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.