From the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh, to the capital city of Hanoi, to the rice fields of Sappa, to the UNESCO sights of Hoi An, to the beaches of Nha Trang, Vietnam offers experiences for every type of traveller.
It’s good to know the basics before travelling to Vietnam. Below are the top 5s to know about the customs and culture to help you get the best experience out of your visit without issues.
TOP 5 FOODS TO TRY
1. Pho – a staple Vietnamese dish made with flat rice noodles, a warm broth and usually chicken or beef (vegetables and shrimp can occasionally be found on the menu). It is expected to drench the ‘soup’ with sauces, herbs and spices that are provided.
2. Egg coffee – a Vietnamese drink which is prepared with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and coffee. The drink is made by beating egg yolks with sugar and coffee, then extracting the coffee into half of the cup and filling the other half with egg cream and egg yolks which are heated and whisked. The cup is served inside a bowl of hot water to retain its temperature.
3. Banh mi – this dish was influenced by French colonialism. It consists of a baguette filled with a choice of meat or egg and fresh vegetables and sweet sauce.
4. Chè – this dish is a mix of savory and sweet. Some ingredients include kidney beans, tapioca fruit and coconut cream. It is best served with a scoop of crushed ice.
5. Goi cuon – these are fresh spring rolls that are filled with salad, or prawns and served with a sweet-and-spicy dip topped with peanuts.
TOP 5 CITIES TO VISIT
1. Hoi An
2. Hanoi – old architecture
3. Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon)
5. Nha Trang
TOP 5 ACTIVITIES TO DO
1. Spend the night on a boat cruising on Halong Bay.
2. Take a basket boat ride in Hoi An.
3. Experience Benh Thanh night market and food market in Ho Chi Minh
4. Watch a performance at Saigon Opera House
5. Go trekking in Sappa
TOP 5 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VIETNAM
1. Walk slowly when crossing the street.
2. Keep your cell phone out of sight.
3. Be careful what you take photos of (military buildings, military personnel and sometimes even traffic are off limits).
4. Don’t lose your temper.
5. Be prepared for all weather. Some parts of the country can be very hot while other parts can be very cold during the same month.
TOP 5 DOS OF THE CULTURE
1. If invited into a local’s home, take your shoes off at the entrance, out of respect and cleanliness.
2. Carry tissues with you as most restrooms don’t have toilet paper.
3. Keep your purse/bag in front of you when walking and on your lap when sitting down. Bag snatching is common in Vietnam and bags that look unattended or easy to grab are prime targets.
4. Carry your hotel’s address with you at all times to make grabbing a taxi, moped or tuk-tuk smooth for both you and the driver.
5. Slurp your noodles, it means you’re enjoying your meal.
TOP 5 PHRASES TO KNOW
1. Hello = Xin Chao (Sin chow)
2. Thank you = Cam on (kahm uhn)
3. Goodbye = Tam Biet (Tarm Byeet)
4. Excuse Me = Xin Lỗi (sin loy)
5. Yes/No = Dạ/Không (yah/comb)
TOP 5 DON’TS OF THE CULTURE
1. Don’t take pictures of anything related to the military. It is a considered a violation of national security and can result in a fine or even jail time.
2. Don’t engage in public displays of affection. Anything other than holding hands in public is frowned upon and considered offensive.
3. Don’t talk about the Vietnam War. Politics in general should be a cautious topic of discussion.
4. Don’t dress in skimpy clothing unless at a beach resort. Vietnamese are rather modest and look dubiously at tourists who wear very little. This is very important when visiting pagodas and temples.
5. Don’t stop when trying to cross the street. As intimidating as it may be, the traffic will avoid you, so keep walking or you will throw the drivers off. With this being said, do walk with caution.