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Useful Local Tips For Travelling Ho Chi Minh City

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I think, when visiting a new city and you want to understand it deeply, you cannot just only see the landscapes though are the highlights to admire while exploring a strange place. Besides that, a place always has other simple things and will bring you the closest feeling, like beating with the same heart of that city.

It is surely that you have been heard about our big and bustling city - Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). With the beautiful sceneries, the unique architectures and numerous delicious dishes, the shopping centers and markets also fascinate visitors everywhere when coming to this dynamic city.

And I will not bother you anymore, because we have a dozen things to do to really be able to blend into the hustle life in here. So that you can note some necessary tips for your plan to Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City

1. Weather in Ho Chi Minh City

With the tropical monsoon climate, the weather in Ho Chi Minh divides into two seasons: rainy and dry. The temperature is high and stable all year round. The rainy season starts from June to November with the sudden rains.

However, rains in Ho Chi Minh city often do not last long. Therefore, all over the year, Ho Chi Minh City always appropriate that be chosen as the ideal destination for your trip.

¨Sunny in the morning and rainy in the afternoon¨ is the familiar sentence when people talking about the weather in Ho Chi Minh. The heavy rains will come any time even though the sun is shining. Sometimes when it suddenly rains, you have just worn the raincoat and it stop right away. Surely maybe we will go crazy but certainly, the erratic rain makes a unique Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Sudden rain in Ho Chi Minh

2. Transportation

How to get to Ho Chi Minh City?

This is the big city in Vietnam so the transportation to Ho Chi Minh City has many choices and is very easy.

The first one is traveling from Hanoi by train. You can buy tickets at Hanoi Train Station with variety types of ticket like: soft chairs, hard chairs, 6-bed cabin, 4-bed cabin, etc. The fastest train - ¨Thong Nhat¨ (Reunification) between Hanoi - Saigon takes 30 hours travelling. For this choice, you will have the chance to sightseeing the outside scene.

Another way is that you can transfer by bus with about 900.000 VND for a bed chair (inclusive food and drink during the journey). Transferring time is about 30 – 40 hours.

Booking for a flight will be a good option for you because it does not cost much time to transfer. It takes only about 1 hour and 45 minutes flying from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh and the airfares are not too high. If you have plan for a few months before your departure date, you absolutely can buy promotion and cheap tickets. Besides, Tan Son Nhat international Airport is located in Ho Chi Minh city’s urban area so you can save your time and airport transfer fee.

 Airport inside the city

Airport inside the city

Transportation for travelling around in Ho Chi Minh

The public transportations which are provided in Ho Chi Minh are quite varied and convenient. If you would like to visit and discover by yourself, you could go to each place by bus with a map.

Otherwise, it will be more fun if you rent a motorbike for moving with about 100.000 dong for 1 day. The rental procedure is very easy, you just have to leave your ID card and the rental fee.

If you are a careful traveller, choosing taxi for moving is the great choice with many good quality taxi brands like: Mai Linh, Vinasun, Hoang Long, etc.

 Mai Linh taxi with green (or white) color - one of the best quality and reputed taxi in Vietnam

Mai Linh taxi with green (or white) color - one of the best quality and reputed taxi in Vietnam

3. Accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City

Hotels and motels are the things you have to pay special attention because you always need a place to rest, sleep and relax to get energy for the trip. You should avoid renting rooms in the areas where so quiet and have less houses. In many situations, living in crowded areas to ensure the safety for your property as well as the convenience. 

There are many hotels for your staying with variety price levels, from 200.000 VND to millions for 1 night. You can choose the hotel in the center or near some popular area such as: Nguyen Trai street, Le Thanh Ton street, Ben Thanh market area, Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien – 2 streets many foreigners gathered. The accommodation here may be provided at high price but it also helps you to save the transferring fee while staying in Ho Chi Minh, even though this city usually has traffic jams.

What do you think about enjoying the city from the top of a high building? Let´s choose a high - floor hotel which has balcony or rooftop to drink a glass of wine or cocktail while enjoying the beauty of sparkling nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City. Just hearing about it can make us imagine a romantic night.

 

4. Shopping in bustling markets and centers

Thanks to the rapid development of modern and well-equipped shopping centers with world-known brands in fashion, cosmetics and more besides traditional markets, Ho Chi Minh City is an ideal venue for international and domestic shoppers. This is a true paradise for shopping with large number of big markets, supermarkets, outlets and shops. Goods in Ho Chi Minh are abundant in colors and categories, from ordinary items used in daily life to specialties in areas, from domestic products to the world’s reputable brands.

This city has a good selection of silk, fashion, lacquer, embroidery, and housewares. Prices are higher than elsewhere, but the selection is more sophisticated, and the cosmopolitan atmosphere makes it somewhat easier to shop, meaning that shop owners, especially in more high-end boutiques, aren't immediately pushing you to buy.

Stores are open 7 days a week from morning until night. Credit cards are widely accepted (often with visa card submission fee of 3%-5%), except at local markets and street side stalls.

District 1 has the most shopping centers, markets and fashion streets in the city, including Ben Thanh Market, Diamond Plaza, Parkson Saigon, Saigon Square Shopping Center, Miss ‘Ao Dai’ Building, Tax Department Store, Saigon Centre, etc. which offer multiple choices for shoppers to buy fashion products, cosmetics and other necessities.

