I choose to travel to Vietnam on a whim. I wanted to go to Southeast Asia and I had heard Vietnam was cheap. I also have a bad habit of impulse-buying plane tickets. I took my mom knowing she was adventurous as well. We traveled for 10 days, mainly staying in the North. Overall, I was amazed at how kind and generous people were. I’ll try to provide some insight on travel and getting around Vietnam.

Visiting Hanoi

We started our trip in the crazy city of Hanoi. There were so many people, motorbikes and traffic! We stayed outside the city at the JW Marriott. Now, in the US this may seem like a fairly expensive hotel, but in Vietnam, it was very reasonably priced. There were many other boutique hotels downtown, but we were more comfortable staying here.

I travel in a manual wheelchair mostly so it is easy to take in and out of cars. We took taxis to most places around the city. You must have the address of your destination written down. While many people speak English, we found that it was hard to communicate directions verbally. Have a map and circle where you’re going! We didn’t necessarily need an accessible taxi because I could transfer. The cab drivers were very helpful with my chair also.

Downtown Hanoi consists of many side streets and small alleys filled with shops and marketplaces. Of course, because people drive motorbikes, they also park them right on the sidewalk. Most sidewalks are not clear. This gave us no other option than to walk in the street. This was pretty terrifying, but if you just go with the flow people will go around you. Tons of people walk in the street. I can’t think of one shop or store that didn’t have at least one step. Being in a manual chair allowed me to pop up on the curb and explore more freely. Again, people were so helpful and of course always willing to bring out items that I might want to buy.

We took two side trips that required travel on a bus. They did not have an accessible bus, but only the 15-passenger van. I was able to manage my way into the bus and folded my wheelchair in the back.

My favorite trip was to Halong Bay! We took an overnight boat that cruised through the Bay of Limestone Mountains. Our ship was part of the Paradise Cruises fleet. I probably emailed 30 different companies with little luck in finding a boat with anything close to an elevator. I finally said oh well, if I have to I’ll crawl up the stairs. I’m a bit stubborn when I want to do something. The boat we took had 3 floors, with balconies and gorgeous rooms. The staff insisted they carry me up and down every time I requested – so it worked out well.

Intercontinental Air Travel: To Hoi An

The second city we visited was Hoi An. This was on the coast and further south, so we had to fly. Although I can transfer easily I can’t walk. I always need an aisle chair to get on and off a plane. It was obvious that the local airports were not used to individuals in wheelchairs traveling. They did have a lift to and from the plane, but I had to sit in the back row and transfer by myself. They also didn’t seem to have an aisle chair. They didn’t seem to understand why I could walk short distances. On budget airlines, flight attendants didn’t know hardly any English.

We arrived safely and took a taxi to the hotel. I recommend staying downtown Hoi An because it is along a river. Many streets are closed to cars and traffic, making it a nice walking city. Limited accessible entrances, but plenty to see on the streets without always going inside.

Vietnam Travel Tips

  • A manual chair is needed for the easiest travel
  • Have a travel buddy
  • Know keywords for your condition or disability (like “I can’t walk”). This will help people realize what kind of help you may need.
  • Be prepared to be stared at. During my time in Vietnam, I saw one person in a wheelchair. I was an odd site for them, but people were very kind and considerate.
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