5. Forget everything you know about crossing roads
In order to cross the road and get to the other side in one piece, especially in urban areas with heavy traffic, you have to forget everything you ever learnt about road safety, go against your gut instinct. Stay calm and alert, and walk out into the road slowly but confidently; the traffic will (usually) give way to you.
6. Count the zeros on your cash
Exchange rates with British pounds and US dollars are generally in the tens of thousands. Things easily escalate into the millions, so you need to have your arithmetic head screwed on tight, or at least the calculator on your phone at the ready. The 100,000đ note looks alarmingly similar to the 10,000đ, so look carefully at those zeros.
7. Get away from it all
Vietnam hosts around eight million tourists a year, and that number is rising. Quiet beaches with a few shacks a decade ago are now built-up tourist developments. To escape the crowds and for something a little different, stay somewhere off the usual trail.
Jungle Beach, just north of Nha Trang on the south coast, is an ideal low-key spot to take a break, with fairy-tale-like basic thatched huts and a quiet, pristine beach.
8. Drink coffee
Vietnam is the world’s second-largest exporter of coffee, but most of the stuff that leaves the country is the low-grade instant variety.
However, what stays behind is top-notch: thick, strong and with a hint of caramel, it’s filtered through single-cup dispensers and especially delicious served over ice with condensed milk.
Weasel coffee, or cà phê Chồn, is a cut above the norm – maximum caffeine and supremely rich, it’s often regarded as one of the best coffees in the world.
9. Ha Long Bay via Cat Ba Island
Ha Long Bay is Vietnam’s number one tourist attraction. Most people take a single or multi-day tour from Hanoi, but if you prefer the flexibility of independent travel and want to save a few million dong, stay at mountainous Cat Ba island.
It’s relatively straightforward to head there on your own steam with a bus-and-boat combo ticket from Hanoi, and the relaxed main town has plenty of accommodation. You can then book a Ha Long Bay day-tour from there, and spend a few more days exploring the island’s spectacular national park.
Explore more of Vietnam with the Rough Guide to Vietnam. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.