Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Better Known As Saigon
Vietnam was different, amazing, and like the other Southeastern Asian countries, I went to, more than I expected. I went to meet my sister in Vietnam, with little knowledge of the country other than the basics taught about the Vietnam War. The country truly surprised me with the culture, history, energy and so many darn mopeds. A four-lane road will have about eight mopeds across. The way they weave in and out of the lanes, intersections, and roundabouts was simply amazing. I honestly would never think of driving in Vietnam, my nerves couldn't handle it. These folks handled the mopeds in the traffic better than race car drivers.
I did not get to really tour around Ho Chin Minh as much as I wanted to because I was only there for two days, with one day was spent in the tunnels and the other day shopping, so this blog will be a barebones blog with some basic information to help you get into and around Saigon, instead of what to do there.
I have traveled all over the world, and luckily never needed a visa... Until coming to Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese Visa is a little time consuming when you get there, and easy to get frustrated because of the time you will wait, but don't get frustrated. Grab a seat, your book and just wait. The Vietnam Visa is interesting in that you will have to go the official paperwork from an Embassy, Consulate, or Online to take with you to get the actual Visa. Here is a link to the information on what you will have to do to get a visa. This is the link to the online visas to be able to use on arrival.
They do want you to have the passport pictures on hand, they will take them there, but I do not know at what cost. If you want to know the size needed, here is a link to the size, as well as the sizes of other passport photos. Depending on how long you will be in the country, your visa will be $25 or $30 American. YOU MUST BRING CASH TO PAY THEM.
Here are the steps to make it less confusing:
1. Get your visa through the internet using the links above.
2. Get your passport pictures in the size needed.
3. Once you land in Vietnam, DO NOT go to passport control as you do not have the visa in your passport. Instead, go to the Visa area. (Trust me I learned from having to wait in the line again for another extended amount of time.)
4. Fill out the Visa paperwork at the desk next to the windows
5. Once the paperwork is filled out, go to the window and hand them your passport, the online visa, the passport pictures, and the paperwork you just filled out.
6. Go, wait, and read your book.
7. Get called up, pay your cash, NOW go to passport control
Ok NOW let's get on to the fun stuff!
IF YOU ARE GETTING AN UBER SCHEDULE IT BEFORE YOU GO THROUGH PASSPORT CONTROL BECAUSE THE FREE WI-FI WILL STOP WORKING AND YOU WILL HAVE TO TAKE A TAXI WHICH IS DOUBLE THE COST. Heed my warning, because I was trying to wait to schedule an Uber and the wifi completely stopped working when I was still in the building, but by the taxi area.
Uber will be your cheapest method of travel everywhere. I used UberMoto which is the moped and it cost me .66 each way I went. Yes, I said .66 cents. My sister and I used Uber about six times and I think it cost me a total of $20 US for all those rides. They are clean, cheap, and fast. Don't use a taxi, they are way more expensive.
FOOD: Just eat street food, just eat street food, just eat street food. Do not be afraid to eat the street food, you will be missing out on even cheaper great food.
Ben Thanh Market: Be ready to roll up your sleeves and get your shopping on. It is intense. When you step in you are hit with all the different types of shops in the market. What made me catch my breath was the mountains of beautiful fabrics. They had absolutely gorgeous fabrics and could make you a dress in a day or so. I would definitely fly to Vietnam and have my wedding dress made for probably 1/20th the cost of a US wedding gown. Also, anything that you could possibly want or need you can buy there. I walked out with bags of items and had to figure out where I was going to put them in my backpack was like playing Tetris. The atmosphere is really fun to shop in, and you will spend money.
Cu Chi Tunnels: These are outstanding. We used OneTrip Motorcycle Adventures to visit the tunnels and they gave us a great experience. The guides we had were very knowledgeable about the tunnels, they were very supportive when I started to get freaked out about where we were going, and they were fun to be around. They might be a little pricey but they are so worth it. You will not have to bring ANY money or anything really. They pay all the fees, buy breakfast and lunch, any stop you have they buy you water or snacks, and they take you to some great places for Vietnamese coffee. They also carry mosquito repellent and sunscreen. They come prepared.
Back to the Cu Chi tunnels. These tunnels were lived in by the Vietnamese during the French and Vietnam Wars. You actually get to crawl into the tunnels and see where they lived. I believe they widened them a little as they were a lot smaller when actually in use. If you are tall, your knees better be prepared to almost duck walk through them. The whole tour through the area and tunnels is extensive and educational. This is a must when coming to the area. It also helps to have a great knowledgeable guide who can explain the history, knows the tunnels well and knows the routes of all the tunnels.
Lastly, If you are wondering what to do in Saigon here is a great list of things to do, I wish I had stayed longer to be able to do some of these things and visit these sites.
Here are a few tidbits of information to help your trip go smoothly!
1. Voltage: Vietnam uses 220V which means if you use your American/Canadian hair dryer or straightener at 110V you will blow your stuff up and probably blow a fuse where you are staying. Don't be that person.
2. Don't be afraid to use the UberMoto (moped), they are fast and cheap- I paid only .66 cents for a ride that was a few miles.
3. The food stands on the side of the roads are amazing. Try them.
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