Useful tips, Ho Chi Minh City
Dont go during TET, many places are closed and everyone goes home to their home town to be with family. Its a great happy time if you are vietnamese and are back home with your family but for tourist, not so much. Services are more expensive during that time
Oct - Nov will usually have rain everyday or evening District 6 will experience flooding of Combined Sewage Overflow in some streets. It happens due to tides at night and when raining it can get much deeper than you expect .
Feb -after tet is cooler and dry.
Fondest memory: Upon arrival remove the spare toilet paper from the bathroom to keep it from accidentally getting soaked
If no hot water, check the switch for the water heater, it might be outside the bathroom
Careful! sometimes the hot water is scalding
If no hot water, try the "cold" water. Sometimes they are reversed
Go to the supermarket and buy a 6 pack of POCKET WIPES. trust me
Also buy some mouthwash. its good for disinfecting things like your toothbrush after you've rinsed it
Everytime upon arrival in hotel room wash your hands.
Tip - you can go to food court in lotte mart, or maxi mark or?? and get some bo luc lac at the "Com An Ngon" its good for dietary roughage when you are in dire need. Safe. I never got sick off that. Lotte mart Q11, and maximark tan binh alsohave this food court
if going by motorbike a lot ----- you should wear sunglasses (clear safety glasses at night) and a mask "khau trang" Your eyes will fill up with dirt, also you face is covered with dirt too. If you wear contact lenses, they will get unwearable quickly, so wear sunglasses if going by motorbike
I usually have my chinese friend change my money or else I go to a gold shop.
Usually gold shop will give you a better rate. I go to the one at the corner of Minh Phung and Hau Giang. They have never cheated me
1 Go online and check the current exchange rate. Do your math to know how much you will get
2 Then go to gold shop and show them some money. They will jot down the rate they are willing to give, then show them how much you want to change ( they prefer new, clean large banknotes) they will use calculator to show you how much you will get
3 if you agree with that, make your transaction. They should count it in front of you. I've never had a problem
2015 I had to change money at a bank. Now its a complicated process with multiple forms, annoyed teller, have to go to the hotel and get your passport etc. Not worth the hassle. Go to the gold shop
Fondest memory: If you have money left over, its useless outside of VN, except you can sell it on ebay or give a souveniers
Traffic in Ho Chi Minh..........I have never seen so many motorbikes in my life, at least they weren't going fast like at home!
How to get across to the other side of the road?
Mmm, rather daunting with all those bikes, but it can be done quite easily.
The trick is to stay aware, and walk slowly and confidently. The motorbike riders are watching and will simply move to avoid you - just don't make any sudden lurches forwards, backwards, or stop for that matter!
Just look for a gap in the traffic, and begin a slow but steady movement. If you hear a beep coming your way it's likely a motorbike rider is about to enter your personal space.
Be a alert and prepared to stop putting your foot forward until he passes
If you don't feel up to doing this, then go and stand with a local and cross with them!
Fondest memory: When go to Ho Chi Minh city, I find a local travel service to book cheap transportation and hotel. Name of travel agent is Hoang Dinh Travel , i find out this website in internet www.hoangdinhtravel.com
Mobile Phone Roaming is really a pain in the butt since roaming charges costs an arm and a leg when calling from the country you are visiting to the country you live as you local mobile phone operator charges you and it's roaming partner in the country charges your more! (and at atrocious rates too, roaming charges in Saigon will cost $ 3.50 per minute if you are calling and $ 2.75 per minute if you are receiving both local and international calls and $ .50 per text messaging sent) If you you plan a long stay in vietnam, be sure just to buy the local Prepaid SIM card of the Vietnam Mobile Phone companies as they charge cheaper rates for international calls at just $ 0.30 cents a minute and $ 0.10 for international text messages sent.
