Saturday, October 11, 2014

Vietnam Travel Guide

I have been to the north and south of Vietnam but not the middle part. Hence, this is not the complete guide.
If you have been to the Vietnam, you will agree with me that the north and south are very different people. However, they are still the same nice people.

Taxi: It is wise to use Mai Linh (Green/White) and Vinasun taxi service when you are in Vietnam. There are three types of car: the small one (where you practically have no space for luggage), the sedan and a bigger car. The smaller it is, the cheaper the fare is for per kilometre. I realize that a lot of people are not aware of this but I always choose the smallest car as it is cheaper than the rest.

Motortaxi: Travelling alone but you couldn't ride a motorbike? I think this is the best tool invented for tourist. For me, hire a taxi is too expensive but I don't know how to ride a bike. The easiest solution is to hire a motortaxi! If you are lucky, you might be able to find someone who can speak English and able to story you about the place. A one day tour will cost 150k-200k VND per day. At places like Dalat, a one day tour can cost around 20 USD per day. It will be better for you to have an idea of where you want to go so that you can negotiate with the driver. 

For public bus, they do announce the name of the stations but in Vietnamese language. Taking public transport is the cheapest transportation in Vietnam. You should really use the public bus in Saigon as the bus fare is as low as 0.20-0.30 USD per trip for intercity bus. 

If you want to travel out of the city, you can either book a seat at the local travel agency or take the local bus. I recommend Sinh Tourist for local tour as they are very reliable. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try their local bus company. I used Phuong Trang (pronounced as Fong Jang) to travel from Saigon to Mui Ne last December and it was really good. They have buses scheduled every hour which is good as tour agency have limited choices for the time slot. Phuong Trang is the biggest bus company in the South and their buses and van are all in good condition. I find the quality is way better than the buses you booked from hostel/guesthouse. Furthermore, they stop at proper rest area for toilet breaks.

What to buy?
Vietnam is the best place to purchase Hada Labo skin care and Sunplay sunblock! This is because these products were manufactured in Vietnam and the price is 2-3 times lower than other South East Asia countries. Furthermore, you can find cheap traditional medicinal oil too! If you happen to be at the tribal village, you might want to purchase some handmade souvenir. A handmade clutch will cost around 35k VND (~$1.8 USD). 

What to eat?
The best thing about travelling in Vietnam is their food! It’s very delicious as  they rarely use artificial coloring and flavouring in their cooking. However, it is very difficult to find vegetarian or Halal food in Vietnam as almost every dish involves meat. Like in Thailand, there’s always a bowl of fresh vegetable on the table.

Spring rolls and Pho are the common food in Vietnam. Don’t miss out Banh Xeo when you are in Saigon and Bun Cha when you are in Hanoi! You can't afford to say ‘I will only try this in other region’. The rule of thumb is people from different region eat different food with the exception for Pho and spring rolls.

One good thing about travelling in Vietnam is that you can easily find a decent room with ensuited bathroom at the price of USD 8. However, these guesthouse are located a bit far from the tourist spot. I usually trust Trip Advisor for reviews. However,I will recommend you to check the room before making a decision. This is extremely important as I have seen workers who sleep in the guestroom before the visitors arrived.It will be good to stick with lonely planet if you prefer the staffs to speak good English as the guesthouse recommended by lonely planet can cost a few USD more.

Most young adults speak decent English but they are too shy to speak up. You can’t expect a middle age man/woman to speak with you in English. People at their age only learn English for their living. However, it is wise to use basic English word. Google translate can be quite useful when it comes to communicating with the local.

To buy simcard or not
If you must buy the sim card, please don't buy it at the airport. Frankly speaking, Vietnamese are very generous with their Wifi service. Almost every shop provides free wifi service and some does not require any password! Hence, do think twice when you want to purchase a sim card at VN.


The easiest way to navigate around is by using a map/google map! Trust me, VN is not a place where you can easily catch someone who can speak little/good english on the road. 

Travelling from Airport 
Saigon: Catch a A/C local bus (#152) out of the airport and get off at the last station. You will find yourself at the bus stop located opposite Ben Thanh market. 

Hanoi: There's a few option to the city center. 
a) Minivan 
Once you exit from the arrival hall, turn right and walk to the end. They charged 40k VND per trip and they will drop you off at the city center. They will drop you off at Quang Trung street. 

b) Local Bus (Red & Yellow- #7 & #17)
They charged 7000VND per trip. I would recommend bus #17 as it will stop at Long Bien bus station which is nearer to Old Quarters. 

Disclaimer: The author has been to Vietnam for four times in the past 4 years and most of the information are up-to-date. 

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