Hi, Friends -
I have just returned from 12 days in Vietnam. The following is some information that you may find helpful if you are considering traveling there in the near future:
Ho Chi Minh City
1) HCMC Museum entry - 15,000 Dong.
2) Jade Emperor Pagoda - Free
3) History Museum - 15,000 Dong entry, 32,000 Dong more to take pictures (not worth it, unless you REALLY enjoy taking pictures of relics).
4) Military Museum - Free
5) There are two Circle K convenience stores on the Pham Ngu Lao thoroughfare where you can buy toiletries, bottled water, etc.
6) I stayed for six non-consecutive nights at Beautiful Saigon 3 Hotel. My very positive review of the hotel has already been published by TripAdvisor.
7) I exchanged $100 at Dong A Bank on the Pham Ngu Lao thoroughfare. I was given a rate of $1 = 21,095 Dong on the same day Oanda.com quoted $1 = 21,088 Dong. I did not have to show my passport, but I did have provide my name, passport number, and hotel on an official bank form as part of the transaction.
8) War Remnants Museum - 15,000 Dong
9) Reunification Palace - 30,000 Dong
10) Mariamman Hindu Temple - Free
11) Xa Loi Pagoda, Thien Hau Pagoda, Khanh Van Nam Vien Pagoda, and Quan Am Pagoda - Free
12) The main sources of harassment around Ho Chi Minh City were cyclo drivers, motorbike rental hawkers, and shoeshine boys. It looks like the word about the cyclo drivers being scam artists is getting out. For every one cyclo driver that I saw that had a passenger, 20 other cyclo drivers did not. I usually saw them without passengers than with one.
13) Good meals were had at Ben Thanh Market and Nha Hang Ngon Restaurant.
14) Vinasun Taxi: The meter starts at 12 when you get in. This means your minimum fare is 12,000 Dong. If the meter reads 60 when you arrive at your destination, you owe 60,000 Dong. 83 = 83,000 Dong, 117 = 117,000 Dong, and so on and so forth. A sticker on the inside passenger door CLEARLY explains this pricing system.
15) I took a 1-day Mekong River Tour with TNK Travel (the trip code TNK Travel used was VDT-12). The price is $19, but if you "Like" them on Facebook the price is reduced to $16. I paid $17 after negotiating with the sales agent at TNK's office in the Pham Ngu Lao area. A very quick and efficient way to get a taste of Mekong River life.
1) Ngoc Son Temple - 20,000 Dong entry
2) Cyclo drivers, motorbike rental hawkers, and shoeshine boys were once again the main sources of harassment.
3) I stayed at Art Trendy Hotel for five consecutive nights. My very positive review of this hotel has already been published by TripAdvisor.
4) Hoa Lo Prison Museum - 20,000 Dong. Note: Former POW and current Arizona Senator John McCain's flight suit is NOT in the display case in the prison. Only his parachute, boots, and other small items are on display in a glass case in one wing of the prison.
5) National Museum of Vietnamese History - 20,000 Dong. The camera fee is an extra 15,000 Dong (not worth the extra cost unless you REALLY enjoy taking pictures of relics).
6) Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution - 20,000 Dong. Note: The location of this museum and the National Museum of Vietnamese History are in the wrong location in the Lonely Planet - Vietnam guidebook. Just reverse them to get the proper location.
7) I exchanged $68 at TienPhong Bank for 1,431,000 Dong ($1 = 21,050 Dong).
8) 2 plates of banh ghoi and 1 Coca Cola was had for 52,000 Dong at 52 P Ly Quoc Su.
9) Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Temporarily closed while the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh undergoes maintenance in Russia.
10) Ho Chi Minh Museum - 25,000 Dong, pictures are allowed, and the museum is open later than stated in the Lonely Planet - Vietnam guidebook.
11) Temple of Literature - 20,000 Dong.
12) University students will roam the streets (especially in the Hoan Kiem Lake area) and try to practice their english with foreigners willing to engage them in conversation. I found this to be mostly not a scam, but some students did use this angle to then try to sell motorbike rentals or act as city guides for a fee. This also occurred in Ho Chi Minh City.
13) Bun cha - 90,000 Dong + 15,000 Dong for a Diet Coke at Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim, 67 Duong Thanh.
14) Shoeshine boys: Very annoying. They will point to the ground at your feet, and when you stop to look down, they crouch down, grab the toe of your shoe with one hand, and then start to clean your shoe with the other. This also happened in Ho Chi Minh City. Just ignore their pointing and keep walking.
15) Anti-diarrhea medication can be purchased at the pharmacy. This Loperamide hydrochloride 2mg is sold under the brand name Loperamid STADA and other brand names. You take four capsules a day: Two in the morning and two in the evening. I paid 68,000 Dong for 10 capsules at one pharmacy, but only paid 3,000 Dong for 10 capsules at another pharmacy.
16) Halong Bay Tour: I paid $55 and booked the tour with TNK Travel at their branch office in Hanoi, and the tour was subcontracted out to another tour company. It was a 4-hour bus ride from Hanoi on a heavily-congested road that is undergoing heavy construction. A large boat took us out to a floating village, where a smaller bamboo boat (an extra 120,000 Dong) took us to explore two coves. The larger boat then took us a large limestone cave complex, a pagoda with three gleaming-white Buddha statues, and again a 4-hour bus ride back to Hanoi. Lunch on the larger boat consisted of boiled fish, an egg casserole, boiled shrimp, fried chicken, steamed clams, boiled mustard greens, tofu, and watermelon. Drinks were not included and cost an extra 30,000 Dong.
Comments and questions from other TripAdvisor members are welcome!