Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting destinations. Featuring world-class food, incredible scenery and some cities still seemingly weaved into a simpler time, Vietnam is not just a rising star in the travel world, but already one of the world’s sought after destinations. But however amazing Vietnam may be, it certainly comes with its fair share of challenges. These are my tips for travel to Vietnam along with some guidelines to travel in the country.
Vietnam’s road system isn’t exactly a dream. There are loads of slow moving vehicles, houses are built right to the edges of highways, and they are narrow to begin with. Outside of perhaps the countryside, you’re not going to want to be plowing around in a one of those big diesel trucks. Instead, opt to do as the locals do and rent a scooter or motorbike.
As far as public transport is concerned, the buses are OK, but not great. In the South of Vietnam, the big sleeper buses are really comfortable. But in the north, the buses are crowded and tight. The reunification express runs north-south between Hanoi and Saigon and is a great way to see the country. It is a bit expensive, but is a great way to travel.
Where to Stay
In much of the country, the best places to stay aren’t actually hostels. You can get great value on everything from small family-run hotels to big beach resorts. In places like Nha Trang, last minute all inclusive vacation deals are readily found, and at great value. In places like Halong Bay or in the Mekong Delta, you might want to stay with a family at a home-stay which is a great option. In general, hostel dorm beds in Vietnam are over-priced, search the webs for the best deals instead.
What to Eat
Vietnamese food is tops. They take the art of food preparation to another level. Everything is done so delicately. Foreigners will know dishes like Pho Bo (Beef noodle soup) all too well, but they should also get to know some of the local dishes. In the north, you have to try Bun Cha which is like a BBQ in a soup; it’s out of this world delicious. In Hue, a soup called Bun Bo Hue is delicious as well. If you head to Saigon, crab noodle soup and delicacies like snails are extremely popular.
Trust me when I tell you not to bother with the fancy tourist restaurants in Vietnam. Instead, opt of the street food and family-run restaurants instead.
Using a Smartphone
I was pretty surprised in Vietnam at the ease of using a smartphone. Mobifone offers great service throughout the country. If you have an unlocked phone, just go to any SIM card vendor and buy a card. From there, you might have to have them activate the data for you, but sometimes that’s not the case. Then you can add data packages or just add credit to be used whenever by buying top-ups for the phone.
Staying Safe in Vietnam
Vietnam is quite safe. In my month in the country I didn’t encounter even the slightest problem. You’ll want to keep your head up, though, as scammers are prevalent. Just remember, if someone tries to befriend you on the street, chances are they’re looking for something aside from friendship. Also, if a deal sounds to good to be true, it is. Trust your instincts.