Planning a Vietnam getaway? Here are a number of things AZ Local Trip suggests that you should prepare for your trip to Vietnam!
I. Visa Guide
Vietnam Visa is important for travelers who visit Vietnam for holiday or business. Most travelers visiting Vietnam need a visa; however, there are some exemptions for the countries which have reciprocal agreements with Vietnam.
There are different types of visa to Vietnam:
- Single – entry (1 month or 3 months)
- Multiple- entry (1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 12 months)
I.1 Visa exemption
The citizens of following countries are NOT required VISA to visit Vietnam for a certain amount of time.
- Visa – Free for 30 days: Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore
- Visa – Free for 21 days: Philippines
- Visa – Free for 15 days: Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Russian, Sweden, Norway, Finland (a pause between two arrivals is 30 Days).
- Visa – Free for 14 days: Brunei, Myanmar
I.2 The Exception
The visitors to Phu Quoc Island are allowed stay on the island less than 15 days without a visa when they travel to the island via any international ports of entry (air and sea). However, if visitors visit other parts of Vietnam after Phu Quoc Island they will need a visa to Vietnam (if they do not have an exemption).
Under Vietnam’s visa waiver policy, passport holders from the following countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Russia, South Korea, UK, France, Germany, Italia, and Spain are allowed to stay up to 15 days per visit without a visa.
If a secondary entry is required, they must wait for at least 30 days to apply for the next entry.
Passport holders from these countries, who wish to stay in Vietnam for more than 15 days, or enter more than once within 30 days, need to apply for single entry visas for 30 days or multiple entry visas.
I.3. How to Apply for a Visa in Vietnam?
Options depending upon the nationality and passport of the applicant:
Direct: Visitors can apply for the Vietnam visa in person or by post at nearby Vietnam Embassy/Consulate.
E –Visa: Starting from February 2017 visitors of certain countries visiting Vietnam – This is a new system so we have no advice for this option. Tourists can visit the website: https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/en_US/web/guest/khai-thi-thuc-dien-tu/cap-thi-thuc-dien-tu for more information.
- An e-Visa is processed within 03 working days after the Vietnam Immigration Department receives the completed application and full e-Visa fee.
- The current e-Visa fee is 25 USD
Through Travel Company: Tourists can apply for the Vietnam visa online through travel agents and the visa stamp will be issued on arrival at the airport (Visa on Arrival).
II. Currency and Financial Services
II.1. Vietnamese Dong or US Dollars?
- 1 USD = 22.000 – 25.000 VND
- 1 EUR = 25.000 – 27.000 VND
Vietnam runs on two currencies: Vietnamese dong and US dollars. Despite the government’s push to get away from using foreign currency, US dollars are still used in some instances.
Many prices for hotels, tours, or other services are presented in US dollars. Prices for food, drinks, and souvenirs past security in Saigon’s airport are all in US dollars.
However, you have to use dong when buying local food and some other stuff.
II.2. Banks and ATMs in Vietnam
Pacific Place building, 83B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem district
23 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem district
No 6 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem district
Horison Tower, 40 Cat Linh Street, Cat Linh Ward Dong Da District
Using ATMs attached to bank offices is slightly safer for avoiding card-scanning devices attached to the card slot — a problematic, high-tech scam in Southeast Asia. Also, you stand a better chance of getting your card back if it is captured by the machine.
II.3. Using Credit Cards
As with the rest of Southeast Asia, credit cards are of little use for anything more than booking flights or possibly paying for tours or diving. Paying with plastic means that you’ll be charged a steep commission; using cash is always best.
II. 4 Exchange money for a better rate
Most ATMs in the country accept Visa or MasterCard. In all of the major airports there are money exchanges booths.
However you can find a better exchange rate in the jewelry and gold shops in HCMC and Hanoi around the central part of town (in HCMC, they surround Ben Thanh market).
II.4.1. Best places to exchange money in Hanoi
We would like to recommend some reliable money changers in Hanoi Old Quarter. Forex service at the Old Quarter is mostly offered by gold dealers and tour operators. Their rates are often better than banks’ rates.
