Vietnam being the far corner of Asia has just been under tourists’ radar recently. Many people know more about Vietnam by its wars rather than the beauty and culture. Plus, Vietnam is a developing country and there are many things that differ from your civilized homes. Travel Vietnam needs an extra better preparation than most other developed countries.


It’s like preparing for anything else. There is an inherent amount of risk and circumstance that befalls every trip, no matter how well we plan. There will always be things we just can’t plan for, can’t avoid or control. Travel Vietnam is not an exception.


Therefore, travel  Vietnam needs a little bit more attention. Working as a tour guide helping people discovering Vietnam for over the last 10 years and more, I’ve listed this bunch of issues that tourists traveling to Vietnam normally have. Avoiding these following common mis-preparations will ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip in Vietnam.


Travel Vietnam- 17 common mistakes


1. Passport expire date

All passports have an expiration date and a common thinking is it will be good until expire day. Well think again as some countries require a certain period of time to the expiring date of your passports. If you have to get a visa to travel Vietnam, especially visa on arrival, please check your passport expire date. Your passport has to be at least 6 months before expire date. If not, consider to renew your passport long before your Vietnam trip begins.


2. Not having the right visa

Depends on the trip you may need to have different kind of Visa when travel  Vietnam. For example you flight into Saigon, and then do the Mekong cruise up to Siem Riep. After Cambodia you come back to Vietnam for Hanoi and the North Vietnam. It is when you need to have multiple entry visas. Always check with your travel planners well about it. Recently, Vietnam government released a new policy to make it visa free for some countries. To find out if you are in the list or not please check here for obtaining visa on arrival.


Kids playing around in the river


3. Not book before you go

Many people, especially backpackers think it is too easy to book a hotel room or any services in Vietnam. Yes it is true but not anytime anywhere. We have holiday time in Vietnam: school holiday for children, Labor day, Reunion Day, National Day, New Year Holiday… and during these holidays rooms and other services are normally fully booked months before. If you happen to travel  Vietnam in these occasion and not yet book a hotel before , have fun sleeping outside or having to pay 10 times more expensive. Booking on the spot may save you a few dollars but may also increase the risk and frustration to another level. The tip is, choose services like hotels, boats, travel agencies…with good reputation and book them long before. That will ensure the availability and good price.

In case you still think you can deal with intricacy that may happen when travel Vietnam and you are willing to walk from this hotel to another to check for availability. Then at least you should prepare a list of hotels/ services in the destination. It will become handy when in trouble.


4. Not reading reviews

Hotels, boats, restaurants…you book online don’t always show the weakness of their services. In the websites there are only beautiful photos and videos of their places. Of course that is the art of advertisement. But there is a possibility there are trains that pass by every 30 minutes in front of the hotels you stay. Or the bungalows are too close to the rice fields that mosquitoes become your best friends in the night. Check out travel forums where those problems are mentioned by the previous travelers. Or check with your friends who already did travel Vietnam before.


Harvesting rice in the sunset



5. Not triple checking everything

You trust that your travel Vietnam planners are excellent and they have experience to not to have any mistake. That is a good thing. But do have at least one last look to ensure everything is correct and up to date. I had a few clients who missed their flights just because they thought 00:05 A.M was around noon. And when they went to the airport their flight already flew the night before. And last minute flight tickets are expensive like dragon blood. So always do check everything by yourself and remember travel staffs are people. They make mistakes too.


6. Not packing your important stuff in your carry on

According to the www, in 2015 the global airline industries lost about 200,000 luggage. And there is nothing to ensure that it will not happen to you. So always pack things that are really important for you like medications, must-have items… and a pair of change in your carry on. This will make sure at least you will survive for a day or two to wait for your lost cases to come. And for sure there are limitations of what you can carry on. So do check that as well before you travel  Vietnam. . I sometimes still see people trying to pack full-sized bottles of expensive liquid through security at the airport and look dumbfounded when the bottles are tossed. Got your favorite Swiss Army knife? Leave it at home or you’ll never see it again.


Reading the news when no work


7. Packing too much

Sometimes in life you can part with your favorite night shoes for a while, especially travel  Vietnam. I’ve seen people packing too much that it becomes a trouble carrying their whole “house” around. And it will become expensive as well when they have to pay for the overweight fees at airports. Economic fights in Vietnam allow max 20kgs when international flights into/ out of Vietnam allow 30kgs. Just study the weather and the type of activities you will involve and pack as light as possible. In the worst case you can always buy things that you need in Vietnam.


