General Note on Cycling in Vietnam
Exchange rate - 16,000 dong = $1.00
Can use USD to pay for hotels and some vendors will gladly
take dollars and return change in dong.
Roads, primary and secondary on this route are all sealed.
Shoulders on the rides do vary and the quality is indicated on
the notes for the specific day's route, but for the majority of our
rides in Vietnam we did have a shoulder and it was sealed.
Traffic is hectic, noisy (lots of honking) and chaotic. The
heaviest traffic is when entering and exiting a town or
Shoulder on the road gets clogged up around 7:00 a.m., 11:30
a.m. and 3:30 p.m. with hundreds of school kids riding to and
from school. They ride in pairs and in three's at the speed of a
snail chatting and holding hands.
Honking and beeping of cars, buses, mini-vans and scooters
can really wear on you. We started to use one earplug in our
left ear during our rides and it really helps.
Locals are very friendly and enthusiastic when they see us
riding passed their homes, shops and restaurants. They are
curious about our bikes, our map and where we are going and
ATM's are in all major towns and cities, most times attached to
the bigger hotels.
Internet and WiFi are popular and can be found even in the
smallest town. Wifi is available in many mid-range hotel for
free and some cafes and restaurants also have Wifi for free, is
you buy something.
Eating out is very inexpensive in Vietnam even at some of the
nicer restaurants and the quality of food, service and
presentation has very high standards.
Central markets (Cho) are usually in a large building in the
center of a town that sell just about everything imaginable, such
as clothing, sundries, kitchen appliances, hardware, fresh fruit
and vegetables. Cho - Markets are more like a mall than a
Beware! - Scooters and bicycles merge into traffic out of side
roads and drive ways without looking both ways.
Tip! - Best to cycle from northern Vietnam to southern Vietnam
with the tailwind helping you along. The other way, south to
north, there is a headwind prevailing.
Safety! - Hotels/Guesthouses hold on to your passport when
you register and give it back when you leave. It is perfectly
safe with the hotel staff, but it did take some getting use to.
Vietnamese are very open to people using the restroom in
restaurants and hotel lobby's, even if we are not eating or
staying at their establishment.
The people are very hospitable and friendly.
Vietnamese are always on time or early for an appointment.
They are great negotiators - Efficient, fast and fair.
The post office is open on Sundays and they have several
branches in most cities in addition to the main post office
You can make inexpensive local and international phone calls
from telephone booths in any post offices branch.
The women's restroom has an open squatter section where the
women squat in unison and pee, sort of like a female version of
the male urinal. The squatter toilets in the stalls with doors are
used for another purpose.
99.9% of females wear pants.
Many older women smoke.
If Vietnamese speak another language it is usually English.
Plastic grocery bags, no matter the size or color, have a
chemical smell that permeates into fresh food such as bread,
vegetables and fruit.
For US citizens it's best to pay for bills with your credit card
because the Vietnamese charge the bill in USD and you don't
lose on the conversion, but sometimes they do add a 3%
surcharge, but sometimes they don't.
Hotel standards are the highest we have seen. Most fixtures
and electrical gadgets are expensive name brands. Showers
with hot water use regular water heater and are normally in a
separate area. Bathtubs in the bathroom are very popular.
And most hotels charge extra to have a tub in your room.
Accommodation prices are very reasonable. A room with a
double bed in a mid-range hotel with a/c, fridge, TV, phone and
en suite bath normally costs around $15.00 - $25.00. Most
times breakfast is included, free WiFi, or internet and bicycle
Budget for two people including, food, lodging (mid-range
hotels), entertainment, and transport is about $34.00/day for