Here are some tips for you when you travel to Vietnam. Some of the things I list here are also tips for traveling in general.
There are many excellent online sources for traveling these days, but there is nothing like having a printed travel guide book when you are in a foreign country. Some guidebooks can feel bulky and heavy to carry in a suitcase. You can find inexpensive ones in English on streets of Vietnam. They were about US$5 when we bought one in Vietnam.
LITTLE ONES ON A FLIGHT
Are you traveling with small kids? Here is a good inexpensive entertainment for your girls during a flight. My daughters both loved playing with their sticker books. My older one received a sticker book from her friend in the States and loved it and I found an Indonesian version here. They are about Rp. 69,000 ($7) at a local book store. We don’t have a fancy MP3 player to play a movie, so our girls had to play with conventional toys. Good enough for them.
HELPFUL TO HAVE DURING A TRIP
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City
☆Kleenex (2-3 packages)
☆hand gels (optional)
☆iTouch (WiFi is everywhere)
☆hair conditioner (all the hotels we stayed did not provide one)
☆hat and sunscreen (if you are going to do Mekong Delta Trip)
☆sweater or jacket (if you are going to travel to Hoi An in winter)
☆at least 2 pairs of shoes (sandals are fine for the sunny weather) for the wet weather
Overnight Train Ride
☆make-up remover wipes (if you put make-up on, obviously!)
☆bottles for water for drinking and brushing teeth
Let me tell you about iTouch. It is super useful to have it during your trip for looking for store address, finding reviews, and even make phone calls through Skype you download to your iTouch. We used Skype to call our hotel in Hoi An as they changed our reservation. It was our lifeline.
Laundry Services are everywhere and it is CHEAP! Both in Saigon and Hoi An, it was $1/kilo. We used laundry services twice. In Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City we asked our travel agent the nearest laundry places as the hotel laundry service was expensive. There were two locations our travel guy showed us that are located close to our hotel. You should take advantage of the service. Everything came back nice and clean.
I have heard stories about people being ripped off by taxi drivers in Vietnam. Here are two companies you can trust and we used them all the time and had no problems: VINASUN and MAILINH. They have a meter in their cars, so you know that the prices are legit. It’s a peace of mind to know what companies to use. We did not need to use Taxi at all in Hoi An.
These are just ideas. I’m sure there are other wonderful items we didn’t pick up.
We bought many of our souvenirs at Ben Thanh Market. This market is one of the places you have got to check out if you are a tourist in Saigon. It’s like a tourist trap though. I would like to post about it if people are not sick of hearing about my trip! My husband bought cashews as he heard that cashew nuts are popular souvenir from Vietnam. I bought those fried coconut and my girls and I LOVED them. I bought many little cases made of fabric. I love my travel jewelry case, so I bought several to give away as a gift.
If you shop at Ben Thanh Market, don’t rush to buy at the first store unless you don’t really care how much you have to pay. There are always several stores that sell the same items and they are usually next to each other, so it’s easy to ask around and go back to your favorite. Our Vietnamese friend told us that the Ao Dai for kids should be around $5. In my experience, the first store always gave me the highest price and there are other vendors who gave me cheaper prices without hesitation.
It rained the first three days we were in Hoi An. It felt chilly on the first day and people wore jackets and sweaters. We didn’t bring our umbrellas, but the hotels provided us two in our rooms. We also bought those cheap plastic rain coats. It’s like a garbage bag with arms. I wouldn’t pay more than $1 for this. It came very handy.
TAILORS IN HOI AN
Hoi An is very famous for its tailors. Everyone who goes there seems to make something during their trip. We read on Trip Advisor that YALY (shown above) was one of the best places to make clothes. We were right there, but we didn’t try. We felt that you need at least 3 (or preferably 4) full days to make something you’ll be satisfied with. We only had two full days there and didn’t think it was enough to make a suit for my husband, so we forewent the idea. Maybe next time.
If you want to make something there, I think it will help a lot to have your favorite clothing item that you can no longer buy at a store to give as an example and ask to make the exact copy of the item. Don’t bring something you can’t afford to lose or get ruined though.
These shoe stores look just like the ones you’re familiar with, right? Well, they are very different. The shoes you see in display are mere samples. They are all order made shoe stores.
We didn’t buy any clothes, but we had some shoes made. I had two pairs of sandals made, and my husband had a pair of sneakers made. What we did was we used a shoe store where we found sample shoes we liked. If you have a pair of shoes or sandals that you would love to make a copy, bring them and make the exact copy of the shoes. Make sure you have at least 2 full days. I wish we had the third full day in Hoi An since one of my sandals I made (no photo here) fell apart, but I couldn’t take them back to have them fixed as we ran out of time.
For visiting the World Heritage Sites, you buy tickets for $5 per person to visit some designated buildings you can tour in Hoi An. The tickets are good for 24 hours. We bought tickets on the first day, but I wish we did that on the 2nd day. If you have two full days there, I’d suggest that you spend the first day to just walk around, learn about the city, maybe find a tailor or shoe maker and enjoy the scenery. Then, you can use the second day to go visit specific sites. We only used two tickets and they expired!
We took a flight back from Hoi An to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City to catch our flight back to Jakarta from Saigon. I was very impressed with the Vietnam Airlines. Clean with individual screen for something like $55 per person to fly back from Hoi An to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.
If you are looking into buying a suitcase, may I suggest something? It is so much easier to use a suitcase with 4 wheels. It is flexible as it goes to any directions and easier on your arm. It also feels much lighter as you can just push it as opposed to pulling the weight of a suitcase with two wheels while you drag it. Your kids can even push the suitcase with 4 wheels, but it’s too heavy for kids to pull a suitcase with 2 wheels. I’m not a sales person and I don’t have any particular brand I am suggesting. There is no price differences between a 2 wheeled one and 4 wheeled one. Why not have an easier equipment unless you have a particular designs in mind?
I hope you enjoyed my two cents. Just a little note from me to you who are thinking about traveling to Vietnam. Bon Voyage!