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5 best ways to travel sustainably in Vietnam

by Inside Out
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Looking ahead to when international tourists are once more able to enter Vietnam, the country’s government recently announced its new “sustainable, eco-tourism” strategy.

Among other things, the government’s objective is to protect Vietnam’s heritage, given the country’s growing success and reputation as a tourism hotspot in recent years. For example, over 18 million visitors arrived in Vietnam in 2019, an annual increase of 16.2%, led mostly by rising Asian tourists, though also from Europe and elsewhere.
With this in mind, once Vietnam declares the all-clear and you’re again free to visit Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hạ Long Bay and Hội An, what can you do to make your visit sustainable in line with the country’s admirable objectives?
Well, here are 5 top ways to ensure you enjoy your visit to the max while contributing to the preservation of Vietnam’s awesome heritage. In addition, you can check the visa requirements to enter Vietnam with an online service such as Byevisa.

1. Book Your Adventures With a Travel Operator Certified as “Sustainable”.

On Vietnam’s official tourism website vietnam.travel, you’ll find a list of travel operators certified as “sustainable” for you to choose from. These cover a wide variety of activities from hikes and cycling trips in Mai Chau and Hoi An, to elephant tours in Yok Don National Park, to cruises in Ha Long Bay with operators dedicated to reducing pollution.
Each of these operators has been selected because they comply with the Vietnam government’s sustainability requirements of providing fair working conditions for employees, reducing waste and unnecessary water and energy usage, and protecting the environment. With these agencies, you can make the most of Vietnam while safeguarding it too.

2. Care for Vietnam’s Stunning, Lesser-Known Natural Heritage.

When you think of travelling to Vietnam, you may imagine yourself walking the streets of well-known locations like Hanoi, the country’s capital, or Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. When you’re in these cities it’s important to treat them with respect, as you would when visiting a city in your home country.
In addition, Vietnam boasts myriad lesser-known spectacular rural sights, such as Ba Bể, the country’s largest natural lake in the northeast Bắc Kạn Province; Phong Nha, home to countless caves in central Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park; or Côn Đảo, an archipelago of 15 tiny islands near the southeast coast. Here, keep your environmental impact to a minimum such as taking all your litter with you. It’s for future generations!

3. Buy Souvenirs in Shops Recognised as Being Eco-Conscious.

It’s natural that you’d like to take a keepsake of your time in Vietnam back home with you. To ensure that your souvenir contributes to Vietnam’s sustainability, consider buying from one of the shops recognised by Vietnam’s government as eco-conscious. These businesses only make products from ethical sources, pay fair wages to their employees, and often contribute to or are directly linked to local charities.
You can find a list of the businesses recognised by the government online. Among other things, you’ll find shops that offer clothes woven with refined silk and organic cotton, artisanal soaps made from natural, biodegradable ingredients, and quilts made in rural villages with traditional Vietnamese motifs and designs. These are unique ways to remember Vietnam while contributing to the country’s lasting development.

4. Follow Vietnamese Customs to Preserve the Unique Local Culture.

When travelling abroad, it’s a great tip to brush up on the local customs before you arrive. This will ensure your trip goes smoothly while showing respect to the inhabitants and their culture. There are lots of ways you can do this in Vietnam. For example, while eating, try to use chopsticks and, after finishing, always place the chopsticks next to the bowl rather than directly into the food. Also, be sure to offer dishes to others first.
When interacting with the Vietnamese, it’s preferred to use your right hand. For example, ensure to pass money in your right hand and, when holding a toast, hold your drink in your right hand. If you visit someone’s home, then be sure to take your shoes off before entering. If there’s an altar present in the property, keep this space clear of your possessions to show respect to the host’s spiritual beliefs.

5. Support Vietnam’s Rural Areas by Booking Homestays and with Ethical Hotels.

When you book a homestay in one of Vietnam’s rural villages, you’re contributing to the sustainability of the local area and the wellbeing of its inhabitants. Moreover, it’s a fantastic way to get to know the authentic Vietnam first-hand! There are many recognised homestay agencies online and, depending on where you go, you could find yourself taking a workshop with a Vietnamese carpenter or staying in a Tay stilt house.

Moreover, there are lots of hotels in the country recognised for their ethical practices. From luxury mountain resorts that employ dozens of local people; to garden hotels that grow and source their own fruits and vegetables; to hostels staffed by English students who help improve the locals’ English in their spare time, there are excellent options available.

With these tips in mind, once Vietnam opens its doors to international travellers again, you’ll have lots of ideas about how to have a positive visit, both for you and the country’s future! These practices will ensure you enjoy the real Vietnam while preserving its cultural and environmental heritage.

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