Why go to Ho Chi Minh City?
This inexpensive port overflows with fascinating history, culture and local cuisine
Watch out for fast-moving mopeds, and consider yourself warned about the potent flavor and smell of the local durian fruit
This port is chaotic and often humid, but packed with personality
Ho Chi Minh City Cruise Port Facilities?
Midsize and smaller ships can navigate the twisting Saigon River and tie up to the Saigon River Dock, which is a very short distance from the city center. The Saigon River Dock has a cafe and souvenir shop. There is little else directly outside the dock gates.
Larger ships dock at Phu My, a commercial port on the South China Sea near Vung Tao, some 80 miles by road (2.5 hours) from Ho Chi Minh City. The port of Phu My has no passenger facilities, nor ATMs.
Good to Know?
Pickpockets are known to roam the markets and crowded streets, but violent crime against tourists is unusual. You can avoid cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) and taxi scams by making sure that the drivers know exactly where you are going and how much you expect to pay for all passengers.
With mopeds whizzing by at a fast pace, crossing the street is not for the timid. In the city center, though, drivers are fully aware of crossing pedestrian traffic. Stay close together, and step out when the traffic is thinnest. Keep walking slowly and deliberately at a steady pace while watching the oncoming traffic and you'll find that it will simply flow around you. Abrupt movements or a sudden dash can throw off the natural flow. Once you have crossed a few times, you will gain confidence. We recommend following locals as they cross the street until you get the hang of it.
On Foot: While the Saigon River Dock is within a 10-minute walk of the city center, you should not attempt to walk. The short bridge carrying the main road over a filled-in creek has no pedestrian walkway, and the steady stream of traffic makes this portion unsafe on foot. There is nothing within walking distance of the port in Phu My.
By Bus, Taxi and Cyclo: Most cruise lines provide shuttles between the ship and the Rex Hotel, which is at the center of town. Taxis within the dock gates will try to charge much more than the going fare charged outside the gate. Most taxis in town will be happy to take you back to the ship when docked nearby, but make sure you have a firm commitment for the fare price.
From Phu My: To get to Ho Chi Minh City, you will have to take the ship's shuttle to the Rex Hotel, join a ship tour or hire a cab outside the port gate. Most ships provide shuttles to the port gate or to the village of Ba Ria, approximately 16 miles away, where there is an ATM machine. From there, you can take a taxi to the resort town of Vung Tau. Prearranged private tours and ship excursions are advised from this port.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The local currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND) but most vendors prefer U.S. dollars. For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. Almost all cabs, cyclos, shops and restaurants take U.S. dollars, although you will get change back in dong. Be sure to bring smaller denominations, mostly fives and ones. Credit cards are welcome in higher-priced restaurants and shops. Banks in the city center have ATMs, and major hotels have exchange counters, but unless you are taking a local bus or exploring rural areas, changing money is not necessary.