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Topics include Dining Scene, Vietnam: For Foreign Visitors & more!
Being the biggest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City inevitably invites people from other provinces come here to live, study and work with hope for a better life and they make the city so crowded. Generally it is absolutely no danger to travel here, no war, no storm, no flood, no natural disaster, no political issue, but caution is always necessary. Watch out when you cross the street or walk along the streets as the traffic is almost out of control. Some, not only poor people, will look for chances to earn from you, so keep your money and credit card in your pants or better in the safe in the hotel room. Try not to carry any bag when you go out. Cameras, hand phones and bags are snatched, not too often, but quite at higher rate compared with other cities. When talking on your mobile, stand near a wall instead of walking and talking in the crowded streets. Be careful about people approaching you on motorcycle claiming to be off-duty police. Do not go with them. Do not hand over anything valuable or travel documents. Chances are they will take off on motorcycle once you hand them over and police will not be able to catch them.
If you rent a motorcycle or a bicycle, always let people keep with a fee when you go into a shop or a market, etc. Keeping it in a big parking lot of a bank or supermaket, in front of Fahasa book shops or inside any park when you see keepers in military colored uniform looks safer. It’s common that a keeper after giving you a ticket (as a receipt to keep your bike) will normally takes your bike to park somewhere, but it has been reported that when you come back, they say this is not the real ticket.
If you have respiratory problems or concerns, you should be prepared for the
high level of pollution in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Although the article concentrates on Hanoi, HCM City is a very close second in the pollution department. In an article from VietNamNet Bridge – The Hanoi Department of Natural Resources and Environment has made public a report on Hanoi’s environment in 2011, which shows that the capital city’s air quality is reducing. It was updated February 1, 2012 and states: Traffic is the main contributor to air pollution in the city, with the content of PM10 (particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter) being four times higher than the alarm level set by the World Health Organization. PM10 are a major health concern because they can be inhaled into and accumulate in the respiratory system through normal facial masks. Talk with your doctor to ensure you have what you need to help with respiratory issues while in Vietnam.
If you travel alone, it's not necessary to advertise this. It's a tip everyone knows, but you can always say your wife or husband or sister is in the hotel, and you just stepped out to buy something. Male travelers may sometimes strike up a conversation with a local lady and wish to take her to their hotel room. The hotel will keep the lady's ID card and return it to her upon departing. They may ask the lady to leave after 10pm. Ask yourself "Can you trust her?" Do you feel you're safe with a stranger you just meet? Remember if anything happens, people will not report it out of shame. Avoid dark streets at night. Prostitution is strictly prohibited in Vietnam but girls still stand there to catch customers. The problem is without a proof, policemen cannot arrest them. Their manager may rob your belongings, not the girls themselves. You may see “thin” hotels (small and with many floors). See if you have exits in case of fire. Houses burn down occasionally due to bad electrical wiring or any number of other reasons.
Taxis are unregulated in Vietnam which means owners can legally charge whatever they want and they set their metres to spin at an alarming rate. If you get stung by a rip off taxi driver, metre or not, you can refuse to pay. This might lead to a heated situation, but eventually he has to take what you offer. Use the word "tourist police" a lot to get his attention. These rip off taxis will sometimes not drop you off in hotel aprons or near other taxis because they know you will then have people to support you. If you do get into this position, make sure you get the taxi number and report it to the police. To avoid this type of situation use only company taxis. Hotels will recommend them and some hotels provide city maps with the names of company taxis on the back. They are distinguishable from private taxis by the phone number on the side which is much longer.
Most hotels will advise you to go with Vinasun and Mailinh taxi companies.
A few more tips about avoiding taxi scams:
1. Avoid getting into a taxi waiting right outside a touristy spot such as museums or bus/train stations. The taxi cheats like to wait and target their prey this way. It is better to hail a taxi driving down the street.
2. Get a general sense of how much your fare will cost. A five-minute ride should not be 1 million VND, but some taxis will use technology to make their meters jump during the ride. They may also take you a circuitous ride around the city in order to increase the distance driven.
3. When it is time to pay, remember to stay calm. If the fare is fraudulent, you can refuse to pay or just pay what you want. A taxi cheat will raise his voice and make you very uncomfortable but that's exactly when confusion and a fight-or-flight situation can set in, and they know it.
4. Count your money very carefully before giving it to the driver. He may pull the old trick of quickly switching out your bills for smaller bills and then ask you to pay more, banking on your possible confusion about the currency. Again, remaining calm and paying attention is the way to avoid second-guessing if you really did pay the right amount.
5. Do not let driver touch your wallet or money. They might pretend not to speak English and ask to take money from your wallet instead, don't hand them your wallet.