Vietnam is a beautiful country of rice paddies, cyclos, water buffaloes and tasty food. When people first travel to the country, they know very little about it all but in a couple of days in Vietnam, people will learn quickly. However, there are few things if you know about before packing your bag to Vietnam customized tour will make your trip so smooth and trouble-free. |
A motorbike’s paradise There are millions of motorbike in Vietnam, some even says” If you don’t have a motorbike here, you are nobody”. So the traffic in Vietnam is extremely dense and complicated. Parking space for motorbikes in Vietnam is at a premium and some pavements have become parking lots. Sometimes this mean that pedestrians have no option but to share the road with traffic. In that case, be on high alert.
Vietnamese can carry almost everything on their motorbikes. If there were a competition for how much things can be carried on a motorbike, I bet Vietnamese would be the first to win. In fact, the one thing that makes Vietnam very unique of all the Southeast Asian countries is that the Vietnamese transport a lot on their motorbikes, from a mountain of caged chickens to dresser bureaus and furniture… a whole gamut of things which will make your jaw drop.
Moreover, you will also have to accept the honking in Vietnam. You’ll hear a lot of car, truck and motorbike honking in Vietnam. Not kidding at all. That is the habit of Vietnamese drivers. Are you a light sleeper and booked a street view room from your hotel? Think again.
Walk slowly when crossing the street Traffic in Vietnam is hairy. It’s a tangled and endlessly-streamed mess of motorbikes, an occasional man-drawn cart, some cars and trucks and more motorbikes. Crossing the street in Vietnam is scary and a bit dangerous but fun nonetheless. It will take some time before you feel comfortable with it. Remember that motorbikes are trying to anticipate your movements to avoid hitting you, so keep a steady pace. It’s also advisable to hold out your arm to let the motorcyclists know that you are actually crossing the street.
Watch your belongings
Violent crime is rare, but like any large city, both have their fair share of pickpockets, be very aware in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and Saigon’s Pham Ngu Lao. Keep your phone and wallet out of sight, use your bag or camera strap. A loose strap is like a moth to a flame for motorbike thieves. So make sure to put your bag or camera across your chest over your shoulder to make it a less obvious target. There is no need to be overly cautious, simply be aware of your belongings and surroundings.
Don’t trust the taxi meter Ripping off unsuspecting passengers is an art form of dishonest taxi drivers. Not all taxi drivers are dishonest but to be safe, stick with reliable companies such as Hanoi Taxi, Mai Linh and Vinasun. Always remember to take your hotel’s business card to make your return to the hotel much easier by handing it to your taxi, motorbike taxi (xe om) or cyclo driver. If possible, you can ask someone (receptionist, bellboy, local people…) for the idea of how far your hotel is or how much it should cost to avoid trouble of being overcharged.
Take a break in the afternoon
Don’t forget Vietnam is a tropical country, it can be very hot and humid sometimes with temperature around 38 – 40 degree Celsius and above 80% humidity. Break up your sightseeing and go early in the morning and the late afternoon. It can get quite hot visiting the attractions so taking a nice long break in the middle of the day can keep you refreshed for the afternoon activities. However, it gets cold in Hanoi and the North Vietnam. Unlike the South and Center, the North has four seasons with very hot and sticky summers and rather cold and humid winters. If you are heading to the North from November to February, you might want to bring a jumper or a heavy fleece.
When visiting temples and pagodas, make sure to pack a shawl or extra shirt to cover your shoulders. Remember that you are visiting a piece of history so show it some respect and cover up those shoulders. If you are unsure before entering an attraction, just follow what the locals do.
Be a sensitive snapper
Most people in Vietnam love having their photo taken and will ask to have one with you, but do ask wisely before you take your photo. There are some places like Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum or military buildings or some temples or pagodas where taking photos is prohibited.
Remember that negotiating is not rude but expected, even if a fixed price is advertised. Haggle for the best price or risk paying well over the actual price of an item. Try the “walking away” to get a better price. If that doesn’t work, you can always go back to the vendor later. Many things in Vietnam are also handmade, so if you like an item and you can afford it, just buy it! Because you may not see the same thing again.
Vietnamese food is so delicious and you will want to try it all. Go ahead and buy a kilo of that strange looking purple fruit or sit down and eat that bowl of whatever noodle, but be aware of hygiene when you are eating street food. To be cautious, opt for vendors who already have customers.
Food in Vietnam ToursHanoi street food
Food Safety Tips: Always eat from stalls where the food is prepared on the spot and cooked hot. Never eat raw, uncooked meats or cut/peeled fruits. Avoid salads, as you don’t know if it’s been washed with tap water. Pho is a good dish to try at a stall, if it’s made hot. Always go to stalls that you see many Vietnamese at. Observe how they clean their utensils. For tips on water, remember to drink bottled water only, stay away from tap water even though you are staying in a 5 star hotel.
Finally, remember that you are on holiday
There is so much to do and see, but don’t forget to stop every once in a while to pull up a small plastic chair, order a cup of traditional Vietnam café, and take it all in. While sights and activities hold interest, sometimes you can throw away your guide-book or forget the fixed itinerary, you will learn more about the culture by adjusting to the local pace.
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