'I've been to Vietnam 15 times. These are my top recommendations everyone needs to know.'

There’s nothing I love more than setting off on my annual Vietnam holiday and reconnecting with this special country. 

My daughter and I lived in the city of Hoi An for a while, and every day after school I would double her on my push-bike along tree-lined streets, racing to be first through the traffic lights when they turned green, dodging motorbikes and gliding on narrow pathways through the lush, green rice paddies. 

We’d watch families harvest their rice, drying it on sheets of plastic by the roadside and burning the fields, the smoke turning the whole sky pink against the setting sun. We’d pat meandering buffalo, swim in the ocean and soak in the simplicity of kids flying kites in the afternoon breeze. 

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I drank coffee all over town, and we scoffed banh mi, banh xeo and pomelo salad in little riverside cafes and beachfront restaurants. It was a dream.

It only takes one visit to fall in love with Vietnam's friendly people, delicious and healthy cuisine, temples, ceremonies and stunning nature — from karst mountains to tropical beaches, lantern-lit towns and steamy jungles. 

I return every year with my daughter (and host group trips there as my job) and these are the things you need to know before you go (and you really should go). 


Australians need a visa to enter Vietnam. 

The most important thing to know is that you must get your visa before you leave the country or you won’t be able to board the plane.

It’s an expensive exercise to get a visa express processed at the last minute while you anxiously wait at the check-in counter. 

A holiday visa costs around $40 AUD and it can take at least seven days to be issued, so it’s a good idea to apply a few months before you leave here. 

The coffee is delicious — the wine, not so much.

Vietnam has an amazing coffee culture, and it produces so much of it, it's the world’s second largest coffee exporter. My favourite, coconut coffee, is an instant addiction, made with coconut milk and ice and topped with coconut ice-cream. You can also try salt coffee (apparently tasting like salted caramel), egg coffee (made with egg-yolks and condensed milk) and the popular iced coffee Ca Phe Sua Da at cafes and restaurants everywhere. Every café will have their own special way of making it, so it’s important to try many. 

Vietnam also produces wine in the mountains of Da Lat but I would suggest opting for the Chilean wine most bars will have on hand. 

Image supplied. 


Yes, crossing the road in Vietnam is an art. 

Once you get the hang of it though, it feels like a superpower. The trick is knowing that the motorbikes (Vietnam has 70 million of them!) will go around you so maintain your pace as you cross. 

Stay steady, don’t speed up or slow down, flap your arm out if you like (a signature move of mine) and everyone will go around you. As I yell to my guests, ‘Hold the line!’ It’s a thrill you’ll master in no time. 

The locals can be very honest. 

"Evie, you got so fat."

"Don’t come in my shop, no clothes will fit you."

"Why do you look so old?"

Don’t be upset if you’re greeted with some brutal honesty. I know now to laugh it off but at first, the straight shooting comments from Vietnamese women can be a bit of a shock. 

I like to think they’re just helping me to make the most of my time by not looking in a shop that doesn’t stock my size. Just don’t let it bother you. Laughter is key. 


It’s very safe.

Of course you need to be careful, especially in the bigger cities, but in Vietnam’s towns and villages you’ll find yourself feeling so safe and looked after, even protected, that you’ll be able to relax and roam without worrying. 

I have no problem walking around at night, or leaving my things on the beach under the eyes of the beach ladies who sell their trinkets to tourists. 

Image: supplied. 


You can have a theme park to yourself for the day. 

There is an abundance of huge, modern theme parks in Vietnam and they’re generally empty. This is, sadly, because the cost is usually out of reach for locals and so the only people there are tourists who want to spend a day at a fun park. 

These vast themed lands are filled with water slides, modern rides and replica Vietnamese towns, and you won’t have to queue at all. Sometimes they’ll even have to turn the rides on for you! 

The exception to this is Ba Na Hills in Da Nang — you may have seen photos of the famous hands holding up the Golden Bridge — which is always heaving thanks to Instagram.

It's the best food in South East Asia. 

Yes, I’m calling it, Vietnamese food really is the best. 

The abundance of fresh herbs and vegetables in Vietnam — plus its growing organic farming industry — means everything you eat has been picked or produced that day, with local farmers selling their produce at morning markets. Make sure to try pho, the delicious beef soup, and banh mi, a crispy baguette filled with vegetables, pork belly, pate, herbs and secret sauce. And my favourite, Banh Xeo, the Vietnamese pancake. 

Eat street food, eat from food carts, eat at cafes, on the beach or at restaurants — anywhere and everything you try will be incredible. 

Image: supplied. 


Be careful with your Dong. 

The Vietnamese currency is the Dong (VND), and while you’re in the country you will feel like a millionaire as the most commonly used notes start at 20,000 VND ($1.20 AUD) and go up to 500,000 VND ($29 AUD). 

Be very careful with these two notes as they are both blue and look very similar. Mixing them up is a costly mistake. 

Vietnamese people are hard-working, entrepreneurial and kind, and if you just spend a little time at local restaurants and talking to them you will make friends for life, and returning (because you will) will always feel like coming back to your second home. 

Evie travelled full time for years with her daughter and now runs group trips for women, and family trips for mums and kids. You can find her here. 

Feature image: Supplied. 

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