The Simple Guide for Planning a Trip to Vietnam 🇻🇳

Are you planning a trip to vietnam? Here is some useful information you need to know before you go, in a simple way.

An introduction

Many people might not know this, but Vietnam is one of the safest countries to travel to. The police keep a pretty tight grip on social order and there are rarely reports of muggings, robberies or sexual assaults. Nonetheless, just as travelling in any country, issues can arise.

You need to know certain things before travelling to minimise the likelihood of any unforeseen situations happening. It’s the only way you can truly enjoy the journey without any fuss or unnecessary ‘excitement’.

What you need to know before planning a trip to Vietnam can be simply broken down into 3 stages – thinking about the trip, planning the trip and during the trip.

1. Thinking about your trip to Vietnam

If you are still looking for information/inspiration to plan your journey you can check out the Vietnam Travel Guide by Lonely Planet.

See about doing routes that are well known to save time on researching your own. There are many known routes for independent travellers in Vietnam.

Find out what the best/cheapest way for you to to get to vietnam is. Once you’re there, how does local transport work? What are the prices for accomodation?

Consider seasonality. The weather in Vietnam is more or less determined by the monsoon. Look at some weather reports and figure out what would be the best time to go.

2. Planning your trip to Vietnam

Find out if you need a visa. If your country has visa restrictions you need to apply for a visa and wait to receive an approval letter. The visa itself can be obtained at the airport upon arrival.

An approval letter in an official letter issued by the Vietnam Department of Immigration, which allows you to enter Vietnam through one of the international airports in cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Kamran or Da Nang. Upon arrival you will have to apply for a visa at the airport by presenting your Approval Letter and passport. You will have to fill out some immigration forms, get a photo done and pay the visa fee and then you are good to go!

For UK citizens who are staying in Vietnam for less than 15 days an exemption is applied. If you plan to stay for longer than that you can apply for a visa here.

Make sure your passport is up to date. It might be obvious to some, but a lot of people don’t even know when their passport expiration date is. Your passport has to have at least 6 more months on it before you go on a trip to Vietnam – this is a strict mandatory condition of the Vietnamese government.

Make sure you see a doctor before you go.

A trip to Vietnam does not require vaccinations. Nevertheless, it is worth consulting with a doctor whether you personally need any special vaccinations or not. And also what antimalarial drugs should definitely be taken with you.

There is a risk of contracting malaria during a trip to Vietnam, but it’s mostly in rural areas. The risk is far, far lower if your trip to Vietnam mostly consists of visiting urban areas like the Mekong Delta, Red River Delta, as well as coastal lowlands of central Vietnam. If you are not prepared and find yourself without any antimalarial medicine it might be wise to stay away from any highlands below 1500m. Particularly, the three mountainous provinces of Dak lak, Dak Nong and Kon Tum. Others areas where there is a risk of contracting malaria from mosquito bites are the western regions of the coastal provinces of Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan and Quangtri.

Some advice on preventing mosquito bites. Mosquitos most often attack in the evening, at dusk or at night. Make sure there are mosquito nets in the rooms that you’re sleeping in. During the day you use repellents on your skin and clothes. You can get some good ones in aerosol or cream form.

Be smart. Get travel insurance. Thinking that you are avoiding trouble just by hoping that it won’t happen sometimes isn’t enough. There are circumstances beyond your control, therefore it’s better to be prepared in case your plans change and you’re now doing an unplanned visit to a doctor. The financial aspect is the last thing you want to be concerned about in that situation. To avoid this you have to get travel insurance before you go on your trip to Vietnam.

You can use this service to get a flexible, affordable and comprehensive travel insurance quote.

Get familiar with Vietnamese currency. In order for you not to be confused by the amount of zeros on the Vietnamese Dong (VND) notes its best to get familiar with it before you travel there. A good way to remember the values is to link the color to a note from your country. Once you are stocked up on the Vietnamese currency you should sort it in a descending order. The denominations of the Vietnamese Dong (VDN) are 500,000, 200,000, 100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 200 and 100.

Some places, including hotels and hostels may accept US dollars as well.

3. During your trip to Vietnam

Language. The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. English is the most popular foreign language in the country, but not that many people speak it. You might not find it hard to communicate in English in restaurants, hotels and with tour companies. But you will find it to be a much more difficult task to do that with the local residents.

Taxi drivers in cities may not understand English, so its better to have a business card with the hotel address. You should at least have it written down on a piece of paper or your phone. Uber is widely used in some cities, which makes getting around more convenient and cheaper.

Keeping Safe. Keep all of your valuables like jewelry, wallet, phone and passport away from the eyes of others. Dealings in Vietnam are mostly conducted in cash, so pickpocketing is an easy payday for some people. Minor thefts are common in all cities around the world, so use common sense.

To avoid getting scammed by taxi drivers you should order your taxi’s at the hotel or on Uber. If you have to get a taxi from the airport look out for legitimate taxi companies like Vinasun, Mai Linh and Hanoi Taxi.

Whatever you do, do not drink tap water. As in many countries in Southeast Asia, you have to use bottled water. A lot of travellers play it incredibly safe and don’t even use tap water to brush their teeth – a little extra to be honest. The recommendation to not drink tap water when you go abroad comes from how your body is affected by the effects of acclimatization. After a long flight and the change of timezones, change of daylight hours, different food, rate of water consumption, oxygen content in the air and air humidity are all contributing factors to acclimatization.

Keep personal hygiene on point to avoid infections. Make sure the dishes you eat from are clean and wash your hands or any fruit you may have. The temperature in the afternoon can get quite hot. If you’re planning to spend time outdoors get protection from the sun. Any wounds or cuts need to be properly treated. Wounds like that don’t heal well in hot climates.

Avoid eating foods in restaurants that are being marketed as ‘exotic’ or a ‘surprise’. These can be dog meat or cat meat dishes. It’s best to learn the Vietnamese words for these types of food. Thịt chó means dog meat and Thịt mèo means cat meat. Despite laws passed in 1997, which prohibited the use of cat meat it is a practice that still goes on. Illegally imported cats from China and Laos appear on the menus of some restaurants in Vietnam. Beware that cat meat can also be sold under a dish called “little tiger”.

Useful phone numbers:

  • Police: 113
  • Ambulance: 115
  • Fire Service: 114

You also need to know about local customs. You should try speaking to the local people. Vietnamese people are very friendly and welcoming. This makes for a great opportunity to get that fantastic ‘first-person’ experience. Nonetheless, you should learn the basics of local etiquette so that the local people are happy to communicate back to you.

One of the things that many people neglect before going on a trip to Vietnam is actually learning some of the basic phrases in Vietnamese. It’s enough to just know the basics like Xin chào (sin chow) for hello and Cảm ơn (gauhm uhhn) for thank you to make the locals appreciate your effort. It’s worth practicing pronunciation. Vietnamese language is tonal, meaning that words are pronounced in 6 different tones, which can change the meaning.

It’s polite to leave a tip in a restaurant. Your tip should reflect how you feel about the service you gpt and how satisfied you were with the food. The tipping amount is usually 10% of the total bill.

You can haggle and bargain with people in shops, at markets and even hotels. The price can sometimes be negotiated to be dropped by more than half. Just remember, your goal is to save and the sellers goal is to make as much money as possible.

Food in Vietnam

Vietnamese cuisine is simple and delicious. Many of their popular dishes can be tased in trendy restaurants and street food stalls without sacrificing much quality. That’s one thing to look forward to when you’re going on a trip to Vietnam.

The main principles are simplicity, fresh products, as well as addition of the perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and hot spices. Many Vietnamese dishes use a lot of fresh herbs.

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