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Things to Do in Saigon & Arrival in Vietnam

We’re here in Vietnam. Our first 3 days in Saigon ( the wider area is Ho Chi Minh City ) were sensational and I’ll tell you a bit about how that went and all the wonderful things to do in Saigon along with where to stay and what to eat. We had one major hiccup, lost baggage, but it all came good in the end. From Saigon we took the sleeper train up to Hoi An and  another hiccup, our accommodation fell through leaving us stranded. The good news is, we’ve now found a house, it’s beautiful and it’s cheap, more on that later, I bet you’re dying to see what the cash-strapped digital nomad backpacker types call home in Vietnam.  Right now let’s do Saigon. We loved Saigon, it was interesting, fun, our hotel was great and the food was good. We found prices to be very low for the quality we got and hotels are noticeably cleaner than usual in this part of the world. Saigon was a winner.

Arriving at Ho Chi Minh Airport, Lost Luggage, and Transfer to Saigon City

Saigon Streets
A relatively quiet Saigon street. The traffic is incredible, at peak times a sea of scooters. You quickly learn how to cross the road, dodging and weaving between bikes or else you’re left stranded at the kerb forever.

We flew from London, to Kuala Lumpur and on to Saigon with Malaysian Airways, at Heathrow we sat on the runway for two hours as we waited for other connecting passengers to arrive. Our 12 hour flight became 14, but it was tolerable, the A380 s are pretty comfortable and in-flight entertainment kept us busy right from the moment we boarded. The delay meant we had to get from  one plane to the other pretty fast at Kuala Lumpur. We obviously moved faster than our baggage and the conveyor belt at Ho Chi Minh was devoid of anything from London. The lost luggage office handled everything flawlessly, we filled in a form, handed over our luggage receipts and waited just a few hours before our bags ( and Chef’s triathlon bike) turned up at our Saigon hotel. It actually saved us the hassle of lugging our bags across town.  At the airport we picked up a local sim card ($15 for about 17 GB) and paid in advance for a taxi, about $10 into town.

Where to Stay in Saigon

where to stay in saigon funny guest house phan lan 2
Funny Guesthouse, on this clean, quiet little side street, was a personal recommendation from a friend. We actually booked the hotel next door but one.

This quiet, clean, traffic free side alley is a great place to base yourselves in Saigon and we can suggest 2 hotels we know are good. and have family rooms, but there are plenty more here to choose from.

If you’d like to stay in the backpacker area, near the walking street but in a quiet, clean, side alley, we can recommend the street we stayed on. We were sent here by friends who personally recommended Funny Guesthouse. That one was full so we took a family room in Phan Lan 2 Hotel, just 2 doors up. We had a room for 4 plus breakfast for under $30. It was immaculately clean, the staff were ultra nice and breakfast was good.

Note on Visas and Currencies for Saigon

pokemon go saigon
Saigon is superb for Pokemon Go! Grown ups worry about visas, kids catch Pokemon, here in a sculpture park in Saigon city. There are plenty of parks and green spaces.

You can get a 2 week visa on arrival for Saigon and it’s free, but we have a 3 month visa, this has to be arranged in advance, either through an agency or through the Vietnamese Embassy in your country. We arrived with a form giving us permission to stay 3 months and had to pay in US $ at the airport. Make sure you bring dollars with you.

Things to do in Saigon

We had a few things to do in Saigon with the kids that we’d been looking forward to for years, top of the list was the Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple tour, a full day tour that we organised in advance because we knew we’d be short of time. It’s easy to organise tours like this on the ground, but you need time to visit multiple local travel agencies and find the one willing to offer you the best deal. They like to charge you as much as they can get away with in Vietnam, you need to do your research and have some travel smarts before agreeing to part with cash. Because we booked in advance we had a pick up from our hotel on the day we’d arranged, allowing ourselves one day of in-country time-zone adjustment first. I’m very glad we didn’t do this tour on day 1, our body clocks were totally upside down but within a few days all signs of jet lag had passed. We gave ourselves time to wander around Saigon, explore, eat amazing food, check out the market and visit the war museum. That one is harrowing and I steered my younger son away from the more gruesome parts. It’s still well worth visiting and the photography exhibition on the top floor is superb, just take children with caution. Detailed posts will come on all this soon, I just wanted to check in and say hi before getting down to the serious work.

Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple Tour

Cu Chi Tunnels Near Saigon
So the kids LOVED this, I have video and endless photos, there were tunnels, man traps, tanks and guns. All-round boy fun.

As I said, we booked this in advance and we visited both the tunnels and Cao Dai temple in one day ( book this tour here) and all transport, admissions, lunch and drinks were included. You can also visit the tunnels by themselves as a half day tour. We can highly recommend this company, Cheapest daily tours , we’ve used them before and when we expressed an interest in booking they extended us the offer of being their guests for the day, an offer we were very glad to accept despite the cost of these tours being low. All views are our own, as always.

To Book This Saigon Tour and Others in Advance

Other tours are possible from Saigon including Mekong Delta tours, dinner cruises, evening shows and food tours. 

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