13 Things You Need To Know Before Travelling to Vietnam

Travelling to Vietnam: The 13 Things You Need to Know Before You Go

Vietnam was nothing like it used to be. I remember first visiting when I was close to six years old. My parents attempted to wow me by showing me how they used to live growing up. It was something far from glitz and glamour (nobody said it was full of glitz and glamour, but I was six so anywhere away from home was considered glamorous). Now, what never used to be a top choice as a tourist destination is quite the opposite today. Vietnam is an unbelievably beautiful country where you can really soak in the culture, learn some valuable life lessons and embrace the rewarding experience that the country will provide you.

Travelling to Vietnam for the first time can be daunting. If you’re not prepared, you can end up in some quite traumatic experiences. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the 13 essential things you need to know before visiting so your trip can go smoothly. And if there’s anywhere you need to travel smart, it’s Vietnam.

Documentation you need before travelling to Vietnam

1. Make your visa a priority 

It’s easy to overlook the whole visa process before you travel. It’s most certainly easier to skip the visa process too, thinking you won’t need it but it’s astounding how many people get turned away upon arrival for visa misinformation or failing to print their visa pre-approval papers. Before you travel, make sure you quadruple check all of your information and you have your accommodation address ready as Vietnam is not an easy country to get into.

2. Take extra copies of your passport

During the length of your stay, hotel receptions in Vietnam usually ask to keep your passport. Whilst most people hand their originals over, some hotels will accept a copy if you have one. Also, having spares is a great idea in case you end up losing or damaging your original.

Your trip whilst in Vietnam

3. Vietnam is bigger than you think 

If you’re planning on travelling to Vietnam for a couple of days, you may want to rethink your decision. While many travellers only focus on the major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, it’s worth exploring the smaller towns just a short train ride away. If you really want to want to explore Vietnam properly, you may want to dedicate a whole week or two to do so as Vietnam’s a lot bigger than you’d think and I assure you, you’d find some real gems during your travels that you’d never expect to find.

ALT = travelling to Vietnam

 4. Beware of counterfeit tour agencies

The rule to remember here is to avoid falling into these tourist traps. You’ll find many different types of tours to Vietnam’s most popular places such as an overnight stay in Mekong Delta or a romantic cruise in Halong Bay but more often than not, these tours are just a waste of time. There have been multiple reports from travellers that these tours consist of being crammed into vans, stopping by a couple friends’ shops, stepping food on the grounds of your chosen destination for a little wander…but then that’s it. Remember if you’re paying for these tours, you’re completely dependent on their schedule (if they even have one).

5. Keep a close watch on your belongings

Pickpocketing is common in Vietnam so it’s best to keep a close watch on your belongings and your bags close to your body, especially when you’re in the busier locations such as markets, restaurants and tourist spots. I find that keeping your phone or camera in your pocket makes you an easy target and try not to have that “it’ll never happen to me” mentality because it will happen to everyone if you’re not careful. It may be a good idea to avoid wearing flashy jewellery also as the streets of Vietnam are fairly dangerous. You wouldn’t want to get into the situation of someone grabbing it from you whilst you’re wearing it.

6. Avoid drinking the tap water

An important thing to remember when you visit Vietnam, avoid tap water at all costs! Even the locals know it. The water from the taps is unsafe and most definitely undrinkable. I remember drinking an Orange juice last time I was in Vietnam. The next few days, I was stuck in bed with severe stomach aches due to the ice used in the orange juice. Stay safe and only brush your teeth and stay hydrated with bottled water to avoid any food poisonings.

7. Crossing the street may be a bit of an issue

Crossing the street in Vietnam is a scary experience. Especially for first-time visitors. Saigon is the city with the largest concentration of motorbikes in the world, but this doesn’t mean anywhere else in Vietnam is any better. This makes crossing the roads thousand times more difficult. It’ll take some time before you feel comfortable but I promise after a couple of times doing it, you’ll figure out the best method.

The trick is to cross the road at a slow pace all the way and hold your arm out to let the drivers know you are crossing. This will give them time to spot you and go around you.

8. Check your travel vaccinations

 Before travelling to Vietnam, make sure you check with your doctor the necessary vaccinations required.

The recommended ones for Vietnam is:

  • Hepatitis A – due to the possibilities of contaminated food and water in Vietnam.
  • Typhoid – also due to the possibilities of contaminated food and water but more importantly if you’re visiting the smaller towns or rural areas.

9. And the price is…whatever you choose to pay for it

 I know this sounds a little ridiculous but it’s normal for Vietnam to overcharge or inflate the prices to get more money out of you. That’s why it may be a good idea to brush up on your haggling skills before you go. What may seem rude in the westernised culture, negotiating in Vietnam is expected and an everyday norm. Try to haggle the best price possible for your goods so you don’t risk overpaying what the item is really worth.

10. Taxi scams are common

In Vietnam, you’ll come across many taxi companies, some of which are unauthorised taxis that will drive through the city to scam travellers by quoting a fare then demand more once you’ve reached the destination. Or the meter will ‘magically’ jump up a couple of times during the journey so you are charged drastically more for the ride. The best way to avoid this type of taxi scams is to use reputable taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Vinasun. Also, note that some operators try and replicate the MaiLinh and Vinasun branding as another way of scamming so look out for logos that are spelt incorrectly.

11. Wi-fi is great! 

 If you wanted to stay connected to the world during your travels in Vietnam, you’re in luck! Wi-fi networks are reliable and can be found pretty much everywhere. Surprisingly, they’re pretty fast too!

12. Be careful with your card

The preferred method of payment in Vietnam is cash however if you do decide to use your card during your trip, be careful that you’re not being scammed in the process. One traveller recalls an incident where they paid with their card for dinner. The waiter took their card inside and returned with a card that was missing the three-digit code on the back. If this happens to you, make sure you cancel your card immediately to avoid any trouble.

13. Some places have curfews

Even big cities like Saigon and Hanoi sleep at around 11 pm or earlier so it may be worth checking with your hostel or guesthouse if there is a curfew, and ask what the protocol is if you come home late. If you arrive late after a flight, let your guesthouse know so they don’t end up giving your room away because they assume you’re not coming.

There may be a lot to take in beforehand when it comes to travelling to Vietnam but this country is. truly an experience you’ll remember and won’t regret. Let me know in the comments below about your experience if you’ve visited Vietnam before!

ALT = Joeyt

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