DOs & DON'Ts (While You are in Vietnam)

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DOs & DON'Ts (While You are in Vietnam)
Transportation
Banks
Office services
Communications (telephone and post)
The Internet
Issues to mind during your trip
Travelers tips
Shopping tips
Tips for Eating and Sleeping
Trekking tips
Swimming tips
At a Friend's house
At Pagodas & Temples
Yes or No?
All Pages
1. Transportation

Planes, Trains & Buses
DO consider flying if you’re going a long way within Vietnam, because any other means of transport is always much slower and sometimes only slightly cheaper.
DON’T get stuck in the mud: in the rainy season, road and rail are frequently flooded or even washed away in the regions that are hardest hit.
DO reconfirm any flight to make sure there’s no change.
DON’T arrive at the airport just in time for a domestic flight. Until recently, it was actually more expensive for foreigners to travel from Hanoi to Hochiminh City by train than by air. And this is for a journey that still takes a couple of days as opposed to a flight lasting a mere couple of hours!
If what you are after is seeing plenty of scenery and having time to meet people and chat with them, DO let the train take the strain. Trains are still very slow, despite reports almost weekly that they are picking up extra speed. They are also a bit noisy and often rather Spartan, but a very pleasant and civilized means of transport, with much more legroom than any kind of bus, and conserve some of the charm of a bygone era. They offer – for a price – air conditioning, plush seats, comfy sleepers and gourmet food in a restaurant car.

DON’T opt for the bus if you’re prone to claustrophobia, motion sickness, are pregnant, suffer from a weak heart or actually expect to have a good time. The Vietnamese are not renowned for the safety or courtesy of their driving.
DO use local city buses: once you’ve worked out where to catch the ones you want, these present an excellent (and stunningly cheap) way of getting around. Cities in Vietnam are investing in new buses and improving the service in an effort to combat traffic congestion.
DO keep things on the planes, trains, and your hired vehicles clean. In case there’s something wrong you may find, call the master right away, or else you may get into trouble later.

Taxis, xe om, and cyclos
Taxis are fairly cheap and plentiful. DO check that the driver starts the meter, unless you agree to a price before you move off and then stick to it.
If you use taxis, xe om, or cyclos, it’s best to always make sure you have some small notes on you. The “sorry, no change” line is often used to try and round up the fare to fit your bank notes. If you only carry 50,000 VND bills, it might get expensive.
DO make sure the driver has really understood where you want to go rather than just answering “yes” to everything you say and then driving around aimlessly – with the meter running – with the hope that inspiration will strike from some unlikely quarter… If you can’t make yourself understood, show your destination to him in writing.
A xe om is a motorbike taxi, a very popular and practical way of getting around. You’ll find them on every street corner in the country – or rather they’ll find you and eagerly offer their services. This is the fastest way to get across town without having your own bike and is often the best and cheapest way to get to a distant beach, village, site, airport, etc. DO fix a price before you hop on, politely ignore any attempt to renegotiate the amount along the way and check that you are indeed where you want to be before you pay off your xe om. You DON’T need to bring along a helmet cause all xe om drivers carry one more (besides theirs) for customer.
Cyclos, or bicycle trishaws, offer a quiet, leisurely and eco-friendly way to cover short distance. Cyclo features three wheels. DO choose Cyclo to enjoy a city tour as it moves quite slowly.
DON’T take Cyclos late at night, unless you know your way around as this is not a very safe option.

Car, motorbike and bicycle rental
Cars for rent at comfort are Japanese 4x4s and Russian jeeps for long journeys and remote regions visiting. But they usually come with a driver. Yet, car is still not the ideal form of transport for Vietnam’s narrow roads and saturated city streets.
For short stays in Vietnam, your driving license from your own country should be sufficient, provided it applies to motorcycles. If possible, DO obtain an official Vietnamese translation of your license.
DO remember that this driving license will usually only be valid for the same period as your visa! After that, you start the process over again! But experience will make the process much quicker!
Renting bicycles and motorbikes is cheap and easy. And this service is now offered almost everywhere in Vietnam. However, DON’T take the risks involved lightly: the number of foreigners implicated in traffic accidents – from minor spills to major, horrific trauma – is proportionately high, and this is a country with a soaring accident rate.

