You need to give your passport to Hotels
Vietnam was only the second overseas trip for Tracy and I so it would be fair to say we were "travel virgins"! On checking into our Hanoi Hotel at some ungodly hour of the morning, we were asked to surrender our Passport to the staff for the duration of our stay. We did ask why, they just said it was Hotel policy, so we just assumed this was normal. Although we were not extremely happy to do this, having been told on numerous occasions that our Passport is like our lifeline and never to let it out of your sight! We knew we were stuck in Vietnam for a while if we lost it, so were not too happy about this "Hotel policy".
We then discovered at every Hotel we stayed at that the same thing happened. The worst scenario was when we did our overnight Junk cruise on Halong Bay. We handed our passports to our group leader, who then handed them to some other guy, who then handed them to yet another guy - WHO THEN DISAPPEARED!! Tracy and I are like "WTF have we just done!?" Well, needless to say, we did get our passports back each and every time.
So just wanted to warn future travellers to Vietnam that this does appear to be a common practice there. I have not encountered it in any of the other countries I have been to though.
You could try and hand them a photocopy of your passport as opposed to the original and see if they will be happy with that, this could solve the problem, but dont know if they will accept it.
Copy cd's and dvd's
My parting memory of Vietnam was a very scary one and one I will never forget. Get to the airport, luggage checked in, as we go to board and hand the lady our boarding pass, she says to me "Wait on the side lady. There is a problem with your luggage and we have found an illegal substance in it" WHAT!!??????? I waited and waited and waited for what seemed like hours. I said to Tracy "Dont you dare get on that plane without me!" Finally they take me all the way back to the Airport entrance. I was nervous as hell, thinking someone had put drugs or something in my suitcase and I would end up in a Vietnam jail. They say dont act nervous or that will make them think you have something to hide - HOW CAN YOU NOT ACT NERVOUS!? Got to my suitcase, opened it, and they said the illegal substance was copy CD's!!!!!!! Can you believe that? They sell them on every street corner, yet it is illegal to take them out of the country?? Admitedly I had lots (about 100) and I had positioned them all through my suitcase so it looked like I had thousands of them. Tracy had put them all in one pile, so they probably only thought she had a few. Anyway, I talked my way out of keeping them, I didnt want to be nasty to the guys, cos then they would stick it to me, and not put my suitcase on the plane! I made it back to check-in with out 5 minutes to spare and was freaking out all the way back to Sydney, hoping they had actually put my suitcase back on the plane!! GUESS WHAT??? When your case is the last to go on the plane, ITS THE FIRST ONE TO COME OFF!!! What a relief that was ... to see my suitcase ... and to be back in Australia!!!
I guess my only word of advice is that if you buy copy cd's and dvd's (admit it - most of us do!) THEN I would advise you to pack them in your suitcase all in one bundle, that way the x-ray cant really determine how many you have. I had packed them scattered all around my suitcase, so the x-ray looked like I could have had thousands!!!
I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy ... (or maybe I would he he he ...)
Not so much a warning - but a "how to do" tip
Crossing the road in Vietnam - an art unto itself!!!
Watch the locals first to see how they do it, it will look crazy and dangerous at the start, but it is not! It will not matter if you as pedestrians have a green light or a crossing marked on the road, in most instances, cars and bikes will NOT stop for you.
Take off from the sidwalk, walk arm in arm if there is more than one of you, walk slowly but in a straight direction and DO NOT STOP OR VERE OFF COURSE!!! Amazingly the traffic will (in most cases!) go around you. Traffic does not move that fast in congested city roads, so they have plenty of time to move around you. The first few times you do this, you are scared ***less, but after that, it feels normal, just like a local!!!
Traffic in HCMC and Hanoi is especially chaotic, but at the same time exciting. We went on a cyclo ride through the streets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi where we were staying, my goodness was that an experience! The cyclos in Vietnam have you sitting in the front with the guy peddling at the back, so basically YOU ARE A HUMAN TARGET!!! In some countries Ives noticed its the other way around, you are at the back and guy peddling at the front, I think I prefer that option better! As this guy peddled through traffic bedlam, Tracy took a video and all you can pretty much hear is me screaming as we were entering massive traffic chaos, usually head first and going in the wrong direction!!! Extremely funny Vietnam moment. The cyclo ride cost a whole $1AUD each but it is worth its weight in golden funny moments!!!
