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10 Tips for Your First Trip to Vietnam

first trip to Vietnam

Your first trip to Vietnam does not necessarily have to be embarrassing if you do research to find out some important things before you go. It might be a remarkable change when you land in Vietnam for the first time. But with a ‘go with the flow’ spirit, things will go as smoothly as the stories you may hear about it.

Vietnam is known for fantastic beaches, friendly people, and cheap food. On the other hand, chaotic traffic and taxi scams somehow lead to frustration. Obviously, every country has its own merits and drawbacks to consider for first-time visitors. There are things that you should get prepared with your very first trip to Vietnam.

Tips for First Trip to Vietnam That Might Save Your Life

Are you ready to experience a whole different culture? Everything from the food, daily routine to social behaviors in Vietnam will differ from your country. Here are 10 essential tips that might save your life in your first trip to Vietnam.

1. Check if you need a visa

first trip to Vietnam
Your first trip to Vietnam will start with a valid passport and visa | © mohamed_hassan

You can enter Vietnam with an e-visa or get visa on arrival when you arrive at one of Vietnam’s international airports. Bear in mind that visa on arrival is applicable to air travel only; travelers coming to Vietnam by land or by sea must apply for a visa through the Vietnam Embassy. Regular passport holders of certain countries do not need a visa for Vietnam. See details on the visa exemption policy here.

♣ Special note: If traveling directly to Phu Quoc Islands, tourists of all nationalities are exempted from visa requirements for no longer than 30 days.

♣ Updated: From July 1, 2020 citizens from 80 countries will be allowed to get an e-visa to enter Vietnam. Call Vietnam’s Immigration Department at +8424 3938 7320 or visit this link for more information.

» Read more on The Ultimate Guide to Vietnam Travel Visa

2. Prepare a Vietnam packing list

first trip to Vietnam
You should always avoid underpacking and overpacking

As it will be your first trip to Vietnam, just bring enough clothes and avoid overpacking. You don’t have to pack your entire wardrobe to travel in style. It’s nonsense! Just spend a couple of minutes listing what you need for your Vietnam trip and then you will feel relieved for having more space for souvenirs to bring back home.

If you are struggling to leave out unnecessary items, read this Vietnam Packing List: How to Pack Smarter. From documents and toiletries to clothes, a perfectly packed suitcase will ensure a stress-free trip for your first time in Vietnam.

3. Take the weather into account 

The rainy season is not ideal for most trips

Looking for the best time to visit Vietnam? Not every season is ideal for visiting Vietnam, so reading about A Traveler’s Guide to Weather and Climate in Vietnam is a good way to prepare for your trip. It depends on your destinations in Northern Vietnam, coastal cities in Central or Southern Vietnam to opt for the best time to travel.

A cruise on Halong Bay or a tour to Son Doong Cave is subjected to change due to poor weather conditions. If you travel to far mountainous cities like Sa Pa in winter or you travel during Vietnam rainy season, some warm clothes or waterproof items should be packed into your suitcase. The weather really counts!

4. Avoid tricks and scams

Check the meter as soon as you get in a taxi

Vietnamese people are generally kind and friendly. Still, some rude sellers and drivers may cause unpleasant travel experiences. Foreign tourists easily become the target of tricks and scams by the locals. No matter where you go there is always a possibility that someone there will try to rip you off.

Be wary of “helpful” people who approach you first to give you an offer to go somewhere. Some motorbike taxi drivers may give you the wrong directions in an attempt to get you to visit a travel agency they are affiliated with. Also, look for meters before you get in a taxi and always count your change after any purchase!

5. Sort out your transportation 

first trip to Vietnam
There are planes, trains, buses, boats and many other easy ways to get around Vietnam

Traveling around Vietnam is affordable, even when you’re traveling for long distances. You can travel from North to South by train to view breathtaking landscapes across the country. Alternatively, planes is the fastest and easiest way to bring you to your next stop if you have restrained time.