DO take the time to rent a bicycle for a few days before you rent a motorbike. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with local conditions without quite as much speed, risk and hot metal being involved.
DO check the brakes, lights and wheel bearings on any vehicle before you rent it.
DO keep sharp eye on your rented motorbike to avoid theft.
In Vietnam, horns are heavily used: a motorbike sill runs with no lights or little brakes, but if the horn doesn’t work, the bike needs fixing. Some young sparks have the amusing idea of fixing a powerful car horn to a scooter. So DON’T let it get to you. If you start screaming at people for blowing their horns, they will simply stare at you in amazement.
DON’T forget to use the horn yourself when you drive, otherwise, it can be dangerous.
Helmets are now used by all motorbike riders as a rule. So DO remember to use one for yourself.
DON’T buy a Chinese helmet: it might look as good and be cheaper but it won’t resist a serious impact.

Walking

When walking around in the cities, beware of traffic: As crossing the road, follow the zebra crossing, and wait until the light turns blue. Still, remember to look around before crossing as motorbike riders sometimes run even at yellow light and at high speed.
 
Driving license

Technically, a foreigner needs a Vietnamese license to drive anything above 50cc; while this is rare if ever enforced, your papers won’t be in order if you have an accident, whether it’s your fault or not.

For short stays in Vietnam, your driving license from your own country should be sufficient, provided it applies to motorcycles. If possible, DO obtain an official Vietnamese translation of your license (unless it mentions that you are not entitled to drive). Official translations can be obtained at the public notary’s offices in most large towns. It normally only takes a couple of days and a few dollars.

An international driving license is only a recognized translation of your own country’s license.any official-looking, photo-bearing document can be an asset when negotiating your way out of a delicate situation with local policemen or authorities.
If you intend to stay in the country for longer periods and wish to do more serious driving, then you might want to apply for a local driving license. You will need quite a bit of patience for this and a hefty pile of papers and letters that will include photocopies of passport, visa, driving license and originals of your driving license official translation as well as a letter from your sponsoring agency (not needed if you are on a tourist visa).
DO remember that this driving license will usually only be valid for the same period as your visa. After that, you start the process over again.

Ten Tips to Survive Vietnam’s Traffic

DON’T spend hours waiting to cross the street on foot: that constant tide of traffic won’t stop until late at night, so
DO as the Vietnamese do: take the plunge and inch slowly across. Observe the Miracle of the Red Sea, as the traffic parts like magic, flowing smoothly in front of you or behind, meeting up again on the other side.
DON’T make any sudden or unpredictable movements: freeze if you have to, but never lunge forward or backward towards the safety of the sidewalk. In fact, you can do just about anything, but do it with conviction!
DON’T forget, if you’re riding or driving, to look where you’re going – all the time: if you hit anything in front of you, then it’s your fault.
DO give way to any vehicle bigger and noisier than yours. Trucks and buses are particularly dangerous: often old, sometimes unsafe and usually all over the road.
DO watch out for unfamiliar obstacles: water buffaloes, rocks of various sizes, broken-down trucks…, people sitting in the road, missing bridges, girls in ao dai cycling five abreast, slow-moving mountains of farm produce, dog fights, impromptu football matches, piles of building materials – and almost no light on anything at night..
DON’T hesitate to take evasive action – even if this sometimes means leaving the tarmac or coming to a dead stop.
DO try to avoid getting involved in one of the all-too-frequent minor accidents that plague Vietnam’s roads (and the major ones as well, of course), but if you are unlucky,
DON’T lose your cool, in spite of the interference of the large and vocal crowd that may gather: try to settle things amicably and swiftly. Sometimes, paying a reasonable amount of money will save you a lot of hassle.
DO remember that the only rule is: you’re not allowed to bump into anybody… irrespective of what they did or should have done, or of what the road signs or traffic lights were telling them to do. Some people still seem to think that anything red means forward, comrade!