Mary Ann Issac
A practical guide to Vietnam
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
This guide has all you need to know to help you prepare for your trip to Vietnam!
How to get your Visa to Vietnam
If you are from a country that Vietnam doesn’t allow visa on entry, use the link below to apply for your visa. A fee of $25 will be charged; you have to upload your passport details and other information, and the visa will be processed in 3-5 working days. It has to be printed out for your jouorney. On arrival, the immigration officer will stamp your visa on your passport. You will get a 30 day single entry visa.
It is a quick and easy process. You do not need a travel agent to do this for you.
Check out my detailed guides to Vietnam
Check out my detailed guide to Ho Chi Minh City!
Vietnamese currency is the Vietnamese Dong.
1 INR=324 VND
A thing to note is that the smallest denomination of Vietnamese currency is 1000 VND, so anything below that is considered loose change which they don’t account for.
So if you exchange 1USD you will only get 23000.
All foreign exchange centres may not accept the Indian rupee, so bring USD with you for a hassle free experience.
Check out my guides to Tam Coc & Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh province
The Ultimate shopping guide to Ho Chi Minh City!
Check out my video on all the travel information you would need before booking your tickets!
Grab is the Uber equivalent of Vietnam, and is extremely helpful. Download it and register yourself on it as soon as you get your sim card. If you are using a sim card from your home country, register yourself on the app before you reach, which will save you some time at the airport post your arrival.
They have cars and motorcycles. It is easier to get motorcycles, and also a lot more fun! They are cheaper too, so give the grab motorcycles a try. They bring a passenger helmet and every driver I had was courteous and helpful. All of them helped me adjust my helmet as well.
From the airport
From both Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh city airports you can book a Grab, which will be cheaper than booking a taxi from the airport.
There are bus services connecting both Ho Chi Minh & Hanoi airports to the city, and they are much cheaper than the taxi- so get on a bus if you are up for it.
Ho Chi Minh City- Bus numbers 109 & 149 take you to the city centre-ask the staff to let you know when you have arrived at your stop.
Hanoi- Bus numbers 7 & 17 take you to the city centre.
Grab Motorcycle- I had only my backpack this trip, so I took a motorcycle from the airport, which was considerably cheaper than the taxi. ( I was too tired to get in the bus)
If you want to take a taxi you see on the road, be careful, because some of them will rip you off. The three main taxi companies are Vinasun, Vina taxi,& Mai Linh- their meters will be legit. But there are cases where the driver takes a longer route to overcharge you. There are other taxis that have extremely similar branding to these to confuse the customer-these guys will have a rigged meter, so be careful of which car you you are getting into.
You can try getting on the local buses, it might be a fun experience. There are air conditioned buses that ply around town and to all the main tourist spots. Ask at your hotel for assistance and give it a try.
Long distance buses
Book a long distance bus from any tour operator in town to travel between cities. (There are comfortable A/C sleeper buses.)
There are some beautiful train journeys that you can take when you are in Vietnam.
You can book tickets
-On the Vietnam Railways website
-throguh a trusted online travel agent
-from the station
-through a local travel agent
Even if you can’t get a train at a suitable time there are plenty of buses that ply every route, so not to worry. Internal travel can be sorted out once you get there.
There are plenty of travel agents all over all the tourist destinations, which makes booking travel around the country extremely easy.
Vietjet, Jetstar and Vietnam Airlines are the three carriers that will take you everywhere you want to go in and from Vietnam. I’ve flown Vietjet multiple times. I booked on their website prior to reaching the country. The prices are some times CHEAP, and they are reliable.
I always prefer getting a sim card after I arrive at the country I’m visiting. Vietnam makes it so easy to get a sim card upon arrival, that I would recommend everyone to just do this. At the arrival gate there are stalls by all the major providers, go browse through the plans, and choose one that is right for you interns of the amount of data you will need vs. talk-time etc.
The local language is called Vietnamese, and it helps to know a few basic words. If nothing, it will make someone smile at you! :p
So here are the basics- and google if you want to know more!
Hello- Xin Chao
Thank You- Cam on ban
How much- Bao Nhieu
Else, hand gestures & a smile work the best!
Vietnamese food is the highlight of my trips here, and I can’t wait to get back! There is food everywhere you look. Restaurants and cafes dot the streets of the bigger cities, and if not just Vietnamese cuisine, but everything you could think of. Local vendors walk around with their pushcarts of interesting delicacies, which are a must try, and quite adventurous as well, considerning you will most likely have no clue what they are selling!
I ate a lot of street food during my time in Vietnam, and I did not get sick. The food was amazing, and I felt good about helping a local vendor/family- so win-win!
Please try the street food.
I have a list of recommendations for where you should eat when you are in Ho Chi Minh City. Check it out!
I’ve never felt unsafe in Vietnam. The people here are willing to help, but it can be difficult when there is a language barrier. But even with that language barrier, there were a few people who went out of their way to help me, so don’t contemplate a trip here- just go!
But, be aware of your surroundings, like you would be anywhere else, there are plenty of cases of pickpockets, and bag & phone snatching.
This app is a lifesaver. I used it many times when I was here. So when lost in translation, remember google translate! :p
Be green during your travels
Vietnam has a huge plastic problem, which I didn’t notice as much during my first trip. But me second trip, I ate a lot of street food, which is when I nticed the sheer number of takeaway containers they give away. I also cleaned up a little bit at one of the most beautiful beaches I have been to (Sao Beach in Phu Quoc, cuz, every wave was bringing in plastic bags, takeaway containers, and even used syringes!
Bring a metal straw with you, which you can reuse, and a note to myself is to get a reusable cup with a cap & straw, because I love getting juices and smoothies from the street in Vietnam. If you didn’t get it from your home country. I did see one at Mumuso in Ho Chi Minh. For my next trip, I will definitely have that with me! ( And yes, I’m definitely going back- I’ve been to Vietnam twice, but already dreaming of my third visit! )
There is no perfect time to visit, as the country is LONG, and the weather is different from north to south. So google before you go. Both times I was there, February & September I had perfect weather in all the places that I visited. ( A little bit of rain in Ninh Binh in September, but it cleared up after a couple of hours.)
Clothing to bring
Bring light, comfortable clothing, except if you are going up to the muntains, where it can get a little chilly.
What to bring
If you are at a hostel, bring a lock, your own toileteries, and a towel (many hostels have towels on rent, some give them for free, so check at the places you are staying and decide.
If you are travelling with just your carry on, you can get your laundry done quite easily. Most tourist towns have ‘LAUNDRY’ signs outside shops with the price written on it as well-typically:
1kg-25-35K VND. ($1-1.50)
Else, check with your hotel or hostel, and they will arrange it for you.
Hope you found this guide helpful.
Drop me a comment below to let me know your thoughts.