motorbike traffic in vietnam - tips for travelling vietnam

68 Tips for Travelling Vietnam for First Timers [2024]

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Are you planning your next travel adventure and looking for tips for travelling Vietnam? These valuable travel tips are ideal for those visiting Vietnam for the first time, AND the more experienced Vietnam travellers may also learn something new!

Vietnam, in South East Asia, is a country brimming with captivating landscapes, rich culture, and a fascinating history. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the enchanting lantern-lit alleys of Hoi An, every corner of Vietnam offers something unique and awe-inspiring. Whether you’re exploring the ancient temples in Hue or cruising through the breath taking Ha Long Bay, there’s no shortage of beauty to discover.

But it’s not just about the picturesque scenery; Vietnam is also renowned for its warm hospitality and friendly locals. You’ll be greeted with a heartfelt “hello” or “làm ơn” (please) wherever you go. And don’t worry if language barriers arise – Google Translate can be your trusty companion or local websites can come in handy.

To make the most of your time in Vietnam, we’ll share practical tips on the best time to visit Vietnam, must do experiences, and other practical advice on safety, money matters, and how to get around. So get ready for an adventure that will leave you craving for more!

Planning your trip to Vietnam last minute?

Below are some of the top tours, hotels and more! Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Vietnam and nearby!

1. HALONG BAY CRUISE (#1 selling Vietnam tour!)
2. MEKONG DELTA (another top-seller!)
3. CU CHI TUNNELS IN HCMC (great for history lovers!)
4. VIETNAMESE COOKING CLASS (for the foodies!)
5. HANOI STREET FOOD TOUR (come hungry!)

1. LA SIESTA CONTRAL HOTEL & SPA IN HANOI (we stayed here and recommend it!)
2. LYS HOMESTAY IN NINH BINH (we also stayed here – recommended for budget travellers!)

Our Top Tips for Travelling Vietnam

We have spent more than 6 months in Vietnam over the last 6 years, and each time we visit, we learn something new. Having a solid understanding of the essential travelling to Vietnam tips and information needed for a successful trip to this enchanting country will make your trip all the more enjoyable!

General Vietnam Travel Planning Tips

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Here are some general travel planning tips to help you make the most of your experience.

1. Arrange Your Visa Before Arriving in Vietnam

top tip for travelling in vietnam- copy of evisa for vietnam which you must organise prior to arriving

Travelling to Vietnam is an exciting adventure, but before you embark on your journey, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the visa requirements. Applying for a visa can seem like a daunting task, but fear not! Our step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of obtaining a single-entry E-visa for Vietnam, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience.

Step 1: Determine the type of visa you need

For most tourists visiting Vietnam, a single-entry tourist visa will suffice. This allows you to enter the country once and stay for up to 90 days. However, a multi-entry tourist visa is also available for an additional cost.

Step 2: Check the Entry Requirements

Before applying for a visa, ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned departure date from Vietnam.

You may also need proof of onward travel (this was requested at check-in for our flight form Singapore) and sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay.

Step 3: Gather the Required Documents

  • A scanned copy of your passport bio page/s (high resolution).
  • A recent passport-sized (4 x 6) photograph with a white background (high resolution).
  • Credit card details for payment.

Step 4: Complete the Online Application Form

Visit the official website for Vietnam E-visa.

Fill out the online application form accurately and truthfully. (N.B. Be sure to include both your First and Middle Names and D.O.B. in the requested format.)

Step 5: Check Your Email

After application form has been submitted, a registration code will be emailed to the applicant. Follow the link in this email to complete payment.

Step 6: Pay the Visa fee

Make payment using either credit card or PayPal. The cost is $25 / single-entry E-visa or $50 / multiple-entry E-visa.

Step 7: Wait for Processing

After submitting your application and making payment, you will receive an acknowledgment email with a registration code. Enter registration code, registration email and date of birth to check result in E-visa search menu.

The processing time for a single-entry E-visa is typically 3 to 5 working days, but it may vary. We recommend doing 3 – 4 weeks prior to your arrival date to ensure you have enough time in case there are any problems.

Once approved, print E-visa to enter / exit Vietnam and keep it with you throughout your journey to Vietnam.

If you have any questions throughout the process, we posted on the Vietnam Visa Advice Facebook Group and found this group great for sharing and solving problems.

2. Check the Weather in Vietnam for When and Where You Want to Visit

One of the key factors to consider is choosing the right season to visit Vietnam. With its diverse climate patterns and enchanting festivals like Tet (Vietnamese New Year), understanding the weather conditions and cultural celebrations can greatly enhance your travel experience.

Vietnam boasts a wide range of climates throughout the year, making it an ideal destination for travellers year-round. It is important to note that the weather can vary greatly from north to south.

The Dry Season is a great time for those keen on exploring Vietnam’s natural wonders and iconic landmarks. From November to April, most parts of the country experience less rainfall and more sunshine, creating optimal sightseeing opportunities. The dry season also offers pleasant temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F – 86°F), providing comfortable conditions for outdoor activities.

The Wet Season (May to October) may deter some from visiting due to concerns about rainstorms. Temperatures can range from 25°C to 35°C (77°F to 95°F), and humidity levels can be quite high. It is advisable to stay hydrated, and to pack lightweight and breathable clothing, as well as a rain jacket or umbrella to be prepared for the occasional downpour. If you enjoy lush green landscapes, fewer crowds, and lower prices, then embracing Vietnam’s wet season might just be perfect for you.

The rainy months bring life back into nature as forests flourish with vibrant colours and waterfalls cascade gracefully down mountainsides. The countryside becomes a picturesque paradise, and the rice terraces in Sapa transform into a breath-taking mosaic of emerald hues.