And they way the bikes and cars overtake is hilarious, they just beep their horn to let you know they are overtaking and off they go! Apparently, the beeping of horn means "Im coming through so get out of my way ok!!!"
Viet visa from Cambodia
Yes, you can get a pre-arranged Viet visa on arrival for flights with a Viet travel agency but for ALL land-border crossings you'll need the Viet visa in advance. But if you're going to be in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Battambang, or Sihanoukville and have a few days, you can get a travel agency to do it in a day or two WORKING DAYS][and Cambodia is actually one of the cheapest places to get a Viet visa. I haven't done it myself but have read plenty of reports on other forums attesting to said process and that it was easy. The only warning I've come across is that a few agencies did not deliver on the full 30 day visa and instead only got a 2 week visa for their unsuspecting clients. So if you need 30 days, you'll have to stress that to the agency and don't pay unless you've gotten the amount of days you've told them.Related to:
- Budget Travel
So you want hire a motor bike hmmmm!
3 trips through VN (in a car)
Love the place and the people how great to ride a neat step thru scooter
also seen 3 dead people all were on 2 wheels - all bad news
before you do go very far please read this article on the road toll and motor bikes
or google road toll Vietnam
I admire my friends in VN riding the bikes and I fear for them too.
Hire a car, get a bus, train or walk and make sure you have travel insurance
have a great trip
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Walking the streets of Hanoi
I am amused and also horrified at the way people just walk along and/or cross streets. The numerous bikers in the street is interesting to look at but to encounter them while you cross the street is another serious matter. Vietnamese people usually establishes their right of way and that does not make consideration for a pedestrian.
The "street war" - how to survive crossing streets
Once you arrived in Hanoi or Saigon you will face your first challenge: how to cross these streets without being hit by a motorbike or a car? You will realise that even if you happen to find a crossing with traffic lights, that they ignore the red lights. The flood of motorbikes will never cease and you will soon realise that there is no other choice than doing what the locals do: start crossing anyways. But be wise and make sure you observe them before imitating it because there are some "rules" to be followed. You learn them by starting to cross the streets together with locals. They make slow moves and once you start moving, don't stop too long because this is not what the drivers expect! Keep on moving and observe the traffic coming your way and never forget that motorbikes can come from everywhere!! Somehow the motorbikes will miraculously pass by you and somehow you will get to the other side!!! But be extra careful and make sure you "learn" from the locals. It is always easier to cross the streets if there are more people going. So good luck and be careful!!! Oh yes, and another thing. Never think that you are safe on the pavement, because if it is a big one, they will drive there too! If it is a small pavement, you won't be able to walk there anyways, as it is being used as parking for the motorbikes, of course!
Also always expect motorbikes to drive out of any alley, even the smallest ones. They come from everywhere - anytime :-)
Arriving to Vietnam after a long flight, suffering the time difference, the change of the climate, got less sleep on the plane, and you are very likely to find yourself in the first tourist trap. Your reactions are slow, you are tired and vulnerable. You make the best victim for the taxi and hotel mafia!!! Mostly taxi drivers and hotels are working together - and there are different ways to get the money out of you. Whether the taxi driver is taking advantage of you not being familiar with the local currency and charging ten times more or taking you to the wrong hotel saying that the one you made reservations with has moved. There are a lot of hotels that are copying the names of good hotels and make you believe you are in the one you wanted to go to. they charge way too much and if you are not willing to pay the price they might get unfriendly and even aggressive. One of the travelmates I made, a French woman, was ripped off by the taxi driver (she paid 50 Euros instead of 5) and on top he took her to the wrong hotel. Another group of 3 strong Australian men got into troubles with the hotel mafia being taken to a remote place - they had to pay so they would finally be brought to their hotel.
How to avoid that? Book in advance one of the hotels recommended by the travelguide books and ask for a pickup service. I personally can recommend the Classic Hotel in Hanoi, because you can book online and it is a reliable hotel. See my hotel tips for more details.
Nha Trang. Dirty Beach!