1) Quoc Trinh Gold Shop
- This shop is just 2 minutes on foot from the Vietnam National Tuong Theater
- Address: 27 Ha Trung, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 4 3826 8856
- Opening hours: Sunday to Friday 08:00 – 22:00
2) Kim Linh Jewelry
- This store is located beside Queen Hotel Hanoi, which is a 2-minute walk from Hanoi Ancient House
- Address: 67 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 4 3825 3649
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 8:30 – 18:00
3) Tu Binh Jewelry
- It is located across Queen Hotel Hanoi
- Address: 54 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 4 3824 9799
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 08:30 – 17:00
4) Hanoi Money Exchange
- This shop is just 5 minutes on foot from Hoan Kiem Lake
- Address: 19B Hang Be, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 4 3990 1733
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 18:00*
5) Phu Van Jewelry
- It is located across Vietnam Guesthouse
- Address: 25 Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hang Buom, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 4 3926 1764
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 18:00*
6) Manh Hung Jewelry
- Its location is just a 3-minute walk from Vietnam National Tuong Theater.
- Address: 51 Ha Trung, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 4 3938 2251
- Opening hours: Daily 08:00 – 19:00
*Opening hours may vary. Call first before visiting.
II.4.2. Best places to exchange money in HCM city
Below is a list of recommended money changers and gold shops at the center of Ho Chi Minh City. Phone numbers are included for you to call for inquiries before visiting.
II.4.2.1. Money changers at around Ben Thanh market
Money changers and gold dealers at Ben Thanh Market are the first choice of locals and visitors alike when it comes to currency exchange. These shops can be found inside and outside the market. Expect to find a large number of them on Le Thanh Ton street, which is one among the 4 streets surrounding this famous old market.
RECOMMENDED MONEY CHANGERS
1) Ha Tam Jewelry
- This shop is located across the West entrance of Ben Thanh Market
- Address: 2 Nguyen An Ninh, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 3823 7243
- Opening hours: Daily 07:00 – 22:00*
2) Ben Thanh Money Changer
- It is located about 9 meters away from the West entrance of Ben Thanh Market
- Address: 30-36 Phan Boi Chau, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 97 375 67 76
- Opening hours: Daily 07:00 – 22:00*
3) Hoang Thu
- It is situated across the North entrance of Ben Thanh Market
- Address: 178 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 90 854 47 44
- Opening hours: Daily 09:00 – 18:30
4) Ben Thanh Jewelry
- This shop is located across the North entrance of Ben Thanh Market
- Address: 166 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 2210 4929
- Opening hours: Daily 09:00 – 18:00*
*Opening hours may vary. Call first before visiting.
II.4.2.2. Money changers near Ho Chi Minh Square
Ho Chi Minh Square, situated in the heart of the city and right in front of Ho Chi Minh City Hall, is also a popular place for currency exchanging in Saigon. The whole stretch of the square is surrounded by hotels, shops, and restaurants. This is probably a reason for money exchange shops and gold dealers to settle down in the area.
RECOMMENDED MONEY CHANGERS
1) Hung Long Money Exchange
- This shop is located near Quynh Art Gallery and Sheraton Saigon
- Address: 86 Mac Thi Buoi, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 3829 7887
- Opening hours: Daily 07:00 – 22:00
2) Eximbank Money Exchange 59
- Its location is near Quynh Art Gallery and Sheraton Saigon
- Address: 135 Dong Khoi, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 3827 5363
- Opening hours: Daily 07:00 – 22:00
3) Currency Exchange
- This money changer is located near Bitexco Financial Tower
- Address: 109, Ho Tung Mau, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 3915356/57
- Opening hours: 24 hours
4) Minh Thu
- Address: 12 Le Loi, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 3823 8575
- Opening hours: Daily 07:00 – 22:00*
5) Therese Jewelry
- This shop is situated near Ben Thanh Gallery
- Address: 9 Nguyen Thiep, Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 3824 6011
- Opening hours: Daily 09:00 – 18:00
*Opening hours may vary. Call first before visiting.
One of the safest and cheapest destinations in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is an incredible year-round destination. Whether you are traveling solo or with friends, this is definitely a place that you don’t want to miss.
Narrowing down the best time to go to Vietnam is a bit tricky. The country is 1,100 miles long, and while that might not seem huge, it’s incredibly diverse, and the weather varies a lot from place to place.
