Vietnam is a beautiful, chaotic and utterly pleasant nation. It is worth doing your research before you travel, so nothing catches you off guard. Here’s what I learned on my trip to Vietnam last year.

Photo of a man sat on the train tracks in Hanoi, Vietnam
A man sits on the train tracks in Central Hanoi, Vietnam
Photo by Chor Tsang on Unsplash

Consider Toilets

Photo of a hand holding toilet paper. You must travel with toilet paper in Vietnam
Always carry toilet paper while you travel in Vietnam
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There are a few things to consider about toilets in Vietnam. First, do not flush your paper down the toilet. There will almost always be a bin available wherever you travel. This is because most sewage systems in Vietnam aren’t built to withstand paper, just human waste. Second, always carry paper with you. While most toilets on the tourist trail should provide paper, you can never be too careful and don’t want to get caught out.

And finally, get used to the bum gun. Every toilet in Vietnam (and wider South-East Asia) will most likely have one. You aim, blast, and you’re good to go. They thoroughly clean, are environmentally friendly, and help the sewage system in Vietnam run smoothly. Don’t be shy, they really are awesome!

Consider The Roads

Photo of traffic in Vietnam
Beware of the chaotic traffic while you travel Vietnam
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Traffic is important to consider when planning a trip to Vietnam. I touched on this topic on a previous post here. In Vietnam, the roads are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. There are a few traffic wardens for rush hour and the odd traffic light, but apart from that, drivers can do as they wish on the roads. It sounds a lot scarier than it is though, as the Vietnamese are well acquainted with their turbulent roads and perplexed tourists.

Consider these tips. You should never run. If you walk slowly and confidently, drivers can maneuver accordingly. Likewise, avoid stopping and don’t step backwards. As you continue to travel through Vietnam, crossing the road will become second nature. Practise makes perfect!

Consider Haggling

Photo of a woman selling food in Vietnam
Consider haggling in Vietnam, it’s part of their culture
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There is a strong culture of haggling in Vietnam. I have to admit, I’m not great at haggling, but it’s something to consider when shopping. It’s great to have a go to secure a bargain. I had a friend who was awesome at being sassy and always got items at half price.

Try to remember that products in Vietnam are quite cheap in comparison anyway, so while a lower price is a win for you, it’s not necessarily a win for them. A haggle here or there won’t hurt and if you walk away, you’re sure to have the shop keeper walking after you to accept your offer.

Consider Appropriate Clothing

Photo of a woman in Vietnam wearing a traditional long dress
Consider appropriate clothing when visiting religious sites in Vietnam
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You must be respectful while visiting pagodas, temples and other prayer buildings while you travel Vietnam. Please consider packing modest garments. In some places, they will ask you to cover your shoulders and your knees. Consider packing long sleeved tops or a shawl, and trousers or a long skirt. They will deny you entry without these, so try to be prepared before you travel to a religious site.

Additionally, I would suggest you wear flip-flops or easy slip-on shoes when visiting places of worship in Vietnam. In most places they will ask you to take your shoes off as a sign of respect. Trust me, you don’t want to be untying and retying your laces each time you reach a new temple. For this reason, consider packing appropriate clothes when you travel Vietnam.

Consider Avoiding Tap Water

Photo of a tap. Consider drinking bottled water in Vietnam
Consider drinking bottled water in Vietnam
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Please avoid the temptation to drink the tap water in Vietnam. Consider bottled water instead while you travel. Even in urban areas, locals avoid tap water for its poor quality. As with many developing countries, water contamination is still a problem in Vietnam. E. Coli and ammonia are common in water here, and when you can buy a large bottle for 10,000 VND (0.43 USD) why would you drink anything else?

I must admit, while I traveled Vietnam I would usually brush my teeth with tap water, and in most cases, this is OK. Just be alert to the fact consumption is dangerous and could lead to traveler’s diarrhoea, or worse.

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It’s always good to consider what you’re letting yourself in for in Vietnam. These five points make Vietnam special to me and helped me travel all the wiser. I really wouldn’t have it any other way, Vietnam is utterly charming for these reasons. I hope it’s made you curious to know more. Thanks for reading! Until next time…

Would you ever travel to Vietnam? If you’ve been, what did you find interesting about your trip to Vietnam?

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