I am planning to head to Vietnam in May but was curious to know how easy it is to travle there when you do not speak anything close to Vietnamese?!! Are the locals helpful with tourists? Is it easy to get around (ie. by following street signs and such)? Any suggestions or comments would be great!
Vietnam is not a particular challenge at all. Most people - hotel workers, restarant waiters, shop owners etc - that you will deal with on a daily basis will speak enough english, if not perfect English. You will of course encounter the odd situation where you can't communicate, such as at a market or with a taxi driver or something, but it's rarely a problem. Just have a bit of patience and enjoy the challenge.
As far as reading street signs and stuff goes, Vietnam uses Roman characters the same as in English. It's not a different script that you can't read like it is in China or Thailand. So even if you have no idea what the name of a street or restaurant means, you can still read it, remember it, and follow maps quite easily.
Dave is right. VN is not that difficult to navigate. Most of the people you will come into contact with will speak at least a bit of English. You may also encounter students who will try out their English on you. This happened to me many times and is usually fun for both parties. You feel a bit special and get to meet local kids. They hear converstaional English spoken instead of just in a school setting.
Relax, you will do fine while in VN.
Thanks for the feedback- its tough knowing what to expect when a majority of my travel has been between Europe/Australia and the "westernized" parts of Asia like Singapore and Hong Kong.
Don't worry about a thing...I knew absolutely no Vietnamese before I went....(well, only a few choice phrases like hello etc..)!! Most people in the service industry can speak some English, so no probs with hotels, cafes, travel agents etc. Vietnam uses Roman script, so easy to spot street signs etc...
You will be fine. many people speak english (and french I found as well). Many locals i found in HCMC and Hanoi were eager to learn English also!