In Southeast Asian travel circles, Vietnam is en vogue at the moment. As Thailand gets ever more expensive and crowded, intrepid travellers are discovering its culturally-rich, yet delightfully affordable cousin.
With plenty of culture, natural wonders, amazing food, and interesting people, it’s time you did the same. Vietnam differs considerably from western countries. As such, it’s vital to make adequate preparations before your trip.
In this guide, we’ll run you through the basics – let’s get started!
Set a budget before you travel
Vietnam is generally an affordable country to visit (its cost of living is actually one of the lowest in Southeast Asia). However, like anywhere, the amount you’ll spend will totally depend on the type of experience you want to have.
Expect to spend around $50 per day if you’re backpacking, or $100+ if you’re planning to have a more luxurious experience. Like in other countries, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars per day in Vietnam if you plan on staying in luxury hotels and dining in nice restaurants.
To avoid spending more than you can afford, set a budget before you travel. Give yourself a little bit of financial wiggle room and you’ll find it easier to get around Vietnam and make the most of what the country has to offer without spending a fortune.
You’ll need to prearrange a visa before visiting Vietnam
There’s no worse feeling than watching your plane lift off without you on it. Even so, this happens to scores of would-be Vietnam visitors every year.
Unlike other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam’s visa-on-arrival scheme, paradoxically, requires you to prearrange an approval letter. In effect, this means you’ll have to apply a tourist visa for Vietnam prior to departure. For years, this meant time-consuming trips to a Vietnamese consulate, or sending your passport off in the mail.
Thanks to advancements in technology, though, it is now possible to secure your Vietnam visa online. By using a Vietnam e-visa facilitator, you’ll get an official Vietnam e-visa within seven business days.
However, processing times at Vietnamese immigration can vary. As such, apply for your e-visa at least three weeks before departure.
Time your trip appropriately
Vietnam has many festivals and seasons. By timing your trip correctly, you can turn a great holiday into a legendary one. If you’re in dire need of sun, avoid places like Nha Trang from September to December. Conversely, whilst it rains in Northern Vietnam from April to August, the central coast is hot and sunny.
If you’re all about the festivals, there’s a few to keep in mind when making travel plans. Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, falls on the first new moon of the year. Usually, this happens in January or February.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, which usually falls in September or October, is a cultural extravaganza. Participants mark it by lighting lanterns, eating mooncakes, and playing folk games – don’t miss it!
Take out travel insurance and get vaccinations
Your upcoming adventure in Vietnam will be among the highlights of your year, if not your life. However, without taking proper precautions, you’re always one accident or illness away from disaster.
Public healthcare in Vietnam does not meet Western standards. Private hospitals do – however, showing up without insurance can result in a crippling bill. Consequently, it’s vital that you organise international health insurance cover before your trip.
Don’t stop there, though – be sure to get travel vaccinations as well. If a public health nurse hasn’t already jabbed you for Hepatitis A/B, Typhoid, and other illnesses, get them done before departure.
Controlled chaos: How to cross the street in Vietnam
It’s a frightening but necessary rite of passage. Traffic lights are a recent development in Vietnam. Even where you do find them, some drivers ignore the signals.
At every intersection, a near-constant flow of traffic makes it seemingly impossible for pedestrians to cross. However, locals manage to cross the road daily without incident. Do you want to be confined to your hotel? If not, you’ll need to learn to cross the street, Vietnam-style.
Start by sticking out your arm, signalling your intent to cross. Then, step out onto the asphalt, and begin walking across slowly. As you do, make eye contact with motorcyclists and motorists. As they see you, they’ll adjust to your presence. Keep up a steady pace, and you’ll make to the other side unscathed!
Brush up on your haggling skills
Shopping centres and High Street shops are a recent and novel concept in Vietnam. In past generations, Vietnamese purchased virtually all their goods from markets. Most products sold by merchants come without price tags – this means you’ll have to haggle for the best possible price.
Start by researching the cost of goods in shops. That way, you won’t be taken for a ride when a stall owner starts with an inflated price. Prices in shopping centres are a mark-up over wholesale. If you want a deal, start with a counter offer below that amount.
As you negotiate, be kind-hearted, but also be willing to walk away. Many merchants sell the same goods, so taking a stroll can get them to start slashing their prices.
Vietnam: a world away from your everyday routine
A visit to Vietnam can invigorate the soul. From jaw-dropping sights to the best meals you’ve ever had, we’re confident you’ll have an epic trip!