Vietnam is one of the most visited countries in Southeast Asia and a fashionable destination especially for honeymoons along with Thailand and Japan. Landscapes like Halong Bay or cities full of contrasts like Hanoi, the city with the most motorcycles in the world, or its terraced rice fields give the country a unique incentive to know it.
Tips for traveling to Vietnam
In this article, we will give you all the necessary information you need to know before traveling to this wonderful and friendly country.
Do I need a visa to travel to Vietnam?
There are several Southeast Asian countries where you do not need to apply for a visa before arriving in a country like Laos, Cambodia or Indonesia, but to enter Vietnam you do need to apply for a visa before traveling.
It is requested in the embassy of Vietnam in your country, and it is necessary to have the passport in rule and with 6 months of minimum validity.
In addition, to apply you must have the ticket out of the country and sufficient funds, and as in many countries, you must declare any amount greater than 3000 dollars.
Finally, before landing you will be given a form to fill in with information about your trip, such as the hotel you are staying at, the number of days you will be in the country, etc.
You will be asked for this form again when you arrive at the customs control.
There are three international airports serving Vietnam. Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) is located in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) is located in Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nan International Airport (DAD) is located in Da Nang.
Travel experts say to arrive at the airport at least three hours before international flights. If you plan to drive to the airport, save time by reserving your parking spot before you leave home. You can search through ParkFellows to find discounts on airport parking.
What vaccinations do I need to travel to Vietnam?
Depending on your country of origin, the need for vaccinations varies, so it is best to approach the tropical medicine unit in your community.
You tell them what your trip is going to be and they will inform you and, if necessary, provide you with the vaccinations.
Normally, if you are only going to move around the most touristy areas, you will only need a few vaccines and antibiotics in case something happens to you there.
You should plan ahead because if a vaccine is needed, it needs a period of time to be effective.
Take out travel insurance for Vietnam
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice you need to know before you travel to Vietnam.
It is very important to take out travel insurance with good medical care for the days you are in the country.
Healthcare is not good and is very expensive, it is one of the big problems common to most Southeast Asian countries.
We think that nothing will ever happen to us when we travel, but you wouldn’t be the first or the last to have an incident, so make sure you take out good travel insurance that covers you for everything, including transfers and repatriation.
Where to hire tours, guides and excursions in Vietnam
If you are one of those who likes to know the country on your own, here we tell you what to see and do in Hanoi, as well as the best tips for traveling to Halong Bay.
You can also find on this page SIM cards for your mobile phone in case you are like us and you like to have google maps connected, even transfers in case you need a car to take you somewhere, either to the airport or to a particular area.
There are all kinds of tours that are contracted online directly with local companies, there are even tours of several days if you want to make the trip as if it was hired by an agency but with the advantage of choosing your excursions.
Among them, we highlight the guided tour of Hanoi in a private group and the excursion to Halong Bay from Hanoi.
Where is the best place to exchange currency in Vietnam?
The official currency of Vietnam is the Dong, although it is more important to have dollars because in that country they are accepted without problems.
The Dong is mainly useful for small purchases in local shops, or for street meals whose value in dollars is minimal.
Most restaurants accept credit cards, but not if you are going to eat at the street stalls is advisable to bring some local currency or at least dollars.
To withdraw money the most convenient way is to look for one of the ATMs; they usually charge a fee of around two dollars every time you withdraw money.
When is the best time to travel to Vietnam?
The climate in Vietnam is clearly conditioned by the winter and summer monsoons.
The summer monsoon goes from April or May to October and brings with it tremendous humidity and heat; we can attest to this as we travel to Vietnam in July.
The other monsoon, the winter one, is from October to March, with cold temperatures in the north and moderate temperatures in the south.
So the best time to travel to Vietnam is in the months of April, May, October and November, at the beginning of the monsoon.
How to get around in Vietnam?
Many times the issue of transportation is one of the most frightening or worrying ones when traveling.
Useful tip: to have wifi on your mobile phone on your trip to Vietnam, the most convenient option is to buy the data SIM card in advance.
Ask for it before you start your trip and you will receive it for free at your home, with a discount on the price and instructions for its installation and start-up when you arrive at your destination.
