It’s no surprise that Vietnam is one of the budget traveller’s paradise. Extremely cheap – transport is inexpensive, the food is delicious and the national beer – Bia Hoi – is probably the cheapest in the whole world.
Already excited? For your first journey into this backpackers heaven I compiled a few interesting things to know before heading to this fascinating country.
Funny thing is that restaurants in Vietnam are more a tourist thing. Locals will eat at the streets – You will notice that the sidewalks are filled with tiny plastic chairs and tables and that is where you will find everyone eating. You can check for youself, count how many people are inside versus people at the streets, the math is simple 😉
Best meals are at the streets
Food is a big thing in Vietnam, unlike us they don’t divide the meals per time of the day. Anytime is time to eat! Sounds good right? Meaning that you can eat a bowl of noodles for breakfast as an example.
Once you find yourself in Vietnam, fear not to eat at street food stalls. As a great deal of the population doesn’t own a refrigerator, there are daily markets instead of supermarkets and therefore the food here is very fresh – even the wealthy locals will eat at one of those tiny plastic chairs scattered at the sidewalks.
I know it might look shocking at first as for most hygiene standards you probably would never choose for that or are afraid to get sick but trust me, me and my boyfriend ate the whole trip at street food stalls and we didn’t became sick.
So keep in mind this is another culture, with different habits and if you want to have the real vietnamese experience, you can’t be a fussy eater here. The rule in Vietnam is: the simpler the place, the better!
Visa rules change every 6 months, last time we checked (december 2018) – if you are staying longer than 15 days (less doesn’t require a visa) it is mandatory to arrange a letter of approval first.
We got ours via one blog website – It grants you entry into Vietnam and make it possible to buy your visa on arrival at the airport. Although this method requires you to spend a little extra time, we found it the most foolproof way as you deal directly with the customs and you dont get hassled or need to pay double at the end.
Getting a visa through the embasy in The Hague for example; would have cost us €75 per person. The approval letter will set you back €6 and the stamping fee at the airport is US$25 per passport.
Insiders tip: Take some dollars with you in advance to avoid searching for ATM as at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City it is located after the passport control; aka super not handy (rolling eyes).
Website to arrange the form: www.friendstravelvietnam.com
- Bring the filled in form;
- 2 passport photos;
- US$ 25 in cash;
- VOA letter of approval €6;
There aren’t big supermarkets
As I mention before, there aren’t big supermarkets as we are used to but more convenient stores, where you will find industrial products such as basic hygiene products and chips, cookies and some drinks.
As tourism growns, there will always be people trying to scam you. So before ordering food at streets, ask the price first hand if not already displayed. We just had this once happening to us when we ordered a snack and the woman asked for a price that we would normally be spending in a big dinner for two, showing our displeased she put the price down allegating she mistaken. Thus be aware it can happen that people try to be smart, so always negotiate.
You read it right! Coffee with egg here is a thing. Did you know that Vietnam is the second largest country that produces coffee after Brazil? Yes they are crazy about it – along with coffee with condensed milk or yogurt, the most famous coffee is the egg coffee.
At war times when it was difficult to get milk, Vietnameses would use an egg to get the same effect of a coffee with milk, and it became a hit! It sounds strange but it is actually very good as it has a creamy texture and sweet taste (my boyfriend aka coffee junkie is trying to reproduce it at home since he tried, he loved it!) Don’t forget to try it at least for once, you won’t regret it!
Have something taylored
Something that Vietnam is known for is their tailoring skills. Nor are they inexpensive compared to our original country, they are famous for making it within 1-2 days top! So if you have that fancy friends wedding coming up or you are vertically challenged like me; so some type of clothing gets difficult to find in your size, take this opportunity and don’t forget to bargain as it always can go till 25% down the price they suggest at first.
Hoi An is the most famous city when it comes about tailoring but others like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh also offer these kind of services.
Lack of Environment Conscious
Unfortunately you will notice that the cities aren’t spotless. The population has the habit of getting rid of things simply by throwing at the streets and the same holds for the beaches. This really shocked me, I saw a man throwing a full garbage bag into the sea, as much as that behaviour bothered me, Vietnam is just not aware yet of the consequences of throwing garbage into the nature.
Nevertheless don’t miss the chance to venture in this country! You will be amazed!