Fondest memory: Mobile phone companies in Saigon Are:
Viettel Mobile (directly under Viettel Corp.): 097, 098, 0163, 0164, 0165, 0166, 0167, 0168, 0169
MobiFone (directly under VMS): 090, 093, 0120, 0121, 0122, 0126, 0128
VinaPhone (directly under VNPT): 091, 094, 0123, 0125, 0127, 0129 
S-Fone (directly under CDMA S-Telecom): 095
Vietnamobile (ex-HT Mobile): 092, 0188 
Beeline (directly under G-Tel): 0199
EVNTelecom (directly under Vietnam Electricity):
you can buy prepaid SIM cards at Convenience Stores, Big Shops, tax Department Store and Supermarkets everywhere.
Saigon Tourist Conglomerate has a practically omnipresence in Saigon, it is the number one tour company slash hotel chain slash business and they have several help desk around saigon, more so at the hotel lobbies of their member hotels like:
New World Saigon Hotel
Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers
Hotel Majestic Saigon
Grand Hotel Saigon
Hotel Continental Saigon
Kim Do Royal City Hotel
Bong Sen Hotel Saigon
Palace Hotel Saigon
Bong Sen Hotel Annex
Oscar Saigon Hotel
Que Huong - Liberty Hotel Group
Bong Sen Restaurant Group
Cung Dinh Restaurant (Royal Court)
Lion Brewery & Restaurant
Saigon Restaurant Cruise Ship
Que Huong - Liberty Restaurant Group
Mekongtourism Service Restaurant Group
Cho Lon Restaurant Group
Cho Lon Tourist Restaurant Group
Phu Tho Tourist Restaurant Group
Dam Sen Water Park Restaurant
Givral Bakery - Patisserie - Café
First Grill Restaurant
VietNam "Nem" Outlet
Hoang Hau Restaurant
Song Que Restaurant
and you can get free brochures, travel tips and more and book assorted tours around vietnam from these desks.
Fondest memory: Saigon Tourist Conglomerate is everywhere!
tel: (84.8) 3829 2291 - 3822 5874
Fax (84.8) 3824 3239 - 3829 1026
If you're going to Saigon and you did not research the necessary tips of Saigon from helpful Websites like VIRTUAL TOURIST! for free or did not get the necessary free saigon brochures from the Than So Nhat Airport or did not research at the Internet before hand, or just plain wanted to know particular tips on anything in Saigon, whether restaurants, tours, location of restaurants or bars or just about anything, you can get free advice and tips and even free brochures (heck even shop at the souvenir stands inside and even book a local tour at their travel agency) at the Tourist Information Center in Nguyen Hue Street, near the corner to Le Loi Street facing the municipal opera.
according to their website:
A centre for providing information on tourism and related services was inaugurated in Ho Chi Minh City Saigon on Sept. 23 2006 to furnish tourists with much needed assistance.
Saigon - The Tourism Information Centre will provide tourists with free information about tours to cultural and historical sites, historic events in Viet Nam and information about the sightseeing attractions of different regions.
The Centre also extends professional services to local tourists, including that of domestic and foreign tours, and booking of plane tickets and hotel rooms.
The Tourist Information Center (TIC) is Vietnam’s first multi-service travel and leisure information center. A dynamic and modern set up, in line with the Company’s ambitious expansion strategy. Currently located in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with plans to expand to all main cities in Vietnam, TIC provides “inside” knowledge of any region in Vietnam and helps travelers make the right holiday or business choice at the right price, the right destination with the right activities.
Every day, over 500 local and international travelers and organizations visit each TIC location and receive free assistance. Services include:
Travel advisers assistance
Instant hotel, restaurants, golf courses bookings
Spa and cooking classes reservations
Free city guidebooks and maps
Free internet access
Free English language daily news papers and magazines
Travel books and ancient postcards for sales
Our partners provide additional services on our premises:
International currency exchange
24 hours ATM cash dispensers in a secure A/C environment
Fondest memory: Opens: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm everyday
website: www.ticvietnam.com/ - Vietnam
address: 92-96 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City facing the Tax Department Store and just beside Le Loi Street at the northeast, going to the Municipal Opera.
