Tips for Travel in Vietnam

Author: Matheus Oliveira

Key things to know before traveling Vietnam

Whether you’re traveling solo or going with a group to Vietnam, traveling from Canada to Vietnam for the first time can have a steep learning curve with many rewards along the way. My name is Matheus, a prior first-year engineering student, and I got the opportunity to attend a Field School to Tra Vinh University in Vietnam with some of my peers in the engineering program.

The tips below outline what I learned from my experience traveling Vietnam with my classmates and hopefully they will help alleviate some of the stress when trying to get used to a new culture and country and make your time there more enjoyable.

Travel with Vietnamese dong (VND) and USD.

Vietnam has its own currency, the Vietnamese dong, and many big shops and hotels will accept American USD (don’t bother bringing Canadian Dollars). Vietnamese dong comes in 500, 1000, 2000, 10 000, 20 000, 50 000, 100 000, 200 000, and 500 000. With all those zeroes, it is easy to accidentally give the wrong change. So, it's a good idea to pay attention to the bills you’re handing out and what things typically cost.

Do try the different foods

Vietnamese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world and is at the heart of Vietnamese culture. What I liked about the food in Vietnam is its simplicity. Even in its simplicity, Vietnamese food combines a range of flavors and tastes. Even if you have tried Vietnamese cuisine here in Canada, nothing beats fresh, local ingredients.

Some of my favorites during my travel through Vietnam are:

  • Phở - Consists of a salty broth, rice noodles, plenty of herbs, and a healthy amount of chicken or beef
  • Bánh mì -The French brought the baguette with them to Vietnam and then the Vietnamese took it to another level with its variation in flavours.
  • Bánh bao - is a steamed pork bun containing sausage, onions, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables.

Beware of scams, especially in large cities

Vietnam might be famous for its ancient history, natural landscapes, and diverse culture, but that doesn’t make anyone less susceptible to scams.  Visiting Vietnam for the first time comes with a steep learning curve, so it’s important to stay aware of common scams. One of the most common scams targeting travelers involves taxi or Cyclo scams.

How does the scam work?

  • The driver can claim the meter is down and charge an inflated rate
  • The driver will assume you have no idea where you’re going and will take a long route to your destination to rack up a larger bill
  • The most popular taxi companies in Vietnam are Vinasun and Mai Linh. Unfortunately, other less legitimate companies mimic their colors. You’’ then shortly notice that the meter rises much faster than it should

How do you avoid taxi scams?

  • As you plan your trip research your route and find out what a typical fare for your ride costs. You can use a site like TaxiFareFinder.com.
  • Familiarize yourself with the logo and colors of the two popular taxi companies before hailing a taxi.
  • Avoid taxis altogether by using a service like Uber or Grab. I preferred using these services in Vietnam as you know exactly how much it is to your destination before booking.

Learn a few Vietnamese phrases

Any time you visit another country, it helps to learn some basic phrases like “Hello,” “How much,” “thank you,” “where is the bathroom,” etc. Not only does this make your integration into a new culture easier, but it also shows respect for the people of the country you’re traveling.

Some common Vietnamese phrases are:

  • Hello = Xin chào (sin chow)
  • GoodbyeTạm biệt
  • Thank you = Cảm ơn bạn (gahm un)
  • Yes = Vâng (vung)
  • NoKhông (khome)
  • What is your name? = Bạn tên là gì (ban thane zee)
  • My name is… = Tôi là... (thoy la)
  • How much = Bao nhiêu (bow nyew)

Be prepared for volatile weather

There isn’t a right or wrong time to visit Vietnam, but it would be a mistake to assume that just because Vietnam is near the equator, it’s going to be nice and warm year-round. In Vietnam, different regions experience rainfall at different times throughout the year. When I was in Vietnam in May, the weather was hot and humid with high rainfall.  Because the country of Vietnam is long, weather patterns change drastically from north to south so do your research before traveling. As far as clothing, I did not bother to buy a poncho here in Canada as it can be had for relatively cheap when in Vietnam.

Finally, Enjoy Yourself

Vietnam offers a rich history, gorgeous landscapes, and delicious food but sometimes you can learn more about a culture by speaking to the locals. So, take some time to stop every once in a while to order the local coffee and take it all in.

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