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VIETNAM FOOD & TRAVEL FAQ's

Below you will find travel, and of course eating advice based off of our local experiences & observations.
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  • Q. Do I need a Visa to travel to Vietnam?
    A. POSSIBLY - Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to visit Vietnam. Please refer to this page for more information - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Vietnam There are several different kinds of visa's for different lengths of stays and at different costs. There are also several different ways to get a visa online with some offering expedited services, even overnight. VN LIFE HACK: You can continually apply for visa's if you want to spend more time in Vietnam than 3 months. All you need to do is keep reapplying and jumping out of the country when needed. There is not a way to extend or get a NEW VISA when you are in the country. You MUST LEAVE VIETNAM and come back in on a NEW VISA. If your visa runs out, you will need to cross the border and re-apply to come back into Vietnam. The is a variety of border crossings that will allow you to cross over into Laos, and Cambodia on foot. But, the easiest way to renew your visa may be to fly to Bangkok and return on the same day. Do not overstay your visa, the local government doesn't mess around with this stuff. Keep in mind that all of this advice is from personal experience. Visa requirements and regulations often change. Please refer to the official government website for the most updated Visa information.
  • Q. Do I need travel insurance to enter Vietnam?
    A. You do NOT need travel insurance to visit Vietnam. That being said, it is never a bad idea to purchase coverage in case something unexpectedly happens. There are all kinds of travel insurance, everything from trip insurance in case your plans are interrupted, to healthcare coverage, to emergency private air recovery to get back to your home country.
  • Q. Do I need to present any Covid 19 documentation to travel to Vietnam?
    A. NO, you no longer need to present any vaccination documentation of any kind to get on the plane, or enter the country.
  • Q. Do I need an International Drivers License to ride or drive in Vietnam?
    A. As far as I understand, Vietnam does not recognize International Driving Permits. That being said, having one is probably better than not having one if you are planning on riding or driving in Vietnam. If you are traveling the countryside, or to Ha Giang Loop, I would highly suggest getting an International Drivers Permit to help improve your chance of getting out of a ticket.
  • Q. Will my phone work in Vietnam?
    A. That is a difficult question to answer. From my personal experience with T-Mobile International Plan - I paid $65/month for a plan that did NOT allow me to access the internet at all, even though 3G appeared to be on and 'working'. Others may have different experiences with different providers such as Verizon. PHONE SERVICES/DATA TIPS: 1. **MAKE SURE TO TURN OFF DATA ROMING WHEN YOU LAND IN VIETNAM** 2. Various phone providers like Viettel can fix you up with a local SIM card for use while you are traveling Vietnam. It's VERY inexpensive to get a Data plan in Vietnam. Viettel can be found in every city in Vietnam. 3. You may also purchase SIM cards at convenience stores and also online with an E-SIM.
  • Q. How is the WIFI in Vietnam?
    A. The wifi is GREAT in Vietnam. You can duck into any coffee shop in the country to pick up wifi if you get stuck somewhere. Just make sure to order a drink to support the shop owner. Various phone providers like Viettel can fix you up with a local SIM card for use while you are traveling Vietnam. It's VERY inexpensive to get a Data plan in Vietnam. Viettel can be found in every city in Vietna. You may also purchase SIM cards at convenience stores and also online with an E-SIM.
  • Q. Is Vietnam safe?
    A. YES, Vietnam is extremely safe. We have a very low rate of physical assaults. There is some petty theft in Saigon, but that is mostly contained to that area of the country. It is very safe place to visit, even for solo women travelers. That being said, it's always a great idea to be cautious with your belongings. There are often lock-boxes in hotel rooms to secure your valuable items. And you will want to keep your purse zipped up when out seeing the sites. Finally, phone theft seems to be a concern in Saigon. So keep that in mind if you are going south.
  • Q. Do I need to provide my passport to hotels in Vietnam?
    A. All hotels, hostels, homestays, and AirBNB's will ask for your passport when you check in. Instead of letting them keep your passport, simply offer them the opportunity to take a picture or photocopy of your passport instead.
  • Q. Why is Hanoi considered the best city to visit in Vietnam?
