Do you want to enjoy traveling in Vietnam and avoid problems?
The tips listed here are a selection of the most important in this website. A lot of people don’t want to spend the time reading the whole thing and some just want a shortcut to avoiding problems. That’s why I have put together this summary of tips, warnings and “how to“ guides so you can enjoy traveling in Vietnam to the max. I dare say that even so you will almost certainly encounter a surprise or two. Anyone who has spent a bit of time in Asia will surely agree. If you minimize unwanted surprises you can enjoy your time spent in Vietnam in the best way. Have at least some idea what you want to do and have a rough plan.
Northern, central and southern Vietnam are different areas.
Into this list of tips I’ve also added a few recurring questions for those who have asked for more information about northern Vietnam. I answer and write only about what I know, from personal experience or from friends. Northern Vietnam is a huge place and things change rapidly and change will definitely continue. It is also important to know that the northern, central and southern parts of Vietnam are different areas with very different characters.
The most important tips for traveling in Vietnam:
How to obtain a visa for Vietnam?
– online visa – it is verified and cheapest way to obtain a original visa
– To get him at the airport in Vietnam, make sure you immediately to photocopy
– Vietnam anybody leave the passport (recommend to have 2 passports or photocopy)
– Some hotels will want after you pass the report to the police – insist on a photocopy
– Sometimes require a passport and when renting bikes, sometimes not – if you do insist on a photocopy
– Vietnam to launch e-visas in February 1, 2017, foreign tourists of 46 countries to Vietnam could soon have their visas emailed (more info). In 2020, you can enter Vietnam still through the purchase of the approval letter
Where to accommodate in Vietnam?
– low cost option of accommodation – look for Nha Nghi („Guesthouse, Hostel, Homestay“)
– prices for accommodation in Nha Nghi (from about 5 – 10 USD)
– there are clean beds, hot water, mostly Wi-fi internet, sometimes TV, often without food
– you will find luxury hotels only in big and major tourist spots
– I recommend to make a reservation for the first days in Hanoi
– book your hotel on Agoda or Airbnb or Homestay
– more information about Airbnb in Vietnam
What to watch out in traffic and transportation?
– traffic in Hanoi is terrible chaos
– it is dangerous, but drivers in Hanoi drive rather slowly
– most bus drivers drive like suicides
– traffic regulations are not respected
– bus transportation in mountainous areas is very slow
– ride on a motorcycle slowly
Where to book and buy tickets for the train and bus+flights?
– you can buy tickets directly on train and bus stations
– I recommend to book and buy train/bus/ferry tickets+flights on Baolau or 12go.asia
– buy online ticket and keep it in your mobile phone or tablet
– if you book tickets online – you will save your time and money
– do not buy tickets in the front of train station from the dealers
– check Vietnam Train Schedule + Bus Schedule and the most popular routes + Vietnam Railway Map
Why I recommend to book tickets for Vietnam online?
– because you will save your time and money
– sometimes it is not easy to communicate with people in Vietnam, they do not speak English very well
– sometimes the buses or trains can be sold out
How to call in Vietnam and use the internet?
– buy a tourist prepaid SIM card, it’s cheap (you can buy almost everywhere)
– Skype and Viber for international phone calls
– Internet is almost everywhere, hostel, restaurant, coffee house… (except small street restaurants)
– different data packages for mobile Internet in tourist SIM cards
– I do not recommend make a payment transaction or money transfer on unsecure Wi-Fi network
What kind of weather should I expect?
– weather is changeable, especially in mountainous areas
– recommended months for traveling in Vietnam – October, November, March, April, May
– weather with lower temperatures than in the south is in northern Vietnam
– prepare to high humidity
It is necessary to vaccinate for Vietnam?
– for your vaccination talk to your doctor
– my opinion: it is not necessary, but I recommend at least a rabies vaccination
(a lot of errant dogs in the villages, you do not know what to expect)
– Prevention: antimalarial drugs, probiotics, mosquito repellent (DEET), clothing with long sleeves
Where to eat in Vietnam?
– the most delicious, cheap and typical Vietnamese dishes you will find on the street (streetfood)
– restaurants with western meals are only in the tourist spots
– there are a lot of mini-restaurants and snacks with one or two meals
Where can I visit ethnic markets in the north of Vietnam?
– the most authentic market you will find in the North at the border with China
– markets take place in less frequented areas (except Sapy and larger cities)
– check out for list of ethnic markets in northern Vietnam
What important I should take to Vietnam?
– an invitation letter to obtain a Vietnam visa + passport (photocopy)
– reduction in drawers it is not necessary
(You can buy reduction almost everywhere)
– personal medication (in some remote areas it is complicated to buy something)
Is it necessary to take warm clothes in northern Vietnam?
– yes, if you go into mountainous areas, weather can change quickly
– it is very cold in the mountains in the winter
– temperatures can fall to 0 °C, sometimes there is even snow (Sapa)
What to watch and beware in Vietnam?
