Thứ Năm, 5 tháng 9, 2013

Hanoi safety & everyday life

How safe is Vietnam?
To many the mention of Vietnam conjures up images of the Vietnam-American war, a strict socialist government and pickpockets targeting western tourists. While all of these images do relate to Vietnam they are somewhat outdated.

Vietnam is as safe (if not more so) as your average western country. The war is a very real piece of Vietnamese history however it is not spoken of much. The government is strict, but this applies more to Vietnamese citizens rather than foreigners. While pick-pocketing does happen it is mainly in the tourist centres. Vietnam is a friendly and exciting place, and while it is necessary to take some precautions they are at the same level as those you would take in any big city across the globe.

Is it necessary to learn Vietnamese?
No, however out of all the Asian languages Vietnamese is probably the most accessible to westerners because it makes use of a western alphabet. Some basic Vietnamese will be helpful in your everyday interactions but it is quite easy to get by without any knowledge of the language.

Does the socialist government impact on make any noticeable difference to day to day living?
Occasionally the government will ban certain websites or limit access to sites and news that has a potentially negative opinion of the country. However this type of censorship is becoming quite rare. Some topics, such as religion, are not spoken about and when touring the country it is sometimes difficult to access some areas on your own, but in terms of day to day living the system of governance has very little impact on expat life.

Is it easy to drive on Vietnamese streets?
Vietnamese roads are hair-raising at the best of times. Crossing the street on foot is a nerve-wrecking experience and climbing onto the back of a xe om (motorbike taxi) and being whizzed through the traffic is both scary and exhilarating. In essence driving on Vietnam's streets is not for the weak hearted. Many expats prefer to hire a driver who is familiar with the unpredictable rules of the road; however it is possible to drive. Smaller vehicles tend to be a lot more effective than larger ones, particularly during peak traffic. Often, bicycles are the fastest form of transport during rush hour, followed by motorbikes.

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