Where to stay
If you want to bypass hotels where people are less likely to talk to each other, or hostels where you might end up having the same conversations all over again with young backpackers, Couchsurfing may give your stay a more “local” feel. They can be found in most places, but not in touristy areas, which can be a chance for you to discover the other side of the city. If you’re lucky, the trip can be much more memorable with the added perk of a friendly and interesting host thrown in.
Besides, some homestays run by eccentrics who like to spend time with guests can be an option for those looking for a character. Such great examples as the tree house set up by Artist Dao Anh Khanh in Hanoi or Mountain Home run by Vietnamese-American journalist Nguyen Qui Duc can give you a hint of how amazingly diverse the experience could be.
What to do
Check out some local new sites (Hanoi Grapevine or Word Vietnam) for cultural events (festivals, holidays, retreats, activities) where you can meet up with hippies, artists, performers, bon viveurs and people with common interests.
Don’t miss out on the street food in Vietnam. You will never look like a loser hugging your portion in a corner because everyone basically does the same. Avoid trendy restaurants where they may only serve you what looks tasty. Instead, opt for such down-to-earth places where you can pull out a plastic stool on the pavement.
The coffee scene is also worth checking out, not only because the country’s popularity is associated with filtered coffee but also thanks to the emergence of cafes featuring an acquired taste of decoration.
Solo travel will definitely open up freedom and visitors can taste the open road by renting a bike for city breaks. If that’s too challenging however, hop on a scooter instead. Touring around the city on two wheels in the fast-paced traffic means there’s no time to notice you’re supposed to be traveling on your own. Cheap moto-taxi options are available on Grab or Uber in big cities. Public transport like buses and trains also make trips from city to city easier. But be careful with some local buses as they may want to charge you twice as much as the real price.
What to avoid
You can check out some life-saving tips in Vietnam here. As for a solo traveler, it’s worth noting you can put your life at risk by going hiking on your own in Vietnamese mountainous areas. And if you’re a female tourist, it’s always better to have a companion if you plan a late night out.