Traveling in Vietnam can be a real challenge for visitors, especially the ones that have never experienced the tropical climate and did not grow up in Eastern culture. As long as you are well-prepared with all the Vietnam travel tips, your trip would definitely be enjoyable. Breathtaking landscapes, diverse cuisine, and cultural variety are waiting for you to discover in Vietnam. It is totally worth your effort to overcome all the challenges. Here are some of our advice to make you feel more assured to explore all the hidden gems of this country.
Check out Weather Updates
Vietnam has two main seasons: the dry season and the wet season. Although there are still many interesting activities to do with the wet season, it is apparent that the dry one is more convenient for your exploration. The good news is, although the rainy season lasts up to six months, the weather in Vietnam varies widely due to its span of many degrees of latitude and the differences in topography. Therefore, it is always a good time to visit this country. We can divide Vietnam into three regions based on the weather: the North, the Central, and the South. Marking the transition between the two seasons is the monsoon. The summer monsoon brings rainfall to the North and the South from May to October, and winter monsoon brings rain or even severe flood and hurricanes to the Central for the other months of the year.
The best time to visit the whole country is in February, followed by March and April. The temperature is relatively acceptable, and the precipitation is far from abundant. We also celebrate our biggest holiday in February: Tet holiday – the Vietnamese New Year, it is a great chance to learn more about our culture.
Don’t Bring Too Many Warm Clothes
Vietnam is in the tropical zone, and the temperature often stays in the 20s or 30s oC (between 68oF and 95oF). Therefore, lightweight cotton clothes or breathable clothing is the best choice to cope with the all-year-round hot and humid weather in Vietnam.
Only when you plan to go to the North in the winter should you think about bringing warm clothes. Most of Vietnam never sees snow, and compared to the climate in the West, the cold here is not severe at all. Winter temperatures in the North typically range between 11 and 14oC (51.8-57.2oF) in the plains and below 11oC (51.8oF) in the mountainous areas.
Carry your most comfortable shoes and sneakers for walking during your Vietnam visit. If possible, bring more than one pair or buy some slippers in local markets when you visit Vietnam in the wet season since unexpected downpours are an enemy of your shoes.
Also, it is advisable to dress modestly and appropriately. If you are planning to visit the pagodas and temples, bring some T-shirts, shirts, pants, jeans or long dresses (in general, clothing that has over-knee length and sleeves).
See the full Vietnam Packing List here
Look up Relevant Information about the Place You Are about to Visit
Vietnam has 54 ethnicities, each of which has a different culture, and 64 cities and provinces that develop unequally, so if possible, search for the customs of the residents and the available services of your destination to avoid unwanted situations.
If you are planning to travel to other cities besides Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, find out how you would get there after landing in Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi) or Tan Son Nhat Airport (Ho Chi Minh) and how long it would take.
Although Vietnam is not a big country, it sometimes takes a lot of time to go here and there. Plan sufficient time to enjoy your trip without rush – behold the beauty of Mother Nature, talk to the locals, and give yourself some rest. Don’t be greedy by cramming a lot of destinations into your plan, especially if a big city like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi is in your plan, account for some more time you may need to recover from the crowdedness and traffic jams.
Stay Calm When It Comes to Spending Money
Foreign tourists love the joke that they instantly become “millionaires” after exchanging money since 1,000,000 VND equals about 43 USD (checked on August 6th, 2018). It’s fun to feel so but don’t get carried away and spend way over what you should.
Vietnam is considered a good place for budget travel. Looking at the average prices of everything, you’ll see why. A night at an excellent affordable hotel cost you around 9-16 US$, at a mid-range hotel 25-50 US$, and at a luxurious hotel from 100 US$. Food in Vietnam is also offered at good prices in many places. A convenient, clean, and delicious dish can cost just 3-4 US$ in Ho Chi Minh City or Ha Noi, two of the most expensive cities in Vietnam. If you want some Asian ingredients to cook, you can easily find them in every supermarket or local market. And lastly, since you cannot drink tap water in Vietnam, you can buy a bottle of 500ml for about 0.2 US$ in any convenience store. Most travelers who have come to Vietnam said they had spent about 30 US$/day in Vietnam for all the necessary costs.
Be Careful with the Vietnamese Banknotes and Their zeroes
Below are the photos of all kinds of Vietnam banknotes. The bills worth below 10,000 VND are made from paper, while the rest are polymerized notes. The blue color of the 20,000 VND and the 500,000 VND is quite similar, and their sizes are also not significantly different. Even some Vietnamese people get those two notes wrong when they are in a hurry, so be careful.
