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Tourism worker explains why foreign travelers find Vietnam trips disappointing

Tourism worker explains why foreign travelers find Vietnam trips disappointing

Tuesday, January 05, 2016, 16:43 GMT+7

Editor’s note: Lani Nguyen, who has traversed 20 countries during her eight years of working in Vietnam’s tourism industry, writes to Tuoi Tre News from Italy, pointing out three drawbacks that she believes commonly make tourists dissatisfied with their trips in Vietnam.

Vietnamese tourism is facing a difficult time at the moment.

The main reason that many people have mentioned is that stealing and scamming destroy experiences of tourists in Vietnam. This is truly a big issue and Vietnam is trying to work on this, albeit quite slowly.

However, things need to be seen and analyzed from different perspectives – this approach is especially true in the case of debates on tourism, which is always known as multifaceted and complicated.

While there are many factors that can influence the satisfaction level a traveler has about a certain destination, they are mainly categorized into two groups, namely expectation and experience.

These factors give tourists a 50 percent chance of being responsible for their own experience at the destinations.

Having worked in the tourist industry in Vietnam for eight years, I have drawn out some of the common drawbacks which in many cases contribute to making tourists dissatisfied with their trips in the country.

Firstly, many tourists have unrealistic expectations and imagination of Vietnam.

A common unrealistic imagination is about the rate of development and changes in Vietnam. Some tourists are actually shocked to see skyscrapers and the rapid pace of life in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, instead of a “little Paris” or the “Pearl of the Orient,” ways these two cities were referred to by the French colonialists many years ago.

Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest-changing countries and consequently there are many contrasts existing here.

Doing research to get the most updated picture of Vietnam, understanding common tourist issues, and figuring out possible solutions are probably the best ways for tourists to maximize good traveling experiences.

The reality shows that tourists with unrealistic expectations tend to be disappointed, while those with realistic ones are happier with their journeys.

Secondly, many tourists whom I have met and talked to admitted that they have no plans before their trips to Vietnam.

They often do not book accommodations in advance and are thus easily convinced by people who propose a certain lodging place at a cheap price.

These tourists clearly have less decision-making capability due to little preparation and their experience then depends on pure luck.

When I travel within Vietnam, I always spend time searching for the right hostel or homestay service, and book it in advance after taking as much consideration as I want.

This practice always works. I can stay in the place I like and am never followed or convinced to spend money on something that I am not aware of.

I also do this when I travel to other countries and when you are sure about things, bad people have much less hope to cheat you.

Of course, I do not suggest making a too-much-detailed plan because it may make you less flexible as well.

Thirdly, many tourists do not have enough time to see the real beauty of Vietnam.

When working for a famous tour operator in Ho Chi Minh City, I received many requests from tourists who want to visit Vietnam within a week and want to visit Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, and probably also the Mekong Delta.

With such requests, many tourists end up rushing from one highlighted destination to another. During such trips, they will only meet other tourists with similar itineraries, rather than getting to know and understand local people and culture in these places.

Furthermore, with an itinerary that is only planned for popular attractions, tourists miss many off-the-beaten-track places where they surely have many more chances to enjoy the authentic beauty of Vietnam.

A foreign friend of mine has traveled along the Ho Chi Minh trail through the Central Highland to go from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.

While he really enjoyed the trail with its primitive landscapes, it is the Vietnamese people he met on the way that made up the most beautiful impression of Vietnam in him.

The other day my friend had his motorbike break down in the middle of nowhere and was unable to move anymore. Fortunately, a Vietnamese man showed up and even though he could not speak a word of English, the local eventually tried his best to help my friend fix the motorbike.

As a travel blogger has put it, “Vietnam is a mirror,” I very much agree with such a remark.

Vietnam is where you receive what you give. If you give a smile, you will receive a smile in return.

If you give a 1650km-long country with 54 ethnic groups a week or ten days, it is no surprise if you only manage to see the tip of the iceberg.

The high risk, high return rule is also true when it comes to travels in Vietnam. The more you get out of your comfort zone, the more rewarding your experience is.

In conclusion, every place has good and bad things, and there are many factors that can influence traveling experiences.

However, it is also up to each traveler to choose what to expect, what to prepare and what to do, so that what they really experience will be the closest to what they have dreamed about.

In countries like Vietnam, well preparation beforehand and traveling with open minds do make lots of differences.

Do you agree or disagree with Nguyen? Join the discussion by sending your stories to us via

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