What NOT to do in Vietnam

Expat Travel Guide: What NOT to do in Vietnam


Is Vietnam included on your adventure bucket list? Know what not to do in Vietnam before you even think about flying to the country to fulfil your travel goals. 

Every country has a set of standard guidelines, beliefs and culture that every traveler needs to know about. Not only to avoid getting behind bars but simply to avoid being rude and fall into an unwanted brawl. 

Here’s what you need to know about what not to do in Vietnam


  • Don’t take photos without asking for permission – This is a common mistake of some travelers thus it is the first on what not to do in Vietnam. The locals are naturally hospitable and welcoming bunch however, they are not really fond of being in the photos without their knowledge. Politely ask for permission and understand when they decline. At the UNESCO Hoi An Town, note that you are allowed to take photos but it comes with a price.

Taking photos of military areas is highly prohibited as it is a form of breach in national security – you might end up taking selfies inside a cell. There are several temples or pagodas that are not for taking photos as well.

  • “No” to showing too much affection – Most Asian countries adhere to culture standards – being refined, reserved and conservative are just some of the common norms in these countries.  This is in comparison to most Western countries. 

Public display of attention is not encouraged when travelling not only toVietnam but for most parts of Asia. 

Publicly torrid kissing and excessive cuddling can be rude to the eyes of the public.

  • Refrain from freaking out when crossing the streets in Vietnam – There are several means to get around exploring the country however, the road congestion can be overwhelming – especially if you are in major cities of Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. 

It is advised not to panic if you get caught up while crossing the streets. Do not hesitate should you wish to cross and maintain eye contact with drivers – panicking won’t help in any situation, breathe and walk on.


  • Keep both eyes on your valuables – Important documents such as your passport, visa and flight tickets, cash and credit cards must be stored in a safe place. There’s a high chance of being nicked by pickpockets or robbers especially in high density cities such as Ho Chi Minh. 

There have been cases wherein travelers have been robbed while on the streets of Ho Chi Minh – always be mindful of your stuff.

  • Removing shoes – The locals of Vietnam don’t wear their shoes inside the comforts of their home. It is considered impolite to use your shoes when entering a home.
  • Wear modest clothes – Temples, pagodas and churches are sacred places. Refrain from unnecessarily showing more skin – consider not wearing transparent clothes, skimpy shorts and skirts. Your clothes must cover your legs, arms and breast. 
  • Hold it in both hands – If you are to hand over or take something from someone, it is customary to hand it over in both hands. It  represents your respect towards people.
  • Before hopping in a cab – Consider the taxi brand name before hopping in, ask an estimate and look out for the meter while in the car. Some notable taxi brand names are Mai Linh, Vinsaun, and Futa. However, if in doubt, hire a Grab instead. 
  • Haggling in Vietnam – As a tourist some local vendors will take advantage of your innocence about Vietnamese money and will most likely to overcharge. Haggle as much as possible, one tip that some locals do when vendors won’t agree to bargaining is try to walk away – some vendors will surely call you back and negotiate. 
  • Check the weather forecast – Vietnam has sporadic weather conditions and it changes without a warning. It is best to have an umbrella handy, a foldable raincoat or perhaps a hat. Make sure to also know the location of your accommodation – try grabbing one of those hotel business cards. This will help you in case you get stranded under bad weather conditions and hail a taxi – most drivers can’t speak English so you can rely on showing the business card to the driver. 
  • Finish the food on your plate – Leaving food on your plate can mean you didn’t like it and is considered impolite to the local host. Also, you might want to stay a bit longer on the dining table, leaving too early would mean you don’t want to interact with them. This is also the same with eating too slow and eating quite a lot. 

To somehow win their hearts, try helping them when serving the dessert and strike a conversation – it can be challenging as they have a different language but they will surely appreciate your efforts!

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