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Top 10 Eating Hacks in Vietnam

Ten things any serious foodie needs to know before

visiting and eating in Vietnam.

#10 Don't Forget Your Cash! 

Many restaurants will still only accept cash payment for meals. And no, they won't take American dollars, they will only take VND (Vietnamese Dong). A US dollar is worth approximately 24,000 Dong. So 100,000 VND is around $4 US dollars. You can get VND using your debit card at local ATM machines, which are pretty much everywhere these days. Not all ATM machines will take US Bank cards, but most do and the maximum amount you can withdraw at a time is usually 3,000,000 VND (approximately $130 US dollars). You can also exchange USD and other currencies at any local bank. Make sure to take your passport when you exchange your currency as they like to make a record of who exchanged their money.

Vietnamese Dong VND 100,000 Note.

100,000 VND - Vietnamese Dong Notes

Cafe sua Da Hanoi Vietnam

#9 Take Advantage of Google Maps

You might be surprised to find out that Wifi in Vietnam is really-really good and 100% free at most coffee shops, restaurants and hotel lobbies. Even better news.. You can't walk 100 yards in any city without seeing a coffee shop. If you don't have an international data plan, don't sweat it. Take advantage of the free wifi and google maps to find your next great meal and directions to it. If you hit a coffee shop for wifi, you can treat yourself to a world famous Cafe Sua Da, a.k.a. Vietnamese Coffee!


Cafe Sua Da - Vietnamese Coffee

#8 Eat at Restaurants That Specialize in the Food You Want to Experience.

In Vietnam, it is very common for a restaurant to specialize in one certain kind of food and serve only that. For example, if you want to eat 'great' Pho Bo (beef Pho), you won't find it at a sit-down restaurant that serves all kinds of Vietnamese dishes - with Pho Bo being one of them. The best Pho will be found at a restaurant that specializes in serving only Pho Bo. The best Pho Bo restaurants don't even serve Pho Ga (chicken Pho). The same goes with all kinds of foods. Find the food you want to eat, then find a restaurant that ONLY does that meal and does it well.

#7  Don't Be Visually Intimidated.

One of the biggest hurdles western travelers need to overcome with Vietnamese food will be with the visual presentation and cleanliness of their restaurants. It's not uncommon to see soiled paper napkins on the floors of restaurants that have being discarded by previous customers and not yet swept up. You may also witness what a westerner might consider to be unsanitary practices being practiced by the cook who is likely to be cooking your meal right in the front entrance of the restaurant, open for everyone to see. Without a doubt, Vietnam has less regulations and because of that, less visual care is given to the handling of the food and general cleanliness of its restaurants. If your intestinal fortitude is a little bit on the weak side, or if you just can't get your head around it, there are always sit-down restaurants that serve food and in a more visually appealing and upscale atmosphere. 

Pho Thin Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi Vietnam

Pho Bo served in a small alley in Hanoi

Fresh Farm to table Fruits & Vegetables Being Sold on the Sidewalk in Vietnam

#6 DON'T Watch What You Eat!

Another thing about Vietnam that still amazes me after all of these years is how fresh and healthy their food is. They simply don't yet have the infrastructure or systems in place to mass produce food and ship it around the country. As a result, their food isn't filled with chemicals to prolong shelf life, hormones or GMO's. Instead, farmers that surround the cities, grow crops that suit the local climate, and then transport those crops and meats into the cities EVERY MORNING before the city awakes. It's truly amazing to see a large city become one giant open-air market that supplies everyone from ordinary citizens to the local restaurants. Vietnam as a country is still literally living farm to table on a daily delivery schedule. I lose about 3 lbs a month while I am in country. You just can't help it as your access to processed and modified food is greatly decreased. 

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Being Sold on the

Sidewalk in Vietnam

#5 Don't Be Afraid to Eat Alongside and Engage the Locals

Vietnam still doesn't see a lot of foreigners, even in the big cities. They have also moved on from the 'American War', decades ago. I've been approached a few times when I have been eating on my own, by other diners who figured I might need a drink. Every time I've been thirsty and willing to cheers with the locals and share a smile and a thank you. More than anything, Vietnamese people are curious about westerners and western culture as they get a lot of it through their TV's and social media, but don't see a lot of westerners outside of the tourist areas in the larger cities. Simply sharing a smile can make a memorable impressions with the local people. If you are unusually tall, good looking, or have a unique style or look, don't be surprised if you get asked to be in a few pictures.

Hanoi Vietnam Military History Museum Sculpture made from old war planes

DYK: The Vietnam War is called the 'American War' in Vietnam?

#4 Helpful Dining Words & Handling Money

Learn these words and phrases in Vietnamese:

  • Hello is XIN CHAO which pronounced 'sin-chow'.

  • Thank you is CAM ON, which is pronounced 'kam-un'.

  • To get the attention of a server is it culturally acceptable to respectfully call out CHI OI - pronounced 'chee-oi', to a female server. And ANH OI, pronounced 'ang-oi', to a male server. The international arm wave signal for your 'check please' works in Vietnam too.

  • To ask for your bill, use the words TINH TIEN, pronounced 'ting-tee-in'. The Vietnamese culture respects how they handle their money. It is considered bad manners to throw money on the table to pay for your bill. It is culturally correct to directly hand the money to your server, and even more appropriate to hand your money with two hands to a server that is older than you are.  

Man Sleeping on Motorcycle in Vietnam Street

Normal Pace of Life in Vietnam

#3 SLOW DOWN.... 

Presumably, You came to Vietnam to have a new experience. The Vietnamese servers are amazingly kind, gentle, and genuine, but not fast. Nothing happens real fast in Vietnam, and getting served is one of those things that might take a little getting used to. Even with my now wife telling me to slow down multiple times a day, it took me nearly a month to get used to the pace of service in Vietnam, but once you get used to not being in a rush everywhere you go, you will dread going back to it. 

#2 ALWAYS ask for 'takeout' bamboo chopsticks.

Across Vietnam, it is typical for restaurants to hand-wash and reuse their house chopsticks after they have been used. For those of you who are already a little skeptical about the cleanliness of the food, this could push you past your comfort level.  Also, some shops use large clunky plastic chopsticks, which I've always found difficult to use when trying to shovel slippery noodles into my pho-hole as quickly and efficiently as possible. Ask the restaurant you are at for their cheap 'take-out' bamboo chopsticks, so that you can avoid using their house chopsticks. 

Take Out Bamboo Choptsticks in Vietnam

Take-out Bamboo Chopsticks in Vietnam

Foodie Hookup Courtesy Wet Wipes in Vietnam

#1 Bring the Wet Wipes!

I cannot stress this enough.. Vietnam is NOT known for its cleanliness. Buying a package of wet wipes will probably be the best investment you will make while you are visiting Vietnam. You can use them for a variety of purposes during your daily travels, but they really come in handy when you eat, as a lot of the foods you encounter are served with condiments and vegetables that take a fair amount of 'handling'. You can also use them to wipe down your table, face and hands before enjoying a great meal.


From acting as your personal translator, to booking your transportation or accommodations, we're available to help you get the most out of your time in Vietnam. To inquire about additional

hosting & booking services, CLICK HERE.

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