Thailand enjoys a 50% return rate for foreign tourists. In contrast, Vietnam only pulls back 5% of visitors.
Personally, I feel that Vietnam walks all over Thailand in almost every travel category except beaches. So, why do so many people have such bad experiences and never return to Vietnam?
I hope the list of travel guide I have made below helps out first-time visitors. It may seem cynical and anti-Vietnamese. It’s not. I love this country; I want you to love it, too. I’d just like to alert travelers to beware of the common first-time mistakes that may sour their experience of the local people and the country overall.
Do your homework, know what to expect, and this is the most rewarding country in Southeast Asia to explore.
-1- TAKE YOUR VISA SERIOUSLY, VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED
Yes, it seems like common sense, but I have seen tourists turned away at the airport for visa misinformation or failing to print their visa-on-arrival pre-approval paper. Double, triple check all of your information, have your accommodation address ready to go for the arrival form, be very respectful to the immigration officers, no matter how cold they are. Get stamped and enjoy.
-2- THE PRICE FOR GOODS AND SERVICES IS…WHATEVER YOU’LL PAY
This is something that is difficult for us North Americans to understand. We are used to a fixed price for everything and we generally believe what we hear and read.
Remember, it is normal in Vietnam for locals to overcharge or inflate prices when they feel they can get more money for something. It’s been happening here in Vietnam since long before tourists ever arrived. It is not necessarily that they are “ripping you off”. It’s just the fluid way that small transactions happen in Vietnam. Sellers will make false claims, pretend you’ve agreed to a higher price, or give you back less change than you’re owed. Happens every day. Be careful, educate yourself and know that….
-3- SOME PEOPLE WILL LIE TO YOU
This is another hard one for first-time travelers to understand and it sours many trips to Vietnam. Though politically communist and still state-organized on a larger scale, Vietnam is hyper-capitalistic on street-level. Tourists have only been coming for twenty years. To the Vietnamese, there is nothing wrong with doing or saying anything it takes to get your business.
In the rush for tourist cash, locals (tailors, hotel staff, travel agents, taxi drivers) will do or say ANYTHING. The good thing is, unlike in Thailand, everything is negotiable. Be very weary and….
To be continued...