Make sure you receive the correct form of Vietnam banknote
Besides, it is a good habit and also a norm in Vietnam to check again whether the owner calculates correctly the total cost of goods or services you have used. The fact that Vietnamese money involves multiple zeros may be unfamiliar to you and make you lose caution, so take more care with this little step. Read more on Vietnamese Currency.
Many interesting traditional products are sold at local markets. However, chances are the shopkeepers would overcharge you. Don’t hesitate to haggle in these places, sometimes you can get what you want at half of the price that is offered at first.
Usually, the sellers would tell you the price in VND, however, not many of them have fluent English, so they would show you buy raising their fingers. Make sure that you understand what they want to say, especially when you ask for the price of a serving because after finishing your meal, you have no choice but to pay them, no matter how much it is.
A trick is to search for its price online and remember how it usually costs. Prices can be differential depending on the quality but decide the maximum amount that you are willing to pay and stick to it. Vietnamese sellers would concede when their potential customers are about to walk away. So if you are not pleased with the price, leave the stores, they might call you back and accept your suggested price. If they don’t, keep walking, you can find similar products at many other places with lower rates. Therefore, if you have time, you do not need to hurriedly buy the stuff you like the first time you see it, walk around the market until you find a good one. And remember to always ask for the cost before using any products or services from street food, souvenirs to cyclos or taking pictures.
More on bargaining in Vietnam.
With excellent bargaining skills, you can buy produces at reasonable prices in local markets
Don’t be Shy to Make Friends with Locals
If you are shaking your head while thinking about the presence of thieves in Vietnam, here is the good news for you: Most of the people here are hospitable, lovely, and always smile. There are some cases that they may seem cold and unfriendly, but as long as they recognize your goodwill, they would treat you as their friends. Are you afraid of not remembering all the Vietnam travel tips? Don’t worry, the Vietnamese are willing to help you in any circumstances.
Vietnamese people are open to sharing about their country, culture, and lifestyle. They can tell you story after story of history and are eager to explain carefully any of your questions. Their English might not be perfect and hard to understand, please be patient, they are trying to tell you everything they know to help you. Creating enjoyment when visiting this country is the greatest pride to them.
Get off the tourist trails and approach the ordinary life of people here, you will discover more than you expected. If you fancy attractive activities with local guides and honest residents so that you can observe Vietnam from many perspectives, all customized for you, check out our tours. We promise not to waste your time in irrelevant shops; every stop would be meaningful!
Vietnamese people have lovely smiles
Check out Many Cities with Different Vibes
As a developing country, some cities in Vietnam are always hustle and bustle, but some of the others still have a peaceful atmosphere, as if the busy urban life has no impact on them. Hanoi, one of the most crowded cities, was chosen as the capital city of Vietnam more than a million years ago. After many ups and downs of history, it now remains as the head of the country. The traffic here is so overwhelming that people in Vietnam have a joke that goes “Hà Nội không vội được đâu” or “You cannot be hurried in Hanoi”. Contrast to the noise of vehicles and the modern buildings is the Old Quarter, an outside remaining part of the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. This place is said to be the soul of Hanoi, with the plexus of roads the antique houses that have not changed for years.
Compared to the capital, Ho Chi Minh City must have more modern vibes. Numerous skyscrapers and high-rise apartments have been built in recent years as this city has become a dream place to live for many people. However, if you have a chance to discover the other sides, you will see that no matter how flashy the city is, the residents here prefer simplicity in their lifestyle.
Another city that is worth your visit is Hoi An, where you can enjoy your bike riding across the rice fields and your walk in the Ancient Town. The Town is opened mainly for tourism, no bikes or cars are allowed in this area. Everything is antique, from the signs of the stores to the bridges, from the biggest temples to the smallest decorators. When night comes, the glimmering light from the red lanterns is the only lighting source since there are no street lamps, creating a truly ancient atmosphere.
If you want to escape from the cities and look for more natural places, consider the mountainous places like Sapa, other provinces around Hanoi in the Red River, or the Mekong Delta.
Save Your Money for an Ultimate Treat of Vietnamese Food
Vietnam is the go-to place for food lovers! Vietnamese food is not only made from traditional recipes but it is also influenced by the seasoning of China and some Western cooking styles, which all together create diversity for the national cuisine. There are hundreds of dishes, and each can have many variations depending on the regional style and the cook’s taste. In particular, people in the North usually do not add too much salt into their food, while many dishes in the Central are very spicy, and ones in the South, especially the Southwest region, contain a considerable amount of sugar. Lastly, street food should be a must on your to-eat list! Read more of our Vietnam travel tips on Best Vietnamese Dishes and Must-try Drinks.
Vietnamese dishes are made from many ingredients and herbs, sometimes, it is hard to know what is included just by using your eyes. So if you are allergic to any food or even seasonings, do some research before deciding to try out a dish, or ask the cook carefully about the ingredients.