Tel: ( 84-8) 3822 6033
Fax: (84-8) 3822 6028
There are lots of Money Exchange shops in and around Ho Chi Minh City and are also available at hotels and at the airport and even at the post office. The rates vary but the average exchange rate for 1 US Dollar to a Vietnamese Dong is $1- 21,100 to 21,300. Monex exchange shops at the aiport have higher exhange rates than in the city but they deduct 2 to 3% from the rate as finance charge (420 to 6400 dong) which is actually not much as it only cost two to three nickels. Most money exchange shops open at 9:00 am up to 8:00 pm everyday in District 1. you can also exhange money from US Dollars to Vietnamese Dong at the Hotel Lobbies and at Banls (they don't have finance charges but the rates are lower than the money exhange shops like just 20,000 VND or less per US Dollar plus the 3% finance charge).
Fondest memory: many money exchange shops in and around Saigon.
these are some basic Vietnamese Phrases I've Copied from a basic phrases my tour guide gave me.
Do you speak English Anh noìi tiêìng Anh không?
To speak Nói
English Têìng Anh
I speak a little Tôi noìi chuìt ðiÒnh
Do you understand? Anh coì hiêÒu không?
I don't understand Tôi không coì hiêÒu
My name is .. Tên cuÒa tôi laÌ
My, mine CuÒa tôi
What is your name? Tên cuÒa anh laÌ giÌ
Your, yours CuÒa anh
You Ông/BaÌ (older male/female) Anh/Chiò(about same age
Em (younger male or female kid)
How are you? Anh khoeÒ không? (Whenever you see Anh in Italic please keep
in mind of the sex/age of the person you speak with and change
to appropriate word as describe above)
Very well, thank you KhoeÒ, caìm õn
Thank you Caìm õn
You're welcome Không coì chi (same expression as "oh it's nothing")
Hello, Goodbye ChaÌo anh (change "Anh" to appropriate word as described above)
Please LaÌm õn
No Không, Không coì
Maybe Coì thêÒ
Pardon me Xin lôÒi
The Vietnamese Dong (VND) is the official currency in Vietnam.
Exchange rate as of may 2012 is approximately 1 USD = 21,000 Dong
Bank notes currently in circulation are in denominations of 100 / 200 / 500 / 1,000 / 2,000 / 5,000 / 10,000 / 20,000 and 50,000 Dong and there are no coins used.
Notes under 200 Dong have little value and are rarely used.
Fondest memory: The U.S. dollar is more or less a second currency in Vietnam so that you can use it at major hotels and major establishments. Other foreign currencies are not readily accepted. A large supply of US$1, US$5 and US$10 are almost essential for tipping, for small expenses and for hotel bills. U.S. money is so common that change will frequently be given in dollars.
You may bring in an unlimited amount of foreign currency as long as it is declared on the forms provided by customs officers. Foreign currency can be exchanged for dong at your hotel or at the State Bank of Vietnam.
The weather in the southern part of Vietnam is tropical and humid and only has two seasons (north vietnam has four seasons), dry season from december to may and the wet season fromjune to november, specifically bringing a hot, rainy season from mid-May to mid-September and a warm, dry season from mid-October to mid-March. Hence when travelling to saigon in the wet season, it is best to have the proper gear like water proof rain gears examples are the rain coat, various sizes of umbrellas, water proof boots and light clothes.
Fondest memory: the occasional showers and storms plunging saigon in the wet season hence having the proper gear is a must.
they have international ATM's here is Sai Gon so there is no need to bring large amount of cash or exchange you dollars! PLUS consortium is more numerous here than CIRRUS/MAESTRO and Discovery is nonexistent here so better look if you ATM Card is international by looking at the logo of PLUS and CIRRUS/MAESTRO and if you have it, VIOLA! more money to shop and they only charge you 20,000 VND (1.20 USD) per transaction whatever the amount you are withrawing (cheaper than the $ 3 to 5 doller per transaction in the States!) the Maximum amount you can withdraw is 6,000,000 VND! ($ 375).
