With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Travel Tips for Vietnam

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 30, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.

Everything else can easily be bought in Vietnam for a lot cheaper than back home.

Would you rather carry up a backpack or a suitcase?

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage
    • Bring a backpack instead of a suitcase. Many hostels and hotels don’t have elevators making suitcases, even carry-on spinners, awkward to handle.
    • A backpack can be purchased in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City for a faction of the usual price.
      • Look at several shops that sell just backpacks before buying a pack.
    • You could bring just any old duffel bag and throw it away when you buy a backpack here.
  2. Clothes
    • You can buy lots of clothes here at a fraction of the usual price.
      • Larger sizes are harder to find. So, if you are taller or chubbier than average I would not depend too heavily on finding lots of clothes.
      • Many pants are unisex and one size fits most.
    • You might not find your usual style.
      • You will look like every other backpacker, unless you shop at malls which only carry smaller sizes and have less discounted prices.
    • You will need to have at least one short sleeved (non-tank top) shirt and one pair of shorts or a skirt that covers your knees to enter some temples. This is true for men and women.
  3. Towel (not needed)
    • All hotels and hostels provided guests with towels. Some, not all, even provided 2 towels, one for showers and one for the beach.
    • You might bring a towel for use at the beach.
  4. Shampoo (not needed), conditioner, and body wash (not needed)
    • All hotels and hostels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
      • Sometimes I didn’t like the shampoo or body wash so I bought my own.
    • You are never given conditioner.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in Vietnam.
      • You can find many popular brands like Dove, Pantene, Finesse, and Lux.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant
    • You can find this here, but the brand selection is limited.
      • It’s mostly Dove, Nivea, and other brands I’ve never heard of.
  6. Sunscreen
    • It’s mostly Banana Boat and Nivea.
    • Many (not he Banana Boat brand) come with “skin whitening” (whatever that means).
    • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and suncreen at a convenience store, but they will be cheaper at grocery stores. Grocery stores will have more variety, too.
  7. Over the counter medicine
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Other things you should bring
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone

General Tips:

Walking slowly will cause a taxi driver to ask if you need a ride.

Taxis:

  • They are all metered and cannot be turned on without turning on the meter.
    • In the past taxi driver’s in Vietnam were very sketchy, but the government intervened.
  • People say that Uber is cheaper, but taxis here are very cheap and it’s so damn easy to hail a cab.
    • You can stop one accidentally by waving to a friend, scratching your head, or standing on the sidewalk for too long.
  • Some cabs come with free wi-fi.
  • The bigger the cab, the more expensive it is. (They are all pretty cheap, though.)

Money:

  • Get cash from ATMs.
    • HSBC (free I think) and TechCom (66,000VND ~ 3USD) Bank has the lowest rate.
  • Exchange money at banks.

Scams:

  • No scams in particular.
  • Just watch out for overpriced things.
    • Even overpriced items are cheap when compared to prices back home.
    • Overall, almost everything in Vietnam is inexpensive. I had to used the phrase “expensive for Vietnam” to clarify the prices of things.

Visa:

  • If you need a visa to enter (Americans do) get a visa beforehand to save time.
    • Visa at the airport (you did nothing beforehand) — 2 to 3 hour wait or denied entry.
    • E-visa — 15 minutes.
    • completed vise — no wait

Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
    • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.
    • Or you can apply for a visa online if you do not live near an embassy or consulate.
    • Remember if you enter Vietnam on a single entry visa then leave, you must wait 30 days before returning to Vietnam on another visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the bank in Vietnam. (DO NOT get money at the airport. You will never get a good rate. Use an ATM/bank.) Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
    • Also, asking the average Joe on the street for ABC hotel will do nothing. Locals don’t stay in hotels, so they don’t remember hotel names. But Mr. Joe will know where 123 Hanoi St. is.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.
  • There are companies that charge 10USD to take you from Hanoi to the airport. They are all around Hanoi. Use one of those instead of jumping into a random cab.
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