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Vietnam feels like one of the less “touristy” areas in comparison to it’s neighboring SE Asia countries like Thailand — the land feels truly local and very authentic. Though tours are  available for visitors to use, showing that tourism is on the rise, there are aspects of travel just not quite there. 

If you saw my previous post, about how Vietnam showed me that travel isn’t about me, you’ll get a true insight to the atmosphere. 

After receiving many emails on Vietnam, asking what it’s like, if it’s safe, and thoughts on the country, I wanted to share 10 things to know before traveling to Vietnam. These ten things are incredibly vital for a successful trip to the stunning destination of Vietnam. 

1. Visa is required for (most) travelers.
These pesky things are a definite need, and cannot be overlooked. It must be pre-arranged for a “Visa On Arrival” or have one sorted out with immigration before hand. It is to be taken serious, if you arrive without one, you will not be allowed into Vietnam. 

2. Prices are negotiable.
Yes a strange concept to us, though a locally accepted way of business meaning all goods and services are priced on what you are willing to pay. Don’t be afraid to haggle, or walk away. Something to keep in mind is that the Vietnamese have a very dry sense of humor, so a joke could help your case. 

3. Water is an issue.
Unfortunately due to sanitization restraints, almost all running water is contaminated. This means you need to brush your teeth with bottled water, and be sure to always drink from sealed bottled water.

4. The food is outrageously good — but make sure the water is boiling.
Don’t be afraid to try the street food, it’s relatively quite safe and extremely tasty. One night my husband and I started at 5 pm and ate at a different stall every hour — some serious eats plus extremely cheap. The golden rule: make sure the water is boiling. Though the government passed the law making eating cat and dog illegal, there are still restaurants that serve it so be sure to learn the Vietnamese words: thịt chó,dog meat and thịt mèo, cat meat.

5. Unlock your phone and have great data.
We paid around $25 USD for a voice and data plan with a local carrier which made the trip even more easy. The local carriers there are reliable and you can ask your hotel to help you get a local SIM card. Be sure to check the price before committing!

6. Currency — sort it out before going to pay.
The local currency, or Dong, can be confusing as the bills are very similar. One night I overpaid by 500,000 instead of 5,000 as I confused the two. I was lucky the owner of the restaurant was honest and gave me back my change.

7. Overnight trains are incredible, the upgrade is worth it.
A nicer cabin, better service, and decently clean. We spent two nights on a train, and were happy we paid more to have a nicer cabin. 

8. Skip the “included breakfast.”
Trust me, it’s usually not great. Walk down the street and find a local vendor serving traditional Vietnamese breakfast called pho.

9. Locals are welcoming, learn the local language.
Contrary to most visitors, I found the locals to be welcoming. Learning a few words in Vietnamese changed the dynamic in every interaction and recommend learning how to say thank you, hello, and how are you.

10. Coffee — try it with condensed milk or sweet milk
The Vietnamese coffee is strong and incredibly good when iced and mixed with condensed milk. It’s a definite not miss.


PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:



  1. Hello Jessica, I have a question, where did you apply to get a vietnamese visa?

  2. Most importantly– cross the street with confidence and at a consistent speed. Don’t stop or run– trust that the people driving on scooters are doing complex calculus in their heads and will adapt their course to avoid you. If in a group, do not cross in a line following each other, cross in a line where you are side by side– minimizing the disruption to the flow of traffic.

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