Useful tips for traveling in Vietnam

Hanoi

Do you want to enjoy traveling in Vietnam and avoid problems?

Tips listed here are a selection of the most important of this website. A lot of people do not want to read, they do not have time or do not care. And then there are people who simply want to avoid problems. That’s why I put together this summary of tips, warnings and facilitation so you enjoyed traveling in Vietnam to the maximum. I dare say that even so you will certainly encounter some surprises. Who was for some time in Asia, will surely agree. Minimize it and enjoy the time spent in Vietnam in the best way. Make at least an idea what you can meet 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 of you who have asked for more information about northern Vietnam. I answer and write only what I know from personal experience or from friends, northern Vietnam is a huge and things change rapidly and change will definitely come. It is also important to know that the northern, central and southern parts of Vietnam are different areas.

Railway in the streets of Hanoi.

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 Issue Printable E-Visas in 2017, foreign tourists to Vietnam could soon have their visas emailed (more info).

Where to accomodate 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
– booking your hotel on Agoda or Booking, the best search websites for an accommodation
– you will find also offers from Airbnb in the North

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

Airbnb booking service works well in Vietnam?

– yes, very well, as elsewhere in the world
– homestay, hotels, apartments, boat trips and other services
Register here and get a free credit worth up to 25 USD for your first accommodation
– Read more about Airbnb in Vietnam

Where to book and buy tickets for the train and bus?

– you can buy tickets directly on train and bus stations
– I recommend to book and purchase train tickets at Baolau (also bus tickets) or 12go.asia
– buy online ticket and keep it in your mobile phone or tablet
– do not buy tickets in the front of train station from the dealers

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 minirestaurants and snacks with one or two meals

Where can I buy the cheapest flight ticket to Vietnam?

– before you book a flight ticket to Vietnam, go through more of these sites and comparators
– you can use: Skyscanner, Momondo, Cheapflights, Kayak, Matrix

Where can I visit ethnic markets?

– 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)

It is 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, you can try Hanoi Bus application (only for Android)

Traveling with a motorbike

Go to Sapa or not?

– Sapa is a big tourist place in northern Vietnam, but very nice
– the nearest villages are full of tourists
– Sapa area is suitable for trying a real homestay
– the highest concentration of Black Hmong ethnic minority

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
– You have to communicate with the local Hmong residents
– homestay are also in the areas of Cao Bang, Mai Chau – mostly covered cottages for tourists

Agencies offers 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)

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

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, Sapa, Ninh Binh

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

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 Ha Giang town (see map)
– it is forbidden to enter the Chinese border closer than three kilometers in some places
– rent a motorbike in this province

Dong Van Karst Global Geopark in Ha Giang

It is possible to rent a motorbike in Ha Giang?

yes, as elsewhere in every major city and town
– there are more rental bikes and scootersin Ha Giang town
– for example HaGiangMotorbike or Chothuexemayhagiang
check and try a motorbike before you go

It is possible to buy warm clothes for the mountains in the North?

– yes, eg. in Hanoi or Sapa and other major towns
– most of textiles are copies of originals
– original branded clothes you buy only in Hanoi

Where and why in the north to use Uber taxi?

– for now only in Hanoi and also at the Noi Bai airport
Uber has about a third of the price compared to a conventional taxi
– You know how much you pay
register here (you get some credit for free)
– information about Uber in Vietnam

Need 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 insurence 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

Where to go when I want to swim or kayaking?

– go to the island of Cat Ba and Quan Lan and the smaller islands in Ha Long Bay
– northern Vietnam is not the top destination for swimming in the sea

Where are the biggest and most beautiful rice terraces and fields?

– a lot of people agree that it is in Mu Cang Chai
– then also in Sapa or Ha Giang province (eg. Hoang Su Phi)
– huge rice fields you can find also in Mai Chau

How to get to Cat Ba Island?

– 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

It is possible to rent a motorbike 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

How to get to the island of Quan Lan?

– the shortest route from the port of Cai Rong
– the longer route, but scenic cruise – from Hon Gai Port (Ha Long city)

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

Pho with noodles

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 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

Is northern Vietnam suitable for traveling with small children?

– 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 when you want to visit remote areas in northern Vietnam

Do you offer guide services in Vietnam?

No, I do not provide such service

Rice terraces in Yen Bai
Hi, my name is Milan. I´am from the Czech Republic. I created this site about northern Vietnam for you. I collected a lot of information from my traveling in northern Vietnam, so I decided to pass it on, and I hope that will be useful and help you during your travel. Why is it only about the north? It is very easy answer — because I was not in the south. Mountains, villages of ethnic minorities, authenticity — it attracts me.

How to obtain a cheapest visa for Vietnam?
Transportation in Vietnam
Flights to Vietnam
Trekking in Vietnam
Accommodation in Vietnam
Vaccines for Vietnam
Homestay in Vietnam
Ethnic markets in Vietnam
Map of northern Vietnam
Prices in Vietnam
Vietnamese food

HANOI / NINH BINH / HA GIANG / LAI CHAU / SON LA / LANG SON /
HA LONG / YEN BAI / BAC HA / SAPA