Ho Chi Minh City, or also commonly called Saigon by its old name, is Vietnam’s largest and most enjoyably chaotic city. If you would like to make a trip to Vietnam, then adding the city in your itineraries is a wise idea. Spending 3 or 4 days exploring the city allows you to visit glass skyscrapers, boutique hotels, wartime tunnels, ancient pagodas, thriving markets and French colonial architectures. But, if you have an extra day spare, don’t hesitate to take a one-day trip to Mekong Delta where you may appreciate the floating markets and the rural Vietnamese life. The following are useful tips on how to travel to Ho Chi Minh City for the first-time travelers to consult!
When to visit?
In general, Saigon has a tropical climate with two distinctive seasons: a dry season and a rainy season. While the rainy season often lasts from May to November, the dry season falls between December and April. That’s why the best time to visit the city is during the dry season when the humidity is relatively low and the temperature is relatively warm, making sightseers keep dry. From May to November can be the time when the city is prone to typhoons, making your trip uncomfortable. December is considered the coolest month, while the temperatures remain in the twenties during the month.
How to get around?
If you rent a hotel in the city’s center, then the best way to get around is by foot or to consider renting a bicycle. Just keep in mind that chaotic traffic here is nearly available 24 hours of the day. Public transport may be also a good choice. However, make sure to buy a city’s map that includes both streets and bus routes. Otherwise, grab taxis/bikes also become convenient means. Consulting the prices beforehand is highly recommended.
Which kind of money to spend?
Of course, the local currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND). At present, 1 US dollar equals to 22,727 VND. You should convert your country’s money into DONG before traveling to this country. There are lots of ATMS throughout the city, which help you withdraw money easily. In addition, credit cards are also accepted in many large hotels and shopping centers. Preparing some cash is essential for shopping at markets or paying taxis’ fees.
What to see?
When it comes to top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi tunnels stands out as a must-see highlight. The tunnel complex was used as a secret hide-out for Viet Cong guerillas to hide, live, and work during the war. It is also a memorable experience to crawl inside the dark and cramped branches of the tunnels.
Continuing this theme, Reunification Palace was known as the former presidential palace of South Vietnam. The place brings you a wider perspective on the past before the country’s reunification. Another place where tourists can experience Vietnam’s war-torn history as well as admire the Vietnamese’s resiliency and bravery is the War Remnants Museum. A lot of exhibits, military hardware and touching photos are on display, which help visitors get a better understanding of the battle.
Head to Ben Thanh Market – the largest and most famous market in Saigon – to satisfy your shopping favorite now! Home to a number of items and good, you may buy any souvenirs or gifts to families, friends or soul mates. Sampling exotic fresh food is another good activity. If you just want to pamper yourself after a long day of exploring, then don’t hesitate to visit the Bitexco Tower for a cool beverage and a stunning nighttime view of the fascinating city.
What to eat and drink?
Vietnamese cuisine has rapidly got its name popular around the world, especially spring rolls and traditional soup dishes. So, while in Saigon, don’t be hesitant to try the massive variety of flavors and meals on offer. It is easy to catch the sight of vendors selling baguettes in mostly corners of Saigon. These simple baguettes come in an endless array of styles and flavors. Typically, you can enjoy the one filled with meat, some slices of cucumber, coriander and pepper.
Another savory and common meal is Phở and Bun Cha. This soup dish is a wonderful combination of beef, vegetables and a tasty broth. You can find a bowl of Phở and Bun Cha in many small and big restaurants. Com Tam (literally known as Broken Rice) is another food you should try at once. A plate of com tam is served with a lot of ingredients placed on top, like marinated grilled pork chops, a steamed pork and egg quiche, shredded pork skin and slices of cucumbers.
Sipping a cup of iced and condensed milk coffee and having a gossip are some ways that help you live as the locals.
If you wish to have an authentic and unforgettable trip, let a travel agency become your loyal partner. The newbie tourists are advised to check out Ho Chi Minh one day tour (http://vietfuntravel.com/ho-chi-minh-city-1-day-tour), where they explore many exciting landmarks around the city within one day. Whether you choose a solo travel or a guided tour, it is also be careful when you crossing the road. Simply watch how locals cross and follow their steps. Don’t be too rushed. Your patience will be rewarded.
This article is written in a collaboration with one my friend Oliver Nguyen, who is a loyal freelancer of the Viet Fun Travel website. His posts often revolve around top tourist destinations and national culture of Vietnam and Southeast Asia areas. In addition, he also shares authentic experience from his trips.
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