9 things you need to learn about Vietnam

Tue, 12 Dec 2017. Last updated Tue, 04 Dec 2018 16:25

If you are a typical middle-class Western traveler, you probably know that Vietnam is the first stop on the Southeast Asian backpacking circuit.

You probably imagine Vietnam as a busy spot with swarming motorbikes or a quiet place with jungly mountains and pristine beaches. Whatever conjures up in your mind, let’s step away from that for a moment and look at some important information that you must learn while traveling around Vietnam.

1.Traffic

Vietnam has roughly 1.6 million cars, but the country’s main method of transportation is the motorbike. As many as 37 million can be found in the country. Everything people say about crossing the streets in Vietnam, a nightmare is true. You will change the way you feel about motorbikes. There is a sea of scooters, bikes, motorbikes, they rule the streets. They drive in every direction, possible, even into buildings, beeping constantly. If you need to cross the street, start walking with confidence, not too fast, not too slow. Don’t hesitate. Don’t stop in the middle of the road, just keep walking. Drivers will zip past you on their motorbikes, dodging you in the process. The name of the game is "Trust" because frankly, traffic doesn’t really stop. If you’d prefer not to risk it, well, enjoy your side of the street.

Old Quarter

2.Don’t travel to Hanoi or north of Hanoi in December, January, or February with only tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops.

You may not have expected to need a down jacket on your trip to Vietnam, but the temperature in Hanoi can get to the low 50s °F in the winter months. Considering the average humidity of 80%, the cold and wet will bite down on you hard if you aren’t prepared.

3.Don’t eat at the restaurants with only English menus.

Vietnamese fare is some of freshest, healthiest, and beautifully simple food in the world. Unfortunately, restaurants geared toward tourists mostly manage to screw all this up in an effort to appeal to the stereotypical Western tongue. Traditional Vietnamese eateries aren’t about offering customers a hundred different mediocre choices, but rather serving one or two that are damn-near perfection.

Street food in Hanoi

4.Don’t buy train or bus tickets through dodgy private agents.

These agents might even approach you at a station and claim that the train/bus you are taking is delayed. Then they will offer to help you get a new ticket. However, they will buy a cheaper ticket than the one you have requested. As most travelers do not speak Vietnamese, they are unlikely to spot the difference. It is also pretty much impossible to demand a refund as, by the time you realize the scam, you would have been on the train/bus already. Buy your tickets via reliable sources.

5. “Vietnamese kiss”.

Nope, that’s not a Vietnamese guy or girl’s tongue in your mouth. That’s the name for the resulting mark on your shin when you lean up against the scalding hot exhaust pipe of a motorbike. And with enough time, inevitably you’ll get one. It’ll be round and bluish-purple, and you’ll carry it around for years. All the cool kids do it. When your future children point to your leg and ask “What’s that funny mark on your leg?,” you’ll get to tell them, “Well, that one time back in ‘Nam…”

6. A common hand symbol in Vietnam is to shake your hands, palms up, fingers spread, to indicate “I don’t know.”  Be careful when using it, because it can also mean, “I don’t know, so fuck off and stop asking.” Whoops. Also, you will realize how many people will convey the exact same meaning for you. Have fun with it.

7.Rules in Vietnam

Nguyen Hue Walking Street at night

In Vietnam, policemen often stand on the corners of streets, waiting to flag motorists over. Sometimes they’re doing their jobs, other times they’re playing Angry Birds on their cell phones. Seeing how seriously they took the position, some people took that as clearance to feel the exact same way. Whenever a policeman would attempt to pull someone over with a wave of his white baton, they smile widely, wave giddily, and just keep on driving.

8.Insects’ attack

You left out that jar of Nutella for 30 seconds and now it’s ant dinner. Seriously, if you are not on your game, your food is good as gone. Anything remotely sweet has a kitchen-counter life around a minute before it’s public insect domain.

