Are you an American backpacker and are you contemplating a backpacking trip to Vietnam? But unsure if Vietnam is safe and the right place for your backpacking adventure?
Vietnam is steadily becoming one of the preferred Southeast Asian destinations for backpackers all over the world. The secret behind it is that Vietnam has so much to offer in terms of exotic street food, long pristine beaches with clear waters ways, ethnic people and lifestyles, ancient cities and monuments with rich history, breathtaking trekking locations, gorgeous landscapes and a vibrant nightlife; it truly does have all the components that will give you the perfect holiday experience! Vietnam is increasingly finding favor among eager backpackers in America and from other continents as well. An increasing number of American backpackers head to Vietnam due to its proximity as well as for its budget-friendliness.
Here are our top tips for the first-time American backpacker making his way through this Asian wonderland.
- Make Some Research About Your Destination
As a backpacker it is advisable to equip yourself with pertinent information’s about the new location you are visiting. Here are some things you should know about Vietnam if you had made a research. Vietnam is officially known as Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Hanoi is the capital city and Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in this country. The official language in Vietnam is Vietnamese, and the currency is Dong. Vietnam climate is hot and dry for most part of the year, and there is heavy rainfall between May and October.
- You Should Get Vaccinated
It is a very good idea to get vaccinated as an American backpacker before leaving for Vietnam, and while you are getting your shots from your doctor it is best to explain your upcoming trip to South East Asia. Your doctor can advise on any new vaccination requirements that you may need if you are visiting other nearby countries. You should figure out the vaccine you have to go for because it depends on the place you are visiting in Vietnam. In a country like Vietnam, a cholera vaccination certificate needs to be produced as a condition of entry. Keep the vaccination certificates along with your travel documents so that you can show them at the airport if necessary. Also, do take along other medical supplies, mosquito net and others.
- Take Important Documents Along
It is very important to take along your important documents like your passport, the visa papers, the driver’s license, and so on. You can make photocopies of the document so as to not loss the originals copy but you must as well take the originals copy with you. These documents should be kept in another bag, away from the originals as a backup. To be extra safe, scan these documents and upload them electronically to the cloud so that you can access them whenever required.
- Money and Currency
Exchange rates with British pounds and US dollars are generally in the tens of thousands. Things easily escalate into the millions, so you need to have your arithmetic head screwed on tight, or at least the calculator on your phone at the ready. The 100,000 Dong note looks alarmingly similar to the 10,000 Dong, so look carefully at those zeros. To minimize your chances of getting ripped off, research the going rates of staples such as food and drinks, transport and accommodation.
Hostels start at 130,000 VND per night. Private rooms average about 390,000 VND for a double room. In the past hostels were pretty scarce, though recently, hostels have started popping up all over the country to accommodate budget travelers. You can also try out Home Stays. You can expect to find all kinds of hotels in major cities, whether it is a budget lodging facility or a luxurious 5-star hotel. Finding one shouldn’t be a problem.
You should use public transport wherever possible. Buses are available too, but they may not be as comfortable as you would want them to be. You could opt for VIP buses though. Travelers also have the option of riding on/renting scooters. Tuk-tuks are one of the most popular means of commuting as they’re easily available. Apart from these, you can also use trains and planes. There are extremely low-cost airlines that can hop you around the country quickly for as little as 400,000 VND.
- Be Bold
Most important of all: don’t be scared. Vietnam can seem intimidating and overwhelming at first, but keep a sense of humour and everything will work out fine. Just like the streets of Hanoi, where to cross the road you have to wade out into moving traffic whispering prayers to any and every god that you won’t get hit, the worst thing you can do is freeze. Keep moving at a steady pace and the bedlam will slowly envelop and glide around you – until magically you are right where you wanted to be without a single scratch!
Being American and looking at Vietnam’s and America’s history together you may have your apprehension of visiting the South East Asian country, and on first thought that is understandable. However safety in Vietnam for westerners has never been as high as it is now these days. The Vietnamese people have a very kind and happy culture and there is no absolutely no sign of any violence or retaliation towards westerners as a consequence of past American-Vietnamese relationships. It is important to remember that the Vietnamese political landscape, court and policing system is very good and this ensures rule of law is upheld and safety for western travelers is also very good. Having said all this however it is best practice for any American to check their government travel website before departure for any new and current travel warnings for any country they are traveling to in the world.