Vietnam is a beautiful country in their nature and people. But there seems to be growing safety (and hospitality) concerns for foreign tourists in recent years. I would say, in a broader sense, that every society has its up- and down-sides and probably Vietnam, for some reasons, is going on some of the strange twists. As for every traveller, we try to be open-minded but also cautious and informed. So grab your note because here are a few things to be that “informed” before setting out on your life-changing trips to Vietnam.
Travelling within Vietnam: It is sadly true that rips-off is becoming more prevalent in the tourism industry in general and tourist transportation in particular. Tourists are likely to be charged more (or a lot more) than the real cost of the ride by self-operated cabs or motortaxis (known as xe ôm). So it is a better choice to pick reputable brands of cab such as Mai Linh or Vinasun or opt for the emerging services of Grab (for both cab and motorbike taxi) and Uber. The latter is more recommended for sure because the same cost for local people is visibly fixed on your screen. I’m not gonna try to frustrate you but even with the taxi’s meter on, you’re still suffering a chance of being scammed since the driver would pick the round way, not the shortest one (Still better than a vague charge, though). If you need to travel to a far away province, be sure to check out average fares or listed fares on the bus’s official website, if available, to have a general idea of how much it would likely to cost you. Avoid purchasing tickets from your hotels or tour operators unless you want a double charge.
Eating in Vietnam: It’s highly recommended to check the food prices before ordering. And the best thing to do is go for eateries that have listed prices on their menu. Of course your would want to be adventurous sometimes but be travel-wise here and adventure more with street foods which are generally cheap in Vietnam (so even when being over-charged a bit, it’s not a big deal). Avoid bigger dining establishments without listed prices and minimize paying on card unless you’re certain of the exchange rate. Visa fraud is, again, sadly more common around, in which you would be taken more money than the real cost of services.
Cash withdrawal at ATMs: should be avoided in secluded areas and at late night after 10 p.m so as to prevent being robbed right out of the way. Go for ATM at the banks, shopping malls, supermarkets or airports.
Personal valuables: Hand bag or backpack should be worn across your shoulder or securely on the back, not loosely and lazily on one-side shoulder which is inviting to bad guys. Better hiding away your valuable belongings such as jewelries (necklaces and bracelets), and smartphones or mobile devices, which are to be extra-cautious when holding on hands.
Pickpocketing: is worst on inter-province buses, in-town buses, and in the crowded places such as bus stations, schools, hospitals, pagodas during high times. So if you could, leave important documents at your hotel. Don’t worry about being checked by Vietnamese police because they would either be happy to wait for you to go back and get it or let you go (for they don’t want the hassle).
Dealing with police in Vietnam: They are generally bad at foreign languages, even English, and rather slow in their work manner. So BEST TO STAY AWAY FROM THEM IF YOU CAN or you will get into a time-consuming and exhausting procedure. I’m sorry I’m advising you against something you’re taking for granted when in need of help. Of course, in case of an emergency, you should but it’s more or less a game of luck. A much better solution is to connect with local travel groups and ask for help from the press or social media (facebook). The social communities are more active and willing to support you.
Clothes: It’s hot and humid, a really crazy combo, so pick comfortable clothes but also make sure you have polite clothes, which in Vietnamese sense exclude not shorts, short skirts, exposed dresses or similar, in likely cases for worshiping attractions. The laws don’t govern how you dress but the local culture does have unsaid rules expected to be respected. Impolite clothes is much like an offence to that sacred place and an insulting to the people who won’t shout at you but would be eye-yelling with disapproval, or some go rather extreme to take photos and post on social media where you will become the center of raging discussions. In fact, Vietnamese people tend to go easy with foreign tourists on this matter but it is always nice to pay respect to be respected.
Dealing with beggars in Vietnam: Beggars are all around at tourist attractions. If you offer to one, the rest will surround you and beg for the same. So here’s my thought: don’t feel guilty, say no and walk away unless you want your money go wasted. Vietnam’s government already has social policies, part of which is supported by the tax from the services you are using during your visit to Vietnam. Giving out to them is nice but in a way more detrimental to the beggars themselves because it supports the development of dependent, inactive, waiting-for-help mindset. So don’t, even when you feel bad, I know.
Lastly, how do you feel after all these warnings? How does your note look like now?
To wrap up this rather sensitive article, I’d like to verify once again that these are just personal perspective which some of you might not agree with partially or even wholly. But let us respect each other’s opinion and be constructive in your comments. Thank you for stopping by and keep on exploring for delicious posts.