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What to do in Ho Chi Minh City

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 25, 2017

Friday May 5th – 9th, 2017

What are you going to do?

Before leaving Mui Ne I asked my new friend Mimmu what her plans in Ho Chi Minh was. “I don’t know. I think I will find a frozen yogurt place then wait for you guys to plan something. Then I will follow you.”

I looked at her suspiciously. “Really? Because I was going to ask if Mark and I could tag along with what ever plans you come up with.”

One problem with long term travel is the constant planning. We go to a new city or town and have to think of things to do. If we’re lucky, the city is known for something. “If you go to Paris, see the Eiffel Tower.” “In Rome? See the Colosseum.” But what happens when you go to, say… Ho Chi Minh City?

Instead of lollipops we get fruity drinks, ’cause we’re adults!

I. Get Shots

We started our RTW Trip vaccines in Japan. By May it was time for the next round of shots. We first went to the Institut Pasteur in Nha Trang, but I got freaked out when I saw the doctor treat patient after patient without washing his hands, using gloves, or using alcohol to clean the area where the shot was given. Even though we had signed up for shots, I grabbed Mark and ran out of the clinic before seeing a doctor.

Back at the hostel, I talked with a doctor. Well, he wasn’t a doctor-doctor. He was a doctor on paper. He had his degree; he just hadn’t done his residency yet. He would do that after backpacking through South East Asia. He told me, that it was better to get the shot than not, even if the doctor didn’t ever wash his hands or use gloves. He did suggest that I bring my own alcohol wipes and clean my arm myself if the doctor didn’t.

Rather than go back to Nha Trang’s Pasteur clinic, we went to Ho Chi Minh’s. They didn’t use gloves or do any hand washing there either, but they did slather bales of cotton soaked in alcohol on each and every arm before and after each shot, so there was some measure of comfort.

II. Go see some statues

I called Mimmu to ask her if she made it safely to HCMC and what her plans for the next day were.

“I got in Yesterday,” she messaged me. “But, I have no plans. You said you would be the one making the plans.”

“Did I?” That didn’t sound like me. I messaged her back, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. How else do you explain the fact that I have made no plans for myself?”

I couldn’t explain. “Well, then… why don’t we… see some… ummm…. statues?”

Mimmu thought it sounded like a wonderful idea. She let me have 2 hours to put the whole tour together while she terrorized some Japanese girls in her dorm with her in-your-face Finnishness. What exactly Mimmu did, I’m not sure (and neither was she), but she assured me that one of the girls seemed dreadfully afraid of her every time she entered the room.

So, I went on google maps and made a walking tour. I tried to gather as much information as I could, but it was only 2 hours. And while Mimmu was inadvertently harassing her roommates, I spent about half an hour getting to know one of mine and had invited her to join my badly planned tour.

In the end, we all had a wonderful time walking around the city. We posed here and there and everywhere while asking each other about life back home. “Have you ever toured Paris?” I asked Gabriel, my roommate from France.

“No,” she said. “I live there, so I don’t go sightseeing. That’s for tourists. Have you ever toured Tampere?” She asked Mimmu to prove her point.

“No, there is nothing to see there,” Mimmu answered.

“That’s true,” I agreed. “I’ve been there. Everyone had left town and everything was closed.”

Mimmu nodded thinking fondly of her home.

III. Learn about history, see a garden and a sad zoo, then do some shopping

This day, Mark did the planning. He picked a history museum and a botanical garden. The museum was nice, but the botanical garden turned out to also be a zoo. The zoo didn’t take care of its animals very well. We had to leave when it got too depressing looking at scrawny, mangy lions and other animals that were locked up in cages too small for them.

We made our way to the Ben Thanh Market. It had a vast array of things for sale. We walked around while all the shop keepers tried to entice us to buy their products. It was very crowded and the sales people were very aggressive. None of us wanted to buy anything, we just wanted to look around, but no one would leave us in peace. We didn’t stay long.

