50 Things you should know when travel to Vietnam

Vietnam recently become a new attractive travel destination in Southeast Asia.

In 2018 they welcome 15,497,791 foreign visitors. With pretty big population of 97 million people of 54 tribes all over Vietnam, majority is Viet people and the rest living up the central highland and mountains area of North West Vietnam.

Though many westerners still see Vietnam through the lens of war, in reality, it is a country filled with captivating natural beauty and of course, tranquil village life. The rainforest and highlands areas of Vietnam are far from being devastated. Its beaches and islands are among the most beautiful and wildest in Southeast Asia while its specialties or cuisine may be the healthiest and delicious you will ever know. After a long of war, today, the graceful S-shaped country is really an outstanding destination for tourists worldwide.

Travel Maps Vietnam

Vietnam stretches the length of the Indochinese peninsula, covering a surface area of about 128,000 square miles. Not mention to nature, those open-minded and curious tourists will find in this country a feast of history and culture.

If you are planning to visit Vietnam, then you should have some preparation ahead to make your trip much easier. Fortunately, here we introduce to you, those first-time visitors, 50 important things you should know before you visit Vietnam. Don’t pack your luggage until you read the whole article below!

1. When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

When is the best time to visit Vietnam

The first thing you should know before you travel to Vietnam is its weather. Because Vietnam features with a tropic monsoon climate, so the weather here is pretty complicated. The weather varies greatly from the South to the North. In south of Vietnam dry season is from December to May, wet season is from May to November. And North Vietnam 4 seasons Spring Feb – Apr, Summer May- July , Fall Aug – Oct and Winter Nov- Feb.

Of course, the weather is never guaranteed. So, it is recommended to bring rain jacket, light sweater, hat and eyes wear when travel to Vietnam.

2. What kind of language the local use?

What kind of language the local use

In 17th Century, a French missionary created the letter to speak Bible to community. Fortunately, it pronounces beautifully the local words. Then use widely in the community. In 1945, this letter become official letter of Vietnam with 24 letter and many tonal signs.

The Vietnamese language is officially written in the alphabet which is similar to English, so tourists have no trouble when reading the sign and see the map of Vietnam, despite pronunciation might be a little bit tricky. There are many English-speakers found in most tourist areas and major cities of Vietnam, yet most locals speak very little English while older people may speak French and Russian.

3. Do I need Visa to Vietnam?

Do I need Visa to Vietnam

Most visitors to Vietnam require a visa to enter the country.

Visas are exempted for the citizens of the countries listed below:

– Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos (30 day visa).

– Brunei, Myanmar (14 day visa).

– Philippines (21 day visa).

– Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Denmark and Finland (15 day visa; required to hold a passport valid for at least 6 months on arrival and also must make 30 day pause between two arrivals).

– United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain (15 day visa)

– Belarus (15 day visa. This visa waiver is valid until 30 June 2020).

– Kyrgyzstan (30 day visa).

– Chilean citizens holding valid diplomatic passports are exempt from visa requirements (90 days).

– Citizens of China, Cuba and North Korea holding normal passports endorsed “for public affairs” do not require a visa for Vietnam.

– APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) Holders from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies are exempted to stay within 60 days without visa.

– Those who directly visit Phu Quoc Island without a visa for up to 30 days. Foreigners and Vietnamese nationals bearing foreign passports who enter Vietnam through an international border gate and then travel to Phu Quoc Island and stay in Phu Quoc less than 30 days will also be granted Vietnam visa exemption. After arriving in Phu Quoc Island, if visitors want to travel to other localities or stay in the island for more than 15 days, the immigration department will be responsible for issuing visas right on the spot.

However, if you are staying somewhere like a private home or an alternate accommodation, the owner of the house will know how to arrange it with local police station and they are all very supportive.
More at www.vietnamtravel.com/visa. This make your visa arrangement become easier than ever.

