Going to a new country can be a daunting experience, trying to understand the language, where to go & what to do can be a time consuming challenge. Wayne and I took our first overseas trip together in July 2017. Our trip was mainly based in Ho Chi Minh City as we were visiting family for a week however in that week, we soon came up with a list of tips for first time travelers to Ho Chi Minh City.
Be Prepared to be Hassled on the Streets
We lost count of the number of times we were asked “Where you going, i take you” Or let me shine your shoes, or you buy a magnet? What about a pretty shirt for a pretty lady? This can be extremely frustrating at times as some of the Vietnamese sellers either don’t understand English or they just want to make money from you. 2 things we learnt very quickly were how to say NO in Vietnamese and to avoid the Cyclo’s. We unfortunately had a bad experience with two cyclo’s who weren’t clear to us on the cost and where we wanted to get to. However there are many organised tours that take you around the city in a cyclo if your interested!
Be Open Minded
When coming to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, you really need to have an open mind of their culture and their way of life. It does get quite confronting when you see piles of rubbish in the street and the way of most transportation around the city is by scooters loaded up with goods. You will witness many street vendors cooking on the street, however this is all part of the Vietnamese culture.
The best way to explain Ho Chi Minh City is like an organised chaos. Its something we have never seen before, think about a trip to a major city and we will use New York City, USA as an example. The constant beeping, aggression and road rage. In Ho Chi Minh City you need to stop, look and think about what is going on around you a tooting car, bus or truck horn is not a sign of aggression more of a sign of letting the fellow drivers know that they are near by.
You will find most Vietnamese know some English. However it is best to learn some of the basics whilst your there. This will certaintly help you out on the streets!
Crossing the Road
When you see the amount of traffic and you watch the locals or other tourists attempting to cross the road, you will start to panic. The best way we tackled it, is to cross the road with some locals or cross with a few people in a pack. The most important thing is to keep walking, don’t stop for the scooters, they will go around you. You will soon learn how to do it!
If your looking to get somewhere, we would recommend these options. Two Feet and a Heart Beat, walking the city is the greatest way to see everything! We also used a Ride Sharing Car Service(like Uber) as well as the VinaSun taxis. Whilst there is other Taxi companies we found VinaSun was the most reliable with many taxi ranks conveniently located around the city.
Do the Toursity Things
Our Hotel, Pullman Hotel Saigon had a fantastic city map available as well as a free shuttle bus service to help as get to all the key city spots. We could still walk to most of these places however on the odd day we would take the bus service. Key spots to visit are Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office, Opera House, Bitexco Tower and Ben Thanh Market. We did a group tour to Cu Chi Tunnels however would highly recommend doing a private tour instead and on our next visit we hope to visit Mekong Delta.
Experience the food on offer. We wern’t too keen to broaden our horizons when it comes to food. We did try a few different things, however the food is incredibly cheap and many options available.
Walk the streets and appreciate where you come from, how you live and what you have in your own country. We certainly appreciated everything we have in Australia.
During our stay we worked on the ratio of $1 AUD was 20,000 VND. Whilst his is certainly not accurate it was an easier to way to calculate things on the run. The first thing we noticed in Vietnam is there is no coin currency. Its all by notes and that is the preferred method of payment in most instances.
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