• Support the local economy. Some say more than 50% of goods in Vietnam come from China. Well we can blame that as China has been a huge workshop of the world. But one in Vietnam we should support the local economy by buying locally made food and handicrafts directly from local craftspeople and markets.
  • Avoid purchasing products that exploit or destroy wildlife such as souvenirs made of shells, corals, precious wood or any endangered species: turtles, elephants, tigers, pangolins, sharks, whales, etc.


Bai Tu Long Bay


  • Don’t purchase historical artefacts.
  • Bargain within reason and with a smile! With patience and a broad smile you will not only get a better price when you shop but also enjoy the art of negotiation. Some tourists take pride in paying the cheapest price they can, unaware that the seller might be accepting a sum below cost price because they desperately need the cash. Whatever you buy, be mindful that it is their livelihood.


Terrace rice fields in the Northern part Vietnam



  • Local transport: The diversity of local modes of transport adds to the charm of travel. You might be annoyed sometimes by endless calls to use motorbike taxis or cyclos but be patient; a polite “No, thank you” will suffice. Or sometimes just a smile and a head shake will also do the job. Be sure to always agree on the price before taking any form of local transport.
  • Drugs & Alcohol: In Vietnam the use of illegal drugs (opium, marijuana, etc.) is strictly forbidden. You face harsh punishment if convicted, including the death penalty, and foreigners are not exempt. Don’t try to just use “a bit” of even some “grass”. Illegal is illegal!


Students taking photos in the Temple of Literature Hanoi



  • The use of alcohol should also be carefully considered in some places, especially in smaller villages and tribal areas. In general, consuming of alcohol drinks is widely acceptable all over Vietnam. In some hill tribes areas, drinking with the locals is the best way to get to know them and their culture.
  • Do not support the sex industry. Sex shows and prostitution are still considered to be illegal in Vietnam. (But it’s everywhere!) This includes the various shows in hostess bars, street prostitution, etc. Aside from the fact that men and women are best not viewed as commodities you risk putting money into the hands of the mafia and catching diseases. What you may see as entertainment has a gloomy backstage; no-one is willing to be a prostitute; those who do are trapped by human traffickers and/or do it to support their relatives. Pedophilia is strictly forbidden. Violators will be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, even after they return to their home countries.


House of a H'Mong family in Sapa



  • Think before buying. Don’t buy any wild animals either dead or alive. Sometimes local people will try to sell you protected species or caged birds; while you may wish to set the animal free (supposed to bring good luck!), by paying for it you only encourage them to capture more. When demand recedes, this practice will eventually stop.
  • Do not buy any product that includes wild animal parts (snake, turtle, pangolin, monkey, elephant, shark fin soups, red tuna etc.), taken from the sea (aquarium fish, sea horses, shells, corals etc.) or, any furniture made of timber taken from the forest. Buy only food that is farmed, not taken directly from forests by poachers.



Kayaks in La Ha Bay



By Pham Tuyen