3. Check For Vietnamese Festivals / Events / School Holidays

No discussion about visiting Vietnam would be complete without mentioning Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. The exact date of Tet varies each year according to the lunar calendar, but it typically falls between late January and mid-February.

The celebration lasts for several days, and it is a time when families come together to honour their ancestors and welcome the upcoming year with joyous festivities. The streets are adorned with vibrant decorations, and there are parades, fireworks, and traditional performances throughout the country. Tet is considered the most important holiday in Vietnam, and it is a wonderful time to visit and experience the rich cultural traditions of the country.

During Tet, other Public Holidays and Vietnamese school holiday periods (Spring break is from June to August), expect a large number of locals to be travelling domestically. Accommodation will need to be booked well in advance and expect to pay higher prices.

4. Flying is Best Between Cities

The most popular choice for travelling between major cities in Vietnam is by air. With a well-established network of airports across the country, flying allows you to save time and cover long distances quickly. Whether you’re hopping from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City or venturing off the beaten path to destinations like Da Nang or Nha Trang, domestic flights provide a convenient and efficient way to reach your desired location.

5. Pre-Book Your Airport Transfer

To ensure seamless travel arrangements upon arrival in Vietnam, it’s advisable to pre-book airport transfers. This not only saves you the stress of finding transportation upon landing but also eliminates any language barriers or negotiation struggles that may arise.

Most hotels will offer their own transfer services, and we generally find them to be the best priced as well. By arranging an airport transfer in advance, you can rest assured that a reliable driver will be waiting for you at the arrivals gate, ready to whisk you away to your accommodation.

Top Tip: When travelling between cities that can be driven to, always check if the hotel at your next destination offers a transfer service. We did this for a trip from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, and our hotel in Ninh Binh priced the transfer in a private car for cheaper than we could buy bus tickets.

6. Use Grab, Not Taxis

Grab is a ride-hailing service that operates in major cities across Vietnam. Similar to other popular ride-sharing platforms, Grab allows you to book a taxi or motorbike taxi with ease using their user-friendly mobile app. With competitive pricing and reliable drivers, Grab provides a safe and convenient way to travel short distances within the city, especially if you’re not comfortable riding a motorbike yourself.

7. Sleeper Buses vs Sleeper Trains in Vietnam

an overnight bus in vietnam waiting for passengers
One of the many overnight bus companies in Vietnam

When it comes to traveling long distances in Vietnam, there are two popular options for overnight journeys: sleeper buses and sleeper trains. Both modes of transportation have their advantages and disadvantages, so it ultimately depends on personal preference and priorities.

Sleeper buses in Vietnam are a common choice for budget travellers. They are relatively cheap and widely available, making them accessible to a wide range of tourists. These buses typically have reclining seats that can be adjusted to a nearly horizontal position, allowing passengers to rest comfortably during the journey. However, it’s important to note that the quality of sleeper buses can vary significantly. Some buses may be old and poorly maintained, which can lead to discomfort and a less pleasant experience.

One advantage of sleeper buses is their flexibility in terms of routes and schedules. They operate on a wider network, allowing travellers to reach destinations that may not be accessible by train. Buses also tend to have more frequent departures, providing more options for travellers who prefer a specific time of departure or arrival.

On the other hand, sleeper trains offer a more traditional and nostalgic way of travelling. They provide a unique experience that allows passengers to enjoy the scenic views of the Vietnamese countryside while comfortably lying in a bed. Sleeper trains often have more spacious compartments compared to sleeper buses, providing a sense of privacy and tranquillity during the journey. Additionally, trains tend to be more stable and less affected by road conditions, resulting in a smoother ride.

Sleeper trains are known for their reliability and punctuality. They adhere to a fixed schedule, which can be beneficial for travellers who prefer a more structured itinerary. Trains also have the advantage of offering onboard amenities such as dining cars and toilets, which can add to the overall comfort and convenience of the journey.

In terms of safety, both sleeper buses and trains in Vietnam have their own risks. It’s important to choose reputable companies and operators to ensure a safer journey. Additionally, it’s advisable to secure personal belongings and be cautious of pickpockets.

8. Vietnam by Motorbike

Riding a motorbike in Vietnam can be an exhilarating and adventurous experience. However, it is important to be aware of the rules and safety issues to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here are some key rules and safety tips to consider when deciding on riding a motorbike in Vietnam:

  • Licensing: It is mandatory to have a valid Vietnamese motorbike license to ride legally in Vietnam. International driving permits are not recognized, so you will need to obtain a local license. This can be done by visiting the Department of Transport in the city where you are staying. N.B. If you have an accident while riding a motorbike in Vietnam and you do not have a Vietnamese license, your insurance may not cover you.
  • Wear a Helmet: Helmets are compulsory in Vietnam for both drivers and passengers. Make sure to wear a good quality helmet that fits properly to protect your head in case of an accident.
  • Follow Traffic Rules: Observe and follow the traffic rules and regulations of Vietnam. This includes obeying traffic signals, using indicators while turning, and not exceeding the speed limits. Be cautious of other vehicles on the road and anticipate their movements.
  • Defensive Driving: Vietnam’s roads can be chaotic and congested, so it is important to practice defensive driving. Stay alert, maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, and be prepared for unexpected manoeuvres from other road users.
  • Be Visible: Make yourself visible to other drivers by wearing bright-coloured clothing and using reflective stickers on your motorbike. This will help increase your visibility, especially during low-light conditions.
  • Be Cautious of Road Conditions: Vietnam’s roads can vary in quality, from well-maintained highways to pothole-ridden rural roads. Be cautious of road conditions and adjust your speed accordingly. Watch out for obstacles such as animals, pedestrians, and uneven surfaces.
  • Avoid Riding at Night: It is advisable to avoid riding at night, especially in rural areas where visibility can be poor and there may be a lack of street lighting. If you must ride at night, ensure that your motorbike has proper headlights and taillights.
  • Insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance just in case!

