Perhaps Vietnam is the last on your travel bucket list for Southeast Asia due to the many mixed views on the country’s tourism. Rampant scams, lurking dangers, hostile people, unsanitary streets, and many other well-established myths about traveling in Vietnam could give the most willing would-be Vietnam visitors hesitation. However, it’s always good to travel to places with a clear head and an open mind. Make your own decisions about a place and never let anything get to you. Most travelers to Vietnam are surprised that those negative opinions are either overly exaggerated or completely not true.
Let us debunk nine most common misconceptions about this lovely country to help you make the most of your time here.
Vietnam is a backward, poor, and dirty country
Economically, Vietnam is no longer an underdeveloped country but has long held its firm position in the ranks of middle-income nations. Moreover, facilities have been improved a lot with new roads, huge highways, modern transportation, and skyscrapers. Everything you could ever need is available. You can find posh restaurants and hotels, free wifi, and automatic payment systems. And these are not only in big cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. The downtown area always looks nice and clean as the government is paying extra attention to recreate the face of the whole country.
At night, when the city lights up, Saigon looks no different than a modern city in Singapore.
Everyone eats dogs and cats
If you are a Vietnamese, it’s likely that you will get asked once or twice by curious foreigners whether Vietnamese people really have dogs and cats for… dinner? And the answer is no, absolutely no.
I mean, it’s undoubtedly true that some Vietnamese do eat these lovely animals and you will sometimes run into a restaurant selling dog or cat meat on the street. However, it’s certainly not on a regular basis or at an extensive level. In fact, Vietnam has become more and more world-minded and now a large number of citizens vehemently condemn the act of eating dogs and cats.
Vietnamese people hate Americans
Give yourself a chance to interact with Vietnamese people and you will see that your experience is quite the opposite. Vietnamese people undoubtedly have love and respect for America and Americans. They admire America for many things: the lifestyle, advanced education, sources of investment funds, the culture, etc. You can easily spot signs of Western life in major cities – foreign-investment companies, Hollywood movies, vibrant pop culture, American technology, etc. And another thing is that the nature of the Vietnamese people is gentle, kind, and extremely friendly. Some Vietnamese people or elders might not know your language but they will definitely try their best to help you when you need it. You might be pleasantly surprised at the warm reception that foreign travelers receive here in Vietnam.
A proper explanation could be that a majority of the Vietnamese population was born after the war. Their parents have stories but most people are too young to remember the war so they do not know much about it or actually know the pain. Besides, for them, the past is the past, so they choose to move on and absorb positive aspects of America.
It is not safe
It is undeniable that Vietnam is probably one of the safest countries you will ever visit. There are almost no violent crimes, absolutely no gunpoint robbery, or terrorism. Business Insider evaluated Vietnam as the safest and most friendly destination in Southeast Asia in the list of 30 Ideal Destinations. This is the reason why Vietnam has overtaken Thailand as a favorite destination for tourists. Of course, petty crime still happens, as it does everywhere else in the world. But generally, the hassles you’ll encounter in Vietnam are nothing compared to let’s say, New York or Barcelona. Some visitors even said that they felt much safer in Vietnam than when they arrived back in their hometown after their travels.
Anyway, every country could be potentially dangerous if you act in unsafe ways. The key to traveling in Vietnam (or anywhere else) is to be aware of your surroundings and have a really good understanding of the country before you hit the road. So it would be better if you equip yourself with a few local words and write down all the local emergency numbers. Always take precautions. Don’t forget to learn about popular scams in Vietnam, as well as known dangerous areas and activities. You will most likely get by without any issues.
Don’t travel Vietnam during the rainy season
For many people, the scenes of sunny skies and warm seas are much more appealing than getting wet in the monsoon or rainy season. But let me tell you, there are a hundred advantages when traveling in the offseason.
First of all, the rainy season does not include constant downpour along with cold, dreary skies. It usually showers in the afternoon only. You have all the morning with sunny sky and beautiful weather.
Secondly, the wet season can help you to avoid tourist traps and save a lot of money. Because there are fewer tourists, the famous attractions are not heavily full of people. You can also find nice and cheap accommodation at ease.
Last but not least, the sights are much more fascinating as everything becomes beautifully lush and green. It is a great opportunity for you to witness the best of Mother Nature: blooming flowers, magnificent waterfalls, luscious jungles, and verdant green rice terraces.
Don’t eat street food
“….Because they’re weird and unsanitary”. My point is it won’t hurt if you give it a try. Just because something is unfamiliar to you and where you come from, it does not mean you should limit yourself and your choices. Another thing is that every traveler to Vietnam agrees that a trip to this country is not complete without tasting the street food.
If you worry about the hygiene, be observant of the street stall you plan to eat at so you can see how they make their food. Reading reviews from other diners is another good idea to avoid getting ill.
Read more: The Beginner’s Guide to Food Safety in Vietnam
While food sanitation should remain a topic that is big enough for its own article, it is an indisputable truth that Vietnamese cuisine is amazing! There are hundreds of types of dishes for you to choose from and each one is bursting with a unique flavor. Vietnamese food is not as spicy as Thai food, not as complicated as European food, not as greasy as Chinese food, but healthy and you can eat it all day.
You’ll offend everyone if you don’t know Vietnamese etiquette
Yes and no. As a reserved country with complex etiquette, Vietnam’s culture may confuse newcomers. If you’re not paying attention, you may inadvertently cause offense, or, worse, spark an international incident. However, the good thing is, as I mentioned, Vietnamese people are friendly and kind. So they don’t necessarily expect foreigners to get the hang of every intricacy of Vietnamese etiquette. The golden formula is to always smile, be polite, and observe.
It’s never a bad idea to come prepared with a bunch of tips and tricks. You may avoid an awkward situation if you read up a little.
It’s difficult to get around if you don’t speak Vietnamese
The language barrier is often the biggest concern for travelers planning trips to Vietnam. Apart from the fact that Vietnamese is not a very popular or easy-to-learn language, this concern also stems in part from a common misperception that Vietnamese people don’t speak English at all. However, since Vietnamese education is improving, everyone gets to study English at school. You can rest assured that the baseline level of English is relatively high here. Or help yourself by learning a few words of the Vietnamese language.
Read more: Essential Vietnamese Words & Phrases for Travelers to Vietnam
Don’t use ice
It is true that ice outside may not be safe as it might originate from contaminated water. However, a lot of restaurants in Vietnam use special ice made by reliable suppliers rather than self-produced ice. This type of ice has a hole through the middle and is perfectly safe.
In the end, it’s you and your attitude that determines how your trip turns out. The most important thing to understand about traveling is that yes, you may get scammed sometimes and you may get frustrated. But that’s part of traveling which would unintentionally become a memory that you can look back and laugh at. Don’t let anything put you off your dream trip and travel where you want to go.
Plus, doing your research beforehand will save you a lot of frustration and give you tips to skirt uncomfortable situation, so please check out more articles on The Travel Enzine or even hop on one of your Onetrip tours to ask our guides all about this unique country.