You should not skip certain types of transportations when visiting different parts of the country. What about riding a bike in Ninh Binh, getting on a cruise in Halong Bay or trying speedboat in the Mekong Delta? As always, there are public buses and local motorbike taxi (with the sign “Xe Om’) for authentic local experiences.

6. Never skip street food

Street food is an essential part of every Vietnam trip

Street food is one of the most iconic things to try in Vietnam. Eating on the streets is extremely normal and people in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City really love street treats. Tourists are not necessarily worried about food safety as street dishes are fine for your stomach. Just go eating where the locals go and you will be treated with mouthwatering dishes.

A beginner’s guide to street food should start with ‘Banh mi’ or Vietnamese baguette which is known as the Queen of Vietnamese street food. After a hard walking day, sweet soup desserts will satisfy your taste buds. There are also fresh spring rolls, mixed rice paper, grilled banana and more that flatter Vietnam’s street food.

» Explore Hanoi Street Food Walking Tour or Ho Chi Minh City Food Walking Tour

7. Cover up & Behave appropriately 

first trip to Vietnam
Mind dress code when you visit temples in Vietnam

Make sure you respect the local culture and cover your knees and shoulders when visiting temples and pagodas in Vietnam. Lowcut tops and shorts are frowned upon, especially in rural areas. To avoid frustration, prepare a sarong to bring with unless you want to be refused to enter.

Vietnamese people are still reserved in many aspects and they tend to avoid showing affection in public. In big cities hugging and kissing are more acceptable. LGBT couples should also be informed that certain behaviors may raise eyebrows. Anyway, Vietnam is safe for LGBT+. Read more on LGBT+ Travel in Vietnam: What You Need to Know.

» Are you looking for LGBT+ guided tours in Vietnam?

8. Take a cyclo tour 

Cyclo used to dominate the streets in Vietnam before giving way to modern vehicles. Visiting Vietnam and taking a cyclo tour is one of the must-try experiences in this country. You will know how exciting it is to travel in Vietnam’s crazy traffic with hundreds of motorbikes surrounding you like a school of fish.

If you are in Hanoi, try Hanoi cyclo tour to get around Hoan Kiem Lake and admire the grandeur of one of the best attractions in Hanoi. Cyclo tour in Ho Chi Minh City will take you to most iconic spots such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, Reunification Palace and more. Just carry sunglasses and sunscreen to cope with the heat.

9. Be friendly and meet the locals

Our customers learn how to make conical hats with the locals in Nha Trang

One of the best experiences in any Vietnam trip is probably encounters with friendly locals. The Vietnamese are a bit shy but if you come to the places where the youth usually gather, there is a chance to start a conversation. You will be positively surprised at how they try to introduce their culture and customs despite their limited English.

If you have an opportunity to join the locals in their daily activities, it is super fun and meaningful. You will make friends with them and learn something that is more precious than a trip itself. Try a cooking class, join a local family in making rice paper and conical hats — You might not understand Vietnamese but sign language and a big smile will definitely help.

10. Check out the islands and beaches

Vietnam embraces around 3,260km of coastline from Mong Cai in the North to Ha Tien in the South, not including the coastline of islands. That is to say Vietnam’s seascape is nothing short of magnificence. Let the waves hit your feet at beaches in Nha Trang, Vung Tau or Phu Quoc – best beach destinations in Vietnam.

If you really want to restore your soul and stay away from the crowd, there are lesser-known islands to be discovered. Here are some: Cham Islands, Binh Ba Islands, Con Dao Islands, Phu Quy Islands, Nam Du Islands, etc. These tropical paradises are calling you to smell the sea and let your soul fly.

» See more on Best Beach Resorts in Vietnam for Your Next Escape

Someone says that travel is the best way to be lost and found at the same time. So, get ready to be lost in the country with unique customs and interesting people. And your first trip to Vietnam may be a good reason for you to make another trip to this beautiful country.

© Maika Tours

Written by Trinh Tran

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