Dos & Don’ts For Travelers in Vietnam

The Vietnamese are very appreciative if they see travelers trying to abide by their various customs, and very forgiving when you get it wrong.


It's always a good idea to arrive in a foreign country armed with the proper etiquette, ready to experience the local culture. 

Here are a few dos and don’ts for your trip to Vietnam.


  • Dress conservatively, especially you ladies out there. The dress code is more relaxed in major cities but do yourself (and the Vietnamese) a favor - don’t wear booty shorts to the fish market.
  • Drink loads of water as you’re wandering around checking out the sights. The heat can be oppressive and heat stroke can be a real killjoy, so take our advice and drink up – water that is!
  • Hold your bag in front of you and wrap it around a limb when riding in a Cyclo – bag snatching is a big problem and if you are looking at a Pagoda there’s a good chance someone’s looking at your bag.
  • If you’re invited into a local’s home (which is really the only way to travel), be sure to take your shoes off at the entrance.
  • Travel by train, it’s one of the best ways to see the country through the eyes of the locals. Prepare for the trains to be late and smelly – but that’s part of the charm, right?
  • Carry a bit of toilet paper with you at all times – we won’t go into detail – just trust us.
  • Make sure that you have a hotel/hostel business card from the reception desk. This will make your return to the hotel in a taxi or cyclo much easier.
  • Do expect to pay less for a beer than a bottle of water – but remember our hydration tip above!


  • Don't wear shorts or old T-shirts to visit a Pagoda, they won’t let you in. Be sure to dress conservatively and dress for the occasion, you are after all visiting a piece of history.
  • Don't sit with your feet pointing towards a family altar if you are staying in someone’s house.
  • Don't take pictures of anything to do with the military, this can be considered a breach of national security and trust us, you don’t want to see the inside of a Vietnamese jail.
  • Don't take video cameras into the small villages, it is considered very intrusive and they’ll be too polite to ask you to stop filming.     
  • Don't display any personal displays of affection! Just don’t do it. Find a hostel, hotel, whatever suits – but anything beyond holding hands is seriously frowned upon.
  • Don't expect to sleep late as Vietnam starts moving at 6am and the noise can be overwhelming.

Our Top Tip at the moment?

Do make a difference when you travel.

There's no greater way to experience a culture and participate in a local community, than to become involved in a volunteer project during your travels.

Vietnam offers ample opportunities to aid in developmental, environmental and educational projects throughout the country. 

Our friends at Buffalo Tours can help you find out more about travelling responsibly while visiting Vietnam.

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  • Rainer said

    All good information. In regards to Filming in anything to do with Military and Village.<br>How sensitive are things in Vietnam as fahr as Photography is concerned. My common sense and courtesy may not be their common sense or courtsey?<br>Feed back from Photographer would be appreciated.<br>

  • Anna said

    Where is the picture that is above? I love hikes that lead to excellent views and this is a view worth seeing. Any chance you could tell me where this is and how to get there?

  • Asia South East said

    Anna - the picture is of Halong Bay. The best and most usual route is to take a bus from Hanoi. Some people visit for the day and others choose to stay on board a boat or even on an island. It is very easy to get to as it is such a famous port of call for tourists in Vietnam - you can't miss the tourist agents in Hanoi, nor the pictures of Halong....pretty much everywhere. Its a must see in Vietnam - just make sure you hire a kayak and explore where the boats cannot reach - its paradise!

  • Mel said

    Hey - where exactly in Halong bay is that photo taken? Is it Titop peak?<br>Thanks,<br>Mel

  • taufikuieks said

    Hi. Thks for the tips

  • Elizabeth said

    Hi, thanks for your useful tips<br>For who love traveling and hiking, I know a good local tour operator providing interesting adventure tours in Vietnam. Last month, I have a nice trip in Halong Bay Kayaking and trekking in Nui Bai Tho Mountain. Everything is incredible!!<br>Here is the fanpage of this company:<br>May it help you :)

  • Melissa said

    I found that in most parts of northern Vietnam, as long as I asked if I could take pictures they were normally okay with it. The mass majority of rhe no picture taking thing is near any military or government building. <br>Also if traveling or staying on a boat in ha long Bay, travel with your own blanket and a plastic sheet to cover the bed. Many of those boats have a serious bed bug problem

  • Mary Purdy said

    How about the currency,what do they prefer Dong or US,dollars what does a coffee,or a beer cost .Do they serve Vodca and orange juice,or what alcohol drinks should I try.<br>Thanks

  • Manuel B said

    Ladies, please disregard the conservative conversation about you NOT wearing booty shorts. Vietnamese woman wear booty shorts too. <br>It's simply hot and comfortable and I've seen Vietnamese woman wear booty shorts at the Pagoda as well. :) <br>I have lived in Vietnam for over a year now.

  • Nicolas Albernhe said

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    Next time you are visiting Nha Trang, lease take the time to review our bar. Here the basic details:

    The Rooftop Lounge is one of Nha Trang's favorite restaurant-bar-lounge!
    Since 2007, we have commit ourselves to offers our travelling guests (and the expatriate community) diverse and fun nightlife events, fantastic cocktails, a tasty selection of fast food. Our intimate venue is a sure bet if you want to drink/eat well, listen good music, have fun and to meet some of the coolest people of Nha Trang! They (our friendly expats) are mature, interesting and funny and they know how to make you feel like you're in a place you belong! Read more below...

    Thank You,
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    The Rooftop Lounge @havanhotel
    73/6 Trần Quang Khải, 5th Floor, Lộc Thọ, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam

  • Eddie said

    Relax. I ate street food in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. No problems. Walked the streets at night near the Independance Palace, HCMC...plenty of Vietnamese younsters around, singing, having a great time.

    Take the taxis recommended by the hotel. Crossing the streets can be crazy but follow the locals or nip in behind them. Looks more like traffic in Shanghai 25 years ago.

  • Indochina said

    @Manuel B: Even though the Vietnamese​ girls are now more modern in dressing, but it never hurts to dress politely anywhere. In addition to respecting the culture of Asians and the oldsters, the hot weather does not have to be by always dressed in tank tops​ and hotpants. By dressing politely, local people may be more respectful of foreign tourists than tourists dressed offhand.

  • roy nirschel said

    Some of the comments are right on, others are very location-specific.
    Of course no one should wear skimpy shorts to temples or markets but beach wear in DaNang or stylish but skimpier clothing in Saigon is normal (where the average temp is 90 degrees)

    Water is readily available in large and small bottles and staying hydrated is necessary.
    I would recommend the excellent and cheap airline system - Viet Jet and VN Airlines for distance travel rather than trains or buses (the latter often unsafe at any speed) for any long distance.

    Prices are rising and Vietnam isnt the "bargain" it was compared to a decade ago, but what it. Western style accommodations, Western-style meals are pricey so try to stay as "local" as possible. get off the beaten path and try areas outside of Sapa (Sapa itself becoming an ethnic zoo), the Central Highlands, off shore islands like Con Dao to get a broader VN perspective.

  • Laura Gammack said

    I wrote a song about traveling Vietnam using my ukulele and you can listen to it at this link:

  • Apoorva said

    "The dress code is more relaxed in major cities but do yourself (and the Vietnamese) a favor - don’t wear booty shorts to the fish market."

    You could phrase this in a better sense. I understand that ladies need to be careful on this front, but saying that we are doing a favor for the Vietnamese by not wearing booty shorts sounds very condescending.

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