As we may all know, Vietnam has become a tourist hotspot in the past 25 years due to its agreeable climate, vivid atmosphere and exquisite sights. Know, however, that Vietnam is one of the few remaining countries that operate under a communist regime. Though this is not that much enforced in the day-to-day life, it is best to not get in trouble with the local law enforcement. Aside from this main idea, here are the top six things to know before visiting Vietnam.
This is one hefty way of kicking off a list but Vietnam succumbs to heavy traffic, often in the form of throngs of motorcycles. Be wary especially when you are crossing roads for drivers often disregard you and you might enter a game of “dodge-the-missile” with the missiles being the oncoming vehicles. Aside from this, there are traffic signs specially tailored for pedestrians – keep an eye on these and strive to adjust your brain to them (even though they may appear counterproductive at first, they will serve you in the long run).
2. Housing and noise:
There is no doubt about the fact that both Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) are extremely noisy. We highly recommend that you do not book rooms at hotels that have so-called “street views.” No matter how thick your windows may appear to be, the incessant, swarm-like atmosphere of the outside street is sure to creep in. Also, never forget that honking in Vietnam is not something that is used in a negative fashion – it is often done to signal a heads-up to peers. Honks can be heard every few seconds so you should try and do your best to avoid them by not putting extra fuel on the fire at the housing phase of your trip.
3. Walking away:
You read that right, walking away is generally a good strategy if you are displeased with a service offered to you in Vietnam. If a stallkeeper charges you with a nasty price and if you think that he clearly has the upper hand, feel free to swirl around and pace away. This will often cause them to call you back and offer a more reasonable solution. This is your chance to push your haggling skills to the limit and try to arrive at a convenient price for you.
This is one of the main problems that backpackers experience in Vietnam for they often make the mistake of dressing out. Since the motorcycle culture is thriving there, it is possible for petty thieves to grab your purse or bag and roll away (without even stopping). If your straps aren’t magically unbreakable, you might find yourself without your ID and money in a communist country – not cool. Always keep your things close and we also recommend that you do not look rich. Even if you pertain to the upper class, we recommend that you dress modestly and appear as though you were just a broke traveller (wink). This little trick can save you from a great deal of inconveniences, we assure you.
5. Online booking:
This is a serious problem if you do not know what you are doing. The general rule of thumb when you are travelling to Vietnam is to assume that you are getting less service than what is written on the web page. If you wish to get an adequate service, make sure you book at a reputable hotel for your own sake. No matter how things look online, we assure you that once you get there, things change 90% of the time. You have worked hard for your money, so expect to be treated well for it!
6. Food and tap water:
The tap water in Vietnam is not drinkable – remember that at all times because it is easy for some people to forget when they get extremely thirsty. Just imagine yourself being marooned at sea and drinking sea water – that is how things are in Vietnam. If you drink that water, you are in for some nasty infections – bottled water should be consumed all the way. It has gotten to a point where even locals avoid it completely – they don’t even cook with it. Street food should only be eaten if you can see clearly that it has been thoroughly boiled. Otherwise, you can expect things like the Hanoi Belly or the Saigon Belly. We recommend that you research “traveller’s’ diarrhoea” if you hunger for more information on the subject.
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Vietnam and how did they affect your time spent there? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and do not forget to check back for some interesting updates every now and then. Safe travels!