Vietnam Local – A local guide for Vietnam travelers

Mar 17 2011

I was inspired and fascinated by, a website that we used when I was traveling to Brussels. And I thought I could do the same for Vietnam.

When my foreign friends ask “hey i’m going to ho chi minh city. Any places to visit/see/eat?”. I usually go like “Cool! Of course I know a lot. There’s this street restaurant that sells really cheap Vietnamese food you must try. Ehhhh but how do I tell you, it’s a bit hard to get there”. And it repeats over and over again, from friends to friends.

The true image of Vietnam, the places me and my friensd  hang out are not commonly known to the tourists. For many reasons: It’s hard to get there (sometimes you have to go into a small street to reach – hẻm), people there don’t speak English well. So the memory of Vietnam I have in mind is not the Vietnam most travelers would experience.

The idea

I imagine a little guide for young travelers to Vietnam. The guide can be download and printed out on some A4 papers.

The guide would have a little cartoonized walkable map of District 1 – where most travelers will probably end up staying around. On the map it pinpoints places that we – the local – usually hang out for food, coffee or shopping. Place like “Street coffee besides Notre-Dame Saigon” (cafe bệt nhà thờ Đức Bà) is a perfect example of these.For each place we could print a little note talking about its uniqueness, some expectations and tips to truly enjoy it. Sometimes a little history would really add the touch.

The guide would be revised updated every 3 or 6 months, according to the feedback others make. It’s important to note that the places suggested in the localguid would come from our own experiences, rather than allowing local business to pay a fee to be listed there.

Then there is the website, the website would initially host the local guide, take the feedback on the guide, and provide some other practical information like transportation and accommodations.

Also, we must understand that one’s experience in a new place is not necessary about the sights or the food it offers, but the new local people s/he meets everyday. The website will have some kind of a system that allow a traveler to find a local volunteer to reach and take him/her around. These volunteers are most likely young students who want to meet new people from different places and practise English. We could even partner with the people from CouchSurfing Vietnam to work something out.

Then there’s the Q&As section (something like stackoverflow), people can go in and ask specific questions related to Vietnam travel, we’ll have our local team/volunteers to answer them.

Scaling out

We can expand the idea to other cities as well, we can lend our resources, branding and experiences to local people at each city, helping them building their own version of VietnamLocal in their city.

Financial Sustainability

In the short term, it’s hard to find a way to fund the project. However the cost involved wouldn’t be that much, either. We can just seek donation from the travelers. I’m sure if they have a good time in Vietnam, they are willing to fork out a buck or two.

In the long term, we could open our own hostels that focus on young travelers. It won’t be the typical hostel where people use to stay overnight. It’s a place for travelers meet each other. Activities like party, wine tasting, food tasting could be carried out frequently.

We could also operate our own paid history tour among interesting historic places.

The goal

Ultimately, the purpose is to help young travelers a better experiences with Vietnam through the exposure to local people, food and sights.


4 responses so far

  1. Could you wait me and Phong Nguyen to work together your idea?

  2. This probably seems possible as you attempted to go through different aspects of the business-like project, which I really don’t see (and expect to see) from most of the Comp Sci’s students’ points of view. The idea is great itself, however there are some things should be taken into account to make this seem more viable:

    – What is it different from the combination of and and (for example).

    – The idea about young local volunteer doesn’t seem to work in a long term. Do you really expect the foreigners to hang out with someone that doesn’t speak tour-guiding English properly? Of course, young locals seem to be exciting with the idea of practicing English, but not the foreigners. As the travelers, they want something clear, quick and accurate. Their trip cost money with a deadline. Nevertheless, this idea should work when the young volunteers get trained for (say) an amount of weeks. But this turns out to be more complicated ’cause more costs and model could involve.

    – I can see the goal, the at-the-moment ideas, the future plans but the key idea to make a project become viable (and attractive to the followers) is a brief overview of nique, how you’re gonna do to guarantee your project’s opportunity and fill in the slot.

    – You also have to consider about transportation, insurance and network when you want young locals to take the foreigners around, which is completely tough.

    – Have you considered starting the project or just talk about it and leave it there?

    A few random points flying around my head. I like the idea of making a website like and forming a group of volunteers to help update handy information in a friendly way like that. Unless you want to start something big (i.e. the idea of hotels, taking travelers around, etc), a smaller innovation should also help.

    Think about coffee (pub) crawl. We still don’t have that interesting idea in Vietnam, for both locals and the foreigners.

  3. Tri,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment! Lots of great points there. And the examples you shown me are great, I never seen them myself before. I also agree on the sustainability of young-volunteer part.

    I dont really have much to ask. I think only if I’m really serious about it, more thoughts should be invested into it. At one point I did consider starting to dive more into the idea and materialize it, but right now I’m working on a couple of different other ideas (:

  4. Love it, Huy!  Great idea!  See you on the 25th, I hope!

Leave a Reply