Vietnam Message Board

Money saving messages plus live (and uncensored) Tweets for Vietnam can be found below. Leave your own tips using the Message Box provided. For specific advice and locations, click on the 'Tags' link, or the city names and logos next to each message.

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'Ho Chi Minh City' is the official name for what was Saigon...
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Vietnam - All
What is a Vietnam visa on Arrival?
Vietnam visa on arrival is only applicable for those traveling by air to Vietnam and your visa will be stamped at Vietnam airport. For visa on arrival, you apply online at our website and wait 1 working day (urgent service) or 2-3 working days (normal service) to get approval letter. With this letter, passport, 2 photos and stamping fee (45 USD for single entry, 65 USD for multiple entry), your visa will be stamped at Vietnam airport.
This is probably the easiest way to obtain your visa without having to chase down embassies, consulates and the like prior to your trip. It is a valid alternative when applying for a tourist/business visa.
Visa service

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Saigon Airport
Be really careful when leaving the airport as its taxi tout heaven. They are waiting to snare their victims and are helped by the lack of a clear ticket system. In fact I'm not sure there is an official system. Make sure you take a taxi that is clearly branded as such. Be firm if you need to be. The officials will not help. Never say its your first visit and be aware that the touts will flash id cards (that mean nothing) to try and tempt you to go with them to their car. When you get there you'll see it's just a normal car, but by then it's too late unless there is a big group of you. I fell for this and as the guy was putting my rucksack into the back he also opened the pockets and tried to steal. Tense journey. After charging you 2-3 times the real price they will also ask for a tip. 70 percent
Vietnam - All
Vietnamese motorcycle thieves must be among the best in the world. I've heard stories from hotel staff about having their bike stolen while they stopped to buy food from the side of the road. No coincidence that motorcycles get locked inside at most hotels (sometimes in the lobby) overnight! So be careful of leaving your bike in the street, even in the day. Also be aware that some hire places are known to follow you or go to your hotel and steal the bike back from you when you park! Nice payout for them as they get the bike and the money for a new one. Theft
Vietnam - All
How to cross the road in Vietnam!
Sounds easy until you've been to somewhere like HCMC in rush hour. I'm told only India is worse. People just stand back and take pictures the first time they see it.
The trick to a safe crossing is this. You're not going to find a time when there is no traffic at all so just start to cross when there is a sensible gap.
The important part is DO NOT STOP! The approaching motorbikes and cars will assume you are going to keep moving forwards and so they will turn to go behind you. If you get scared and stop moving (as everyone does when 'new') then they will be heading straight at you because they expect you to move!
Try it and you'll see it works.
Vietnam - All
Westerners need to apply for a visa before traveling to Vietnam and you will need to show the visa approval letter (saying you are allowed to enter the country) when you check-in to fly. The easiest and cheapest way I've found is to use to sort the paperwork for you. You supply some basic information online, pay a small fee and they then submit your application and, if successful, email you the approval letters that you need to enter Vietnam.
There are lots of these kinds of visa businesses which have very close unofficial connections to the immigration department. People use them because they work (never heard of anyone denied). When you arrive in Saigon airport follow signs for immigration and on the left side of immigration room is where you hand over your passport, a completed visa form (myvietnamvisa will give you this in advance or you can do when you arrive) 2 passport photos and 25 USD. Then you sit and wait while they print the visa in your passport, after which you can go through immigration. If you don't have photos they will do for you and charge! Tourist visa is 1 month.
Vietnam - All
This is for those interested in teaching English in SE Asia. You should seriously consider Vietnam, in particular HCMC. If you factor in everything, it comes out surprisingly highly, relative to the usual places like Korea and Thailand. It's possible to start on 20-25,000 USD in the private schools around Saigon and there is not so much competition.
Remember you will get usually accommodation free as well and living costs are very low in Vietnam. You will need to have completed a short teaching course (I see some ads for it on here or search google) and then you need to apply for a teaching visa for Vietnam, but the teaching visa can 'speeded-up' if you know what I mean. You could always go as a tourist first and see what the options are before applying for the teaching visa anyway and the school will help.
Teaching work
Vietnam - All
Vietnam borders China and one of the scary things that has found its way over the border is the brutal trend of hit-and-run traffic accidents that then turn fatal when the driver involved returns to finish off the victim.
