General Vietnam Travel Notes

The following goes for most of the Country
We encountered lots of street vendors selling post cards, books, textiles, food, drink and just about anything else you can think of. For the most part, prices are negotiable but with the exchange rate what it is, if you are not aware, you may spend a lot of time trying to save what turns out to be very little money.  On one occasion we caught ourselves haggling over 35 cents on the price of a blanket.

On one occasion, a cab driver tried to overcharge us and one day we had an encounter with a young fellow by Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi who (unsuccessfully) attempted to scam us by trying to get change for a bill with a lot of zeros that he said was, but in fact, was not Vietnamese currency. But for the most part; the vendors we met in Vietnam were decent people and even when we didn’t buy anything, we often times enjoyed chatting with them.

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There are plenty of ATM’s where you can withdraw local currency in the larger cities. We’ve used them in airports and in the cities of Saigon, Hoi An, Hanoi and Lao Cai (the train stop on the way up to Sapa.) US currency is widely accepted just about everywhere. Take a good supply of US $1’s. It is an easy unit to use and appreciated.

Virtually every hotel has Internet access for free or a small fee to guests. There are Internet cafes everywhere and they are usually reasonably priced. You may occasionally run into some issues connecting with some specific internet web sites (for example: facebook) but usually the locals can tell you a way around that.

The food (including street food) is typically not a health risk, usually very good and amazingly inexpensive.

Americans tend to be about the only people visiting Vietnam that tip. So tipping is generally not expected but (even a small tip is) very much appreciated. In some cases, when we’ve given a tip the receiver didn’t understand what the money was for.

In general, the Vietnamese people like Westerners including Americans. I think I read somewhere that 75% of the current population wasn’t born at the time of the war with the U.S. so most really bear no great ill will towards us. At the time of our first trip there in 2005, they weren’t too crazy about our government (hard to disagree on that score) but generally they like the people of the US: in part, because we tip well when compared to people from most other countries (see above).

Also, keep in mind that what the Vietnamese refer to as the American War was only one in a long history of wars. They fought the French immediately before the U.S. They fought the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia during and after the war with the U.S..  In fact, it was the Vietnamese who forced the despot Pol Pot to flee to the Cambodian jungle, which led to the collapse of the Khmer Rouge government in 1979.

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Once U.S. forces left in 1975 the Chinese invaded North Viet Nam (again) continuing a history of hostility towards the country that dates back over 2,000 years. The American War was just one in a long line of wars for the Vietnamese. In fact on our most recent trip, we were told that today, the Vietnamese now consider the U.S. important allies in trade and territorial disputes with the Chinese. Go figure…

Traffic in the cities is very heavy and there doesn’t seem to be any pattern or rationale to its flow. I could swear that there seems to be 2 scooters for every person in the country and somehow, they are all on the road all the time.

Crossing the street is an adventure. We were told (and have to agree from our experience) that when you cross the street, you should think of traffic as water and yourself as a rock in a river. After you pick a small gap to step out, just keep walking at a slow and steady pace and traffic will flow around you. Amazingly, it works. But be prepared for the constant beep, beep, beep of horns.

If you take a cab to a restaurant or just about anywhere ask the hotel to write out the name of the destination in Vietnamese and take a card from the hotel to use for your return. Be aware that the driver will be happy to wait for you for the return trip if you ask. As noted above, we had one experience of a cab driver in Hanoi who didn’t turn over the meter from his previous fare and attempted to overcharge us but haven’t had any other bad experiences in cabs.

One comment

  1. Raju says:

    Love Vietnamese cuisine and still lniaerng how to cook the authentic dishes. Thanks for letting us know about this Delicious Vietnam. I can browse all yummy dishes and learn more.

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