Vietnam in a Glimpse
Vietnam (Việt Nam), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam) is a country in Southeast Asia. Its neighbouring countries are China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west.
Most people in Vietnam are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh), though there is a sizable ethnic Chinese community in Ho Chi Minh City, most who are descended from migrants from Guangdong province and are hence bilingual in Cantonese or other Chinese dialects and Vietnamese. There are also numerous other ethnic groups who occupy the mountainous parts of the country, such as the Hmong, Muong and Dao people. There is also a minority ethnic group in the lowlands near the border with Cambodia known as the Khmer Krom.
Buddhism, mostly of the Mahayana school, is the single largest religion in Vietnam, with over 85% of Vietnamese people identifying themselves as Buddhist. Catholicism is the second largest religion, followed by the local Cao Dai religion. Other Christian denominations, Islam, and local religions also share small followings throughout the southern and central areas.
If you want to meet local people, stop by a school. In Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), visit the American Language School, where you'll be welcomed enthusiastically and invited to go into a class and say hi. You'll feel like a rock star.
The Vietnamese love to meet new people, and teachers welcome the opportunity for their students to meet foreigners.
Due to its long history as a tributary state of China, as well as several periods of Chinese occupations, Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by that of Southern China, with Confucianism forming the basis of Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese language also contains many loan words from Chinese, though the two languages are unrelated. Buddhism remains the single largest religion in Vietnam, though like in China but unlike in the rest of northern South east Asia, the dominant school of Buddhism in Vietnam is the Mahayana School.
Nevertheless, Vietnamese culture remains distinct from Chinese culture as it has also absorbed cultural elements from neighbouring Hindu civilizations such as the Champa and the Khmer empires. The French colonization has also left a lasting impact on Vietnamese society, with baguettes and coffee remaining popular among locals.
Vietnam is large enough to have several distinct climate zones.
Vietnam is still cheap by most standards: a month's stay can start from US$250 using basic rooms, local food and open bus transportation.
Tipping is not expected in Vietnam, with the exception of bellhops in high end hotels. In any case, the price quoted to you is often many times what locals will pay, so tipping can be considered unnecessary in most circumstances. To avoid paying a tip when a taxi driver, for example, claims they don't have small change, always try to have various denominations available.
Vietnam is a relatively safe place for tourists.
Touristy areas in Vietnam are really worth more precaution: thieves, liars, crooks, pickpockets and scammers are everywhere, all the time, and target foreigners. Pickpockets and motorbike snatching have found their home especially in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Nha Trang. Thieves on motorbikes are ready to snatch bags, mobile phones, cameras, and jewelry off pedestrians and other motorbike drivers. Avoid dangling your bags along traffic roads. Talking on your mobile phone next to cars on the road and putting your bag on the front basket of a motorbike will tempt a robber. It could happen day or night, in a crowded road with hundreds of drivers. Locals suggest that they won't kill you but they will take all your money. This is true as long as you don't hold your belongings too tight. Reports that a foreign tourist got crashed to death when she tried to drag back what was robbed have been heard.
Many scams are very common in Vietnam, more so than other places. Be careful when going to a shop or restaurant that doesn't have prices written down. Before eating a meal, ask for the price, as it may increase with every bite you take. When you embark on a tourist tour, be independent: know where you are at all times and be aware of alternatives; the tour might suddenly fall apart. Scams are frequent and the schemes might constantly vary. A very common one is when the organizers claim that the bus broke down and the tour operators force people to pay huge amounts for crummy hotels "while the bus is repaired".
Pickpockets are well organized and operate in groups.
If you travel by motorbike, be aware that crooks can cause serious security issues. Reports of people claiming that "your motorcycle is on fire" and offering to repair it or passers-by that throw nails at foreigners on motorcycles are frequent.
The police are probably the worst crooks of them all. They are known to steal items from people (both locals and tourists) and ask for a steep bribe to get the item in return. Also, don't count on them for any help if you are victim of crime.
Also infamously common are thefts on popular beaches. Never leave your bag unattended on beaches.
In hotel rooms, including five star ones, reports that belongings are stolen have been heard occasionally. Also, hotel employees are known to try to pick padlocks as soon as they see one.
Avoid fights and arguments with locals. Caucasians may be taller then Vietnamese, but if you're dealing with 5 or more Vietnamese guys, you're still screwed. Keep in mind that yelling at people is a 100% insult to Vietnamese, so the reactions of a Vietnamese might be unpredictable to you, if you're not Asian.
