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Your Guide to Experiencing Vietnam like a Local

Want to see a side of Vietnam they don’t shout about on the travel flyer? We’ve pulled together an in-depth guide to experiencing this incredible Asian country the way the locals do it.

Eat like a local

The Vietnamese love their rice and noodle dishes and often serve them with some form of soup and cooked meat. Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is one of the most popular dishes in Vietnam. Pho is traditionally eaten for breakfast and is becoming increasingly popular throughout the day. The Vietnamese regularly spend more than nine hours creating the popular street food, so if you plan on ordering it, make sure it doesn’t go to waste.

Another staple of Vietnamese culture is egg coffee. Yep, egg. The ingredients are relatively self-explanatory - egg whites are beaten with sweetened condensed milk until the mixture turns into a meringue-like substance. Hot espresso is then poured over the top to create a delicious, caffeinated beverage. Trust us, it’s way better than you think.

A rule of thumb when dining in Vietnam is, ‘lower the seats, better the eats’. So don’t be afraid to get low on Vietnam’s streets - they often serve the most authentic food. It is a Vietnamese tradition to eat in groups, so try to get yourself included if possible. For dining etiquette, when your chopsticks are not in use, lay them across your rice bowl - not dug into your food. It is polite to finish your entire meal and make sure to find your bill rather than ask for it sitting down at your table.

Vietnamese pho

 Experience Culture Like a Local

To fully experience Vietnamese culture, you’ll want to immerse yourself in the nations’ Buddhist religion. Visit the Bai Dinh Pagoda complex which is home to the 10-metre tall bronze Buddha and the Van Thuy Tu Temple, which is known as the oldest whale temple in Southeast Asia. The temple was built for Ca Ong (Lord Whale) and now houses the skeletal remains of more than 500 whales. This temple is strongly recommended for people wanting to experience traditional Cham rituals. For less than AUD$1 for entry and a tour, it is essential for any traveller’s list.

When visiting a temple, there are specific rules for how you should dress and behave.

  • Remove your shoes and hat upon entry
  • Keep your voice low
  • Dress conservatively
  • Never use your index finger when pointing (instead, use the right hand with the palm facing upwards) 
  • Never have your feet pointing towards Buddha or an image of Buddha when sitting down (cross your legs)

Some temples may be different from others, so pay attention to signs and signals and behave appropriately.

 Travel like a Local

In Vietnam, it is unlikely you will get around like a local. Most of the public get around on motorbikes and mopeds; however, this is now the leading cause of fatalities in the country. Our holiday specialists recommend alternative transport options like cyclos (bicycle rickshaws) and taxis.

When travelling around the country, make sure you agree upon a price before accepting a ride to ensure you don’t end up overpaying. Standard pricing for short trips should be approximately:

  • Cyclos - Less than $3AUD
  • Taxis - Less than $1AUD/km

Buses are also available; however, tourists can be charged way more than locals. The most affordable and safest forms of transport to get around Vietnam are cyclos and taxis.

 Shop like a Local

Vietnamese shopkeepers love a good haggle. If you can manage to speak some Vietnamese words, and flash a killer smile, when haggling, you’re more likely to earn their respect and get a better price. Always agree on a reasonable price before you buy, and once you say yes, don’t go back on your word. Our holiday specialists recommend these shopping spots in Vietnam:

  • Hanoi Weekend Night Market - Hanoi
  • Hoi An Central Market - Hoi An
  • Dong Xuan Market - Hanoi
  • Saigon Square Shopping Mall - Ho Chi Minh
  • Ben Thanh Market - Ho Chi Minh

 Get Ready to Experience Vietnam

Now you have all the tips to living like a local, what are you waiting for? Check out our Vietnam deals and get booking!