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Top 10 Travel Essentials for Vietnam
First things first.
What do we have to take on our trip to Vietnam?
What are the travel essentials whilst on this adventure?
On our preparation days for this amazing and very exciting trip to Vietnam, we have compiled a list of Top 10 Travel Essentials when travelling to Vietnam! And here they are:
Before You Go:
1. VOA – The Mystery of the Vietnamese Visa
2. The Currency and Cheapest place to get hold of it!
3. The Precaution and Life-Saving Kit
What To Take:
4. The Video Camera for Adventure and Fun!
5. The Electronic Book, the Vietnam Guidebook and Vietnamese Phrasebook and Dictionary
6. The Handy Portable Phone Charger
7. Laptop, Universal Adapter and Headphone Splitter!
The Travel Style:
8. The Comfy but Fashionable Shoe – and yes we hiked and walked in these everyday!!
9. The Stylish Neck Pillow and Headphone Headband
10. The all Important PONCHO!
1. The Vietnamese Visa
The mystery debunked!
There are a few different ways to get hold of the visa for Vietnam, however we decided to save a fair bit of money by choosing to get the VOA – ‘’Visa On Arrival’’.
Because the method of obtaining this visa is different to the norm, a lot of people get suspicious about the legalities of it, but rest assured, whilst it sounds ‘fishy’, it is the preferred method for those traveling in and out of Vietnam on a regular basis, simply due to the fact that it is the cheapest way of getting hold of the visa!
Please note that between 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2016, holders of British, German, French, Spanish and Italian passports will not require a visa for stays of up to 15 days. For the rest of us, details to obtain your visa is explained below.
* How does it work?
1.1 You need to obtain a letter of approval, you can do this through your hotel, through your travel tour agency or through VOA focused agency.
My Vietnam Visa is one such agency.
We chose to use Cham, our local tour organiser as she did it for free as part of our various tours booked through her. She runs Halong Sapa tours (We booked our SAPA Overnight train tickets with her, as well as our Halong Bay Cruise)
Tip: It is common practise for these companies/hotels to compile a list of different travellers on the one letter and therefore your letter will consist of various traveller names, with their date of birth as well as passport numbers visible to everyone who receives this letter. This is common practise. f you are worried about the presence of all your details on this piece of paper, it would be recommended to take option B or C listed below, (which is more expensive).
1.2 Make sure you give yourself plenty of time before you travel to organize your visa. You do not want to leave it to the last minute. I would recommend you do it around 1 month beforeyour departure date.
1.3 Make sure to print out the letter of approval as you will have to show it before boarding the plane, as well as at the VOA counter on arrival to Vietnam.
1.4 At the VOA counter in Vietnam, you will have to pay a visa processing fee of $45 US per person (for a 3 month visa, if you wish to stay longer, it will cost more money). We have been told that you need the right currency as well as the correct amount.
1.5 And the last important thing, you must provide 2 photos each to complete the paperwork
Although this is the cheapest option of how to get a Vietnamese visa, it is said to be a little wait at the airport to process the paperwork. You may have to relax at the airport from 10 minutes to an hour or so. Coffee and stretch your legs should be good at this point.
Other options for obtaining a Vietnam Visa are:
- Through the Vietnamese embassy in your country
- or at the local flight agency where you might be organizing your tickets.
Those choices however will be a more costly and you will be expected to hand over your passport as it needs to be couriered to the embassy.
2. The Currency – Vietnamese Dong
The Currency and Cheapest place to get hold of it!
This part was fun for me!! I really enjoy going to our local post office, where a familiar face welcomes me at the currency exchange counter. I always feel a sense of freedom and excitement every time I walk up the stairs and stroll into the place. And here is why:
The Currency – Vietnamese Dong
To have a new pile of some freshly-made and some used Vietnamese Dong in your pocket somehow brings you that much closer to already spending them on the Streets of Hanoi, our first destination. I cannot wait to show you what we are gonna get up to in Hanoi, but you will have to be patient and wait for the next posts.
Tip: Here in Australia, post offices do not charge any currency conversion fees. So it obviously saves you money! You can also negotiate with them (only ever so slightly), so make sure you research the best currency rates before you go.
You need to exchange currency into US dollars (to cover the Visa Fees) as well as intoVND (Vietnamese Dong).
