5 Things to Do in Vietnam That Will Make You Feel Like a Local
Over the past few decades, Vietnam has been quietly sitting in the shadows of its tourist-heavy neighbors like Thailand and Taiwan. Yet despite its unassuming nature, Vietnam is a country that is deeply rich in culture, history, and wildlife. That said, here’s how to explore this Southeast Asian hidden gem:
- Start Your Morning with a Cup of Coffee
Everyone loves a good cup of joe. For the Vietnamese, however, coffee is more than just an energizing beverage — it is a way of life. Indeed, the Vietnamese have elevated ca phe sua da, or their signature iced coffee, to an art form. A cup of authentic Vietnamese coffee goes through a meticulous process to achieve a perfect balance of sweet and sharp flavors.
Conde Nast Traveller’s feature on this special cup of coffee details how it’s gently strained through a traditional Vietnamese coffee press and then infused with sweetened condensed milk and lots of ice before it’s served to sleepy locals. This unique morning drink will surely give you the energy needed to embark on your Vietnamese excursion.
- Eat at a Food Stall
Vietnamese locals know that the best food isn’t in a 5-star restaurant or even listed on your Yelp app, as their traditional food stalls have the tastiest meals that the country can offer. Authentic Vietnamese cuisine is found on the streets. For those who truly know the country’s food, what matters to them is not the location, but the taste of their dishes.
Be sure to try out the assortment of specialties, which range from beef and grilled pork to rice bowls and fried spring rolls that travel writer Tiffany Harper helpfully pointed out to us. Of course, a visit to Vietnam wouldn’t be complete without a hearty bowl of phở. Don’t forget to slurp down this local favorite, which consists of rice noodles in a rich broth that is topped with slices of beef and fresh herbs. Thankfully, it can be found at almost any food stall.
- Cruise Through the Floating Market
The Mekong River will give you a true taste of Vietnam’s rural region, since this body of water is deeply interwoven into this nation’s fabric. The World Wide Fund for Nature’s report on the ‘Mighty Mekong’ notes that it is the second richest river in terms of wildlife, home to over 1,000 different types of sea creatures.
And by exploring the iconic river, you’ll get to experience the lifestyle of Vietnam’s rural region. A great way to traverse through the Mekong is sailing to Cai Rang Floating Market, where you can witness the hustle and bustle of the region’s trading scene, as well as the array of local goods and souvenirs being sold.
- Play the Traditional Lottery
Lotteries are played around the world, but the Vietnamese have their own unique way of doing it. And if you happen to come across a lottery ticket seller on the street, why not try your hand at this local favorite? Expat Bets’ guide on how to play the Vietnamese Lottery notes that tickets are sold before 3PM every single day, so you can expect sellers practically everywhere before the clock strikes 3.
What makes the Vietnamese lottery truly exciting is that the winning numbers are announced just an hour later at 4PM. And with winnings ranging from 100,000 to 2 billion Vietnamese Dong ($4–$863,710), you should take your chances and live like a local by playing this lively lotto game.
- Cap the Night Off at a Karaoke Bar
Most Vietnamese don’t speak English, and if there’s a foreign language that they are familiar with, it’s French. Despite the language barrier, music certainly brings people together in Vietnam. After a long busy day in the country’s tropical climate, the Vietnamese like to cool off by singing their hearts out to their favorite tunes.
The simple joy of singing is a fun way to not only interact with locals, but also to immerse yourself in their culture. You can check out The Culture Trip’s guide to their top karaoke bars in Ho Chi Minh.
Author Bio: Heidi Graham developed a penchant for traveling at a very young age, as her parents brought her along for their business trips in Europe when she was a child. She now enjoys embarking adventures in Eastern countries — only this time, on her own. When she isn’t catching a flight, Heidi is busy as a part-time master’s degree student in Philosophy while also being a full-time pursuer of dreams.
A bucket list trip to Vietnam is made much easier with these 5 tips for activities that will help make you feel like a local.
Have you been to Vietnam? Are there other activities that should be added to this list? Let us know in a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog too!