Many people want to visit Saigon at least once. It is true that Saigon has people and places that are like your beautiful dreams, but it also has things that make you have “nightmares”. With my experience of backpacking in Saigon, I will share with you 10 super useful tips for first-time travellers to Ho Chi Minh City.
1. Bring plenty of cash and leave space in your luggage
You should bring a small amount of cash and an ATM card. When travelling in Saigon, your expenditures may exceed your expectations.
The more you travel around, the more beautiful souvenirs you will want buy so leave space in your luggage. No need to bring too many clothes as you can either wash them as you travel around or your hotel can do this for you.
2. Not all of Saigon's shopping malls are cheap
If you want to go shopping, try Saigon Square, Zen Plaza, AEON and popular supermarkets. If you are looking for luxurious goods then head to Parkson, Vincom or Diamond.
If you are on a budget or if you want to visit traditional markets, try Ben Thanh market for souvenirs, Tan Dinh market is good for clothes or Ba Chieu market for second-hand clothing. An Dong market is an indoor market that has a wide selection of goods from clothes to handicrafts or if you are looking for a Chinese market, visit Cho Lon.
During Saigon’s dry season (November to May), the weather is hot and dry and all clothing types are suitable. You should feel free to wear whatever you want, if you want to dress up, then go for it, if you want to be casucal, that is also perfectly acceptable.
4. Be prepared for rapid weather change in Ho Chi Minh city
Although Saigon has sunny and warm characteristics of the Southern climate, it also has a rainy season. If you plan to travel between May and the end of October, don’t forget to pack an umbrella or raincoat and carry it with you. Be warned, the rain can come at any time.
5. You will never be hungry in Saigon
There are all kinds of delicious dishes in Saigon but not all will necessarily suit your taste. Saigon cuisine is simple and sweet and if you want suggestions, simply ask the locals.
I was born and lived in Saigon for twenty years, so here are my recommendations:
- Pho (Noodle Soup)
- Com Tam ( Rice with Grilled Pork Chop)
- Banh Trang (Girdle-Cake)
- Bánh xèo (Pancako)
- Banh chung (Stuffed Sticky Rice Cake)
- Bun oc (Snail rice noodles)
There are many hotels and guest houses in Saigon with prices ranging from 200,000VND to several million VND per room. I advise that you choose accommodation near to places you wish to visit or close to a bus station but make sure they have good security. During the peak months, you should book in advance.
Here is the list of beautiful hotels which are very conveniently located in Saigon. Prices range from low to high but all have good quality of service:
- Ipeace Hotel - 175/8 Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1 (from $17).
- Bali Boutique Hotel - 82 Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao Ward (from $23)
- Golden Central Hotel Saigon - 140 Ly Tu Trong, District 1 (from $62).
- Palace Hotel Saigon - 56-66 Nguyen Hue (from $66).
- Hotel Majestic Saigon - No. 01 Dong Khoi, District 1 (from $123),
- Liberty Central Saigon Hotel - 17 Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1 (from $130)
In my experience, try to choose somewhere in the Western Quarter. Western backpackers often stay here so the accommodation is very cheap, clean, convenient and quite safe.
7. Taxi is the best transportation for first-time travellers to Saigon
There are many different ways to travel around Ho Chi Minh city such as Bus, Motorbike and Taxi, however, I highly recommend you use Taxis. The bus is cheap but you cannot use it if you know nothing about Saigon’s streets. A motorbike is not easy for you to move in a big city like Saigon unless you are taken by a local. In contrast, taxis are more expensive but you do not need to worry about the roads and security.
8. Buy something as a gift for friends and family
If you are looking to buy a gift for friends or family, there are many options that are good quality and reasonably priced. These are my suggestions for you:
- Phuc Long tea (Phuc Long coffee and tea house)
- Silk and brocade weaving (Ben Thanh and An Dong market)
- Some specialties such as Tay Ninh shrimp salt, Ben Tre coconut candy, dried beef or fish and many kinds of dried fruits (Any traditional market).
Saigon has many theme parks which are all very similar. You can choose from Suoi Tien, Dam Sen or Dai Nam (to name a few), which all offer similar attractions so do your research first and pick one that suits you best.
10. Be vigilant and look after your bag
Always be careful while walking on the road and guard your belongings carefully. If you think someone is being overly friendly or asking too many questions, they could be one of the bad guys who want to steal something from you. In addition, don’t wear gold necklaces, earrings or have expensive bags on display because you may become a target for robbers.
I hope the 10 above tips will be useful for your first-time trip to Saigon. Have a nice trip!
Have you been to Ho Chi Min City or are you thinking of it? Are these tips useful? Do you have any tips of your own you would like to share in the comment section below?
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