Over-pricing, Ho Chi Minh City
You find these souvenir shops all around Asia. The prices are about double the price outside. The tour guide gets a commission for just bringing you to these shops. Don't buy anything, but if you must, buy some small stuff like a keychain or fridge magnets costing about US$1 to US$2. Otherwise, just note down whatever items you like and try to find them at Ben Than Market.
Unique Suggestions: For just entering this shop, you'll get a free mini plastic fan which is useful during the hot season. This particular shop is in Chinatown.
Overpricing is a -ve point in Vietnam. if you are a foreigners, especially people with golden hair, american and japanese tend to have thier disadvantage here. 2 things to note, they goods from the trips to the bags, soveniers, t-shirts are all over price. Make sure you cut 40% off their usual tag price. If not dun buy and its really not clever to buy things in USD. Always ask for DONG.
When you leave the airport an official-looking guy will wave you to a blue taxi on the left (last time I went there was a line of these guys, from the airport door to the taxi rank, so everyone goes that way, of course). That will cost you US$9, at least. Instead, turn right for a few steps and cross over to the yellow cabs - US$4. That's the standard charge from the airport to downtown.
We got into a cab after we left the airport, and started haggling with the cabbie about the cab fare. In the end, we agreed to pay USD7 (we had not changed our money into the Vietnamese Dong yet, we only had USD with us then). Just before we reached our hotel, the cabbie stopped and insisted that we pay him the fare. We sensed that something was amiss, but paid up anyway. Satisfied, he then drove us to the hotel.
We soon realised that we were over-charged...the amount is no big deal, really, but it really sucks to have been cheated on the first day..just after arrival...If we had paid the original amount he wanted, we would feel worse!
Always insist on travelling in a metered taxi, and get the cabbie to switch on the meter! Most cabbies in HCMC are ok, but some of them would try to over-charge tourists at the airport.
The one and only eating place at HCMC international airport is an absolute rip-off. Everything is priced in US dollars, which is very annoying. A sandwich I had there was US$4 and a bottle of water was an incredible US$2. I was so hungry and thirsty, that I forked out the cash. The prising of stuff in HCMC is annoying when it's in US dollars. Ofcourse, the locals think that all tourists are rich, but when you're not from the States, Japan, or Europe, a few US dollars can add up to too much!
Fun Alternatives: Make sure you get something to eat before you get to the airport, or if you can hold on, wait till you get on the plane.
Cyclo's charging too much. A common form of transport on Vietnam is the Cyclo. The generally charge about US$1 for every ride in Saigon no matter how far...as long as you are not going miles away.
The street taxis - normal meter taxis - are extremely cheap and you can lock the doors and windows and will usually get decent AC.
Personally I though the cyclos lost their appeal after the 2nd trip and the taxis are the same price or cheaper for most local rides....
Avoid the minibar in your hotel! A can of coke in our room cost 50,000 Dongs while in the nearby supermarket it is only 4,000 Dongs! The hotel restaurant is no different than the minibar: 12x normal! The area around the Caravelle Hotel where we stayed (District 1) is a tourist trap area. Even the street vendors will overcharge if you are not careful. They will attempt to sell a set of dirty old coins that are not used anymore for USD 10.00 while they are probably worth less than USD 1.00. If you want to buy maps, buy it from a real bookstore.