Woop woop you have decided to travel to one of the most beautiful countries of South-East Asia! We are happy to help you make this trip unforgettable. By giving you our tricks and tips you don’t have to worry anything anymore and you can be well-informed and start your trip. Furthermore, inform yourself of the highlights of Vietnam in our blog post ‘Vietnam, an astonishing three-week itinerary!’ Feel free to comment down below when you have more gimmicks to add, so we can all help each other out for even better experiences!
Best time to visit Vietnam
Deciding the best time to visit Vietnam depends upon where you would like to travel to and from as well as other factors such as festivals and holidays. Vietnam’s long shape means that there are three regions present with their own different types of seasons and climate throughout the year. For example, the North of Vietnam could get very cold and wet (especially in the highlands of Sapa and Ha Giang) while the South can get tropically hot.
In general, the best time to visit the South of Vietnam is during December through February when temperatures are milder and rain is minimal, also called the dry season. The North of Vietnam is best to visit from February until April because winter nights can get really chilly or even freezing in the highlands.
I visited Vietnam in November and December and to be honest I had great weather. It was warm and humid in Saigon, Hoi An and along the coast but it was chilly in the mountains up North. You should take into account some rainfall especially in the Hoi An – Hue area. Then again, Hoi An with rain just makes this picturesque town even prettier.
Check if you need an E-VISA
Nationals from most European countries need to apply for a tourist visa, with a maximum stay duration of up to 30 days. Do note that these rules are changed periodically so be sure to check for up-to-date information on the embassy’s website of your country. Make sure you apply in time because it may take up to five days to get your E-Visa in your mailbox! Also make sure you apply for it on the correct website so you’ll not be scammed.
Get ready to become a millionaire for at least once in your life! The Vietnamese currency is the Vietnamese Dong. There is almost always a possibility to pay with US Dollars as well but I would always recommend the local currency as your main means of payment.
While using Vietnam Dong, there are banknotes that look very similar to each other, such as 20,000 and 500,000; so when you have these banknotes, check twice before spending them.
A few recommendations:
- Use a credit card (Mastercard, Visa, etc.) where possible
- If an ATM accepts Maestro it might be cheaper for withdrawing money (depending on your bank)
- Exchange cash to Vietnam Dong or withdraw Vietnam Dong from ATMs to spend at places that cards are not accepted
- Avoid bringing too much cash for safety reasons
- When cashing money from an ATM expect to pay an international fee depending on your bank, the best thing to do is to take out enough cash so you don’t have to pay this fee every time you take out money
- Make sure that you have enough Vietnam dong for your trip to remote areas
Maybe it’s your first time abroad and you don’t feel comfortable bargaining but this is the way how things work in South – East Asia. In the beginning, I must admit you have to get used to it but by the end you really enjoy playing this poker face game! Don’t back down from a bargain, try to be confident and set a limit to the price in mind. When both parties don’t get to an agreement there is probably another seller around the corner with exactly the same goods to sell. This is why you can practice your bargain skills multiple times a day.
Safety and kindness
All in all, Vietnam is a very safe country to travel in. In my own experience I have never felt unsafe during my month in Vietnam. The police acts very strict on muggings, robberies and sexual assaults. You will feel extremely safe the more rural you go, people become even nicer than in the big cities and are very intrigued to see a foreigner in their neighborhood
Of course, as in every less developed country scams lurk around the corner in big cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. This is more or less a money issue rather than a ‘safety’ issue and with common sense very avoidable. For example, whenever you plan on buying a bus ticket be sure to buy it from the original office of that bus company and not on the streets. Generally said don’t buy anything from sketchy street vendors trying to sell you overpriced (and maybe fake) tickets. Also, if you would like to visit a museum or any other cultural event make sure you look up the prices on the internet if possible before you head out just in case.
The only safety issue might be crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, taking a sleeper bus from one place to another or heavy rainfall in Hoi An. Traffic is chaotic especially in the big cities, bus drivers might drive like maniacs and the weather will always be unpredictable. Nonetheless, I haven’t experienced anything bad on my trip, just always be cautious and take your time to cross the road!
Vietnam has a very good transportation network with different options depending on your time and budget. Obviously the bus is the cheapest option but will take up the most time. Traveling by plane or train are the more expensive but less time-consuming ones (not always!).
Busses are available every day and are easily bookable in your accommodation, online or in one of the bus offices situated in most touristic places. Hanh Cafe is one of the more known bus companies and mostly have sleeper busses with comfy seats. Make sure you’re always present at the departing site in time and check yourself in at the available bus office.
There’s an overnight sleeper’s train which seemed to be rather comfortable but noisy. Also, you might have to share your small but comfortable room with strangers who might keep you up at night. Nonetheless, it is a very attractive and effective way to travel through the Vietnam. Initially, the stop-start jolts and clackety-clack movements of the carriage make the idea of sleep seem impossible, but snoozing is always better than no sleep!
Last but not least, travel by air. Of course this is the fastest and most comfortable way to travel but most of the time the most expensive one (even though this might still be attractively cheap). At present there are 7 registered airlines in Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific, Air Mekong, VASCO, Indochina Airlines, VietJetStar and Viet Star Airlines. The first 4 airlines are currently operating both domestic and international flights and Vietnam Airlines seems to be the best known one.
Buy a motorbike
If you are an experienced bike rider and you are in possession of an international driver’s license for driving a motorbike, buying a bike is also a very interesting way to travel through Vietnam. There will be plenty of backpackers selling their motorbike in the big cities Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi!
Accommodation and food
South-East Asia is paradise for backpackers because of its cheap hostels, hotels and air bnb’s. You can find a stay in a dorm room for only 1USD per night and if you would like something fancier than you might look at a price of 4-5USD a night!!!
Even hotels are very affordable and thus whenever you feel like you’d want to chill and have some alone time or when you would like to relax by the poolside! Vietnam is a very cheap country to visit and therefor all the more enjoyable.
Another positive aspect of Vietnam is that the food is just delicious and healthy! You can go out for dinner 5 times a day and still not feel like you ate something unhealthy plus you almost didn’t spend any money! Definitely try the Bahn Mi for lunch and a Pho soup for dinner, even when I’m writing this my saliva starts forming in my mouth.
Feel free to comment and let us know if our tricks and tips were helpful. Also feel free to tell us how you experienced Vietnam and inform our fellow travelers with your gimmicks as well!