One of the Best countries in Asia…
Vietnam isn’t really ready for Western tourism…
Toilets (mostly) have been upgraded to “W.C.” (Western toilets) and the few squatters that remain are an option for the locals. Of course every now and then you can expect to squat, but usually in little towns public places and restaurants only. Hotels and even the (horrid) trains have flushers.
I say trains are “horrid” for a few reasons:
- Don’t expect to sleep on a train (they blare TV–but if you get a “sleeper” and you share it with friends (4-sleeper) that is pretty good and you can sleep)
- Don’t expect the train to be clean (“apple juice” (?) spilled along the floor = common)
- Don’t expect to pay the same price as the Vietnamese (eg. the Train staff will charge you 1000% more than the locals in keeping with the “short nose, good price” mentality).
Don’t expect hotels to have VISA or debit machines. Tailors regularly do, but the hotels expect everyone to pay in USD or VND (dong) in a massive tax dodge where they keep claiming that they “normally have VISA” (they don’t) and they claim that it is “just broken today”.
Also make sure you do your own math and check the VND to USD conversion rate yourself.
Also, always write down what price they quoted you for laundry price/kg, and they you hold them to it…and that they don’t confuse your bill with “your friends”….
the whole “checkout” affair from even very nice hotels is a bit dodgy.
Booking Tours can be seriously tedious. For instance, in my 2007 Tour Guide Book of Vietnam, they caution you against using booking with the “wrong Sinh Cafe”.
Since this publication however, about 100 other “Sinh Cafes” have opened up! And let me tell you, some of them are WAYYYY WRONG.
There is no “patent” law or business registration regulation in Vietnam to disable other companies from taking the same name.
As such, a successful company can be mimicked MANY MANY times–and with ZERO control over the quality of their product.
You might hear that “Sinh Cafe” is conscientious, reputable tour agency. But make sure you get the right address–and that they haven’t moved.
You have to be really careful booking tours–at the best end, they will provide everything they promise for the quoted price–but at the worst end, they will take your money and hoodwink you without any law protection or cleft of conscience.
This is the trickiest part about tour booking. Use your own judgment and rely on the advice of travelers. As a traveler–make sure you post about the services, accommodation and customer service you experience (eg. Trip Advisor).
The Vietnamese proudly tout their rave reviews (eg. Lonely Planet recommendations) and they are VERY internet saavy –word of mouth carries clout, so use it–and spread it around!