In the mid 2000’s Vietnam seemed to discover the tourist dollar. The government let it be known to the people that tourism and the foreigners that were to come with it, will be welcomed and anybody causing us difficulties would be dealt with. It is now 2010 and Tourism has flourished. Most cities have developed areas that foreigners stay and around them has developed a tour industry that may surpass anything similar in other countries. There is heave competition for the tourist dollar and a person can get extremely good deals on travel and accommodation to many places. With the increase of tourist traffic, the ever industrious Vietnamese have introduced services that can be quite unique and exactly what a budget traveler is looking for.
First let us address tours:
Many people are overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes
their way when searching for a company. Many of them are good and will do anything to satisfy the customer. There are some that are not, but a little homework will ensure you make the correct choice. All reputable tour companies use guides licensed by the government. They will display their licenses around their necks at all times when escorting guests. They are charged to keep you safe and visit establishments that have acceptable standards for a foreigner. The last thing you want is to end up with a bad case of diarrhea and have to suffer in places where the toilet is a hole dug in the ground. The meals will be safe to eat, toilets will be relatively clean. Travel forums such as Trip Advisor can help to make a correct decision, but a person has to try to weed out the people or company promoting themselves for a profit or commission. Also…. Do not be put out by the package you
might see advertised on a website or other media. A good travel company will take the areas of interest you wish to see and custom built it to your taste. You are the boss.. You choose where you want to go, and if the tour they have pre-built is OK by you, go for it.
Things to ask a company before deciding are
Do you use all accredited guides?
Do they speak the language you want?
Are the busses or cars in new condition?
How long has your company been in business?
A little time and reading will get you a good guide…… or…. You can always ask me for a referral. I have personal friends in the business that specialize in English speaking tours.
Now, why travel to Vietnam?:
Vietnam is a country and culture very different than others. Through much of its history, Vietnam was an occupied country endlessly struggling for its freedom from foreign rule. This constant struggle has created an extremely rugged and tough people who are able to live in extreme hardship without complaint or thought about it. They work hard at everything, and
consequently also play hard when it is all over. They are a happy gracious people with a hard edge that sometimes makes foreigners nervous, but under that edge is a person who would like dearly to be your friend, and invite you into his/her home. It is something to behold, the differences in life here. At first it may come as a big culture shock. Someone described the experience t me as “Vietnam is like a big unassembled jig-saw puzzle after all of the loose pieces were poured onto the floor. It makes no sense, but as you slowly put piece by piece together, it slowly starts to make sense.” A very apt description I think. Soooo the people are great but what about value?…. I am here to tell you that Vietnam is one of the least expensive travel destinations in the world. They still have not quite figured out the rules of supply and demand, but rather compete with each other driving prices down. There also were or are a lot of regulations to where and what kind of hotels could be built. When the Vietnamese saw the tourists come, many in order to get a piece of the pie renovated their homes into guest houses and mini hotels, and they are everywhere. A person can rent a guest house in an out of the way area for as little as 4 dollars a night. On average, a budget
conscious traveler can get nice accommodation right in the heart of all the action for 10 to 20 dollars a night anywhere in the country.
The average person here makes about 60 to 100 dollars a month, so all prices are relative to that. You can spend more money staying in foreign hotels eating foreign meals, but why come to Vietnam for that? I meal in Vietnam might cost a dollar or so, and the cold beer with is 30 cents. The taxi to drive across town maybe 3 dollars. Quality clothing of any kind can be purchased for 4 of 5 dollars. Jeans, shorts, shirts…. Take your pick.
So we have established that the people are friendly and it is not an expensive place to find food and accommodation, but what about moving around?
First there is the tour company you may have chosen. They will arrange all of your transportation for you, but if you wish to go on your own?
The main modes to transportation are Air, Train, Bus, Sleeper bus, Express Taxi Bus. aqnd Open tour bus.
Travel by air is not expensive in Vietnam and a flight between cities will range from 40 to 80 dollars on an average. They are easy to book online and if no holidays are involved, a person can usually get flights in the same week. It is the fastest mode of travel. Next fastest is the express Taxi bus. It is run by a number of different companies. They have assigned seating and travel from point a to b with minimum stops. Usually these are 15 seat passenger transports. Then there is the train. The comfortable trains run at night and a solid sleeper can rent a berth and try to sleep the distance travelled. There are also recliner chairs for the more budge oriented person that does not mind roughing it a bit.
The sleeper bus is a good way to travel. Very inexpensive and the beds are not too uncomfortable. If you can sleep anywhere, this is the way to go.
Lastly are the open tour and the regular bus. The open tour is a concept where you can purchase a ticket to a destination and have 30 days to use it. The ticket allows a person to get off anywhere along the route, spend a day or two, and continue on another day. It stops frequently for breaks and nap time, so be prepared for a long day. The regular bus can be fun but very tiring. It is a constant busy overcrowded mode of transport, and almost anything is allowed on board as long as the people can profit from it. I have literally rode with chickens.
Enough for now…… more to follow…