Here’s what you need to know about the weather and the best time to go to different places of Vietnam!
III.1. January – March
Vietnam weather between January and March is characterized by cool and occasional light rain in the North, warm and dry in the centre and the south.
- Hanoi and Halong: between 15 and 22
- Hue and Hoi An: between 22 and 32
- Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang: between 28 and 35.
If you plan to trek early in the year to rural Northern mountain, make sure you bring extra coat to keep warm. Temperature in places like Sapa can drop to near 0 point.
In sum: Great weather, Abundant festivals, Uncrowded attractions.
Where to go: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (during Tet holiday), Sapa (January, March), Dalat (January), Nha Trang (February, March)
III.2. April – June
April to June is an unpredictable time, as the season transforms from spring to summer. Most April 30th holiday (marking Vietnam Reunification of North and South) experience cool weather with occasional light rain.
As it gets to June, temperature rises and so is the humidity. The Center of Vietnam remains wet with temperate weather until May, while the South and Southern coast are already in hot dry weather from March to May.
Vietnamese families often do not take off until the mid June since their kids remain in school until late May. That means you still have space to breath, if visiting popular beaches area like Nha Trang, Quy Nhon or Halong Bay.
One suggestion that we can make is that – visit Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City during April 30th – May 2nd, which coincide with the long holiday in Vietnam.
You will find these cities empty thanks to families taking off: fewer traffic congestion, nice fresh air and perfect time to visit museums and tourist spots. Avoid off-city spots, since you will be caught in the cram and not be able to enjoy to the fullest of the trip.
In sum: Fine weather, Low domestic season, Not many events and festivals.
Where to go: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (late April early May), beaches (mid May to June), Hue (during Hue festival often in May or June), Centre of Vietnam.
III.3. June – Early September
You must find it interesting, learning that Vietnamese hardly travel solo – mostly family form and increasingly in friends or like-minded forms. What this means is that parents often wait for their children to finish school for family vacation.
From June to early September, Vietnam sees a record high in domestic tourists volume, crowding in beach and mountain retreats. Popular places like Halong Bay, Sapa, Danang, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, will see lines after lines of travellers – hotels will be full, food price rockets, and the worst of it all – tourist spots of all sorts will be crammed with people.
In terms of weather, June to early September is a wet and hot period. It does not sounds like an ideal condition to travel, but for beach and sun lovers, they cannot find a better time to visit Vietnam than this.
All through out the country from top north to bottom south, you will see the golden sun shining from 6AM to 7PM, and the evening usually gives way to thunderstorm.
If you are from a tropical country – great – since you are already accustomed to this type of weather. If you are not – bring some sun-screen with you to avoid sunburnt. If you are not into crowd, avoid travelling off the city during weekends.
In sum: rather harsh weather in Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An; thunderstorm in Ho Chi Minh City; crowded beach.
Recommended: So and so
Where to go: beaches from Monday to Wednesday, city on weekend.
III.4. Mid – September to December
A golden time to visit the North of Vietnam such as Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Giang, Mu Cang Chai, Halong Bay and other provinces nearby, the sky is clear and the wind is gentle.
Late September and early October is also a great occasion to travel up north, to see the beautiful colour of terraced rice paddy field ready for harvest. In other words, the period between September and December in Northern part of Vietnam can be characterized by the words “romance and tranquility”.
The average temperature is around 20°C.
On the contrary, this all-too-perfect time period may not be the best fit for Southern beaches. October and November are rainy months in Nha Trang and the damp weather could spoil your long-waiting holiday with the sun and beach.
Similarly in Centre Vietnam, especially Hue and Hoi An, it often rains heavily in November and December, though the water may subdue as it gets closer to Tet. Still, the rain may make your plan on outdoor activities fall through. In exchange, travelling in this period and you can avoid all the notorious heat of Vietnam summer.
In sum: the weather is the most beautiful in the year for North Vietnam and rainy in the rest of the country. Uncrowded public space since domestic tourist season is over.
Where to go: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa and the northern part of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City and non-beach areas are also great to visit during this time of the year.
