Tips on Surviving Vietnam

Many people have come to me with advice on Vietnam because of all the bad things that they hear about it. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in Vietnam and it’s because I followed these tips. Well, here I’ve compiled a list of things that you can do to make your trip to Vietnam a safe and enjoyable one! These are based on real life experiences and mistakes from many travelers I’ve met. Remember these tips and you will do just fine.

Secure your bag when walking around— place your purse strap around your body, or your backpack in front of you. One time I was walking with my backpack behind me and a Vietnamese lady stopped me so that I would move it to the front in case of pickpockets or bag snatchers. 

Don’t flash your camera, cell phone, iPad or other expensive technology— One time a girl was holding up her iPad looking for directions, which was an excellent opportunity for someone to grab it from her hand. She was lost, and she was flashing her technology. Big Don’t. When I walk with my Canon 60D, I have it wrapped around my wrist so that it’s not as easy to snatch.

Catching a ride— before going anywhere, check how far your destination is or ask your hostel how much a typical ride would be. One trick I used was checking the prices on Grab, a transportation app and then bargaining based on that price. You can also download the Grab app as they are a trusted form of transportation in Vietnam, but I found that they don’t quite know their way around as well and they do take a long time to pick you up.

Taxis that will run the meter— Mailinh and Vinasun are trusted taxis that run their meters. Don’t bargain with them. Their meter works. Other taxis, be prepared to bargain. I hopped in a red taxi once without bargaining and the meter charged me triple the amount. It was my fault for not remembering this step, though. 

Bargain, bargain, bargain— know the prices of the things around you. Ask around for different prices before starting to bargain. Don’t be afraid to walk away (this usually will cause them to lower the price) Be confident. Keep small change.

Always ask the price of something before agreeing to buy- If you don’t ask, then you don’t bargain. If you don’t bargain you will be charged a much higher price than the locals.

Eat where there are a lot of people— If there are a lot of Vietnamese people in an eating area, it means the food is good (people generally don’t eat next to kids peeing in the street or trash cans).

Get outside the backpacker areas— these places are built to scam backpackers. When you leave these areas you will find that less people try to hassle you with their products.

Learn some basic phrases- “Cam on” is “Thank you”, “Chao” is “hello”, “khong” is “no”. They really appreciate you trying and will always help you with your pronunciation (even though you will never pronounce it right).

Smile- People stare especially if you look different. Just smile and wave and they will always wave back. It’s the universal way to show kindness.

And here are some small tips to help you enjoy your time–

  • Sick of pho? Try banh xeo! It’s my absolute favorite Vietnamese dish.
  • Hang out at the park in District 1 and you’ll see the local elders doing Tai Chi, or aerobics and they will even invite you to join if you look curious. Sometimes college students will approach you to practice their english. At night time, parents bring their children out to play on remote control cars.
  • Weekends in Hanoi— the street surrounding the lake in Hanoi is shut down on the weekend so that local performers and entertainers can perform for the public. There’s also a community jump rope, some traditional games, and arts and crafts that you can participate in.
  • Note: Vietnamese coffee is known to be sweet. Without the condensed milk that is put inside it, it is extremely bitter.

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