8. Using your mobile phone like when you are home

Roaming fee for cell phones in Vietnam is painfully expensive. If you have to keep your phone on for business then make sure you check with your provider about the usage plan before you travel Vietnam. If you just need a local number to contact your drivers, guides…then a Vietnamese SIM card will do it perfectly. It is cheap and easy to buy a SIM card locally. Just check with your guide about it. Needing to upload photos or keeping in touch with homies? Wi-Fi access is available everywhere: hotels, cafes…and even on our tour buses, vans.


Harvesting time


9. Making it to serious when bargaining

You get what you pay for. It is so true when you travel Vietnam. Cheap stuff like hotels, boats and tour companies…should not be the first priority. It is always good to study before hand and spend a couple more bucks on the next level of services. Then you don’t have to blame yourself for having to sit in a bus that the brakes don’t seem to work, or why the hell there are too many rats in your hotel rooms. Who doesn’t love a deal? But sometimes a few dollars can make a whole lot difference.

This is also true when you exchange money. Believe me it is not worthy walking around the whole city just to get 0,01$ difference of the exchange rate. Unless you are exchanging a few thousand dollars, any banks or even hotel receptions can be a reasonable place to do it. Plus ATM machines are well available in all big cities.


10. Not checking a taxi before you take

Cabs in Vietnam all have meters so you’ll know roughly how much you have to pay. But be careful of those “independent” taxi – they could take you 10 rounds to get to the next corner. Check the distance and ask hotel staff how much it will roughly cost to have an idea. They best way to get a cab is from the hotels. This should be well remembered when travel Vietnam.


At a flower market


11. Loving your cameras/phones to much

I’ve seen some people touring around places with cameras/phones glued to their faces. And at the end of the day they had no idea what we just did in the day and asked me questions that I already answered 10 times before. I know Vietnam is stunningly beautiful and you are in love with it.And that’s why you travel Vietnam. Please do take some pictures for memories and to show your friends. And spend the main time using your every sense to feel Vietnam. I don’t see the need of taking 100 photos of Ho Chi Minh statue. And if you want to have a photo of yourself please allow me to help. I believe if could take some good photos of you with your own camera. Please don’t use that selfie stick when with me. That really grinds my gears!


12. Not alerting your banks before you travel Vietnam

Most banks have the automatic security system to lock your cards when they suspect your credit cards are being used in another country. Just let your banks know you travel Vietnam .This will ensure you won’t be locked out of your account when you desperately need cash.


An old house in the countryside


13. Drinking water from taps

I’m just saying this quickly and loudly enough once and you have to remember the entire travel Vietnam: “Tap water is NOT drinkable in Vietnam”- even in the top hotels. Traveling with Incense Travel you’ll be provided plenty of water bottles for your need. Want some ice in your whiskey? Only do that in good bars, hotels and restaurants.


14. Trusting your electronic devices to much

I know it is a digital world and everything can be stored in the clouds. But what if your battery dies and you can’t access to any information in your devices? And you are standing right in an massive airport having no idea who is picking you up or even the hotel you are supposed to check in? I’m an environmentalist but in this case I’ll say print some vitally important information and keep it somewhere handy. Trees are always worthy to save. But also remember to save yourself from problems when travel Vietnam too.


A white Thai traditional dance in Mai Chau


15. Trying to see as many places as possible

I know you probably travel Vietnam only once in your life and want to make the most out of it. But check in and check out hotels every single day and try to see every place listed in the guide books is not recommended. You’ll end up exhausted in transits and running around to fulfill you envious task. Instead, stay in one city longer and discover the most out of it. We Incense Travel always recommend and tailor trips that have good balance so you’ll see the most of Vietnam in a relaxing and worry-free way.


16. Setting your expectations too high

We all do this when we are spending our hard-eared dollars. And all wordings/advertisements/brochures/websites look too good. And all sale staffs are saying words from heaven about the destinations. Did I mention that service suppliers only make their advantages bold never say about their disadvantages too obvious? Always study before and ask fellow travelers about what to expect of the destinations before you travel Vietnam.


A Hmong village in Moc Chau


17. Setting connection time too tight

Now and then you have to connect flights when travel Vietnam. And you are trying to limit the time that may wastes at airports by setting the connection time to close? That will be a mistake! What if your first flight delayed? And let’s be honest what flight doesn’t? Then that would be a frustrating time for the rest of trip. Avoid it by choosing the safer options. Calculate the time needed for transport, check in, check out, traffic jam that may happen…between the two flights. Domestic flight in Vietnam require at least 1 hour to check in and 2 hour for international flight out of Vietnam.


By Pham Tuyen