    A. Below are just a few great reasons to visit Hanoi & Northern Vietnam. Hanoi is the cultural capital of Vietnam. You will find it much more tourism friendly that Saigon, with lots of well-maintained cultural sites to visit in a city that doesn't feel overwhelmingly large. A lot of Vietnam's most famous foods originated in the northern regions hundreds of years ago. Hanoi boasts the MOST culturally intact foods and recipes that you will find in Vietnam. We are serious about traditions up here, and that includes the food. The north is MUCH more interesting geographically. Most of the best things to see and visit in Vietnam are within 6hrs drive from Hanoi. Places like Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, Sa Pa, Ha Giang. Things don't change quickly in the North. That means that you are much more likely to have an 'authentic' Vietnamese experience. Train Street... it's SO HOT right now! 😁
  • Q. How many days do you recommend staying in Hanoi / Ha Long Bay / Ninh Binh / Sapa?
    A. I suggest spending 4-5 days in Hanoi. You can do it in 3 if you have a tight schedule. 6 is too many days. Ha Long - 2 days / 1 night on boat Sa Pa - 3-4 days Ha Giang - 2 days Ninh Binh - 3 days
  • Q. What's the big deal with the food in Hanoi?
    A. Hanoi has recently been named the worlds greatest food destination by TripAdvisor. It is renowned for its hundreds of types of street foods and outdoor eating scenes. Many of Vietnam's most famous foods originated in this small area now known as the Old Quarter, dozens to hundreds of years ago, and many of them have changed very little, since. **If you would like to experience an amazing street food tour, myself and my associate Ovia would love to show you around. We provide small group and also customizable private tours. We'll make sure that you're kept comfortable and that you will eat and see things that you won't find on your own. Please visit this page - https://www.curiousaboutvietnam.com/vietnam-street-food-tours :)
  • Q. Is it advisable to travel northern Vietnam during Monsoon season?
    A. Monsoon season can vary from year to year. I believe that most people perceive monsoon rain to be all day, every day. In reality, it can be very good time to travel with occasional rainy days, or sporadic periods of rain. The plus side is that the tourist areas will be a lot less busy if you can handle a little more heat and don’t ind the occasional rain.
  • Q. Is Hanoi too hot to visit in the summer?
    A. Hot depends on where you are from and what you are used to. If you live in a cooler northern climate with low humidity, I would suggest visiting Hanoi in the fall and winter months. It can be grey and coolish, but it never gets too cold in Hanoi. If you are from a warmer climate with higher humidity you might find traveling through the spring and summer months to be more advantageous as it can be less crowded with lower prices for hotels and tourism in general.
  • Q. When should I avoid visiting Hanoi?
    I would discourage visitors from coming to Hanoi during Tet Holiday as a lot of businesses and restaurants are closed for 7-10 days. I would also discourage visiting in June & July as it can be very hot and humid.
  • Q. What are the best things to see and do in Hanoi
    A. We suggest the following excursions - Walk the Old Quarter and eat at some of the best local street foods. *FREE* Walk Hoan Kiem Lake *FREE* The Huc Bridge (Hoan Kiem Lake) St. Joseph's Cathedral Thanh Long Citadel Lenin Park Vietnam Military History Museum & Hanoi Flag Tower Visit Beer Street (Ta Hien Street - Old Quarter) Train Street Hoa Lo Prison Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum One Pillar Pagoda Temple of Literature Art Museum Ride bicycles around West Lake & Truc Bach Lake Tran Quoc Temple (West Lake) *FREE* People watch from the steps of the Opera House B 52 Lake Dong Xuan Market Walk Across the Long Bien Bridge
  • Q. What are the best areas to visit in Northern Vietnam?
    A. There are many amazing places to visit in the North. Here are a few of our favorites. Ha Long Bay: Similar weather to Hanoi, can be VERY busy certain times of the year. One night stay on the boat is probably enough unless you are in no rush. Sa Pa: This mountainous destination is about 5-6hr bus ride from Hanoi, and is famous for its rice terraces. The best time to visit is just before harvest (September). Warning... I can be fogged in and cold during the winter months. Ha Giang: This area is the most difficult to get to from Hanoi. It will take a whole day of travel to get to the Ha Giang region, but it's well worth the extra time. There are few places on the planet that are as majestic as the Ha Giang Loop. Over the past few years, It's become one of the most favorite destinations for motorcycle adventuring. Being so far north, it can be much cooler than Hanoi. So make sure to visit in the spring/summer/fall months. Ninh Binh: This area is known for it's river system which meanders through an unusual mountainscape. It could be called a Ha Long Bay on land and it probably the easiest destination to visit outside of Hanoi, only being 2-3hrs bus ride south. It can also get VERY BUSY at certain times of the year. TIP: Visit Accuweather.com for more information about the weather in each region.
