Unless you're planning to stay here forever, prepare 12USD to get out of HCMC. Yes, they will also accept the local currency (dong) if you run out of those greenbacks.
It makes sense to count all those dongs before you make your way to the customs, espcially if you're dong-challenged like me. An angry queue of people were behind me as I dug up those dongs. Thank God they were cursing in a foreign tongue.
There are many ways to get to HCM city.
From Cambodia, we went by road from Phnom Penh, arriving some 6 hrs later in HCM. It was smooth across the border. And quiet! There are many buses, vans, open lorries that make the journey. Go with a reliable company.
We also found out later, that the train journey is far cheaper and you see more, albeit a tad longer than by road.
It's easy to get around HCM. The only annoying thing is the chorus of street kids tugging at your pants or skirts going 'Madaa-am, U buy!' and u feel like shaking everyone off your body. Then no sooner have you shaken all foreign elements off, comes another round of touts selling the 'best' postcards of Vietnam.
And oh there are heaps of Bob marley types lying low in street corners.
Watch out for used syringes, needles and while walking in dimply lit streets around Pham Ngu Lao Street, the backpacker haven.
A lot of drug activity by the roadside happens in the dark alleys and i didn't feel all that safe walking alone or even with one other female.
To Vietnam you can go by air from Thailand, Singapore, Hong-Kong, Cambodia and other. you Just have to plane your trip. By train from Thailand Malaysia and Cambodia. I can't to adwise to select this way, because in 1996 it was not possible to get a Chinise or Malesian visa for israeli people. I selected the easier and, i think, not so expensive way. The price of flight ticket from Singapore was about 110$ (very sheap if i compare with prices in Israel).
The best way to travel in Vietnam is travel bus. There are a lot of tourist centers or restaurants, where you by planed trip. You start the trip with little bus or minivan and you can continue it on boat.
Though not the most dangerous, HCM has (or had, in 1998 at least) the most.. interestingly chaotic traffic of all the places I've been to. This city still has more bicycles and small motorcycles than cars. Wide boulevards + bikes for 8 million people = chaos. The streams of bikes go every which way - looks as though it doesn't matter on which side of the street one drives. For the most part not life-threatening, but certainly interesting.
The best way to get to Ho Chi Minh City from Singapore is by flight. Both Vietnam Airlines & Singapore Airways run flights. I took Vietnam Airlines because of a great deal on the tickets. Their planes are in good condition & the in-flight service is not bad. The flight is under an hour & you really dont need much in such a short while. The inflight magazine is a good source of information about the country & things to do. Make sure you pick your copy & browse thru it.
THE BEST THING ABOUT VIETNAM AIRLINES IS THE WIDTH OF THE SEAT. I AM A BIG GUY, & WHEN I SAY BIG, I MEAN REALLY BIG - TALL & WIDE. I HAVE TRAVELLED SEVERAL AIRLINES AROUND THE WORLD BUT VIETNAM AIRLINES HAS THE WIDEST SEATS. THE SEAT PITCH IS ALSO VERY GOOD. THIS MAKES THE FLIGHT EVEN MORE COMFORTABLE.
The ticket is about S$500 (+/- 20%)
Please read my separate posting on HCMC airport.
TAXIS: HCMC does not have too many cars. In fact you will be lucky if you encounter more than 100 private cars. Of the cars you see on the road 90% are taxis.
Taxis are rickety & old but air-conditioned & cheap. So getting around is never a problem & it is fairly comfortable. Make sure you negotiate the fare with the taxi driver before getting in. Orient yourself to the currency & then start negotiating. A good benchmark is to halve the first quote that the driver & then agree to something that is about 70% of it.
A good option is to hire a taxi for the whole day & ask him to take you around the city. They know the main places that the tourists want to see. But it is best to hire these kind of taxis away from your hotel since they would be cheaper.
PRIVATE TAXIS: There are car rental companies that opearte taxi services & notable among them is SASCO. I have not tried their services but they seem to be good. They have 2 types of taxis - Airport taxi & Saigon Taxi & their numbers are
Airport Taxi - 8446666
Saigon Taxi - 8424242
MOBIKE TAXIS: These are available aplenty all over the city & if you are not the faint hearted types go ahead & give them a try. They are safe but the traffic in HCMC is chaotic. It can be scary for someone who is not used to travelling on a bike in such traffic. It is a cheap way to travel & lets you see, touch & feel the city.
$5 is what a taxi ride should cost from the airport to central District 1.
Vinataxi is the best taxi service. Don't ask the concierge or doorman for a taxi, ask for a 'Vin-uh-taxi'. They have a reputation for being fair. No cyclos at night. Motorbikes are ok if you want adventure and fast transit. Other than taxi, negotiate in advance. For fair prices, ask the hotel staff. Bring a piece of paper and pen to communicate locations with non-fluent english speakers.
I flew from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City with Vietnam Airlines domestic flight. It was very nice, secure and punctual flight. A quite many airline fly from Europe to Vietnam and also there is frequent service from Bangkok and Singapore.
Walk, hire a car (with a driver) or take a taxi or if your hotel has a complimentary shuttle bus use that.
We saw some of these a couple of times but we have no idea what they are or what they are used for. Unfortunately, whenever we asked a local about them they had already sped past!
Of course, by plain.
Road network is poor and few chanches from China and Thailand via Cambodia are reachable.
If you have a boatm try to enter via Mekong river and turn right to get Saigon river
I flew to Saigon from Kuala Lumpur on Malaysian Airlines.
In Saigon, the standard form of transportation is the cyclo (bicycle rickshaw). Even the pigs go this way...
We flew Vietnam Airlines from Hong Kong to Saigon. Not at all that bad, service was good and the flight comfortable. I know that Cathay Pacific flies from HK and Thai Airways from Bangkok.