Vietnam is one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia due to its rich history and culture, as well as its many natural wonders. From the Ban-Gioc Waterfall in the north to Ha Long Bay in the south, there is a lot that this beautiful nation has to explore. However, before you embark on your journey around Vietnam, here are some things you will need to know.
1. There are motorcyclists everywhere
Don’t be surprised if you see an awful lot of motorbikes on the road in Vietnam. While urban centres such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have reliable mass transport systems, most citizens prefer riding their own motorcycles. Exploring a city on a motorbike gives you greater flexibility as there are buses that stop their service as early as 19:00. Bike rental shops are scattered all over the country, so if you don't mind riding on two wheels and you have a licence to do so, then this a great option.
2. Food and drink are ridiculously cheap
There are tons of affordable restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, but to get a better taste of the local food scene, sampling street food is the best way to go. The whole city is akin to a live buffet, where a bowl of pho can be as cheap as £1.40 while a banh mi (a Vietnamese sandwich) will set you back as little as 70 pence.
Looking to cap the day off with some cold drinks? A bottle of beer will cost you around £0.35-£0.50, which may even be lower if you go drinking during happy hour. The time varies depending on the bar, so you will have to check out the signs out front before you decide where to go for a tipple.
3. Avoid group tour package
On almost every corner of Vietnam there are representatives selling tour packages. Many of them are legitimate and will offer trips where you can make memorable experiences, but watch out as there are still some notorious for ripping tourists off. This is why it may be better to just plan your trip out yourself, or at least do some online research beforehand to find reputable tour providers.
4. Be aware of Vietnam’s rules and regulations
As with any other country, Vietnam has laws that you have to abide by. If you plan on bringing home a lovely antique vase from the local market, then you’re out of luck because taking antiques out of the country is illegal.
Travellers must avoid wandering near the country's borders, too, as you can be detained due to round-the-clock border monitoring by the government who are trying to prevent drug smuggling. Likewise, the beaches are traditional, and in Vietnam you won’t find any topless beaches.
However, while Vietnam is very conservative, it does offer other forms of entertainment for foreign tourists. It is considered a gaming hotspot, as foreign passports holders are, generally, the only ones allowed to enter gaming centres. Keep in mind though that Vietnamese law only allows foreigners to play electronic machines in five-star hotels as well as in around 30 land-based casinos located in the country.
ExpatBets also outlines some important details regarding casinos in Vietnam, which include local regulations, as well as taxes. It's advisable to play using local currency because you will be able to avoid problems that can arise from exchanging currency such as hidden charges and sudden changes in rates. This will also make it easier to compute your taxes if you leave with a substantial amount of money, as there is a 10% tax on winnings above 10 million dongs (£327).
5. Cultural differences
Vietnam is a diverse country, and the differences between the cultures in the north and south are very distinct. Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon, as the locals call it) is much more westernised, while Hanoi is more connected to the country’s local and socialist heritage. If you want to get the full Vietnam experience, then you will need to visit both regions.
Planning to dig deeper into Southeast Asia? Check out this post on 10 things to know before your first trip to the Philippines.