We found ourselves at Sense Market. It was a smaller, better organized version of Ben Thanh Market with part of a western styled mall thrown in for comfort. We ate dinner there then looked around at the stalls. There was still pushy shop keepers calling to us, but they weren’t too aggressive.

Twice!

IV. Eat 

I made a food tour. I had a list of foods to try in Vietnam. I still had a few items on the list that I hadn’t eaten yet. I wanted to knock them all off in one day. I didn’t find all the places; some restaurants aren’t where google maps say they are. But I found all the dishes even if I had to get them from alternative shops. We didn’t have breakfast or lunch. We ate here and there and there and here.

V. Remember war is hell

In the afternoon we visited the War Remnants Museum. The place is depressing, it’s heavy, it’s awful, and, unfortunately, it’s very necessary. War is not glamorous. It is not heroic. It’s seldom black and white. There is never a real winner. There are always many losers, even years and decades afterwards. Usually, everybody is in the wrong, some more than others.

VI. Eat Bun Cha

I know. It’s a Hanoi dish. But, it’s my favorite Vietnamese food. This was the last thing I ate in Vietnam before getting on a bus to Cambodia. There are many places in HCMC that serve Hanoi style bun cha and I tried as many of them as I could find. They were all delicious. When I go back to Vietnam, bun cha will be the first thing I eat!


Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
    • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.
    • Or you can apply for a visa online if you do not live near an embassy or consulate.
    • Remember if you enter Vietnam on a single entry visa then leave, you must wait 30 days before returning to Vietnam on another visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the bank in Vietnam. (DO NOT get money at the airport. You will never get a good rate. Use an ATM/bank.) Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
    • Also, asking the average Joe on the street for ABC hotel will do nothing. Locals don’t stay in hotels, so they don’t remember hotel names. But Mr. Joe will know where 123 Hanoi St. is.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.
  • There are companies that charge 10USD to take you from Hanoi to the airport. They are all around Hanoi. Use one of those instead of jumping into a random cab.

Ho Chi Minh City 
(Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)

How to get there:

  • 10°49’24.2″N 106°37’48.3″E

You can get here by train, plane, boat, or bus.

Airport –

The Train –
Long Distance Bus Stations –
  • Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station – This one is downtown and near many tourist sites and hotels.
  • Mien Dong Bus Station – Buses to and from northern destinations
  • Mien Tay Bus Station
  • Cholon Bus Station

Website:

Videos:


Institut Pasteur in Ho Chi Minh City

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.786372, 106.688647

Address:

  • P. 8,, 167 Pasteur, phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Phone:

  • +84 8 3823 0352

Websites:

Cost:

  • The shots I got cost 755,000d or 33USD.

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 17:00 Everyday
  • Go early!

Notes:

  • I went there for Hep A&B, Japanese encephalitis, and Typhoid vaccines, not medical care.
    • What I got cost 755,000d or 33USD.
    • There might be other vaccines, but these were all I asked for.
  • From start to finish my whole visit took 45 minutes.
  • The person giving the shots did not wear gloves or wash his hands between serving different patients.
  • Tips:
    • Get there early.
    • Bring a hand fan and some ice water.
    • Bring enough cash.

Statues of Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour

How to get there:

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 2 to 2.5 hours
  • More if you get lost. Less if you run.

Notes:

  • There are other statues along the way, but I don’t have any information about them.

Phuoc Hai Temple
Jade Emperor Pagoda

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.792044, 106.698005

Address:

  • 73 Mai Thi Luu St., Dakao Ward, District 1, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Phone:

  • +84 8 3820 3102

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Sunrise to whenever it closes

Notes:


Vietnam History Museum

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.787952, 106.704844

Address:

  • 2 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Websites:

Cost:

  • 15,000d

Hours:

  • Closed Mondays
  • 8:00 – 11:30 & 13:30 – 17:00

Notes:

  • Most of this museum is not air conditioned.

Saigon Zoo And Botanical Garden

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.787304, 106.705301

Address:

  • 5, 2 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, TP. Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Phone:

  • +84 8 3829 1425

Notes:

  • This place has very little garden; it’s mostly a zoo.
  • This is a terrible zoo. The animals are not treated very well.

