Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon if you still want to use the old name ) is Vietnam’s largest and most chaotic city. It is one of the most popular places to backpack to by travelers exploring the area.
Actually, visiting or moving to a new city can be pretty daunting at first, but the sooner you adapt to your new environment, the easier it is to go with the flow. With Saigon’s culture and chaos, and surrounded by a language that’s both hard to comprehend and speak, adjusting to life here can be a challenge. However, please do not worry, you can save the tips below, it will make your trip easier.
1. Using Grab instead of a taxi when you are not sure where you are going?
Grab will make it easier and cheaper for you to get from point A to B if you don’t understand the language or are totally new to the city.
Grab allows you to input your destination, which is then shown on the driver’s mobile device with a GPS to guide him, and a fixed price that’s made known to you when you make the booking. There are also plenty of promotional codes from the app that are released almost every fortnight so you get to save a lot too.
Using the Grab to save money and time
Unless you know how to give directions in Vietnamese, taxi rides can be challenging in some of the city’s grid-like road system. A wrong turn will result in higher fares, as the meter will keep running.
When you are making a booking, try to make sure you are standing next to a local since the Grab driver will call you to confirm the booking, but some of them don’t speaking English, so you can pass your phone to the local to help.
2. Don’t forget to make a photocopy of your passport
It is very important to make an official photocopy of your passport and keep it with you at all times. That will work as your main from of identification since some point you have to show it and your landlord has to requires your residency included a copy of your passport with the local police as Vietnamese law.
Or when you hang out you can bring the passport copy instead of the original passport to avoid a risk of losing it.
3. Don’t carry a huge amount of money when you are hang out.
Do bring all your money along with you when you hang out, just need to prepare enough cash. In Saigon city you can withdrawing money at the ATM easier or use the card to make a payment instead of cash at the store, supermarket, bar,…
4. Using Google translate
Vietnamese is a tough language. Even if you think you’ve got the spelling right, you’d probably get the pronunciation wrong. There’s Google Translate, which may not be 100 percent reliable but gets the job done for really common words.
If you can not speak Vietnamese, don’t worry, you can use English. Nowadays, a lot of Vietnamese speak English especially younger people, or you can use the body language to express your idea.
5. Turn your fashion catalog into real clothes
If you don’t already know, Vietnam has a large textile industry and extremely skilled tailors everywhere. You like the suit you saw online? No problem, take a picture and bring it to the tailor and he’ll get it made for you for a tenth of the retail price.
Alternatively, just make your own fashion catalog with clear shots of the outfit’s front, side and rear and let him know your preference on the fabrics, or get them yourself. Pass the materials to him, get measured and then watch him work his magic.
6. There’s more than Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh market is the go-to venue for many foreigners to get their hands on local items. However, you actually have other (cheaper) options. If you’re looking for a bargain you can either choose to haggle if you’re good at the language, or just politely nod with a smile and walk away, and then hear the seller magically drop the price almost immediately.
7. If the vehicle bigger than a car, don’t cross.
Crossing a road in Saigon can be a life-changing experience. Traffic signs are mostly just suggestions and if you’re standing along a curb expecting vehicles to stop for you, you’ll most likely draw a few chuckles from passers-by.
Take a leap of faith and just walk, slowly. The majority of the vehicles on the roads here are bikes, and they will go around you. If you need more visibility, just raise a hand to indicate your presence. However, if you see a vehicle bigger than a car, just stop and let it pass and then continue.
9. Bring a picture if you are getting a haircut
This is especially important if you’re looking for a specific hairstyle. The best solution to this is to find a clear picture of that hairstyle and pass it to the barber. There are plenty of skilled barbers in Saigon, and a number of them do speak and understand English. However, a Vietnamese “undercut” may differ slightly from the American version, so a picture really helps.
10. There is plenty of free Wifi everywhere
Vietnam is much more connected than you may think and this is proven every time you turn on your phone’s Wi-Fi or use the Wi-Fi-finder app listed in No.11 to see an entire list of networks available.
There is also a site which has an updated list of all the Wi-Fi hotspots in the city. All you need to do is take a seat in a coffee place or a restaurant and get the password and you’ll enjoy pretty high speed access to the internet.
You can also find free public Wi-Fi in some parts of Saigon, although it’s not recommended to use it if you need to perform any logins or transactions due to possible security risks.
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