9. Where to Stay in Vietnam

Finding the perfect place to stay is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Luckily, this beautiful country offers a wide range of accommodation options that cater to different preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for luxury resorts, charming boutique hotels, authentic homestays, or budget-friendly hostels, Vietnam has it all.

Luxury Resorts: One example is the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort located in Da Nang. This award-winning resort offers breath-taking views of the Son Tra Peninsula and provides guests with exclusive access to private beaches. With its world-class spa facilities and Michelin-starred restaurants, this resort promises an unforgettable stay.

Boutique Hotels: In Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you’ll find gems like La Siesta Central Hotel & Spa. This boutique hotel seamlessly blends traditional Vietnamese aesthetics with modern comforts. Its prime location allows guests to explore the vibrant streets of the Old Quarter easily.

Homestays: In Hoi An, one popular homestay option is Lantana Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa. This charming property showcases the region’s architectural heritage and provides guests with a warm and welcoming environment. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with locals, learn about their customs, and savour homemade Vietnamese cuisine.

Budget-Friendly Hostels: In Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, The Common Room Project is a popular hostel among backpackers. With its vibrant communal spaces and lively atmosphere, this hostel offers an ideal base for exploring the city’s bustling streets and vibrant nightlife. It organizes various activities such as food tours and pub crawls to ensure you make the most of your stay.

Must Visit Destinations in Vietnam

If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, there are certain destinations that you simply cannot miss.

10. Explore the City of Hanoi

famous red bridge in the Lake of the Returned Sword in Hanoi
Famous red bridge in the Lake of the Returned Sword in Hanoi

Start your urban adventure in Hanoi, the capital city known for its bustling Old Quarter. Lose yourself in its maze-like streets filled with shops selling everything from silk products to delicious street food. Make sure to visit Hoan Kiem Lake and catch a glimpse of Ngoc Son Temple situated on an island in the middle.

11. Go Hiking in Sapa

Sapa, nestled in the mountains of northern Vietnam, is a picturesque town famous for its terraced rice fields. Embark on a trekking adventure through the lush green landscapes and encounter ethnic minority communities along the way. The breath-taking views and cultural encounters will make your journey truly unforgettable.

12. Visit Halong Bay

One of the most iconic places in Vietnam is Halong Bay, known for its amazing limestone karsts jutting out of the emerald waters. Imagine cruising through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by towering cliffs and exploring hidden caves. Halong Bay offers a unique experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s beauty.

13. Bask Along Beautiful Beaches in Danang

The beaches in Danang have crystal-clear turquoise waters and long stretches of golden sand. If you’re into history, you can’t miss the Marble Mountains. These towering limestone hills are not only breath-taking to look at, but they also have a bunch of caves and pagodas that you can explore. Plus, the views from the top are absolutely amazing!

14. Explore Hoi An

Another must-visit destination is Hoi An’s charming ancient town. This well-preserved trading port from the 15th Century is a delightful blend of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Japanese influences. As you wander through the narrow streets adorned with colourful lanterns, you’ll be transported back in time. Don’t forget to visit the famous Japanese Covered Bridge and sample some mouth-watering local cuisine at one of the many street food stalls.

15. Visit Dalat

Dalat is a super cool city nestled up in the highlands of central Vietnam. It’s famous for its beautiful scenery, pleasant weather and fresh mountain air. You can visit the crazy cool Crazy House, which looks like a fairy tale castle, or take a peaceful boat ride on the serene Xuan Huong Lake. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go canyoning down waterfalls or zip-lining through the lush green forests.

16. Wander Around Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is another city that shouldn’t be missed. Immerse yourself in its fast-paced atmosphere as motorbikes whiz by and skyscrapers tower above you. Explore historic landmarks like the Reunification Palace or delve into Vietnam’s war history at the War Remnants Museum. And don’t forget to indulge in some retail therapy at Ben Thanh Market before savouring delectable Vietnamese cuisine at one of the city’s many rooftop restaurants.

17. Enjoy Island Life on Phu Quoc Island

For those seeking relaxation, Phu Quoc Island is a paradise waiting to be explored. With pristine beaches fringed by palm trees and crystal-clear waters teeming with marine life, it’s an ideal destination for beach lovers.

Must-Do Experiences in Vietnam

Seeing the many different sights in Vietnam allows visitors to immerse themselves in the country’s rich history, vibrant culture, and breath-taking natural landscapes.

a man with his hands in the air entering the cu chi tunnels in ho chi minh city
Cu Chi Tunnels

18. Go on a Cruise in Halong Bay

One of the must-do activities is taking a cruise through Halong Bay. To make the most of your experience, consider booking an overnight or 2 night cruise. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the tranquillity of the bay and wake up to awe-inspiring views. Take in the sunrise as it casts a golden glow over the karsts, creating a truly magical atmosphere.

During your cruise, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Explore hidden caves and grottoes nestled within the limestone cliffs, or go kayaking and get up close to these natural wonders. You can also try your hand at fishing or simply relax on deck and soak in the beauty around you.

19. Take a Traditional Vietnamese Cooking Class

Embark on a culinary adventure by learning traditional cooking techniques. Join a cooking class where experienced chefs will guide you through the process of preparing authentic Vietnamese dishes. From mastering the art of rolling fresh spring rolls to creating flavourful pho broth, these classes offer hands-on experiences that will leave your taste buds craving more.

20. Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels

For history enthusiasts, a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City is an absolute must! The Cu Chi Tunnels were used by the Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots, supply routes, and even living quarters. One of the highlights of visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels is witnessing the various traps and obstacles that were strategically placed to protect the tunnel system. You’ll see examples of spike pits, camouflaged trapdoors, and even hidden entrances that were designed to confuse and deter enemy forces.

