survive vietnam people

Vietnam is a top backpacker destination which means; cheap booze, good beaches, and cool culture. There’s so much to do in Vietnam, but, because of the influx of backpackers, there’s also craziness, crime and, scams to be aware of. I loved it there, but there’s definitely an art on how to survive Vietnam!


1. Crossing the street

survive vietnam motorbikes

I’m sure you probably already know, but crossing the street in Vietnam is a dangerous business! The roads there are crazy. Filled with a teeming throng of motorbikes, it feels like you’re putting your life in their hands. And, you kind of are! Motorbikes are good at weaving through all sorts of traffic, be it motor or human. This means that they will drive around you while you’re crossing the road. Cars on the other hand…I never tried this for myself, but I’ve been told many times that cars will NOT go around you. So don’t cross in front of a car, and you should be fine!

Confidence is key. Pick an opening (if you can find one!) in the traffic and walk at a steady pace across the road. If you stay at the same pace, this makes it easier for the bikes to judge when and where they need to move. Try not to run. You’ll put yourself at the risk of tripping, and may confuse the drivers.

If you’re really struggling, sneak across with a local. They do this all the time, so just follow their lead. After doing that a few times – you’ll be good to go!


2. Vietnamese food

survive vietnam food

Every blog I read tells me how AMAZING Vietnamese food is. None of them talk about the downsides! I hope you like rice! I did, but not enough to want it at every waking minute. I’ve lived in Japan for 2 years, and I still think I ate more rice in my 3 weeks in Vietnam…

As with anywhere in South East Asia, beware of some of the street food. Although it is usually the tastiest, it can often be unhygienic. Go for food that’s cooked right in front of you, as opposed to pre-cooked meals. This will at least mean it’s been properly cooked through, and is nice and hot.

Traditional food markets are not for the faint-hearted. I didn’t visit any for that very reason. Yes, it may seem cruel to many of us, but you will see dead dogs there read for sale. Remember, their traditions are different from ours, so don’t be rude. But if you don’t want to see it, then simply don’t go.


3. Biking it

survive vietnam motorbikes

A lot of people love the idea of buying motorbikes and riding through Vietnam. It sounds wonderful – so free! Although, every single person I met who’d done this was injured and struggling to sell their bike on. So maybe not quite as glamorous as one would imagine…

If you haven’t ridden a motorbike before – please don’t try here. The streets are crazy (see above!), and not first-timer friendly. If you really want to ride for the first time here, do it in the countryside, so you can get a feel for it first. I met a lot of people who did so in Sapa – and they loved it.

If you absolutely must ride across Vietnam, make sure you don’t miss the Hai Van Pass. It’s the best road in Vietnam, and incredibly quiet!

(Or you can do what I did, and just sit on the back of one. Let someone else deal with all the crazy!)

4. “You want to buy?”…. “No.”

survive vietnam people

Vietnam is still a very poor country. So, yes, there are a lot of street sellers about. Most of the time they are selling inexpensive items such as fans, or postcards. If you want to buy one, go ahead! Just try and do it in an area that doesn’t have many sellers. If you stop and talk to one – they will ALL come. Trust me.

When I was waiting to cross the street, a woman tried to sell me a hat. Stupidly, when I couldn’t hear what she said, I asked her to say it again. She took this as a good sign, and proceeded to deck me out in my own hat. I kept refusing, but then another woman ran over and tried to sell me fruit. Still refusing, and trying to get away, I ended up having a photo with them before finally running off. They wanted me to pay for the photo, but since I said no to it about a thousand times before they took it – I said no.

Just stick to your guns and you’ll be fine. Remember, you’re not being rude by saying no. Most people do, and these guys are used to it. Especially try not to buy anything from children. They are often being taken out of school to sell things. By buying their stuff, you’re enabling their parents to continue doing so.


5. Backpacker safety

survive vietnam drinking

It’s a big backpacker destination. You know what that means – drugs, alcohol, muggings and more. Be sensible. If you are traveling alone DO NOT walk around by yourself at night. Sure, you might be fine – but why take the risk? Lots of hostels, like the Vietnam Backpacker Hostels, run social events each night to enable you to get out and enjoy the nightlife safely. Hostel run pub crawls can be a great way to party all night! Or, get yourself on a booze cruise with a reputable company, such as Castaways, to enjoy some good, old fashioned partying!

Don’t go around flashing the cash, and making it easy for people to take your things. It happens a lot here. But, again, be sensible and you’ll be fine. I was a solo female traveler there, and had no problems. I went out and got drunk with people from the hostels, had loads of trips around the cities, and was fine. Don’t let all these tips scare you away. It’s easy to stay safe as long as you know your limits. For some awesome tips on how to stick to a budget while backpacking in Vietnam, check out Backpacking in Vietnam- A Budget Guide for some brilliant tips on keeping your costs low (while still having the BEST time!). 

Have you been to Vietnam? What would be your top tips for surviving there? How else could people survive Vietnam? Let’s Discuss!

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Surviving Vietnam - Your Ultimate Guide!