4. Local Currency VND

Local Currency VND

Vietnam Dong is the currency in Vietnam (shortening VND). You can check some websites on the Internet for the exchange rate between your own ’s currency and Vietnam Dong. One note about Vietnamese currency is that you should be careful between 500,000 VND and 20,000 VND as they are very similar to each other in terms of color. Always keep the changes in your wallet and it help much when you pay for things in Vietnam.

5. Time Zone

Use time zone in Vietnam

The same time zone with Bangkok and other Indochina countries, its time zone is UTC + 7hs.

6. Banking

Banking in Vietnam

The majority of banks in Vietnam will be open from Monday to Friday during the hours of 8.30 am to 11 am and after a noon break, it will be re-opened between 1 pm to 4 pm. During the weekend and public holidays, you could use the Jewelry stores or hotel reception of you change money. The exchange rate is pretty much similar. There are many ATM in most of the tourist place and most of the Hotel or Restaurants they accept Credit Card. The payment in Vietnam is so much convenient compare to it was couple years ago.

As usual, American Express credit cards are not popularly accepted. Master and Visa Card may be OK, though often there are 3% surcharge over cash price.

7. What type of Electric Plugs?

Electric Plug in Vietnam

Oftentimes, the most popular electric plug in Vietnam is the European 2-pin attachment. However, some areas use British 3-blade or Japanese / North American 2-blade.

8. Vietnam Culinary

Vietnam Culinary

Vietnam is known as kingdom of food. Food is good and price is reasonable. You have plenty of choice from less than $2 of good Noodle Soup (Pho) to the fine dining in the luxury restaurant.  No matter wherever you eat, it could not be denied that Vietnamese food is delicious and healthy. It is usually made by different kinds of vegetables. Fruit smoothies made from those seasonal fruits are popular, including Longan, banana, sugar apple, avocado, strawberry, durian, jack fruit, dragon fruit, lychee, mango and passion fruit could be found in most fruit stalls. Besides, it is recommended to use bottled water instead of drinking tap water.

More than just noodles and steamed rice, Vietnamese boasts a variety of local cuisines with various choices for palates of persuasions. Despite the varied landscape of Vietnam, all dishes contain the brilliant balance of heat, aromatics, sweetness, fish-sauciness, and sourness. Similar to other Asian cuisines, Vietnamese food is also about the yin and yang: the cooling and warming, the sweet and salty, the fresh and fermented.

The country is narrow and long and the climate is also different from North to South and make a lot of changes to the flavor and taste of food. Same type of cuisine but taste different from North to the South.

9. Do you tip?

Do you tip?

Tip is getting common in the hotel or luxury restaurant, normally local don’t tips when they eat at street or small restaurants. We suggest you leave the changes or tips when you satisfied with the food you order.

10. How to bargain or technique to get good price.

How-to-bargain-or-technique-to-get-good-price

Though the price is fixed in most of the big shops and stores in the major cities but other part of Vietnam especially the local market, you need to know how to bargain.

Vietnamese people love to do business and hate to see a client walk way. In general, they will get the upper hand right the second you ask “how much does … cost?” You should not let them keep you head down. Try “walking away” to get better price. Just speak out your price and stick to it and just politely walk away once they do not agree with it. Soon, they will call you back if it is a really fair deal and offer you the lowest possible price whilst you are still within earshot.

Do not let those sellers squeeze any higher amount from you. The Vietnamese respect a tough client, even when you feel you have wasted their time and want to give in, you should still not do it. If they do not agree, you can still come back to them later.

11. Cell Phones

Cell Phones use in Vietnam

You can bring smart mobile phone along and make sure it is unlocked. There are some stores selling sim cards. It costs around 100,000 VND for a 3G/4G sim card with a credit of 50,000 VND included.
There are many network of Vietel, Vinaphone, Mobiphone, Vietnamobile, G-Tel.
They sell a lot from the arrival airport to the small streets in town.

12. Wifi

Things you should know when plan a trip to Vietnam-7

Unlike other neibouring countries, wifi in Vietnam is pretty convenient and very popular everywhere from the big cities to the small town in the countryside. Most of the business has free wifi and even the private car of Vietnam Travel provide free wifi on their car or van.

