Attention Travelers to Vietnam: Here are What You Should and Shouldn’t Do!

Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

It is always a good idea to come to a foreign country (whether for travelling, intern or study abroad) well-prepared with proper code of conducts and ready to experience the culture with the minimum amount of culture shock. Vietnamese are world-known friendly and they would appreciate it a lot if they see travelers making the effort of learning and trying to respect their etiquette.

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With that being said, here are some of the things we suggest you do and avoid doing during your stay in Vietnam.


  • Dress rather conservatively. Vietnamese people, especially the older generation in rural areas are still pretty conservative. It is therefore a good idea if you are visiting a local family, to dress moderately. The dress code is more relaxed in major cities, we know it’s tempting to wear that cool short out since it’s hot but it is best to avoid wearing short shorts to most places.

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Vietnam’s national costume is ‘ao dai’ but the majority don’t wear it every day. Photo: Báo Dân Trí

  • 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. There are plenty of convenient stores or local stores around the city center areas that sell water bottles.
  • If you are eating out, use lime to brush your utensils, lime are available at almost any dining place and this will help sanitize your chopstick or spoons. 
  • Keep hold of your bags. If you are wearing a backpack, make sure to put it in front of you when you are on a bus or a very crowded area. If you have a small cross bad, make sure to keep it close to you, especially when riding a motorbike or bicycle. Bag snatching is a big problem that big cities in Vietnam haven’t been able to fix.
  • 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.
  • If you are staying at a hotel or hostel, take their business card with you whereever you go, this will make it easier for you to communicat to drivers where you want to return to. Vietnamese words are hard to pronounce correctly, therefore the chances of you mispronouncing or the driver misundertanding are very likely. 
  • Do expect to pay less for a beer than a bottle of water – but remember our hydration tip above!

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Use lime provided on the table to clean your utensils when you eat out at street vendors. Photo:


  • Don’t wear shorts or revealing 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 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 drink ice when you are eating out at a street food vendor. The ice from some places is made with tap water and tap water in Vietnam is unsafe to drink, especially for foreigners. If you do want to drink at a street vendor, just make sure to omit the ice from your cup.

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Don’t wear shorts or revealing clothings when visiting temples. Photo:


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