21. Cruise the Mekong Delta

A cruise along the Mekong Delta is a must when you visit Vietnam with its intricate system of rivers and canals. You’ll pass by lush green rice paddies, floating markets where people sell all sorts of stuff on boats, and even little villages where locals live.

Cultural Tips for Vietnam

Vietnam is a culturally rich country, and to make the most of your visit, it is important to be aware of and respectful towards their customs and traditions.

22. Learn Some Basic Vietnamese

When traveling to Vietnam, it’s always a good idea to learn some basic Vietnamese phrases. Not only will this make your trip more enjoyable, but it will also help you connect with the locals on a deeper level. Here are some essential phrases that you should know:

  • Xin chào (Hello) – This is a common greeting used throughout Vietnam. It’s a simple way to start conversations and show respect to the locals.
  • Cảm ơn (Thank you) – Expressing gratitude is important in any culture. Saying “cảm ơn” will go a long way in showing your appreciation for the hospitality of the Vietnamese people.
  • Xin lỗi (Excuse me / Sorry) – If you accidentally bump into someone or need to get someone’s attention, saying “xin lỗi” will help you navigate through crowded streets or busy markets.
  • Tôi không hiểu (I don’t understand) – This phrase can come in handy when trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English well. It shows that you’re making an effort and encourages them to find alternative ways to convey their message.
  • Bao nhiêu tiền? (How much does it cost?) – Bargaining is common in Vietnam, especially at local markets. Knowing how to ask for prices will help you get fair deals and avoid overpaying as a tourist.

By familiarizing yourself with these basic phrases, you’ll be able to navigate daily interactions more smoothly and create meaningful connections with the local community.

23. Learn About Vietnam’s Rich History

an abandoned us aarmy helicopter now on display in the war remnants museum in ho chi minh city
War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam is a country with a rich and complex history. To fully appreciate and learn the things to know about Vietnamese culture, it’s essential to delve into its past. One way to do this is by visiting historical sites that offer insights into Vietnam’s heritage. Here are two notable places you should consider:

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Located in Hanoi, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as the political centre of Vietnam for over 13 centuries. Exploring this ancient citadel will give you a glimpse into the country’s imperial past, with remnants dating back to the 11th Century.

War Remnants Museum – The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is a must-visit if you’re interested in learning about Vietnam’s history and the impact of the Vietnam War. There are lots of photographs and displays that show what life was like for the people who lived through the war.

24. Cover Up When Visiting Temples or Pagodas in Vietnam

Make sure to dress modestly when visiting temples or pagodas. It’s a sign of respect to cover your shoulders and knees, so pack some lightweight, breathable clothes that still keep you covered. Also, don’t forget to remove your shoes before entering these sacred places – it’s a common practice in Vietnam.

I carry a large lightweight scarf / sarong in my bag at all times which can be thrown over my shoulders or used as a skirt when required. I have also used it as a picnic blanket, beach towel and in cars with cold air-conditioning.

25. Saving Face

An important thing to keep in mind when travelling in Vietnam is the concept of “saving face.” Vietnamese people value harmony and confrontation is one of the things to avoid in Vietnam, so try to remain calm and polite in any situation.

26. Be Aware of Siesta Time in Vietnam

If you’re out and about between the times of noon and 2pm, you may find a lot of shops, businesses and attractions are closed. So, make sure to plan your day accordingly.

27. LGBTQ+ Friendly

Vietnam is a friendly and safe place for LGBTQ+ people and the Vietnamese people in general seem to be really open-minded and accepting of everyone.

Health and Safety Travel Tips in Vietnam

Safety should always be a top priority. Fortunately, Vietnam is generally considered a safe country for tourists. However, it’s still important to stay vigilant and take necessary precautions to protect yourself during your trip.

motorbike traffic in vietnam - tips for travelling vietnam
Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City

28. Be Sun Safe

We recommend bringing your own sunscreen (preferably SPF 30+ and reef safe) as it is expensive to buy in Vietnam and the selection available is very limited.

 In addition, wearing a wide brimmed hatsunglasses and protective clothing with long sleeves will provide additional sun protection.

29. Bring Insect Repellent

In Vietnam, it’s really important to protect yourself from mosquito bites, as well as ticks and certain types of flies, because they can spread diseases. Some common diseases transmitted by mosquitoes include Dengue, Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria, and Zika. Mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, especially during the wet season. So, remember to use insect repellent (preferably with at least 50% DEET) and cover up with clothing whenever possible to avoid getting bitten.

30. Don’t Drink Tap Water

It’s important to note that drinking tap water in Vietnam is not safe. This is because there is a risk of contracting diseases such as Typhoid or Hepatitis A, or even just experiencing a bad case of travellers’ diarrhoea. To stay hydrated, you have a few options. You can easily find bottled water to purchase, or you can bring a reusable water bottle. While many hotels and restaurants provide filtered water, it’s safer to opt for sealed bottles as they guarantee purity. Another option is to use a SteriPen, which can purify tap water for you.

When you’re traveling in Vietnam, it’s important to be cautious about the fruits and vegetables you eat. Some places may wash them with tap water, which might not be safe. It’s also common for restaurants and bars to serve drinks with ice. In reputable establishments, they usually use purified ice. However, if you’re unsure, it’s better to ask for your drink without ice and drink straight from the can or bottle.