– mainly on personal things, there are frequent thefts in Hanoi (like everywhere in the world)
– the roads are unpredictable and in not very good condition in the mountains
– Hanoi – copying hotels and shops under the same name
– on crossing roads and streets in Hanoi
– read more in this article – What to watch in Vietnam
How to move and transport in Vietnam?
– the best way is to use a motorbike, you’ll see a lot more
– use mobile application Google Maps or Maps.me
– Maps.me – there are not completely processed all cities (but you will find there Nha Nghi hostels)
– I recommend to use Google maps on your phone and print also some map of Vietnam
– if you use public buses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, you can try BusMap application
Go to Sapa or not?
– Sapa is a big tourist place in northern Vietnam, you should know it
– Sapa area is suitable for trying a real homestay
– the highest concentration of Black Hmong and Red Dao ethnic minority
– check – Hanoi to Sapa – Bus Schedule and Hanoi to Lao Cai – Train Schedule
Where can I try a real homestay in Sapa?
– in villages that are further away from the city
– I can recommend Thanh Kim and Hau Thao
– read this > 15 best homestays in Sapa
– You have to communicate with the local Hmong residents
– homestay are also in the areas of Cao Bang, Mai Chau, Ha Giang, Bac Ha – mostly covered cottages for tourists
It is necessary to travel in Vietnam with a tourist guide?
– it depends which places you want to visit, but teoretically it is not necessary
– tourist guides in Vietnam visit mainly the most visited tourist places
– if you want to hike or climb some mountains you should have a tourist guide
Is there a Wi-fi and hot water in the homestay?
– non-touristic homestay has not Wi-fi and hot water
– Wi-fi can be in tourist homestay (from agencies)
– tourist homestay have a decent restrooms and hot water usually flows
Travel agencies offer homestay in Sapa, should I use it?
– most of these offers are not authentic homestay but imitation
– ask ethnic women on the street or in a village
– prices for homestay with ethnic residents are different (about 10-15 USD / agencis up to 35 USD)
How to get from Hanoi to Da Nang (+Hoi An) and Hue?
– the best way is to travel by plane, there are direct flights from Hanoi to Da Nang, Hue
– you can also travel by train, it is better to avoid traveling by bus
– read these articles: How to get from Hanoi to Da Nang + Hoi An? + How to get from Hanoi to Hue?
How to get from Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi) to Sapa?
– from Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi to Sapa you can travel by sleeper bus
– bus company: Inter Bus Lines
– bus tickets from Noi Bai Airport to Sapa (about 12-14 USD) you can book online on Baolau
– check Baolau and find departure from „Hanoi – Noi Bai“
Where can I see and visit ethnic minority groups?
– throughout the northern provinces near the Chinese border
– the largest concentration of ethnic groups is in the provinces of Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Ha Giang, Cao Bang
What are the least tourist province in the North?
– there are more, but we can say it is Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Son La, Lai Chau (except Sapa)
– Ha Giang can be considered as the least tourist place
– but that does not mean that occasionally you can meet a lost tourist also in Ha Giang
– tourists come gradually also to these places
What are the most visited places in northern Vietnam?
– Hanoi, Ha Long Bay (+Cat Ba Island), Sapa, Ninh Binh
– lots of travelers go from the south to the north and finish in Hanoi – it is a biggest mistake
– you should definitely visit also another places in northern Vietnam!
How to travel by ferry/boat to the islands in Vietnam?
How long to travel in Vietnam?
– important to know: Vietnam is a huge country, the North, Center and South are different
– transportation in Vietnam is slow and it takes a long time
– I recommend at least 1 month for each part of this country
How long is the train ride from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh?
– train ride from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City has a dureation about 32-36 hours (it depends on the type of train)
– there is only one railway route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
– see also Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh – Train Schedule
How do I get from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc?
– from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc you can travel by plane or combination of bus/ferry
– read carefully this article: How to get from Ho Chi Minh to Phu Quoc?
How long does it take to fly from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi?
– flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi has a duration about 2 hours
– it is the most fastest way how to get from southern to northern Vietnam
I have two weeks, what to see and where to go in Vietnam?
– everyone travels differently and wants to see something else
– choose only the northern or southern part of Vietnam
– 2 weeks you can ride a motorcycle in the eastern or western part of the North
I’m going to province of Ha Giang, need something?
– in the province of Ha Giang permission is required for entry to remote places
– you can buy permit in the Immigration office of Ha Giang (296 Trần Phú)
– it is forbidden to enter the Chinese border closer than three kilometers in some places
– rent a motorbike in this province
Is it possible to rent a motorbike in Ha Giang?
– yes, as elsewhere in every major city and town
– there are more rental bikes and scooters in Ha Giang town
– in Ha Giang + Cao Bang you can try this very good rental – QT Motorbike+Tours
– you can search and book your motorbike online > BIKESBOOKING
– check and try a motorbike before you go
Should I have an international driver’s license when I rent a motorbike?
