For those of you about to embark on your first trip to Vietnam – lucky you! It truly is an incredible country rich in history and culture. There are of course a couple of things it pays to know before you set off. Here are our top five need-to-know tips for first-time visitors to Vietnam.
SECURE YOUR VISA
The vast majority of people will need to have a visa to enter Vietnam. Fortunately, the process isn’t impossible, it just requires a little planning. You have two options, you can either contact the Vietnamese Embassy in your country to apply, or you can get your visa upon arrival. In this instance, you will need pre-register for a visa before you fly with your travel agent. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive an invitation letter, which you must take with you as proof, otherwise you could face being denied entry.
You must take a little time to consider what type of clothing you’ll need for your visit to Vietnam. This will, of course, depend on the time of year that you’re travelling, and the areas of the country you plan on visiting. In the north, you’re likely to experience cooler temperatures. We recommend packing layers that can be shed or added accordingly. It’s also important to pack modest clothes so that you can be dressed appropriately when visiting temples and pagodas. A money belt is a good idea for carrying your valuables.
BRUSH UP ON ETIQUETTE
We recommend doing a little reading before your trip on what’s considered polite and impolite behaviour. The last thing you want is to accidentally offend a family you’re staying with by not knowing how to behave. For starters, it’s important never to point at Vietnamese people. You should avoid patting children on the head, as this is considered rude. When handing people money, either use both hands or your left hand, never your right. Remember that shoes are strictly outdoor attire in Vietnam. You should remove your shoes whenever you enter a home.
LEARN A FEW WORDS
The Vietnamese are friendly people, and a smile goes a long way. Whether you’re haggling or arguing a point, you should always do it with a smile on your face. Learning a couple of words is a great way to show respect. You need only know a couple, most important are ‘Hello’, “Goodbye’, ‘Please’, and ‘Thank you’.
When you first touch down in Vietnam, chances are that you may feel a little overwhelmed. This is a bustling, frantic, colourful country, which can be a bit of an assault on the senses at first. This is all a part of its charm. Be brave, smile at people, take your time and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to haggle, and most importantly, there’s no place for fear when it comes to crossing roads. Be brave and just walk. Trust us – they’ll move around you!