Travel details

Being an American in Vietnam

  • I get asked about how American’s are received in Vietnam often, mostly from other American travelers. Allow me to reassure you that in all my travels to Vietnam, I’ve never experienced any ill feelings from the locals about what they refer to as, “The American War.”  Vietnam is a forgiving culture and dwelling on the past is not as common as in Western cultures.  Most Vietnamese alive today were born after the war ended and when studied, refer to the American was as the great war of independence, similar to ours. We don’t hold animosities toward England still, do we?
  • There are folks other than the Vietnamese that we’ll rub elbows with - people from all over the world. When meeting other travelers, I try to avoid contentious topics like politics and religion, as not everyone we meet will see things the same. When in doubt, talk about art!


  • Travel insurance with major medical is REQUIRED for all travelers. Trip cancellation insurance is recommended but optional.

Food & Drink  

  • One of the great pleasures of Vietnam is the food! Our plan is to never be hungry. There is healthy, delicious food everywhere; the Vietnamese love to snack and its common to see entrepreneurs on every corner cooking corn or skewered meats or fresh fruit. Dan’s familiarity with the local foods will help the group find foods within their comfort level, and beyond if they so choose (hot vit lon, anyone?).
  • Vietnam is a meat-eaters paradise, so be prepared to see flesh on offer everywhere, so it’s hard to avoid. Those who those who wish to avoid eating meat will find plenty of vegetarian dishes everywhere we go however, yet many Vietnamese will think that fish or chicken is what you’re after, which is odd. Learn how to say, “I don’t eat meat, beef, chicken or fish!” – Dan can teach you!
  • Drinking water in bottles is available everywhere. Don’t drink the tap water! Bottled water is also supplied in your hotel room’s mini-fridge.
  • GREEN TIP:  Dan suggests bringing a water bottle from home that you can refill from your hotel breakfast buffet in the morning (& some businesses offer free water from larger containers). Recycling is everywhere in Vietnam, even though recycling bins are not.


  • It’s safest to keep your most valuable or sentimental possessions at home. Keep a low profile with your valuables. Consider carrying two wallets, with one for small street purchases.
  • In Vietnam, the currency is the dong, but US dollars are widely accepted. ATMs are plentiful and banks will give cash advances on credit cards, though the fees can be high (3-5%). Dan suggests bringing cash in larger denominations and exchanging locally for the best rate – he goes to the gold shops!
  • PRO TIP: Use technology to keep track of your important documents! Scan all your credit cards front and back (with bank phone numbers), passport, medical information, prescriptions, etc., then email them to yourself.


  • Although always appreciated, tipping is not expected and is quite unusual in many parts of Asia. However, certain individuals such as taxi drivers and hotel luggage wranglers always get a little extra from me when the job’s done well. Any Vietnamese guides we’ve hired for outings should be tipped if they go the extra mile for you.

Extending your stay

  •  If you feel as I often do that two weeks is not enough time, by all means, continue your journey beyond the 14th. I’d be happy to suggest an extended itinerary.

Customizing your itinerary

  • No one is required to attend any of the activities, so you’re free to customize your time as you see fit. Embrace as little or as much as you’d like! Dan will accompany whichever group or sub-group attends the suggested itinerary activities.

Cultural etiquette

  • We’ll learn about what to do with your feet and shoes, when to touch people and when not to, the revealing of skin (especially in temples or people’s homes), the importance of speaking your mind while not losing your cool, and how to empower others to “save face.”