IV. What to wear
There are no serious cultural concerns about wearing inappropriate clothing in Vietnam. In religious buildings and government offices (or if attending a formal dinner), legs should be covered and sleeveless tops should be avoided.
Vietnam is in the tropical zone, but it can be chilly when visiting anywhere in Northern Vietnam between November and March, so pack some layers (a fleece or two).
The rest of the year, and in the south, flip-flops or sandals, a T-shirt and shorts are likely to be your daily uniform.
Packing list for Vietnam
- Loose, breathable clothing that covers your knees and shoulders. Athletic wear is recommended for particularly humid days
- Swim shorts or bathing suit
- A sarong
- Light jacket or fleece
- A hoodie plus warm layers are recommended for the evening during cooler months (especially if travelling to Northern Vietnam)
- Warm jacket, gloves and beanie if travelling to Sapa between November and February
- A raincoat
- A hat
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Flip flops
- Reusable water bottle
V. Getting around Vietnam
The cyclo is a bicycle rickshaw. This cheap mode of transport is steadily dying out, but is still found in some Vietnamese cities.
Groups of cyclo drivers always hang out near major hotels and markets. Bargaining is imperative; settle on a fare before going anywhere.
Approximate fares are between 12,000d and 25,0000d for a short ride, between 25,000d and 40,000d for a longer or night ride.
However, do consider that there are some dodgy cyclo operators out there (HCMC has several) who target tourists by outrageously overcharging and there have been reports of threats of violence.
Cyclo tours organised by tour operators and some hotels are sanitised rides around cities.
V.2. Xe Om
The xe om (zay-ohm) is a motorbike taxi. Xe means motorbike, om means hug (or hold), so you get the picture. Getting around by xe om is easy, as long as you don’t have a lot of luggage.
Fares are around 15,000d for a short hop, or from 20,000d in HCMC or Hanoi. Negotiate the price beforehand. There are plenty of xe om drivers hanging around street corners, hotels and bus stations. They will find you before you find them…
You can choose Grab Bike for they have fixed prices and you can easily track their route. No bargain needed.
Taxis with meters, found in most major cities, are very cheap by international standards and a safe way to travel around at night. Average tariffs are about 12,000d to 15,000d per kilometre. However, dodgy taxis with go-fast meters do roam the streets of Hanoi and HCMC; they often hang around bus terminals. Only travel with reputable or recommended companies.
Three nationwide companies with excellent reputations are
- Mai Linh (www.mailinh.vn): 02438.333.333
- Vinasun (www.vinasuntaxi.com): (08) 38 272727
- Taxi Group (http://taxigroup.com.vn/): 024126.96.36.199
Apart from Mai Linh, Vinasun and Taxi Group, there are other taxi groups which are less reputable but credible and cheaper for those who has a tight budget:
- Thanh Nga Taxi: 02438.215.215
- Ba Sao Taxi (http://basaotaxi.com/): 024188.8.131.52
- Vic Taxi: 02428.230.230
App-based taxis (both car and motorbike) including Grab are available in several Vietnamese cities including HCMC, Hanoi and Danang.
Note: Uber has stopped operating in Vietnam.
There are different types of buses of different companies: minibuses, city buses, tourist buses, long-distance night buses
Being a cheap option of traveling in Vietnam, buses run almost everywhere and often, with the exception of mountain areas, we recommend you ask the people locally (Vietnamese language is sometimes necessary)
For long-distance travel, there are a number of well-known bus companies: Hoang Long, TheSinh Tourist, Futabus, EcoSapa, InterBus Lines, Kumho Samco, Sapa Shuttle bus…and many other companies you will find in Baolau and 12go
However, you should take it seriously if you choose to go on a sleeper bus. There have been several reports about drivers driving like lunatics, crashes or people trying to scam you.
Not all buses are bad, but you should get prepared for the worst case scenario if you decide to travel by long-distance buses in Vietnam.
- Reasonable price
- An interesting way to make friends with local people
- Different train classes: Hard and soft sleepers, hard and soft seats
- From Hanoi to Sa Pa, there is a supremely luxurious option, which have two berths per room with luxurious facilities as found in 4 or 5 star hotels. This includes Livitrans Train, King Express, Sapaly and Victoria trains.
