Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia, on the coast of South China Sea. It’s a big and diverse country, famous for its natural beauty. For many it’s a country they plan to go on long-distance motorbike journey. Thousands of backpackers are doing it all the time, traveling either from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa. Many are claiming that it’s one of the best things to do in Vietnam.
Planning a holiday in Vietnam? Here are our best Vietnam travel tips, few of the most important things everyone traveling to Vietnam should know. No matter how you are gonna travel – by motoribike, bus, train or plane.
Vietnam Travel Tips
1. Do You Need a Visa to Go to Vietnam? Chances Are You Need
Citizens of more than half of the world’s countries need to obtain Vietnamese visa.
Do you need need a visa to go to Vietnam? You can check it out here on Wikipedia. It doesn’t look like the most up to date resource, but it’s the best I’ve found. You can also check with the foreign affairs office of your country. Citizens of some countries can stay in Vietnam for up to 90 days visa-free, some can obtain Vietnamese visa online. Rules differ.
If you need a visa to travel to Vietnam, here is how you can get Vietnamese visa easy and cheap. It’s also how we obtained our Vietnam tourist visa when traveling to Vietnam.
2. Vietnam Is Cheap Country to Travel. But Cheap Vietnam Group Tours…
Let’s say they aren’t too good.
Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean good. And it’s kind of obvious, usually. But there are also times when it’s not that obvious. Like in Vietnam, where everything seams so affordable.
See, local food is generally cheap in Vietnam. Budget hotels in Vietnam cost about the same like similar hotels in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia. Which is also cheap. And the quality is very similar. Sleeper buses are very comfy and cheap. And group day tours are very cheap, too. But… if we speak about Vietnam group tours, they may not be what you expect.
For example, this is how we imagined a Mekong Delta Tour (next photo).
Mekong Delta is one of the top places to see in Vietnam, one of the top Vietnam tourist spots so we were really eager to go there. A full day tour? Wow! We gonna see a lot of local life. Or at least that’s how we thought.
Because in reality “this part” lasted only about 10 minutes.
For the rest of the day we were visiting places where you can see how this and that is being produced. And, where of course, you can buy all of that. Yes, for most of the part it was interesting, like the visit to coconut candy factory, and it didn’t feel like a tourist trap, as prices were very reasonable as well. What I’m saying, though, is that it wasn’t what we were expecting.
And as a result we were quite disappointed.
The same thing we found out when researching about island hopping and day trips from Nha Trang. Many people said it’s not worth it to go on a group tour.
3. Sleeper Buses in Vietnam Can Be Awesome
If you choose the rigth bus company.
So far we’ve tried several bus companies in Vietnam, and Futa Bus Lines has been by far the best bus company in Vietnam. Hanh Cafe – worst. But at the same time I definitely wouldn’t say that it’s as bad as described by others. Especially taking into account how cheap it is to travel by bus in Vietnam.
How to travel in Vietnam? If you have time and want to spend as little as possible, then take a bus. If you have time and money isn’t an issue – think of taking a train. It will cost 2-3x times more and the journey will be about the same as long, but it’s also gonna be a more comfortable and more safe way to travel in Vietnam. Wanna travel as fast as possible – take a plane.
Yes, if we compare the prices sleeper buses is the cheapest mode of transportation in Vietnam (for long-distance travel).
And not only that – traveling on a sleeper bus in Vietnam you can have an (almost) proper rest. If the journey is long enough and you aren’t a light sleeper. I had always thought that night buses in Thailand are very OK. But night buses in Vietnam is completely on another level. If you like to try different modes of local transportation (same like I do) then you should add it to your list of top things to do in Vietnam.
These buses are like no others I have seen so far.
4. Be Careful With Money
Yep, you are a millionaire now. Simply by arriving to Vietnam. Because the currency here is so weak, that you can buy 1 million Vietnamese Dong for less than 50 USD. As fun and interesting it may seem at the beginning, it’s can also be very confusing having thousands in your pocket and seeing that you can’t even buy a meal.
When you are used to spending thousands and millions you will still need to pay close attention to the bills you are handing over. Because some of them are almost the same color and look very similar.
So don’t mistaken 100 000 for 10 000 VND, 200 000 for 20 000 VND, 500 000 for 50 000 VND.
5. Grab and Uber is Widely Used in Vietnam, But Taxis Are Cheap Too
If you are traveling solo in Vietnam, go for Uber/Grab Bike. It’s dirt cheap.
If you are a couple, family or group of people traveling together, go for Uber/Grab car or taxi.
I like Grab and Uber a lot because of the ease of use. But in Vietnam it also saves time. Taxi drivers here rarely speak almost any English. But with Grab and Uber it’s not a problem, because you don’t have to speak with the driver.
But if there isn’t anyone around or you don’t want to wait, know, that traditional taxis in Vietnam aren’t expensive either. Mai Linh and Vinasun are two of the most reputable taxi companies in Vietnam. Some 5 years ago you would hear a lot about taxi scams in Vietnam. But it’s way less of a problem anymore.
6. Vietnam Is Much Bigger Than You Think. Think of Flying
The distance between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is about 1600 kilometers / 1000 miles. If you’ll be traveling by bus from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City you’ll spend at least 48 hours on the road. So you can imagine, that it can be tricky to travel all the way across the country, visiting all the best Vietnam tourist attractions, during a 2-week holiday in Vietnam.
It’s possible, though. If you take night trains and night buses.
But that will be one very tiring journey. At the same time there are 10 international airports in Vietnam, and about the same as many domestic airports. You can get to almost any corner of Vietnam by plane. And often it’s cheap to fly in Vietnam.
7. Always Be Careful on Pedestrian Crossings
Because of all the scooters on the road.
And because they almost never break.
Unless they run out of petrol.
It’s one of the things I really don’t like about Vietnam. There are scooters everywhere. It’s just crazy. If you aren’t on a scooter you are nothing here. You are s**t.
You can’t cross the street on a green light, because if you are on a scooter you very likely don’t care about the traffic lights.
You can’t walk on the sidewalk, because of scooters driving there from all directions and in all directions, and sometimes faster than on the roads.
Pedestrian crossing? Forget about it.
Traffic here is like nowhere else we’ve been. Traffic in India now seems like traffic in Germany.
I’ve adapted to it. I can cross a six-lane road now anywhere at any moment. And locals will be standing by the same road their jaws dropped. But it’s not normal. It’s not normal to feel threatened every single day. But that’s how it is. If you are a pedestrian in Ho Chi Minh City in particular. Then you have to risk with your life and health every single day.
Every. Single. Day. And it’s the worth in Ho Chi Minh City. But it’s happening also in other cities, where it makes no sense, because there usually is enough space to drive on the roads.
Need Some More Vietnam Travel Tips?
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How is it in Vietnam? Check out our Vietnam Photo Story!
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.