Travel or tour to another country has its unique challenges and surprises. Consistent with our practice of visiting a destination in order to experience it firsthand and better make recommendations to clients, we’ve recently traveled to Vietnam. Here are some tips when visiting Vietnam:
1. Money. In addition to the local currency, the Vietnamese Dong (VND), establishments generally accept US dollars (US$). This developing country has an existing exchange rate of VND20,500 to US$1. Change only a small amount at the airport because hotels have a higher exchange rate (and money changer at the main post office has a slightly higher rate than in hotels).
2. Kind of attractions. Vietnam is a great place for history buffs, particularly those interested in warfare and military history. As the theater of war involving the United States of America, one of the rare instances when the US lost, it features vintage weapons and relics (e.g., War Memorial and Reunification Palace) , as well as historical sites (Cu Chi Tunnel).
3. Shopping and transportation. Motorcycles rule the streets of Vietnam, which should not be a problem for tourists who are most likely to make use of the plentiful taxis (Vinasun taxis are highly recommended). Outlet stores abound, although many visitors prefer the night and flea markets (do not forget to ask for discounts, sometimes as high as 70%).
4. Hotels and accommodations. There are many hotels in Vietnam (it would be advisable to ask your travel agent to recommend a hotel based on your budget and your preferred star-rating). The trick is to choose a hotel near areas of greatest interest so you could visit these places on foot.
5. Food and Massage. We tried the roadside food at the night market, equally delicious but actually a bit expensive than some restaurants. Be sure to ask the waiter for the recommended Vietnamese cuisine. Be careful of street food. Whole day of exploring the city on foot deserves a good massage (foot and back massage). Massage in Vietnam is reasonably priced and highly relaxing.
6. Safety and language. We’ve gone around Ho Chi Minh, during the day and at night, and encountered no problems. Locals are friendly and helpful, although there’s a slight problem because many do not speak English. Nevertheless, as with the usual warning in any destination, be mindful of your things (cameras and bags), especially when walking along the road, which are swamped with motorcycles.
7. Clothing and weather. Vietnam, like its Southeast Asian neighbors, is a tropical country. Weather is hot and humid, so dress accordingly (while this is a communist country, there are no clothing restrictions).
8. Tours. The kind of tour would depend on your interest and the length of stay. A single day in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) could be spent visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels in the morning and basic city tour in the afternoon (including the War Memorial and Reunification Palace). The Ha Long Bay Tour is in Hanoi. Tell your travel agency what your interests are so it could make suggestions to maximize your trip.
For assistance on your Vietnam trip/tour, do not hesitate to contact us. Let us know if you have comments on or suggestions to this article.