You’ve probably seen it in the background of countless war movies, but nothing can prepare you for the epic beauty of Vietnam. It is very beautiful and filled with delicious food; there is no denying that. From the natural beauty of Sam Mountain and Halong Bay to the man-made artistry of the sacred temples and pagodas to the rice terraces and beaches, Vietnam has a lot to offer travelers. The country has suffered a long dark history of colonialism, communism, war, and poverty. You cannot escape learning about the horrid history whose effects are still visible on the faces, bodies the locals even today. Many travelers either love or hate it Vietnam. Admittedly, it’s a hard country to travel through but despite the challenges you’ll find a very interesting and visually pleasing place to visit.
Double, triple check all of your information, have your accommodation address ready to go for the arrival form, be very respectful to the immigration officers, no matter how cold they are. Get stamped and enjoy.
It is normal in Vietnam for locals to overcharge or inflate prices when they feel they can get more money for something. It’s been happening in Vietnam since long before tourists ever arrived. It is not necessarily that they are “ripping you off”. It’s just the fluid way that small transactions happen in Vietnam. Sellers will make false claims, pretend you’ve agreed to a higher price, or give you back less change than you’re owed. Happens every day. Be careful!
This is another hard one for first-time travelers to understand and it sours many trips to Vietnam. Though politically communist and still state-organized on a larger scale, Vietnam is hyper-capitalistic on street-level. Tourists have only been coming for twenty years. To the Vietnamese, there is nothing wrong with doing or saying anything it takes to get your business. In a rush for tourist cash, locals (tailors, hotel staff, travel agents, taxi drivers) will do or say ANYTHING.
Vietnamese love to do business and hate to see a customer walk away. Generally, they get the upper hand the second you ask “how much”. Don’t let them keep you held down. Name your price. Stick to the price you want and just politely walk away if they don’t go for it. They will call you back if it’s a fair deal, or offer you their lowest price while you’re still within earshot. Don’t let them squeeze any higher amount out of you. The Vietnamese respect a tough customer, even if you feel you’ve wasted their time and want to ‘give in’, don’t.
However, getting out to the countryside on your own two wheels is an unforgettable experience and one of the highlights of Vietnam. Rent your own for $5 (manual) or $7 (automatic) throughout Vietnam. Don’t forget to fill it up with gas to avoid stalling in the middle of nowhere. Be sure to have travel health insurance and bring your information card to have ready in the case of an emergency.