- Uncomfortable seats
- Packed with people
V.6. Online Planning
The website www.baolau.vn has a very useful, and generally accurate, Plan Your Trip function that allows you to compare train, plane and bus travel (including costs and schedules) between cities in Vietnam.
V.7. Transport Fares
For most visitors one of the most frustrating aspects of travelling in Vietnam is the perception that they are being ripped off. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate the maze.
Airfares Fares are dependent on when you book and what dates you want to travel. There is no price difference between Vietnamese and foreigners.
Boat fares Ferries and hydrofoils have fixed prices, but expect to pay more for the privilege of being a foreigner on smaller local boats around the Mekong Delta and to places like the Cham Islands.
If you travel by bus within each city, the price for a one-way ticket is 7000 VND
If you buy a ticket from the point of departure (ie the bus station), then the price is fixed and very reasonable.
However, should you board a bus along the way, there’s a good chance the driver or conductor will overcharge.
In remote areas drivers may ask for four, or even 10, times what the locals pay. Local bus prices should be fixed and displayed by the door, but foreigners are sometimes overcharged on routes such as Danang–Hoi An.
Rail fares Fixed, although naturally there are different prices for different classes.
Taxis Mostly metered and very cheap, but very occasionally some taxis have dodgy meters that run fast.
Xe Oms & Cyclos Fares are definitely not fixed and you need to bargain. Hard.
VI. Dos and Don’ts
Vietnam is well known as a friendly and non-religious country. Vietnam still preserves customs which have lasted for thousands of years. As a result, to have a happy in your holiday in Vietnam, you should glance at this list of dos and don’ts in Vietnam.
VI.1. Dos in Vietnam
- Greet Vietnamese in their native language which is “Xin Chao” for “ Hello” and “ Cam On” for “ Thank you” with bent head. That is a great way to make friends with Vietnamese.
- Receive things from others (especially elders) with both hands to show the respect to them.
- Do learn to use chopsticks. In many places, especially remote areas, it is not easy to find forks or knives
- Remove your shoes before entering a house. Vietnamese do not wear shoes inside the house. Not removing your shoes is seen not very polite.
- Try to finish everything on your plate. Leaving too much food on your plate seems impolite, especially with the local families.
- Wear polite dress code (long and body covering clothes) when going to religious places to show your respect to locals’ belief
- Take off your hat when you go inside religious places like pagodas or temples to show respect to these places.
- Travel with reputed travel agents (AZ Local Trip is a good source). If you don’t check the reputation of the travel agents you choose, you may get low-quality service. In the worst case, you will have a terrible journey: dirty hotel, uncomfortable car, bad food, etc.
- Store passport, visa, cash, credit card, airplane tickets and other valuable things in a safe place. It is undeniable that robberies still take place in Vietnam especially in Ho Chi Minh City. In fact, there were many travelers robbed in the streets of Saigon.
- Hold your bag in front of you especially when you hire a motorbike taxi to avoid bag snatching.
- Ask for permission before taking photos at a site or with someone. There are some places (especially temples or pagodas) in Vietnam that do not allow photography.
- Check the weather forecast before going out because the weather in Vietnam changes very quickly.
- Take an umbrella/raincoat/hat and water with you before going out
- Watch carefully before crossing the road because traffic in Vietnam is chaotic.
- Bring a map or hotel business card when going out alone in case you get lost. The traffic in Vietnam is complicated.
- Bargain before purchasing anything. Vendors in Vietnam, especially in the North of Vietnam, often claim the higher price at first then they will settle for lower
- Try to have plenty of change in your pocket so that you will have an easier time making purchases from local street vendors
- Do get medical insurance before for your trip. Health care services may cost a lot abroad so medical insurance is good way in case you need any health care services.
VI.2. Don’ts in Vietnam
in the list of the Dos and Don’ts in Vietnam you may take care with the list of Don’ts in Vietnam more because knowing this you can avoid the trouble when you take the trip to Vietnam.
- Don’t wear valuable jewelry or bring lots of money when walking around the street in case of robbery.
- Don’t uncontrollably eat at vendors (only eat food when you are sure of its elements and quality). Until now, Vietnam has failed in controlling the quality of food at vendors so use precautions when finding restaurants.
