Welcome to the second part of my Vietnam travel tips extravaganza, where I will share with you, the lovely people who read this travel blog, a collection of useful Vietnam travel tips learnt the hard way.
But please, whatever you do, don’t think for a second that I didn’t enjoy my time in Vietnam. I loved it. Something of a backpacker’s paradise, Vietnam is rich in culture, history and natural beauty. And it’s affordable – even if you do have to watch out for being ripped off a couple of dollars here or there.
If you missed it, don’t forget to check out Vietnam travel tips (learnt the hard way) – part 1.
Vietnam travel tips for booking tours and excursions
- Question everything. Sometimes dodgy tour guides try their luck and charge extra hidden fees. For example, on a tour of Halong Bay our guide tried to charge someone an additional “protection fee” which was quite clearly bull crap (pardon my French).
- Meanwhile, you may not get a refund from a tour guide if you change your mind later on. For example, the same guide refused to refund someone who paid for an extra excursion and then tried to cancel only an hour or so later.
- Always shop around. Tour prices can vary drastically from one place to another, as can train and bus tickets. As an example, I paid $60 for a two-night Ha Long Bay tour (the subject of a future blog post) while others on the same boat paid $10 more for one less night.
Tips for finding good budget accommodation in Vietnam
- Booking online is not a bad idea when you’re starting out but later you should use the internet only as a guide and then shop around for a good deal. Some perfectly decent hotels, guesthouses and hostels don’t have websites.
- Negotiate. Many hoteliers will treat you like a complete idiot – don’t prove them right. In Hanoi, for example, I was quoted as much as $30 per night in some guesthouses, with the price quickly dropping to as low as $15 as I walked away.
- You might be able to save as much as $3 per night by skipping breakfast. It may be the most important meal of the day but you can do better than a crusty bread roll with jam – pho or pancakes anyone?
- Check that you can access Wifi in your room and not just in the lobby. You’ll be surprised how often this is the case.
- If booking accommodation online for the night after a journey by sleeper bus make sure you can drop your bags off at the hotel in the morning. The last thing you want to be doing is carrying your bags around all day when you already feel like the walking dead.
- Most hotels are same same but different. However, good showers are few and far between. It might be worth checking the bathroom.
Random Vietnam travel tips
- Facebook is banned in Vietnam but there are ways around it. Just ask Google (or send me an email).
- Vietnam is generally a very warm and friendly country and most people speak a little bit of English. You can and should ask for directions if you’re lost. Most were only too happy to help.
- You can always check out after one night and find somewhere else. Just because someone gets a commission for taking you to a specific hotel or restaurant doesn’t mean that they’re not good. Sometimes it really is just easier to go with the flow – after a sleeper bus, say, or in torrential rain.
- Get laundry done more than one day before you leave. Even if you think you’re clever negotiating an earlier time to collect it, the washing will be done when it’s done. I almost missed a bus because my washing was late.
- Nothing is free. Shoe cleaners, for example, will fix your shoes at an additional cost that they won’t tell you about until afterwards.
- Strange one, this, but I was reliably informed by a Vietnamese person that dirty shoes means you’re more likely to be left alone because you’ve obviously spent time in the country and will know all the tricks. Clean shoes mean you’ve just come from the airport.
- Learn the Vietnamese words for “no”, “too expensive” and “I’d rather walk”. To be honest, I still don’t know these words but it would have been useful.
- English-language books are not hard to find; in fact, they find you most of the time. Street sellers carry heavy loads of books so you won’t need to fill up your suitcase before you go to Vietnam.
- Just say “no”. Give someone an inch and they’ll literally take a mile. Be firm but friendly. I had one hotelier follow me all around Hanoi because I was too nice to just say that I didn’t like his hotel.
So now you know – and knowing is half the battle. Hopefully these Vietnam travel tips will make your life just a little bit easier.
Feel free to share any travel tips I might have missed in the comments section below and please contact me if you’ve got any questions.