Numerous dishes are waiting for you to taste
Always Ask before Taking a Picture
Many Vietnamese people are happy to let you take some photos of their daily life. But don’t forget to ask for their permission first, especially the minorities. Just one simple question (if they do not understand, show them your camera or phone) and you will receive their brightest smile for your photos. In religious places, you need to be more careful. Cameras are not forbidden, but there are some limited places where you can take as many pictures as possible. Ask the people in charge, usually the monks, to confirm it and let them know your purpose. Turn off your flash so that it will not disturb the people that come to pray.
Never Place Your Belongings Unattentively
Always keep an eye on your luggage in crowded places like bus stations, train stations, or restaurants. Pickpocketing and thefts can happen in big cities, but there are ways to save yourself from the misfortune. Check your wallet from time to time. Use shoulder bags, slings bags, and crossbody bags rather than purses without straps or handles. Wear the strap around your neck and cross your shoulder, always put a hand on the bag if you can. A backpack is not a bad option, but there have been some situations that theft used the knife to cut it and stole the stuff inside. Your camera and phone also need a strip, put it around your wrist or neck. Hold them as tightly as possible and don’t stand too near to the road while taking your photos. Dress modestly and hide all your expensive personal belongings away from exposed sight. Better safe than sorry.
Getting around in Vietnam and Bus-taking tips
Driving in Vietnam can be compared to a dangerous sport. Roads in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are always full of vehicles of different sizes. Check out our guide to master the skill of street crossing and prepare yourself for how crazy the traffic is. Although scooters are the most popular means of transport here, we do not recommend you to ride it yourself even if you are strongly confident in your skills (the reasons are listed later).
Use taxis from reliable brands such as Mai Linh, Vinasun or ride-sharing services like Grab. Be conscious to avoid the taxi scams. Many tourists might want to save money by using buses. That is another challenge for foreigners. The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transportation has designed an app that is available in English to give directions on how to travel around this city by bus. Download it on your phone and learn how to use it before you actually go. However, the buses are crammed in high peak times, and since they are designed to be suitable for Vietnamese people, the size of them may make you uncomfortable. The price of a bus ticket is 5,000-6,000 VND so prepare change to get yours. It is also essential to always take care of your bag on the way.
Traffic can be crowded in big cities
Look for bus tickets to travel between Vietnam cities:
Motorbike is Great, but It Is for the Adventurous
Riding a motorbike requires a lot of patience, calmness, and skills. You will soon realize that some drivers do not follow the laws at all. Even if you have ridden a motorbike in another country before, it can be a totally different experience in Vietnam. Many foreigners have accidents in their first try. Some get small injuries like bruises or small scratches, some get much more serious ones. We recommend you find a local tour guide who can show your more characteristics of this country as well as keep your journey safe.
Have a look at our article on why you should travel in Ho Chi Minh City on a motorbike and our customized motorbike tours with qualified guides, insurances, and helmets.
Internet Connection Is Cheap and Widely Available
You can use high-speed Wifi in any public place from airports to hotels, restaurants or coffee shops, without paying fees. It is also easy to get a local SIM card with Internet data to stay connected, even in rural areas. There are many types of SIM card that offer 4G only, or includes phone calls and mobile data. Save you money by calling through apps like Facetime, Whatsapp, Facebook; no matter what type you buy, it is still incredibly cheap. You need to get your card from a reputable provider or else it is useless. Read more on How to buy a Sim card in Ho Chi Minh City (the same methods can be applied to other cities) and some SIM cards and mobile data plans in Vietnam.
Learn Some Common Expressions in Vietnamese
Here are some utterances that you may often use during your visit to Vietnam.
|Its pronunciation is similar to “Come on”|
|I’m a vegetarian.|
Tôi ăn chay
/Toy ahn chai/
|Say it to the waiter before you order.|
How much is this?
Bao nhiêu tiền?
/Baow nyew tyen/
|A way to begin bargaining.|
|I cannot eat “…”||Tôi không ăn “…”|
/Toy kong ahn/
|Insert the name of the food you want to avoid or point to it.|
|You are so nice.|| Bạn thật tốt bụng. |
/Bahn thak tot buhn/
You can download the Google Translate app on your phone for easier communication. And another strategy to get your message across is, of course, body language! However, remember to check out do’s and dont’s in Vietnamese non-verbal communication.
Summary of Travel in Vietnam Tips
These Vietnam travel tips may not be an exhaustive list. Still, the solid tips are always doing careful research about your destinations, being polite and open, and staying calm in the face of any problems. Your Vietnam trip would be wonderful and fascinating. Besides the tips, we already got some detailed travel guides for the most interesting cities in Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Noi, Da Nang, Sapa to help you make up your plan.