Vietnam

The flag of Vietnam was adopted on November 30, 1955. The flag is red in the background with a large yellow five-pointed star in the center. The color red is the color of communism but also symbolizes the blood of the victims shed during the struggle for independence. The golden star in the center of the flag represents the five social classes, workers, farmers, academics, youth and soldiers, who together will create socialism.

The first thing you need to know about Vietnam is that it is a one-party communist country with a predominantly agricultural economy. Vietnam has a socialist republic form of government, so if you come from an urbanized, Western country, you’re bound to experience a bit of culture shock.

First, certain freedoms you may have taken for granted will be severely restricted in Vietnam. It ranks 175 out of 180 countries for press freedom. Vietnam also ranks low on religious freedom, with religious acts suppressed by the government if they violate the so-called “national interest” and “public order”.

It is quite cheap to live in Vietnam compared to western countries and your money will last much longer. However, this will depend on your lifestyle and it may also differ from city to city.

The main language in Vietnam is Vietnamese.

Eftersom Vietnam var en fransk koloni tenderar franska att vara det populära andraspråket. Mandarinkinesiska talas också mycket i storstadsområden. Många vietnameser i populära stadskärnor talar engelska, men engelsktalande kan vara svåra att finna i mer mer lantliga miljöer

Vietnamesiska använder det latinska alfabetet, vilket kan göra det lättare att läsa på skyltar och i manualer.

Sydostasien är känt för marknader som säljer falska versioner av populära klädmärken. I Vietnam kan du dock köpa riktiga märkeskläder lika billigt som kopiorna. Det beror på att Vietnam är ett nav för tillverkning av många ledande klädmärken, och fabrikerna säljersina restlager för en fjärdedel av detaljhandelspriserna på platser som Hanois gamla kvarter eller Ho Chi Minh-stadens ryska marknad.

Use of payment cards

Many shops and restaurants accept cards, but card fraud is not uncommon, so it is better to pay in cash. There are plenty of ATMs and generally cash is still accepted.

If you exchange 50 USD in Vietnam, you will become a millionaire. in Dong. Further complicating matters is the fact that Vietnam has 17 different varieties of coins and notes. The lowest denomination is 100 Dong, which comes in both coin and note form, and is worth about 0.5c USD. Therefore, make it a habit to always have a calculator and currency converter handy.

Travel there

Flight

There are flights to Vietnam from several countries. The flight time from most western countries is around 12 hours.

Train

There are daily trains from China, Cambodia and Laos.

Bus

Buses go to Vietnam from China, Cambodia and Laos.

Visa

Most travelers are required to have a visa when traveling to Vietnam, which can usually be arranged on arrival. You are usually allowed to stay for 3 – 6 months, depending on your nationality. In addition, Vietnam has introduced an electronic visa (e-visa), which costs $25 USD and is granted for single visits for up to 30 days.

Once approved, you only need to print out the visa and present it upon entry to Vietnam. Do not lose this e-visa printout as you will need it during your travels in Vietnam.

Hotels will ask for it at check-in at the accommodation and travel agencies may ask for it when booking flights.

Also print out your travel insurance. Immigration will ask for this too as they want to know you are covered if you get sick or injured during your stay.

Healthcare

Overall, Vietnam has a very good and rapidly improving healthcare system. The sector’s emphasis on prevention rather than cure was one of the reasons why Vietnam was so quick to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vietnam has a mixed public-private healthcare system, although it is slowly transitioning to a fully public model. The healthcare model is much more advanced in the big cities, but is slowly reaching rural areas as well. Almost all preventive health care is free in Vietnam, including vaccinations and maternal and child health care.

Expats usually choose to visit private hospitals in Hanoi or Saigon, as these are more likely to be staffed with doctors who speak English or French. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you take out private health insurance, especially if you live outside the urban areas. You may also want to consider adding medical evacuation cover, as you may find that some specialist treatments require you to travel to Bangkok, Singapore or Seoul.

Religion

Officially, Vietnam is an atheist state. Despite this, many of its citizens are religious. The three main religions in Vietnam are Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Sometimes they are grouped together as a religion called the three teachings or tam giảo. Many practice folk religions, such as venerating ancestors, or praying to gods, especially during Tết and other festivals.

Safety and security

Living in Vietnam is relatively safe. The country rarely experiences major natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Security, especially in large cities, is acceptable. Police and other authorities rarely mess with foreigners or ask for bribes. The crime rate in Vietnam is among the lowest in Southeast Asia, which itself is known for having a low crime rate. Prostitution and drug abuse are common in Vietnam. Thieves are most active in Ho Chi Minh City.