  • Q. How do I avoid getting sick (food poisoning) in Vietnam?
    A. The absolute best advice that I can offer, is to avoid the local 'tap' water. Do not drink, brush your teeth in, eat fresh vegetables washed in, or add ice to your drinks from local 'tap' sources. The food is much safer to eat than the water is to drink. Instead, drink bottled water, juices, teas, etc.. and try to keep your diet to cooked foods and soups. **Most people who visit do not get sick, but some do, primarily from the water. IMHO - The food is much safer to eat than the water is to drink.
  • Q. What Hanoi local food specialties that I should try?
    A. The 6 most popular local food specialties in Hanoi are - Bun Cha, Banh Cuon, Cha Ca, Pho Bo, Pho Ga, & Bun Rieu.
  • Q. What is the best way to get familiar with Hanoi’s food scene and what to eat?
    A. Taking a Street Food Tour is by far the best way to get familiar with local foods, customs, and to dip your toes into the food sees in Hanoi, or any other city you visit while in Vietnam. Relying on Google Maps for your eating adventures will likely place you in the most crowded, touristy restaurants in Hanoi. A local guide will take you to eat foods at places that you likely won’t be bale to discover on your own.
  • Q. What is the most popular protein in Hanoi?
    A. Pork is by far the most eaten meat, chicken is 2nd, and beef is a distant 3rd. Fish and shellfish (snails) are also popular in Hanoi.
  • Q. What is one great Hanoi eating experience that is unusual, but under the radar?
    A. Eating Snails. We love our snails and shellfish in Vietnam. In Hanoi, you can find many popular snail and shellfish restaurants. It sounds much more adventurous than it is.. they are quite tasty!
  • Q. Do you have food maps for Vegetarian, Pescatarians, Halal, and people who are gluten intolerant?
    A. Yes - We are in the process of creating additional maps that are more specific to food avoidances and allergies. We can also build a custom map for you if you have at least a few days for us to put something together for you. Custom maps will list 12-15 spots (meals & desserts), and the cost will be $20.
  • Q. What Drinking Experiences Should I have in Hanoi?
    A. I highly suggest enjoying the following drinking experiences in Hanoi. Hanoi is one of the greatest coffee cities on the planet. You will find all kinds of specialty coffee houses and drinks, including Hanoi's most popular coffee concoction - Egg Coffee. Other coffees include: Coconut Coffee, Bach Xiu, Peanut Butter Coffee, Yogurt Coffee, etc.. Lemon Tea is Hanoi's most popular tea drink and is something that you just have to have when you visit. Purchase a Sugar Cane drink (Nuoc Mia), from a local street vendor. Enjoy drinking fresh coconut juice straight from a coconut, prepared by a local street vendor. Bia Hoi - Sit down with your family or friends over some cold draught beers at one of the local Bia Hoi (fresh Beer) establishments. They make great food too! Visit 'Beer Street' (Ta Hien Street) after 6pm any night of the week to witness the craziest drinking scene in Hanoi. Order a Smoothie made from fresh local fruits and vegetables. They are great and inexpensive.
  • Q. Where should I stay in Hanoi?
    A. The Old Quarter is the main tourism area of Hanoi. There are hundreds of hotels and home-stays in the Old Quarter area. If you plan on exploring on foot, I would suggest staying within a few blocks of the main traffic circle on north end of Hoan Kiem Lake (see here - https://maps.app.goo.gl/Edc9atfMs5rmSv6s5). Hotel & Home-stay Tips: Hotel rooms in Vietnam can range from $10-$1000/night. That being said, you can get a very nice room for $40/night, even in the expensive areas (Hanoi, Saigon). A $40 hotel in Vietnam is equivalent to a $150 hotel room in the USA. I highly suggest booking a room on at least the 4th floor (or higher) to get as far away from the street noise as possible. If you are a light sleeper, you might even consider finding a hotel on a smaller, less busy street. Although the beds in Vietnam are getting more comfortable, they can be much more firm than what western travelers may expect. I would highly suggest reading customer reviews from the hotel you are considering, to see what other travelers have to say about the firmness or comfort of the beds. There should be air-conditioning in every hotel in the cities, but you will want to double-check before booking.