We have chosen to exchange just enough money to last us for approximately 10 days. After that stage we will be utilising the ATM services available over there. Do make sure to let your bank know that you will using your cards whilst travelling overseas though!
I am smiling just writing this paragraph. Cannot wait to be on the plane already. Are we there yet?
3. Vaccinations & Medical Kit
The Precaution and Life-Saving Kit
Preparing the essentials for travel to Vietnam or any south-east Asian country for that matter, has to include the important travel vaccinations as well as a little medical kit.
Coming from Australia, we simply have to pay a visit to the local doctor to get the list of specific travel shots required for us. With a prescription in hand, it is up to us to call a few local chemists and source the cheapest price for these vaccinnes (that can be pretty exxy!) and off to the local nurse to get the shots in the arm. So check in at your local doctor or at a travel doctor expert before you go, and don’t leave this one too late.
In our own little medical kit, we have purchased items for the following:
- Ear Planes
(ear plugs with filters for take-off and landings as Andrzej’s ears likes to play up big time!! )
- Mild over-the-counter sleeping pills
(Jolene is a light sleeper and takes these on the overnight plane trips, and she plans on taking them on that overnight sleeper train to SAPA as well!)
- Travel sickness medication
(Jolene and most things moving don’t agree, so we got hold of a good supply for the plane flights, the boat cruise through Halong Bay as well as the train ride to SAPA)
Asian Travel Essential Supplies!!
- Hand sanitiser – Liquid antibacterial gel
(For before eating, after you have been exploring all day! For after toilet breaks, when having to use less than sanitary toilets and for random moments when you simply desire to cleanse haha!)
- Tissues in adorable ‘handbag’ size packets!
(because if you have ever been to an Asian country, you know that toilet paper there is a luxury you only see in your hotel room!!)
And lastly, but probably most importantly medication for:
- and rehydrating fizz tablets (because we are going to a really hot country)
Well, that was fun thinking about all the bad possible scenarios, right? Let’s just hope that nothing funky will happen, but be prepared anyway just in case.
4. GoPro HERO4 Silver
The Video Camera for Adventure and Fun!
This is one of the most exciting things on the list for me at the moment. We have just bought our first GoPro HERO4 Silver and we are very excited to use it on our trip. Just imagine zooming around on a motorcycle, sailing on the Ha Long Bay or doing whatever else that you can imagine with this little adventure camera in hand!
GoPro HERO4 Silver
To us, GoPro will give us the chance to capture parts of our travels in a more unique way. We will be able to compile pretty cool shots and videos whilst we travel around the many destinations of Vietnam. Haha.. I am trying very hard not to give away all the secrets of our trip just yet, so you can see it first hand soon.
I think, if you go on an adventure style holiday, this camera is a MUST!! and NO we did not receive this camera for free, neither did we get a discount!
5. An Electronic Book, Vietnam Guidebook and Vietnamese Phrasebook & Dictionary
The Electronic Book
I think having an electronic reader whilst travelling is simply a MUST! Even if you don’t use it, it doesn’t take up much room and you can load them up with hundreds and hundreds of books. Electronic Readers will definitely help you out along the way, where there might not be anything else to do or maybe you might be a little bit sick of each other or something, haha.
Planes, trains, busses and other transportation may force you to stare into the back of somebody else’s chair for more than few hours, so reading will give you a little bit of escape, perhaps to a different world.
Whilst we both have different ‘brands’ of electronic readers, in essence they both allow you to read books, so it doesn’t matter either way!
I know that I am not the fastest reader on the planet, but I think my gorgeous wife is. If you think you are faster, I challenge both you and my wife to a competition. Find the thickest book in the world and we will time you. Ok, ok. That is probably not the best idea I have ever had haha. At least I crack myself up.
The Vietnam Guidebook
And of course you can never ever go wrong with a Lonely Planet Vietnam (Travel Guide)! Aren’t these just the best thing ever!!! Less than $9 for the Kindle version or $28 for the those who love the real deal.
The Vietnamese Phrasebook & Dictionary
And lastly, whilst English is widely spoken in most areas of Vietnam, I believe all avid travellers should at least try to use the most basic words in the language of the country they are visiting, so make sure to grab yourself the Lonely Planet Vietnamese Phrasebook and Dictionary, for only around $7 this book will take you a long way!