31. Always Carry Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitiser

To stay safe, it’s a good idea to have tissues or toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you whenever you go out. Expensive restaurants usually have toilet paper and soap, but most bars, markets, and temples do not. So, it’s better to be prepared in case you get a case of the dreaded Montezuma’s revenge…

32. Vaccinations

 All travellers should be up-to-date with their routine vaccinations before heading off on a holiday to anywhere in the world, but the following vaccinations are recommended for visitors to Vietnam. We recommend talking to your doctor 3 to 4 weeks prior to your trip about how you can best protect yourself prior to your departure.

  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B 
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Malaria
  • Rabies

33. Crossing the Street in Vietnam Takes Confidence

Crossing the street in Vietnam can be terrifying at first, but you’ll get the hang of it! The traffic here is crazy and the motorbikes seem to be coming at you from every direction. When you see an opportunity with a break in traffic flow, start walking at a steady pace without hesitating or making sudden movements. It’s important not to stop abruptly or backtrack while crossing.

Also, pedestrian crossings / zebra crossings do not work the same way in Vietnam as they do in western countries. For your own safety: stop and look both ways before walking as cars and motorbikes often do not stop at them and give way to pedestrians.

Also, always look both ways on a one way street as it is not uncommon for a motorbikes to be driving up a street the wrong way.

34. Don’t Expect to Walk on the Footpath

Vietnam’s sidewalks can be both a blessing and a challenge for pedestrians. While they offer dedicated space away from vehicular traffic, they are often occupied by parked motorcycles or used as extensions of shops and restaurants. Consequently, pedestrians may find themselves forced onto the road instead.

Top Vietnam Travel Tip: When walking along busy streets in Vietnam, walk on the same same as oncoming traffic so you can see what is coming towards you, and avoid obstacles if needed safely.

It’s important to note that sidewalks vary greatly across different areas within Vietnam. In some places, they may be wide and well-maintained, providing ample space for pedestrians to walk comfortably. However, in the major cities such as Hanoi, they can become narrow or obstructed by vendors’ stalls or other obstacles, and in HCMC when the lights turn red, expect motorcyclists to use the footpath instead of waiting at the lights.

35. Watch Out For Drive-By Motorbike Theft

Drive-by motorbike theft is a prevalent issue in Vietnam. Tourists and locals alike should be cautious when walking on the streets, as thieves on motorbikes are known to snatch bags and belongings, especially mobile phones, from unsuspecting pedestrians. These thieves operate swiftly, often targeting individuals who are distracted or have their belongings exposed. It is advisable to keep valuable items secure and to be aware of your surroundings at all times to avoid falling victim to this type of theft.

Top Tip: When walking along busy streets, keep your bag on the side, and your phone in the hand furthest away from road traffic.

36. Stay Vigilant and Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Hanoi or relaxing on the pristine beaches of Nha Trang, it’s crucial to remain alert at all times. Keep an eye on your belongings and avoid displaying expensive items that may attract unwanted attention.

37. Protect your Valuables with a Cable Lock and Pacsafe

We don’t travel anywhere without our Pascafe cable lockPortable Travel Safe and Crossbody Bags. We use our cable lock to secure our valuables in a cupboard in the hotel room or in our bag / portable travel safe which we cable lock to an immoveable piece of furniture or fixed item. We both have a Pacsafe crossover bag which we use each day, one for just our camera, and one for our everyday items.

Pacsafe products are well known for their anti-theft technology and are slash proof, have amazing lock down functions on zippers and hooks, and are RDIF safe. They provide peace of mind knowing our valuables are safe at all times.

38. Rent a Motorcycle Only if You Are Experienced

It is a common sight in Vietnam to see tourists with little to no riding experience on motorbikes without helmets and in very little clothing. It is a risk many are willing to take, but be aware, Vietnam has one of the highest traffic fatality records in the world. Add to this poor road conditions and very few road rules, and it is an accident waiting to happen.

 If you do decide to rent a motorbike (and have read Tip # 8 above), we highly recommend:

  • Have a motorbike license in your own country AND a local Vietnamese license (this is the law!)
  • A valid International Driver’s License
  • Wear a good quality helmet (this is also the law!)
  • Wear protective clothing – long pants, enclosed shoes
  • Don’t speed
  • Don’t drink and drive

 N.B. If you do have an accident, whether you are at fault or not, if you are a tourist, the accident is your fault. This is an argument or fight you cannot win, so negotiate well to keep the costs down.

39. Book Travel Insurance

When you’re travelling to any country, it’s important to prioritize your safety by getting travel insurance. This will provide coverage for potential issues like illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. We personally never embark on a trip without travel insurance, as we’ve had to rely on it multiple times in the past. For the previous years, we’ve been using a company called 1Cover, but we also recommend SafetyWing, which comes highly recommended by many of our friends who travel full-time.

Eating and Drinking in Vietnam

Vietnam offers a vibrant and diverse culinary scene, with a wide range of delicious dishes and refreshing drinks to explore.

bowl of noodles and beef, and spring rills in vietnam
Delicious Bowl of Bun Bo Nam Bo in Hanoi

40. Choose Where to Eat Carefully

When you’re in Vietnam, you’ll find a wide range of dining options, from fancy restaurants to small street stalls run by locals. However, it’s important to note that not all places maintain the same level of cleanliness and food hygiene. To ensure you eat safely while travelling anywhere in the world, here are some essential guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Choose food that is freshly cooked
  • Select fruits and vegetables you can peel
  • Be cautious with raw, undercooked or reheated food, raw and shelled seafood, raw or undercooked eggs, and salads
  • Choose busy restaurants to eat at, especially those that are full of local people, older people or those with young children
  • Make sure cutlery is clean
  • If you are unsure if it is ‘safe ice’, go without

42. Try Street Food

A great way to experience the local culture when in Vietnam is to try the street food! You’ll find all sorts of delicious treats like banh mi (a tasty sandwich with meat and veggies), pho (a yummy noodle soup), and spring rolls (crispy and filled with tasty ingredients).