If you're expecting a beautiful beach vacation here (such as I was) beware: The beach is not the most pristine of places to visit. Although the city itself is reminiscent of Miami's Southbeach or a Mediterranean coastal city, the residents don't take pride in this fact. Litter is floating in the water; it is impossible to swim here without being brushed by a banana peel, plastic bags, or diapers. The hagglers on the beach will wake you up if you're resting (or even pretending to rest to avoid them) and try to sell you snacks, lighters, and sunglasses. They are rather persistent and don't accept 'no' for an answer. We were constantly warned that our bags would be stolen if we did not watch them carefully. And the real capper: Men pee all over the place: at the water's edge where children are playing, and one guy knelt in the sand within ten feet of my girlfriend and peed a stream that was too close for comfort! We could not leave the beach fast enough. If you choose to visit Vietnam, opt for Phu Quoc or the empty beach outside of Hoi An, but avoid Nha Trang! It's a shame because it could be a very beautiful place if it's residence took a little more pride.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
Thief at Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi.
I walk to Hoan Kiem lake at afternoon. There is a little island at the northeast corner.after I buy the ticket and walk on to the bridge which connect the island and bank, I feel backpack was moving slightly. Turning back and saw a local young man behind me with nothing, apparent not tourist. I'm not in mind as I have not seen thiefs in VietNam before. But after I take the backpack, the zipper was opened. And the young man is stand not far from me. Oberviously it is the young man who opened it. So I ran to him and he begin to run. But I catch him just out side of the tickt office. Then some local people came around me. But nobody help me to call a polic or do anyother helpful stuff. And there is no cops. After a while, I had to release the thief as I don't know where is the polic station.
At last , I lost nothing in this matter.But tourist should be careful when traveling in Hanoi.Related to:
Beware of groups of young boys (aged about 8-10) begging for money at Dong Ba market in Hue. With hungry hands being directed from all sides, I caught one slipping deftly into my trouser pocket in an attempt to remove whatever was inside (which would have been my mobile phone!).
Grabbing hold of his fingers I gave a squeeze, which elicited a small yelp and no further problems.Related to:
- Women's Travel
Some taxi drivers like to take advantage of tourists unaware of the area by routing the trip through traffic-congested roads or by driving in circles to "pad" the final price. Make sure that you take note of the price and the time it takes to a certain area and use this as a reference for other times. I firmly told the cabbie who once tried this in HCMC that I was only going to pay a fixed amount to the destination or simply walk out without paying. If it is reasonable, it should be a done deal because "lesser" pay is better than none at all. Otherwise make sure that ensure that you have a good escape route and quick feet as well as a plan "B" to get back home.Related to:
- Budget Travel
i think most of vietnam has this,but mostly late evenings while heading back to my hotel i was approached by local females for either offering some special company or they were heading in that direction too. Beware of the moto driver appearing offering to give you both a lift as its her accomplaice. in hanoi this happened and although i made my intentions clear she continued to strike conversation for 5 minutes whilst i wa walking.suddenly when i noticed i was alone,my hands went in to my pockets which had been unzipped and i noticed my dollars gone.looking round she was heading towards the moto and i mangaed to pull her off it whilst it was driving off,round her neck and pinned her to the ground,succesfully gettin my money back.on hindsight if local police had arrived,well maybe it could have been real bad for me.Related to:
- Beer Tasting
Watch out in traffic!
Wherever you are in Vietnam, but especially in the big cities, the traffic is extremely busy. Almost everybody drives a motorbike and they don't care about traffic lights too much: a red light doesn't necessarily mean that they stop...
If you wanna cross a street: take your time, don't run but slowly move towards the other side of the street. Because it's so crowded the traffic doesn't move very fast, so it is possible to cross without injuries.
After a couple of days you get used to this chaos and then it can actually get quite amusing!
Most important thing: don't rush, don't run and take your time to get to your destination!Related to:
- Road Trip
Vietnam is a very safe country... the only real danger is caused by traffic. Traffic is really bad, there are zillions of motorbikes on the road, and no road rules. Put the three together and you'll realize that road crossing can become quite an adventure. Sometimes it looks as if a river made of motorbikes is coming towards you, ready to hit you.
The best way to cross a busy road is to remember the followings:
- cars do not stop (never) for pedestrians
- motorbikes do not stop for pedestrians
- bicycles do not stop for pedestrians
However you can try the following: if there are no cars in sight (quite often), walk very slowly across the road... always at the same pace, and don't stop for any reason: motorbikes and bicycles will miraculously avoid you.
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