So I’m going to start off this post with a simple fact: I hated Vietnam. BUT, I can objectively look at it and say that most of the reasons I did not like my tour through Vietnam were not Vietnam’s fault.
I had a very unlucky streak during my time in the country and for some reason it started in Vietnam and stopped when I left. These frustrations caused a bit of a panic and I was debating a whole spectrum of different options, including leaving Southeast Asia, going back to Spain, and just calling it quits. This “series of unfortunate events” included almost being denied into Vietnam and having to pay double the visa fee, an emergency passport, dirty hostels with unsocial people (one even had rats), losing my phone in Hoi An, missing my flight to Myanmar due to my phone being stuck in customs, and then almost not being able to leave.
So, that being said, I can objectively say that Vietnam is likely a great destination for many, it might not be the right one for others. I’ll do my best to keep my opinions on travel in Vietnam to be about the travel, and not the unlucky stuff I had to deal with.
Pro: Hoi An
Despite losing my phone at the beach in Hoi An, the city is charming. The Old Town is famed for its lanterns both hanging from the shops and floating along the river, tailor made suits, and its shopping. While there aren’t a ton of attractions and landmarks in Hoi An, the charm is what draws many to visit. The night market is one of my favorites in Southeast Asia and the beach isn’t as busy as others in the country.
Con: The Weather
Maybe it was my disliking of Vietnam, but the weather seemed to have been the hottest and the most humid of Southeast Asia that I have experienced thus far. I would shower in the morning, walk outside, and immediately be dripping in sweat. I’m a person that thought he loved the heat but Vietnam has had me questioning this love. For me, the heat was unbearable, mostly because of the humidity. Spain was in the 100s, Cairo was in the 110s, but those were dry heats. The humid heat in Vietnam made me want to just stay inside all day and not do anything.
Pro: Ha Long Bay
Not exactly Vietnam’s best kept secret, by any means, but the landscapes are stunning. If you have the time, stay overnight on a boat for a richer, deeper dive into arguably Vietnam’s tourism crowned jewel. There are day tours of the bay as well, though, which is what I did with my parents, who were visiting me in Vietnam.
Everywhere I went in Vietnam, I was stressed out. The country is CHAOTIC. The streets, the traffic, the shops, everything. Motorbikes outnumber people in Saigon and Hanoi traffic will have you fearing for your life just trying to cross the street. Vendors at street markets can range from friendly to chasing you down the street screaming expletives at you for not buying anything from them (yes that happened to me). Getting a mile down the street will take you an hour in a car and your heart will be in your throat the whole way down. I saw probably 5 or 6 people get hit by the buses I was in throughout Vietnam (thankfully, no people were hurt, unfortunately one dog died). If you are looking for a relaxed vacation, don’t go to Vietnam.
Easily the cheapest place I’ve ever been. I would have a three course meal and a drink for about $4. I did a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels outside of Saigon and I did it for about $7. The prices are unbelievably cheap, now that I’m in Thailand it feels expensive when I pay $8 for a meal. If you’re looking to stretch a budget, look no further.
One final pro: The Hideout-Hangout Hostel in Saigon
They were recommended by my friend Carrie who backpacked SEAsia last year. Like I said, all my hostels were pretty bad in Vietnam, no one socialized, they were dirty. I looked to her for a recommendation and they did not disappoint! Two free beers every night, social events, really cool people, highly recommend them. They did not pay me to advertise for them, although I wouldn’t mind if they did!