What You Need To Know

Ho Chi Minh City formerly named and still also referred to as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer seaport prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. The metropolitan area, which consists of the Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area, Thủ Dầu Một, Biên Hòa, Vũng Tàu, Dĩ An, Thuận An and surrounding towns, is populated by more than 10 million people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam. The city’s population is expected to grow to 13.9 million by 2025.

Ho Chi Minh City is a city in southern Vietnam famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. It’s also known for its French colonial landmarks, including Notre-Dame Cathedral, made entirely of materials imported from France, and the 19th-century Central Post Office. Food stalls line the city’s streets, especially around bustling Bến Thành Market.

Population: 8.224 million(2015)
Area: 809 mi²

Currency

  • The currency in Ho chi minh is the Vietnamese dong, which is issued in banknotes only. Denominations available include: 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 dong notes.
  • US dollars are also widely accepted. Visitors may tender dollars as payment but receive change in dong. The import and export of local currency is strictly forbidden, but there are no restrictions on foreign currency

Climate

The city has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate, with an average humidity of 78–82%. The year is divided into two distinct seasons. The rainy season, with an average rainfall of about 1,800 millimetres (71 in) annually (about 150 rainy days per year), usually begins in May and ends in late October. The dry season lasts from December to April. The average temperature is 28 °C (82 °F), with little variation throughout the year. The highest temperature recorded was 40.0 °C (104 °F) in April while the lowest temperature recorded was 13.8 °C (57 °F) in January. On average, the city experiences between 2,400 to 2,700 hours of sunshine per year.

Language

While nearly all Saigonese speak the Vietnamese language, the Hoa speak a variety of Chinese dialects, including Cantonese and Hainanese. Very few Hoa, however, speak Mandarin. Due to the prevalence of tourism and commerce in Ho Chi Minh City, there are also a good deal of people speaking English as a second language.

Safety

Compared to Hanoi and the rest of Vietnam, Saigon is unfortunately far more crime-ridden. Violent crime, pick-pocketing and scams are fairly common. Walk away if you feel uncomfortable or ripped off or under a possible scam. Just be firm and confident. If you can avoid the most touristic (district 1) area for your stay you will have a better time in the city with no one trying to lure on you.

Don’t take too much valuables with you and better put your money in your trouser pockets. If you carry along a camera, then be sure that it is tightly strapped to you at all times. Camera- and bag-snatching are particularly common in traffic: off the passengers of the cyclos. Because of this, it is often advised to keep the strap of your bag over your head to avoid having it being snatched by thieves.

Especially very late at night as you get out of a bar or a supermarket a little kid would run toward you, hug you and ask you for money. What he actually does is picking up your wallet or mobile and hand it to an adult partner sitting very close to him. Even if you noticed the missing item it might be difficult to find where they hid it.

Be aware that scam artists, reminiscent of Nigerian email scams, are operating in the streets of Ho Chi Minh. A common scam in Ho Chi Minh City is the so-called “Poker Scam”. A well-dressed gentleman may approach you and strike up a conversation. He will make a connection with your home city by telling you his sister is studying there. Eventually he will try to get you back to his house for dinner where he’ll try to involve you in a poker game that you will LOSE and be coerced into paying back. Many people have lost money this way. Be extremely careful about whom you trust.

Economy

Ho Chi Minh City is the economic center of Vietnam and accounts for a large proportion of the economy of Vietnam. Although the city takes up just 0.6% of the country’s land area, it contains 8.34% of the population of Vietnam, 20.2% of its GDP, 27.9% of industrial output and 34.9% of the FDI projects in the country in 2005. In 2005, the city had 4,344,000 labourers, of whom 130,000 are over the labour age norm (in Vietnam, 60 for male and 55 for female workers). In 2009, GDP per capita reached $2,800, compared to the country’s average level of $1,042.

Getting Around

Taxis are the most comfortable way of getting around, and very modest in price compared to other major cities in the world. Rates fluctuate over time depending on the cost of fuel. Taxis are numerous and it’s usually not hard to flag one down anywhere in the city centre from early morning until about 1:00 am, though finding one in the rain or during workday rush hours can be difficult. Taxi rates are not regulated by the city government, so each company sets its own fare structure which changes from time to time. You cannot choose a taxi at random and expect a standard fare.

Motorbike taxis are plentiful (get used to hearing “you want moto!?” everywhere), cheap, and are generally quite safe. As of 2007 all riders in Vietnam are now required to wear helmets, a rule that is strongly enforced. Make sure a driver supplies you with a helmet. If he doesn’t – find another one, as you’ll be the one stung for the fine.Absolutely agree on a price before you set off, do NOT get on without an agreed price.

A ride on a cyclo, which is sort of akin to a reverse tricycle with the passenger sitting in a front seat, through downtown HCMC is a great way to see the city the way the locals do. The sights, sounds, and smells are a large part of the excitement of the city, and are best experienced from the relaxed pace of a cyclo. A word of warning: be careful with cameras, purses and watches while cyclo riding as these items are easily stolen by motorbike riders.

Bright green public buses serve 150 routes throughout the city. You can find maps of the bus system at the large Ben Thanh bus station across the street from Ben Thanh Market in District 1 – just go into the waiting room to the desk in the middle. The buses are cheap, safe and not too crowded. Many are modern and comfortable, with such amenities as air conditioning, music, and even television. Finding the right line can be a challenge if you don’t speak or read Vietnamese. However, it is now possible to use google maps to help plan your journey.

 

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