You are travelling to Vietnam, things you need to know before visiting. There are some common rules that you should know before your trip.
1. Things to do before visiting Vietnam
Prepare for your visa (approval letter or an electronic visa application). Don’t wait until you are at the airport to sort out our visa. The easiest way to apply for a Vietnam visa is to get a visa on arrival (tourists, business, and transit travellers). This approval letter will allow you to get your visa at the airport when entering the country. The online approval letter only applies to air travellers who arrive in Vietnam by airplane at three international airports (in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City).
Last week, I applied for a visa for my husband; I have a friend who works in the visa department, so he helped me to get an electronic visa (e-visa) instead of an approval letter at the airport. My husband is also eligible for a 5-year visa (married visa). However, it will take more time and more money. It is not worth doing so.
When you apply for a visa on arrival, you must print out the document to give (show) it to the authorities at the airport. We still like to use paper, but keeping the email on your phone is also a good idea.
Note: Please don’t worry. Once you have a visa approval letter, you will get a visa at the airport (if you are concerned about whether you will get a visa or not). You can apply for a Vietnam visa at the Vietnamese embassy or the Vietnamese consulate in your country.
Before you go ahead and apply for your visa, please look at the list of countries that have visa exemptions to Vietnam:
1.1. Vietnam Visa Exemption
Countries that do not need a visa to enter Vietnam:
Conditions: Valid passport (six months validity), return flight tickets or to a third country.
Get the latest update list at this website: Bộ Ngoại Giao Việt Nam
You might be interested:
1.2. Travel Insurance
It is important that you have insurance when travelling in Vietnam. The public hospitals in Vietnam are very crowded and hectic. It will be better to have travel insurance. If you needed, you could go to a private hospital or fly to Thailand or Singapore (depending on your insurance coverage).
1.3. Book a hotel
Sometimes when you apply for a visa, you might need to fill in the form about where you are staying. Also, you don’t want to be sleeping out on the street because you cannot find a place to stay.
2. Food and Drinks Caution
2.1. Food Allergy
Extra caution if you are allergic to any kind of food. In Vietnam, the majority of the population has no idea about food allergies. As I always say to everyone in Australia: “we eat everything in Vietnam”. We love peanuts, and people eat peanuts in every part of Vietnam. No peanut allergy, not that I know of.
‘Vegan’, ‘Gluten-free’ etc., are new terms for us. However, In popular tourist places or in big cities, many people speak English. So, you need to tell people but be careful when you travel to local places and eat at a local restaurant.
If you are gluten-free, don’t worry, we eat rice for every meal. We use rice noodles and rice flour for our popular dishes, e.g., Phở, local cakes, Bánh Chưng (Vietnamese special cakes for the New Year) etc.
Vegan is no worries at all. Many people in Vietnam choose to be vegetarian for 2 days a month (on the first day of and the 15th of the lunar month). Therefore, there are quite many vegetarian restaurants around.
p/s: I use the word ‘vegetarian’ because we don’t really use the word ‘vegan’. I know vegan food is different from vegetarian.
2.2. Water – no tap water
No, you cannot drink water straight from your tab at the hotel. We have to boil our water and then let it cool down to drink. Or most families have to have a water filter. We boil water, put it in the filter, and then drink. Many families even have high-technology water filters. Anyway, back to the point.
Don’t drink water from the tab. At the hotel, you can use your free water everyday (if available). Grab them to go out. Refill your bottle at the hotel lobby. Often, in the lobby, the hotel will have a 20-litre mineral water bottle. You can be bold and refill your bottle there. Or, pay US $0.50 for a big bottle in the local shops.
3. Things not to do in Vietnam
There are many unspoken rules in Vietnamese culture (my culture). We often don’t judge outsiders (foreigners). Sorry, if you feel offended, but we use the word ‘foreigner’ to refer to non-Vietnamese).
There are things that you might consider doing out of respect for our culture:
3.1. Don’t wear super short or sheer clothes when visiting pagodas and temples
Pagodas and temples are sacred to the majority of Vietnamese people. Since I was little, Mum and Dad always asked me to wear the best outfit that I had when we went to the pagoda or temple. Outfits are often long sleeves, long pants, or at least pants that cover my knees.
Nowadays, rules are a bit less strict. However, if you are about to visit a pagoda, ask your tour guide if he or she has any recommendations for dressing. Or wearing things that are not too short or see-through.
3.2. Don’t ride a motorbike without a license
I know, you might read somewhere that things must try to do in Vietnam. Riding a motorcycle is one of those. Well, you can try to ride a motorbike with a person who has a legal licence. Or, try to ride a blow 50cc engine bike (how about a honda cup?) for which you don’t need a licence.
Read more about riding a motorcycle in Vietnam
When there is an accident on the road in Vietnam, big vehicles pay for smaller vehicles. Even if you apply rules correctly. One more thing, if you are a foreigner, Vietnamese people expect you will pay in an accident. These are spoken and unspoken rules.
You can also choose to join a motorbike tour in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city:
- A 4-hour Vespa Tour in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
- Hanoi Motorbike tour led by women
- More adventurous with Da Nang to Hue via Hai Van Pass on a motorbike
- Da Nang local food tour on a motorbike
3.3. Don’t do shopping in the early morning
I mentioned this in tips for shopping in Vietnam. Don’t go and shop in the early morning. Because, in general, we believe the first customer determines the transactions of the day in Vietnamese culture.
So, if you go and shop in the morning, you are the first customer, you are being a bit difficult to deal with, or they have to negotiate with you, then you decide not to buy. No… it is not a good idea to be the first customer if you are not an easy shopper.
I would say 10:00 – 10:30 AM should be the right time.
Don’t worry about showing affection in public, for example, hugs, kisses, etc. We are influenced by Western culture, watching a lot of Western movies, so most people understand. But, don’t hug Vietnamese people without asking them. We do hug foreigners, just ask them first and don’t worry about it too much. My husband still has to ask my Mum if he can give her a hug. My Dad?… nope! He will not accept a hug from a man.
All of the content in this blog is based on my own experience. However, I have included some links that you might find useful – and I do make a little money if you use them.