9.Taxi

In Vietnam, illegal taxi drivers have so many tricks up their sleeve, especially when it comes to foreigners being the customers. The easiest way is to use a modified meter, which runs faster than normal ones; thus allows unscrupulous taxi drivers rapidly increase the fare. The longer the trip is, the more money they can rip off travelers. In addition, they usually take longer paths, which they call “shortcuts” but in fact are circling around to maximize the fare. Airport Taxi is another story to be aware of. Scam taxis take advantage of this by picking up passengers at the airport arrivals gate and immediately saying that the hotel they’ve booked has closed down. They will then offer to take you to another, better, cheaper hotel. Inevitably, this turns out to be a substandard and much more expensive hotel. Bewildered and tired travelers usually follow the advice and check-in. The taxi drivers get a cut of the room charge. The solution is either to prearrange your airport pick up through your hotel when you book it or at the airport arrivals, look out for the official airport taxi drivers (who wear bright yellow jackets). Alternatively, make sure you flag down a trusted taxi company, such as Mai Linh, ABC, or Taxi Group.

Popular airports in Vietnam

Cam Ranh Airport, Nha Trang (CXR) - VietnamTuy Hoa Airport, Tuy Hoa (TBB) - Vietnam
Co Ong Airport, Con Dao (VCS) - VietnamPleiku Airport, Pleiku (PXU) - Vietnam
Dien Bien Phu Airport, Dien Bien Phu (DIN) - VietnamChu Lai Airport, Quang Nam (VCL) - Vietnam
Phu Bai International Airport, Hue (HUI) - VietnamPhu Cat Airport, Qui Nhon (UIH) - Vietnam
Vinh Long Airport, Vinh Long (XVL) - VietnamTra Noc International Airport, Can Tho (VCA) - Vietnam
Lien Khuong Airport, Dalat (DLI) - VietnamVinh Airport, Vinh (VII) - Vietnam
Kon Tum Airport, Kon Tum (KON) - VietnamAll Airports, Phan Rang (PHA) - Vietnam
Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) - VietnamTho Xuan Airport, Thanh Hoa (THD) - Vietnam
Vung Tau Airport, Vung Tau (VTG) - VietnamAll Airports, Phu Vinh (PHU) - Vietnam
Tam Ky Airport, Quang Nam (TMK) - VietnamDong Hoi Airport, Quang Binh (VDH) - Vietnam

Popular cities in Vietnam

Ban Me ThuotCa MauNha Trang
Da NangDien Bien PhuDalat
HanoiHaiphongHue
Kon TumPhan RangPhu Vinh
Phu QuocPleikuHo Chi Minh City
Tuy HoaThanh HoaQuang Nam
Qui NhonCan ThoCon Dao
Quang BinhVinhRach Gia
Vung TauVinh Long

Popular airlines in Vietnam and fly to Vietnam

Air Tahiti Nui -> 4,541 USDCambodia Angkor Air -> 104 USDAir France <-> 747 USDThai Airways -> 201 USD
British Airways <-> 855 USDMalindo Airways -> 95 USDBeijing Capital Airlines -> 361 USDAir India <-> 1,366 USD
Eva Airways -> 274 USDHahn Air -> 146 USDIberi <-> 7,741 USDAir Macau -> 223 USD
Lucky Air -> 224 USDEthiopian Airlines -> 944 USDUnited Airlines -> 443 USDHahn Air -> 173 USD
Srilankan Airlines -> 306 USDHawaiian Airlines -> 515 USDTurkish Airlines -> 523 USDRoyal Jordanian -> 596 USD

Popular flights to Vietnam

CountryCity
United States -> Vietnam 487 USDAspen, Boston, Bozeman, Daytona Beach, Memphis, Raleigh, San Angelo, Texarkana
Thailand -> Vietnam 65 USDBangkok
Bangladesh -> Vietnam 803 USDChittagong
China -> Vietnam 225 USDChengdu
Japan -> Vietnam 344 USDIwakuni, Odate Noshiro, Shonai, Toyama
Nigeria -> Vietnam 3,793 USDPort Harcourt
Taiwan -> Vietnam 116 USDTainan
Canada -> Vietnam 457 USDSault Ste Marie, Kamloops, Montreal

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