Ben Thanh Market

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.771929, 106.698358

Address:

  • Công trường Quách Thị Trang, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Bến Thành Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free entry
  • Then haggle haggle haggle after that

Hours:

  • Daily 6:00 –24:00 unless it’s closed at 19:00 for “reasons”.

Notes:

  • This place is very crowded.
  • The sales people are quite pushy.

Sense Market

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.769280, 106.693742

Address:

  • 04 Pham Ngu Lao, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Phạm Ngũ Lão, Ho Chi Minh, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Phone:

  • +84 8 3836 4057

Websites:

Cost:

  • There are shops with reasonable set prices and stalls where you can haggle.

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 20:30

Notes:

  • For those who don’t like crowds or very pushy sales people, this is a great alternative to Ben Thanh Market.
  • The food court, which is more like a regular western food court, is quite nice.
    • Delicious affordable food.

Walking Food Tour of Ho Chi Minh City

How to get there:

  • Goi Cuon Thai Binh for Goi Cuon (Spring Roll)
    • Couldn’t find this particular stall, but we found another one that served goi cuon.
    • It was delicious, but I didn’t like the dipping sauce.
  • Banh Cuon Hai Nam for Banh Cuon (Savory rice cake rolls
    • This was the most delicious thing I tried on this tour.
    • I still have cravings for these treats months after leaving Vietnam.
  • Bánh khọt Cô Ba Vũng Tàu for Banh Khot (small savory pancakes)
    • The pancakes were overpriced here. You could go to many other places for better prices.
    • The pancakes were delicious.
  • Some random convenience store for charcoal ice cream.
    • Very delicious. Not sure how long this will be offered.

Websites:

Cost:

  • Most of these dishes were very inexpensive and for the one exception, there is a better and inexpensive version.

Hours:

  • various

Notes:

  • I tried to keep things simple and inexpensive.
  • I only went to the fancy mini pancake place because, looking at it online, I didn’t realize how expensive it would.

War Remnants Museum

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.779475°N 106.692132°E

Address:

  • 28 Võ Văn Tần, 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Phone:

  • +84 8 3930 5587

Websites:

Downloads:

e-mail:

  • warrmhcm@gmail.com

Cost:

Hours:

Notes:

  • War is depressing. This museum is heavy, but very imformative.

Bun Cha 145

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 10.766321, 106.691710

Address:

  • 145 Bùi Viện, Phạm Ngũ Lão, Hồ Chí Minh, phường Phạm Ngũ Lão Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Phone:

  • +84 8 3837 3474

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 11:00 – 20:00

Notes:

Map:

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Bad Taxi Driver!

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 21, 2009

June 1-4, 2008

All Pictures

A rainy day in Ho Chi Minh City

So Long, Farewell…

The last few days in Vietnam were bitter-sweet for me. I knew that in a few days I would be heading back to China and then to countries I had only dreamed about visiting. I would also see my brother and mother. It had been almost a year since I’d seen my brother and about six months since I’d seen my mom. But at the same time, I would have to say good-bye to my new friends. I would probably never see them again.

eating Pho in Ho Chi Minh City

We spent our first day back in Ho Chi Minh shopping. We bought cheap jewelry and lovely trinkets. Dong is worthless outside of Vietnam and no one will change dong back into dollars. So, anything that caught our fancy, we bought. It started to rain, but we just put on our rain ponchos and kept going.

The next day, two of the ladies left to go back to their homes in Europe. The day after that, another one left to continue her tour of Asia in Cambodia. I was the last to leave.

My flight to Beijing was on the morning of the fourth. It was an early morning flight, so I woke up before the sun rose in order to pay my hotel bill and waited for a taxi. The front desk clerk called one for me. When the taxi arrived, the door man help me into the cab.

He put my backpack in the trunk and told me that the ride shouldn’t cost more than 100,000 dong. I already knew that the ride should cost about $5, because I had asked many agents and other tourists about it. I even made sure to set aside double that, to make sure I could get to the airport alright as well as to give the cab driver a nice tip.