43. Go on a Food Tour

Going on a food tour in Vietnam is a must-do experience for any food lover and allows you to explore the diverse and delicious flavours of the country. From the famous pho and banh mi to lesser-known dishes like bun cha and banh xeo, you’ll have the opportunity to try a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine. The best part is that most of these dishes are prepared right in front of you, giving you a chance to see the skill and passion that goes into creating each dish.

44. Attend a Vietnamese Cooking Class

Attending a Vietnamese cooking class is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the flavours and techniques of this vibrant cuisine. During the class, you will have the opportunity to learn from experienced chefs who will guide you through the process of creating authentic Vietnamese dishes.

From mastering the art of rolling fresh spring rolls to perfecting the balance of flavours in a traditional pho broth, you will gain valuable skills that you can use to recreate these delicious dishes at home. Not only will you learn about the ingredients and techniques used in Vietnamese cooking, but you will also get to taste and savour the fruits of your labour.

45. Lots of Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Vietnam is a great destination for vegans and vegetarians, as there are plenty of options available. The country’s cuisine is known for its fresh and flavourful ingredients, making it easy to find plant-based dishes. Many traditional Vietnamese dishes can be easily adapted to be vegan or vegetarian, with options like tofu, tempeh, and a variety of vegetables. Additionally, there are also dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurants in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, offering a wide range of delicious and healthy plant-based meals.

46. Vietnam is a Coffee Lovers Paradise

The country is known for its rich coffee culture and offers a wide variety of coffee options to satisfy any caffeine enthusiast. The traditional Vietnamese drip coffee or “Cà phê sua de“, is a strong brew made by slowly dripping hot water through finely ground beans into a glass containing sweetened condensed milk. The result is an intense yet creamy concoction that will give you an invigorating caffeine kick.

For a more unique experience, don’t miss the opportunity to try egg coffee. This specialty drink originated in Hanoi and is made by whipping together egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and robust Vietnamese coffee. The end result is a velvety smooth beverage with a rich and indulgent flavour that will leave you craving for more.

47. Drinking in Vietnam

Drinking in Vietnam is a popular social activity, with a variety of options available for those looking to enjoy a drink. One unique aspect of drinking in Vietnam is the tradition of bia hoi, which is a type of fresh beer that is brewed daily and served in small, local establishments. Bia hoi is known for its light and refreshing taste, and it is a popular choice among locals and tourists alike.

In terms of the legal drinking age, the legal age for purchasing and consuming alcohol in Vietnam is 18 years old. However, it is worth noting that enforcement of this law can vary, especially in more tourist-heavy areas.

Vietnam also has a thriving bar scene, particularly in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where you can find a wide range of bars offering everything from craft cocktails to rooftop bars with live music. Whether you prefer a traditional bia hoi or a trendy bar, Vietnam has something to offer for every drinking preference.

Common Scams in Vietnam

Vietnam is generally a very safe country, and there are numerous safety measures in place to ensure that travellers have a positive and relaxed experience. However, there are some dishonest people who target tourists with illegal or deceptive activities. While some of these scams are easily noticeable, others may not be so obvious.

a christian dior handbag at a market with wrong spelling - christian dorio
Buyer beware! Check items carefully for quality before buying. otherwise you could be ging home with a ‘Christian Dorio’ handbag instead of a ‘Christian Dior’.

48. Wrong Change

Once you arrive in Vietnam, make sure to familiarize yourself with the local currency. This is important because you might encounter situations where you could be short-changed or taken advantage of by cashiers who assume you are not familiar with Vietnamese currency. For example, taxi drivers, busy markets, small restaurants, and bars are common places where this can happen. However, you can easily avoid this by carrying smaller notes with you and exchanging larger 500,000 VND notes at places like Circle-K or your hotel.

49. Motorbike Rentals

Exploring Vietnam on a motorbike is an exhilarating experience that allows you the freedom to discover hidden gems off the beaten path. Choose a reputable rental company with good on-line reviews, reliable bikes and transparent pricing. We recommend checking the motorbike carefully before renting it and ‘obviously’ taking photos or video of every scratch and dent.

50. Unmetered Taxis

 Prior to getting into a taxi, always request and insist on the meter to be used. If they don’t agree, wait for the next taxi. Pre-quoted prices by drivers are always more expensive. Also, the GRAB App is a popular alternative to taking taxis.

Staying Connected in Vietnam

Exploring Vietnam is an adventure that requires staying connected to share your experiences with friends and family back home.

51. Wi-Fi is Easily Accessible Nearly Everywhere

Luckily, you can easily stay connected by taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi available at hotels, cafes, and restaurants throughout the country.

52. Get a Vietnamese SIM Card

While relying on Wi-Fi might be sufficient for some travellers, having a local SIM card provides greater convenience. With a local SIM card, you’ll have reliable internet access wherever you go without depending on finding Wi-Fi hotspots.

To get a local SIM card in Vietnam, head to one of the many convenience stores or mobile network providers such as Viettel or Vinaphone. These companies offer various packages tailored to tourists’ needs with affordable data plans that allow you to make calls and use mobile data during your stay.

Having a local SIM card not only ensures continuous connectivity but also allows you to navigate using map apps like Google Maps or book transportation services through ride-hailing apps like Grab. It’s worth noting that purchasing a local SIM card requires presenting your passport as part of the registration process.

Vietnam Travel Money Tips

When traveling to Vietnam, it is important to have a variety of payment options such as cash, credit cards, and local currency to ensure smooth transactions and avoid any inconvenience.

all the notes in vietnamese currency
Familiarise yourself with the local currency well

53. Break Big Bills at a Convenience Store

In Vietnam, it is beneficial to break big bills at convenience stores because they often have a variety of smaller denominations available, making it easier to pay for smaller purchases or receive change. Additionally, convenience stores are typically open late or even 24/7, providing convenient access to cash services outside of regular banking hours.

