The money-thing, Ho Chi Minh City
Cao Tai is just too far away from HCM city. If you're taking the one day CAO TAI and Cu Chi Tunnel, I would suggest you to concentrate on the Cu Chi Tunnel. You can simply skip the Cao Tai temple.
The road condition isn't very good and it takes almost half a day . THE TIME YOU SPEND IN CAO TAI TEMPLE IS VERY LIMITED, 1HOUR IF I'M NOT WRONG, So, NOT worth the energy and time.
When you are an expat in Saigon (HCMC), you are a walking and breathing dollar sign *$$Kaa Ching$$*. Especially when you are in nightclubs, Bars, or whatever that is in business to cater to the expat desire. You'll meet some truly friendly locals (Guys and girls), but when they get too friendly too quick...Keep an eye on your cash and anything you have that is valuable. Besides that you should enjoy yourself. This shouldn't stop you from visiting Saigon (HCMC) though. Every part of the world have these type of con-artist scheming around for your goods.
Ben Thanh Market is in the heart of District 1, the tourist area, so you're not likely to get the best prices on things. As soon as you walk in you'll have people calling "you, you, you!!!" from every direction. Just ignore them until you find something that interests you. Even with some serious bargaining, you'll still pay more than the locals. Even so, that doesn't mean it's not a good price for you. It's all relative. Vietnamese can be some fierce bargainers. Be prepared, and don't let them upset you.
Fun Alternatives: You might want to try shopping around Cho Lon, the Chinatown of Saigon, for lower prices.
When you are in Ben Thanh Market and wanna change your money...you go to number 624-626 just head up and look for this number you will see mant people there. It is easy...give your dollar to the lady ( or the man ) then you get dong back in immediately...no need for your passprt or any document.
The rate on July 2008 is 100 us = 1,730,000 dongs
You are likely to have different conversion rates in different places in HCMC. In a money changer, you get around 16800 Dong for 1 USD while in museums you usually pay 1 USD for 15000 Dong. However, the most problematic place for money conversion is the taxi. Some decent taxi drivers will use the museum rates and you won't be ripped off, but some bad seeds in taxi drivers community try to cheat you. The other point you have to be careful is to count back the money in return. Some taxi drivers or sellers may try giving you less money as you may get confused with many zeros in Dong. For example, one taxi driver tried to give me 4000 Dong instead of 40000.
Unique Suggestions: The best way to avoid this hassle is to convert money in a money changer and pay everything in Dong. Also pay attention to what you pay and what you get in return.
Stall 626 in Ben Thanh offers d best Dong for your buck. As at Sept 20, 2011, airport moneychangers n Parkson Dong Khoi offering dong 20,810 per US$ (no comm to pay anywhere), but Ben Thanh was offering slightly higher than 21,000 dong. Its not that easy to find in d maze of stalls though...
On the first day of our HCMC trip, we went to the Independence Palace.
We paid our entrance tickets totalling VND30,000 with a VND100,000 note. The lady at the counter gave us our tickets but shortchanged VND50,000. We explained that we paid VND100,000 and was shortchanged. But she insisted we gave VND50,000 and the change was correct. She even flashed a blue dollar note saying that was the note we gave.
Two girls on their first day in Vietnam, we did not dare to argue and walked away.
We later realised that the note she flashed was a VND 20,000 because VND50,000 is RED. We further confirmed by counting our remaining cash - being budget travellers, we did not have too much money in our pockets, counting was easy!
It was a lesson for us. So travellers, BEWARE!
Unique Suggestions: Hold onto your note, say the amounts (cost, payment and change) aloud.
Not exactly a tourist trap, but whenever you purchase something and the locals determine you as a visitor, they will up the price siginificantly and you'll find yourself bargaining.
Just keep in mind, that if you save 5,000 off something it is the equivalent of 50 cents!
we arrived in hcmc around 1am and we didnt see any mai linh or viansun taxi so we took the saigon air taxi ...befor e we rode the cab we asked the one in charge if it was metered, he assured us yes it was, half way to our hotel the cab driver suddenly was asking for us$20! we were arguing that it was agreed that itll be based on meter but the driver suddenly wanted to park in the middle of a deserted road and bring us down, because its our first time in hcmc and twas already 130am, we just agreed...we are 3 girls traveling and we were just praying that he'll really bring us to our hotel...just imagine our relief when we caught sight of our hotel! upon arriving at our hotel, we made sure all luggages were brought down first before paying...the meter said 135,000dong only, i handed him 200000 dong and he was shouting and asking for us$20, good thing someone from the hotel came out and helped us and argued for us...twas a horrible first day experience! we wanted to go back home! so take care in hiring cabs..just ride mai linh or vinasun!