A Street Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City

To me, the price didn’t really matter, I planned to give the cabbie all the dong I had left which was about 300,000 dong. The ride lasted about 8 minutes, but even from the start I knew something was wrong with the cab’s meter.

The meter started at 50,000 dong. When it hit 100,000 dong I looked back; I could still easily see my hotel out the rear window. When we got to the airport, the meter said 382,000 dong! I didn’t have that much money on me.

I handed him a 100,000 dong note. He waved his arms furiously, refusing to take it and pointed at the meter. I told him that the hotel man said it should cost less than 100,000 dong and that was all he was going to get.

He took my money and folded his arms. He wasn’t going to move until I paid his full amount. I told him that I wanted my backpack and pointed to the trunk of the car. He ignored me. I was not going to get out of the car and give this man the opportunity to drive off with my stuff.

During my trip I noticed that people in Vietnam like to shout a lot and I figure I would try it. I sat back in my seat and I screamed at him, “I want my bag NOW!”

He turned around looking quite shocked. I had yelled so loud, all the people standing outside the airport turned around to look at me. I opened my mouth, about to yell again, but he was already out of the car. He ran to the back of the taxi to get my bag for me. Once he was standing on the sidewalk with my backpack in hand, I got out the vehicle.

He handed me my bag. I put my arms through the straps, turn to him and politely said, “Thank you.”  I did drag him along for a bit when I walked away because he didn’t let go of my bag. But he couldn’t hold on forever.

I reached Peking 7 hours later and ended up giving my useless dong to the people affected by the earthquake. They took up a collection on Dragon Air.

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh

The Tourist Rate

I usually don’t mind paying the tourist rate for things. As a tourist, I pay more for items sold on the street than a local would. It’s a bit unfair, but the things bought in South East Asia are still pretty cheap even with a price hike. A dollar might not mean that much to an American, but its worth a lot to that vendor.

I think it’s more about how the vendor makes you feel that determines whether or not you really feel scammed. Let’s face it, it’s all a scam. Tourists will always pay way more than the locals and not just in South East Asia. But were you charmed out of your money or intimidated out of it? Did you feel you had a choice to say no?

What I hate is when I’m backed into a corner and I have to pay an unfair amount. That taxi driver looked at me. I was a female traveling alone. He probably thought I didn’t know any better and even if I did, I would be too scared to not pay his overpriced charges. I was already given the ride; I had to pay, right?

I don’t mind paying 20% extra for fruit from a vendor who walks all day in the hot sun to feed her family when I choose to. If I feel the price is too much I walk away; there’s no feeling that I’m going to get in trouble or hurt if I don’t buy anything. But I will not pay 282% extra to an obnoxious cab driver for an 8 minute ride, in a cab with an obviously broken meter, who is trying to bully me into to over paying.

I understand that maybe this cab driver also has a family to feed. Maybe he even has more bills to pay because he also has a car to take care of. I don’t even mind the cab drivers that claim to not have any change. If the change is not too large I just let him or her keep it. It’s a bit cheeky, but there no feeling of being threatened. I just didn’t like to feel intimidated. I knew how much the fare should have cost and he was charging me almost three times that and there was no negotiating or walking away. Well, there was some walking away because that’s what I did.

And I was going to give him all the dong I had…

All Pictures


 

 

Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
  • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the airport either in your country or in Vietnam. Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.

Ho Chi Minh City 
(Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)

How to get there:

  • 10°49’24.2″N 106°37’48.3″E

You can get here by train, plane, boat, or bus.

Airport –

The Train –
Long Distance Bus Stations –
  • Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station – This one is downtown and near many tourist sites and hotels.
  • Mien Dong Bus Station – Buses to and from northern destinations
  • Mien Tay Bus Station
  • Cholon Bus Station

Website:

Videos:

Posted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Scooters, naps, and PJs

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 21, 2009

May 28-29, 2008

All Pictures

Taking a self-guided tour of Saigon with new friends

Leaving Paradise

There were four of us from Paradise Resort that were going to Ho Chi Minh City, so we decided to travel together. We left Paradise and spent a short time in Nha Trang. We reserved our train tickets from the travel agent that the owner of the resort recommended. The agency wasn’t all that great.

