I’m heading to Vietnam in a couple of days to visit Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Sapa, and I’m pretty excited! It’s my first time to Vietnam, and like any new country, there are a few idiosyncrasies that I’ve found about it in my pre-trip research. It will be interesting to see if my expectations gel with the reality, but these are some Vietnam travel tips I’ve come across.
Vietnam Travel Tip #1: Become instant millionaires
The Vietnamese currency is called the Dong, and at an exchange rate of 0.000051 to the Australian Dollar, I expect to become an instant millionaire the moment I change my first AUD$100 into the local currency. It’s going to be a struggle doing the maths while I’m there, and it’s not going to be helped by all those zeros. Price tags on merchandise can also be confusing, as apparently some prices are denoted in thousands, others in millions. We’ll have to be sure before we buy anything.
Vietnam Travel Tip #2: Book tours in advance if you have limited time
I’d heard a few scary stories from other travellers who’ve been to Hanoi before about taxi scams, hotel scams, basically scams of every nature and size. This, coupled with our extremely limited time in north Vietnam, meant that organising local tours before we arrived was key to ensuring we got to squeeze in as much seeing and doing as possible in the short time we are there. We didn’t want to spend our limited time in Hanoi going from tour agent to tour agent, parsing out the chaff.
There’s plenty of tour agents in Hanoi to choose from, but bereft of a word of mouth recommendation and wary of the false reviews on TripAdvisor, I decided to take a punt with Ha Long Bay Legends, a new-ish outfit based in Hanoi. I’d connected with Maria Nielson, the Sales Executive of Ha Long Bay Legends, online, and her impeccable customer service convinced me to give them a go.
Vietnam Travel Tip #3: Go softly, softly
As in many other Asian countries, Vietnam is quite conservative in dress, speech and behaviour. I plan to dress modestly – no spaghetti strap tanks, no short shorts or skirts! Pagoda visits should be treated with respect, which means no torn or ripped clothing.
The Vietnamese also place a lot of emphasis on “face”, and a loss of face is to be avoided at all costs.
If things don’t go to plan, or if a bargaining session isn’t going overly well, I’ll have to remember to leave the smiles on and to keep calm. There are places and situations where raised voices and curt tones may get you what you want, but not in Vietnam.
Vietnam Travel Tip #4: Be aware of your surroundings
I’ve heard that there can be petty theft incidences in Hanoi – the tips that I’ve received so far include never leaving belongings unattended or even on an empty seat next to you, making sure bags are secure and held in front of you while walking or on a xe om, and ensuring that you keep valuables locked away in the hotel safe. It’s also recommended not to flash your valuables around – jewelry, cameras, branded goods and watches are best kept discreet.
Vietnam Travel Tip #5: Brave the bikes
Almost every other travel article about Vietnam talks about the traffic and the motorbikes. Crossing the street takes some skill in Vietnam, whether you are in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. The key here is to walk with confidence! Otherwise I’ll just have to find a friendly local Vietnamese to tag behind every time I want to cross the street!
Is there anything else I need to know about Vietnam before I go? We will visit Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Sapa, spreading out our seven days in the country more or less equally amongst these destinations. What should I eat? What pagodas, monuments and museums should I visit? Any recommendations and tips? Sound off in the comments below!