Visa for Vietnam:
Most countries need a visa to visit Vietnam and it will come to about $80 if you get it at home. For Swiss and British people (I don’t know which other nationalities), it’s also possible to get a visa upon arrival. Check it out on vietnamvisa.govt.vn/. You need to buy a permission to enter the country for about $17. You have to bring this permission to the airport or otherwise, they won’t even let you board the plane. Once you arrive in Vietnam, before you get in line for the custom border, get in line at the visa booth. You have to have your document, your passport and a passport photo ready. It costs another $25 and about 30min later, you are good to get in line to enter Vietnam.
The most common way to travel for backpackers seems to be night buses to save time and accomodation. You have to get used to their crazy style of driving and better bring ear plugs to somewhat block out all the honking. The buses are quite funny with three lanes of double decker bunk beds. You have a tiny amount of space so really only bring a bottle of water and your most valuables on the bus with you. None of our suitcases got stolen and I didn’t hear any bad stories either.
The sleeper berths are really there to lie down. The legs are pretty much flat and if you are not too tall, you can even fully extend them. The top part of the seat can be put upright as well. It’s normal that you can’t wear any shoes on the bus and have to put them into a plastic bag, which you are handed every time you board a bus. So, you need to share the tiny amount of space you have with your shoes as well.
To get a good seat on the bus, find another person to store the suitcases, while you get in line to board the bus and then reserve the seats you like. I wouldn’t want to be in the back, where 4 people lie next to each other, or the front, where the honking is sooo loud.
All the hostels will gladly book a bus for you but you can also go to a bus company directly, that you don’t have to pay a commission.
We didn’t actually use the train this time since there aren’t train stations in all the places we went to and it’s always about triple the price of a night bus. But therefore probably way more comfortable if you take a soft sleeper. In Thailand, I loved taking the night trains. On seat61 you find general information about train travel in Vietnam and on dsvn.vn you can see how much the tickets cost and which ones are still available. However, the train then can only be booked by a Vietnamese credit card or at the train station directly.
We never had any difficulties in finding an ATM. However not all cards work with all the ATMs, so you just have to try a few and see which bank works with your card. The take out limit is usually 2 or 3 million VND ($90-150) and it usually charged us 35k VND per transaction.
I find Vietnamese words extremely hard to pronounce correctly. In the tourist areas, you will always find someone though, who speaks at least a limited English.
Are there any more questions you’d like to have answered? Ask me in a comment.