The nation’s capital, Hanoi, is also Vietnam’s cultural heart. Tap into the city’s heritage as you wander the vibrant streets of the Old Quarter at leisure. Browse the area’s markets, vendors, and talented artisans, only stopping to enjoy the local delicacies - like phô, cha ca, and bun cha – en route.
Make time to explore Hanoi’s most iconic landmarks. This includes the historic Temple of Literature, famed One Pillar Pagoda, and revered Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
In contrast to Hanoi’s cultural relics, check out its more modern gems, including the world-class Hanoi Opera House, fascinating Vietnamese Women’s Museum, and panoramic Lotte Observation Deck views.
First-timer travel tips for Vietnam
Thanks to the warm, welcoming locals and rare instances of violent crimes, Vietnam is generally a safe country. Like any new destination, however, it pays to have your wits about you as you explore.
Read these top travel tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday to Vietnam.
On the road - On arrival to Vietnam, one of the first elements of cultural shock is the steady, never-ending stream of motorbikes. There are over 65 million registered bikes across the country! It’s utterly fascinating to watch their daily dance, but every first-time visitor feels concerned before they attempt to cross them, so follow these simple rules
- Wait for a gap in the traffic if possible
- Keep walking (don’t run) at a steady pace so the bikes can weave around you
- Stay calm
- Put your arms in the air if you’re worried about not being seen as you cross
Currency - The Vietnamese dong is available at banks, ATMs, and reputable exchange offices. Withdraw money from ATMs when the branch is open in case anything happens during the transaction. Do not exchange your AUD with street vendors, as scams are common. Consider loading a travel money card prior to departure for additional protection of your funds.
Passport safety - While there is an Australian consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s never a good use of your holiday time to need to make a visit there. With that in mind, consider these tips to keep your passport safe while travelling in Vietnam.
- Get certified copies of your passport’s main page before leaving home and keep in separate places
- Lock your passport in the hotel safe, keeping only a certified copy on you while sightseeing
- When travelling between destinations use a money belt
- Never place your important documents in an airline seatback pocket
Phone safety - Discretion is key to keep your mobile phone secure during your Vietnam travels. Keep it out of sight and stored in a zipped bag or front pocket while out and about to minimise the chance of it being swiped by an opportunist pickpocket or motorbike thief.
To keep your data safe, turn on a 6-digit passcode, biometric authentication, and a phone tracking app.
Shopping scams - Shopping local is a fun way to give back as you explore a destination, however, there are some common tactics intended to part you with more of your cash in Vietnam.
To avoid inflated prices, always ask the price and check whether it’s in Vietnamese dong or the US / Australian dollar. Be mindful when purchasing leather goods, including tailored items, these are often fake or only partially made with leather. And if a vendor’s sales tactics feel too aggressive, walk away.
Overall, Vietnam is safe when you apply these commonsense measures, along with recommendations from the Australian government’s travel advisory for the region.