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first trip to Vietnam

For a totally different cultural experience – or just a great holiday destination – try visiting Vietnam. There you’ll find everything from a relaxed resort-style getaway on one of the islands such as Nha Trang or Phu Quoc, to bargain shopping and sight-seeing in the capital Hanoi, or perhaps a combination of both to let you experience the diversity of this amazing country. If this is your first trip to Vietnam there are a few tips that will make your vacation less stressful and more enjoyable, such as:
Check Health Warnings
Check on the CDC website or with your family doctor for health warnings for the areas you intend to visit. If you plan to hike or visit a rainforest, you will need to start taking malaria tablets around a week before your departure. Your family doctor will be able to prescribe the anti-malarials and advise you of any other precautions or medications that you need.
You might also want to include some Imodium AD in your luggage, because after eating unfamiliar food for a few days, your stomach may become upset. This is not because the food is bad or because there’s any problem with it – it’s just because your body isn’t used to it. Often, one dose of Imodium is enough to set you right for the rest of the trip.
Airport Transfers
If you travel to Vietnam by air, you can easily apply Vietnam visa on arrival online and get visa at arrival airport. It takes only 2 days to have an approval letter to fly. By far the easiest and cheapest way to get into the capital from the airport is via the Pick-up service (airport express taxi). The taxi takes only about 45 minutes, and affords you a comfortable ride into Hanoi with many modern amenities such as video screens showing points of interest and things to do in Vietnam. Using a bus or taxi transfer will normally take around one hour by comparison and cost a little more. An added convenience when using the Pick-up Express to connect with a departing flight is the facility to book your luggage onto your flight from the central train station in Hanoi (providing you do this at least 2.5 hours before your flight).
Taxi Fares
Always ask how much the fare will be to get to your destination before getting into the taxi. For the most part, taxi fares in Vietnam are quite reasonable. However, a few bad apples try to take advantage of naive travelers, especially on a return trip from an outlying area. Ask for the cost of the fare beforehand, and if it seems too high, then look for another taxi and try again. On the other hand, do expect to pay more during peak hours in Hanoi, because of traffic delays. Your hotel concierge can advise you on what the busiest traffic times are likely to be. Planning your movements around the capital outside of these times will save you money if you’re on a tight budget.
Don’t drink the tap water
To reduce the chance of stomach problems, it’s safer not to drink the local tap water. You have more contact with tap water than you might think, keep the following in mind:
1) Clean your teeth and toothbrush with bottled water.
2) Remember to specify “No Ice” when ordering cocktails or mixer drinks. (Many of the more up-market resorts and hotels have ice that has been made using filtered or bottled water which is perfectly safe, however if you wish to be extra cautious then it is safer to forgo the ice).
3) If you order water in a restaurant, make sure to specify that you want bottled water.
Buy personal items from a supermarket
If you forget to bring any personal care items (such as sunscreen, toothpaste or bottled water) with you – and who doesn’t forget something? – it’s cheaper to buy from a local supermarket instead of the resort or hotel where you are staying. You might not think the hotel prices are that high, but if you can find a supermarket or small convenience store somewhere close to the resort, you can often buy the same items for as little as a third of the price the hotel is asking. Would you rather spend that extra money on sunscreen or souvenirs?
Choosing somewhere to eat in Vietnam is somewhat different from finding a restaurant in a western country. A restaurant in a run-down building in your home country might indicate a health risk, but that’s not the case in Vietnam. As Vietnam is a relatively poor country in general – something more evident in outlying areas than in Hanoi – many buildings are old and look run-down simply because of the general poverty of the area. What this means is that a restaurant in a run-down building is not necessarily a health risk. If the local people eat there, that’s the best indication that the food is safe for you, too.
Keep valuables concealed
Just as you do when you’re traveling anywhere else, you always want to keep wallets, passport, Vietnam visa, purses, mobile phones, etc… in your pockets or backpack to avoid the attention of pickpockets, especially in larger cities. Although not a major problem in Vietnam, any large population has its share of thieving, so it is best to keep your valuables secure. It is also wise to carry your backpack on the front of your body in certain areas such as the china town markets in Hanoi where it can be quite crowded – giving pickpockets a chance to access valuables within the outer compartments of a backpack.
Enjoy the wonderful scenery, delicious food, excellent shopping, and friendly people of Vietnam. By following the tips above, hopefully you’ll have such a memorable time you’ll want to return to Vietnam again and again.