Travelers Tips

From our locals to you, we hope or tips and advice will get you off the beaten track to get the most out of this great city. 

The tourist trail is well defined and still well worth covering off in a couple of days in Saigon. Here's a few tips and links to consider:

 

  • Saigon's Cafe's offer a huge variety and point of difference. for some hidden gems go HERE, and for a well covered list visit Nomadic Notes HERE. 

 

  • Fine dining and an abundance of global dining is available throughout District 1. Trip advisor is well equipped and your best guide here with global reviews from global diners.

   

  • Local Eats: For those gastronomically unaccustomed to 'street' eating, we recommend hotpot or BBQ options. Street salads or fresh items may cause 'problems'. Our tip is it's generally not what is in the foods but what's on your hands, so sanitise and use utensils provided. Look for well established venues with live tanks, food on ice and plenty of local diners present. Street food tours will show you the local fare, within proven, safe venues for their groups. 

 

  • Pubs: Phatty's.

 

  • Clubs: Saigon offers a diversity of nightlife from the streets of Bui Vien to the roof-top club scenes. Most options below are truly late-night options that don't get started until 10 or 11pm, so do as the locals do and kick-off a great night out at Phatty's... of course!

    • Bui Vien is the main party street in the area known as Pham Ngu Lao, or the 'backpackers' district. Whilst there are backpackers in numbers, the area has a diversity of dining and bar options from the tiny plastic chairs on the street to the areas various bars and cafe's. The area can get 'messy' late at night, and wallets, phones and valuables should be kept secure. Stay safe and stick to the main streets late at night, and always take a reputable taxi service back to your hotel. 

    • For those looking for a premium night out on a premium budget the 20 Storey + altitude Roof-tops of Shri and Skybar are your first stops. Broma is also a good option for a more low-key atmosphere, however this is a young and trendy bar. Other clubs include Apocalypse, a sprawling crazy bar / club, the ultra fancy Xu Bar, or Lush, a true dance club. For live music the Cargo Bar in district 4 may or may not have an event within your schedule, otherwise the Jazz club or Carmella (Latin music) are options. 

 

  • Shopping there is of course the Ben Thanh markets, however try Saigon Square or the 'Russian' markets as alternatives. The streets of District one including Pasteur Street and Dong Khoi are well tread tourist shopping areas. Phattys is centrally located in D1's shopping streets making it an ideal day time home-base for exploring the streets of Saigon. Be sure to come and enjoy the airconditioned respite, ice cold drinks and hearty food.  

 

  • Day Trips: Jump a taxi or motorbike out to District 2, Thao Dien area for a number daytime riverside options including Villa Song or the Deck Bar. Both offer boat pickups from District 1 we believe. 

    • There is of course the Mekong Delta tours and Cu Chi Tunnel days tours. Check Trip Advisor, but there several ways to go about both including boats, bikes and private tours. See Le Rive as an example.

    • Golf with a view: San Tap driving range, right near the Sai Gon CBD, has spectacular views of the river and D1 over 3 levels. Each mat has comfortable tables and full beverage service, with club hire options available. 

What to do in Saigon
Before and when you get here

As this is travel tips, not a full travel guide be sure to do your own reaserch on visas, currencies local laws and medical. In-all, Vietnam is very accessable and easy to get around with friendly, English speaking locals in the tourism industry. 

 

  • Money Cash is king, and generally easy to withdraw from globally connected ATMs throughout the city. Be careful as the 20,000 VDN notes look way too much like the 500,000 VDN notes, that's about a $24 USD error potentially if you happen across a dishonest vendor, or if you happen to gift it as a tip in error!

 

  • Maps Google Maps on you smart phone will allow you to save locations as 'stars' like your hotel, Phattys Bar, and anywhere else you plan to go. WIFI is in most outlets, and the maps should be saved without needing to be online. This is handy to show taxi drivers where you need to go. As a backup be sure to take the Hotel business card with the address or map on the back for your wallet.

 

  • Airport Taxis Walk out of the arrivals terminal, through the awaiting crowds (no there's not a rock-star or movie star due that day it's local custom to show-up en-mass for arrivals and departures!) and head directly for the VinaSun or branded taxi cue with an attendant. Get the ticket they give you and you will be fine. Taxi's to D1 should be around the 300,000 VND all-inclusive. Having your Hotel adress written-down / printed-off or in your Google Maps will save you 5 minutes at this point. Avoid anyone in a white shirt or who may approach and offer a taxi or car. 

 

At the risk of stating the obvious here are a few tips for beginners. We would note Saigon is by and large a safe city, and we think one of Asia's best and most interesting places to live. So stay safe and smart, and don't be put-off by the few simple precautions below.

 

  • Taxi's are everywhere and readily available (perhaps with the exception of a peakhour downpour)  and a cheap way to get around by foreign standards. As above, choose a branded taxi and have your address / location at the ready. Google maps is handy and be sure to try and confirm the driver understands where to go before setting-off. 

 

  • Motor Bike Taxi's (Xe Om 'se-om'): These guys are rarely branded and occupy many of the corners in downtown D1. For short trips with more than one person they will end-up being more expensive than a taxi, however they are certainly quicker and a great way to get around. Price guide: Some can be a bit cheeky, be sure to negotiate the price before you do anything. Anywhere an D1 should be around 30,000 VND. Thao Dien for instance (~20min from D1) would be 50-60,000 VND. This is certainly buyer-be-wear, as you are on a motor-bike and of course there are risks. The main risk being headlice from the communal helmet, easily avoided with a cap or scarf!

 

  • Domestic Travel Generally you get what you pay for. Sleeper buses are extremely cheap, and comfort levels may vary depending on your frame and height. If you are on a time budget this may not be the option for you as Vietnam does not have super highways and speeds average 40-60 Klms/hr max. Flights, by international standards are cheap with a few levels of carriers and service levels. 

 

  • Safety Good practise is to keep wallets, phones and bags on your person not on tables or hanging off chairs. Be a bit careful with phones and photography on the curb or street, whilst unlikely, don't tempt a passing motorbike snatcher. For late night arrivals at budget or secluded hotels, you may find yourself knocking or buzzing for entry. Try and get the taxi driver to wait with you and pay once you are in. If late nights are a big part of your itinerary perhaps consider a hotel to suit with 24hr front desk service.

 

  • Water  Don't drink the tap water! Bottled water always, and be sure to have a few large bottles in your hotel as complimentary bottles will generally not get you through the day. 

Getting Around