Here’s my continuing list of things to find when I stay longer in a place. Not exhaustive but these things seem to be what I need so I spend time looking around on Google Maps and walking to find them.
- Laundry services. I never saw washers and dryers like in the states. Instead you take your laundry to a service. In Hanoi, the place down the street did my laundry with 24 hour turn around for a few bucks a week. In Ho Chi Minh City, the homestay family did the laundry every other day so I just left outside my room. In Da Lat I found a nice place that does the same. The price was even cheaper.
- Coffee Shops and breakfast food. This was not so hard in Hanoi. My favorite bakery and coffee shop had an excellent selection of food. If you visit Hanoi try Joma Bakery in the old quarter. In Ho Chi Minh City, easy peasy! I had a few favorites and there was always Starbucks to fall back on. In Da Lat most coffee shops besides La Viet do not serve food. Find a local bakery! I found an excellent one that is 5 minutes walk and then I get fresh baked goods and go to the coffee shop I like right on the corner by my hotel.
- SIM card top ups. Depending on service you have, you really can just visit a local shop for this and pay for the top up. I use Viettel throughout Vietnam so I visit one of the chain cell phone shops that have the Viettel logo and they fix me up in about 5 minutes and activate the service.
- Grocery Store. Easy in all places. There are little neighborhood places on every block and I visited IntiMex in Hanoi for things I needed. Here in Da Lat, down the street is a place that has water, food, snacks, beer, tooth paste. Just about everything!
- Getting around in your new home. I include this because its linked to 3 above because nothing works as well for me as Google Maps for walking but you can also use Grab on your phone to order up service. I prefer walking most places since I want my daily walking and photography and I always see stuff worth remembering.
- Electronics and replacement cables. Be careful with this. Use a dedicated store that is a chain store is my best advice. You can buy elaborate or crummy fake things easily. I found a store I use for 3 above which is all over Vietnam. I bought lightning cables that worked flawlessly from them. Other places may not be so good. Thế Giới Di Động is the cell phone store I used for both 3 above and buying lightning cables. Not a lot of English spoken in some so have a good idea of what your want in a picture.
- Currency Exchange and ATM. If you have to do currency exchange, I would look up jewelry shops first off. They all provide the service. The best is to just get local currency in an ATM and you will pay whatever service charge but the idea is to get money, right? Local money is the best. Vietnamese stores will not take US dollars but some tour companies will. Sometimes a strange mix of needs. I had to go back to US dollars once in Hanoi. That takes a special place that I found 🙂
- Food. If you have problems finding food, something is wrong :-). If you want western or Italian or whatever food, I have never been limited. Have had bbq, pizza, Mexican, US food. I only do the US foods or whatever on occasion and end up eating at a few places around the hotel I have found that I like or going farther to new places to check out. The bowl of Pho is around the corner basically. Its so very cheap to eat the local food. Look for places where there are a lot of Vietnamese eating. Menus have pictures!
To me, the best way of doing things was to start exploring immediately on foot. You would be surprised at the things you can find around the hostel or hotel you are in with a little walking. The most confusing was in the old quarter in Hanoi.
There is not a thing I needed I could not find here in Vietnam besides T shirts. The sizes of T shirts, even super extra extra large are meant for smaller bodies. I pretty much just have someone like my ex-wife in the states mail me things every so often to some address. I expect things to take two weeks and for the box to be opened. My mail service will also send FEDex which takes much less. I got a package in Hanoi in 5 days using their service once. I have never had things stolen but the packages are opened and inspected routinely by customs.
I bet you have your list of things or basic needs. I did not include some but I know you will need them like pharmacies which are all over. You may need to find bus stations as well. Another thing which has come up on occasion is an escape. I found that Malls do this well. As a solo traveler, a mall or city market does wonders for me. Its not really the people but the sights and sounds I think.
Now get out there and travel. What you waiting for?