You have decided to come to Vietnam! Well, you are in for a treat. This is one truly amazing place and you will love every minute of it. Its chaos, culture and cuisine all merging together in this hotpot of a country will change your way of travelling forever.
Like every city and in particular South East Asian cities, there are a lot of Do’s and Don’ts that every traveller should have an idea about. Here is a quick and HONEST guide about what you should (and should not) be doing once you arrive in Vietnam. It is basically a guide of everything you should know before travelling to this beautiful country.
Want to stay online and not overpay on roaming? Buy a Vietnam sim card when you arrive in Vietnam. Read about the best sim card in Vietnam for tourists.
Here is our guide of things you need to know before travelling to Vietnam
1) Is it safe to travel to Vietnam?
Travelling to Vietnam is very safe. Like many other countries of SEA, the most common threats are road accidents, pity thefts (snatching phones, cameras, bags) and tourist scams. Just always make sure to use common sense and travelling responsibility by not flashing your valuables. Other than that, Vietnam is quite an easy place to travel for travellers with many options to travel around the whole country.
2) Do you need a visa to travel to Vietnam
It is required to have a visa to travel to Vietnam for many nationalities. The visa requirements for Vietnam are quite easy and can be done online for many. Some countries are also exempt from a visa. Everything is documented in this article about everything you need to know about the Vietnam visa requirements.
3) How much a trip to Vietnam can cost?
Vietnam is a very affordable place to travel and you can make it as expensive as you wish to depend on where you do, where you stay and where you eat. This country is blessed with many luxury and beautiful hotels. The main cities of the country have nice clubs, bars, restaurants where you can spend a lot but also has many options for the backpackers and more budget travellers. You can easily get through a day in Vietnam with only 50$US a day including accommodation if you keep everything quite conservative and eat locally which is amazing due to the tasty street local food.
4) Best time to travel to Vietnam
Best time of year to travel to Vietnam is around March and April. Before that, if you go north, it can be cold. After that period, it can be quite hot in the summer in the South. Going during the springtime will have the least amount of rain and you won’t be dying of heat while visiting. Rainy season in Vietnam is from May to October. Like we said, if you plan to travel in the North of Vietnam, it has a distinct summer and winter seasons. December, January and February still be quite cold to arrange a Sapa and Ha Long Bay trip. If you do go to visit the North of Vietnam during that period, you will need to pack some warmer clothes but if you only plan to go to South Vietnam, you will need nothing warm at all!
5) Do you need vaccinations for Vietnam?
There are no mandatory vaccines to visit Vietnam. Shots against Hepatitis A and B are recommended to have but not mandatory to travel in Vietnam. Malaria prevention is also not needed in Vietnam. Note that if you need the Yellow Fever vaccine in Vietnam because you will travel to Africa following this journey, getting the vaccine can be tricky. You can read more about getting the Yellow Fever Vaccine in Vietnam right here.
6) You can sometimes meet cold people in Vietnam
Street vendors or other people you will meet in Vietnam can sometimes be quite cold or even mean. We have met a few annoying people like this at local markets. They seemed to just be annoyed with life. You need to understand that some people in Vietnam are still bitter about their lives considering that Vietnam has been through pretty rough times with the war and the colonization times. Many tragic events in history are still in the minds of many Vietnamese.
If someone is mean to you, just ignore and don’t take it personally. There is no use to fight back or be rude back to people. Do understand the context of the misery may have been through and turn the page if you find yourself in a bitter or awkward situation or confrontation. Note that I am not trying to justify or saying that they have the right to be rude or cold but just let you know to consider the situation instead of putting your effort into an argument for nothing.
7) Where to travel in Vietnam
The country is quite large indeed. We recommend you to spend at least 2 weeks going from North to South or vice versa. Consider Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Ha Noi, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Da Lat, Ho Chi Minh City, My Tho, Can Tho. You can start this trip from either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.
8) Make sure you drink a lot of Vietnamese Coffee
You must try the traditional coffee: Ca Phe Sua Da. Vietnamese coffee is often sweetened by condensed milk and served with ice. The Vietnamese Black Coffee is very strong and will give you a good wake up slap on the face! You must also try the egg coffee, which is specially invented because there was a shortage of milk at some point in history and an egg was used as a replacement. Did you know Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world?
9) Vietnamese Cuisine is absolutely delicious
Vietnamese food is amongst the most diverse in the world. Each city from North to South has its speciality dish which is all different one to each other. Vietnamese cuisine isn’t only Pho, so you will have a blast to try many dishes available in the country. If you travel to Ho Chi Minh City, you will get the most possibility to find all types of cuisine that can be found across the country.
Note that Southern Vietnamese cuisine (our favourite) is more flavourful and aromatic because of the many uses of herbs and spices in cooking. Food from where I am from in Central Vietnam is very spicy and is a lot of dough/flour base. You will find a lot of French influence in the Vietnamese cuisine due to the colonization times. Don’t be scared to try the street food as these people make the same recipe every single day and perfect their dishes to the maximum!
