Golden Bridge on Ba Na Hills, Vietnam, Da Nang | Photo by Andreea Popa

Wondering what things to know before traveling to Vietnam? Here are a few great resources to start with. I used these resources before my own trip to Vietnam and it was much better because of it.

These materials will help you learn the most you can about traveling to Vietnam and understand its cultural aspects before landing. With this article, you should have a good idea of what you can do to make the most of planning your trip to Vietnam before you go.

Vietnam – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

This easy read is full of tips that you can use throughout your time in Vietnam. I used it primarily throughout my stays in the busy city of Hanoi and the hot tourist spot, Ha Long Bay.

The Vietnam – Culture Smart! guide will help those who want to get a grip on the traditional values, sensibility, and overall modern way of life and offer a lot of great tips on things to know before going to Vietnam.

At Home in the World by Thich Nhat Hanh

If your plan is to undertake any sort of spiritual journey while in Vietnam— or any Buddhist country— Thich Nhat Hanh’s collection of autobiographical teachings and stories in At Home in the World is a must.

This book, more than any other in this article, will help you get in touch with the country’s religious values as well as educate yourself on one of Vietnam’s most well-known activists. Hanh includes his perspectives on persevering for peace, his teachings of mindfulness, and more.

Colorful lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An
Large basket of flowers in a bicycle basket in Hanoi

Vietnam – Rising Dragon

In Vietnam – Rising Dragon, journalist Bill Hayton includes eye-witness accounts from all walks of Vietnamese life. One of the topics discussed is whether or not real change is being brought about in this period of perceived renaissance.

I was glad to dive into the wealth of issues that face Vietnam in this unbiased and well-researched account. It gave me a better understanding of the modern struggles of Vietnamese people and allowed me to look past all the sensational headlines we read.

Right now, the world is witnessing a remarkable boom in the economic status of Vietnam. With it comes many social changes like a rise in political capitalism and a move away from its usually communist politics.

The Vietnam War

I thought as an American visiting Vietnam, it would be a good idea to become well-versed in the atrocities and history of the Vietnam War. Ken Burns is a well-researched documentarian who has never shied away from telling it as it is. This series is one of the most complete accounts of the trials and horrors of that dark time in Vietnamese history. Understanding the complexities of the war is one of the important things to know before traveling to Vietnam.

If you are a reader, check out the book called The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward, which was based on the same docu-series.

On the homefront, we still argue whether or not it should have happened. However, it is important to remember there is a country on the other side of the world which— 45 years later— is still haunted and healing.

Mountain with stair pathway up to temple in Vietnam
Ninh Binh Province
Blue sky, pink clouds, and hillside in Vietnam
Xã Thượng Yên Công

Things to Know Before Visiting Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the most fascinating destinations in Southeast Asia. Educating yourself will help you see the beauty and richness of its culture.

Among the many things these resources helped me learn about was the hospitality and forgiving nature of the Vietnamese people. And, it’s true— when I was there I never felt there was any level of hostility for the gruesome and tragic past that the people suffered at the hands of my country.

Society often paints a sad story of the Vietnamese people, but that’s not what these books, films or the people, showed me. Through these resources, I learned of the strength and perseverance of the Vietnamese and their unwillingness to surrender to other countries or a crippling war. Because of this, I believe I saw them how they want to be seen. Dive into these resources and you’ll learn about the real Vietnamese people before you go.

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