Vietnam is a country of diversity and extremes. One moment it could be terribly hot and the next pouring hard. If you are planning to visit this country, you need to prepared for both weather extremes, especially if you are scheduled to visit anywhere between May and October.
Initially, the throngs of people and thick traffic could take you back. However, you can occasionally escape the traffic by taking a boat trip along the Mekong River.
Traffic aside, Vietnam has so much to offer if you plan and prepare adequately before boarding your flight. Below are some of the things you need to know before your Vietnam tour.
1. Prepare for Weather Extremes
From May to October, Vietnam experiences extreme weather patterns. Be prepared for both the torrid heat and the drenching rains. If you plan to travel north, you will need warm clothes to keep you warm during the harsh winter. You will also need to pack enough sunscreen, waterproof shoes, and a bug spray. Do not panic if you like travelling light since you can purchase these items in Vietnam’s many stores.
2. Take the Afternoon Nap
The heat can be punishing at times, especially in the afternoon. You will notice that the Vietnamese usually take an afternoon nap. Well, there is a reason for this. It gets extremely hot as the day progresses. Do as they do if you want to preserve your energy. For sightseeing, wake up early before the day gets too hot. The weather is also bearable after 5.00 pm.
3. Food Is Good and Healthy
You will find Vietnamese food finger-licking delicious. It’s perfectly safe to eat food from street vendors, but make sure you wash fruits before gorging on them. You can eat everything that everyone else is eating, but follow some basic common sense hygiene such as peeling your fruits and vegetables and avoid drinking tap water.
4. Carry Cash, Not Plastic
If you are touring places that are outside the major cities, you need to bring enough cash with you since Vietnam is largely a cash-based economy. A good number of establishments only accept cash, and ATMs are rare.
You don’t have to tip, but it is good manners to do so, especially at high-end venues where tourists frequent. As a rule-of-thumb, tip enough for a coffee; between VND 5,000-10,000.
6. Cover Up
If you are planning on visiting pagodas or temples, bring a scarf along to keep your shoulders covered. It is important that you show respect to these places of worship. You might even find robes for rent at some establishments, which you can rent and wear during your visit as a show of respect.
7. Seek Permission to Take Photos
It is common courtesy to ask for permission to photograph someone. Most likely you will find many Vietnamese eager to take pictures with you. However, don’t take this acquiescence for granted. Always ask for permission before taking a picture of someone. You will have to resist taking pictures of places such as the Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum or security installations where this is prohibited.
8. Always Keep Your Cool
However heated a discussion may be, avoid raising your voice and keep calm. Losing your cool is frowned upon. Stay calm and temperate and you will be treated with equal civility.
9. Bargain for Best Prices
To get the best price possible, you will have to haggle. In fact, this is expected, otherwise you could end up spending much more than you should. You might want to feign ‘walking away’ to see if you will get a better rate.
10. Learn Some Vietnamese
The Vietnamese language is not easy to learn. However, it might serve you well to memorize a few phrases to spice up your tour. The Vietnamese people will reward your attempt to speak their language with a smile, however terrible your diction may be.