We kick off a long weekend with a short getaway trip to Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. We have heard so much about the local delicacies and attractions that we need to see it for ourselves. And what an unforgettable experience it was. Before delving into our travelogue series, there are 8 tips to share when planning your trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
#1: PLAN YOUR ITINERARY
We spent 3D2N in Ho Chi Minh City and managed to cover quite a number of places. I will be blogging these attractions in the follow up to this travelogue series so stay tune. Back to planning itinerary. While friends and websites can recommend you interesting places to explore, you need to settle down on one itinerary that suits your requirement. As we were travelling with kids, visiting attractions like Mekong Delta, Cu Chi Tunnels and such will certainly bored them to bits.
Our priority is to have a relaxing getaway – half itinerary and half rest and relax. We eventually settled our itinerary on exploring street markets, shopping centres, tasting local authentic delicacies and most importantly, strolling along the streets of HCMC like a local. The experience was amazing!
Be your own tour guide by strolling along the streets.
The famous roundabout on Pham Ngu Lao just straight in front of our hotel. The trick is to book your accommodation where all the actions is.
#2: Language Barrier
So hear us out. It would be a blessing to find local Vietnamese who can relate to you in English. Most of the time, it doesn’t happen to us during the trip. Now that you are in Vietnam, remember to bring along your hotel card or printed itinerary (with addresses) so that the locals can recognize and advise you, especially when taking taxis.
#3: Travel by Taxis or Not
Why not? We heard many stories of taxi scams and we were definitely wary of this. However, a viable way of navigating around Ho Chi Minh City is by taking taxi. It is practical provided you are not being scammed. As advised by the locals, it is highly recommended to take taxis from these 2 reputable companies – Vinasun and Mailinh.
However, that doesn’t mean you are completely safe. When taxi drivers try to engage into small talks with you, just be cautious and fix your attention on the price meter. During one of our short rides, the taxi driver tried to engage conversation to distract me, only for me to find that the meter jumped by more than the usual. My suspicious was aroused when I noticed our driver kept looking at me nervously while he was driving (he was supposed to concentrate on the road!). Good that I spotted it earlier and we reached our destination without getting ripped off 🙂
#4: Bring An Adaptor
Remember to bring along an adaptor. You can get one from local hardware shops for $1 before heading to Vietnam.
#5: Money Changers
Unlike Bangkok, we seldom see money changers along the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. There is one near to Ben Thah Market where we stayed apart from local hotels (but prepared to lose on exchange rate if you decide to change at hotels). Other than that, the only place we come across a money changer was at Diamond Plaza.
#6: Book a Local Tour?
Booking a day tour is not cheap. It usually cost at least USD40 per pax for a half day trip. Some travellers fancy the idea of booking popular bike tours to experience an authentic and unique adventure riding on a bike and breezing through the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Besides exploring the streets, you get to be brought on local food tours where you have the opportunity to taste the best dishes recommended by TripAdvisors or Lonely Planet.
We didn’t book any day tour and using Google Map is our preferred way of checking out some of the famous local dishes, notably Pho and Banh Mi.
Banh Hoi Thit Nuong (Grilled meat rice vermicelli).
#7: Bring Face Mask & Mosquito Patch
If you are travelling with kids, some useful pointers here – bring along face mask and mosquito patches. It is said that there are at least 4 million bikes in Ho Chi Minh City. The traffic is chaotic and we must say the motorcyclists and drivers are really skillful to navigate their way on the roads with traffic coming in all directions!
Imagine the amount of air pollution and dust generated from the carbon monoxide.
We brought along face mask and mosquito patches and it come in handy!
#8: Bring Your Umbrella
Yes, it sounds troublesome. Somemore adding to your luggage weight but hey, you will know how useful a simple item can bring when you need it the most. While you can control which travel items to bring, you can’t control the weather. This is a short trip but the 2 nights were marred by heavy rain.
Family travelling with kids. How priceless can umbrellas bring to you!
A new place to explore, a rich culture to understand. We would be forgiven for thinking that Ho Chi Minh City was all skyscrapers and shopping malls (afterall, it is a popular tourist destination). We have a chance to step back in time and discover Ho Chi Minh City at its best. Stay tune and subscribe to our blog for more travel discoveries!