Even though I had heard some mixed things about Vietnam, it was a country that had been on my radar for years. Over my month traveling through Vietnam I completely fell head over heels with beautiful landscapes, the friendly people, and the coffee, oh my god the coffee!
This is a Southeast Asian country I will return to again and again, and a country I suggest visiting.
While I loved Vietnam, there are some things I wish traveling across the country.
Here are ten things I wish I would have known before traveling to Vietnam.
10 Things To Know Before You Travel to Vietnam
Visa on Arrival
Many travelers don’t know that it is possible to get a visa on arrival for Vietnam.
The easiest way to do this is by using online companies like Vietnam Visa to give you a hand. The process is not only faster but also a ton cheaper.
Backpacker Banter and I got or visa in Cambodia, and it cost around $90 for a one-month single entry.
If we would have used an online Visa service, we would have saved anywhere from $30 to $50 each and would have gotten a quicker turn around time. (Slap hand against forehead)
How to Cross the Street
Vietnam takes motorbike traffic to the next level compared to the rest of Asia. In Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the traffic is so crazy that trying to cross a road take can not only be the hardest part of your day but also takes someone with a backbone.
The general rule is to wait somewhere where it looks like there should be a cross walk.
Next, summon all your courage, and hold out a hand to signal to the endless sea of oncoming traffic that you are making your break for it.
If you are saying to yourself “Nope, not in a million years: then wait and cross with some locals. Trust me they know what they are doing.
Before long your will realize that it is not that bad crossing the street.
Get Away from Major Cities
Photo by my brother in arms Backpacker Banter
While I love Hanoi and Saigon, I met many travelers only focusing on these two. Both of the main cities hold a lot for tourists to see and experience, however, my favorite places were the smaller towns like Hoi An, Dalat, and Mui Ne.
Visiting these little cities held some of my favorite highlights in Vietnam like trekking massive sand dunes, cliff jumping and canyoning down waterfalls. Some of my best travel instagram pictures came from the same area of Vietnam.
Don’t Drink the Tap Water
If Vietnam isn’t your first rodeo in Southeast Asia, then you know that you need to stick only to bottle water or drinking water in restaurant coolers.
Some travelers won’t even brush their teeth in the water. This is something I have never been to fuss about, and I have never gotten sick, and I have logged almost two years in Southeast Asia. The choice is yours but if you do get sick then don’t blame me.
Do Drink the Coffee
I am not going to mince words with you. I am a coffee addict. My addiction is entirely unhealthy to the point that coffee is a legitimate expense in my budget. In fact, as I write this post I am sitting in Northern Thailand sipping on my 6th black ice coffee of the day, and it is only 3 p.m.
I confessed my coffee addiction so that when I say Vietnam has the best coffee in the world you will know how seriously I take that statement.
However, it is true. The coffee in Vietnam is so strong it could be cut into slices and served as a cake. Unless you ask for it they will never just serve you black coffee (I was always met crooked eyebrows and a questionable look that screamed “This westerner is crazy.”)
Instead, this glorious black sludge is mixed with equal parts sugar and sweet milk making it evolve into a substance that barely resembles coffee but is still the most delicious caffeinated beverage anywhere in the world.
Vietnam has incredible street food and hole in the wall restaurants that will make your taste buds tingle. A couple of the must try foods are the Bánh mì, Pho, and any food sold from a stall or street vendor.
Talk to Locals
Vietnam has some of the friendliest locals in the world. It is the only country where I have been greeted at my hostel with massive hugs. The people are friendly and to open, and I had some fantastic experiences with locals because I put myself out there. Don’t worry, and don’t be shy. Make sure you know the proper Vietnam etiquette before interacting with locals.
Research Your Tour Carefully
Here is a friendly word of caution no matter how big your travel resume. Yes, researching before you book is beginner travel advice, but mistakes happen to long-term travelers as well.
For example, our Haloing bay tour was alright.
However, we accidentally booked on a family and boat that was more for the retirement crowd. Most of the couples looked at our dirty backpackers with questioning eyes, and every night the entire ship was silent by 7 p.m.
It wasn’t the type of Halong Bay tour that we wanted, and we should have researched more carefully.
How to Get Around Vietnam
There are many options on how to travel Vietnam. In my month there I took overnight buses, trains, and motorbikes.
A popular way to travel Vietnam for backpackers is to rent, or buy a motorbike and drive from the Saigon to Hanoi or vice versa.
Enjoy your time
Photo by nomaderies
Vietnam is a fantastic country and has become one of my favorite in Southeast Asia. Make sure you enjoy your time in the country and remember travel is all about living the moment. Taking the good with the bad. Fighting your fears and pushing yourself to experience something new.
Vietnam is a country that people tend to fall head over heels with; I know I did. These are 10 things I’d like to know before entering the country, and I hope you find them helpful before you travel Vietnam.