The lady there was a bit rude to my friends and me. We bought the train tickets with no problem, but then she tried to trick one of my new friends into buying an overpriced visa to Cambodia. The lady lied, by telling my friend that a visa cannot be bought at the border. Then she tried to pressure us into buying a package tour of the Mekong Delta, but refused to tell us what was included in the tour unless we paid first.

on the train to Ho Chi Minh City

We walked around Nha Trang for a few hours sampling street food and browsing in a very nice book store with no books in English. When we went to pick up and pay for our tickets, we ran into a couple who had left Paradise a few days before. They joined our group to Ho Chi Minh City.

Picking a hotel

Saigon

We all boarded the train and talked about our plans for our time in the city that used to be known as Saigon. The choice was between the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Since I am a bit claustrophobic, I had very little interest in wandering around a cramped underground labyrinth.

Once we got to Ho Chi Minh City, it was easy to find accommodations. We stood on the sidewalk in the part of town we wanted to stay. We put all our packs in a pile and as we were about to plan our next move, the hotel guards started to approach us. Guard A from Hotel A offered us a price. We turned to guard B from Hotel B and asked him if he could beat Hotel A’s price. In the end, we went with a really fancy, yet forgettable hotel because it gave us the best deal and it came with free internet.

Most hotels, but not all, in Vietnam have free internet for guests.

Using the Lonely Planet walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City

We did a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City courtesy of the Lonely Planet: Vietnam. On our tour we saw lots of the sights the city had to offer.

Since most of the things I did on this leg of my trip were planned and executed by other people, I don’t have the information about them like I usually do. I didn’t have this blog back then and I didn’t take notes.

While traveling in Vietnam I did noticed three things about the city dwellers.

Napping on a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City

1. People sleep any and everywhere.

Naps are very important and you should do it wherever and whenever you feel the need to snooze. The most popular type of nap in Saigon is the scooter or motor bike nap. There’s also the hammock in a bus nap, the butcher’s meat cutting table nap, the park bench nap, the sidewalk nap, the chair nap, and many more! This inspired me to make a special album called Naps Around the World.

2. People love to pile stuff onto their scooters.

How many family members can you get on your bike? Just five you say?! You are going to have to improve your motorbike stacking skills. You could at least try to get some dogs on there! How about 4 or 5 fat pigs, a chicken, and a couple boxes of geese? I’m sure grandma wouldn’t mind holding onto a TV or two as you speed down the dirt road at a whooping 35 mph. While she’s got the TVs your nephew can hold on to your week’s worth of recycling. You should also never leave home without a few empty cardboard boxes to pick up anything else that might catch your eye. Remember, the key is to never have empty hands aboard you scooter. Everyone must do their part.

3. Women love to wear pajamas outdoors.

They could be cotton, silk, or satin. They could come with or without cartoon characters. You don’t have to stop wearing your PJs when you get out of bed, or even when you leave your home. Neither do you have to wait until dusk to put them back on. Wear them to work. Wear them to school. Wear them to the temple. Wear them when you just need to go outside to yell at people. You have a fancy party to attend? Why not wear those silky pajamas you got for Christmas last year?

I ♥ Vietnam!!


 

Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
  • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the airport either in your country or in Vietnam. Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.

Ho Chi Minh City
(Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)

How to get there:

  • 10°49’24.2″N 106°37’48.3″E

You can get here by train, plane, boat, or bus.

Airport –

The Train –
Long Distance Bus Stations –
  • Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station – This one is downtown and near many tourist sites and hotels.
  • Mien Dong Bus Station – Buses to and from northern destinations
  • Mien Tay Bus Station
  • Cholon Bus Station

Website:

Videos:

Map:

Click for Google maps

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