Dos and don’ts

Dress politely


When traveling to Vietnam, you are advised to dress appropriately and avoid wearing thin or see-through clothing. It is considered impolite to wear these types of clothing in public, especially in temples, pagodas and other sacred attractions. Remember to cover your arms and legs and hide your skin from revealing as much as possible. It’s OK to wear shorts, skirts, or tank tops to bars, beaches, or at your resort. But nudity is not encouraged, as the Vietnamese will not tolerate it and consider it offensive.

Be respectful at religious attractions
In addition to wearing modest clothing, you should also keep quiet when visiting religious sites. Nobody wants to be disturbed in a quiet place. Taking off hats and shoes before entering the shrine is also something that is required because wearing hats and shoes in the Buddha Hall is a taboo in the Vietnamese world. Also, you should not point and touch the Buddha statue as this is considered disrespectful.

Learn to use some common Vietnamese words
Speaking the local language is always welcome.

Ask permission before taking pictures
The Vietnamese are quite friendly. However, this does not mean that you can take pictures whenever you want, because not many people will feel comfortable. Therefore, make sure you ask permission before taking a picture of someone. In addition, in many places, local people can expect payment.

Prova street food i Vietnam
Vietnam’s cuisine is incredibly diverse, from traditional dishes to street food. Trying street food is something you shouldn’t miss.

Bargain
When visiting a local market in Vietnam, it is better to haggle and get a fixed price for things you want to buy, as many sellers will raise the price much higher than the item’s true value. But when haggling, you shouldn’t lose your temper. If the price does not meet your expectations, just smile, say “Thank you” and try another place.

Take off shoes when entering someone’s house
If you visit a local’s house, you should remove your shoes before entering. This action shows respect for the host

Giving gifts
Giving gifts is one of the popular activities in the daily life of Vietnamese people. You can give a gift to someone on their birthday, anniversary, longevity celebration, wedding, etc. In particular, you may want to give a gift when you are invited to a local community.

On the other hand, if you receive a gift from others, you should not open it in front of them. Wait until you return to your accommodation and open your present later.

Respect the elderly
In Vietnam, the elderly are always given priority in every situation, and of course in the meal. You should always invite the elderly to eat first and wait until they start their meal.

Note about using chopsticks
The Vietnamese use chopsticks to eat. In addition to learning how to use this tool, you should note some taboos when using them. Do not place the chopsticks vertically straight up on a rice bowl; do not play with chopsticks while eating. These actions are considered to bring bad luck and are highly offensive. Do not use chopsticks to skewer food, do not suck on the chopsticks, as this is exceptionally unhealthy. Also, do not point the chopsticks at others as this is impolite.

Use map
Since Vietnam’s streets and traffic are quite complex and difficult to find, it will be better if you have a printed map or offline map, or make sure you have an internet connection to use an online map to find the direction. In addition, take a card at your accommodation to find your way back more easily.

Don’t brag about your money
Do not show that you have money as there are many pickpockets and robbers on the street, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. Therefore, remember to remove jewelry and accessories and keep your bag in front of you to avoid being stolen.

Don’t express love in public
In Vietnam, it is not common to see a couple expressing love on the street. Hence, it will be better if you don’t kiss, cuddle or touch your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband in public. Only hand holding is accepted.

Don’t get involved in illegal activities
Of course, nobody wants to be punished in a foreign country. So, do not engage in illegal activities. In Vietnam, you are only administratively sanctioned in certain cases. But in many other situations, you can get into big trouble and even get jailed. For that reason, remember to avoid the problems below;

  • Uses drugs and cannabis
  • Take pictures of the demonstrations and military infrastructure and tools
  • Games and betting
  • Posting rumors about political news on social media

Don’t argue about the Vietnam War
When you come to Vietnam, it’s okay if you want to ask and learn about Vietnamese history. However, do not be skeptical and argue about the Vietnam War, because it is a sensitive topic. The war caused much damage and serious consequences for Vietnam.

Don’t give money to beggars
When walking along Vietnamese streets or tourist areas, you may come across many beggars. Don’t offer them money though; this is not encouraged in Vietnam.