  • LUGGAGE:  For the Mekong Delta portion, backpacks are easier than luggage, but bring whatever you have. Rolling luggage can be tricky on Vietnam’s uneven sidewalks – but we’ll manage if that’s what you’re bringing.
  • SMALL BACKPACK/SHOULDER BAG: For day cruising.
  • FLIP FLOPS or sandals and SHOES for evenings or going out.
  • PANTS/SKIRTS – lightweight for evenings/airports/going out.  Suggestion: light & loose cotton, jeans not advised, take a long time to dry when washed, they’re heavy & hot!
  • T-SHIRTS & SHORTS – It will be warm, even though we’re departing the USA during a chilly time.  I like cargo shorts so I can carry my camera and such while walking around. 
  • LONG-SLEEVE SHIRT/LIGHT SWEATER/LIGHT JACKET– for cool breezes near the river, for airports/flights and to dress up a little for evenings.
  • SWIMSUIT – We’ll have chance to swim at our hotels and at the beach! No towel necessary, you can borrow from our hotel.
  • HAT – With a nice brim for sun. Collapsible is best for easy carrying. You can also buy a new hat on your first day in HCMC, a shopper’s paradise!
  • BANDANA or similar – a thousand uses.
  • PHOTOS FROM HOME – You’ll meet people who don’t speak your language, but everyone speaks photos! Bring a few that tell your story and keep them with you:  your family, your dog, you skiing, you riding a horse, you landing a salmon, etc. This conversational tool has helped me break a lot of ice at Vietnamese gatherings!
  • GOOD BOOK to read or your journal to write in. You’re going on a big adventure, capture your memories!
  • PRESCRIPTION medication – should be in its original bottle with your name on it. PRO TIP – bring a second set of meds and have another traveler carry it for you – that way you won’t be med-less if you experience the loss of your primary supply.
  • TOILETRIES – Many of the brands you’re used to are not available overseas so bring toiletry products you may need with you.
  • SUNSCREEN – good quality, small tube or two, not spray (airlines don’t like pressurized cans). Don’t trust the stuff sold in VN; bring this from home. Be aware that the sun’s rays nearer to the equator can be much more intense than we’re used to…within a short time many fair-skinned travelers are crispy lobsters – don’t be a lobster!
  • MOSQUITO REPELLANT – liquid or pump spray, not pressurized cans, use if you see mosquitos (rarely needed).
  • Communication on the ground
  • We’ll want to stay in touch with each other during the trip by phone. This is done by either using WIFI (available everywhere) or by phone call/text messages. International calling plans can be fickle (service-wise) and expensive. I suggest one of the following instead:
  • Option 1)  Bring or purchase an old UNLOCKED smartphone from home (one that hasn’t been acquired by a big cellular company).  You can purchase an old(er) UNLOCKED phone online for example for about $50/60. Purchasing an older phone will allow you to have phone/text/wifi/camera all in one unit. Local SIM cards will give you a local phone number and costs under $10 for your whole trip.
  • Option 2)  Bring your current phone to use it’s WIFI capabilities, camera, contacts, etc. and purchase a simple phone in VN for texting and voice call purposes. On your first day in HCMC, you can buy a new (although very simple) phone with SIM card for about $40 (and likely sell it back to the same vendor when leaving for about $20).
  • PRO TIP:  go for option 1 which means you’re only carrying one device – one less thing you need to charge daily and keep track of.


  • Safety is priority number one – always. Our expedition goal is to manage the risks you take by reducing the likelihood of an adverse event – while at the same time being prepared to handle one if it happens. We won’t be traveling in a bubble. Dangers and annoyances exist everywhere in the world and in all cultures. Knowing which ones are most prevalent to the locales we intend to visit helps give us an edge on preventing them. And the most common adverse events among westerners traveling in Asia are pretty easy to identify.

Heat rash

  • It’s a tropics thing – and a real concern for us considering where our fair-skinned bodies are normally based on this planet. Gold Bond powder or baby powder seems to be the best preventative tool – bring a little bottle of your own in your wash kit.


  • It will be warm there. They say to stay hydrated in the tropics you should drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces of water per day! Luckily, Dan believes in frequent stops for liquid refreshments – fresh fruit shakes blended with ice are a favorite. Beverage and snack stops are a popular teenager pastime, so hydrating becomes an opportunity to experience Vietnam's cultural richness. Cold, refreshing drinking water is also available everywhere.

Sprains, strains, breaks: 

  • The terrain is often not what we are used to at home, including sidewalks, curbs, trails, steps, and street crossings. Uneven ground can create twisted ankles. Large holes in sidewalks don’t always have orange cones and tape around them. The smallest alley intersecting the street could suddenly spit forth a speeding motorbike. Have all your senses on alert.

Medical emergencies:

  • The local EMS system is available if needed in all locations on this itinerary.  For very serious situations requiring advanced testing or surgery, evacuation to nearby Bangkok or Singapore is common.

More questions? Please submit them to Dan at 206-713-5678 or