9 things you should to know before go to Vietnam
Are you planning to visit Vietnam for the first time? There is no doubt a mix of feelings going to a country with significant cultural differences. You can get a little overwhelmed with a lot of pre-vacation reading. However, a little preparation prior to departure will take your stress level down to enjoy the trip fully.
1. Learn some basic phrases
Spending time to learn some basic Vietnamese phrases before you set foot to Vietnam is definitely worth your attempt. Vietnamese people are very friendly and will show greater appreciation to any tourists’ effort in saying “hello”, “thanks”, “how are you”, etc. It doesn’t matter if you fail at mastering Vietnamese and make any funny pronunciation. Let them correct it and this is how you set a strong bond with the locals. Why wait a minute longer. Try these!
Vietnamese <=> English
Sin chow Hello/ Hi
Kwhere khom How are you?
Toy kwhere, come on I’m fine, thank you
Come on Thank you
Ten la zee What is your name?
Ten toy la… My name is…
Bao new toy How old are you?
Toy…too-ee I am…years old
…Bao new How much is…?
Muk kwar It’s too expensive!
Ya(south), vang(north) Yes
Sin loy Excuse me / I’m sorry
Kom can No need
Come ern, noong toy kom can too-ee nee long Thank you, but i don’t need a plastic bag
2. Cross the street
Photo by Rob Whitworth
Traffic in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or any other cities in Vietnam can be chaotic with the seemingly never ending river of motorbikes and ineffective traffic rules. But if you wait for a break in the traffic you will have to wait all day just like an opportunity in life will not appear out of the blue. So don’t wait for such thing to come, create ones instead. Once you reach the other side of the road, you will not only cherish the moment but also learn lots of life lessons.
3. Be aware of tourist scams
Be prepared to be approached or consistently followed by aggressive street sellers; especially in Hanoi, HCM City and Sapa and other major tourist attractions. If a street seller approaches you, be firm but polite and calm in turning them away, even if you are irritated by a day filled with similar approaches.
Also, be aware of taxi scams. Make sure that you pick some reliable companies with running meter such as Mai Linh, Vinasun. Be aware of some fake companies with slightly different names. Mai Linh cars are either in green and white or all green while Vinasun cars are with red and green stripes.
Tips: Another fun way to have sightseeing the cities is cyclo which always requires you to negotiate the price in advance. The cost should be around 50.000 VND for 1-hour journey and you can book them through your hotel.
4. Pay close attention to your dong
The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Be careful when handling over more of your dong as it can be hard to differentiate even though all the bills are different in sizes and colors. Vietnamese Dong comes denominated in bills of between 1,000 VND and 500,000 VND. To demonstrate, 20,000 dong looks a lot like 500,000 dong with a slight difference in the shades of blue while 50,000 dong and 200,000 dong are shaded of red.
5. Keep your belongings secure
Though it Vietnam is considered safe by world standards, you should apply common sense when travelling as you would anywhere. Don’t venture out from your hotel at night as well as carry more cash than you really need to avoid being a target for pickpockets.
It is advisable to take a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers, and keep these in a safe place separate from the originals. Other valuables such as money and jewellery should be kept close to your body in a secure place.
6. Dress conservatively
You can be stylist but make sure you show respect to the culture by dressing conservatively. You can notice that locals are not familiar with nude sunbathing on the beach. Please also respect religious customs by removing your shoes, covering your legs and shoulders when entering a temple/pagoda.
7. Haggling is expected
In markets or small shop, you can always negotiate price in advance before accepting any offers. Don’t be afraid to bargain as Vietnamese people are very friendly. If you start the conversation with a big smile and little attempt in saying “hello” in Vietnamese (“xin chào”), the merchants will appreciate you more and be happy to give you a nice discount. Just simply use body language and have fun with it.
8. Do street food
Don’t be afraid to do the street food in Vietnam. It is about delicious local specialties served fresh and simple on the streets. All of these elements make up for a lively culinary scene. The most popular dish is called Pho and is often referred to as the “soul of the nation”. It’s quite simply a noodle soup dish eaten every day, predominantly for breakfast. However, there are plenty of other options that you should try. If you are not into Vietnamese food, try Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich). You can’t go wrong with it since it is available at a great selection of filling.
Check out these series of must try street foods in Vietnam. More is coming up!
Travel tips: Never eat raw, uncooked meats and tap water isn’t drinkable. Bottled water is widely distributed to purchase
9. Get off the tourist trail
For the adventurous souls, take the routes that are less traveled. For my experience, you receive much love from the locals who are not familiar with tourism industry. Take time to explore on foot or by bike to visit picturesque villages, encounter locals or get closer to the nature at a comfortable and relaxing pace. Go to the small lanes rather than big roads, as you will have chance to find great shopping deals or beautiful hidden coffee shops.
Read more Vietnam travel guide at here.