Thinking of joining us on one of our Solo Travellers trips to Vietnam this year? We’ve put together a list of our top 5 tips for when you’re there.
Be bold when crossing
Okay so kicking off these Top 5 Tips is crossing the street, sounds simple, right? Until you get to Vietnam, you probably won’t quite understand the extent of the craziness on the roads. It really does appear to be a massive free for all with no system in place whatsoever – trying to cross the road down the backstreets of Hanoi was a personal favourite. The trick? Be bold. Be sensible. The bikes will be trying to avoid you just as much as you are trying to avoid them. Pick your moment and go for it. You’ll soon get the hang of it.
Eat the street food (TOP TIP)
Vietnamese street food is arguably some of the best you’ll find in South East Asia (don’t tell Thailand we said that). You’ll come across all sorts of fantastic food stalls as you wander the streets of Vietnam; speciality stations serving banh mi, banh xeo, and hot bowls of pho, men barbecuing whole fish and stuffed squid, and tiny street side restaurants displaying endless amounts of colourful dishes behind glass cabinets. Note that people selling street food generally don’t have fantastic English, so just pick what looks good and hope for the best – that’s half the fun of travelling in Asia! If you are new to eating street food, and perhaps a little wary, take a stroll around the immediate area, see which stall is attracting the most locals and make a beeline for it. The Vietnamese love their food, so chances are this stall will be the best. Look out for the tiny blue and red stalls indicative of street food and you’ll be onto a winner.
If you’ve ever visited any of Vietnam’s neighbours, you’ll know that big smiles, loads of enthusiasm and a genuine interest in who you are, come as part of the package with the locals. Vietnam on the other hand… slightly less welcoming. But don’t be disheartened, it’s not that the Vietnamese are unfriendly, and if you have a question or problem, you’ll find they will be more than happy to help, if you ask politely. They just prefer keeping themselves to themselves. It’s nice in a way – telling complete strangers you’re from London and subsequently hearing ‘lovely jubbly’ eleven times a day does get a bit repetitive.
Avoid Bag Snatching & Pick-pocketers
Certain areas are more renowned for this than others. Pick-pocketing is more prominent in Nha Trang and commonly carried out by prostitutes, whereas bag snatching has unfortunately made a bit of a name for itself in Saigon. I spent a whole month in Vietnam and never had any trouble but as with any city, just be aware of your surroundings.
Do not miss Sapa
Sapa wasn’t even on my radar before I left for Vietnam (how incredibly ignorant of me I know), but thank god someone guided me in the right direction. The authenticity of this place is astounding. I stayed with a family of the H’mong hill tribe, way up in the hills, with incredible views of the landscape and rice terraces below. Their home was the most basic I’d ever been in, but what they lacked in amenities they more than made up for in hospitality. Our meals were prepared over a fire in the middle of the kitchen floor, and yet it was some of the best food I’d eaten in Vietnam. There were three generations living together in the house, the grandfather, who had fought in the Vietnam War, Tong, the mother, who had learnt her English from tourists and made her money taking people trekking through the rice terraces, and the kids… who were literally the cutest little children everrr! Sapa is rural, old-school Vietnam at its best. An amazing place, not to be missed.
I know we said Top 5 Tips but here’s little bonus tip for you – smile. Smiling goes a long way in Vietnam. If you think you are being ripped off, smile and ask for a better price. If you don’t like something, explain with a smile. If you are asking a stranger for help, do it with a smile. Keep a smile on your face for the duration of your trip and you’ll find Vietnam will be a lot kinder to you.
Now that you’ve read our Top 5 Tips for this incredible country, get yourselves booked onto our next Best of Vietnam trip!