Useful tips, Ho Chi Minh City
The poor chaps at Sinh Cafe must be well miffed about the number, and it's a huge number, of people using their name. So for once and for all this is the contacts for the REAL Sinh Cafe:
246-248 De Tham, D1, HCMC. Tel: 836 7338,
Some useful Vietnamese word..
Kam En (thank you)
Sin Loik (sorry)
Baun Nyiur (how much)
dat kuah = very expensive
tam biet (bye bye)
Ao Yai (vietnamese costume"ao dai")
Cho Lon in HCMC is pronounce as 'ja len'. Cho means market and lon means new. Cho Lon = new market.
Cu Chi Tunnel pronouce as "die dao gou ti"
Vietnamese is very unique and sounds nice to me.. they use nose to pronouce most of the word.. very interesting
Favorite thing: Before I went to Saigon, I was worried about carrying large amounts of money on myself. No need to worry, ATMs are everywhere. All you need is an ATM card. When I was shopping in the Ben Thanh market I had no cash on me one day, but no need to worry, the lady selling the clothes directed me to the nearest ATM which was a block down. There are many banks available as well and many are even open on Saturdays. I had no trouble cashing in my travelers cheques either. If the bank is closed, you can also cash your cheques either at your hotel front desk or at the Sinh Cafe. I do advise however that before you come that you have a stash of $1 US bills. They are a good means to bargain and tip people. You will find that if you carry large US bills people will all of a sudden have no change for you. Deal in small US currency whenever possible.
Favorite thing: The thing I enjoyed most about HCMC was the shopping and bargaining. Whether visiting Ben Thanh Market, Cholon, other markets or even street stalls, if you are not Vietnamese, you will be quoted the tourist price. Look at the item and decide what you would like to pay. That will be your midpoint between what they are asking and what you will offer.. Ask "how much", but ask in Vietnamese. They will be happy you took the trouble to learn a few words in their language and warm up to you. For example: The shopkeeper wants 400,000 dong (about 25 u.s. dollars). You decide that you would be happy if you got it for about 17 usd, or about 280,000 dong. T his is your midpoint between 400,000 and 160,000, which is what you offer. She wants 400,000, roll your eyes, let your jaw drop, act incredulous, and say "mac qua" pronounced "mack qwawh" which means "too expensive". She will probalblly find this amusing, and also be impressed that you know FOUR words in Vietnamese. Then you offer 160,000. She will have a handheld calculator just for such negotiaions. .She will act as if you want to confiscate her house and take her first born child, but she will make a counter offer. Whatever she comes down, you go up by an equal amount. Do not be surprised as you approach the midpoint if she stops coming down. She is testing your determination. Repeat your last offer and say "final offer". As she looks at the number on the calculator, smile and say "Da, da. Cam on." - pronouced "Da, da, Kam uhn" smile broadly. She will usually take this offer. If she counters again and is very close, go ahead and let her have the extra fifty cents. If it is a little more that that, ask for a small gift from her to compensate, a small change purse or fan, or a pair of nail clippers. Everyone is happy.
Most of the vendors we ran across really like you to pay in US dollars. It appears that US dollars are in fact, the underground currency around Vietnam. I would be careful about exchanging too much cash for Vietnamese Dong as it is useless (and worthless) outside of Vietnam.
Now, that doesn't mean it isn't fun to get some. How often do you get to hold 20,000 of any kind of money! LOL
But, make your exchanges in small amounts so if you get stuck with a few dong, it won't be more than a few dollars worth.
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!
It's pretty hard to get VND outside of Vietnam as it's a controlled currency. The locals in Vietnam accepts USD. So if you are from US, you're definitely the fortunate ones. As for the rest, do change some VND and also bring along smaller USD note. i.e. USD 1 or 5, as small shops and taxis will not return you in USD if change is required.
Also, there's no need to change large amount at the airport as those at the shopping malls offer better rates. Just change enough for your trip to town and a little bit more to spare just in case of any emergencies. About 200,000 VND should be good enough.
I'd kept USD 24 in my little pouch for the longest time. You see, I was told that we needed to pay USD 12 per person for the Airport tax. I stinged on food and drink to make sure that I do not spend this last bit of money and end up becoming an illegal immigrant in Vietnam.
But the truth of the matter is that...THERE IS NO NEED TO PAY AIRPORT TAX ANYMORE!!!! It's true. I didn't believe it myself. I was about to board my taxi to the airport and was asking if the hotel counter could help break my USD 50 note into smaller denominations...and the lady seemed a little astonished as she mentioned "Don't need to pay airport tax". Woohoo!
More spending money...just that by that time, I was already at the airport!
I've heard of Sinh Cafe and felt that this would be a safe bet if I'd to book my day tours with them.
I can safely say that they are one of the best tour agency around. Booking of the day tours was a breeze and they have everything from a one day tour, to a 3-day Mekong delta tour, to even adventure tour for those who wants to rough it out.
