Before you go to Vietnam ….

  1. Get your shots (Hep A, Typhoid, Polio) up to date.
  2. Talk to your doctor about malaria pills.
  3. Bring a hat—the wider the brim, the better. And if you are planning on riding on the back of a motorbike, bring a motorcycle helmet.
  4. Bring SPF 50 sunscreen and be ready to sweat it off.
  5. Bring DEET. You will need it for your ankles.
  6. Bring enough of any prescription you might need—and maybe more, just in case.
  7. Bring more Imodium than you think you will ever need, and keep some of it with you while you are there, just in case. At least some of it should be chewable in case, at the moment you need it, you don't have a bottle of water handy.
  8. Bring an umbrella.
  9. Bring more deodorant than you ever think you will need.
  10. Put a jack knife in your check-though baggage to use when peeling fruit.
  11. Bring a flashlight (make sure the batteries work) to use in case the electricity goes out.
  12. If you need to, practice with chopsticks before you leave.
  13. Be prepared to sing, even if the song is “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Vietnamese often sing after dinner—or just about any other time.
  14. Bring photos from home and keep them with you in case conversation flags.
  15. And above all else, keep an open mind. If you want things to be the same as home, stay home.