This is the first post of a series about my travels through Vietnam. Vietnam had been on my radar since my first trip to the Asian continent in 2017. I could not fit the route in on my AirAsia Asean pass (no longer available) because I didn’t have enough credits. Singapore Airlines had great fares on their Black Friday sale so I jumped on the opportunity to finally get myself to Vietnam.
I planned my trip working my way from South to North. I wanted to start in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) because I thought it would be my least favorite stop with it being a big city. Unfortunately this fist stop lived up to its expectation and set a very negative tone for the rest of my trip. I had some great content in Saigon that I was so excited to share but that was lost when a Grab biker ran a scam on me and lured me off his bike so he could drive away with my things.
Anyway, I chose to continue my travels through the country since I had paid for the visa and I knew I would never return. From Saigon I made my way to Hue (pronounced “way” I was screwing this up) (flight), Hoi An (private driver), Da Nang (private driver) and finished out my trip in Hanoi (flight) with a day trip (chartered bus/boat) to Halong Bay which was the main motivation for my trip to the country.
I was so excited when I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City. The congestion of the traffic and the closeness of all the buildings was so intriguing on my taxi ride from the airport to my hotel. I had to chuckle to myself in the car because traffic is normally something I absolutely cannot stand.
As I was mesmerized “reading” (not really) all the signs on the buildings in the Vietnamese alphabet, I was thinking to myself this is something for me to be in a country where English is not one of the primary languages and is not widely spoken. When I arrived to the hotel my room wasn’t ready so I hit the streets to kill time. I booked my first couple of nights in District 1, which is where most of the attractions in Saigon are located. I was able to walk to the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City Museum.
I quickly found out walking was an at your own risk sort of thing in Vietnam. There is an art to crossing the street with all the motorbikes, cars, buses, people and seemingly no traffic rules. It’s like playing double-dutch when you are rocking back and forth to see when it’s a good time to jump between the two ropes.
As my conclusion to this introductory post I want to express my gratitude to the wonderful people of Vietnam that helped me to push thru. A very special Thank You to Mr. Anh, Mr. Nam and Mr. Tuan at the Saigon Prince Hotel. They went above and beyond to assist me with getting back to the hotel after my purse was stolen. They got in touch with Grab while I cancelled my credit card and tried to track my phone thru Google and Norton. Mr. Anh translated for me at the police station and was sadly treated very disrespectfully when we were called back to the station for them to tell me I was lying. A very special Thank You to Mrs. Kelly at the Hue Serene Hotel for her assistance with choosing a taxi from the airport and her patience with my hesitation making decisions about tours in Hue because I was still uneasy about trusting people after the Grab incident. A very special Thank You to Mrs. Sunday at the Serene Boutique Hotel in Hanoi.
I was probably going to have a melt down at the Hanoi airport because of a second shady Grab incident but her intuitiveness to contact me through WhatsApp when our connection was bad thru Skype saved the day. She became my personal protector for the 5 days I was in Hanoi. She personally put me in Taxi’s that she could document and set me up with a day tour where Dan with Escape Sails took excellent care of me and made me feel safe. These kind people balanced out the negative experiences I had with the thief, the Vietnam police (who I think works with the thieves) and the local US Consulate representative (that blew me off).
Continue reading below for tips on planning a trip to Vietnam. The next part in the series will be about my time in Hue and my road trip to Hoi An.
**PLEASE NOTE THAT THINGS ARE NOT FUNCTIONING NORMAL WITH COVID19 AND YOU SHOULD VERIFY THE CURRENT REQUIREMENTS FOR TRAVEL INTO THIS COUNTRY**
Visa Requirements – Visa Required
You can read the state department details on Vietnam here.
I paid $80 for a quick turnaround (3 days) at the Vietnam Consulate in Houston. You can get the visa online for about $20, but then you pay another fee when you arrive in Vietnam and it winds up only saving you $20 or so. I would advise going to a consulate because you have someone to fix it if it’s wrong. When you do it online you don’t have much recourse for errors.
Vaccine Requirements – No Vaccines Required.
For a list of suggested vaccines please visit here.
I did not get any special vaccines.
Local Customs – Since I was robbed on day 2 I unfortunately did not immerse myself in the culture enough to give advice on local customs. I would say a general rule of thumb is to make sure you are dressed appropriately when visiting temples and other holy sites.
Basic Phrases – Xin Chow = Hello | Xin Cam On = Thank You
Local Currency – Vietnamese Dong (VND) = $1 = 23,000VND
Local Transportation – Vinasun Taxi (white) and Mai Linh Taxi (green) | I didn’t use the local bus or train.
Ride Sharing – Grab (I was robbed by someone posing as my Grab Driver and Grab would not investigate so I am not a fan) there are other people who have had great experiences using Grab and I had some great experiences until the robbery.
Vietnamobile – I got a data only SIM from them after my stuff was stolen for 60,000 VND ($2.60 USD) and it worked just fine.
Viettel – Avoid this provider. I way over paid for this SIM card in the airport. It was 400,000VND ($17usd). They sold me on the idea that the card would be protected if it was lost or stolen. However they claimed they did not have my number with my passport information so they couldn’t replace the card since I didn’t know the number.
Things to Know
· Hotels needed to have a key card for power and hotels only gave you one card so your room would not be cool when you came in. This was also a problem because I couldn’t charge devices while I was out. I asked for a second card and was told at most places I could not have an extra card. Only one hotel I experienced allowed me to have two. However if you have a business card try sticking that in the slot to see if it tricks the system.
· Hotels charged a 2% fee when paying balance with a credit card. I usually had balance for tours and private transfers I booked through the hotel. I started booking through the hotels so they would know who was picking me up and I felt a little safer with their drivers than Grab after the robbery incident.
· DO NOT bike your personal items in the seat of a motorbike. It is too easy for them to take your things.
· Phone & Purse Snatching is VERY common even for locals. Do not have your phone out unless you need it!
Recommendations – Sign up as a site member to view my personal recommendations in the forum post.