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 such 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 and despite the heat, it’s best not to show off too much skin. If you do, you’ll only draw stares from the locals and unwanted attention.
- Dress respectably when visiting pagodas, shorts and tatty beer shirts are not appropriate. Shoes are fine and very rarely will you have to remove them. If unsure, just follow what the locals do.
- Drink plenty of bottled water, especially when walking around and sightseeing. No need to carry huge bottles around with you as vendors are 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.
- Do remember that there is no right or wrong in cultural difference, only differences. Talk about it, laugh about it, and share it with fellow travelers…
- Wear a lot of jewelry and avoid taking a bag with you. Violent crime is highly unusual in Vietnam, but petty crime is more apparent. If you have a bag, or wear a digital camera around your neck, you are more likely to be a potential target.
- When taking a ride on a 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 increases the probability greatly if you are tailing a camera or a laptop in the wind.
- Don’t wear 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 work as you are maybe used to. Don’t be paranoid about your safety just be aware of your surroundings.
- Do not try to take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security.
- Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages as they are considered to be too intrusive by the local people.