There are many doubts that arise because they are not always of quality, perhaps they do not speak English and of course the question of price.
If you want to avoid all kinds of problems, you can always book it in advance via the Internet, whether it’s transport from the airport to the hotel or simply transfers from one place to another.
However, if you like to go on an adventure, the best thing to move around in the cities is the tuk-tuks, which for very little money will take you anywhere, the only disadvantage is speed and of course, you don’t have air conditioning which in hot times we would really appreciate some fresh air.
There is another option to move around the big cities like Hanoi, Hoi An, Sapa or Ho Chi Minh that is to hire a guided tour that takes you by car with water and air conditioning and is the best way to know the history of each city, told by a local person who always has a more interesting point.
Also, if you dare, you have the option of renting a motorcycle, but beware … that in large cities is not easy to drive with it.
To move between cities in Vietnam there are several means of transport, and one of the most used is the night train, but it must be said that communications within the country are very bad and transfers take a long time.
What to eat in Vietnam?
This is one of the facets that we enjoy most in general during our trip through Southeast Asia, and in Vietnam even more.
Don’t be afraid to eat at street stalls, as long as you see that there are enough people eating, since that is a sign of freshness, that the food is of the day.
Our advice is that you should dare to try all kinds of food, without prejudice, and enjoy savouring every dish.
Most of the time in these street restaurants you will have to choose the food by the sight, since not many Vietnamese speak English.
It is a great experience to eat with chopsticks sitting on those mini chairs and with mini tables full of food and different dishes.
It’s also very cheap because for 3 or 4 dollars you can eat as much as you want.
Another thing is the more westernized restaurants where they take care of all the details that are more expensive and where you eat great.
Where to stay in Vietnam?
Staying in Vietnam is very cheap, especially when you leave the big cities, and you usually have no problem getting a hotel, even without a reservation.
In any case, having such low prices, it’s a country where you can afford very good hotels at a very affordable price.
Beware of booking very cheap rooms because the quality standards in hotels below 3 stars leave a lot to be desired.
What clothes should I wear in Vietnam?
It is advisable to wear loose and comfortable clothes, sunglasses and also keep in mind that even though it is hot, it is necessary to cover the shoulders and pants below the knees to enter the Buddhist temples.
If you are going to wear T-shirts with straps, you should always carry a handkerchief or sarong with you so that you can cover your shoulders.
Very important, if you go in very hot weather, take sunscreen and a bottle of water always with you.
Is Vietnam a safe country to travel to?
Vietnam, like almost all of Southeast Asia is a very safe country, at no time do we feel insecure; the people are very friendly and always welcome you throughout the country with a smile.
You only need to take the classic security measures that you would have in any country, because as in all cities of the world, in the tourist areas there is always a pickpocket.
How do you cross the streets in Vietnam?
We give you very important advice to survive if you are a pedestrian in the old town of big cities, such as Hanoi.
Forget about traffic regulations, because in Vietnam they do not exist in practice.
Just because you see a zebra crossing does not mean that you will have to go through it. The only thing that is respected, more or less, is the zebra crossings that have a traffic light.
When you want to cross, just look and start walking slowly at a steady pace, looking in the direction the bikes are coming from.
You’ll see the bikes start to pass you like a river does with the stones it finds in its path.
Some bikes will whistle at you, but not because you are doing something wrong, but so that you know they are coming and what their trajectory is. A real madness!
Do you have to tip in Vietnam?
It is advisable to leave a tip, especially in restaurants and in the trunks of hotels.
Their salaries are usually very low and they will always appreciate those tips.
Do we have to haggle in Vietnam?
When you go shopping in any street clothing stand, you do have to haggle, and the ideal price is usually less than half the price you are asked at the origin, but it will depend on your skill.
If you are going to move in a tuk-tuk, you will also have to haggle over the price.
What are the plugs like in Vietnam? Is there Wifi?
The plugs in Vietnam have a voltage of 220V, and they are the usual ones in our country, so there is no need for adapters.
In the hotels of at least 4 stars, they are in the habit of always having good connection wifi, but in the restaurants of the cities already it is more complicated to find it.
Watch out!! that the restaurants usually use the wifi claim and then when you enter they tell you that it does not work.