Well, that is officially everything from my Vietnam travels! And now to finish off I’m going to give my personal top ten tips along with my top ten favourite photos (in no particular order) Enjoy….
1.) Be prepared for the climate: Sounds kind of obvious I know. But really, if you’ve never been to Asia before then you just cannot image what the heat feels like. The air is thick with humidity and you will sweat even you feel you shouldn’t! It may simply have been because of the time of year we visited, but we found the North of Vietnam far more hot and humid than the South, so prepare yourself for endless sweat!
2.) Trains are your new best friend: Vietnam is a big country but the train system there is pretty amazing. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend and how concerned you are about your personal comfort level during a journey, there are different seats and beds available to you. We booked all our trains in advance even before getting to Vietnam which actually worked out really well, so if you’re feeling organised I would recommend it. The Man in Seat Sixty-One is an awesome website to check out to help you with your travel planning.
3.) Overnight trains are not as bad as you might think: sure, the rooms are a bit small and not up to the standard of a hotel, and you begin to debate with yourself if you actually need to use the loo or whether you can hold it for the next 10 hours. But in reality, they’re fine. They’re an easy and inexpensive way to deal with long journeys (our longest train was 16 hours but we slept for the majority of it) and if you’re on a budget then it’s great since you get travel and accommodation in one!
4.) Be careful with your money: the exchange rate between the British Pound Sterling and Vietnamese Dong is 1: 2908.43 – so essentially £1 is 3,000 Dong. This can cause some confusion when you’re trying to work out quickly how much something costs. Believe me, it is unfortunately easy to hand over 50,000 Dong (£17.20) instead of 5,000 Dong (£1.72) without realising it until it’s too late.
5.) Keep an eye on your taxi metre: all the taxi’s we rode in were perfectly fine except one. You should always take taxi’s with metres in them which we did every time. Unfortunately, what we didn’t realise until it was too late was that one taxi driver had increased his metre to an absurd rate, so that we were charged way, WAY more than we should have. We knew that we were being scammed, but unfortunately the rest of my group didn’t share my desire to confront the driver about it! Learn from our mistake. If a taxi driver has obviously scammed you demand a receipt, or if he doesn’t give you one take down his taxi number and registration number. That way you can ask your hostel reception staff to phone up the taxi company and get your money back for you.
6.) The road has no rules!: Perhaps the only rule would be ‘if there’s a space, take it’. Traffic lights are not a thing, and vehicles will not stop for you if you politely wait at the side of the road. If you’re confident, step out and make your way across the road. Just make sure that you leave cars and bikes enough time to slow down or move around you! Don’t panic, just walk across slowly. Or, if you prefer the safety in numbers approach, wait until there’s a crowd wanting to cross the road and tag along with them.
7.) A one time splurge: Vietnam is a country where you can enjoy most things at an incredibly cheap cost. If you are a student looking for some inexpensive travel then this is a brilliant place for you. But there is one place where you simply have to make an exception – Ha Long Bay. Yes, this could be the most expensive day you will have on your entire trip. But there is one simple thing you have to remember. It is worth it. Spend the money, you will never regret it.
8.) Buy travel pants: Because they’re really comfortable, and they will keep you so much cooler than you would think. Because they’re colourful and pretty (and yes, I know how much of a girl I’m sounding right now). Because years after I first went to Vietnam I still wear my first ever pair as my pyjamas and not only are they still the most comfortable thing ever, but they are also one of my favourite souvenirs of all my travels.
9.) Vegetarians will be fine: the two girls I was travelling with were both vegetarians and I must confess before we went out there I was slightly worried this may prove problematic. I was completely wrong. All the places we went to had vegetarian dishes and even the boat trip to Ha Long Bay had separate meals for them! Not sure I could say the same about vegans however.
10.) You’re going to be stared at: don’t be surprised when this happens. Everywhere you go, and all the time. You’ll be walking down the street and you will see people pointing you out to their friends. People may even come up to you and ask to take a photo with them (I should start charging for this – i’d make a fortune!) It’s a strange feeling at first but either you accept it and get used to it, or you get annoyed by it. I promise you, the first option is a lot less stressful!
So there you have it, my top ten tips for Vietnam! An amazing country and one I already can’t wait to go and visit again. Stay tuned for the rest of my adventures!
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.” – Lewis Carroll