Located along De Tham St (Along a row of backpacker's motels), Sinh cafe was easily the busiest of all the tour agencies located there. Bus after bus brought tourists to their various locations, and everything ran like clockwork. If they say they'l leave by 8.15am, they will, though not without a grace period.
The guides speak understandable english and there were no forced purchase of any items (Had a very bad experience in China. I'll leave you to read my entries about Shanghai), and they did not demand for a guide's tip.
They also ensure the safety of those under them and also gave us enough time to explore the places that they brought us to. Extremely good customer service at a totally inexpensive price.
They are also very efficient in replying your queries through email.
246-248, De Tham St, Dist 1
24-26, Pho Duc Chinh, Dist 1
Whilst in HCMC we decided to take a 3 day 2 night tour to Da Lat in the highlands. We arranged this tour through BenThanh Tourist Travel Service located at 73-75 Dong Khoi Street, District 1, approximately 100 meteres along from Gloria Jeans Coffee restaurant.
The staff were very efficient and arrange the flight to Da Lat (40 minutes in the air), accommodation, a car with driver and guide to meet us at airport and take us on morning tours, plus the driver drove us to HCMC on the 3rd day.
Everything went smoothly, the accommodation was excellent. Contact detais as follows:
Phone: ++84 8 8273073
I've always been one of those who prefer „Plastic Money“ and therefore I travel with minimal cash or T-Cheques.
Here is my tip on getting Money on a cheap and safe way in Vietnam...
During my 14 days stay in HCMC I always picked up cash at the CitiBank ATM in Downtown HCM (SunWah Building, 115 Nguyen Hue St. District 1 Ho Chi Minh ). CitiBank has two ATMs within walking distance. If you have a Bank Card from CitiBank you can withdraw Money in local Currency without any fees based on fair daily rates.
There is no easier way to get money.
Just avoid Sundays. The ATMs are regularly empty(!) on a Sunday, because they are not filled over the weekend. Try to plan to pick up money on Monday to Friday!
PS - I do not work for CitiBank, just a satisfied customer.
If you don't eat at tourist targeted or top end restaurants you can easily eat well for under 20 usd a day.
A bowl of Pho BO is usually only 1-2 usd at a cafe or small restaurant and mains can be bought from 1-5 usd at the same.
Rules of thumb for eating in HCMC, eat at places that are doing a good trade with locals (the food will be fresher and locals are in the know), if there is no english menu (which is rare in dist1)just look at what other people are eating and point at what you like the look of.
I found an excellent rooftop BBQ place (quan an nyong I think it was called) above fannys ice cream just off Nyuyen Hue, you have a bbq in the middle of the table and you order your meat or seafood and grill it yourself rice and steamed vegetable were complimentary. We had venison, frog, beef skewers and prawns a couple of beers a couple of cokes and the bill came to under 30 usd for 4. We were the only westerners and the place was absolutely chockers.
A full day trip to the mekong or the cuchi tunnels can be purchased at Sihn cafe in De Tham st for around 15 usd and some of these trips include a decent lunch.
Entry to the War remnants museum, zoo and many other attractions in dist 1 are incredibly cheap and can be walked to, or are only a dollar or 2 fare in a metered cab.
As for shopping, well how long is a piece of string? A trip to Ben Than market is a must and some of the items for sale there (Lacquerware for example)I haven't seen anywhere else in Asia, as well as the usual chinese made rubbish that you can pick up anywhere, but hey each to their own.
In conclusion I think you could have a great 3 days sightseeing, eating and drinking and maybe even enough for a couple of pairs of fake sunnies, a T-shirt with a yellow star or pic of Uncle Ho for 180 usd.
Have fun, I know you will.
This is pink guava that normally sold by Kgs. It has very high vitamins C (almost 20x of Oranges) in the single red guava.
I’m not going to introduce tropical fruits one by one. Just try your hand on strange fruits that you don’t normally see in your country. I promise that you’ll be very satisfied and tasting fruits itself will worth your trip to Vietnam.
Favorite thing: De Tham street and the surrounding area is called Backpackers District. You will see many tourists staying in this area. There are many guesthouses located here and at a low cost you can enjoy staying very close to city center. In this area, you can also find many travel agents which offer cheap daily packages to tourist attractions such as Mekong Delta or Cu Chi Tunnels. Many restaurants and souvenir shops are also available so everything you need is just in walking distance.
Internet VNN Club has one of the best rates available. It's modern, airconditioned, housed in one of the nicest and newer building in HCMC (Saigon Center) and it's cheaper than some other cybercafes in the town. 2nd floor of Saigon Centre (next to escalator)
Eg, 60 mins for 6,000 VND! That is so unbelievable or 3 hours for only 16,000 VND! Let me know if you can find any better offer!