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10 useful tips to travel in Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

10 useful tips to travel in Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon, is a city in Southern Vietnam, with a high population of 8.4 million (as at year 2016). Being well known for its French colonial landmarks, such as Notre-Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office, as well as its delicious Vietnamese cuisine and street foods, Saigon is indeed a cultural place in a noisy, bustling city. Its unique character attracts as many as 5 million foreign tourists per year!

Saigon is definitely a fun place to visit with what it could offer. However, in order to fully enjoy your trip and be well prepared, I have listed out a few travel tips for you as below that may come in handy.

 

LANGUAGE

It is always handy to learn a phrase or two of the language of the place that you are travelling to. Be it for convenience or politeness to the people. Here are a few useful Vietnamese phrase to speak:

Hello – Xin Chao

Yes – Da

No – Khong

How much? – Bao nhieu?

Expensive – Rat dat

Do you have a cheaper price? – Ban co gia nao re hon khong?

Thank you – Cam on

May I have the menu please? – Lam on cho toi cai thuc don?

I don’t understand – Toi khong hieu

Can you help me? – Ban co the giup toi duoc khong?

Sorry/Excuse me – Xin loi

No problem/You’re welcome – Khong co gi

Can you show me on the map where am I? – Ban co the chi cho toi biet toi dang o dau tren ban do?

Goodbye – Tam biet

You should be good to go if you manage to grasp these phrases ;) Don’t worry if you can't (it is challenging to me as well!) though, there is always Google translation and there are plenty of translation apps you can download too!

Bird's eye view of Saigon city from Saigon Sky Deck

 

SAFETY

According to various sources, snatch cases are pretty common in Saigon especially with the amount of motorcyclist in the city. Hence, it would be wise to use caution in all circumstances and don’t make unnecessary stupid mistakes.

Tip #1: Always carry your bag close to your body – a sling bag would be a good option so you could keep an eye on your belongings at all times.

Tip #2: Avoid wearing flashy accessories or jewelries especially when you are walking on the road – gold chains or dangling ear rings are NOT a good idea.

Tip #3: Do not take picture with your phone by the roadside as you will become an easy target for the snatch thieves. If you MUST use your phone while walking, like to check location on the map, stop and do it further from the road. Note: This applies to camera too of course.

Tip #4: Avoid walking alone at night especially on quiet lanes.

Despite having said all these, we actually felt pretty safe when we travelled in Saigon. But it is always better to be safe than sorry. Get your fellow travellers to watch each other’s back at all times!

This is me in front of Saigon Opera House

 

TRANSPORTATION

UBER was our favorite mode of transportation when travelling in Saigon. I’d highly recommend it to anyone as it is easy and very accessible. Another option would be taxi but the fare is slightly higher. If I had to take a taxi in Saigon, my only option would be Vinasun or Mai Linh as they are one of the most trusted taxi companies around Vietnam. However, be careful of disreputable taxi companies copying the names and logos of the more reputable companies. An example would be "VinaSUM" taxis vs "VinaSUN" taxis.

 

TRAFFIC

Traffic is CRAZY in Saigon – period.

If you think traffic jam back home is frustrating, wait till you experience the motorbike-clogged in Saigon during peak hours, and we are talking about 7 million motorbikes in Saigon itself! Moreover, crossing the road in Saigon is not for the fainted hearts’ as most of the drivers or motorists tend to ignore the traffic lights. I’d urge you to take precaution and be confident when crossing the roads.

 

AVOID ICE & EAT AT BUSY RESTAURANTS

Oh trust me, you definitely don’t want a diarrhea to ‘spice up’ your trip. Yours truly, unfortunately experienced this mishap during my first trip to Saigon, meh. We found out the culprit behind this disaster was ice as I was the odd one who ordered iced tea among my friends. So I would urge you to avoid ice if you can, just in case.

Another tip would be to dine at busy restaurants. Why? Because busy restaurants tend to have higher turnover on their ingredients, hence fresher ingredients served to you. Also make sure any soup dish you receive is hot, not in room temperature.

Bun Bo Hue from My Lunch Lady, Saigon

👉🏻 Related post: 8 street food to eat in Saigon

 

POWER PLUG ADAPTER

Do not forget your universal travel plug adapter. Kindly take note that the usual voltage is 110 / 220V, 50 cycles and the electrical sockets usually accommodate plugs with two round pins. The pictures of the applied power sockets and corresponding plugs are as below.

Photo credit: Lonely Planet

 

CLIMATE

Saigon’s weather is scorching hot! Yes, you will be sticky and sweaty after just a few hours out during the day (surprise, surprise). You’ll almost definitely need a shower when you are back at the hotel after an outing session. Therefore I’d recommend you to bring some extra clothes to spare (don’t forget to bring more bras and undies too!).

 

PREPARE CASH / SMALL CHANGE

Unlike (for example) countries in Europe, Vietnam is not a country where you could travel cash-free. It is always a good idea to carry cash especially small change for street food or market goods. Cafes and restaurants however, accept major credit cards.

 

ACCESSIBILITY TO ELECTRICAL / COMPUTER STORE

Make sure don’t leave your power bank, charger or phone cable etc. behind as you may have a hard time looking for replacements when you are in Saigon. We tried looking for a electrical or computer store for hard disk (yes, we bombarded the space we’ve got with the amount of photos we took, lol) but we noticed they are not very accessible in Saigon, and they are much more expensive compared to home.

 

FORGET ABOUT TOURS AND GO FREE & EASY

It is not necessary to take up a tour or driver to bring you around Saigon city. Saigon city is easy to navigate and it is definitely viable to do it on your own. Moreover, you will be more flexible with your time and able to explore more of Saigon.

A lovely pink church worth visiting in Saigon - Tan Dinh Church


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Till next time~

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