1. Leave your garbage in the city street. Trash collectors pick up garbage and sweep the streets every night in most cities. Other than driving your garbage to the dump yourself or burning it, this is the only method of disposal.
2. Throw plastic bottles anywhere. A lot of poor people make a living picking them up and turning them in. They won’t lay there for more than a day.
3. Do leave the lights on when you go out. It discourages thieves and it keeps you from getting mugged in urban areas, or bitten by cobras, vipers and other nasties in rural areas.
4. Do flush the toilet liberally. It keeps mosquitos from hatching.
5. Don’t use government tour agencies, hotels, restaurants, ‘tourism information centers’ or other government services. In general these government businesses drain local communities (particularly ethnic minorities) of income from tourism as all the money goes to government officials and government ministries. Do use locally-owned businesses and patronize local residents, but often its difficult to determine who-is-who until you are on the ground.
6. Don’t give money to beggars and street kids in tourist areas. By alleviating your own guilt and feeling of awkwardness rather than striving for more difficult and long-term solutions, you encourage the problem rather than making it better.
7. In general don’t visit orphanages and be weary of voluntourism. A thousand and one scams are built around these new industries. Instead, do your research and decide which organizations to donate to after careful consideration. There is however nothing wrong with checking up on those organizations when you do visit.
8. You know all those signs you find in your hotel room talking about how environmentally conscious the hotel is, and how you can help them save the universe by not having your sheets changed or your towels washed? Its all a load of crap designed to save the hotel money. Don’t feel obligated to play along unless you are sure you really don’t need the services.
9. Do use lots of plastic bags when you shop. They make great rain covers for handbags and other valuables when your are out and about during rainy season, and are excellent protective covers for bags when traveling in busses, trains, planes and other situations where you can’t control whether someone dumps seafood juice all over your bags.
10. Do eat lots of meat when you are in Vietnam. The Vietnamese are unapologetic carnivores and some of their best dishes include beef, pork, chicken and seafood. There is nothing safer or healthier about eating vegetarian dishes than meat dishes in Vietnam. Most of the vegetarian dishes are made with fish sauce, pork fat and other animals' assortments and besides, you’d panic if you knew about all the pesticides, pollutants and preservatives pumped into Vietnam’s ‘fresh’ produce anyway.
11. Don’t use bicycles or rickshaws in Vietnam cities. They aren’t safe because of traffic and thieves. As a general rule the more petrol a particular form of transportation uses, the more convenient, comfortable and quickly one travels. In fact, any stint longer than 5hrs is best done by airplane (unless traveling coastal Vietnam, and then a train can be nice, under the right circumstances).
12. Be very weary of anything labelled ‘eco-tourism’ or ‘eco-‘ anything, particularly in Vietnam. The Vietnamese idea of eco-tourism is to take a location of natural beauty (or rather have a government official seize it), strip the foliage, put up a 2-star hotel posing as a 4 or 5-star resort, then round out the property with a karaoke bar, massage parlour, and in-house escort service. Any remaining animals in the forest are served up on platters in the in-house restaurant or left in cages for the kids to poke with sticks. This doesn’t always hold true—there are indeed some very fine ecotourism home-stays and activities, generally associated with national parks and nature reserves—but these are exceptions and not the rule. Investigate before you make a booking. Vietnam is still a beautiful country with some very fine patches of natural forest left—but sometimes its better to scout these with a knowledgeable, private guide rather than sit in an institutionalized ‘eco-tourism resort.’