54. Carry Small Change and Notes

Carrying a pocket full of smaller notes such as 10,000 / 20,000 and 50,000 VND notes are ideal for paying for transport or food at local restaurants. Food vendors and taxi drivers often don’t have change to break a 100,000, 200,000 or 500,000 VND notes.

55. ATMs in Vietnam

ATMs are readily available across major cities in the country. However, it’s a good idea to carry some cash on hand for small purchases or when visiting rural areas where ATMs may be scarce.

We have found HSBC ATMs great to use and they have a higher withdrawal limit.

Top Tip: To save a lot of money wen travelling overseas, choose a Credit Card that refunds international ATM fees.

56. Inform Your Bank About Your Travel Plans

Before embarking on your journey to Vietnam, it’s crucial to inform your bank about your travel plans. This step is essential because using foreign cards abroad might trigger security measures by your bank and result in blocked transactions or frozen accounts.

By notifying your bank about your upcoming trip, they will be aware that you will be using your debit or credit card in Vietnam. This proactive measure helps prevent any unnecessary inconveniences during your travels. It’s a good idea to inquire about any fees associated with international card usage, such as foreign transaction fees or currency conversion charges. Being aware of these fees beforehand can help you plan your expenses more effectively.

57. Haggling in Vietnam

When you’re in Vietnam, bargaining is a common practice and it can be a fun way to interact with the locals. While department stores and big shops have fixed prices, you can still haggle at local markets to improve your bargaining skills.

When bargaining in Vietnam, it’s generally recommended to start with a price that is about half of what the vendor initially asks for. Negotiate until you reach a compromise somewhere in the middle. If the price is too high, don’t hesitate to walk away. Surprisingly, this can be an effective strategy as the vendor might even chase after you and be willing to renegotiate.

58. Tipping is Not Expected in Vietnam

Tipping is not the custom in Vietnam and there is no mandatory requirement to tip anyone. However, of course, small tips for great service are very much appreciated.

Budgeting for Your Vietnam Trip

Budgeting for your Vietnam trip is important because it helps you plan and allocate your finances wisely, ensuring that you have enough money for transportation, accommodation, food, activities, and unexpected expenses.

59. Plan Your Budget Carefully

It’s essential to consider all aspects of your expenses when planning a trip overseas. By breaking down the costs of accommodation, transportation, meals, and activities in advance, you can ensure that you make the most of your money while enjoying an unforgettable experience.

Accommodation: One of the first things to consider when budgeting for your Vietnam trip is accommodation. The country offers a wide range of options suitable for every budget. From luxury hotels to cozy guesthouses and hostels, you’ll find something that fits your needs. If you’re looking to save money on accommodation, consider staying in budget-friendly guesthouses or hostels that offer comfortable rooms at affordable prices.

Transportation: Getting around in Vietnam can be an adventure in itself. To keep transportation costs within your budget, opt for public buses or trains instead of private taxis whenever possible. These options are not only cheaper, but also provide an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. For shorter distances within cities or towns, consider renting a bicycle or using ride-sharing apps like Grab.

Meals: Vietnamese cuisine is known for its delicious flavours and affordability. To save on meals during your trip, take advantage of the abundant street food options available throughout the country. Street food vendors offer a variety of dishes at incredibly reasonable prices. Don’t miss out on trying popular street foods like banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), pho (noodle soup), or fresh spring rolls.

Activities: Exploring Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage doesn’t have to break the bank. Research free or low-cost attractions such as temples, pagodas, and public parks that offer unique insights into Vietnamese history and traditions without any extra cost. Many cities have free walking tours led by knowledgeable locals who can provide valuable insights into the area’s history and culture.

Packing Tips for Vietnam Travel

When packing for your trip to Vietnam, it is important to get it right to ensure you are comfortable no matter what the weather is like, or where you visit..

60. Don’t Over Pack

Clothes are cheap to buy in Vietnam and it is hard to resist shopping at the markets for some bargains. Pack light and buy any extras you need while here. Also, it is cheap and easy to get clothing washed all around Vietnam.

61. Pack Lightweight, Breathable Clothes

One of the most important things to keep in mind is the country’s tropical climate. The weather can be hot and humid, especially during the summer months. Therefore, it is essential to pack lightweight clothing that will keep you comfortable throughout your journey.

Opt for breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen that allow air circulation and help wick away sweat. Loose-fitting clothes are also recommended as they provide better ventilation and prevent overheating. Pack plenty of t-shirts, shorts, skirts, and dresses to stay cool during your explorations.

62. Pack a Rain Jacket or Umbrella

Vietnam experiences sudden showers throughout the year, particularly during the rainy season which typically runs from May to October. To prepare for these unexpected downpours, make sure to include a rain jacket or an umbrella in your packing list.

63. Pack Appropriate Clothing for Temple Visits

To show the proper respect when visiting Vietnam’s beautiful temples, you will need to pack clothes that will cover your shoulders and knees. Lightweight long pants and long sleeved shirts are ideal for this. A sarong (see below) or scarf is great to throw in your bag for an unplanned temple visit.

64. Pack a Sarong

Sarongs are so versatile and should be an essential on any packing list for Vietnam. Use it as a cover up on the beach, in lieu of a beach towel, as a picnic blanket, to protect yourself from the sun, to cover your shoulders when visiting a temple, or even as a layer if the air-conditioner in a bus is too cold…

65. Pack Insect Repellent and Sunscreen

 As mentioned above, good quality sunscreen and insect repellent can be very expensive and / or hard to find in Vietnam. We recommend you bring your own insect repellent, preferably with 50% DEET, and a good quality broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF.

