Vietnamese people are very gracious, polite and generous and will make every effort to make guests feel comfortable. Do not be surprised if somebody you have just met invites you home to meet the family and friends. These are the experiences that will enrich your visit to Vietnam. General Advice About Traveling in Vietnam :
From the worker's simple outfits in the rice fields to western style business suits in the city, the Vietnamese are conservative in their dress. Visitors wearing shorts are tolerated, even though you may see many shirtless Vietnamese men in shorts.
Wear conservative clothing if you visit a culturally sensitive area such as a temple or pagoda -- the less bare skin the better.
Keep in mind that, although tolerant, people may be judgmental. Unfortunately you cannot expect hospitality at every turn and you may experience problems with petty theft and pick pockets. This is more prevalent in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Nha Trang. In other areas, especially in the north, reports of these activities are extremely minimal. It is not something to be paranoid about but be aware of your surroundings.
Below is a list of do's and don'ts to help you avoid some of the social taboos during your visit. Take heed of these pointers and you will be rewarded with a culturally and socially enriching experience.
What You Should Do :
Store your cash, credit cards, airline tickets and other valuables in a safe place. Most 4-star hotels have in-room safes, otherwise ask the reception to keep your valuable things in their deposit facility.
Take a hotel business card from the reception desk before venturing out from your hotel. This will make your return to the hotel in a taxi or cyclo much easier.
Carry a roll of toilet paper in your daypack on long excursions from your base hotel. You never know when you might need it!
Dress appropriately. Not only for the prevailing weather, but also not to cause offence to the local people. Vietnamese have conservative dress codes, and it is only in larger cities that these codes are a little more relaxed. Do not wear revealing clothing.
Drink plenty of bottled water. During the summer months you should be drinking a minimum of 2 litres per day. If you drink tea, coffee and alcohol you should increase you water intake accordingly as these will help to dehydrate you.
If invited into a Vietnamese home, always remove your shoes at the front door when entering.
Ask for permission when taking a photograph of someone. If they indicate that they do not want you to, then abide by their wishes.
Top things to do when travel in Vietnam
• Hire a bicycle as Vietnam is ideal for long-distance cycling - much of the country is flat and the shortage of vehicles makes for light traffic. Caution is needed however, especially on busier roads, as traffic can be very undisciplined.
• Relax on one of the many beaches, such as Vung Tau, southeast of Ho Chi Minh City or Nha Trang, where there is some superb snorkelling around the many offshore islands. Slide down the sand dunes at Mui Ne.
• Get a made-to-measure outfit in one of the many tailors of Hoi An, beautiful with its narrow trafficless streets lined with ancient houses and temples. Relax in one of the many cafes and watch the world go by.
• Go hiking or horse riding in the beautiful countryside around Da Lat. Be pleasantly surprised at the emerald green lakes surrounded by mountains. Hike through Ba Be Lake National Park and Cuc Phuong National Park (near Hanoi), and Cat Ba National Park on Cat Ba Island.
• Go kayaking in spectacular Halong Bay and paddle through the limestone karsts dramatically rising up out of the sea.
• Hire a boat to explore the intricate network of rice paddies, swamps and forests interlaced with canals and rivers in the Mekong Delta.
• See some of the Vietnam War sights. Walk part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, used as supply routes by the North Vietnamese during the war. Go underground into the claustrophobic network of tunnels used by villagers and guerrillas during the war at Cu Chi.
• Journey at least part of the route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on the Reunification Express to sample life on Vietnam's railways.
• Learn the subtleties of Vietnamese cookery at a class in ancient Hoi An. Submerge into the hustle and bustle of the market to buy provisions before retreating to the calm of the kitchen.
Things Should Not Do in Vietnam :
Offer money or push the issue.
Never carry more money than you need when walking around the streets.
Do not wear large amounts of jewel. There are two reasons for not doing this (1) It is considered impolite to flaunt wealth in public; (2) It is more likely that you may become a victim of a pickpocket or drive-by bag snatcher.
Don't be paranoid about your security, just be aware of your surroundings.
Don't wear singlets, shorts, dresses or skirts, or tops with low-neck lines and bare shoulders to Temples and Pagodas. To do this is considered extremely rude and offensive.
Avoid giving empty water bottles, sweets and candies or pens to the local people when trekking through ethnic minority villages. You cannot guarantee that the empty bottles will be disposed of in a correct manner, and the people have no access to dental health. If you want to give pens, ask your guide to introduce you to the local teacher and donate them to the whole community.
Never sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar when in someone’s house.
Never lose your temper in public or when bargaining for a purchase. This is considered a serious loss of face for both parties. Always maintain a cool and happy demeanour and you will be reciprocated with the same.
Do not try to take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security.
Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages. They are considered to be too intrusive by the local people.
The above advice is meant to help you have a perfect trip to Vietnam.
Do not be overly paranoid though. Generally, Vietnamese people are very appreciative if they see you trying to abide by their customs, and very forgiving if you get it wrong or forget. If you make the effort, you will be rewarded.