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Traveler's Guide to Vietnam

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04:39 PM 12.03 Saturday Hanoi, Vietnam

Top 10 things you need to know

Money

The Vietnamese Dong is the official currency of Vietnam. Often times, prices are shown in US Dollar amounts, but the merchants expect to be paid with Dong. It is easy to bargain with Dong, and typically in your favor to do so. Credit card use often incurs a surcharge, and ATMs can usually only be found in large cities.

Public Transportation & In country Travel

Travel by train is almost non-existent. There is bus service between major cities, but for longer trips, air travel would be suggested and is usually faster and cheaper. Rental cars are almost non-existent, but it can be relatively cheap to hire a driver by the day. Motorcycle taxis are a common mode of inner city travel for tourists, and you can also rent bicycles.

Language

The official language is Vietnamese, a tonal language with four different dialects depending on the region. Most hotel and airline employees know a small amount of English, and most signs are in both Vietnamese and English.

Best time to travel

Depending on where you travel the weather can vary greatly, some areas can receive very heavy rainfall, but temperatures usually don’t go below 50 degrees F. The country’s biggest holiday is Tet, their New Year's celebration, which usually takes place some time between January and March. Leading up to the holiday, travel and cities are very hectic and busy. When the holiday occurs, almost everything closes for at least three days.

Hospitality

It is very easy to find accommodations in Vietnam. Prices can vary greatly depending on the type of accommodation you choose. The Vietnamese are very welcoming to foreigners and usually quite excited to meet new people. Tipping is not necessary, except for bellhops at high-end hotels.

Safety

Vietnam is fairly safe for foreigners, but you should watch out for pickpockets and scammers. Petty crimes often take place in the major cities or crowded areas, such as beaches, busy shopping centers or nightlife areas. When shopping, make sure you only buy from shops that have their prices printed.

Food and Drink

There is a large amount of fruits, vegetables, and fresh seafood available in Vietnam. Meals are typically served family style. The national dish is Pho, a broth based dish with chicken or beef and rice noodles. Do not drink the water and be sure you do not ever receive ice in your drinks. Only drink bottled water. There is no legal drinking age; however, you must be at least eighteen to purchase alcohol.

Diversity

The majority of Vietnam is populated by Vietnamese people, with a small population of Chinese in Ho Chi Minh city, and a small amount of other ethnic groups in rural areas. Approximately 85% of the population is Buddhist; the next largest religion is Catholicism.

Accessibility

Many hotels offer internet access, but social medias sites are blocked. You can buy SIM cards in Vietnam to use your mobile phone there on one of many networks that they offer.

Cultural customs

Vietnam is a group-oriented society, and family is considered to be the most important thing. A great amount of respect is shown to elders. Try to avoid public displays of affection. Be very sensitive of discussing past wars or conflicts. Stay neutral on discussing issues concerning their neighbor, China.

Things not to do

  1. Do not touch someone’s head or pass an object over top of their head.
  2. Do not point your finger.
  3. Do not stand with your hands on your hips or your arms crossed.
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