When planning a trip to Vietnam, the amount of information online can be overwhelming! If you felt like this, you are not alone. This is how I was feeling when I first decided I was going to take my son, and besides knowing we would travel in the fall, I knew nothing about where to go and when, how to get from one place to another and really had no idea what to expect at all.
By the time you have finished reading this post, I hope you will be well versed in the mistakes people make when they travel to Vietnam and how to avoid them in your own planning to this spectacular country.
Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Trip to Vietnam
After feeling overwhelmed with planning and wanting to ensure everything was seamless during our visit, I reached out to Signatures of Asia, a local luxury tour operator. They took care of our airport transfers, hotels, and tours and it was an easy and seamless experience! They can customize any itinerary for those planning to visit Vietnam.
Before you dive into the mistakes to avoid when planning your own trip to Vietnam, here are a few things to know about the country:
Currency: Vietnamese Dong ($1USD = ~23000 VND)
Electricity: 220 V 2 pin (most hotels we stayed in had multiple plugs, but bring yourself a universal adapter just in case)
Mistake #1 Not Checking the Weather
The first mistake to avoid when planning a trip to Vietnam is not looking into the weather. While Vietnam enjoys a relatively warm climate in the south, the north can be quite cold in the winter months, at least a lot colder than most visitors are expecting.
Massive amounts of rain can fall in the wet season, and seasonal flooding can all but ruin plans if you have not accounted for this possibility.
So, When is the Best time to Visit Vietnam
This is a hard question to answer because it really depends where you plan on going. It is impossible to hit the “prime” time for the whole country, as the wet season in the north is not the same as the wet season in the south. With that being said, when it comes months, Jan, Feb and March are the most pleasant in MOST of the country.
Best Time to visit the North: December – April
Best Time to visit Central Vietnam: February – May
Best Time to visit the South: November – March
Mistake #2 is not Researching Tipping Culture in Vietnam
Vietnam culturally and financially does not rely on tipping, but when it comes to the service industry, small tips at meals, tips for bell boys and tips for drivers and guides are appreciated. If you have hired a car and driver like I did, consider a tip of 150 000 Vietnamese Dong per day for the driver and 180 000 Vietnamese Dong per day for a guide.
While looking into tipping, also check out the top souvenirs to buy in Vietnam.
Also be on guard for “free activities.” The most popular one is a water buffalo ride outside of Hoi An. While the farmer may seem gracious to allow you to ride his buffalo, he does expect a tip.
Mistake #3 Not Researching the Golden Bridge but putting it on your Bucket List
Instagram feeds have blow up with the beautiful Golden Bridge located near Da Nang in Vietnam. But what many do not know, is that the bridge is located in a popular amusement park and not an attraction on its own. Be prepared, when you are researching the Golden Bridge!
While it makes a captivating Instagram photo, we did not have time to include this on our 8 days in Vietnam, but if your trip is not as rushed as ours, its a decent day trip option from Da Nang and Hoi An.
Mistake #4 Not Anticipating Hoi An Crowds
Hoi An may be a charming small town that attracts tourists looking to get out of the big cities, but it is not a secret. It wins awards for being one of the top places to visit and with those awards come thousands of visitors! The streets of the old town are crowded with souvenir shoppers, especially during the evenings and the traffic near the old city is very busy. If you are visiting with kids or want to avoid the crowds consider visiting during the day. We did both a daytime visit by bike, and a night time visit and enjoyed the day time much more. The evening was good for people watching and seeing the sunset over the river, but the bustling atmosphere is not for everyone.
The best way to get around in Hoi An is by bicycle. Although this town is crowded, I would have loved to have more time to explore the fields and all of the streets around the old downtown.
Hoi An Tip: While you are here, make sure you have time to visit the nearby farms by bike and try out a basket boat near the water coconut farms.
Mistake #5 Is not Trying all of the Food
The different regions of Vietnam have very different dishes, so bring your appetite. One of my favorite parts of our trip to Vietnam with Signatures of Asia was on our first day, when we visited a local home for a cooking class. After purchasing fresh fruits, veggies, and meat, we drove to her house to help prepare our meal!
Tommy from Signatures of Asia brought his sons to play with mine, but unfortunately my jet-lagged 8 year old was not able to stay awake to actually enjoy our meal! This was one of the highlights of our trip for sure! Check into local cooking options during your visit.
If you do arrange a tour guide, ask them what the best local dishes are in each of the regions. Whether egg coffee in Hanoi for Cao Lau in Hoi An, each of the local dishes offer different noodles and flavors!
More Vietnam Travel Tips
As mentioned, our trip was organized by Signatures of Asia, who, with just a few emails and Whats App messages, had put together an itinerary and customized it to exactly when I wanted to arrive. They took care of airport transfers, hotels, guides, drivers and put together an itinerary based on my requests!
When you are visiting Vietnam, consider these packing essentials:
A Grayl Water Bottle is something I recommend for every traveller, not just those going to Vietnam. Some people say the water is safe to drink from the tap, others say it is not; it is not something I am going to chance. Vietnam does an amazing job of reducing its plastic waste, we filtered our water into a water bottle each morning, and avoided plastic bottles our whole trip!
With a Grayl, you can filter any tap water (or actually any water source) and have clean drinking water in seconds. Since most people travel with water bottles already, consider one like this with a filter so that you are not just pouring from big water bottles to small. It might sound expensive, but when you compare it to spending a few dollars per day on water while you travel (and do not forget how expensive the water is inside airports), you will pay for this very quickly.
An inexpensive Universal Travel Adapter is another travel essential for Vietnam. You will find mostly 2 pin 220V plugs.With a handy USB input, you do not need to bring your plugs from home.
Lindsay is the founder and editor of Carpe Diem OUR Way. She is passionate about sharing her experiences of traveling with children on adventurous family holidays around the world! She resides in the suburbs of Vancouver when not jet setting abroad.