Living in Saigon, Vietnam- 25 dos and 25 donts

25 DON'T’s

  1. Do not pat on people's heads. It is considered to be rude in Vietnam and in Asia in general.

  2. Do not shop at Ben Thanh market. They will rip you off. If you really have to shop there, buy only from those blue uniform ladies because they fix the price + Gov regulations

  3. Do not use, wear or show valuable items in public if you don't want to get robbed.

  4. Do not bring winter clothes. There are only two seasons in Saigon: hot season and really hot season.

  5. Do not play, take or rip any flags you see on the street. It is public property and you could be arrested. It is serious (no jokes) ha

  6. Do not carry more than two people on a bike. Unless the third one is a dog.

  7. Do not go shirtless in public and wear revealing clothes to temples, churches, mosques or government offices.

  8. Do not drive on the left car lane if you ride a motorbike.

  9. Do not eat before the host starts.

  10. Do not drink tap water. DO NOT.

  11. Do not trust Google Map. Welcome to Saigon where you have duplicated address or non- existing address. It is best to confirm the address with a local person first.

  12. Do not let your dogs or cats run around without your attention if you don't want them to get snatched.

  13. Do not be surprised when you see a Vietnamese lady all covered up like a ninja. Yes, we love white skin.

  14. Do not give money to street beggars. To your surprise, most of them are organized groups pretending to be handicap to ask for money.

  15. Don't complain if it is noisy early in the morning. Vietnamese people tend to wake up really early for school, work and exercise. So do the roosters.

  16. Do not expect every Vietnamese to stay in line.

  17. Do not go out alone late at night especially in remote areas.

  18. Do not lose your parking tickets if you don't want to go through hassle to get your bike back.

  19. Do not park your motorbike at anywhere, except parking lot if you don’t want trouble afterwards.

  20. Do not take pictures of others without their permission. Same thing applies to military and government buildings/offices if you don't want to get arrested.

  21. Do not take a YES as a YES and a NO as a NO. Vietnamese in general are indirect. They tend not to give a straight no.

  22. Do not leave your stuff unattended wherever/whenever you go.

  23. Do not be too touchy at the first few meetings. Vietnamese are not used to a lot of physical greeting like hugging or kissing.

  24. Do not rush Vietnamese. Vietnamese have a very relaxing perspective on time. So 15-20 minutes late is usually acceptable.

  25. Do not display public affection with your partner.

25 DOs

  1. Be aware of the two names of the city. It’s Ho Chi Minh City, but the locals still call it by its former name Saigon.

  2. Do call the waiters Anh ơi (brother) or Chi ơi (sister) to get their attention

  3. Do always ask for the price before you order

  4. Do ask your landlord to register you to the local authority if you don't want to get fines for illegal stay. It is also useful if you want to extend your visa later.

  5. Do bring some cash with you. Credit/debit cards are not widely used in Vietnam yet.

  6. Have a 15,000 VND bánh mì (baguette) and 12,000 VND cà phê sữa đá (condensed milk coffee) for a cheap breakfast. You could almost find them at every corners of Saigon.

  7. Do get a driving license. For your information, the test is in Vietnamese. Good luck. Unless you have a national license, you could convert it to a Vietnamese one without taking the test.

  8. Do check with the hotel in advance. According to Vietnamese laws, a foreigner cannot stay with a local person in the same room unless you are married to each other.

  9. Do expect free Wifi at most restaurants and coffee shops in Saigon. Starbucks is the probably the only place that starts charging you after the first free hour(s).

  10. Do get your insurance, some companies offer insurance for foreigners Bao Viet, Liberty,...

  11. Do make sure the taxi driver reset the meter when you get on and always pay at the end of the ride.

  12. Do take off your shoes at the entrance when you enter a Vietnamese home.

  13. Do expect that a lot of toilets in Vietnam only use water faucet. So if you're a “paper person", it is highly suggested that you have a roll with you.

  14. Do use Citibank if you want highest minimum cash withdrawal from ATMs.

  15. Do get vaccinations for common diseases, Malaria, Hepatitis, Dengue, Rabia, etc. upon arrival to Vietnam.

  16. Do be careful when playing with dogs and cats here because not all of them are vaccinated.

  17. It's a tropical country so do expect insects like a lot of cockroaches (eww) in your house especially in rainy season.

  18. This may be strange to you but do take what we call the “worm pills" (Fugacar is one of the common brands) every 6 months to remove worms from your stomach.

  19. Do arrive at 8PM if you're invited at 6PM to a wedding if you don't want to wait for too long for feast time.

  20. Do expect to share and offer to share food. It could be considered rude or selfish when you take a whole dish for yourself.

  21. Do bargain because a lot of places jack up the price not only to foreigners but also to local people.

  22. Do expect that the seat on the sleeping bus won't fit you if you're 180 cm tall.

  23. Do get a motorbike if you want to get around Saigon faster. Do expect the traffic to be crazy at anytime of the day.

  24. Do expect to join a lot of group activities. Vietnamese are very collective. They enjoys doing group karaoke, group mini games, etc

  25. Do give/receive things with two hands especially to/ from people that are older than you.


“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”- Anonymous