13. Communication

Many local people could speak several phrases of English, yet you should not still count on it. Now with translation app on cellphone, the communication is abit easier. They use 6 tonal signs so lot of Vietnamese words sounds similar but make many different meaning, if you have tour guide of average $35/day. Your trip will be so much easier.
Physical displays of affection between couples in public may be frowned upon. That is why you might come across couples who just hold hands of each other, not hugging or kissing.

14. Transportation

14.1 Cyclo

Cyclo in Hanoi

Cyclo in Old quarter of Hanoi

The 3-wheeled bike, cyclo (Xích lô), Since tourism started in Vietnam in early of 90s, Cyclo was used to transfer tourists to visit old streets of Hanoi or Hoian and HCM City in pretty slow speed. Tourist feel comfortable to hang around the old town of these major city in the slow pave while they could see, feel and take photos from Cyclo. Most of cyclo rider could speak humble English and could be able to explain for tourist city ‘s landmark or must see while paddling.
Most of travel agents in Vietnam selling this cyclo tour. Price per hours or per route.
Hanoi cylco tour at 10 dollars/person & HCM City cylco tour at 12 dollars/person (tipping 2-3 $ is not included). In other cities in Vietnam, Cyclo is just to carry goods.

14.2 Taxi

Plan-Trip-to-vietnam by taxi

All taxi in Vietnam are mattered. You had better keep an eye on the taxi meter when using this vehicle to travel. In Vietnam, generally, taxis are cheap. However, some are rather noticeably ripping you off. You need to negotiate the prices prior to get on. Watch the odometer and then compare it to the trip meter. If you realize anything wrong (like it goes up fast), then you had better kindly ask the driver to pull over, pay the inflated price and then hail a new one for the left distance of your journey.
Over years, taxis in Vietnam have become safer and more hassle-free in general. Yet, sometimes, ripping off little experience passengers is an art of dishonest drivers. Though not every taxi driver are not honest, yet to be safe, you should stick with some realize companies such as Mai Linh, Hanoi Taxi, and Vinasun.
With application of Grab car in major cities, it make your transportation so much easier with better price.

14.3 By foot

Plan-Trip-to-vietnam-by-foot

When you are in a city of Vietnam, you can try as much by food as possible. Walking around the busy street is one of the best ways for tourists to experience the local culture. Nevertheless, crossing the street of Vietnam is not as easy as it sounds. Some travelers say crossing street in Vietnam is dangerous and some say it is fun. It depend on your technique and your skill, here is the key.
When crossing street, normally other traffic will see you estimate your speed to go around you. So the key is don’t run and don’t go back because when you change the speed suddenly, they don’t know how to do.
Others way is wait for local people crossing and you go with them.

14.4 Xe Om (Xe Ôm) / Motorbike

Xe om in Vietnam

We are not recommending to use Xe Om, but if you want to experience it in the short distance. You can try. Make sure you have helmet on and hold on driver steadily. This way of transport could use when you in big rush of heavy traffic of Hanoi or Saigon, motorbike could go even faster than a car

14.5 Train

a Train running through an alley

Recommended train route is from Hanoi to Lao Cai (heading to sapa)
From Hanoi to Hue or Hoi An up to HCM City.
From HCM City to Phan Thiet (Mui Ne)
Yes, it is slow and bumpy but you gain the view of countryside, coastline. Make sure you could go few hours in the day time not through the night otherwise you could not see anything in the dark. Train ticket is pretty cheap but you got to add the pick up to train station and also the taxi from station to your destination. Ticket counters at station is chaotic, officers don’t speak English and beware of the pickpockets there. You ‘d better use the travel agent for your ticket because they have contract price and know which train is better than other.

