Vietnam is a wonderful destination to visit with beautiful landscape, rich culture and fantastic cuisine. Learn all the Vietnam travel tips you need to know to make your first time in Vietnam an unforgettable memory.
In this article, we’ll show you all necessary information and tips about where to exchange money, which taxi companies are reliable, how to be safe, how to avoid scams and thieves and tips for female travelers…
How to avoid queues for too long at VOA
If you’re applying for a Vietnam visa you should know that, on holidays or weekends, the queues for VOA stamp at the airports would be so long and waiting for you turn would take a lot of time. It can be exhausting if you travel with kids or senior.
One mistake travelers often make is standing at the wrong lane, then they have to queue again. To avoid this convenience, notice that:
- The visa desks are always located before the Immigrant Control
- There are two areas: one for Visa on Arrival applicants and one for visa before arrival applicants. Many tourists have mistaken the desk for the tourists with advance visa then had to line up in another queue. So beware if the counter you are waiting is truly for VOA which always has banner “Visa on/upon Arrival” or “Landing Visa”.
- In case you don’t want to wait, know that the travel agent which you applied for the approval letter often has an extra service that helps you get the stamp in minutes, but of course with extra fee.
Where to exchange money in Vietnam
Finding where to exchange money in Vietnam can make your trip a lot easier. Here are some of our Vietnam travel tips about money:
- It’s best to come to banks to exchange money. There are banks like BIDV, Incom, Techcom, Sacom, and Vietcom. Vietcombank charges no extra fee for the exchange. You can always check the USD/VND rate on internet (check exchange rate here).
- Banks and other exchanges will not accept any notes which are torn, excessively crumpled or have writing on them.
- Vietnamdong is not accepted outside Vietnam except for Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Before leaving the country, you can exchange VND at the airport. Some booths charge extra 2%, some don’t.
Taxi scams are always the nightmare of any tourist. We recommend you to only use and choose the taxi companies that have clear logo, phone number and meter. Or you can always use services from apps like Uber or Grab to reduce the risks.
List of reliable taxi companies:
- Mai Linh: green/white-green cars, phone number 0438 616161 (in Hanoi), 08 38 38 38 38 (HCMC).
- Vinasun: white cars, phone number 08 38 272727 (HCMC), 0511. 3 68 68 68 (Da Nang)
- Taxi Group: white-red lined cars, phone number 04 38 535353 (in Hanoi)
Safety guides for your first time in Vietnam
You might be scratching your head worrying on how to reduce all the risks that might happen during your first time in Vietnam, especially when you travel with children.
Worry no longer. First of all, Vietnam is a relatively safe country to travel to with friendly people, strict gun law and almost no threat of terrorist act. However, traffic and petty crimes can cause problems for neglected tourists. Here are some of simple Vietnam travel tips :
- Beware of your surroundings, especially in big cities like Hanoi and HCMC
- Keep you bags and camera in front of you
- Do not use your smart phone in the crowds like markets or crowded streets
- Do not keep money or important document papers in your back pockets
- Do not wear eye-catching jewelry and flashy watches
- Keep your belongings close, locked while traveling on public transport train, bus, boat….
Crime levels in Vietnam are low compared to western countries, but you still should be careful, especially when you travel to big cities and tourist sites (Hoi An and Nha Trang)
- Women shouldn’t go out alone too late
- If possible, dress modestly and suitable with the local culture
- Avoid taking motorbike taxi (xe om) in late hours
- If you want to go to bars or clubs at night, it’s better to go with group
Touts, hassle and scams
- Do not touch and be curious with the things the touts sell if you don’t want to buy because they will follow you until you give up.
- Always know your address when you taking taxi and insist the driver to take you to the right one. Some drivers are paid commission by new hotels to bring guests to them. Do not get out until you know that you have arrived the right place.
- Do not book cheap tours, especially for Ha Long bay. Always use tours of reliable travel agents and know where you can complain when you are not satisfied with the service.
Basic greetings for your first time in Vietnam
Vietnamese has no official etiquette for greeting that foreigners can learn like Thai or Japanese. However, when you visit a Vietnamese family, there are things you should and shouldn’t do:
- Do not enter the house before the owner invites you in. It’s even a bigger deal in Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnamese Lunar New Year)
- Always take off your shoes/heels/sandals before enter the living room
- Do not seat before the house owner, only do so when the host insist.
- Greet the eldest first: look at them in the eyes and slightly bow and smile at the same time (you can use “hello” or a Vietnamese phrase “Xin Chao”)
- They will always treat you drinks for fruits, do not refuse unless you have a really good reason and explain it well.
The common behaviors in public place are just like in western countries, mostly. However, there are some obvious differences:
- Vietnamese like to stare at everyone, regardless genders or races. Even Vietnamese get stared by Vietnamese. So you shouldn’t feel annoyed or angered about this.
- Vietnamese also like to laugh at everything they think funny or strange. Or sometimes they just laugh for no reason. So if you think they are laughing at you for some reason, you shouldn’t make it something personal, their laughter means no harm.
- But Vietnamese feel offended when you expose so much skin or being rude in places like temple, shrines, palaces, historical sites…. So be aware of what you wear and where you go.
- Older Vietnamese might not feel happy when they see couples kissing on streets.
- Young students will approach you for English speaking practice, they can be good tourist guides
Street food hygiene
Street food in Vietnam is very delicious, diverse and cheap. But the line between the best and the worst seems to be very thin. It takes an expert to distinguish which food is absolute safe. However, there are simple rules you can count on when discovering this country’s vibrant street food scene.
Vietnamese love to eat on the streets, drink coffee on the sidewalks and buy anything in the wet markets. All of these about a long and old cuisine culture seem to be fascinating to many westerners; however being careful is never a dumb thing to do when you are not familiar with the food and atmosphere of Vietnam yet.
- If you have weak stomach, just stick with the restaurants
- Always look for the vendors who use gloves and clean utensils
- The food stall or restaurants have to be clean, too. But don’t mind the paper left under the table. Some say if there are many papers that mean the restaurant has guests often which also means the food this restaurant serve is safe and delicious.
- One-dish stalls or restaurants are also considered safer: they buy the fresh ingredients in the morning
- Be cautious of fruits. Fruits with peel (banana, watermelon, oranges) are safer
- Fried and grilled dishes often use a large amount of oil. The oil absorbs dust on the street if it’s not well covered. And also stay away from stalls that reuse oil too many times (can recognize by the dark color)
We hope that our tips above helped in making your trip to Vietnam safer, more fun and worthwhile, even a little. Let’s share your own tips traveling to Vietnam in the comment section below!