7 Things not to do in Vietnam; a Cultural Guide

by Jules on August 13, 2012

Travel broadens the mind but stray outside of the local laws and customs and you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of angry locals, or worse still, getting deported or locked up in jail. Follow these etiquette and cultural hints when exploring Vietnam;

Don’t blog in Vietnam – If you thought blogging about government affairs in Vietnam is cool, you better think again. Unlike most countries where you are free to blog about the government, in Vietnam, you certainly aren’t. Whether what you were blogging about was sensitive or not, it’d be ten times better to just use that keyboard to type about the weather in Vietnam. Talk about anything like corruption in the government or even the Vietnam War and you’ll either be deported, or you’ll be thinking about freedom behind steel bars. Blogging, in Vietnam, should be about your personal experiences. Blogging about the government is a no-go-zone.

Keep your leisure time healthy – Despite having the freedom to blog about your personal experiences, you should know that anything that depicts pornography is highly illegal. Prostitution also happens to be illegal. If you’re the kind of person that loves going to bars and nightclubs, flirting with a couple of women and then taking them back to your crib, this isn’t the place for you. Even sharing a room with a Vietnamese of the opposite sex is wrong and co-habiting is completely a no-go option. Though this law is nowadays not so strict about this, you can never be too sure when things might get serious.

As with all destinations, it’s important to practice common sense and these tips are here to assist. Regular readers of our blog know that we adore Vietnam as a travel destination and have indeed produced many posts on the subject; My Hanoi Travel Experience: My Favourite Destination in the World, What to do in Ho Chi Minh City, 5 Weird and wonderful hotels in Vietnam and many more.

Women’s dress in Vietnam – For women, the laws are even stricter then for a man. You can’t wear revealing clothing anywhere in Vietnam apart from your own bedroom. Foreigners aren’t excluded from this law and there are some who have been called rude names for wearing sexy, revealing or low cut clothing whilst out and about. Reveal less and you might just survive in Vietnam. Showing off your bust and letting the men see how attractive your legs are will do you no good. Instead, you might end up spending the night in a cell, or you might even be on your way back to your home country.

Don’t attempt to drive when in Vietnam – Your driver’s license is as good as useless in Vietnam. Having an International Driver’s License makes no difference either. However good you are at driving, you also can’t be issued with a VN driver’s license. Only a Vietnamese can obtain a driver’s license. So, kindly don’t bother driving in Vietnam if you can’t prove that you are Vietnamese. And with the roads choc-a-block 24/7 it’s no great loss to forgo driving for the duration of your holiday.

Update; whilst you can’t use your own drivers licence in Vietnam you can apply for a Vietnamese licence should you wish to, for example if you plan a lengthy stay and is required by law to drive a car or motorcycle in Vietnam. Visitors can apply via the Hanoi Department of Public Works and Transportation and the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Public Works and Transportation, contact details can be found on the FCO Official site.

Stay safe in Vietnam – Also, the police in Vietnam aren’t interested in cases such as your bag was stolen or you got ripped off by a merchant. These cases, in the eyes of the police, aren’t crimes. They are regarded as civil matters of dispute. So, it’d be a good idea to always watch out for conmen, distraction thieves and pickpockets. They can lurk anywhere since stealing your property wouldn’t end up being a police matter. If you do lose something, hire a private investigator or someone of the sort. After that, hope that he/she isn’t a con as well. If he/she is, leave the police out of it. Always check the latest official safety and travel advice prior to travel.

Camera action – Despite criminal deception not being a major issue to the police, your camera might turn out to be a big issue. Restrain from taking pictures of military installations. All you’ll be really looking for is an unexpected arrest in which you’ll be taking pictures of your life in prison.

Drugs in Vietnam – Finally, transportation of illegal drugs is among the most offensive crimes in Vietnam. The maximum penalty for this crime is death. Though you might catch a glimpse of one or two people smoking marijuana in the streets, don’t ever be fooled into doing the same.

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