Some of these Vietnam travel tips are country-specific, but some are universal and very useful. If you have more, please don’t be shy and share in the comments, thank you!

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Having a set of mini-UNO cards can make a big difference to your idle hours with no chargers/sockets.

TIPS:

  • Use an app called maps.me unless you’re still into paper maps. Eghmmm….2…0….1….7….. You don’t need wifi or anything to use it, just download the places you will go to and open it when you’re there!  For example, you’re going to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand – each country will have a map, but Thailand will have a few because there is much more infrastructure in Thailand. They’re not that heavy – anything from 18 to 40 MB each. Often in a city you don’t really need to get a taxi or a tuktuk, just use the app and walk. Or, use it to monitor where the driver is taking you.
  • Don’t smile at, or talk to the friendly hawkers, it will be easier to get rid of them. Once you give them any kind of attention, they get in with their people/sales skills to equip you with fridge magnets and post cards. Obviously, if you’re interested in their products – go for it, smile, make jokes and make them smile too. The most popular scam in Hanoi (second to taxis!) was when a hawker lady approaches you and tries to put her carry tray on your shoulder for you to take a picture, and charge you for it. Won’t pay?? Then you WILL buy some overpriced pineapples or bananas because it’d  be rude otherwise, right?
  • Bargain IF sellers speak English when you buy stuff. English services cost more, and those who speak well, have experience and know how foreigners think. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing; if a tour guide speaks English really well – congratulations. However, more often than not people try to take advantage of you financially, that’s why you have to be cautious.
  • Carry small note denominations, don’t forget you’re a tourist. Many shops and street vendors don’t display prices, and when you ask, they either don’t understand or pretend they don’t. Then you take a stack of dong from your pocket and before you even try to suggest an amount, the seller takes a bigger note and nods their head to indicate the sale’s finished. And then you’re like “oh, so that’s $4 for an apple?” So start with small notes and go up! Often local people think that if you have money to travel – you must have money to spend. It’s true in a way: a flight to the other end of the world costs more, but that’s the thing that leaves you with less to spend
  • Keep a steady pace when crossing the street, because motorbikes can then navigate their way around you. Don’t expect them to stop, they never do. They are like fish, and the streets are their rivers. I don’t know why they never stop, just reduce the speed. Beware though that cars and other bigger vehicles NEVER STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS, even if you’re crossing a ‘zebra’ on a green light.
  • Get a visa approval letter from one of the online visa service sites. This applies to most countries, check online if you’re eligible for a visa exemption. It costs like USD $25 but it was super quick. To be honest though, I wouldn’t be able to advise how to get a visa otherwise! It’s good to be prepared when travelling on a tight schedule, as quite often things cost more ‘on the spot’.
  • Carry a raincoat, not an umbrella. During the rainy season water just flows everywhere: streets, people’s homes, especially in the central region. There’s so much rain that an umbrella becomes an accessory rather than a useful tool.
When it rains, it rains A LOT.
When it rains, it rains A LOT.

MORE TIPS:

Train travel (see train travel post here)

  • Buy tickets in advance, sleeper cars get full quicker than regular seats.
  • Bring a cup/bowl. There are hot water machines on the train. Quite often it gets very cold in an air-conditioned carriage. I’m a hot guy (open to interpretation!) but I had to wear a jumper and socks while using the short blanket provided.
  • Sleep hugging your important stuff/have a travel wallet. We had read about common theft on trains and even hotels!
  • Bring food, the food cart only has instant pork noodles, and a couple of other things – not much choice even for non-vegetarians. AND, we got stranded so luckily we had packed lots of protein bars and stuff.
  • Pack coffee and tea. Asians love their sweet ice teas and super sweet coffees. Forget the concept of ubiquitous European hot coffees.
  • This one is pretty obvious – no wifi on the train (it’s old).
  • There are electric sockets to charge stuff.

Happy travels!

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Hanoi – Hue.