Just like visiting any country, Vietnam has its own unique list of things you should do, and things you shouldn't. The first thing to note is that this vibrant and beautiful country has longstanding cultural traditions. But with a modicum of pre-planning you can ensure a safe and enjoyable stay.
So here are your top five do's.
- When it comes to greeting, there is nothing different to what any westerner is used to. Friendly smiles and warm handshakes are appreciated.
- Always keep hydrated. Especially if you are doing a lot of walking around, soaking the sites, ensure you have a steady supply of bottled water at hand. There are street vendors on every other corner – quite often they'll find you first!
- Pagodas are to be particularly respected. When you step inside any of these traditional buildings, it is best to avoid scruffy shoes or tatty t-shirts. You will rarely be expected to take you shoes off, but if you are in any doubt about the protocol, a good tip is to observe what the locals are doing.
- Keep your valuable safe. If you should lose cash, credit cards or airline tickets then you'll be remembering your visit to Vietnam for all the wrong reasons.
- Book your travel with reputable official travel agencies. For journeys within Vietnam, you should do a bit of research before setting out to purchase tickets.
So here are your top five dont's.
- While violent crime is extremely unusual, as in any populated area there will always be petty thieves. So don't wear a lot of jewelery, and keep a sensible hold of cameras or phones.
- Women should be aware that the Vietnamese are likely to be more conservative than Brits or Americans, so displaying too much flesh might attract a lot of stares.
- Public displays of affection are also frowned upon. It is perfectly acceptable to clasp hands while strolling through the street markets, but try not to hug or kiss too much.
- Always keep calm and display politeness in all your social interactions. In Vietnam, losing your temper is equated with a loss of face.
- Lastly, be aware that Vietnam is still a developing country, that has suffered more than its fare share of strife and hardship in its relatively recent history. So don't take everything for granted - be aware of your surroundings and act sensibly.