The facilities are good, use them
Before I got to Vietnam I had visions of squat toilets all over the country, similar to that of many other South East Asian destinations and so steeled myself for having to ‘hover’ on a regular basis. This actually turned out to be a misconception and the only squat toilet I encountered was at a service station at the side of the road. Apart from this, the plumbing tends to work in much a similar way to Greece: don’t block the pipes by flushing the toilet paper down; instead use the bin provided and everything will be fine. As with anywhere in Asia, arm yourself with plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel in case you’re caught short with no supplies. You may also be charged to use toilets if they are situated at popular tourist sites. Don’t be cheap and think you can get away with paying the minimum price unless you are male and are used to using public urinals. I made this mistake and was shown to an exposed toilet bowl with no door that could be seen from the street!
It WILL rain – there’s no best time to visit Vietnam
If you are travelling from one end of the country to the other, it will rain at some point during your trip. The seasons vary throughout the country and I encountered rain in both Hoi An and Hue. Even though it was still warm, the rain was very heavy at times, but don’t let it dampen your fun. Ponchos can be bought for a minimal price when you are there (the thinner plastic ones are good just for walking around whereas you should invest in the thicker, longer ones if you’re planning on riding motorbikes and cycles a lot). Also, don’t bother packing an umbrella – it just adds to your baggage weight and even the lowest class of hotels tend to offer them free in the rooms. N.B. Make sure you return the umbrellas before you leave as you will be charged for them otherwise.
The trains never run on time
Once you’ve spent a few days in Vietnam you’ll realise that the Vietnamese are a very laid-back people, who are never in a rush to get anywhere. This translates to their public transport system also. Having used a few sleeper trains during my stay, it became custom to never expect to arrive at your destination at the originally intended time and that was even if you had set off within an hour of your departure time. Just go with the flow and be ready and alert to depart the train at your station when you arrive because they don’t hang around for long and you never know where you might end up if you have to stay on the train until the next stop.