Sightseeing on a backpackers budget can be tough. Many countries have realized that the opportunity to overcharge tourists for activities that are 'must see' works wonders as a tourist tax. It can be a bit defeating when visiting two museums costs almost as much as your whole weeks budget. To keep you smileing we found the top 4 best backpackers budget things to do while in Ho Chi Minh City! Enjoy.
1. Get a free peak at Bitexco Tower:
The tallest building in Saigon is accesible for tourists on the 49th floor to get a view over the whole city. The view will cost you $5+. If your only interested in quickly seeing the view and are on a backpackers budget like us, head to the 50th floor instead and there lies a cafe with the same beautiful view. meander your way near a window seat and proceed to look through the extensive menu while sneaking some photos. Go right back down the elevator and you will have some good shots for $0. Score.
2. Take a motercycle taxi anywhere:
In a city with over 10 million moterbikes its not surprising that one of the highlights of peoples trip is just crossing the road. Crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City first can seem impossible. Red lights act as mere suggestions and the constant purr of motercycle engines surround you zipping by on every side. The best way to experience the city like a local is to participate in this 24/7 chaos. While walking around the city you will often get waved over by men on their bikes suggesting places in the city to take you. My advice is to go for it once. Get consumed by the swarms of other bikes that are constantly on the move and enjoy the ride. I stayed in District 7 with a lovely vegan family. We normally stay closer to the centre but since we were couch surfing we were willing to be a bit further and have a better couch surfing experience with like minded individuals. We had to cab daily from district 1 - district 7 which was quickly adding up. We decided to hop on a motercycle taxi since we could pre bargain a price. The 45 minute ride home cost us about 60,000 dong each ($3). It was absolutely exhilerating. I was on one bike and Colin on the other, we started off beside each other but soon enough we were both swallowed into the crowd. At one point my driver decided he had had enough of the traffic and headed straight for the sidewalk. We dodged people, pot holes, food carts, and just in time he warned me with a slight grunt that we had to duck. I became aware of the large tree branch in front of me just seconds before it would have slapped the dumb grin right off my face. I couldn’t help but smile, the sights, sounds, danger, all formed into one unforgettable ride.
3. Visit A Pet Cafe:
Saigon is a wonderful city. I would be lying if I said it was amazing in my eyes, it just did not vibrate on the same frequency as me I suppose. There are a few good museums, some interesting architectural aspects, and a lot of buzz from the vibe of the city. Other than that I did not find it entirely interesting….until we visited Ailu Cat House. I’m a huge animal suck, I love cats, dogs, fish, snakes, bring it on. I actually had hypothetically debated visiting South Korea just to explore all of the cat cafes. A cat cafe is thankfully not a cafe that specializes in eating cats as I once thought. It is a cafe where you can come and socialize with many cats in a communal space. It is specifically targeted to individuals who cannot have a pet. The upstairs of this little cafe in the middle of nowhere housed about 10 cats some kittens and three dogs. It is not the Saigon your guide book describes but it was the highlight of one of our days.
4. 'Free' Tour:
Last but not least is doing a free tour. In Vietnam there are many free tours offered by students who would like to practice their english. We did not get around to doing the one in Ho Chi Minh but from speaking with others we gathered it was a good time but not as history oriented as the popular european free walking tours. note: it is almost expected you buy your guide lunch as well as pay for their ticket into sight seeing areas.