Travel in Vietnam

Vietnam offers a variety of ways to get around. You might enjoy windswept motorcycle rides, fly direct from point to point, or take trains and buses across the country and enjoy the sights along the way.
With a little planning (and an adventurous spirit), you can usually get where you want easily and comfortably. Within the cities there are plenty of taxis, buses and bicycles; and out in the countryside, cycling is often an appealing alternative.

Places to visit

As a first-time visitor to Vietnam, you’ll probably want to stay close to the two major metropolitan areas – Hanoi (population 5 million) in the north and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon; population 9 million) in the south. You will probably find life in the big cities quite similar to that of large Western cities, with plenty of access to food, leisure, entertainment, transport and so on. Two of the most popular neighborhoods with English-speaking expats include Tay Ho in Hanoi and Binh Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City.

Once you’re a little more settled, you may find life in other cities appealing, especially those on Vietnam’s beautiful coast. Da Nang and Nha Trang are popular locations for expats looking for a quieter lifestyle. Getting used to living in Vietnam can take foreigners some time: Vietnam is a noisy place, and you will probably encounter a lot more noise than at home.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay’s stunning combination of karst limestone peaks and sheltered, shimmering seas is one of Vietnam’s top tourist attractions. But with more than 2,000 islands, there’s plenty of stunning scenery to explore. Book an overnight cruise and take time for your own special moments at this World Heritage wonder – rise early for an ethereal misty dawn, or kayak in caves and lagoons. Do you prefer your karst landscapes a little less crowded? Try the less touristy but equally spectacular Lan Ha Bay, which is a bit to the south, or Bai Tu Long, to the north.

Phong Nha–Kẻ Bàng National Park
Vietnam’s natural wonder is the astonishing Hang Son Doong, one of the world’s largest caves, located in the heart of Phong Nha–Kẻ Bàng National Park. The images of ant-like travelers shining head torches around the vast, empty caves tug at the wanderlust strings; but unless you have $3000 to spend on a trip, you won’t be able to partake in this underground wonder. But fear not because Phong Nha-Ke Bang has a host of other caves that you can climb, crawl, boat or cable car through for a fraction of the cost, including Hang Én, which has its own beach. In addition, there are plenty of above-ground attractions, including guided hikes around the oldest karst mountains in Asia, home to tigers, elephants and 300 species of birds.

Ho Chi Minh City
Increasingly international but still unmistakably Vietnamese, former Saigon has a vital energy that will delight big-city devotees. HCMC does not inspire neutrality: you will either be drawn into its exciting vortex and hypnotized by the eternal hum of its circling motorbikes, or you will find the whole experience overwhelming (and some visitors seem to constantly choose between the two). Dive in and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of history (the War Remembrance Museum is a must-stop), delicious food and a vibrant nightlife that ranges from street corner beers to elegant cocktail lounges.

Hanoi
Vietnam’s capital is a city with one foot buried in a fascinating past, while the other strides confidently into the future. Experience Hanoi’s heady mix of history and ambition by wandering the streets of the Old Quarter, sipping an egg coffee (coffee made with egg yolks) or slurping a hearty bowl of bun rieu cua (a sour crab noodle soup) while watching businessmen eat noodles or play chess with grandpa. When you’re done, check out the crumbling decadence of the French Quarter, then head up to cosmopolitan Tay Ho for fine dining and the lowdown on Hanoi’s burgeoning art scene.

Hội An
Historic Hội An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and charming city. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and enchanting riverside setting befitting its heritage. The old town has preserved its incredible heritage of ramshackle Japanese merchant houses, elaborate Chinese guild halls and old tea warehouses – although of course residents and rice fields have gradually been replaced by tourist companies. Lounge bars, boutique hotels, travel agencies, an abundance of tailor shops and a large number of daily tourists are very much part of the scene here. If it gets too much, jump on a bike to explore the city’s outskirts and unspoiled surroundings, where you’ll find life moves at a much more leisurely pace.

Ba Be National Park
Detour off the regular Vietnam tourist trail into Ba Be National Park, a major destination for adventurous travelers. The landscape here sweeps from limestone mountains with a peak of 1554m down into plunging valleys wrapped in dense evergreen forests, dotted with waterfalls and lakes. The park is a haven for hundreds of wildlife species, including monkeys, bears and pangolins (the only mammals completely covered in scales) as well as the critically endangered Vietnamese salamander, while birdwatchers will want to look out for the spectacular crested eagle and the oriental honey buzzard, which can seen on boat trips or hiking excursions. After a day of wildlife watching, recharge in rustic homestays and guesthouses in the village belonging to the local Tay ethnic minority.