Things to Know Before Visiting Vietnam

  • Say “not spicy” for everything, even if it’s not a traditionally spicy food.
  • People will pretend to understand you in order to be polite. This is true for restaurant staff as well. Make triple sure they actually do get it!
  • Google maps is unreliable. A paper map from the hotel will suffice.
  • Walk across the street and don’t stop. When you want to cross the street, you have to go confidently—and you can’t stop. That’s because there are a lot of cars and mopeds and, while one vehicle may swerve to avoid you, the vehicle directly behind it won’t see you.
  • Don’t smile at vendors or respond to their shouts. A hotel concierge told us that smiling or responding in any way would signal that we wanted to buy something, and that it was more polite to just ignore the attention.
  • There’s no such thing as a one-way street. Look both ways… always.
  • Hire the hotel driver because they have an incentive to follow (some of) the traffic laws. When you’re getting to your hotel from the airport, it’s smart to hire the hotel’s driver. If you get into a taxi, all bets are off.
  • Do not rent a bike or a moped. Unless you’re an absolute pro and “one” with the bike, it’s not a good idea to learn how to ride bikes/motorcycles here. There are just way too many accidents waiting to happen.
  • Wear a mask outside, too. The air pollution can be many dozens of times greater than what the WHO suggests is OK. That means even walking outdoors is bad for your health. Keep that mask on!

Photo credit: Steffen B

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