-8- TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS ARE THE #1 CAUSE OF TOURIST DEATH WORLDWIDE; RIDING A MOTORBIKE IN VIETNAM KICKS ASS
I’ve had three little motorbike falls in Vietnam. Nothing worse than some ugly scrapes and a shake-up. However, I’ve seen some friends have more serious falls and I’ve seen some very-bandaged backpackers limping around Mui Ne and Sapa. Motorbikes are very dangerous.
However, getting out to the countryside on your own two wheels is an unforgettable experience and one of the highlights of Vietnam. Rent your own for $5 (manual) or $7 (automatic) throughout Vietnam. Don’t forget to fill it up with gas to avoid stalling in the middle of nowhere. Be sure to have travel health insurance and bring your information card to have ready in the case of an emergency.
If you are apprehensive to drive your own, please don’t. Lack of confidence will make you a worse driver. Pay a little extra to have a local such as the Easy Riders take you on a day trip ($13+/ day).
-9- VIETNAMESE PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THE TOURIST INDUSTRY ARE AMAZINGLY HOSPITABLE AND SWEET
Time and time again, I hear travelers complain that they were treated like “walking ATM machines” throughout Vietnam. Generally, these travelers largely stuck to the aforementioned “backpacker trail” and didn’t study-up on prices before going in.
I’ve had nothing but extreme hospitality and kindness outside of the tourist areas. Happy school children waving “hello”, invitations to karaoke and beer in the evening, free snacks on the “hard seat” trains…the list goes on. Just like everywhere else, people are great in Vietnam. Don’t let the touts and scammers sour your opinion.
-10- VIETNAM IS BIGGER THAN YOU THINK
My first trip to Vietnam, my friend Paul and I gave ourselves 11 nights to backpack from Hanoi to Saigon (HCMC). We obviously didn’t do our homework.
The train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (1726 km) takes about 34 hours. By bus, maybe 50 hours. It’s not unlike a trip from New York to Los Angeles.
If you’re doing the whole north to south trip, give yourself three weeks or be prepared to rush, or fly. There is so much to see between Hanoi and HCMC. You don’t want to watch it whizz by your window. Don’t underestimate Vietnam’s size and give yourself time to explore. If you only have a week or two, stick to either the Northern, Central or Southern regions. Don’t try to force it all down in one short fling.
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