The reason is that as in China, Vietnamese divers are liable for the medical costs of the injured person for the rest of their life, in the case of a permanent injury.
Most drivers do not have insurance, so sickeningly some decide its better to hit-and-kill as the financial cost is so much lower. Locals have confirmed this happens, especially out of the city centers.
If you are hit by a driver, bear this in mind and don't assume if the driver involved starts reversing he is coming to help...
Road Safety
Vietnam - All
This probably applies to other Asian countries, but I heard it in Vietnam so I'll put it here.
Local shops place a lot of superstition around getting the first sale of the day - it's seen as lucky to sell something early. It means they will have a good day in terms of business.
Because of this shops and salespeople will often offer lower prices - or be prepared to give bigger discounts - first thing in the morning, to secure a sale.
So get up early!
Shopping bargain time
Bui Vien street is the main tourist and backpacker area and is walking distance to most city landmarks.
I stayed at the Duc Vuong Hotel. Can't recommend it highly enough. It's not the cheapest but it's modern, clean, safe and has great staff. They do a free 'family meal' for all guests in the evening - local food - where everyone sits around a big table.
It's designed to get everyone chatting and works well. You meet loads of people. Wifi excellent throughout and breakfast also very good, featuring all types of food. So included in the price (around 18 usd a night for a single room) you get breakfast and the evening meal!
At least one meal a day
Word of advice about drinking the local beer. 'Saigon green' or 'red'. Quality control is poor so you can sometimes feel really rough after just one or two bottles and wonder why. Safer to drink imported beer (Heineken etc). Health
Ben Thanh market is the main tourist market in the city centre. Reasonable value and some items have prices displayed, although these may be inflated anyway. Be careful with your wallet, phone, handbag. Best tourist market in Saigon
The Go2 bar at the corner of Bui Vien street is a good place to meet lots of tourists/travellers, but it's one of the most expensive places for drinks. 50% cheaper in other places
The war museum is a must see for any visitor to Saigon. Don't go on your birthday though, it's a downer. Also it's a bit one sided, in that it doesn't document the atrocities by the North and skips over the millions of Vietnamese who fought for the south army (you'd think it was a united Vietnam trying to be conquered by the USA in my opinion). But then history is always written by the 'winners'. Either way it's extremely powerful and no doubting the crimes and in-discriminant bombing by the US/South. The photography section is excellent and there is a selection of army and airforce equipment outside. Must visit
The Rex Hotel has a great roof top bar which anyone can go to. Drink prices not to inflated and there's usually a band playing. The Rex hotel where a lot of the top US army stayed while in Vietnam I believe so has quite a history. Don't be put off by the flash exterior and interior, just walk to the lift and head for the bar. There is no dress code to go to the bar. Place to go
Cu Chi tunnels is one of the most popular destinations just outside Saigon. About 1 hour drive out of the city. You can go in a tour or just get a taxi to take you. You'll get a tour of the tunnels, bit of info and theres the chance to shoot real guns (AKs, M16s etc). Sounds a bit rambo but for me just hearing the guns going off brought it to reality. It was so loud and disorientating. Otherwise, with the trees having grown up, it's like a nice walk in the woods. Things to do
Allez Boo in backpacker area is a popular bar/restaurant. Located over the road from the park. Nice place to relax and people watch.
Vietnam is one of the few places I've been with really, really cheap stuff. Like cheap enough to think about importing and still make a profit. Some of the products are copied, quite well in cases, and other products are produced locally by official factories - from which they seem to leak out. North Face and Clarks shoes are just two examples of that.
Even things like local coffee is worth looking into from a business point of view. You can buy all sorts of beans by the kg from the Ban Thanh market. Vietnamese coffee is very good! On the other hand I wouldn't touch anything electrical (parden the pun) as risk of it being fake is so high. Whole laptops are copied!
Bui Vien street floods when it rains heavily. You really don't want to walk in that water with any cuts in your feet, so be careful. If you are wearing flip-flop type shoes it'd also be really easy to cut your feet.
If you get in trouble with the police just pay up quickly, but do it subtly. If you are not wearing a helmet on a motorbike put some cash under your license and hand it over. That's what the locals do. The police are smart and don't want to be seen taking money, but it's the way to get things sorted out quickly in HCMC. Sooner you pay, less you pay
Most people stay in District 1, but I've heard District 7 is the place to be for those with a bit of money. Lots of new modern developments and hopefully some cleaner air! Have a look if you get chance.
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