  • Q. What hotel/homestay booking sites work best in Vietnam?
    A. There are many options for finding rooms in Vietnam. Here are my favorites. Agoda.com Hotels.com Booking.com Trivago.com AirBNB.com BOOKING TIPS: 1. I find that Agoda often has the best pricing if you are budget conscious. 2. Beds can be firm in Vietnam. Make sure to check reviews for bed comfort before you book. 3. Again... Make sure you stay in a room that is at least 4 floors above the street noise, especially in the cities. 4. Keep in mind that a lot of smaller buildings in the cities may not have elevators if they're 6 or less stories.
  • Q. When is the best time to visit Hanoi?
    A. September through December is the best time to Visit Hanoi and Northern Vietnam. If you are planning on visiting the higher elevation areas such as SAPA, or Ha Giang, I would advise doing that in early fall (September-October) before either gets too cold to comfortably enjoy. Ha Long Bay is also probably best visited between September - November. **Keep in mind that these are peak tourism times for northern Vietnam and Hanoi. You will want to plan a couple of months ahead for your tours, excursions and accommodations.
  • Q. Where can I get cash?
    A. There are ATM machines everywhere you go in Vietnam. Some are more difficult to use than others, and some may not work at all. I have always found Agri Bank to work the best and offer low fees. PNC Bank is usually pretty good too. Typically you will find that the maximum amount of money that you can get from an ATM is 3,000,000 VND (approx $130 US Dollars). If you find an ATM that gives you 5,000,000 at a time, you have hit the jackpot! The fee to withdraw from VN ATM's is usually around $1. Keep in mind that you will probably get hit with an international transaction/conversion fee from your bank at home, as well. ATM TIPS: When you are prompted to pick an 'account' select 'current' if you are tying to withdraw from a checking account. If you find an ATM that allows you to withdraw cash, take a picture of the bank name so that you can keep using that same machine or bank when you are traveling across Vietnam. If you need to exchange money, return to FAQ page to see that Q&A.
  • Q. Where can I exchange money?
    A. Most banks employ English speaking representatives, and will help you exchange money, wherever you are in Vietnam. Keep in mind that they keep banking hours (closed on weekends), and that they will require some personal information which might include seeing and taking a photocopy of your passport. EXCHANGING MONEY TIPS: You may find other places to exchange money are better rates if you are trying to exchange hundreds or thousands of dollars. You may ask a local shop owner or your hotel for alternative options.
  • Q. Can I pay in US Dollars / Euros, etc...?
    A. Typically, the answer is no. In Vietnam, you should expect almost all vendors to ONLY accept VND.
  • Q. Can I use my Credit Card to pay for things?
    A. A LOT of transactions in Vietnam are cash ONLY. Smaller restaurants, retail shops, and street vendors will likely only accept cash. Upscale dining and retail stores in malls will take a credit card. So you will need to make sure that you have cash in hand to pay at places that do not accept credit cards. CREDIT CARD TIPS: Easy way to understand when to use cash, versus credit card is by the dollar amount. Typically, a vendor selling low cost items, will only accept cash. That includes street food vendors as meals rarely exceed $3 (USD) Always carry at least 2,000,000 VND in cash with you, in case you get stuck eating at or wanting to buy something at a shop that only accepts cash.
  • Q. How can I remember the conversion rate?
    A. This is how I approximate my money conversions. - Every 100,000 VND is approximately $4 USD - 500,000 VND is $20 USD - So 1 Million is $40 USD - 3 Million is $120 USD - 5 Million is $200 USD - 10 Million is $400 USD
  • Q. Are there any cultural customs about money that I should know?
