Why you should add Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to your Indie/RTW trip
The largest city in Vietnam used to be called Saigon, and some of its citizens still use that name even though it's officially been Ho Chi Minh City since 1975.
- This is one of many Asian cities that are dominated by motorbikes to the point of being chaotic and unsettling at times. It's pretty crazy, but once you get the hang of it, it isn't so bad.
- There are endless food carts and shopping opportunities everywhere you go - don't miss out on the street food in Saigon - it's some of the best (and cheapest!) in the world.
- Two large museums are dedicated to the gruesome civil war fought in the country during the 60s and 70s.
- The Reunification Palace was formerly the Presidential Palace and it now houses more or less what was there during the war as sort of a time capsule.
- The War Remnants Museum nearby displays supposed war crimes committed by the south and its supporters with no mention of any wrongdoing by the north. It's an interesting display of propaganda gone wild.
Indie travel tips for Saigon
Read: Motorbikes & Menu Roulette in Saigon.
- The dry season is from December to March, and visiting during this time means you get the best weather, but also the biggest crowds.
- If you are sensitive to humidity you might want to avoid the wet season because the sweltering climate can quickly demoralize some visitors even if they are staying in an air-conditioned hotel room at night.
- The Ben Thanh Market has hundreds of stalls, many of which carry items specifically meant for tourists, although local food and household items can still be found.
- This is a good place to practice your bargaining skills because almost nothing has a price tag.
- There's also a night market just outside the main market, which starts up each evening as the main one closes.
- The War Surplus Market is also sometimes known as the American Market, and it specializes in supposed war surplus as well as cheap clothing and electronics.
If flying, you'll be coming into Tan Son Nhat, Vietnam's largest airport. Fares tend to be competitive and all major airports in the region have flights into Ho Chi Minh City. There is a special bus that will take you cheaply into the city center, but if you are in a hurry you can hire a taxi, although be careful for scams and overcharging.
Read: Pho 101: A Beginner's Guide to Vietnam's Most Famous Dish.
The best neighborhood for budget hotels and hostels is Pham Ngo Lau, which is near the Ben Thanh Market, and prices tend to be quite reasonable, although the quality might be lower than you are used to. There are also high-end international hotels in the city, with prices to match.
Read: Indie Travel in Vietnam for $30 a Day.
Photo credits: Takeaway