10) Internet connection in Vietnam
Internet connection is good in Vietnam. Note that if you are in the countryside, it is quite normal your internet won’t be the high speed you are expecting. We recommend you to get a tourist SIM card to have internet access at any times. Click here to know the best SIM card to get in Vietnam.
11) Landing in Vietnam
The main airport of entries of Vietnam are Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi. Many airlines fly directly to Vietnam, including Emirates from Dubai.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City
In Ho Chi Minh City, you will be landing at Tan Son Nhat International airport.
Compared to other airports, there is not much to offer here. There are no good waiting area, no food or drink so just get out once you get past the customs area. As you walk out, there are a few places to exchange money, but I have found I get a good rate withdrawing money off my debit card from home (provided your bank has low international withdrawal fees). There are also a few taxi stalls, you don’t need them as there are plenty outside.
As you walk out, you will be greeted by hundreds of locals just staring at you, waiting to meet their friends and family. You will walk and be forced to choose left or right. Catch a Mai Linh or Vinasun cab, or simply book a personal car with GrabCar mobile application.
Arriving in Ha Noi
You will be landing at Noi Bai International airport, approximately thirty miles from downtown Hanoi.
Not as nice as TSN airport, we didn’t find it great when we were there. It might have changed. Comment if you have any extra tips about Noi Bai Airport! Also only take taxis from Mai Linh or VinaSun. By meter, expect it to go up to around 400,000 VND (20$USD). The airport is much further compared to Saigon. Make sure that if you grab a taxi to share it. If you deal with a fix price, try to pay no more than 350,000 VND!
It is known that taxi drivers take passengers to different hotels than instructed. Be wise and have your hotel arrange transportation for you upon arrival at the airport. Price again shouldn’t be over 350,000 VND (17$USD).
Again, please arrange for fixed prices by Hotels that are around 250,000 VND-350,000VND (From 10$USD to 12$USD). Prices have gone up since last time we went to Hanoi. Expect raises from 350k to 450k.
Do not hire cars from inside the airport quoted at 25$USD-35$USD. That is over-priced.
The cheapest way to get to the Old Quarter, Ha Noi
From Noi Bai airport to Hanoi – You can take the shuttle bus of Vietnam Airlines. The tickets are sold in the building in front of the minibuses park, but you can give the fare directly to the driver. The fare is 40,000 VND (2$USD). It is possible that the driver will be stingy about your additional bags, but if you push, you will get the same rate. For the bus, from the new terminal, it’s at the right if you are facing the entrance. Advice from a local “As it is Vietnam, drivers are sometimes not willing to pick you up because there are no other passengers sharing the same route at that time, so expect them to ask a higher price (especially at late evening).”
Beware – If you take the shuttle, once you arrive at the Vietnam Airlines office (1 Quang Trung street, near the southern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, a bit south of the Old Quarter.). Some drivers will try to scam you there as well to bring you to your hotel. They will overcharge claiming the Old Quarter is 5km from the office, NO.
From Hanoi to the airport – We suggest you share a fixed car with other travellers and split the fixed fare to make sure you arrive in time at the airport.
There is the shuttle bus of Vietnam Airlines that runs from 5am-10pm for 40,000 VND that goes from 1 Quang Trung street, across from Vietnam airlines office (It’s down near the southern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, a bit south of the Old Quarter.). The other cheapest way is by public transit. You take the City bus #7 bus finishes at the domestic terminal and the new international terminal. The #17 doesn’t stop at the terminals so beware if you have read on the internet about it.
Beware – It is said that the shuttle bus goes to the airport hourly, but they will only leave when the bus is full (This might have changed, but we’d be unsure!). If you have any experience using the shuttle, please share your experience!
12) Taxis in Vietnam
This is the first scam that you will unlikely encounter. There are only 2 main taxi groups that you should trust. It’s Mai Linh or VinaSun.
Here is a picture of what you should be looking for. DO NOT get another type of car/taxi. Every other person I know that did not listen fell victim and paid too much.
How much is too much?
Of course it depends on where you are going. We lived in District 2 – approximatively 20 mins from the airport on a good run, and it costs 180-240K Dong. This is about 8-11 USD. Going into the center of town, District 1/3 should cost you in the 100-150K range. District 7 is the other side of town so you would expect to pay over 200K.
These are pretty loose estimates, however the taxi scammers will be asking for 600-900K – which is absolutely ridiculous. If this happens, I would be taking pictures of drivers card on the dash and number plate so we can identify for future reference. Also, never pay in advance.
Beware – If you are unlucky, sometimes some Vinasun or Mai Linh taxis have a scam switch on their meters. Make sure when you enter a taxi the base fare is at 10k to 12k. Scammed taxis start their fares at around 45k. What you do is that you point at their meter, say “no no”, get out of your taxi close the door and tell him to reset it to the real price. This rarely happens at the airport with Vinasun & Mai Linh, it happens mostly in the Pham Ngu Lao Backpacker area.