careful of pick pockets when you shop on the streets and keep your electronics and money close to you all the time.
8) Crossing the road in Vietnam
The streets of Vietnam, especially in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are full of many kinds of vehicle. Accidents are common and because of this, many international travelers do not dare cross the streets.
The easiest way to be safe while crossing the road is by walking next to a local who is crossing. You can also form a small group and cross the road will a bunch of people.
9) Be Careful and Don’t Eat Dog or Cat Meat Unknowingly
Did you know that dogs and cats are used as food in some places in Vietnam? Sometimes the travelers get tricked into eating dog or cat meat when they don’t want to. Carefully ask the owner about the ingredients if you suspect something fishy.
In Vietnamese language the dog meat is written as “thit cho” or “cay to” and the cat meat is written as “thit meo” or “tieu ho“. Remember these words to be aware of them on the sign boards or menu cards.
10) Accommodation in Vietnam
Book for the first few nights in advance after carefully checking the reviews on TripAdvisor. When you reach your destination, you will most likely get a better deal when you book something directly. Even if you book something directly at your destination, read the reviews first because there are many places that scam travelers and hang on to their passports till they get more money.
Vietnam may not be the easiest country for you to travel in but the incredible natural beauty, interesting food and kindness from strangers is enough to steal your heart. Hope these Vietnam travel tips help you have an amazing time in this country.