Saigon Survival Guide
If you are coming to Mui Ne, the likelihood is that you will arrive in Saigon. Of course we're happy to arrange a taxi to pick you up at Ho Chi Minh Airport airport and whisk you straight to the beach in Mui Ne, but a good option is to spend a day or two exploring Ho Chi Minh City before heading to the beach - and we’re happy to fix up your taxi transfer to Mui Ne from any of Saigon’s hotels, for the same great price. So, here is some information on getting the most out of this great Asian city.
Getting to Saigon City
When you arrive at Tan Son Nhat Airport, your best bet for getting to your Ho Chi Minh City hotel is by meter taxi. Chances are, you will get people coming up to you at the airport and offering a fixed price taxi to your hotel but we recommend you turn these offers down and head to the meter taxi stand which is about 100m to the left of the arrivals hall exit. Try to get one of the main taxi providers - Vinasun or Mai Linh Taxis - as we have heard reports that some operators have grossly inflated meter rates - the normal rate per kilometer is around 18,000 to 20,000 Vietnam Dong so typically a taxi to District One (the center of Saigon) should cost around 130,000 to 200,000 VND, which is about $6-US$10 USD. If it is any more than that I'm afraid you have been ripped off. The taxi rate per kilometer should normally be printed on the dashboard of the taxi, below the meter. Be aware that there is also a charge that the taxi drivers have to pay as they leave the airport, of 10,000 VND - and they will expect you to add this to the final bill.
Getting Around Saigon
For getting around Saigon, visiting the sites and checking out the great restaurants, the best bet again is a meter taxi, and when you pick up a taxi downtown you are much less likely to encounter the rip-off merchants. One bit of advice on this though - the taxis operating right in front of the five star hotels such as the Majestic hotel, The Renaissance Riverside and the Sheraton often leave their meters off, if the can, as they see you as rich and ignorant. So if you're staying in upmarket hotel in Ho Chi Minh the best bet is to walk couple of hundred meters from the hotel then hail a taxi which is driving down the street - it's unlikely you will wait more than a minute or two to see one .
A more fun but slower option for getting around Saigon compared to a taxi is a cycle rickshaw or Cyclo. There are less and less of these guys on the streets every year - the government try to discourage them - but it's a fun way of seeing Saigon at street level. If you like the idea pick up one and negotiate a rate for a tour of the city for a couple of hours or more, visiting the sites like the Reunification Palace, The War Museum, Chinatown, Ben Thanh Market or Notre Dame Cathedral . Many of the cyclo pilots speak good English, and are usually in the late forties to early sixties– the reason for this is that they probably learned English as boys or young men on the streets during the American war, and because of that association with the Americans they were not able to get jobs, so had to resort to making their money with a rickshaw - a pretty tough life. Pricewise, if you pay 200,000 VND for a two hour tour, then it's probably fair to all parties. You could probably haggle hard and get it cheaper, but it's 10 bucks to good cause, most of these guys are homeless and sleep on their rickshaws. The rickshaw driver will almost certainly tell you it should be more of course.
You can also use Xe Oms to get around - that translates to "motorcycle hug" but actually means a motorcycle taxi. However, unless you know how much you should be paying, then you’ll probably be charged more than you would pay for a meter taxi. Motorbike hire is an option - you’ll see a few agencies offering bikes for about $10USD a day around the Pham Ngu Lao area, but only do this if you are an experienced motorcyclist, and expect to ‘relearn’ how to drive in traffic. The Vietnam driving style is completely different to anything you’ll experience in Europe, USA or Australia, that’s for sure.
The final, and best option in our opinion, for getting around Saigon is your own two feet, if you’re not going far. You’ll get a better experience of Saigon life by pacing the streets, and you’ll have plenty of encounters with the fabulously friendly people of this great city - enjoy.