Though they may not do the same in your country, as a foreigner, Vietnamese expect you to act a certain way in theirs. That being said, it is not your country, and you should respect the general law of the land. Most of these arguments can be avoided easily by showing general courtesy, and tolerating cultural differences that may seem rude to you. Show special caution when drinking with Vietnamese men.
Corruption is a big problem in Vietnam and locals are convinced that the police are not to be trusted. For motorcycle driver, police officer may stop you for any reasons including missing insurance papers or driving license, fine you around US$20 for each offense (the average traffic fine should only be about US$5-10). Remember to stand your ground and all officers are required to write all traffic violations in their notebook and give your a receipt and pay to the station (not the officer). If you have a cell phone, threaten to call your embassy and he may back down. You might though just find it easier to pay the fine and get on your way.
Immigration officers are known to take bribes. During the early Doi Moi (the reform in 90s), bribes could be a few U.S. dollars, a few packs of 555 cigarettes. Today although officers still seem to feel okay at taking it, it is absolutely risk-free and acceptable if you don't bribe.
The international monitoring group Transparency International has rated Vietnam as one of the most corrupt nations in Asia.
Prostitution is illegal in Vietnam and the age of consent is 18. Vietnam has laws on the books with penalties up to 20-40 years in prison for sexually exploiting women and children, and several other countries have laws that allow them to prosecute their own citizens who travel abroad to engage in sex with children.
Petty crime in night clubs can happen. Avoid quarrelling with local people because drunken Vietnamese can be violent. Clubs are full of prostitutes looking for their admirers but be aware that they may also steal your wallet and mobile phone, etc. Walking very late by yourself on the streets in the tourist area is often unsafe.
Avoid asking the cab drivers for recommended nightspots. Most cab drivers are paid by KTVs and lounges to bring in foreign tourists. Usually when you walk in they will tell you a set of pricing which seems reasonable; but when you check out the bill will include a number of extravagant charges. Do your homework beforehand and tell the cab drivers where you want to go. Insist on going to where you want to go despite their persuasion. There are a number of reputable pubs and disco around. Try going to those which have a preponderance of foreigners.
Much of Vietnam's ecology has been severely damaged and very little wildlife remains, let alone anything dangerous to humans. Venomous snakes (such as Cobras) may still be common in rural areas but virtually everything else has either gone extinct or exist in such small numbers that the chances of even seeing them are remote. Tigers may exist in very small numbers in remote areas, but this is yet to be proven. Saltwater crocodiles once thrived in southern Vietnam but have been locally extinct for at least 20 years.
Souvenir shops in Vietnam sell lots of T-shirts with the red flag and portraits of "Uncle Ho." Many overseas Vietnamese are highly critical of the government of Vietnam you may want to consider this before wearing communist paraphernalia in their communities back home! A less controversial purchase would be a nón lá (straw hat) instead.
It's common to be stared at by locals in some regions, especially in the central and northern side of the country, and in rural areas. Southerners are usually more open.
Asian women traveling with non-Asian men could attract attention, being considered lovers, escorts or prostitutes by some people and may even be harassed or insulted. These attitudes and behaviors have lessened but have not yet disappeared.
The most surprising thing about the topic of the Vietnam War (the American or Reunification War, as it is called in Vietnam) is that the Vietnamese do not bear any animosity against visitors from the countries that participated, and in the South many Vietnamese (especially older Vietnamese involved in the conflict or with relatives in the war) appreciate or at least respect the previous Western military efforts against the North. Two-thirds of the population were born after the war and are quite fond of the west. That said, there are some attractions which present a very anti-American viewpoint on the war's legacy, which may make some feel uncomfortable.
Be sensitive if you must discuss past conflicts. Well over 3 million Vietnamese died, and it is best to avoid any conversations that could be taken as an insult to the sacrifices made by both sides during the wars. Do not assume that all Vietnamese think alike as many Vietnamese in the South are still bitter about having lost against the North.
Travel & Sports = Learn, Grow, Build Character = Evolve
Everything can be extrapolated, to use as an example, to learn and apply in our own lives.
We Believe Travels & Sports are the things that work better, more directly and with more power. Taking us out of our comfort zone, making us realize things, see new things, learn other ways, wider our perspective on things, in life. So, start traveling, start moving: continue learning!
Follow our updates & news
Stay in touch liking our facebook