Vietnam is an assault on your senses. From the moment you get out of the airport, the cacophony of sounds, the vibrant colours and the smells of the food cooking in the street stalls all prove to be very alluring for the intrepid traveler.
This can be a great thing to some, but overwhelming to others. Then add in the fact that Vietnam is like another world compared to countries in the West. And this brings some unique challenges to be able to enjoy everything the country has to offer.
Which is why you need to know a few things before heading there to make sure that you do enjoy it and are not left with a bad taste in your mouth because you didn’t approach the country the right way.
In this article, I will go over several of the things that you need to do to get the most out of your trip to Vietnam.
1 - Prepare for the flight
Unless you are flying to Vietnam from somewhere in Asia, then you need to be ready for a long flight. Even flying from Australia will take you up to 8.5 hours. The West coast of the US takes over 15 hours. Now imagine flights from NYC or London and you can see that you need to be ready for a long and potentially uncomfortable flight.
To get there fresh and lively, you will need to take some measures for making long flights more comfortable. Things like noise cancelling headphones, a neck pillow and setting up your seat area for efficiency will go a long way towards cutting down on the discomfort of the flight.
2 - Be an adventurous eater
Try to stay away from restaurants that cater to Westerners. The food will generally be middling at best and terrible at worst. Not only that, but to really experience a culture, you need to eat the local cuisine.
And Vietnam is a foodie paradise. It is worth the flight just for the phở alone as it is the signature dish of Vietnam. There are so many can’t miss dishes in Vietnam thanks to the use of sweet, sour and savory ingredients like the fish sauce, limes and spicy chili.
Sign up for a food tour to go to the best places that serve up honest to goodness dishes that the locals eat. If you go it on your own, make sure to do some research beforehand to find the right places to go.
3 - Spend a bit of money
Luckily, Vietnam is very budget friendly, so you don’t have to spend a fortune to get better accommodations and service. But, spend extra to get things like a comfortable hotel or to eat at the right restaurant.
Backpackers tell different tales of what their experience in Vietnam is like and the consensus is that when you are pinching pennies the experience varies quite a bit. You are far more likely to be ripped off and taken advantage of if you are a backpacker.
When you spend a bit more, you are more likely to get better service and the accommodations will be far more comfortable than if you were to look for backpacker style lodgings.
4 - Get insurance
Though Vietnam is more modern than you may realize, there are still pockets of the country that are not up to modern standards. If you don’t want any surprises when it comes to your health or even a change in travel options, then having travel insurance is a good idea.
You may catch an illness since you are not from there which can have you seeking medical attention. Insurance will help you avoid any big bills because of it. The drivers are absolutely crazy, so you may get into a car accident even if you aren’t driving.
Or, the weather could cancel your flight out or in. In which case you will want compensation. You may not need it, but having insurance will give you peace of mind when you are far from home.
5 - Hire a guide
Many young people and anybody working in the tourism industry likely speaks fairly good English. But, getting around and enjoying the country to the fullest is best done with somebody who speaks Vietnamese since you likely don’t.
Hiring a guide will give you access to places that you wouldn’t see or experience if you are on your own because of the language barrier. You’ll get more of the history of a location with a guide that can tell you the story of a particular building or place. You’ll be treated much better when you have a local with you.