Beautiful Vietnam: Once is enough?, Vietnam

Beautiful Vietnam: Once is enough?, Vietnam


Despite high visa costs, Vietnam attracts many visitors from all over the world. But, do they return?
I’m an expat living in Hanoi. Whilst here, I make a point of meeting people travelling through Vietnam. I like to ask two questions. To my first question, ‘have you have enjoyed Vietnam?’ the typical answer is ‘Yes, but…’ . And, to my second question ‘would you return?’ the response tends to be an emphatic ‘No!’. Many people repeatedly visit Thailand, so why is it that for Vietnam once is enough?

The scenery?
Vietnam offers spectacular natural beauty. With its extensive coastline comes fabulous beaches. In addition to the fascinating cityscapes, there are mountains, temples, and ethnic minorities with diverse cultures.

The food?
Unless you’re vegetarian, Vietnamese food is good and inexpensive.

The transportation system?
Transportation across Vietnam is poor. Whilst some areas are served by trains, others can only be reached by bus, and many more are even less well-connected. To give a local example, to get from Hanoi to Tam Dao hill station – a popular tourist destination 80km away, the bus only goes the first 56km and for the final 24km a taxi or motorbike taxi is required. To compound the issue, outside of the big cities meters are not used and prices, especially for foreigners, can be high. Motorbikes provide the popular solution. However, many do not consider this a safe option: roads are often poor, Vietnamese road etiquette differs hugely from Western countries, and for many foreigners insurance is an issue.

The people?
Although Vietnamese often describe themselves as friendly, more common adjectives from foreigners are ‘rude’, ‘pushy’, ‘loud’ and ‘unfriendly’. The most repeated complaint is being ripped off. Recently, in a café in Sapa, I ordered from the Vietnamese menu as the prices were more favourable than on the English one which I was initially given. I met several people there who had booked rooms online only to find there was no room for them. Presumably they had been resold at higher prices. In Hanoi, many expats, especially older ones, find it cheaper to buy vegetables in the supermarkets. In contrast, for locals the street markets are much cheaper. In Vietnam many tourists do not buy any souvenirs as the prices quoted are so ridiculous. Likewise I prefer to buy in Thailand. These instances are nothing special, they are just typical of the ‘friendly’ way Vietnamese treat foreigners.


/// Written by Elisabeth Wood, Vietnam

  • The end of conflict is only a generation or so old. Psychological scars of what outsiders bring, apart from currency, will still be raw in the national psyche.

  • Annie Wu

    Well, I got food poisonousness in Hanoi last year. I fully agree with the beautiful nature part of Vietnam. It’s just the hygienic in the country and fraud in touristy industry make a bit challenging to travel in Vietnam.

  • Rachel Wood

    Comment from Kevin (who couldn’t log in): It seems like a fair summation to me and once someone has tried to rip me off, I am wary thereafter. We had 2 examples of blatant attempted theft, once in a shop but also once in a restaurant where a different wine was substututed on the second glass at more than twice the price. Needless to say, we did not pay it but it began to get a little heated for a while. Transport is probably the main issue though, including the total lack of respect for pedestrians, and would put me off bothering to travel much within the country.

  • davis felix-meleisea

    I have to agree with ‘Kris Connolly’, and to add to that, Vietnam has been invaded several times by different nations, which has probably added to their slight aversion towards foreign nationals?

    I’ve been here [northern VN] a little over two years and have experienced my fair share of Vietnamese in-hospitality, but all in all 95% of [VN] people that i’ve met are very welcoming and friendly, especially outside of the city areas.

    I read somewhere that “foreigners [in Asia] are considered unintelligent, if they don’t bargain” when purchasing items. When you don’t bargain, you leave yourself open to the sellers inflated price or ‘tourist price’. It can burdensome sometimes, playing the ‘bargaining game’, but if you have time and want to immerse yourself in the culture for a minute or two, it’s a good experience.