A little knowledge goes a very long way, and it’s handy to be prepared for what may come your way if it’s your first time in a new country. Find out everything you need to know when it comes to keeping safe, local culture, prices, banking and finding places to buy the essentials you need. Oh, and don’t forget to learn some Vietnamese while you’re here! Discover more below.
Some Tips on Safety
First things first, the roads. Be you a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist, always remember that nowhere is safe! Traffic in Vietnam goes both ways, down both sides of the road. No one looks before they leap, traffic lights are more of a suggestion than a law and pedestrians have no right of way at marked crossings. See Road Safety.
Check your Bike
Interested in motorbike rental whilst in Hoi An? Think your motorbike will be roadworthy? Think again! Always check brakes, tires and lights before you ride off. It is very possible nobody else has!
Beware Vietnamese Currency
Beware Vietnam currency, the 500,000 and 20,000 VND notes are very similar, as are the 100,000 and 10,000 – double-check what you are handing over and what you are getting back!
Check your Bill
Always check your bill, the Vietnamese do. It is often miscalculated. Don’t worry, you won’t cause any offence by taking a second look.
If you venture into Hoi An markets, try to avoid buying convenience items; toilet paper, coffee etc. You will see the glee in the store lady’s face as she rips you off. These kinds of items can be purchased at a mini mart for a much more reasonable price.
As far as currency goes: don’t be caught out, Hoi An isn’t quite there yet in terms of credit cards. For things like massages, tailors, souvenirs and many restaurants you will usually be asked to pay cash. Some notes in Vietnamese currency are also quite similar so be aware of the difference.
Learn How to Save Money
Save money by checking out What’s Cheaper to Buy in Vietnam. You’ll be surprised by the great opportunities there.
Getting clothes made up? If it’s not one of the very big Hoi An tailors (Be Be, Yaly…) Get the tailor to write down the agreed cost before the work commences. There has been a small amount of cases where the tailor charged higher than was agreed. To find the best Hoi An tailors in town check out our section on Tailors.
Hoi An is a sleepy town. Between 11.30am and 2pm the town goes quiet and people start snoring. To buy anything or to do business go outside of these hours.
Avoid Getting Angry
Vietnamese culture: avoid getting angry. The Vietnamese consider Westerners to be a very polite society and it comes as a big shock to them when foreigners lose their tempers. Apart from it not being a good look, you also lose face which won’t get you very far in Vietnam.
Good to Know
Keep an eye on your Fuel Gauge
Running out of petrol. No petrol station in sight. Fear not, bottles of petrol are sold at many corner shops for around 25,000 VND. Ask for ‘Mot chai xang’ (Mawt chai sang).
Buy a SIM Card
Buying a SIM card is easy in Vietnam . You will need to present your passport. You can buy them at electrical shops with the following signs: ‘MobiFone, Viettel and Vinaphone’.
A small amount of money on your card will last a long time. If you need to put more money or add data on your SIM you can do this at most corner shops (look for the signs: MobiFone, Viettel, Vinaphone or SIM)
To check how much credit you have left: dial *101#
When referring to a Street or Road
When you see street signs in Vietnam, you will notice they don’t have ‘Street’ or ‘Road’ at the end. In Vietnam when talking about a particular road or street, you simply call it by the name eg: Hai Ba Trung or Cua Dai or Le Loi.
For most nationalities, getting a Vietnam visa is straightforward, but it’s good to know the various options available in advance. A little planning ahead to get the right visa for you and your travel needs will undoubtedly save you money and time, as well as ensure that your time in the country isn’t spent sorting out paperwork.
If you come from a country where everything is fixed price and you’ve no choice but to pay the extortionate amount on the sticker, then Vietnam’s bartering culture may surprise you. It’s actually a really fun way to do business and a great way of interacting with local people. Prices will often start high – that’s how bargaining begins – and then it’s over to you to see how much of a discount you can negotiate. Of course, there’s never any obligation to buy, and bartering should be done with smiles and friendliness on both sides. For an idea of what to pay, check out our Prices‘ page.
Post Offices & Banks
From sending post cards and parcels back home, to finding the banks with the best rates, find everything you need to know on our Post Offices & Banks‘ page.
Whilst the markets in Hoi An really are the places to go for all of your food shopping, there might be a few essentials you need that you can’t find there…toiletries perhaps, or that Western food staple that you simply can’t live without. Hoi An has a growing number of supermarkets in which you’ll find pretty much everything you can imagine – find our recommended convenience stores here.
Whilst many local people you meet in Hoi An will have at least a basic grasp of English (or French), learning some Vietnamese phrases will make a huge difference to your stay. Vietnamese people will really appreciate the effort, and it helps to break the ice with strangers – no matter how bad your accent! Of course, it’ll also help you when traveling around, ordering what you’re looking for in restaurants and bartering. We’ve a list of handy Basic Vietnamese phrases here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Find all your questions about traveling, tipping, rental, currency and more on our handy FAQs‘ page.