If you don't want to spend on atm withdrawal charges, then just use your credit card.
Fondest memory: ATM Machines are now numerous around saigon and most of them accept international ATM Consortiums.
Just a warning to prospective tourists in Hanoi. My family and I recently travelled there and booked a tour to Halong Bay through The Real Sinh Cafe. Not only did they not turn up to pick us up on time for the tour - meaning we missed our boat - they also refused to refund our money. When we complained, I was struck in the face by the manager. I am a petite woman. While we were there other travellers came in claiming they had been threatened with broken bottles and having their passports stolen on their Halong Bay cruise booked by this man. My assault was reported to police and he was charged. This man is both dodgy and dangerous.
Fondest memory: Everything else
Vietnam has never had more foreign tourists running about than now, and the tourism department expects more than two million to come this year - a sizeable increase from last year's already high numbers.
Arrived in Sai Gon on a cheap flight from Hanoi with a rush visa booked through http://www.vietnamvisaonline.net, I am also at the end of my trip and rewarding myself for good budgeting over the whole of my trip. Want to get home and make sure i also feel like i have had a holiday as travelling is VERY hard!!!
Saigon is fassssst! Motorcycle everywhere, same busy horns on vehciles and same crazy road rules apply where you have to cover everyone elses risks and they cover yours. It does seem to work though. I have acustomed myself to the local traffic and now find myslef very confident at crossign roads whislt surrounded by cars, bike and cyclos (rickshaws).
I see lots - looking out tour bus windows, browsing at lacquerware shops on Dong Khoi Street, hanging out open-front travelers cafes in the backpacker area, waving off requests from Honda taxi offers. Some foreigners are here on business too.
In the afternoon I went to the War Museum... all I can say is WHOOOOOOAAAHHH!!! Man that place freaks you out, so graphic about the 'war crimes' from the USA. I walked out feeling really flat after going through and reading most of the material in the museum. So anti USA, i would love to hear the US version though before making anh judgement, but serioulsy looks like Vietnam was a practice ground for new weapons and gases experimentation. Some of the picture of the way the GI's treated people was atrocious. Children, babies and preganant women being killed at point blank range..... not a happy place...
Fondest memory: Got out of that sad place, I took a cyclo ride to Reunification Palace which was originally a French palace built in the late 1800s, and refashioned as 'Independence Palace' for the South Vietnamese government. It was here that VC tanks knocked down the gates and flew the North Vietnamese flag in 1975. Surprisingly, the government has never changed the very-1960s interiors. Guides in traditional dress lead you through on an hour-long tour past the former South Vietnamese presidents' desk and reception area, as well as military radio equipment from the bomb-shelter basement. You can forgive the tired jokes for all the insight. I liked that the government's palace had no doors - the downstairs is completely open, with only pillars keeping out the lizards. Watch out for the Cyclos they will try to rip you off. My guy agreed to 15,000 as the price and then tried to say he said 50,000 (as it sounds the same when they speak). Needless to say I told him he was crazy, gave him the 15,000 and walked away. Warning! Next morning, got ready for the trip to the CU CHI TUNNELS (30 miles northwest of Saigon, a 100-minute drive) - an interesting, but time-taking foray into the recreated world where northern troops (Viet Minh, and later Viet Cong) lived and hid from the French and US troops in back-to-back 20th-century wars. Trips of Cu Chi's principal site (Ben Dinh tunnel) start with a charmingly ancient film - supposedly 1967, though my guide (a former South Vietnamese soldier!) scoffed at the idea ('it was made after the war... you can see the rich terrain and jungle... in 1967 it would have been bare from all the chemicals and bombs the US used.' Supposedly the terrain was bare until about 1980.)
The best place to get best rate is at the airport. and the exchange counters are very competitive, they keep changing the rate to remain competitive with others. and over there they give same rate even though u use usd 1 notes.
i regreted that i didn't change all my money there :)