    A. YES... We have a lot of cultural customs that you should know in order to fit right in and be culturally accepted. Money is meant to be handled with respect in Vietnam. Never throw money on the table or down in front of a local vendor. Always hand money to the person you are dealign with respectfully. As a culture, we make sure to go out of our way to help vendors make change. If you have exact amount of VND to pay for something, please take the time to give them the exact amount.
  • Q. How do I get around Hanoi?
    Most of the tourism in Hanoi is located in and around the Old Quarter. It is a fairly small area and very walkable. If you need to get somewhere that is too far to walk, or the weather is not cooperating, you can rely on other types of local transportation, which include: pedal taxi (cyclo), Motorcycle taxi, car taxi, ride-share Apps (Xanh SM / Grab/Go-Viet/FastGo). Transportation Tips: 1. Pedal Taxi's can be expensive. 2. Getting on the back of a motorcycle is the BEST way to get the 'real' Vietnam experience. 3. Taxi's are very inexpensive in Vietnam. It can cost as little as $2-$3 for a 15-20 minute taxi ride in the cities. 4. See following questions for more transportation information, including which Apps to download.
  • Q. What ride-share Apps are most reliable in Vietnam?
    A. **UBER does not exist in Vietnam.** The top ride-share apps in Vietnam are Xanh SM, Grab, and GoViet. All three offer motorcycle, and car transportation options. XANH SM: https://www.xanhsm.com/en/ (Our preference - Electric cars, very clean, sometimes english speaking drivers) GRAB: https://www.grab.com/vn/en/ GoViet: https://m.apkpure.com/goviet/com.goviet.app These apps work exactly the same way as UBER does, and tipping is NOT expected.
  • Q. How do I get from Hanoi to other cities or areas in Northern Vietnam?
    A. There are all kinds of transportation options available to travelers, in all price ranges. There are the top options ranked from lowest cost to highest cost. 1. Bus 2. Train 3. Private Car/Van 4. Ride-share App: Grab / GoViet 5. Airplane (flights are very reasonably priced inside the country) Transportation Tips: Buses, trains and private vehicles are quite affordable compared to where you probably live, so traveling by private van or car may not be out of the question if you want to stay away from the crowds and enjoy a more comfortable experience. Don't sit at the front of the bus or train, or look out the front window when you are in transit. The driving situation in Vietnam is chaotic and can look quite dangerous compared to western countries. BUS TIP: Make sure to check to see if your bus has a bathroom onboard if you have a weak bladder. Buses typically stop for 20 minutes or so every couple of ours in transit to your destination. Trains offer various booking options ranging from seats, to semi-private, and fully private cabins. Trains are a safe, comfortable way to travel between cities. Private Car & Van rentals are more affordable that you would think in Vietnam. If you aren't on a tight budget and would like to travel in a little luxury, I highly recommend a private vehicle. Flights are also shockingly inexpensive inside Vietnam. You can often fly RETURN from to and from any major city for under $150 USD - even on short notice.
  • Q. Where do I book a Car / Bus / Train / Flight?
    A. Please see our favorite options below. Car - Bus - Train - Flights: Vietnam Airlines - https://www.vietnamairlines.com/us/en/home Bamboo Airways - https://www.bambooairways.com/vn/en Vietjet Air - https://www.vietjetair.com/en
  • Q. Is tipping customary in Vietnam?
    A. No - In Vietnam, there is no expectation of a tip for any services provided. **If you receive exceptional service above and beyond what was expected with any service, it is fine to tip a few dollars. We do not encourage tipping for average or normal services as it can spoil local service providers**
  • Q. What are some things that I should not do in Vietnam
    A. Vietnam is a ver respect based culture. It is always advised that you do not throw money on a table, but to respectfully hand it to the pros who provided a service or product to you.
  • Q. How do I ensure that I don’t get scammed for extra money when buying products in Vietnam?
    A. The best way to discourage scamming or overpaying for something is to use this phrase - “Bao Nhieu Tien”. This means ‘how much’ and might discourage them from overpricing products as you know a little bit about the language and therefore might know enough about how much things cost as well.
  • Q. Are there any dress requirements when visiting Pagoda's or Temples?
    A. There are no strict cultural rules about covering up in Vietnam, but it is respectful to remove your hat when you visit a Pagoda or Temple.
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