Vietnam is a country that holds a lot of mystery, intrigue, and adventure for those who are willing to make the trip over to Southeast Asia. Responsible Travel mentions that visitors to the country may not be entirely ready for the differences in culture between their home country and the local social environment. Being armed with proper etiquette and understanding that the locals see things differently from you is important. To understand the Vietnamese culture, you have to live there, so it's a bit of a catch-22 when it comes to being aware of the society you're heading into. Luckily, there are a few rules of thumb that can aid any traveler immensely when it comes to experiencing Vietnam hassle-free.

Things you SHOULD DO in Vietnam

  • Conservative Dress: The country is profoundly traditional so any dressing that flashes a lot of skin will be frowned upon and might provoke locals into retaliation. In the major cities the dress code is pretty relaxed, but out in the rural districts, it may be a consideration to leave those booty shorts home in case it attracts the wrong kind of attention.

  • Be Aware of Your Bag and Possessions: One of the most significant problems Vietnam has with tourists is bag-snatching. Culture Trip makes mention of the practice and goes so far as to suggest visitors wear backpacks instead of bags of purses. If traveling in a Cyclo, it may be a good idea to keep the bag strap wrapped around your hand or arm to ensure it doesn't get snatched away without any means of fighting back.

  • Drink LOTS of Water: Dehydration, especially for tourists from colder countries, is no joke. The climate of Vietnam is hot and humid, and excessive exposure to the sun won't just cause sunburns but can evolve into a full-blown heat stroke. Regular hydration is a necessity, since recovering from heat stroke is not what you want to be doing for half your vacation.

  • Use the Train: While the trains are likely to be smelly, sometimes overcrowded and usually late, they're still the most efficient and safest means of transport for a visitor wanting to get from Hanoi to Sapa. Thanks to the knowledge that visitors carry foreign exchange with them, there is always one or two 'enterprising' individuals trying to get them to part with their hard-earned cash. Using the train avoids having to deal with people like that.

  • Shoes at the Entrance Please: We know you're not going to be visiting Vietnam just to take a tour of the sites as prescribed by the tourist travel guide. The best way to appreciate a country is by befriending the locals. If invited to the home of a local friend, it is important to remember that shoes are not welcome in the domicile and they should be left at the entrance where you can reclaim them on your exit.

  • Keep a Hotel/Hostel Business Card Handy: Communication is important, but in a country where, according to Travel Fish, English speakers can sometimes be rare, having a business card for the place you're staying can help you to get a Cyclo back to the building.

Things you SHOULDN'T DO in Vietnam

  • Remember the Dress Code for Buildings: Chances are if you try to visit a pagoda in a tattered t-shirt or a pair of shorts they will turn you away. The Vietnamese are very respectful of their culture, and they expect you to be the same.

  • Keep your Picture Taking for the Sights: Taking pictures of the military can be considered, at least by the local administration, as a breach of security. If you get the urge to do it to find out, don't. The inside of a Vietnamese jail is not a welcoming place.

  • Don't disrespect the Altar: When you visit your Vietnamese friends, make sure that your feet never point towards the family altar as this can be seen as being rude and crass to your guests.

  • No Public Displays of Affection Please: As mentioned before about Vietnam being a profoundly conservative country, it is frowned upon to do anything more than hold hands in public. If you try to do more, depending on what it is, you could face problems with disturbing the peace and public indecency.

  • No Video Cameras in Rural Villages: While you CAN do it, you SHOULDN'T do it. The locals in rural villages consider filming on video cameras to be impolite, but being polite people, they won't ask you to stop shooting.

  • No Sleeping In: For those of us who like sleeping in, Vietnam is probably not the place for us. Things start moving in some cities from 6 AM, and the noise can be loud and overbearing, meaning that you probably will find yourself awake at that time like it or not.