– from 2015 applies international driver’s license in Vietnam
– if you do not have international driver’s license and travel insurance you pay all costs for an accident
– some people rent a motorbike without driver’s license
– I recommend to have international driver’s license to avoid the problems
Is it possible to buy warm clothes in the north of Vietnam?
– yes, eg. in Hanoi or Sapa, Ha Giang, Cao Bang… and other major towns
– most of textiles are copies of originals
– original branded clothes you buy only in Hanoi
Where are the biggest and most beautiful rice terraces and fields?
– a lot of people agree that it is in Mu Cang Chai in Yen Bai province
– then also in Sapa or Ha Giang province (eg. Hoang Su Phi)
– huge rice fields you can find also in Mai Chau
Where to go when I want to swim or kayaking?
How to get by bus from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay?
– easily, there are various buses, vans, minibuses or minivans from Hanoi to Ha Long
– travel by bus/van from Hanoi to Ha Long takes about 3-4.5 hours
– check this > Bus Schedule – Hanoi to Ha Long Bay
How to get easily from Sapa to Fansipan mountain?
– you can travel by mountain train + cable car from Sapa town to Fansipan
– train from Sapa town departs from Sunplaza to Fansipan Legend (cable car)
– it is about 2 km by mountain train to Fansipan Legend
– join ticket (train + cable car to Fansipan) costs about 750 000 VND (Adults), 550 000 VND (Children)
– Sunplaza in Sapa – a big shopping complex in the center of the town of Sapa
How to get to Cat Ba Island?
– read this > How to travel from Hanoi to Cat Ba?
– from the island of Tuan Chau – ferry sails to the northern part of the island of Cat Ba
– from the city of Hai Phong (Ben Binh harbor) – ferry boats to the southern part of the island of Cat Ba
– see on a map in an article about Ha Long Bay
Is it possible to rent a motorbike or bicycle on the Cat Ba island?
– yes, like everywhere it is possible
– rent a motorbike in the southern part of the island
– motorbike is the best option how to explore Cat Ba Island
Is northern Vietnam suitable for traveling with small children?
– if you want to see the most interesting places, you would have to travel on a motorbike or have a private car
– I think it is not suitable if you want to visit remote areas in northern Vietnam
How to get from Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi city center?
– I recommend – use a bus of number 86 from Noi Bai Airport
– you can buy bus ticket in the bus (about 1.50 Usd)
– bus station is about 50m left from the exit from Noi Bai Airport
– bus no.86 is going to the Hanoi Railway Station (about 10 stops on the route, Au Co, Long Bien, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi Opera House, Melia Hotel…)
How to get to Quan Lan Island?
– read this > How to get from Ha Long/Cai Rong to Quan Lan?
– the shortest route from the port of Cai Rong
– the longer route, but scenic cruise – from Hon Gai Port (Ha Long city)
– read also – Quan Lan Island – Travel Tips
Where to buy branded and quality products in Hanoi?
– Vincom Megamall Royal City (almost all)
– or Trang Tien Plaza in the southern part of Hoan Kiem Lake
– but this is not a 100% guarantee that there is a genuine brand
When not to travel to Vietnam?
– TET holiday it is not recommended
– some services do not work, people have a holiday, overcrowded transportation…
– TET = is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture (calendar)
– if you will bee here, however, it may be for you a nice experience
I’m afraid to drive on a motorcycle, how do I move?
– you can use mototaxi (Xe Om), the driver will take you to the desired location
– transportation with mototaxi will cost you more money than if you rent a motorbike
– ask for mototaxi on the spot, sometimes it seems there is nothing
– you can rent a bicycle or rent a private driver with a car in the travel agency
Police stopped me in the mountains and I could not continue…
– it can happen, unfortunately, some places are under the control of the police
– it could be in very remote areas of ethnic population
– about 2 times I had a similar problem in the province of Lai Chau
I´am traveling to the neighbouring countries of Vietnam, how to get there?
What are the best beaches in northern Vietnam?
– the best beaches you will find mainly in Quảng Ninh, Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh provinces
– read this article and see map > Beaches in northern Vietnam
I have 30-days single entry e-visa, where I can enter and exit?
– read this article and see map > Border crossings in Vietnam(only with 30-days single entry e-visa)
How to get from Hanoi to other places in Vietnam?
> How to get from Hanoi to Saigon
> How to get from Hanoi to Ha Long
> How to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba
> How to get from Hanoi to Sapa
> How to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh
> How to get from Hanoi to Trang An Complex
> How to travel from Hanoi to Dong Hoi (Phong Nha)
> How to get from Hanoi to Tam Coc
> How to get from Hanoi to Hue
> How to get from Hanoi to Da Nang and Hoi An
> How to get from Hanoi to Nha Trang
– read also this > Train tickets and the most popular travel routes
Do you offer guide services in Vietnam?
– No, I do not provide any guide services in Vietnam.
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