How to Survive in Vietnam
I know how much it can be difficult either to travel or to start a new life in a foreign country you know nothing about. That’s why I wanted to gather as many tips as possible concerning Vietnam. I know it’s far from being complete. Don’t hesitate to comment with advice you want to share. Meanwhile, you’ll find our best tips you’ll need for your arrival and stay in Ho Chi Minh City or anywhere in Vietnam:
On The Street
- Don’t be chicken to cross the road. Use slow, consistent steps when crossing busy streets. To make yourself more visible to motorists, raise your hand high or out while walking.
- If you do not like sitting in heavy traffic, peak times of rush hour are from 7am till 10am, and from 5pm till 8pm.
- Keep a poncho in your motorbike.
- Phone snatching is commonplace in Vietnam. Use a keyring and be careful when using your cellphone. High crime season is just before Tet.
- When parking your bike, do not lose your parking ticket. You will not get your bike back without it. Do not keep valuables inside your motorbike and lock not hang your helmet. Park directly in front of the business property.
- Rainy season footwear: If you are in Vietnam in the rainy season, consider wearing open sandals or flip flops to let the water drain out if you’re caught in a downpour.
Tips For Getting Around Ho Chi Minh City
- You have plenty of options for getting around town. Vinasun and Mai Linh are safe options for hailing cabs. For a cheaper option, you could say hello to a corner XE OM and tell him where you want to go. Best options by far are Grab, Go-Viet, or Go Jek and you can even use cash. Normally, the drivers will call to confirm your whereabouts. Cheapest option to get around would definitely be the public bus which runs about 5000 vnd (http://busmap.vn/map/lookup?locale=en).
- It is only a 6 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.
- Airfare can be cheap. During Tet holiday the rates are higher. Be sure to triple check your baggage weight.
- The easiest form of transportation to the beach such as Vung Tau is by minibus, via Hoa Mai or Toan Thanh. It should cost around 80k vnd. For a couple more bucks you could ride their limousine fleet which is much more comfortable (9 seats instead of 16 seats).
Food & Beverage Tips
- A good cup of coffee costs at least 20k vnd. Anything less than 20k vnd and you may not be drinking coffee at all.
- If you need to shop at a bigger store, there is Metro mart which also offers delivery.
- Vietnammm.com is the best site for ordering food delivery.
- Not all restaurants offer free refills. If you need something, raise your hand or shout “em ỏi” and you’ll get someone’s attention.
- (Khau trang) Face masks costs around 25-40k vnd.
- Subscribe to “Expats in Ho Chi Minh City” Facebook group. You might find answers you are looking for.
- Vietnamese English newspapers to read are http://tuoitrenews.vn | http://e.vnexpress.net | http://english.vietnamnet.vn
- Bookstores: Fahasa, Nguyen Thi Binh book street, near Notre Dame Church and Post office
- Free expat magazines, The Word HCMC, AsiaLife and Oi.
- Social clubs: sign up for meetup.com
Other Tips About Living in Ho Chi Minh City
- Make sure your phone is unlocked before packing. You can easily buy street SIMs for cheaper package. When buying a SIM for your cellphone, do not forget to also add a mobile plan or risk depleting your credit rapidly. Widely used plans are MIU90 for Mobifone and MIMAX for Viettel (http://3gviettel.com.vn/dang-ky-3g-mimax-viettel).
- Monsoon season starts from October to early December, while the dry season is from January till September.
- Read all the labels before plugging in your electronic devices. Vietnam uses 220v.
- Youtube Vietnamese lessons: http://youtube.com/tiengvietoi
- Useful phone apps: magicJack ($9.99 a year, American phone number with unlimited calls and texts) Google voice, FREE
- Copy your passport: In Vietnam, it’s handy to have a photocopy of your passport upon check in at hotels in case you want to keep your original copy on your person.
- Learn simple words and phrases. Hello: xin chao, Thank You: cam on, etc.
- For a refreshing clean, Vietnam toilets come with a butt-hose. Instead of using toilet paper, practice the art of cleansing with the butt-hose.
- For good seats in the movie theater, order tickets online or through the app in advance.
Here are some helpful basic phrases:
Hello – xin chào
Goodbye – tạm biệt
Please – làm ơn
Thank you – cảm ơn
You’re welcome – không có chi
Sorry/ excuse me – xin lỗi
How much (does that cost)? Bao nhiêu tiền or simply bao nhiêu
Too expensive – mắc quá
Where – ở đâu
Where is the toilet? Toilet ở đâu?
Where is the hospital? – Bệnh viện ở đâu?
Where is a doctor? – Bác sĩ ở đâu?
Where is a pharmacy? – Nhà thuốc ở đâu?
Where is a hotel? – Khách sạn ở đâu?
Where is a wet market? – Chợ ở đâu?
Where is a supermarket? – Siêu thị ở đâu?
Where is the police station? – Công An phư ờng ở đâu?
Where is the post office? – Bưu Điện ở đâu?
I am sick – Tôi bị bệnh
I am lost – Tôi bị lạc Đường
Help me – giúp tôi
No – không
Yes – dạ (sounds a lot like the German ja)
Health and Safety
- If possible, carry tissues or moist towelettes.
- When getting medicine from pharmacies, usually they will also give you antibiotics.
- Tiger balm can remedy mosquito bites.
- Motorbike safety: Buy proper equipment, high quality helmet, not a cheap one for looks. Stay away from cheap helmets, it’s your head you’re protecting. Buy insurance, for a couple hundred dollars you could avoid a mountain of hospital bills and rehab costs. Get a License. Without one your insurance is NOT valid and they will refuse to pay out for anything. Make sure in your wallet there is a contact number of someone from your work or close friend, this way they can contact your family earlier. Often they won’t begin treatment without either an insurance card or a Visa card.
- Do not drink tap water and choose only good mineral water kept away from the sun.
- Diarrhea pills are cheap and readily available in Vietnamese cities. You WILL need them.
- One well-known photography shop in town to buy camera equipment from is http://www.khanhlong.com/. Prices there are comparable to that of western online stores.
- Haggling can be fun. Try your bargaining skills to save 50-66% off. (Edit: If you’re timid about bargaining, try the walk-away technique, where you hesitate at their offer and shyly walk away only to have them drop the price for you.)
- If you wish not to shop from street vendors, try not to have any eye contact. Refuse at least twice when they approach you.
- It is fine to shop online for long-term accommodation but never pay a deposit and the first month’s rent over the Internet. Don’t believe everything you see in the pictures. Always personally inspect the property before signing a lease. Look for nearby construction for noise pollution and local conveniences that suits your needs within the neighborhood.
- Be careful when ordering items from US based online stores (Amazon, BestBuy, etc..) as it will often get stuck at customs and you might end up paying half of your item value in custom taxes.
- iPhone repair: haloshop.vn
- Don’t Over-Argue Prices.
- Bring your fashion catalogue and make your clothes tailored here.
- Vietnamese people generally don’t queue.
Banking, Cash, and Payment
- Instead of using a local ATM for cash withdrawals, other options are local casinos and Bitcoin ATM.
- Be careful of money scams. A 100,000 vnd note can be mistaken for a 10,000 vnd note. 20k vnd note can also be mistakened with the 500k vnd note.
- Money exchange are usually done in Gold shops. Mai Kim in D1 on Cong Quynh street gives good rate.
- Don’t expect everyone to have change for a 500k vnd bill. You can find smaller notes at xe may parking garages by asking the parking attendants or get change from gas stations when getting fuel.
- For gym memberships, do not sign up right away as they will call you back and slash the price in half.
- Use Momo payment app, you can pay anything on there.