Taxis in HCMC are probably the preferable way to travel. Most are cheap and easy-to-use, but some taxis have meters that have been tampered with that often end up costing two or three times more than they should. Find out the name of some reputable cab companies from your hotel before you travel.
When arriving in HCMC, you can't fail to notice that motorbikes are the preferred method of travel. Everywhere you look, bikes clog up the streets, zipping in between traffic. Motorbike taxis are a quick and cheap way of getting around, though it can be a little dangerous, to say the least. Cyclos (carriages attached to a bike) are a calmer way of seeing the city, but take longer. Keep hold of your belongings on both, as opportunists on bikes will whip your camera away from you, given half a chance.
Buses are cheap, plentiful and reasonably uncrowded. However, if you're not too great at speaking Vietnamese, it can be a little tricky to track down the bus you're after. If you're determined, head to Bin Thanh bus station and ask a few locals to see if they can help you.
Walking around HCMC is a great way to get to know the city and experience the sights, smells and sounds that make up this incredible city. However, it has to be said that walking is not the serene experience it could be. Thanks to the huge volume of motorbikes in the city, crossing roads is a very stressful experience. Instead of waiting for gaps in traffic, pedestrians must simply stride slowly and confidently through traffic and let the bikes weave around. Needless to say, it's not for the faint of heart.
There are no major health concerns in Ho Chi Minh, however, there are some fairly important safety concerns; the most evident of which when you arrive in the city is road safety when crossing the street. Try to cross the road confidently and slowly, without jerking to halt. This allows motorbike riders to weave around you. Another concern is pickpockets. Take the usual precautions; keeping an eye on your belongings, using body straps, wearing zips against your body etc.
Most visitors to Vietnam will have to apply for a visa before they arrive in to the country. These can be purchased at the Vietnam consulate or the consulate department of the embassy. Visas cost around AUS$65 and last for 30 days but can be extended for an extra charge.
Vietnamese Dong is the currency of Vietnam. Due to its weak economical standing, AUS$100 currently buys you a whopping VND2,218,607, so try not to panic if your dinner bill comes in with a few more zeros than you were expecting! Bring US Dollars, too, as many tourist-friendly businesses tend to charge in this more familiar currency, too.
Ho Chi Minh City has a tropical climate, with two seasons: dry and monsoon. Dry season, between December and April is the optimum time to visit, and tourist season is in full swing. If you visit off-peak, expect days of drizzle or short, sharp bursts of rain that may challenge even the sturdiest of umbrellas
From Sydney : Vietnam Air runs one daily flight direct from Sydney, taking around nine hours.
From Melbourne : There's one direct flight from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh per day. Flights take just under nine hours with Vietnam Air.
From Perth : There are no direct flights from Perth to Ho Chi Minh, but Jetstar, Tiger and Malaysia Airlines are some of the carriers that will fly to HCMC with a stopover in either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
From Brisbane : Flights between Brisbane and HCMC include a Singapore stopover. Fly with airlines including Emirates and Vietnam Airlines.
From Darwin : Qantas and Jetstar are among the airlines offering flights between Darwin and Ho Chi Minh, including a stopover in Singapore.
There are numerous hotels and shuttle services offering airport pick-ups in luxury cars, which are well worth the outlay if you want to avoid the numerous cab scams at the airport. Most hotels can organise this service for you, providing you with air-conditioning, magazines and a fixed price to deliver you safely to your hotel.
Beware fake and private cab drivers at the airport as they are plentiful, particularly since taxis are unregulated in Vietnam. If you do take a cab, choose one operated by one of the larger reputed companies like VinaSun or MaiLinh.
A must-visit when in HCMC, the Cu Chi tunnels are only a short bus journey away with any of the city's many tour operators. One of the more fascinating reminders of the Vietnam war, this incredible network of 75 miles of underground tunnels was once used by Viet Cong guerillas as a hideout.
Bang slap in the centre of town, it's hard to avoid Ben Thanh. Shopaholics will be delighted by the expanses of stalls selling clothes, curiosities, home-wares, make up and everything in between. Prices may be a little more than you'd expect from a market, but still a bargain when compared to back home.
If you've got more than a passing interest in the Vietnam War, the War Remnants Museum is well worth a visit. This museum doesn't pull its punches, so expect a graphic, emotional insight into the realities of war. Military equipment, cages that were used as prisons, horrifying photos and preserved fetuses deformed by dioxin are just some of the disturbing, but eye-opening, items on display.
You'll see signs all over the city for water puppet shows. The tradition for lacquered wood puppets dancing on a pool of water is said to date back to 11th century Vietnam, when villagers used it as a way to entertain themselves during monsoon season.
Soak up some of Vietnam's French influence at this two-storey foodie's paradise. Book a balcony table ahead of time, and indulge in a menu full of French favourites, including foie gras, scallops casserole and duck confit.
Specialising in claypot baked rice, crab soup and mussel rice soup, this atmospheric little restaurant really cooks up a storm when it comes to local cuisine. Something of a secret to all but those with a real nose for culinary genius, consider this your insider tip.
This popular eatery is located within a converted Chinese temple, including original fixtures and fittings from the 1900s. Despite the grandeur of the venue and the excellent food – particularly the Vietnamese fish dishes – prices are surprisingly reasonable.
Serving up traditional Vietnamese dishes in a lively atmosphere, Quan An Ngon draws in crowds night after night. Some of its most popular dishes include pho (noodle soup), bun bo (cold noodles with beef) and seafood.
One of Ho Chi Minh's best known bars, Apocalypse Now is a constant favourite. Small, dark and raucous until the small hours, it's a great spot to meet expats and travellers from across the world. There's no denying Apocalypse Now has cult status among those familiar with Ho Chi Minh's nightlife.
A league ahead of the other bars in this backpacker area, Le Pub is a reasonably-priced bar with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Service is good, beers are cold, food is tasty and the location is perfect for a post-pub party; what more could you want?
If you've got a bit of cash to flash, Saigon, Saigon is a great place to do it. Find it at the top of the Caravelle Hotel, where you'll be treated to excellent views of the city – especially if you arrive at sunset. Sit indoors or hit the balcony for a sophisticated evening overlooking the chaos far below.
Another long-standing classic is Q Bar. Its location in the basement of the Opera House, its impressive cocktail menu, pretty terrace and international DJ names make it one of the more sophisticated spots to while away those hot and humid Saigon nights.
There's no getting away from the fact Ho Chi Minh's primary attractions are war-related. The Cu Chi tunnels are a few kilometres out of the city, but well worth the visit for an insight into the lives of Viet Cong guerillas, which would hide out there. Once you get back to the city, head out for a beer or two in the backpacker district of Pham Ngu Lao.
Negotiate a cyclo for a few hours, and enjoy being pedalled around the city to look at the Chinese Pagodas, including Quan Am, Giac Lam and Thien Hau. Finish off a cultural day with an evening of traditional entertainment in the form of water puppetry at The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre.
Take a not-so-relaxing stroll across the hectic roundabout in the Binh Thanh district and hit Ben Thanh Market. Throngs of locals and tourists flock here to haggle over souvenirs, clothes and jewellery while vendors tug at their clothes. After an exhausting day, head to one of Ho Chi Minh's more refined restaurants to soothe your senses.
Head to any street and follow your nose until you stumble across some delicious street food. Follow the locals to the busiest stalls, so why not order a few dishes and get stuck in. For more of an insight into Vietnamese heritage, head to Ho Chi Minh's excellent museums, where the country's war history is remembered.
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