  • perfect guide at the perfect timing! i ll be in vietnam for 3 weeks end of october. thanks so much 🙂

    • GeekGirlGoes

      No problem! I went for 3 weeks too! Whereabouts are you planning on going?

  • Xavier Smith

    Love this guide. Will have to keep it handy when I head to Vietnam!

    • GeekGirlGoes

      Thanks a lot! When are you going to Vietnam?

  • Love this post! So many great tips and I lol’ed at No. 4 haha! I lived in China and it used to happen A LOT. Vietnam is defo in my bucket list x

    Urban Blond ||

    • GeekGirlGoes

      Really? I had no idea it happened so much in China! I had a vision of it being less pushy there in terms of selling!

  • Great post!! I totally agree with you about the food – don’t eat pre-packed street food. Always go with the freshest. AND make sure the place you are eating at is filled with people, because then you know the turn over of food is good. I love the first photo of you – it’s so fun! Street vendors can be annoying, because at the same time it is their business. But you’re right – you have to stick to your guns and say no. Otherwise you’ll be spending left right and centre on random products you didn’t want or need!

    • GeekGirlGoes

      Good points! I really did respect all of the street vendors I saw – making a living anyway they can! I was just a poor backpacker though with hand luggage only – no way I could buy anything! haha

  • I have wanted to go to Vietnam for so long but I am struggling to get a bargain (direct) flight from Sydney and I refuse to pay full price lol. Sound very similar to Thailand and Bali and I definetly agree that you can’t give the street seller the slightest sign of interest or you are gone! I’m glad you loved it and Ai have no issue with rice 😜

    • GeekGirlGoes

      Yeh I got some pretty good priced flights since I was living in Japan when I visited! Definitely hold out for a bargain!! I hope you get to visit soon though!

  • Gina Panozzo

    These are great tips on how to stay safe in Vietnam. I noticed motorbikes are really crazy because people will bring their entire family on a motorbike. It it fits, they sits! I think it’s such an interesting mentality. If you can ride a motorbike in Vietnam, you can ride one anywhere.

    • GeekGirlGoes

      Very true words! I saw some very loaded up bikes driving around in the cities! I always got so worried when I saw the little babies on them too!!

  • Such a good guide! I spent a week in Vietnam last summer and yes, the motorbikes were absolutely insane. I think maybe because I’m Asian, more people assumed I was local and so I wasn’t as aggressively targeted by those salespeople as you, but still I can see how there’s tons of scams for people who are clearly tourists. I LOVE Vietnamese food (but I also love rice lol so that makes sense). If you want a break from rice, their noodle dishes, spring rolls, dumplings, etc. are all to die for as well!

    • GeekGirlGoes

      Oh yes, I loved their noodle dishes! Especially Cau Lau in Hoi An! (did i spell that right? haha) – so delicious!

  • Suzannah Freeman

    Each and every one of those tips is relevant. I’ve never been to Vietnam but I know a lot about the country, its history, culture, food and of course the backpacking elements (which do not appeal to me in the slightest). People need to be aware that in developing countries that have endured real suffering at the hands of democracy, the culture is just different and you need to be careful.

    Everyone who goes to Vietnam should bear these tips in mind, just so they can offer some respect to the nation – rather than treat it like a rave capital or something. I’m so cynical haha, my bad.

    But on a fun note – you look awesome and like you had an incredible time. It’s nice to read about travellers who have their heads screwed on!

    • GeekGirlGoes

      No, you’re not cynical! haha. I totally agree with everything you said! I’m all for having fun on a trip, but sometimes people forget where they are – thats when they have problems!
      Not too sure about the head screwed on part though…. haha

  • Oh yes, crossing the street in Vietnam is a constant challenge of the mind. You know what you have to do but your brain keeps telling you that you are going to die if you make one step, haha. I loved the Vietnamese food an dI did have strange things, like frogs and bugs. I had to try them out 🙂

    • GeekGirlGoes

      I did find myself saying “Oh my god. I’m gonna die!” quite a lot! haha. I love trying weird food too! My favourite so far was a dancing squid in Japan!!

  • Crossing the street in Vietnam reminds me of Bangkok! We were so confused about how to do it! Thanks for all these tips especially about buying items, we hated the pesky calls to buy wares… It kinda ruins the trip having to combat that. I’m hoping to visit Vietnam within the year so I’ll be sure to pin this for later!

    • GeekGirlGoes

      I was so scared crossing the road when I first got there! Sounds like I’d be the same in Bangkok too then! haha

  • Haven’t been to Vietnam, but many of those things (if not all) reminded me on Mexico. Often you just need to use little bit of logic and you will be fine. Just be careful crossing lol 🙂

    • GeekGirlGoes

      Exactly! People underestimate the importance of being sensible while traveling! I’d love to go to Mexico one day!

  • Loved this read! I loved Vietnam, especially the food! the children selling things in the street always tugged on my heart strings, but you’re right. the best thing to do is to not encourage the behavior.

    • GeekGirlGoes

      I know! It was so hard to not buy things from them! I had to keep reminding myself I was doing the right thing!