There’s nothing that stops travelling Vietnam from being on top of everyone’s travel list. It has inspiring history, impressive landscapes, appetizing food and ebullient energy; be prepared for Vietnam to electrify all your senses and seize you from every angle. Rising from the ashes, Vietnam has today established a complete sense of serenity that compels you to seek unforgettable experiences.
There may be a never-ending list of reasons to hop on a flight to Hanoi, but before you do, here are a few things to know before jet-setting off.
Vietnamese visa is usually a visa on arrival. However, the lines at the airport can be long. Which is why applying for the visa in advance is recommended. Applying in advance for travelling to Vietnam is not a tedious process and should be started a couple of weeks in advance.
Here are the steps which will help you complete the process online:
- Fill out the required information and visa options
- Pay the fee
- An approval mail will come to your e-mail within a few days
- At the airport, you need to have the pre-approval letter, your passport, two photographs, cash and the forms for entry and exit.
- When you land, hand all the necessary documents over to the officers
If you do go in for a visa on arrival, make sure you have ALL the necessary documents in hand, or else there are chances that your visa will get rejected.
2. Currency – Everyone is a millionaire!
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a millionaire, then you can fulfill this dream by travelling to Vietnam.
The exchange rate for a Vietnamese Dong is:
INR 1 = Approx. 330 VND
So yes, getting the hang of transacting in this currency can be bewildering and the extra zeros in their currency don’t help!
Tip: Vendors deal only with the VND so make sure you have enough of the local currency on you while travelling to Vietnam.
The weather in Vietnam is split by region. The 2000+ mile coastline and the elongated shape of the country are the two main contributors to the varying weather.
- In Hanoi and the north – It is hot and humid and high rainfall can be seen during May to October; the cooler and dry months are November to April. Further up north it can get particularly cold
- Central Vietnam – Between January and August the weather is hot and dry where it can even reach 30°C; whereas during September to November, high levels of rainfall can be seen
- Southern Vietnam – From November to April it’s generally hot and dry and during May and October it’s warm and wet. June-August sees the highest rainfall
Generally, the best time to visit Vietnam would be in spring from December to April and autumn from August to October.
Vietnamese cuisine is effortlessly unique; the delicate harmony of salt, sour, spice and sweet has been perfected over generations and something as ordinary as a bowl of soup takes on an entire new personality. Incredibly subtle flavours like tamarind, chilli and fresh greens are used across a lot of their dishes.
Whether gluttony is your middle name or not, a large part of your incredible experience comes from their delectable cuisine.
The cuisine is overflowing with flavours waiting to set ablaze in your mouth as soon your senses get a feel of it.
The bottom line – you will have to try it for yourself.
Furthermore, don’t be hesitant to experiment with the street food while travelling to Vietnam as it’s a huge part of Vietnamese culture.
Watching the woks in action on huge flames and food being cooked on the spot is exhilarating.
FYI: Few dishes to try:
Pho: A hearty and wholesome bowl of soup made from noodles, meat and fresh herbs; it is also the national dish of Vietnam.
Gỏi cuốn: fresh spring rolls which are filled with greens, noodles and your choice of meat (crab/chicken/prawns).
Cha ca: Hanoi’s best, it features fish that is sautéed and lightly flavoured with butter, dill and fresh spring onions.
5. Don’t misconstrue the country’s size and be smart when it comes to your travel plans
Off the bat, it’s quite impossible to tell how large Vietnam is. The distance between two of the largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi is about 1700 km and can roughly take about 32 hours to travel!
Since travelling is more time-consuming and longer, plan your Vietnam holidays in a suitable manner and don’t bite off too much!
This brings up the next point – be smart about your itinerary and don’t force the whole enchilada out of it.
Tip: Divide your trip into north, south and central.
6. Prepare to bargain and strike deals
An infamous part of the Vietnamese culture is haggling, particularly when tourists are involved.
Prices of most things are cheap, but you can still hammer out a deal! Of course, at first for some travellers it can be intimidating but you will be on top of it in no time!
Keep in mind, the Vietnamese vendors will invariably attempt to inflate the price – it’s their way of doing business and how they have carried the same through centuries.
Tip: do not flaunt your riches travelling to Vietnam; decide a price that you are prepared to pay and do not waver from it.
7. Dress Appropriately while travelling to Vietnam
The typical and everyday dress code for tourists is laidback – skirts, shorts, lose and light weight t-shirts are daily staples.
The only time when you need to pay attention to your attire is when you visit mosques or temples. Women are not allowed to expose their arms so a scarf should help cover that up and both men and women are supposed to wear full length pants.
8. Take care of your belongings
Contrary to popular belief, Vietnam is a safe country. The locals are kind, non-violet and amiable and there is seldom any crime.
Aside from the possibility of being ripped off by a few thousand Dong by vendors/travel agents, etc., the only other crime is petty theft.
Pickpocket and item snatching in touristy areas is common. Thieves on motorbikes drive past and snatch anything and everything possible from bags to phones.
9. Some basic words of Vietnamese can go a long way
The official language is Vietnamese and is one that is difficult to grasp quickly as it is a highly tonal language and requires the sounds to be made from your throat and not from your mouth.
Spending a few hours and learning some basic phrases before travelling to Vietnam can go a long way. The purpose is not for the words to be understood but it’s the effort of learning the words by tourists that locals appreciate, even if the attempt is laughable.
Few basic words are:
- Hello – Xin chào (sin chow)
- Excuse me/Sorry – Xin loi (seen loy)
- Thank you – Cảm ơn (gauhm uhhn)
10. Wi-Fi is everywhere
When it comes to internet coverage, Vietnam outshines other countries. Finding Wi-Fi in major cities, tourist destinations, hotels, etc. isn’t a problem and the connection is surprisingly fast!
11. Learning how to get around efficiently is a boon
Crazy traffic, loud horns blaring, people struggling to cross the road and traffic jams is a pretty precise portrayal of how everyday life in urban Vietnam is.
Due to the above-mentioned points, learning how to get around efficiently is a boon!
Here’s a quick overview:
- Motorbikes – the unofficial mode of transportation which is used by the locals to carry stuff around, eat and even sleep! It’s pretty cheap to rent a bike (1,00,000 VND/day) and it’s a great and quick way of travelling. However if it’s new to you then stay away from riding around in the urban areas.
- Motorbike taxis – In these, a person rides the motorcycle and you are a pillion. This is as local as it can get!
- Taxis – Hailing a taxi off the road is an invitation to being scammed. It’s best to use a reliable taxi company to book one. If you choose to hail one, settle on a clear price before you hop on board.
- Uber – Just like in other countries – it’s convenient, easy to book and takes you to your destination in a fair price.
- Buses – This can be an awfully slow mode to travel and aren’t the most comfortable.
- Buses – You can book a bus for a long journey through a travel agency – they are far better than the local city buses.
- Trains – The trains are still pretty out-dated. Nevertheless, it’s a great way to slow down the pace of your journey. Some routes are popular among people travelling to Vietnam for their beauty like between Hanoi and Sapa.
- Flights – Inter-city flights help save time and low-cost airlines have some good deals!
It’s the perfect blend of modern and old world charm…
From the glitzy cities to the laid-back beaches, this resilient nation is an unassuming treasure. Vietnam will make you fall in love with its hearty people, vibrant culture and intriguing cuisine. It has the perfect balance of traditional values and modern convenience, which makes for a fascinating journey that is waiting to be discovered. When done right, exploring Vietnam can be one of the most rewarding experiences that this planet has to offer.