Vietnam is increasingly becoming a popular country for travelers across the world. It is being called the top backpacking destination in Asia and rightly so. When I was travelling to Vietnam, I barely knew people who had been there previously so I did not have a great deal of first hand knowledge about the place. Whatever I got to know was from my research through YouTube videos, blog posts, Instagram pictures and Pinterest pins.
So I decided to pen down a list of things that I think every person travelling to Vietnam needs to know, based on my personal experience.
- English is not a common language
Surprisingly, most blog posts and videos that I went through mentioned that English is very well known and they did not have issues communicating. But actually, it is not that common. Only people working in tour agencies and at major tourist destinations like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, you’ll find communicating in English is common. Otherwise, not many local people understand the language and not their fault, it’s not their first language. Also, they try their best to understand you, which is very kind of them.
- Google Translator at rescue
There were so many instances where I used Google Translator to communicate and it never came this handy ever in my life. In south Vietnam, mainly Rach Gia and Can Tho, I only used Google Translator to convey what I was saying. So, make sure you have the app in your phone and downloaded offline versions of English and Vietnamese.
- Be careful while showing off your valuables, petty theft is more common than you think.
When I entered my hostel in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), there were big posters warning all backpackers that we need to be careful with our belongings in public as theft is very common in the city and especially in HCMC. I wasn’t that careful but my friend’s mobile and a box of Pringles were stolen from her bag within 20 seconds so these people are really quick. Be careful while using your phone in public and keep your bags very close to your body.
- Vietnam is a huge and long country
So the most common mistake that even I did was underestimate how big Vietnam was and the fact that it takes at least 5 hours to get from one destination to another. Moreover, you can only travel from north to south or vice-versa. The itinerary you make needs to consider the travel time between each destination. Also, you cannot stay at one place and get around, you need to travel.
- The transportation system is dope.
I prefer to use local transportation to commute between two cities. And Vietnam’s train, bus and air travel systems are fabulous. There are trains and buses available from each and every destination and that too at a nominal price. I was worried about the quality of trains and buses but they were far better than just decent. As a plus point, there are airports at every major city.