Before heading off on your journey, consider the following Vietnam travel tips to help you prepare for your adventure.
1. Get your visa in advance. And when you apply, call the Embassy before sending in your check. Their online paperwork is confusing and it’s easy to send in the wrong amount. Turnaround time for U.S. residents is about 5 days.
2. Consider carrying a netbook or wifi-enabled cell phone. Many hotels and cafes offer free wifi making it easy to check your email on the go.
3. Dress in layers. The weather can be quite different north to south and from beach to mountain. Depending on your itinerary, consider wearing convertible pants, a base layer, light shirt and a jacket.
4. Pack few items that match with each other. Keeping your luggage light will allow you to move around easier, whether by train, bus, taxi or cyclo. Organize your clothes weeks before your trip and bring as little as possible with you.
5. Carry an unlocked cell phone. If you’ve got an old phone not tied to a mobile service, you can have the phone unlocked (allowing you to use another SIM card) prior to your trip. When you arrive in Vietnam, you can then buy a SIM card and jump onto the local carrier for your local calls.
6. Keep a money pouch tucked into your clothes. In the bigger cities, street children are notorious for trying to pick the pockets of unsuspecting tourists. Keep your passport, credit cards and cash hidden away from easy access.
7. Carry small bills in the local currency. The dong is the local currency and you’ll want to carry plenty of these in small bills. Otherwise, when you go to pay for something inexpensive, you’ll find that no one has change.
8. Consider carrying a SteriPEN. Likely the weather will be warm and you’ll be drinking lots of water. If you can cut down on the number of bottles of water you’re purchasing, you’ll be keeping garbage out of the landfills.
9. Carry $1 bills. Make sure they are crisp and use these as tips for taxi drivers, bell hops and anyone else who has helped you out.
10. Learn a few phrase words. Even “please” and “thank you” will help you go a long way with the locals. Being able to order your coffee with sugar and milk? Priceless!
11. Plan to purchase a duffel bag for your souvenirs. I rarely check a bag on my way TO Vietnam, but when I return I have to check my bag of souvenirs. There are many wonderful handicrafts, clothes and other items that will make for wonderful memories when you return home.
12. Carry a power adapter. In order to use your electronics and to power up your batteries, you’ll need a power converter for the plugs in Vietnam. Check with your local luggage and travel store to find out exactly what you need. Otherwise, you can purchase one on Amazon.
13. Visit a karaoke bar. You don’t have to drink, but spending some time in one of these little cafes can be a total hoot. It’ll give you and idea as to what the locals do for fun.
14. Be nice. The Vietnamese people rarely show their anger outwardly. Though travel can be frustrating at times, you’ll make more friends if you are patient and understanding if issues do arise.