If you’re looking for an exotic, beautiful, and historic country to visit for your next vacation or trip overseas, might we be so bold as to suggest Vietnam?
Located in the Far East of Asia, Vietnam is a stunning part of the world, yet in terms of foreign tourists, it is considered to be a hidden gem. Thailand, located on the border, pulls in roughly 50% of all overseas tourists, whereas Vietnam only pulls in 5%, and we can’t understand why.
With stunning landscapes, incredibly friendly locals, a rich and vibrant culture, and a story steeped in history, Vietnam is a tourist and sightseer’s dream come true. The good news is that as more people discover this hidden gem, tourism to the country is increasing.
If you’re thinking of booking a trip to Vietnam, preparation is the key to an unforgettable visit. To help you prepare sufficiently, here’s a look at 7 important things you should know before visiting Vietnam.
Get your Visa in order
One of the most important things you will need to consider when it comes to visiting Vietnam, is your Visa. In fact, if there’s one thing you need to prioritize, it’s your Visa.
Before you even consider heading to the airport to hop on that plane to Vietnam, you need to ensure that your Visa is in order. Entering the country isn’t easy, especially if you plan on staying for longer than 15 days, which is why you need to plan in advance.
Upon arrival, you will need to double-check your documents and bring your Visa-on-arrival pre-approved papers, along with your accommodation address ready to go with the arrival form. Applying for the Visa online can take a while, so it is best to apply well in advance. The official Vietnam visa site offers lots of travel tips besides offering an online service for visa application. The only drawback is that it’s a bit pricey compared with other sites like this one that we have personally used for our trip.
You’ll also need a pre-approval letter, 2 photos, a passport with at least 6 months until expiry, an entry/exit form, and of course, cash. Once you land and make your way over to the immigration officers, hand them over the necessary details, smile, be polite, get your stamp, and enjoy your trip!
Don’t forget travel vaccinations
Before you are due to head out to Vietnam, it’s important to make sure that your vaccinations are all up-to-date and ready to go. Around 8 weeks before your trip, book in with your doctor and find out which vaccinations that you will need before heading out there. Make sure that you are covered for the basics at the very least, so vaccinations such as:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
You will also find that there are now a few new vaccinations now available, such as Japanese Encephalitis, that you might also want to consider. Just be aware, that these vaccinations are not cheap, though you can’t really put a price on your health.
Be prepared to haggle
If you’re good at haggling, buying goods and services in Vietnam will be an enjoyable experience for you. If your haggling needs some work, it’s best to start practising.
Unlike here, the cost of goods and services in Vietnam is pretty much whatever you are willing to pay. Goods and services will have price tags on them, but it is normal for the locals to over-inflate prices and list things for a lot more than they are actually worth. This is a part of their tradition and it isn’t a way for them to rip tourists off and try to fleece you, so just bear that in mind.
Be ready to haggle, and if possible, try to pay with the correct amount of money, as some sellers have been known to hand over less change than they should have, or to pretend that you agreed to pay more than you actually did.
As always, it can be hard to know what an item might cost so try doing an assessment and decide how much the item should cost, based on your shopping experice back home. Is that t-shirt really worth £20? Probably not. Try to haggle it to a more realistic price, without trying to bully the locals; they do have to make a living after all.
Once you master the art of haggling, you’ll find that it’s actually quite an enjoyable way to shop.
The weather varies hugely
Vietnam is a very long country, and because of its location, and its length, the weather varies hugely. Warm and humid weather is the norm, but the country actually has 3 different weather regions. These are:
North Vietnam – Here, winters are cool and dry, and summers are hot and damp. It can get chilly here from September to November.
Central Vietnam – Here, between January and August, the temperature gets very fierce and will regularly be into the mid-thirties.
South Vietnam – In South Vietnam, because of its tropical climate there are only 2 seasons. These are: Wet, and, dry. The dry season is obviously the best time to go, and this runs from December to April.
Travel agencies are very useful
To get the most out of your trip here, don’t worry about arranging a full itinerary before you leave. Each big town or city in Vietnam, I.E Hanoi, Hoi, Sapa, etc, all have an abundance of travel agencies for tourists from overseas.
To make your trip easier, use one of these agencies when you get there and get settled. That way you can plan activities, day trips, and excursions, once you’ve arrived and got unpacked. Plus they speak at least a bit of English so it will be easier to deal with them than with other locals.
The money can be confusing
In Vietnam, it has to be said that the currency is confusing.
The Vietnamese Dong has a ridiculously high conversion rate. As of this writing, 1 GBP = 30,463 Dong. Yep, told you it was confusing for Westerners.
Nobody will bother with using coins in Vietnam, but the notes are confusing enough. They all feature Ho Chi Minh on one of the sides and have a similar size so it’s easy to mix them up. Just be careful, as a 50,000 Dong note, could easily pass as a 500,000 Dong note if you aren’t paying attention. After a while, though, you’ll get used to it.
It is also worth taking USD as well, as many of the more tourist-friendly places actually deal in US Dollars, rather than Dong.
The dress code in Vietnam is largely laid back. Shorts, t-shirts, vests, and strappy tops are all more than acceptable virtually nationwide. There are however, a few exceptions.
Vietnam is renowned for its stunning temples, pagodas, and mosques, and when visiting these sacred places of worship, you must respect the tradition and the culture. This means that you will need to cover up.
Some of these locations provide loose and very comfortable robes which you can rent for a small fee, but if not, wear a pair of loose trousers and pack a thin scarf to cover your shoulders and chest. When out and about, we also don’t recommend that you walk around in a bikini, or with no shirt on, as this could turn a few heads. At the beach or pool however, knock yourself out.
As you can see, travelling to Vietnam does not need to be a hassle so we hope you will have the chance of visiting this marvelous country sooner rather than later. Until then, why not look up some plane tickets and don’t stop wandering!
Photo credits: Jerick Parrone, Flickr