Sustainable and Responsible Vietnam Travel Tips

It is important to practice sustainable and responsible travel in Vietnam by supporting local businesses, respecting the culture and environment, and minimizing waste to preserve the country’s natural beauty and cultural heritage for future generations.

top tip for travelling in vietnam - shop selling authentic handmade vietnamese products
Purchase souvenirs directly from artisans or local markets

66. Respect the Environment

Respecting the environment is crucial when traveling to Vietnam. One of the most significant ways to do so is by avoiding single-use plastics. These harmful materials contribute to pollution, especially in coastal areas where they often end up in the ocean, endangering marine life. Instead, opt for reusable water bottles and tote bags during your trip.

If you’re passionate about preserving Vietnam’s beautiful beaches, consider participating in beach clean-ups. Various organizations and local communities organize these events regularly, providing an opportunity for tourists to give back while enjoying their vacation. By joining a beach clean-up, you actively contribute to keeping the coastline pristine and protecting its diverse ecosystems.

67. Support Local Communities

Supporting local communities plays a vital role in ensuring that Vietnam tourism benefits everyone involved. In Vietnam, there are several ways you can support locals and make a positive impact on their lives. One way is by purchasing souvenirs directly from artisans or local markets. By doing so, you not only acquire unique handcrafted items but also support traditional craftsmanship that has been passed down through generations.

Another option is to visit social enterprises that give back to society. These businesses empower disadvantaged individuals by providing them with employment opportunities and fair wages. By patronizing these establishments, you help create a more equitable society while experiencing authentic Vietnamese culture first-hand.

68. Be Mindful of Cultural Norms

Vietnam boasts a rich cultural heritage that should be respected by all visitors. When visiting religious sites such as temples or pagodas, it’s essential to dress modestly and follow any specific guidelines provided at each location. This demonstrates respect for the beliefs and practices of the local community.

Interacting with locals requires sensitivity towards cultural norms as well. Vietnamese people are known for their warmth and hospitality but appreciating their customs will help foster positive interactions. For instance, it is customary to greet others with a slight bow or a handshake rather than hugging or kissing. Learning a few basic Vietnamese phrases, such as “Xin chào” (hello) or “Cảm ơn” (thank you), can also go a long way in showing respect and building connections.

FAQs: Tips for Travelling Vietnam

Is it safe to travel alone in Vietnam?

Traveling alone in Vietnam is generally safe as long as you take necessary precautions. Stick to well-lit areas at night, avoid displaying valuable items openly, and be cautious of your surroundings. It’s always a good idea to stay connected with someone back home and inform them of your itinerary.

How clean is Vietnam?

Vietnam’s cleanliness varies from city to city. While some areas may be clean, others can be littered. We have found that because there are very few rubbish bins around, people tend do throw their rubbish on the footpath or street.

How communist is Vietnam?

Vietnam has a communist government but has implemented market-oriented policies. It maintains a one-party system and restricts political freedoms.

How much do you tip a guide in Vietnam?

The standard tipping amount for travel guides in Vietnam is around 10-15% of the total cost of the tour. However, tipping is not mandatory and depends on your satisfaction with the service.

How much money should I bring for Vietnam trip?

When traveling to Vietnam, it’s recommended to bring around US$50 – 100 per day for accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. Plan accordingly!

Is it Saigon or HCMC?

While the city is officially called Ho Chi Minh City, many locals still refer to it as Saigon.

How much is 1 bowl of pho in Vietnam?

In Vietnam, the average price for a bowl of pho is around 40,000 to 60,000 Vietnamese Dong, equivalent to approximately US$1.50 to $2.50.

Is Vietnam or Bali cheaper?

Vietnam is generally cheaper than Bali in terms of accommodation, food, and transportation. However, prices can vary depending on the specific location and type of services.

Can I use US dollars in Vietnam?

While some hotels and tourist establishments may accept US dollars, it’s advisable to use Vietnamese dong (VND) for most transactions. You can exchange currency at banks or withdraw cash from ATMs throughout the country.

What is Tet holiday in Vietnam?

Tet, also known as the Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in Vietnam. It usually falls between late January and early February and is a time for family reunions, feasts, and celebrations. Many businesses may close during this period, so it’s essential to plan your trip accordingly.

Does Vietnam hate the US and France?

Vietnam’s relationship with the US and France has evolved over time. While there may be historical tensions, it is inaccurate to say that Vietnam hates either country.

Can I drink tap water in Vietnam?

It’s generally not recommended to drink tap water in Vietnam. Stick to bottled water or boiled / filtered water for drinking and brushing your teeth.

Is Vietnam easy to travel around?

Yes! Vietnam is very easy to travel around with a variety of transportation options to suit all budgets including Grab taxis, buses, trains and domestic flights.

In Summary: Our Top Tips for Travelling Vietnam

By now, you should have a solid understanding of the essential traveling to Vietnam tips and information needed for a successful trip to this enchanting country. From obtaining your visa to exploring must-visit destinations, we’ve covered it all.

Now that you’re equipped with all this knowledge, it’s time to start planning your dream trip to Vietnam. Whether you’re seeking bustling cities or serene landscapes, Vietnam has something for everyone. So pack your bags, embrace the unknown, and get ready for an unforgettable experience in this beautiful country!

Essential Travel Planning Resources for Vietnam

These are our favourite companies to use when we travel to Vietnam. They consistently turn up the best deals and offer great customer service, and overall, are better than their competitors. These companies are always our starting point when we need to book a flight, hotel, tour, transportation etc.

Book a Tour:
We mostly travel independently, however, some places are better to visit with a guided tour. We use both GetYourGuide and Viator to find great deals on tours in Vietnam.

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