Vietnam: Top 5 Tips!
Hey Folks! I’d like to start posting to the blog on a weekly basis and I’m thinking Wednesday or Thursday would be a good day for that—if anyone has thoughts or suggestions feel free to leave a comment.
While I was gallivanting around Southeast Asia we made a quick three day stop in Ho Chi Minh City. I personally was dying to go to Hanoi but I was outvoted sooo… next time I’m in Vietnam you better believe I’ll be going to Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh was great though, a great starter city for a first time experience in Vietnam. Here are my top five tips for visiting Vietnam:
- The traffic is CRAY CRAY- Seriously, it’s nuts. It’s basically a free for all. All. The. Time. The cab fare is very reasonable so use cabs! I wouldn’t dare rent a car and put my safety into my own hands! If you’re in District 1, the area is pretty pedestrian friendly because so many of the famous sights are within District 1. We stayed across the bridge from District 1 and were in a more local neighborhood, thus making it far less pedestrian friendly. We got by, and I appreciated the local feel, but I would definitely take the traffic into consideration when you’re planning where to stay.
- Check the weather report— as I’ve mentioned in the blog before, research can be crucial to a successful trip. The various regions of Vietnam have vastly different weather; Northern Vietnam sees tremendously more rain than the south! If you’re hoping to visit the epic rice fields of Sapa in Northern Vietnam, do your research to ensure you won’t be rained out!
- Communism is alive and well—It wasn’t until I was in Vietnam that I realized how many Americans (myself included) take freedom for granted. Vietnam certainly has developed over the years and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but personal liberties are limited in a communist country. Be mindful of how you behave, what you say, and who to. Freedom of speech does not exist in Vietnam, and bloggers have been jailed (or worse) for engaging in the same activity that Americans are entitled to everyday. And please don’t be scared, it’s not a military state. I never felt fearful. I’m just saying, be mindful. Be respectful. Don’t be an idiot.
- Pollution—with growth and development [while lacking environmental mindfulness] comes pollution. The pollution was a little intense in Ho Chi Minh City. Most people riding motorbikes wear masks over their face. If you plan to spend any extended period of time in Vietnam, I highly recommend bringing a mask or finding a convenience store and purchasing one early on. Experience shouldn’t come at the cost of your health.
- Haggle, haggle, haggle– There is an endless supply of great gifts and souvenirs to be purchased in Vietnam but the sticker prices (in street markets) are not reflective of its true value. For the mass produced, cheaply made souvenirs: Decide what the value of the product is to you, and let your first offer be something ridiculously, almost offensively low—that way you can haggle to your ideal price. There were many occasions where the vendor refused to give me the price I wanted until I physically walked away, and then of course they said “okay okay!” and gave in. I mean, it’s your money and if you’re not comfortable with haggling then pay whatever you want! But if you travel on a budget and want to purchase goods, this is one of those opportunities to keep some money in your wallet. And I really mean it when I say to think of what its value is to you. One of my favorite purchases from my trip was a handmade leather purse; it was my most expensive purchase (yet still totally reasonable in comparison to its cost in the US) but I loved it. It was crafted and truly one of a kind so I didn’t approach the merchant with a ridiculously low offer; although I was in a street market the context of this specific shop was completely different. So be mindful, and don’t get raked over.
And that’s it! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below. I’m happy to share more about our experiences in Vietnam.
Peace, love, and adventure!