I feel like Vietnam is not as recognised as other areas of beautiful Southeast Asia.
That's why today, I want to let you know the best ways to be a responsible traveler in this country, taking sustainable tourism in Vietnam to another level. Let’s do this!
Stay With a Vietnamese Family
I’m sure that if you travel to a place like Vietnam, you’ll want to experience it to the fullest. Well… that can be done properly when looking for accommodation if you skip the hotel and stay with a local family, which will give you a very fair insight of what the daily life is. Heading to a remote village in the north-western part of the country and asking a family to stay with them for a few days will allow you to actually taste the culture and get involved in some of the activities that are carried here, such as preparing a meal, witnessing a traditional dance or even harvesting and fishing.
Street Food & Local Stalls
As we always say, one of the best ways to be a responsible traveler wherever you go is to support small local economies. And what better way to do it than eating? Saigon and Hanoi have amazing street food, that not only is delicious, but really affordable. It’s not the best option if you’re a vegetarian, but many of the Vietnamese specialties like noodles, pancakes, steamed fish, banh cuon (rice crepes filled with mushrooms and pork), spring rolls and pho, among many others, will make you fall in love with the way they cook.
Overnight Sleeper Train
Very cheap and convenient, booking an overnight sleeper train from main cities like Hanoi is a perfect sustainable way of not having to pay a night in a hostel (or any accommodation you choose), getting a nice view of the landscape (which is always so useful to relax, read or just leave your mind empty) and, what’s the most fun, getting a glimpse of all the local people you find inside the train. If you’re sleepless, try to talk to them. You’ll be surprised how friendly they are!
Get to Know the Country With a Local Guide
Of course you’re not going to visit every part of the country in one trip (unless you’re planning on doing a really complete- and long- trip); but for the areas that you choose to head to, insider guides and sustainability always go together. They can take you to really special local places to eat, have fun or get to know some Vietnamese natural wonders. How awesome does it sound? Plus, you’re at the same time giving a boost to the economy, avoiding to support big chains of food, clothes, etc., and learning how people actually live their everyday life, which is the most exciting part.
Be Respectful With the Local Customs
Meaning that a sustainable traveler is not only the one who supports local economy and traditions, but also the one who is aware of the cultural change.You might come from a country that has a different way of living, a place where certain things are allowed and other ones aren’t. So, please, if you spot insider, children or even monks praying (which is very usual to see and pretty uncommon for Western travelers), always ask first is they want to take a picture with you. Respect their daily life and routine, try not to film in isolated areas, where it’s considered quite intrusive and wear a sarong when visiting remote towns.
Locally Made Souvenirs
By researching a bit, you can find that in towns like Sapa and Ta Phin, local women make stunning dresses, scarves and purses themselves that cannot be found anywhere else. Buying this kind of locally produced products (while skipping the tourist shops on organised trips or even in hotels) is a great way to support their work and effort. Go for the small-scale shops and markets and do not bargain too much, local sellers need that money to sustain their families.
Note: Regarding the souvenirs subject, always make sure that the items you’re purchasing are not made from endangered species, such as turtle shells, eggs or skin from wild animals. These kinds of practices that are carried to sell “special” items to travelers are not only illegal but harming to the animals themselves (obviously) and the environment. Try to research a bit before buying, so you are sure all processes are fair and eco-friendly. Make your personal tourism affect the planet in a positive way!
Move Around With a Bike
I know it's not the fastest way to get from one place to another, but it's a very popular means of transportation in Vietnam, besides from the motorbike, which is the most used, but not as eco-friendly, of course. Renting a bike here is very affordable and this option will be even better if you’re visiting the countryside, where some breathtaking landscapes can be spotted. A nice ride I strongly recommend is the one you can do along the beaches near Da Nang, a paradise full of blue waters and beautiful skies, as well as the mountain trails in Sapa. Just remember to take some precautions if you’re traveling during the hottest season, which can get intense!
Support the Bho Hoong Village
Supporting the work and daily effort of an ethnic minority in Vietnam can be a really rewarding and enriching experience to live. Sustainable tourism here (carried in the right way) help the Bho Hoong people sustain their everyday life and customs. Spending a few days with an autochthonous tribe will allow you to see how they preserve their traditions as pure as possible, while also adapting to the modern life. Observing traditional practices, taking part in handicraft activities, doing some trekking and touring around the area with the villagers is an excellent way of immersing into the culture in a non-intrusive way.
That’s a wrap for today’s article. I hope you’ve learned some valuable information for your trip and that you keep it sustainable! The country and people in it are going to offer you a warm welcoming, so the least you can do is to respect their traditions and environment. Always the way to go when heading ANYWHERE!
Main Photo by Alice Young.