14.6 Boat

boat trip in Ninh Binh

It is fun and nice experience, There are few place you should use boat for your visit.
Bac Ha to Lao Cai, they use short ride of boat in Chay river ( an hour) to the Hmong villages
Ba Be lake, there are few hours of boat ride on the fresh water lake on top of mountains, spectacular scenery.
Boat trip to Perfume river. 90 minutes’ boat to the Den Trinh and the same distance out. Beautiful view of mountain ranges and rice paddy.
Boat trip in Tam Coc (Ninh Binh) which go under 3 caves with stalactite and view of rice paddy.
Boat trip in Hue, along Perfume river sometime they have royal band performance on boat/
Boat trip in Mekong river to see floating market, lots of daily life activities which is highly recommended.

14.7 Bus

Hanoi bus

Well, basically buses in Vietnam are not used for travelling, particularly for foreigners due to some bad reputation despite they are steadily getting better. Bus is a good choice to get the some towns like Dalat (Đà Lạt) and Mui Ne (Mũi Né) as they could not be reached by plane or train.
You ‘d better use the Bus service or Private car arranged by Vietnam Travel with professional driver who could speak basic English and using good quality vehical.

15. Side walk Often Used as Motorbike Parks

Side walk Often Used as Motorbike Parks

Even though the city of Hanoi and Saigon did a lot of effort to get side walk for pedestrians. Some area even the authority makes the barrier or obstacle to stop motorbike from parking on sidewalk. But it happened as city does not have enough space for motorbike parking and local seems lazy to find parking place.
This is a frustrating feature in most cities in Vietnam. Parking space for motorbikes in Vietnam is very shortage and some sidewalk have become alternative parking lots. Sometimes, it means that the pedestrians have no choice but to walk down the street. In such case, you should be on high alert and get back to the sidewalk as soon as you could.

16. Buy Train ticket in advance or get directly from Station?

Buy Train ticket in advance or get directly from Station

We highly recommend you to book train ticket in advance and use the services of reputable Travel Company.
They know which train is better and the time schedule match with the rest of your services and your travel activities. They will book it in advance so always have better cabin and save your time and your money. Travel Agents get commission by month when they book the big quantity so price from Tour Company may not be more expensive than they price you pay at train station counter. In the other hand, it saves your time from going up and down to station and sometime hard to communicate to officers or run out of tickets.

17. Should I use Vaccinations before traveling to Vietnam?

Should I use Vaccinations before traveling to Vietnam

Malarial is the old stories in the past, in fact the major city of Vietnam is pretty developed. If you are going to spend long time outside in the urban areas or traveling during the humid and hot months to the remote part of Vietnam, you may need it otherwise we don’t recommend.

18. Don’t Confuse when you count Between “15” And “50”

Don’t Confuse when you count Between “15” And “50”

One of the things you should know before you visit Vietnam is about currency. Those street vendors in Vietnam, like coconut sellers, shoe shiners, will silently trick you and claim that you agreed to a higher “50” thousand VND and not the “15” thousand VND that you were completely. The price of a shoe shine or coconut is about 15,000 VND, so make sure that the “15” is fully understood before your shoes are well shined or the coconut is cracked. Avoid falling for the “50”. What you can try to do is to take out 15,000 VND and show it to the vendor before committing. Or, you can also use your finger to demonstrate so there will be no confusion after all. I personally recommend you bring a pencil and piece of papers to note down when you bargain.

19. Tip or not?

Tip or not?

Tip is getting common in the hotel or luxury restaurant, normally local don’t tips when they eat at street or small restaurants. We suggest you leave the changes or tips when you satisfied with the food you order.

20. Breakfast Included in Hotel rate

Breakfast Included in Hotel rate

When you book your trip with local tour operators, they will note clearly in the day by day itinerary breakfast included.

If you book hotel yourself and really want to break down the cost and only want to pay room without breakfast, here is suggestion: Sandwiches, noodles, spring rolls: Vietnam has cheap and delicious street food even around every corner of the cities. You do not need to force down a bland breakfast from your hotel so your day can get started. The hotels will try to lure tourists in with the “breakfast added” offer. Despite it is not terrible, it may be not worth your cost. In Vietnam, it is very easy to get outside and grab an amazing bowl of noodles (Pho) for just 20,000 VND no matter where you are. The coffee or street-side soup will be much better than the stable baguette or greasy eggs provided by your hotel, most often times.

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