- Don’t wear shorts or tank tops to the local pagodas, temples or other religious places ( It’s fine to do so in some temples that are tourist destinations). You will be considered rude and sometimes you will not be allowed to be in.
- Don’t take picture of military sites in Vietnam
- Don’t stay out too late, especially in some remote areas – it can be unsafe.
- Don’t rush the locals, they hate being rushed
- Don’t have aggressive behavior in public. Vietnamese are quite closed and conservative. Therefore, you should not have extreme behavior, it will be considered rude.
- Don’t cause Vietnamese to “lose face”. Keeping big face is very important for Asian people and Vietnamese.
- Don’t show public personal affection to your boyfriend/girlfriend. Kissing, touching or holding hands may be perceived inappropriate especially in the countryside or mountainous area.
- Don’t touch someone’s head, especially when this someone is older than you are. It is considered insulting.
- Don’t sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar in someone’s house especially when you visit the local family or stay in the homestay.
- Don’t run too fast or stop suddenly when you cross the road in Vietnam. Keep eye contact with the coming drivers and try to keep your speed. Crossing the road with our guide for the first days will be great to learn.
- Lastly, don’t be too nervous. Most of Vietnamese will forgive if you don’t know or you forget the don’t – things above because you are foreigners. However, trying your best is appreciated!
Read carefully the list of Dos and Don’ts in Vietnam. Wish you have a great holiday in Vietnam!
VII. Scams and how to avoid
Like the rest of Southeast Asia, Vietnam has its share of scams that target travelers. Generally these scams are old, proven ways to sucker newcomers to the country out of a few extra dollars here and there.
While most are more a nuisance than dangerous, some scams in Vietnam are far more cheeky and can literally ruin your entire trip if you fall victim.
Don’t be a sucker! Here are some common scams in Vietnam to avoid:
VII.1. Motorbike Rental Scams in Vietnam
Pretty much applicable to all of Vietnam, be prepared to decline dozens of offers for a motorbike every time you leave your hotel. Particularly in Nha Trang and Mui Ne, a horde of shady individuals on the street will offer up their personal motorbikes for rent.
Renting from individuals on the street makes you vulnerable to a multitude of old scams. Some have been known to follow you then actually steal the motorbike with a spare key. Others rent motorbikes with mechanical problems then claim that you must make the repairs upon return.
If you intend to rent a motorbike in Vietnam, do so through your accommodation. Although lots of tourists do drive motorbikes, be aware that you are required to possess a Vietnamese driving permit.
If stopped by the police and you fail to show a permit, they can impound the motorbike for over a month – you are responsible to pay the rental costs while it is in impound – and charge you a steep fine!
Tips: Make sure you have a valid driving permit, check the vehicle thoroughly before renting a motorbike. If possible, take photos of existing scratches or defects and verify it with the owner.
VII.2. Confusing Currency in Vietnam
Using two different currencies increases the potential for miscommunication and getting ripped off. If a price is listed in US dollars and you choose to pay in Vietnamese dong, the proprietor or vendor can make up the exchange rate on the spot, usually rounding in their own favor.
Tip: Carrying a small calculator or using the calculator on your mobile phone is a great way to avoid miscommunication, calculate exchange rates, and haggle prices
DON’T CONFUSE ’15’ AND ’50’
One of those “petty” things to watch out for. Street vendors such as coconut sellers or shoe shiners will trick you and claim that you agreed to a higher “50” thousand dong and not the “15” thousand you were 100% sure was understood.
The price of a coconut or a shoe shine is around 15,000 dong, so be sure that “15” is understood before the coconut is cracked open or your shoes are shined. Don’t fall for the “50”. Once their end of the deal is met, you can’t win the argument. It’s ’50’.
Tips: Take out 15,000 dong and show it to the seller before you commit. Or, use your fingers to illustrate “1” and “5” so there is no confusion in the end.
100.000 vs 10.000, 20.000 vs 500.000
Mind your change – the 100,000 and 10,000 notes look similar; the 20,000 and the 500,000 are both blue.
While most Vietnamese are honest and used to tourists fumbling for the right currency values, a few will actively try to short-change you. Take your time to count the zeroes or you’ll unintentionally make someone very happy.
