Finally! I’ve been wanting to write about my trip for so long, but let’s be real, catching up on Netflix has been consuming my life for the past couple of weeks lol. It’s now been well over a month since I began my adventures in Vietnam and well… I MISS IT! The chaos-filled streets, cheap food, copious amounts of sweat (okay not really lol), and most of all, my family! For those of you who don’t know, I have a ton of family in Vietnam. My mom’s whole entire side is basically still over there. She only has one sister out of eight siblings here in the US with her. Since this was the first time I was able to finally go back since third grade, I was actually meeting most of my cousins for the first time (I’m one of the oldest cousins)!
I wanted to use this post as an overview of my time in Vietnam and some random tips if you’re planning on visiting anytime soon! The tips are focused mostly for Ho Chi Minh City since that’s where I spent most of my time, but there may be another short post on Hanoi and Halong Bay coming in the future… stay tuned lol.
Anyways, here it is!
1. Always choose street food.
Before you check out Google reviews for the best restaurants, just remember that the people who leave those reviews are all probably tourists as well. The hands-down most memorable meals I’ve had in Vietnam were definitely the street food! Each food vendor specializes in only about 1-2 dishes and some of my favorites are: bún thịt nướng (vermicelli bowl with meat), bún riêu (tomato/shrimp paste based vermicelli soup), bún bò Huế (beef based soup with vermicelli), bánh xèo (veggie and meat filled crepe), bánh mì (sandwich), bánh canh cua (crab/seafood soup) and of course phở (pho lol)! It was also nice to check out some nicer restaurants here and there, but there’s just something about paying less than $2 for a bowl of soup on the side of the street.
What I called, ‘the lunchroom’! Basically a huge food hall filled with vendors specializing in specific dishes.
Bánh canh cua!
An assortment of random street food with a side of sugarcane juice!
2. Stay away from tap water…
Unless you want to get the runs, I’d stick to bottled water or filtered water! I brought my Hydro Flask with me, so every night we’d buy a pack of water bottles and just filled up our Hydro Flask to keep it cold! I’d also stay away from ice cubes if you can, most places use tap water to make it.
3. Pack some paper towels and tissue paper.
One thing that always came in clutch was packing some paper towels/napkins and tissue paper (in case there was no toilet paper…). Most restaurants who provided wet towelettes charge you a fee (without telling you until you use it), and my aunts warned me that the napkins street vendors provide aren’t very sanitary. I actually stocked up on napkins everytime we stopped by a Starbucks, cause who can’t trust good ‘ol Starbucks??
Eating on the side of one of the food stalls, the napkins they provide are like… 0.5 ply toilet paper…
4. Icon 56, is NOT a scam lol.
If you’re browsing Airbnb for places around HCM city and come across a bunch listings at an apartment complex called ‘Icon 56’, don’t worry, it’s legit! My sister and I saw TONS of listings in this apartment complex and thought it was some sort of scam, but apparently, the majority of the complex is just used as Airbnb listings. It was such a nice, central location near District 1 (where a lot of the popular shopping and food was) and super modern and clean!
One of the views from our Airbnb!
The rooftop infinity pool at our Airbnb.
5. Put your hand up before crossing the street; power in numbers!
Like I mentioned earlier, the streets are CHAOTIC, and crossing the street as a pedestrian is like a game. Some of the streets have crosswalks, but most of them don’t and if you’re not jaywalking then you’re not cool (kidding). You pretty much just have to find a little gap and confidently put your hand out to let oncoming traffic know that you are crossing. This works even better with more people, ‘cause you know, power in numbers!
The streets look empty here, but don’t be fooled…
6. Download ‘Grab’.
Uber use to have a presence in SE Asia, but was recently bought out by another ride sharing app called ‘Grab’, but it’s basically the same concept! The nice thing about Grab is that you don’t need to link your card, you can pay cash after the ride is done and you’ll have an estimate of how much it’ll be. The ‘Grab Car’ is essentially just a regular looking car and then there’s ‘Grab Taxi’ that looks pretty much a taxi and uses their meter. The taxi version seemed to be slightly cheaper than ‘Grab Car’, so majority of the time we compared both prices before booking a ride.
7. Bargain before buying anything
You’re going to notice that everywhere you go, all the vendors seem to sell a lot of the same product on the same block or street. I would walk around before actually making your purchase and use the lowest price as leverage in negotiation! Don’t be afraid to slowly walk away, because chances are they’ll call after you for a lower price.
View from a cafe in District One, a street filled with TONS of shops.
8. Bring a mini fan or buy one especially if you’re going during the summer time.
Ho Chi Minh City weather ranges from hot to super hot lol. I didn’t do this until the end of my trip, fearing that I’d look like a huge tourist next to the fully clothed local… but there was so much regret. So just do it and thank me later.
9. Bring a small umbrella or light rain coat/poncho.
Vietnam (and pretty much all of SE Asia) is infamous for their crazy monsoon weather! The rain normally lasts for only about an hour or so, but when it rains, it POURS. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you lol.
Literally seconds before this picture was taken and the heavy downpour started, it was nice and sunny!
10. Never catch a random xich lo on the street.
Coming straight from my cousins in VN! If you wanna try it then just Google it, there are tours that you can register for online. And if you have no clue what that is, it’s pretty much like a three-wheeled rickshaw except the driver is in the back of the guests.
11. The normal price for renting a moped 120,000-150,000 VND
This is for pretty much the whole day, anything over that is probably someone trying to make some extra cash off of you! I don’t know the exact age you need to be to ride one of these, but my 17 year old cousin was able to rent one. Be sure to have your passport with you and cash they might hold as a security deposit! I also wouldn’t really recommend riding mopeds to anyone who isn’t comfortable, because like I mentioned earlier, the streets be CRAY. I rode with my boyfriend most of the time since he was more comfortable, and actually switched with him in empty areas and mall parking lots lol.
12. Wear a crossbody or bag with straps and secure zippers.
Luckily I didn’t have any issues with theft, but better safe than sorry! I’d definitely make sure your valuables are securely zipped inside a smaller pocket of your bag.
13. VN is safe for tattoos despite what you might think!
My YOLO tattoo was a mere $17 (no tip, because no one tips here) compared to my $90 (with tip) wrist tattoo. The shop I went to (GaugesVN.com) was pleasantly nice and clean, and was actually a shop that one of my cousins got an earring piercing from! This is also where I’d tell you to check out Google review, Facebook reviews and their social media.
Casually posing with my new tattoo hehe.
So there you have it! Some short and sweet tips that will hopefully help and provide you with just a little bit more insight on your upcoming trip. Feel free to comment below with any other questions that you have. In the meantime, enjoy some more random photos from my trip!
One of our first nights out with my family!
One of the street markets, literally filled with vendors selling anything and everything from raw meat to underwear and bras!
A picture of the first and ONLY pho I had while in Vietnam.
One of the many cafes we ran into to escape the hot and humid weather!
Luke and I (and my little brother lol) in front of a Cathedral.
And of course with all the cousins 🙂
Grandparents with all the grandkids 🙂
Aaaaaaaand that’s it! For now 🙂
Hope you enjoyed following along my Vietnam adventures!