Living abroad in Ho Chi Minh City has great appeal for many adventurers from different nations. As a remnant of its former place as the center of the French Indochinese colony, Ho Chi Minh City has never lost the international influence that allows it to both be exotic and familiar to the traveler. Despite its modern reputation as a hub of hi-tech industry and major shipping port, the city also retains a deep historical vein that is most evident in the colonial architecture of the old quarter.
Getting Around Ho Chi Minh City
The city is easy to navigate by car, bus, motorbike, taxi or bicycle. There is a light rail system that is slowly being placed in service that allow for quick transport between the various districts and makes doing business in Ho Chi Minh City convenient. As is common with many Asian cities, traveling by private vehicle is not recommended unless you choose to employ a driver who is knowledgeable of not just the city streets but the rhythm of the city.
Rush hour takes on a particularly ironic color in this city. For tourists, a preferred means of getting around is by something called a cyclo, which most people will recognize as a bicycle drawn rickshaw. For city inhabitants, the preferred method of transportation is the “xe ôm” or “hug vehicle.” These are motorcycle taxis where up to three people may be sitting on the vehicle behind the driver and hugging onto each other as they are driven around. The motorbike can easily navigate the traffic and streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
Popular Areas for Foreigners
Foreign travelers tend to migrate towards the Western quarters of the city that are older than the rest and also house the many markets to be found there. In the Ben Nghe Ward in District one travelers will find the Saigon Center and Tax Plaza as well as the popular Kumho Asiana Plaza and Vincom Centre.
Westerners who are in need of culturally specific items will do well looking in the plazas near the various international schools for businesses that will carry the items they seek. District 9 is known as the Hi-Tech district and is similar to the industrial parks found in other major cities. The most popular areas of Ho Chi Minh City are found along the original colonial streets of Saigon.
Not only is the district well preserved but it demonstrates the historical culture of Vietnam as well as the peculiar War evidence that remains, such as in the layer of hidden tunnels that run through the city. Pham Ngu Lao Street, found in the first district, is uniquely popular with young tourists because of the open markets and cheap accommodations available.
Money and More
Banking, currency exchange and other amenities necessary to the modern traveler are easily found in Ho Chi Minh City; sometimes too easily. It is recommended that you only use government approved businesses for your financial transactions as there is a high rate of corruption and street fraud in the city.