Travel Vietnam: Know Before You Go
1. Vietnamese Traffic is madness
Traffic in Vietnam is just simply madness, and traffic rules, well just seem non existent. You will see complete families on bikes, to people transporting their furniture on the back of their motorbike. If you aren’t planning to ride a bike, be sure to look left, right, left, right and maybe a couple times more before crossing the street. However, many backpackers take on the adventure of riding a motorbike, which comes with the necessary risks. If you are planning to ride a motorbike, your horn will become your best friend…
2. You will need a visa for Vietnam
Before you step on that plane, or bus, to Vietnam be sure to check Vietnam’s Visa regulations. With a very few exceptions, almost everyone will need a visa, especially if you are planning to stay longer than 2 weeks. While the process is not complicated, I would recommend applying for your visa online at least a week to two weeks prior to arrival, or a couple of days in advance at a local Vietnamese embassy should you be arriving over land. If you arrive by airplane you can easily request the visa online, where you will receive an invitation letter, and pick up your visa on arrival at the airport. Many online agencies offer these services and will explain the exact process for you!
3. Check the Weather for Vietnam
If you are thinking about Vietnam as a tropical getaway, you might have to rethink your decision. Yes, most months of the year Vietnam has tropical temperatures, but in the “winter months” temperatures can drop to 10 degrees Celsius and bringing a warm jacket is definitely advised. So if you’re looking for a shorts and bikini kind of vacation you might want to opt going in the months of February to April, while temperatures are also more pleasant in the months of September and October you might still encounter heavy monsoon rain… something you definitely want to avoid, trust me!
4. Watch your belongings in Vietnam
Petty crime happens anywhere in the world. From large metropoles such as New York and Paris to the country of Vietnam, petty crimes simply happens especially when you are moving from one location to another. I personally had a battery pack stolen from me on sleeper bus, while being asleep, I didn’t put it away and fell asleep, my own fault. However, if I would not have been more careful I could have lost a lot more. Be sure to keep your valuables close to you and locked away, especially on the sleeper buses. Be sure to pack it away before falling asleep to avoid waking up with your passport gone, something as simple as this could easily ruin your holiday.
5. Vietnam is a Great Budget Destination
6. Vietnamese Locals are Friendly
7. 2 Weeks is Not Enough for Vietnam
8. You’ll Be a Millionaire in Vietnam
9. You can’t drink the tap water in Vietnam
Unless you want to get sick you might want to refrain from using the tap water in Vietnam as most of us will get sick from it. The only way you can drink the tap water is if it is filtered. Many hostels nowadays do provide either filtered water or allow you to fill up your water bottle from larger drink water tanks. However, this is not wildly available. While bottled water is available anywhere in the country, this might not be the most sustainable option. If you want access to drinking water without using bottled water, consider bringing a water bottle that is integrated with a water filter.
10. Get ready to bargain
Planning on shopping in Vietnam, get ready to bargain. The price given to you when you show your first interest is often three times as high as the price you should be paying. Get ready to bargain your price down, or else you end up wasting most of your travel budget for Vietnam! Be sure not to show how badly you want the product, or you’ll see that the local vendors will be reluctant in dropping the price. It is also a good idea to walk around a bit, many shops sell the same products. Asking the price at multiple shops and vendors will get you a better idea of what the product should really cost.
11. A Motorbike is the best way to see Vietnam
If you are looking to make the most out of your Vietnam experience, you might want to think about buying or renting a motorbike to explore the country. However, this option does come with a certain risk. As mentioned before the traffic in Vietnam is simple madness, and if you are not an experienced driver and don’t feel confident riding a bike it is strongly advised not to do it. Also, know that riding a motorbike in Vietnam is illegal for foreigners not holding a local driver’s license, meaning that your insurance most likely won’t cover you in case you do get in an accident. Want to know more about riding a motorbike in Vietnam check out our full guide to riding a motorbike in Vietnam here!
12. It’s still possible to get off the beaten path in Vietnam
While many of Vietnam’s cities and locations have been explored by masses of tourists, it isn’t hard to get a bit more of the beaten path still. Explore the regions of Mai Chau, explore the lesser known Bai Tu Long Bay, ride the Ha Giang Loop or see the Ban Gioc Waterfalls. All of those places are located in the North, there are many more to discover in the South. But be sure not to skip out on the cities of Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, also these cities are part of Vietnam and her culture.
13. Dress conservatively when needed
While you can easily walk around in shorts through the city, you should consider packing some long pants and a t-shirt with sleeves to visit the temples and other important sights. For example, if you are planning on entering the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi you are expected to wear a long sleeved shirt and long trousers. If you are entering a temple it is often requested to cover your knees and shoulders, so be sure to bring some more conservative clothing in your backpack!
14. Download Grab
15. Check if you need any vaccinations
Before leaving to Vietnam it is strongly advised to check if you need any vaccinations, especially if you have not yet traveled outside of Europe or North America. As some vaccinations, such as Hep B, need to be given multiple times over a period of for example 6 months, it is strongly advised to seek out the advise of your GP or travel doctor at least 6 months in advance. They will also be able to advise you if you need any malaria pills during your travels in Vietnam.
Everything you need to know before traveling Vietnam
And there you have it, everything you need to know before leaving to the beautiful country of Vietnam! Don’t forget to check out our ultimate Southeast Asia bucket list to see which adventures you should add to your bucket list for Vietnam. Oh… and don’t forget to pin it!
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