It can be challenging to explore an unfamiliar place; for first time travellers to Vietnam, there are several travel tips that will surely change the game for you.
Vietnam is a vast country with so much place to see and explore. From exciting attractions in Ho Chi Minh, top beaches, and best street food around the country. Here’s a list of important travel tips for first time travellers to Vietnam!
Familiarize the currency
Vietnam’s money is called “dong”. Its denomination ranges from 200 to 500,000 (approximately 21 USD). You’d be surprised you can easily be a millionaire when in this country because due to its currency, there are instances wherein your money reaches to a point where the zeros can be overwhelming.
Not to mention, some of its notes look similar like its 10,000d note and 200,000d note are both brown. On the other hand, their 20,000d and 500,000d are blue. Due to these similarities, you might end up confused which ones to hand over to a taxi driver or when out for shopping.
It would be best to familiarize with your notes prior to even leaving your place. Segregate the notes in your wallet to avoid overpaying anyone or paying an inadequate amount.
Most hotels, restaurants and tour companies around the country accept credit and debits cards however, to avoid incurring additional fees it would be best to use cash for your transactions.
One good thing about travelling to Vietnam is ATMs are mostly available everywhere. If you have foreign money with you, you can easily have it exchanged at the bank or some local gold shops. Also look out for currency exchange at the airport!
Be mindful of taxi frauds
The most common means of transportation in Vietnam are motorcycle taxis – the best option to explore the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. However, despite how exciting it could be, you have to be mindful of fraud. It would be great to note the trust-worthy taxi companies are Mai Linh and Vinasun which both have apps for ease of access.
Vinasun drivers wear dark green shirts with a maroon tie while Mai Linh drivers wear green outfits.
There are also instances wherein you might encounter taxis imitating the said driver uniforms so be on alert. These imitators use the company’s name and alter some letters to look legit, basic examples are Mei Linh or Mai Lin instead of Mai Linh. These imitators will charge double or meters have been manipulated. There will also be instances wherein the driver won’t switch the meter on while driving.
A common situation where the meter is not switched on is the driver will demand a certain amount as payment in a location where other means of transportation is scarce and you will be forced to give in. Also, it may help to ask for a driver’s license, if the driver can’t present any then you know.
If you’re not confident in hailing a taxi, try ride-sharing apps especially when you’re in major cities around the country. Grab, Gojek or Be offers car and motorcycle options.
Be cautious of your surroundings
Pickpocketing often happens around Vietnam. Albeit, you can expect less of the violent crime evolving firearms, snatchers roam everywhere.
Make sure to stay vigilant wherever you go exploring. Important documents such as passport, IDs and visa must be kept safe in your accommodation. You can also have them photocopied just in case you will need to show identifications in one of your trips.
As much as possible, don’t wear too much jewelry. It is also advisable to place your bag in front when strolling the streets, this way, you have your eyes on your bag.
If there is no need to use your gadgets in the open, keep them inside your bag for safety. When partying, make sure to drink moderately.
Intoxicated foreigners are an easy target for snatchers or pickpockets. If you think you had too much to drink, make sure to go back to your hotel with a friend or better yet, just book yourself a grab.
Huge cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh have overwhelming congestion. Too much congestion that it’s a matter of life and death even when crossing the streets during rush hour.
They key to surviving without a broken bone? Keep moving at a steady pace. Do NOT hesitate. Drivers will adjust to you, so if in any case you hesitate, there’s a chance of you getting into an accident.
If you want to be acknowledged by drivers, you can just raise a hand to be seen.
If you want to try and drive a motorbike, it is advisable to drive along less busy streets like Hoi An, Dalat or Phu Quoc. Always wear a helmet and me mindful of the exhaust pipe to avoid getting burnt on the leg. When riding a motorbike, it is best to wear closed shoes for extra layer of protection on your feet as motorbikes tend to drive close to each other
Familiarize the transfer options
There are several transfer options to cover travelling around Vietnam. The cheapest option would be by buses. You can save on the fare but you will have to slightly compromise comfort. Seats on buses don’t offer much space to stretch, so if you are over 1.6m it can get really uncomfortable.
Next comes the train. A railway is stretched to cover Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and other distant cities. The train ride is surely comfortable and comes with breathtaking views as it is considered one of the most amazing train journeys in the world.
If you have the means to get on a domestic flight, then the third option is book a domestic flight. It is definitely the most convenient however, not the most practical. There are several budget airlines that you can choose. However, the cons is that most of these airlines are known to not follow its scheduled ETAs and ETD plus a strict carry-on luggage limits.
For better service and pricing, make sure to check Vietnam’s national carrier – Vietnam Airlines.