Vietnam is a friendly and safe place to travel. With a sprinkling of common sense, your trip should be smooth and trouble free. Tourists usually complain about over-aggressive street vendors, tour operators with a bad attitude and dangerous driving. However, with a cool head and sensible planning, one can avoid these problems.
- Greetings are no different to western countries, there are no cultural formalities that as a foreigner you would be expected to know or practice.
- Vietnamese dress conservatively. Despite the heat, it’s best not to show off too much skin. If you do, especially girls, you’ll only draw stares from the locals.
- Dress well when visiting pagodas. No shorts or tatty beer t-shirts. Shoes are fine, and rarely will you have to remove them. If unsure, just follow what the locals do.
- Drink plenty of bottled water, especially when walking around sightseeing. No need to carry huge bottles around with you, a vendor is never far away and no doubt they will find you before you find them.
- Keep your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place.
- Travel with recommend tour agencies. Even if you plan to buy tickets when in country, research your journey a little first on the Internet. A good resource is Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum, where fellow tourists discuss travel in Vietnam. This way you avoid unreliable tour agencies and badly run hotels.
- Wear a lot of jewellery or take a bag with you. Violent crime is highly unusual in Vietnam, but petty crime is more apparent. If you have a bag, or tout a digital camera around your neck, you are a potential target.
- When taking a ride by motorbike taxi (xe om) make sure your bag, if any, is not on display or easy to grab. Bag snatches, although still rare, are probably the most likely crime a tourist would encounter, and it raises the probability immensely if you are tailing a camera or a laptop in the wind.
- Don’t wear singlets, shorts, skirts or dresses, or revealing clothes to temples or pagodas.
- Physical displays of affection between lovers in public are frowned upon. That’s why you may come across couples holding hands but not hugging or kissing.
- Losing your temper in Vietnam means a loss of face. Keep a cool head and remain polite, you’ll have a greater chance of getting what you want.
- Remember, this is Vietnam, a developing country, and things don’t quite work as you are maybe used to. Don’t be paranoid about your safety, just be aware of your surroundings.