6. Portable Phone Charger
Double adapter portable phone charger. In a country like Vietnam, especially if you go rural, it might be a long time till you reach the next destination where there might power. It might be helpful the get one of these gismos when you are walking through Sapa, or any other awesome and beautiful part of Vietnam. I know that if you are anything like us, pulling out your phone to check the offline GPS navigator and snapping photos here and there, within no time at all, you have managed to suck the living life out of these handy phones.
This little sucker can charge both phone twice over with the fully charged battery, so make sure to plug it in and charge it up before you pop it into your bag. Perfect size for the backpack or the handbag! And can charge up any other electronic device that can be charged via USB cable too! Talk about bloody handy!!
7. Laptop, Universal Power Adapter and Headphone Splitter!
Except for the fact that travel bloggers can never go anywhere without their electronic gear, we also take a laptop with us for various other reasons such as:
To load up photos/videos and empty SD cards at the end of our day.
Download some movies and TV shows through ITunes or similar, so you can watch something whilst stuck on airports, trains and the like! We just bought this really handy headphone splitter, so we can both listen to the movie at the same time!
Laptop & headphone
The headphone splitter is fairly cheap and really handy when you are not a solo traveller! Great for kids as well! Electronic babysitter haha!
Universal Power Plug Adapter
It is really important to have one of these gadgets that work as an adapter in most countries! You can easily use these to charge up your laptop or electronic gear, no matter where you are! Get one, seriously, no need to buy a specific adapter for each country when you can purchase a few of these that covers more than 150 countries instead!
8. Skechers Sport Women’s Sweet Spot Fashion Sneaker
The Comfy but Fashionable Shoe
For a long time now, my wife Jolene has been trying to find a shoe that will be comfortable to walk and explore in, but yet also still look fashionable with her travel style. This shoe is THE shoe that ticks all her boxes! Not only does it look like a cross between a jogger and a dressy shoe, but it also has an incredible memory pillow that makes you feel like you are walking on a cloud! I think this shoe is going to go a long way whilst exploring the gazillion streets of Vietnam and also be perfect whilst hiking around SAPA!
This shoe comes in all sort of colours!
Did we use it?
These shoes were a total lifesaver! It smashed out the kilometres whilst walking all over Hanoi Old Quarter, and whilst Andrzej whinged about his feet hurting, my lovely shoes provided cushioned support! Not only that, but they did a great job in muddy terrain hiking through the mountains and rice paddies in Sa Pa. Loved them so much that Andrzej bought himself a pair when we returned! Now they are our go-to shoe when travelling.
9. The Stylish Neck Pillow and Headphone Headband
Coming from a Polish background, we celebrate what we call ‘Names Day’, and as Jolene isn’t polish, we decided to ‘create’ a names day for her and both of our girls as well. So for her very first ever names day, I bought her a collection of travel gear.
I think you have to experiment and explore with what works for you in regards to neck pillows. Up until now we have only ever used the ‘blow up’ type pillow that you can purchase on the airports, but lets face it, the edges can be pretty sharp and not really all that comfortable. So we are going to explore with this ‘bean bag’ type pillow. See how we go! At least the design of it is really pretty!!! haha
Pillow & headphone headband
As we are going on an overnight train, and I know that my wife is a light sleeper, I also grabbed her some ‘Sleep easy sleeping headphones’. These fit like a headband over your head, the speakers are inside the band an you can play some peaceful music to help you ease into the dream world.
10. The all Important PONCHO!
Vietnamese weather will be different depending on whether you are heading to the North, the South or Central. As we are exploring from North – Central – South, we thought it best practise to pop some Poncho’s in our backpack, just in case!! We would rather be exploring in the rain than sitting in a hotel room and missing out! Ponchos are generally pretty cheap, so make sure you take some along, when you know that you might be hitting a bit of rain on your travels!
Did we use it?
Definitely take a poncho to Vietnam! Especially if you go to Sa Pa. We had a full day of rain whilst in Sa Pa and managed to enjoy a day of scootering around with our ponchos as protection. The weather in Sa Pa is very temperamental, so best to be prepared so that you don’t have to sit in your hotel room all day! For a few dollars, you will have some peace of mind with the poncho in your bag!
And that brings us to the end of our personal top 10 travel essential list. On top of these, we also like to download an offline GPS app on our Iphones. We will have to report back as to how the one we downloaded goes.
Which one of the our travel essentials did you forget to pack or prepare?
What would you add to our list?
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