The good, the bad and the ugly about backpacking around Vietnam

The Good

1. Coffee

Vietnamese coffee is an absolute treat, particularly egg coffee. Standard Vietnamese coffee is very smooth, not too bitter and it just tastes really good with either milk or traditionally here, condensed milk. Be prepared that if you ask for Vietnamese coffee with milk… it will be very sweet.

Egg coffee is a beautiful thing! Even people who don’t like coffee will appreciate this treat. Its coffee with a layer of egg whisk with sugar/condensed milk (I think) but it tastes like you’re drinking cake batter. Just trust me on this, it’s good!

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2. Motorbikes/Scooters

It’s impossible to miss the sheer amount of these around cities and rural area’s, but as soon as you work out how cheap these are to rent or buy you’re off! It’s a good way to explore and site see – just be weary that the rules of the road are pretty much ‘survive’. Green = Go. Amber = Go. Red = They still go. Also if you get stopped by the police be expected to pay a bribe so carry a separate wallet with 200,000 dong.

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3. Night sleeper buses

Night buses are way cheaper than Night Trains in Vietnam and even though people had given me many horror stories of them I haven’t had a bad experience. Some maybe better quality than others, some have wifi, some come with a complimentary water and wet wipe. Others may drop you ofg somewhere unexpected but you’ll soon be woken up by a banging and an angry man yelling out the name of the city. All an experience!

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Sleeper Bus

4. Live the life of a millionaire

So currently the UK exchange rate is 32,000 to £1. So imagine your amazement when you start withdrawing 5 million out of the bank…boom!! It’s quite sureal and for a brief moment you feel like a king and also panic and make sure you’ve not massively overdrawn.

In Vietnam, it took me a long time to figure out money because when you ask for the cost and they say “one dollar” it gets very confusing  because this means 21,000 dong!!! I recommend downloading the XE currency converter app and selecting Pounds, Dong and Dollars. You will probably use this app daily in Vietnam.

The bad

The food

I’m probably going to get a lot of controversy on this one as many of the travellers I met and friends who’ve been to Vietnam rave about the food, however I found it really bland or either just tasting of lemongrass or ginger. I didn’t look forward to meal times and often opted for a few cheeky western food options. I never did this in China! Also I love my spice and it just didn’t meet my needs.

However I was pleasantly surprised that after every set meal I had across the country was always ended in fruit. You kept me healthy Vietnam! Good work!

The best food I found was in Ho Chi Minh was a noodle soup restaurant a few doors down from Hideout Hostel and the Beef Stew Noodles were so tasty. Also there was a pretty neat BBQ your own food restaurant 5 minutes further up directly outside the backpacker hostels allyway.

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The Ugly

Charging Westeners

I know tourism is a massive influence to the economy in Vietnam and I know the money we pay them goes a lot further for them then it does a westerner, but some of the scams and price increases just for being ‘foreign’ left me losing a lot of respect for the place and very bitter.

Some examples:

– On many buses there is a local cost and a foreigner cost. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

– A two litre bottle of water is about 10,000 dong on average. So when you enquire about price, they think about it for too long and respond with 25,000, chuckle and walk away. This happens so often!!

– Buying goods from shops and markets. I enjoy a haggle but when the cost starts at 100% more than the cost I get it for you lose trust in the person selling to you. Just offer me a fair price first time round!! My advice is always to know how much you want to pay and settle for nothing more!
The sad thing is I’ve seen so many people get ripped off just because they want a bit of discount but it’s really not a discount when they mark up the price too high!

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