I wondered if anyone can offer me some advice...I am going to Vietnam alone in March before meeting up with my friends in Cambodia. I plan to go from Hanoi to Saigon over about 2 and a half weeks. Ha Long Bay looks beautiful, but I keep reading about corruption/scams and am starting to worry about going there by myself as I haven't travelled alone before. Its starting to seem like more hassle than its worth and maybe I should't waste time there and should just travel south where I'd probably find it easier to manage? I was thinking of joining a group in Ha Long Bay, but even this doesn't seem so easy any more as I've read so much about over pricing and corruption. I feel like I would be an easy target as it would be my first few days there and I'm not very strong willed! Any advice would be very much appreciated, thanks very much.
i'm doing a similar trip by myself in mid feb (hanoi to saigon by rail with a few stops along the way) and i am skipping halong bay because;
- it's a bit of a detour from my planned route
- the organised cruises sound really naff
- the weather will be foggy, so poor visibility
- i hate people telling me something is a "must see"
i've chatted to a few people who have been (both travellers + expats) and the reaction is mixed, some people think i'm mad to miss it, others say that it is over rated and over exploited.
i'm personally not worried about the scams as i think these tend to be over hyped, i accept that i will be over charged everywhere, but as long as i'm not thoroughly ripped off then i'm pretty relaxed.
not sure that's helpful, but still...
Vietnam gets a really bad press but do remember its generally those that have a really bad experience that seem to be the ones with the biggest voice on forums and review sites, there are some very good tour companies that operate from Ha long Bay, the ones offering 'too good to be true' prices and experiences usually are - like anywhere. If you want to do it then research it and book before hand and then you can smile gracefully at the annoying touts and feel comfortable that you have made the right decision.
As for your fears on being 'ripped off' in Ha Noi because you are new in the country, does this not happen everywhere you end up in a new country? Getting to know the currency and being unsure of prices we all pay over the odds for the first few days, if you are worried maybe spend sometime reading the Ha Noi Travelfish blog to get a few pointers on the cost of things before you leave, its got valuable information on all the things best avoided and to be trusted, a little bit of knowledge will make you feel a lot more confident.
As a solo female traveller in Vietnam, you'll be fine, in Ha Noi you'll find more Vietnamese that speak English than a lot of other places across the country making it much easier to get information and to find people that want to help you as well as a super popular backpacker district where you can easily meet up with other travellers who are happy to bore you with hints and tips.. As in every city there are the more desperate people that will try to take advantage of VN novices, but don't let them put you off, just learn to workout which ones they are, smile and walk away.
The only reason I'd agree that maybe you should miss out on one place is that two and a half weeks (if you plan to travel by anything other than plane for the long distances) might be cutting it a bit short in some places which can make it a little more stressful when travelling alone, internal flights from Ha Noi or Saigon to Central Vietnam start at $25 and only take just over an hour compared to something like 22 hours by train from Saigon. Vietnam is incredible, the people are mostly incredibly kind and welcoming. Don't let a few people's opinions stop you from forming your own.
Very sound advice from LolaNguyen (especially the bit about reading the Hanoi blog ;)). Please don't be scared of Hanoi! A couple of things that will help get you off to a good start are:
(1) Arrange a pick up from the airport in advance - it will cost more than taking the airport bus but if you can afford it, do. Either your hotel can arrange or book through someone like Hanoi Airport Transfers (you can do that online).
(2) Book a reputable hotel in advance - if you're not averse to dorm rooms then I would recommend Hanoi Backpackers as it's clean, comfortable and impossible to NOT meet people. Or check out the listings on this site for other recommendations.
For Halong Bay, advice depends on your budget as, to a certain extent, you get what you pay for. I wouldn't say there's 'overpricing' as such, and I'm not sure what you mean about corruption in this context, but you can't always guarantee you'll get what you're told you're getting. The only trips I can recommend through personal experience are the Hanoi Backpackers tour - if you're looking for fun - although is not cheap and Bhaya Cruises, which is at the luxury end. Alternatively try a trustworthy travel agent like click here - friends of mine booked a Halong tour through there and were happy with it. In March, the weather will probably still be a bit cool but who knows! Friends went in November - it was chilly but they still had an amazing time.
Finally, on budget - yes, read the blog about prices and just try to relax about it. You might overpay a bit for some things but what's the worse that can happen? And if you're not up for asking prices or haggling, stick to the restaurants and shops that have menus and clear pricing. It's not like there's someone on every corner waiting to rip you off - it's very easy to avoid any kind of issue.
Hi I'm also a young female planning a solo trip to Vietnam end of march to most of april and had most of the same questions. Meant to ask on a separate board post but umm, haven't figured out how to do that.. Anyway, sorry about hijacking your thread Emma but I had a question on the train line which was mentioned. I had the idea to travel south to north from HCM to Hanoi (i'll be flying in from Australia via Singapore). Most of the reviews I've read on the trains are north to south, is there any reason for this? I'm assuming it has to be possible to go the other way? Oh and I decided against halong bay, but definitely have my heart set on Phu Quoc but have no idea how to get there. Can someone tell me what the weather is like in March-April? Oh and also how to start a new thread (so i'm not hijacking another)..
#5 Sightandtaste has been a member since 29/1/2013. Posts: 11
Thank you so much, I will definitely stick to the tips you have given me. Feeling a bit less worried now. Going to read all these blogs in the next few weeks so I'm a bit better prepared :)
To the other young female, no worries...I was the same and now I can't remember how I did it...but it did take me a while to find it, think it was in Member Centre and then Forums. What date do you get into HCM? I'm sure there are alot of people better qualified to answer your question...but I think travelling South to North is just as common, I haven't read any reasons why not :)
If anyone else can help me to decide whether to go or not to go to Ha Long bay I'd still be grateful, I'm just so undecided. You are right with the time...2 and a half weeks isn't long but I was just going to try and stick to 3 or 4 places so that's why I'm having doubts about Ha Long Bay. Thanks again all!
Emma: I tend to agree about skipping Ha Long Bay. It's pretty, but if the weather's likely to be chilly and grey, you won't really get the most out of it. And as you rightly say, your time is limited - and rushing about too much can make your trip too stressful. But it really all depends on what you actually enjoy doing, and what you'd like to do on your trip, so far be it from me to put you off if your dream is to cruise the bay for a few days.
Lola and Sarah are both absolutely spot-on in their advice. Don't let the bad press Vietnam can get put you off or make you nervous. Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An... they're all great places to visit. Vietnam has some great scenery (and amazing food) - you'll have a blast!
Sightandtaste: you can absolutely take the train both ways.
To start a new thread, you have to go to the forum in which you want to ask the question. You'll see a list of all the recent threads for that forum (and a search function, so you can check your question hasn't already been asked and answered - and potentially save yourself a lot of time). You'll also see a "Add a new post" box at the bottom, which is where you can start a new thread if yours is a new question.
I feel much safer in Hanoi's Old Quarter than I do here at home in the good old, but dangerous, USA! In all honesty, the dangers in Vietnam are on the roads - please avoid long distance bus travel in this country!