I’ve just returned from a 3 days shopping trip from Ho Chi Minh City. Here’s my review of the trip:
Airlines – Tiger Airways (http://www.tigerairways.com/). SGD 220 for return tickets. No frills flight and seats were not in good condition and rather uncomfortable. Little leg space too. Acceptable as a budget airline. However, may not be suitable if you bring along small children.
Budget Terminal at Singapore – I like the fast clearance when I returned to Singapore. As compared to Terminals 1, 2 & 3, took less than half hour to collect luggage and check out from the custom.
Hotel at HCM City – Liberty Central Hotel (http://www.libertycentralhotel.com/) at District 1. Relatively new 4 start hotel. 3 minutes to Benh Then Market. Lots of perks like free transfer to hotel from airport, free laundry, free welcome fruit basket. The staff are very helpful and polite. Room is very comfortable and cosy. For triple sharing, it costs USD105++
Shopping – Benh Thanh Market, west end of Le Loi, is like Chinatown Market in Singapore. Lots of small shops selling similar products. Bargain needed, prices are usually marked up by the stall owner. The market is closed at around 5 pm. After which, there will be night market around the market which sell similar products.
Another shopping hit spot is Saigon Square (not Saigon Centre) at 77 – 89, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 1. It’s less cramp than Benh Than Market and ventilation is better. Varity is lesser as compared to Benh Thanh Market. However, worth the visit. Some of the stuff there, you can’t find at Benh Thanh Market.
Tax Department Store at Tax Shopping Centre – get your regular local products at the supermarket. It’s much cheaper than those small store near the hotels.
Le Loi Street – lots of small shops. Tailored made clothes are cheap as compared to Singapore. A dinner dress costs about USD55 (100% silk). The tailor usually needs a day to make the dress, you can go for fitting the next day and they would do alteration for you, thereafter deliver the dress to your hotel free of charge the very same day or the day after.
1) Embroidery Shop – Ninh Khuong Embroidery at 44 Le Loi Ave, District 1 (http://www.ninhkhuong.vn/). Good quality of embroidery cloths (though some designs can be found at Benh Thanh Market / Saigon Square but quality is definitely different!)
2) Tailor – Anh Silk Boutique at 151 Dong Khoi Street, District 1.
3) Food – (1) Quan Nam Giao at 136-15 Le Thanh Ton, District 1 (small alley – opposite Liberty Central Hotel); (2) Ngon, 138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia (near the Reunification Palace); and (3) Pho 24. 23-25 Tran Nhat Duat St | Tan Dinh Ward, District 1 (must try – beef noodles).
1) Taxi – Go for those company registered taxi with metered-fare (the drivers wear uniform and tie). If you are leaving from hotel to airport, get the concierge to help hail a taxi and pre-negotiate the price for you.
2) Safety – The traffic is chaotic there. Lots and lots of motorcycles! When you cross the road, be care of your belongings, hold them close to you. Cross the road one step at a time, maintain eye contact and move forward slowly. Don’t move backwards.
3) Currency – accept both Dong & US dollars. If you want to change Dong, you can do so at the airport or at the money changer near Liberty Central Hotel. The rates are pretty good! Remember to compare rates.