How to cross the road, and more tips for navigating Vietnam

Jun 15, 2017

Vietnam’s coast snakes 2,000 miles from north to south, treating visitors along the way to distinct flavours, sights, and the odd cultural challenge. To help travellers traversing the length of the country, we’ve collected the best advice from Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, former general manager of The Reverie Saigon, a luxury hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. He has lived and worked throughout Vietnam, and shares a few tips he has learned over the years.

1. Dress for the occasion

If you’re planning a visit to a pagoda, a temple or other revered grounds, make sure your shoulders and knees are covered.

2. Just keep moving

When crossing the road in any of Vietnam’s major cities, don’t step back. Keep moving forward and try to make eye contact with the motorbike drivers as you do.

3. Respect your elders

A little bit of etiquette know-how can go a long way. When you clink drink glasses in a toast with someone older, the younger person always touches the lip of their glass below the lip of the elder person’s glass. Also be sure to receive and pass things with both hands from and to elders to show them respect.


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4. Bargain

Vietnam has a bargaining culture. Start by cutting the price by half or a third – and don’t forget to smile when you do. A sense of humour may help you get the best price.

5. Follow the crowds

If you would like to try street food, pick the most crowded spot. Not only are a large number of patrons a testament to the quality, it also means there’s a higher turnover of food – so it’s not sitting out for too long.

6. Save your shopping for the afternoon

Avoid the shops in the early morning. For Vietnamese shop owners, the first guest of the day is very important. If you’re the first visitor and you don’t buy anything, it’s a bad sign. If you prefer to get an early start, make sure you choose a shop with people already in it.

Singapore Airlines flies 19 times weekly non-stop from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City, and once daily non-stop from Singapore to Hanoi. Singapore Airlines’ regional wing SilkAir flies once daily non-stop from Singapore to Hanoi.

This article was originally published on May 20, 2015.