We spent 29 days traveling in Vietnam from south to north and really enjoyed it! We visited many beautiful places. The food is delicious, the people are nice, and it is surprisingly easy to get around. We learned some useful tips for traveling in Vietnam along the way:
- You can mostly get by with English except in a few places where Google Translate is helpful. Google Translate (camera and text) works offline if you download the language dictionary you want. Enjoy the wacky translations the camera app gives you! You will need a Vietnamese keyboard to access all the necessary accents for text translation. Speaking translation only works with an internet connection.
- Google Maps works as a navigation tool in Vietnam – download the maps for cities you are visiting offline for use without an internet connection.
- Internet is everywhere and it is almost universally pretty good. The passwords are taped to the wall of almost every cafe, bus station, and homestay.
- Homestays are common types of cheap accommodation which often have dorm rooms or private rooms and often offer a home-cooked breakfast in the morning.
- Food is delicious and cheap, which is good because you have to eat out for every meal. None of the homestays or hostels we stayed at in Vietnam had a kitchen we could use. This was the thing that started to wear on us most by the end.
- Buses are easy to use, cheap, comfortable and go where you want. We traveled long distances only by bus, often at night, and had no trouble other than being dropped on a few street corners in the wee hours. Most of the buses we took were sleeper buses, even for shorter distances.
- One particular bus company stood out to us – The Sinh Tourist. We took their buses whenever they were an option and they were always cheap and reliable.
- Public buses are reliable and cheap modes of transportation in the cities. Google Maps is helpful for figuring out which buses to take to your destination, but it will not give you bus directions without internet.
- Bicycles and motorbikes are everywhere in Vietnam and popular modes of transportation. In most places you need an international motorcycle license to rent a motorbike. You can borrow or rent bicycles at many homestays.
- Grab is the Uber equivalent in Vietnam. You can pay in cash or with a credit card and can get cars or motorbikes in most places. In Huế, we discovered Grab only operated motorbikes.
- There are no pedestrian crossing lights. Be bold when crossing the street. Find an opening and walk slowly and steadily through it while motorbikes and cars zip past you.
- Vietnam is hot and humid in September, except in Sapa. Thankfully every homestay we stayed in had air conditioning and decent showers. It can also be pretty rainy, so don’t forget your umbrella or raincoat.
- Most showers in Vietnam do not have a separate area with a door or curtain. There is just a sprayer in the bathroom, so water often goes everywhere. It was only after we got to our homestay in Sapa and the host gave us slippers for the shower that we realized the slippers were not for wearing in the shower, but for wearing in the bathroom after you take a shower when the floor is wet. This suddenly makes so much sense to us!
- Be mindful of where you are supposed to take off your shoes. Shoes always come off before you enter a temple, but they often come off before you enter a homestay or hostel, and when you get on a sleeper bus.
- Make sure you have a way to cover your knees and shoulders when you visit temples. Some have wraps you can borrow, but others just will not let you in if you are not dressed appropriately.
- Vietnamese coffee is very strong and can be ordered black or with milk (usually sweetened condensed milk). In either case it is usually quite sweet. In an attempt to get less sweet coffee, Jess switched to ordering coffee with fresh milk, but it was still sweet. Specify no sugar, if that is what you want.
- Definitely try egg coffee! It’s a delicious coffee with a layer of custard on top.
One Reply to “Goodbye, Vietnam”
Sounds like a great trip. I have always wanted to go to Vietnam and your travel trips may come in handy one day! I am writing this from cold, dark, and wet London is the idea of hot sounds great!