What to expect on arrival

Although Vietnam’s infrastructure and accommodation have improved greatly over the last few years you are still likely to feel a sense of culture shock as you arrive. Here are some important things to bear in mind as you travel through this fascinating country.

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  • Vietnam is a developing country and things that we take for granted in the West may not be available in Vietnam. 
  • In remote areas the hotel choice may be limited and some of the hotels you therefore stay in may be more basic than you are used to. 
  • Like their large neighbour China, the population density in the cities of Vietnam is such that the local people have much less of a regard for personal space than we are used to in the West. Do not feel threatened or intimidated if you are jostled in a queue, instead hold your ground and go with the flow. 
  • With many Asian countries experiencing a growing middle class, recent years have seen an increase in domestic tourism and the number of visitors to Vietnam from other Asian countries, such as China and Korea. In some popular locations you may find yourself surrounded by large groups of Asian tourists. 
  • When visiting some temples or Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hanoi, knees and shoulders must be covered at all times and footwear removed. Shoes are usually removed upon entering private homes too. 
  • Outside of the major cities English is not widely spoken, even in restaurants and hotels. Should you need assistance your guide will be the best person to help out, so it is advisable to take down his / her number. 
  • Government action and weather can sometimes disrupt itineraries and it helps to be flexible and patient if such situations arise. 
  • Avoid drinking tap water. Most hotels will provide either bottled water or filtered water in the rooms. Bottled water is available everywhere, but to cut down on plastic use we recommend taking your own refillable or filtered bottle and refilling as you go.
  • Use an insect repellent for mosquitoes and be careful to protect yourself against dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunburn. 
  • Ask before you take someone’s photo as unsolicited picture taking can sometimes cause upset or offence. 
  • Keep hydrated! When coming from a cool climate it is easy to forget that you need to drink a lot more water in the tropics than you are used to back at home. Dehydration leads to tiredness, so drink plenty of water to maximise the enjoyment of your holiday.

Upon meeting someone new, people may simply nod to each other or may shake hands. Using both hands to shake someone’s hand is a warm gesture of respect. However, be aware that beckoning someone by crooking your finger is considered rude and should be avoided. The correct way to call someone over is to extend your hand with palm down and move your fingers towards your wrist a number of times. To ask for the bill in a restaurant or shop, extend one hand in front of you with the palm raised and pretend to write on your palm with the other hand (a practice you may be familiar with from elsewhere in the world!)