As a country with a rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and delicious cuisine, Vietnam is one of the top tourist destinations attracting visitors from all corners of the globe every year.
While it’s quite easy to go to Vietnam as a tourist and stick to the well-trodden path, exploring Vietnam like a local can be a much more rewarding and authentic experience.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the essential issues you should take into consideration when planning your trip to explore Vietnam like one of the locals.
Documents necessary to enter Vietnam issues-free
Before starting to plan an expedition of your lifetime, make sure not to miss any documents without which you could encounter some problems upon arrival in Vietnam.
One of the most important documents is your passport which should remain valid for at least 6 months from the date of your planned arrival in Vietnam. This requirement applies to all travelers eligible for the Vietnam online visa application.
Eligible citizens no longer need to visit the Vietnamese embassy to obtain a visa for Vietnam. Instead, they can get an eVisa for Vietnam by simply completing the online application.
Vietnam eVisa is a single-entry visa covering the purposes of business, tourism, and transit. Its holder can stay in Vietnam for up to 30 days, while the visa remains valid for 30 days as well.
Note that you should submit your online application at least 5 business days prior to the planned trip to receive your approved document on time!
Getting To Vietnam and Around
There are several international airports in Vietnam, with the largest being Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Many major airlines are operating their flights to Vietnam, including Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific, and VietJet Air.
The Vietnamese extensive railway network also provides an alternative transportation means for those who prefer to travel by land.
If you’re arriving in Vietnam from neighboring countries like Cambodia, it’s possible to reach the country by bus, but prepare yourself for a lengthy and rather uncomfortable journey.
Once you’re in Vietnam, there are also a few ways to get around the country. Taxis are widely available, but it’s crucial to ensure you’re using a reputable company to avoid being tricked.
Many locals get around on motorbikes, which can be an exciting and convenient way to explore the country’s tourist attractions. However, if you decide to do so, do remember to wear a helmet and be aware of the traffic rules, as accidents are pretty common.
Finally, Vietnam can pride itself on its extensive bus network, with both local and long-distance buses available.
Where to Stay
Vietnam has a wide range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxurious resorts.
However, if you seek to explore Vietnam like a local, it’s worth considering booking accommodation at homestays or guesthouses. These are often run by families who are very keen to share their culture with foreign visitors and can provide a more authentic experience than a hotel.
Homestays are particularly popular in rural areas, where you can experience Vietnamese authenticity by living in a traditional village.
What to Eat in Vietnam
Vietnam is well-known for its delicious cuisine, and there are plenty of local dishes to try. One of the most famous is pho, a noodle soup made with beef or chicken and herbs.
Other popular dishes include banh mi, a French-inspired baguette filled with meat, pate, and vegetables, and bun cha, grilled pork served with rice noodles and vegetables.
Vietnam is also famous for the best coffee in the world, with traditional egg coffee a must-try for coffee lovers.
Exploring the Sights Of Vietnam
In the country being home to a wealth of cultural and natural attractions, including ancient temples and pagodas, as well as breathtaking beaches and mountain ranges, there are plenty of must-see sights, including:
- Halong Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay is known for its spectacular limestone cliffs and emerald waters. The best way to explore the bay is on a traditional junk boat, which will take you on a tour of the islands and caves.
- Hoi An: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site that is famous for its well-preserved buildings and unique blend of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese architecture. It’s a popular spot for shopping, with many boutiques and tailors selling custom-made clothing.
- Hue: Hue was once the capital of Vietnam, and its imperial citadel and tombs are a must-see for history buffs. The city is also well-known for its food, particularly its bun bo Hue, a spicy noodle soup.
- Sapa: Located in the northwest of Vietnam, Sapa is a top destination for trekking and hiking. The town is surrounded by rice paddies and stunning mountain ranges, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet local ethnic minority groups.
- Phu Quoc: This island off the southern coast of Vietnam is home to some of the country’s best beaches and is a popular spot for relaxing and soaking up the sun. The island has a laid-back atmosphere and is home to several fishing villages, where you can try fresh seafood and learn about local culture.
- Ho Chi Minh City: Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city and is a vibrant, bustling metropolis. The city has a rich history and is home to several museums and landmarks, including the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace.
- Mekong Delta: The Mekong Delta is a vast region in southern Vietnam, known for its fertile rice paddies and waterways. Visitors can take a boat tour of the delta, stopping at local villages and markets to learn about the region’s agriculture and way of life.
Getting Off the Beaten Path
While Vietnam’s popular attractions are undoubtedly worth visiting, getting off the beaten path can provide a unique and authentic experience. Here are some suggestions for exploring Vietnam like a local:
- Visit a local market: Vietnam’s markets are a hub of activity and provide a glimpse into daily life. Try visiting a local wet market, where you can see fresh produce, meat, and fish being sold, and try some of the street food on offer.
- Attend a festival: Vietnam has a calendar full of festivals, from the Tet Lunar New Year to the Mid-Autumn Festival. Attending a local festival can be a great way to experience Vietnamese culture and traditions.
- Take a cooking class: Vietnamese cuisine is famous around the world, and taking a cooking class can be a fun and informative way to learn more about it. Many cooking classes include a trip to the local market to buy ingredients, as well as hands-on instruction on how to prepare traditional dishes.
- Explore a traditional village: Vietnam is home to many traditional villages, where locals still live in traditional homes and practice traditional crafts. Visiting one of these villages can provide insight into Vietnamese culture and history.
Exploring Vietnam like a local can be a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable experience. From trying local food to visiting traditional villages, there are plenty of chances to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture and gain a deeper understanding of the country.
Whether you’re planning a short trip or an extended stay, pack your bags and get ready to explore this fascinating country!
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