Saigon is not the only place I've been where tourists are asked to buy items, but the sheer persistence of the Vietnamese can make it quite uncomfortable, you could be walking down De Tham street and be asked 5 times by men standing next to each other for the same thing, usually "motorbike you?". I tried to perfect my blank expressionless face every time I was asked but it can be very tedious.
Unique Suggestions: Also if you do want to buy something find someone who will negotiate, otherwise walk away, as the initial price can be ridiculous.
Fun Alternatives: ignore ignore ignore, there are plenty of other tourists they can take advantage of.
Be VERY careful of the cyclos. Negotiate the price before hand but be aware that when you get off, they may demand more money from you. Whilst in HCMC friends got bailed up against a wall and more money was demanded from them.
Fun Alternatives: Cyclos are a great way to experience the city but the safer way would be by taxis. They are cheap but just make sure they turn on the meter.
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.
people in the markets have a 200% mark up in their merchandise moreso at the Benh Thanh market. you MUST HAGGLE and remember the exchange rate of a Vietnamese Dong into a US Dollar so that you can gauge the amount being overcharged!, start at 150% of the price and if they don't agree then LEAVE since 90% will ask yes to your price. Remember, just walk away if you don't like the price and chances are they will agree to your asking price. again the mark up is usually 200 % at the Benh Thanh Market hence it will be cheaper to buy items at mini stalls at Nguyen Hue Boulevard and other areas of Le Loi Street!
Unique Suggestions: knock off at least 100% from their asking price for the merchandise.
Fun Alternatives: buy at department stores even if they have fixed prices since you can be assured of the quality!
From the airport to hotel, the meter is not functioning correct, and end up 400,000 VND.
After bargaining, I still paid 165000 VND, the normal price is around 110,000 to 120,000 from airport to Pham Nghu Lao St Area. Including 5000 Airport Entrace fee.
Unique Suggestions: Bargain with them, suggest that you are not a first timer.
Fun Alternatives: Alway take Taxi from Mah Linh, they are the best regulated company in Vietnam, both South and North. The call number for South and North are different.
While waiting for the Reunification Palace ticket booth to open from their lunch time break, this sweet and friendly old lady approached us and put ice cream in our hands. When we asked if it was free she said "yes". We asked again. "No need to pay?" Yes. "Free taste?" Yes. "We have no money!" It's ok. So 7 of us had some because we didn't want to be rude and hurt her feelings. Some of us didn't actually want some (I'm not a big street ice cream fan for obvious health reasons) but it's hard to resist anything free and I didn't want to hurt her feelings.
The ice cream turned out to be Durian flavor -- a fruit that tastes like... I'm really sorry. Crap. According to Wikipedia "Other comparisons have been made with the civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs." We also have this fruit in the Philippines and I've tasted it before and to say I'm not a fan is an UNDERSTATEMENT.
To cut the long story short and I'm sure you know where this is heading...
THE ICE CREAM WAS NOT FREE.
It was around VD 10,000 a cup. That would be around $0.48 dollars. Given my tight budget I could've used the money for extra rice for dinner.Plus I got hoodwinked. So that was VD 10,000 I couldn't spare for something I didn't even want.
Well we paid for the ice cream anyway. She was old and angry, and while what she did was wrong, we just thought she looked like she really needed the money.
Fun Alternatives: This should be your mindset: NOTHING IS FREE IN SAIGON. If an offer sounds too good to be true, ask again. And again. And again. Or ask a friendly local if it's the real deal. If you REALLY want ice cream, go buy some at the Coop-Mart.