On weather, communication, dining, traffic, transport, attractions, and what you should be wary of
Based on my one week experience in Dong Hoi, Phong Nha, Hoi An and Da Nang
Note: Prices are accurate as of Aug 2022
- Protect yourself well from the sun! Even though the weather in Vietnam is alike to Singapore since it’s either rain or shine, I sometimes found the heat quite unbearable and was even sunburnt on some days.
- Learn a few basic conversational Vietnamese words and phrases to communicate with the locals. Common phrases I’ve used were: “Hello”, “How much?”, “Thank you”, “Sorry / Excuse me” and “Goodbye”.
- Use Google Translate! Most locals only know very basic English, therefore it is more helpful to show them the translated text of what you want to convey.
- Many local stall owners would approach you to buy things. If you’re not keen, you can kindly reject them by saying “no, thank you” in Vietnamese. If locals are more pushy, just form an “X” with your hands and they should stop their “advances”. The last resort is just to keep walking ahead!
- A typical bowl of noodles costs around 30,000–40,000 VND, while a cup of coffee costs around 20,000–30,000 VND if you buy from street stalls. Use this as a good gauge of whether stall owners did a price surge for you just because you are a tourist. Personal experience: I was once charged 30,000 VND for a lime juice drink when the normal price was only 15,000 VND 😱
- The style of dining is to order what you want first and then foot the bill at the end. So, to prevent yourself from paying a higher price than expected, ask for the price(s) before ordering! I prefer patronising stalls which have a printed menu with the prices listed clearly.
- Please try the local coffee there! Especially the coconut coffee from Lyma Station in Hoi An 😀
- Vietnam follows right-hand traffic. If you are riding or driving, look left before turning right and look right (and left) before turning left. If you are walking and want to cross the road, vehicles will be coming from the left on your side, so look in the correct direction when checking!
- Riders mostly give way to pedestrians and other vehicles. So just flow with the traffic, move decisively and you’ll be safe!
- To get from one place to another, if you can ride a motorbike, rent one; if you can ride a bicycle, rent one. Hailing a ride (e.g. GrabCar) can cost a few hundred thousand VND. On the other hand, a bicycle rental can cost ~30,000 VND and a motorbike rental can cost ~150,000 VND for a whole day only.
- If you want to hail a ride, I would recommend using Grab so that you know how much to pay in advance, as compared to normal taxis which charge based on the meter.
- Take the train (North-South railway) to travel between major cities. I took the train to get from Dong Hoi to Da Nang and the journey was 6 hours, with stops at Dong Ha and Hue. The ride was quite comfortable and I found the route quite scenic!
- You can either book train tickets online or at the physical ticket counter. If you are doing the former, make sure to compare across sites for the cheapest price!
- You can choose to buy train tickets for hard-cover or soft-cover seats, or beds within cabins (which can range from 2 to 6 beds in a single cabin). If you are taking the night train, a bed would be better as you can sleep and also lock your cabin door to keep your belongings safe.
- If you are going to Sunworld Ba Na Hills in Da Nang, I don’t think there is much value in “upgrading” your admission ticket (850,000 VND / adult) to include the cable car (1,050,000 VND / adult) because most cable cars were accessible by everyone within the attraction.
- I would recommend going to Ba Na Hills in the day, between 9am to 5pm. Even though admission tickets are valid till 9pm, some rides or areas close at 5pm. Besides that, going in the day means nicer photos taken too 😀
- If your hotel / hostel / homestay charges for water, it’s way cheaper to buy a 5L water bottle from a nearby mart (e.g., Winmart, Lotte mart). Hostels may charge 10,000 VND per 500ml bottle, while 5L bottles cost merely 20,000 VND in marts.
- If locals approach you for a photo, it may be a privy to a potential trap to pressure you into buying something at an exorbitant price. Personal experience: A local Vietnamese fruit seller approached me for a photo by passing me her fruits baskets and then proceeded to hand me a bag of rambutans and charged me 150,000 VND, which is equivalent to $8–9 SGD for <1kg of fruits (?!), I’m never falling for that again! 😢
In general, I found Vietnamese locals to be rather warm and friendly, except for a few “black sheep” here and there. It’s quite safe there too, especially as a lady. I didn’t encounter any pickpockets or any other dangerous situations. The food there is delicious (of course that is subjective to your palette) and very affordable for sure 😀
Thank you for reading!