Spend all of your Vietnamese dong before exiting the country; it is very difficult to get rid of outside Vietnam! Vietcombank is one of the very few banks that will exchange dong back into foreign currency.
Make sure you receive authentic dong, not a joss paper!
In June 2018, there has been a report about a foreign traveler receiving 200.000 VND change, which is a joss paper, from a taxi driver. While such problem is not common, you had better check your change twice before getting out of taxi.
VII.3. Cyclo and Taxi Drivers in Vietnam
Taxis are one of the fastest and most comfortable way of getting around Vietnam, as you can get to wherever you want in an air-conditioned vehicle instead of fighting for a seat on overcrowded buses. However, travellers often fall prey to unscrupulous taxi drivers, with common scams such as
- Driving without using the meter
- Taking longer routes to maximise the fare
- Offering a flat rate to your destination.
A more-dangerous scam in Hanoi consists of drivers pretending to be taxis, then driving their passengers outside of the city unless they agree to fork over money and valuables.
There have been reports of airport taxi drivers operating on the coupon system who demand more money once at your destination. The driver will hold your luggage hostage in the trunk until you pay the difference.
For cyclo, there are 2 most common scenarios:
- The cyclo driver takes you far away from the place you wanted to go to an unknown location and asks you to pay an exorbitant price, or he will not take you back
- The cyclo driver takes you around the city to different attractions and offers to wait while you sightsee. When you come out to meet him, you find that you have to pay for his “waiting time” and this fee is at least 500.000 VND/hour (about 25 USD). When you refuse to pay. He takes out his “service fees” booklet that clearly states “500.000 VND/hour for waiting time”. You will then be hounded to pay before he leaves you alone.
- Always confirm before getting inside any taxi that the driver will use the meter. If getting a ride from one of Vietnam’s famous “cyclos” or bicycle-taxis, agree on a clear price before getting inside
- You have lost all your bargaining power once the journey starts. Confirm whether the price is total or per person and assume that any price you are given is one-way. Prices for rides can usually be negotiated.
- Do not rely on information about a particular hotel or restaurant being “closed” – this is usually the driver’s attempt to take you to a friend’s restaurant instead.
- Keep your bags on the seat with you!
- Only using official taxis, easily identifiable in Vietnam
- If you want to sightsee in the city on a rickshaw, it is better if you book a tour through a reputable tour company and save yourself from the haggling
VII.4. Hotel Scams in Vietnam
Some small, independent guesthouses advertise attractively low room rates, but will claim that the ones you’ve booked are full so you’ll need to pay much more for the only available rooms left – often the higher end rooms.
Some even refuse to return your passport unless you’ve paid for the extra fee, so there’s no way around it other than giving in to their demands.
Hotels in Vietnam have been known to double rates upon checkout by claiming that the price quoted was per person rather than per night. If your room has a refrigerator, confirm what drinks are present when you check in to avoid being charged for something a previous guest enjoyed.
When arriving to a new town, your best bet is to walk briskly past all the hotel offers from touts that wait on the buses. These guys are middlemen and their commission is added to your room rate.
Tips: Book your hotel through a trusted hotel booking website and bring along your confirmation email.
VII.5. Street Vendors
Street vendors often target western visitors who’ve never experienced the local culture, many of whom invite you to take photographs with their props, then force them to pay a tip after they’re done.
If tourists refuse to pay, these street vendors will follow them until they’ve bought something or given some money. Another common scam is children pretending to be orphans or disabled, begging for money outside prominent attractions or restaurants.
Tips: Politely but firmly decline their offer, but if the street vendors are persistent, simply walk away from them.
VII.6. Restaurants that Do Not Display Prices
Vietnam may be renowned for its delicious yet affordable delicacies, but there are some restaurants that con tourists into paying exorbitant prices for their meal.
These dining venues often have staff who can’t converse in English (or pretend that they don’t), so if you ask for the price, they often answer vaguely or assure you that their food is cheap.
As a result, the bill is usually much more expensive compared to the regular price. Of course, you’ll have no other choice than to pay for it as the food is already eaten.
Tips: Always ask for the menu and insist on knowing the prices before ordering. Alternatively, do your research beforehand and only visit restaurants with positive reviews.