Sai Gon Center

Sai Gon Center

If you are in Ho Chi Minh City with a limited time frame, you can visit Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Square or An Dong Plaza for a one-stop shop experience. Keep in mind that Ben Thanh Market, albeit convenient, can be much more expensive than the other markets due to its central location and frequency of tourist shoppers. When shopping at Ben Thanh Market, you should start with 40-50% of the original asking price and negotiate from there. If the store owner does not accept the lower price, you can just easily go to the next stall.  In comparison, you should expect to get no more than 10-20% discount on goods that you purchase at Saigon Square. You will see more locals shopping at Saigon Square or An Dong Plaza. Wherever you choose to shop, you will be impressed with what Vietnam offers.  

 Ben Thanh market

Ben Thanh market

5. ¨Must – eat¨ foods in Ho Chi Minh City

Street foods make such a fundamental part of Ho Chi Minh City travel experience. There are many popular street food in Ho Chi Minh City to explore where smell and flavor of tasty food are merged with exciting atmosphere to form irresistible eating venues. Travelers can wander on the streets from evening until midnight, stop at many small vendors to try delicious local dishes like banh mi (banh mee), pho, bun, hu tiu Nam Vang, banh tam bi, banh trang tron, com tam suon… If you want an over view of Vietnamese cuisine, Ben Thanh Market is also a good place to go.

¨Bánh mì¨ (Banh mee – Vietnamese Baguette)

On every road and street corners or alleys also have small stalls selling Vietnamese baguette. You will have a variety options to choose the favorable one for you such as: baguette with ham, pate, pork and inclusive radish, carrot, slice cucumber…. to make the bread more delicious.

¨Bánh mì¨

¨Bánh mì¨

¨Phở¨ (Noodles)

Pho is the famous dish coming from the North of Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh. When move here, Pho was changed a little to suit with the taste of the Southern people. You can recognize it when you look at the noodles. It is thinner than noodle in Hanoi and the broth is sweet but not a bit salty like Pho Hanoi. Nowadays, the noodle in Ho Chi Minh has changed more like noodle with fish, ostrich, etc.

¨Hủ Tiếu¨

As Hanoi is famous for ¨Phở¨, Ho Chi Minh is also famous for another noodle named ¨Hủ Tiếu¨. This is the popular and favorite dish of people in the South with the sweet flavor of the broth. There are many types of Hu Tieu like Hu Tieu Nam Vang (Phnom Penh noodle), Hu Tieu My Tho, Hu Tieu with beef or famous Chinese fishing Hu Tieu.

This dish is easy to eat with meat or fish and broth. Just simple but the broth is the important soul of this food. It is cooked from the pork bones to bring the sweet and salted taste.

Hu Tieu is the dish which has the same age as the Southern. Travelling to Ho Chi Minh, you should not forget to try the best dishes to enjoy a unique dish of Southern cuisine.

The delicious¨Hủ tiếu¨

The delicious¨Hủ tiếu¨

¨Bánh tráng trộn¨

Travelling Ho Chi Minh City without eating ¨Banh trang tron¨, for sure that you will feel regret. This dish is the mix of chewy, soft, salt, fat, sweet, sour, spicy. All is contained in a small plastic bag, mix it up and invite you to enjoy. It is considered like a representative of a vibrant, diverse but harmonious city.

¨Bánh tráng trộn¨ in plastic bag

¨Bánh tráng trộn¨ in plastic bag

¨Cơm tấm sườn nướng¨ (Rice with grilled ribs)

¨Com tam¨ also is the simple dish and can be found on almost every road in Ho Chi Minh City. If you come here without enjoying ¨Com Tam¨ means as have not ever set your feet in Ho Chi Minh. This food is often served with ribs, fried egg, rolls, etc.

"Com tam" spreads throughout the country, but only in Saigon it becomes the culinary culture of the city with 10 million people. The "coverage" density along the big street to small alley, from small vendors to the luxury restaurants. "Com Tam" was voted by CNN and honored the Asian Record Organization as one of the 10 most attractive dishes in Ho Chi Minh City. Whether the "Pearl of the East" has all culinary elite from around in Vietnam and all over the world, but "Com Tam" still has its own remains a certain favored position in the hearts of Ho Chi Minh people.

¨Cơm Tấm¨

¨Cơm Tấm¨

6. Things to note

Recently, security in Ho Chi Minh street is quite complicated, so you should remember to be careful when travel on the road, do not wear any jewelry, handbags, cameras, smartphones, etc. With small handbags, be sure that your money is divided into some small parts and the important documents are left in secret box at your hotel. Because on Ho Chi Minh street, there are many pillages and the victims of these incidents often are foreigners who did not well-prepared for this situation.

During your trip, you should bring a map or use the Google map app on your smartphone, it is highly effective when you wander on the road or catch a taxi. The first thing you need is to choose the reputed taxi brand, then, in the car you should pay attention to the driver. Normally, most of drivers are honest but there will be still a few drivers willing to cheat the travellers through charging double or triple price. Otherwise, they can take you to the winding roads to increase the fees.

In addition, you should be wary of the person who seem to be have friendly and good attitude for helping you carry your luggage. Sometimes, when it has done you will be forced to buy something they are selling or suddenly your luggage disappears with that elegant person.

Enjoying street foods is the most exciting experience but when eating, you should ask about the price before decide to eat. In addition, you also have to care about the quality of those foods; and the same action while you go shopping.

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh city

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh city

However, Ho Chi Minh is a city that is vast and always interesting for anyone visiting here for the first time. Super busy and extremely exciting is what will be considered about this young city. And although you are a foreign tourist with the first time discovering Vietnam, travelling Ho Chi Minh City still best choice who would like to come to just enjoy and discover its vastness and diversity.

Mai Linh
Image sources: Internet

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