Visiting Vietnam? I personally gathered by top Vietnam travel tips from my three week trip there. #2 really saves time as a tourist in Vietnam.
I spent three weeks Vietnam traveling from Hanoi down to Ho Chi Minh City and kept note of my best Vietnam travel tips for you! These tips were the ones we use practically everyday, and as a tourist, they’re pretty vital to having a seamless trip.
You’ll probably find #5 to be hilarious but true. Spoiler alert: Crossing the streets of Vietnam is an art. You’ll want to quickly learn how so you can walk around the cities easily.
From what to know before you go on your trip and practical advice, these Vietnam travel tips will definitely enhance your trip!
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1. Download Grab (the Most Important of all Vietnam Travel Tips)
You pay for your ride in cash after (instead of through the app like Uber), but it makes it super helpful that:
- you don’t need to communicate the end point to your taxi driver since they may speak limited English, and
- you won’t get charged more than the ride is since Grab pre-determines how much your ride will be.
Grab works in all places to visit in Vietnam. Yes, it even works for calling a cab from Sapa city to the rice fields surrounding Sapa.
We especially liked using Grab to/from airports because we found it to be significantly more cheap than booking a car with our hotel or through services.
Pro Tip: In some places, especially the Hoi An airport, people will hold their phone out with the Grab app open as to pretend they’re your Grab driver.
Check the license on their car to the one showing on your app, or if they’re walking out to meet you at the airport, then they’ll show you your name on their app.
Good to Know: We used the Grab app to order food delivery. It was super fast and easy!
We also used the Grab app to research places to eat nearby since it’s mainly locals who use the app to order and rate the food.
Important: Using Grab requires data. We brought our own portable wifi hotspot device with us so that we’d have our own secure wifi to use the second we landed in Vietnam all the way to departing.
2. Get a Vietnam Tourist Visa Pre-Approval Letter Online
My cousin personally thought this was one of the most important Vietnam travel tips to know.
He did not get his Vietnam tourist visa pre-approved online before coming. As a result, being a tourist in Vietnam, he had to wait over an hour to get visa approved at his airport.
Avoid waiting at the airport any longer than you have to by getting a pre-approval letter online before you come!
You can get a pre-approved Vietnam tourist visa here at Vietnam-eVisa.org, which starts at $12 USD a person.
It will take about two working days to get your Vietnam approval letter in your e-mail. You’ll want to bring this approval letter plus two passport sized photos 4x6cm and cash to the airport.
Here’s how much cash you will need to bring:
- 25 USD/person for less than 90 days single entry
- 50 USD/person for less than 90 days multiple entry (i.e. you are leaving mid-trip to go to Cambodia and will be coming back)
- 50 USD/person from 30 days to less than 90 days multiple entries visa
- 95 USD/person from 90 days to less than 180 days multiple entries visa
- 135 USD/person for 1 year multiple entries visa
You can pay in Vietnamese Dong or US Dollars.
You might like: Best Places to Visit in Vietnam
3. Carry Small Bills On You
Generally we found that the Vietnamese were not scammers and were not out to get tourists except for one small “innocent” game they would play. They’d pretend to not have enough change, and when we’d ask them to give us the right amount, they’d pretend to not know English.
When it came down to it, most of the time the change they’d be giving us in Vietnamese Dong would be like 25-50 cents in USD so we wouldn’t waste our energy over such a small amount.
That being said, it’s a good idea to carry small bills on you to not overpay and/or avoid this “I don’t know English” game they play at.
But at the end of day, Plus, in the world of scams, I’d totally opt to deal with this type of “scam” again and again.
4. Study Your Dongs
$1 USD is roughly 25,000 VND meaning you’re going to be a millionaire in Vietnam with all your Vietnam Dongs.
Take a second to take study your Dongs to know the difference between them. If you’re in a hurry, you might mix up 10,000 VND for 100,000 VND simply because of the numbers.
