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Vietnam is an incredible country to visit, full of rich history, wonderful food and reasonable prices. Free-wheeling Ho Chi Minh City is typically the jumping off point for many travelers starting in the south and heading up through Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi or Ha Long Bay, or the grand finale city if you’re doing it the other way around. Here are seven things you should consider before you head there.
1. Use the New eVisa Option
Vietnam has always had an interesting visa process, but it seems to be getting simpler now, thanks to the new eVisa option, which is valid whether you’re flying into the country, crossing over land borders or arriving by sea. It costs $25 and is available within three working days so gone are the days of sketchy invitations that would allow a visa on arrival and carving out time to send your passport to the embassy or consulate ahead of time. If you’d prefer to have someone else handle it for you, consider using Allied Passport & Visa to help with the process — mention The Points Guy on your order form to get a $5 discount just for TPG readers.
2. Don’t Skip the Mekong Delta
A four-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City lies the Mekong Delta, home to floating markets and unique cuisine that can be found in this part of the country. Many local tour companies offer two to three day trips to the region or if you’re a more independent traveler, there are plenty of ways to see it yourself. Don’t miss the dinnertime street food tour I stumbled upon in Can Tho — it was delicious.
3. It’s a City of Two Names
Vietnam’s former capital is known by two names: Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City, but which is correct? Officially, it’s now referred to as Ho Chi Minh City and has been since 1976 — the name change essentially dates back to the end of the Vietnam War, when Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province — but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear locals and other visitors still calling it by it’s former name, Saigon.
4. Escape From the Heat in Da Lat
Summer in Vietnam can be insanely hot and while it’s the best time to visit if you want to get away from the crowds and have the best selection of fresh fruit, you’re also going to need a break from the heat. When the time comes, do as the locals do and head to mountainous Da Lat — hop a 50-minute flight from Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport (SGN) to Lien Khuong Airport (DLI) — located 4,900 feet above sea level and worlds away from the summertime sauna back in Saigon.
5. Don’t Drink the Tap Water
As with other countries in Southeast Asia, you don’t want to drink the tap water while you’re traveling through Vietnam. There are plenty of vendors selling water bottles on the streets — just make sure they’re sealed — while most hotels and guest houses will usually provide some sort of safe drinking water, either for free or for purchase. For a more environmentally friendly option, consider purchasing a LifeStraw Go filtration system water bottle before your trip.
6. Use Uber or Ubermoto for Scam-Free Taxi Rides
You’ve probably used Uber before, but what about UberMOTO? Think of it as a more convenient and affordable alternative to locating a car on the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City — it’s also available in Hanoi — though the company does offer its normal services here as well. Not only will you get to ride around town like the locals do, you also won’t have to worry about being scammed by taxi drivers since the prices are set as soon as you order a ride, just like they are back at home.
7. Bring Enough Cash With You
Don’t plan on swiping your credit card here except at the fanciest of places. Vietnam as a whole thrives on a cash economy, so you’ll want to either bring enough with you to change into Vietnam Dong — the currency isn’t easily available outside Vietnam — to cover your expenses during your trip or bring along a card that allows you to withdraw from ATMs with low or no fees. I personally can vouch for how awesome Charles Schwab’s High Yield Investor Checking Account is but there are a ton of other options out there, too.
Have you ever been to Ho Chi Minh City? Tell us about your experience, below.
Featured image by Phung Huynh Vu Qui / Getty Images.
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