For a cheap and beautiful summer getaway, consider a last-minute trip to Vietnam. First time visitors: stay safe and informed from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi with our list of travel tips for Vietnam beginners.

Don’t get detained

New Zealand residents must apply for Vietnamese visas in advance. These are valid for a 30- or 90-day stay (single or multiple entry). If you plan on arriving to the country in dirty sweats, think again – the Vietnamese TSA is somewhat infamous for their appearance scrutiny practices. Multiple sources report that looking ‘respectable’ in dress is an important part of a smooth check-in process at customs.

Sink or swim

If you are a poor swimmer (or if you value your basic safety) avoid the North Coast between September and November, as this is typhoon season and swimming is very dangerous.

Just say no

Heroin, marijuana and opium are rampant on the streets of Vietnam – but it’s always important for you to say no. Plain clothes police offers often walk Vietnamese streets and laws are usually flexibly-interpreted. Police corruption is often expected, and wealthy tourists can be obvious targets. Unless you are prepared to pay a hefty cash settlement, always steer clear of any illegal activities.

Wipe wisely

The Vietnamese sewer system is not well-known for operating properly or efficiently. The government urges citizens and visitors to refrain from flushing toilet tissue. Instead, locate a bin (they are often located next to the toilet in many public places for this reason) and dispose there. Also consider carrying a bit of tissue with you at all times, as public restrooms are notoriously stingy and it’s better to be prepared.

Don’t step on the UXOs

This one really can’t be said sweetly: the reality of visiting Vietnam is that UXOs, or unexploded ordnances, plague some areas of the country. These are landmines left by United States forces during the American War. Never touch any rockets, mortars or artillery shells you may come across in rural areas of Vietnam. Since 1975, more than 40,000 people have been maimed or killed by UXOs in Vietnam—you don’t want to add to this statistic.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Justin Jensen; cropped from original