VII.7. Entrance Fees to Free Attractions
Attractions in Vietnam range from pristine Buddhist shrines and colonial structures to geological wonders such as the Sand Dunes of Mui Ne and Ha Long Bay.
There are common cases of tourists being told by strangers to pay an entrance fee to visit certain areas of an attraction.
Tips: Always do your research if you’re planning to visit Vietnam’s many attractions. Most Buddhist temples in Vietnam are free to enter, though donations are welcomed.
VII.8. Train Ticket Scams
Popular amongst backpackers and long-term travellers, travelling by overnight trains is a cheap and efficient way of travelling across Vietnam.
However, there are plenty of fake train travel websites offering attractive prices and then charging you extra once you’ve arrived the station.
Another common scam is people approaching you at the entrance of train stations, often offering to buy a ticket for you at a discounted rate.
Tips: Buy train tickets through your hotel, a reputable travel agent or an official website. Better yet, head to the train station to buy your ticket on the spot.
VIII. Basic Vietnamese for travelers
Although English has risen to be a common medium of communication in Vietnam, it would be a little bit difficult to get by without knowing a word of Vietnamese.
Having some basic Vietnamese words and phrases in hand will definitely help cut down misunderstandings and frustrations, thereby giving you a more fascinating insight into Vietnamese culture.
AZ Local Trip would like to introduce you 45 common Vietnamese words and phrases suitable for everyone who goes to Vietnam for a business, travel or simply to get to know the area better.
PART 1: Numbers:
(English – Vietnamese)
1: một (mot)
2: hai (hi)
3: ba (ba)
4: bốn (bón)
5: năm (numb)
6: sáu (sów)
7: bảy (bay)
8: tám (túm)
9: chín (jín)
10: mười (mù – ee)
1x: mười + x ( 1,2,3,4…9). Example, 12: mười hai (mù-ee hi)
x0: (1,2,…,9) + mươi. EX, 30: ba mươi (ba muoi)
X00: (1,2,…,9) + trăm. Example, 200: hai trăm (hi trum)
X000: (1,2,…9) + nghìn. Example, 2000: hai nghìn (hi nghin)
PART 2: Basic Greetings
(English – Vietnamese)
- Hello! – Xin chào! (sin chow!)
- Goodbye – Tạm Biệt (Tam Biet)
- How are you? – Bạn có khỏe không? (ban co kwe khome?)
- I’m fine, thank you! – Cảm ơn bạn, tôi khỏe (gahm un ban, thoy kwe)
- And you? – Bạn thì sao? (ban thii sao?)
- What’s your name? – Bạn tên gì (ban thane zee?)
- My name is… – Tôi là (thoy la…)
- Thank you – Xin Cảm ơn (sin gahm un)
- You’re welcome – Không có gì (khom go zee)
- Yes – Vâng (vung)
- No – Không (khome)
- Excuse me/Sorry… – Xin lỗi (seen loy)
- Can you help me? – Bạn giúp tôi được không? (ban zoop thoy duc khome?)
PART 3: Shopping/Hotel/Restaurant
(English – Vietnamese)
- I’d like to eat – Tôi muốn ăn (thoy moowan un)
- I’d like to drink – Toi muốn uống (thoy moowan oowanh)
- Good – Tốt (thote)
- Bad – Không tốt (khome thote)
- What is this? – Cái này là gì (guy nai la zee)
- How much – Bao nhiêu (bow nyew)
- Too expensive – Mắc quá (mahk qwa)
- Hot – Nóng (nom)
- Cold – Lạnh (lang)
- Coffee – Cà phê (cah feh)
- Hot black coffee – Cà phê nóng (cah feh nom)
- Hot Coffee with milk – Cà phê sữa nóng (cah feh sua nom)
- Tea – Trà (chah)
- Where is the ATM ?- Cay ATM o dau
- Where is the nearest internet shop – Chỗ internet ở đâu? (choh internet uh doh?)
- Where is the nearest bank – Nhà băng ở đâu (nya bung uh doh)
- Hotel – Khách Sạn (khack san)
- I like – Tôi thích (thoy tick)
- I am happy – Toi vui (thoy vuoy)
- I am tired – Toi met (thoy mate)