Again, if you happen to overpay, don’t sweat the small stuff because in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be much money in your local currency. Enjoy your trip, and just be mindful next time!
You might like: Best Places to Visit in Vietnam
5. Learn How to Properly Cross the Street
The street traffic in most cities in Vietnam is hectic. There is actually a method to this madness.
Here’s the most important Vietnam travel tips for crossing the street:
- Walk slowly and casually.
- Make eye contact with oncoming traffic to signal to them that you know they’re there.
- DO NOT run across the street.
- DO NOT walk backwards.
- DO NOT make sudden movements.
It may seem like traffic will never stop so there won’t be a right time to start walking. As a general rule, I started walking when there was about two cars/scooters worth of space behind an oncoming vehicle. I would start at that opening.
If you find it too difficult to cross, you can always wait for a local to come by and shadow them.
6. Download Google Maps Offline Before or In the Beginning of Visiting Vietnam
Although you’ll have your portable wifi hotspot device on you giving you enough data to use Google Maps as you please, it’s always a good idea to download Google Maps offline, and star places you want to go ahead of time just in case your hotspot device runs out of battery or you’re in a wifi dead zone.
When you download an offline map of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can use Google Maps without data or wifi! It’ll even have all the places you starred on the map too, which makes visiting Vietnam more convenient for you.
Although you won’t be able to get live directions without data or wifi, at the very least, you can use Google Maps for what it is– a map!
7. Don’t Drink Tap Water
Tap water is not drinkable in Vietnam so avoid it! Some people even go the extra mile to avoid brushing their teeth with tap water, but it’s not necessary.
From experience, we brushed our teeth with tap water the first day we arrived and ate nothing but street food and had no issues. This is coming from two people who have gotten water poisoning in both Mexico and Thailand while being careful.
8. Get Used to the Beeping of Scooters and Cars
The Vietnamese constantly use their horns to beep at you and other cars. It’s more of a friendly honk that says, “Hey. I’m over here. Watch out.” It is NOT a honk that says, “GET OUTTA MY WAY. I HAVE PLACES TO BE.”
It’s just a helpful part of their driving culture, and you bet you will be hearing it quite often! So it’s a good idea to be aware that there’ll be a never-ending sound of beeping in the cities.
9. Haggle Away
Haggling is part of the Vietnamese culture. They’ll almost expect you to do it so when you are at markets buying goods, you can haggle the price down.
You may be able to work a vendor down to 1/3rd of the listed price so you could potentially offer them half price and work your way up from there.
You could also go to multiple stands that sell the same item to see if the vendor you want to buy from is indeed giving you their lowest price.
In general, we didn’t haggle too much because the difference would end up being $1-2 in USD and it wasn’t worth the extra back-and-forth, but if you do want to haggle, keep in mind a price that you’re willing to pay, stick to it and simply walk away and say thanks if they don’t give the price to you!
10. Tastiest of Vietnam travel tips; Eat Street Food
Street food is an integral part of Vietnam’s culture. Not only is street food super cheap (under $2) but it’s wonderfully delicious and authentic. We had more fun going street food hopping than eating in restaurants!
If you find the cleanliness of street food to be a bit off-putting, bring your own reusable chopsticks and utensils. Do what it takes to experience this amazing part of Vietnam’s culture.
11. Pack for the Varying Climates
Vietnam is an elongated country so the climate varies a lot from north to south depending on what time of the year you go. For example, if you went in December, it could be snowing in the north with shining sun in the south.
When you think of Vietnam travel tips, clothing might not be the most complicating matter of a trip. However, for Vietnam, checking the weather one week before and making sure to pack clothing for all climates is a must!
For us, visiting Vietnam in August was HOT, HOT, HOT from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. All we packed were summer clothing and were still sweating.
If it’s super hot where you are, try to do your activities as early as possible to relax when it’s hottest out. Also, stay hydrated!
Read about our hotel in Sapa here.
With these Vietnam travel tips, you’ll have the best time there, especially at these top places to visit in Vietnam.
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Till then, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!