If you have cleared the customs without incidents, then congratulations and welcome to Saigon. Phew! You have survived thus far!
DO NOT RUSH TO EXIT INTO THE ARRIVAL HALL YET!
A lot of people still refer to the city as Saigon, rather than the mouthful Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)/Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh (TP HCM). Saigon was renamed to Ho Chi Minh City in 2 July 1976 in honour of the late communist leader Hồ Chí Minh.
Here you will see a row of counters. You will see staffs waving to you shouting “SIM cards”, taxi, money exchange.
Get a local SIM card
Get the SIM card. It is not much cheaper down town. But at least here, they speak English. Get them to install the SIM for you! Save yourself trouble getting a pin to open the SIM tray if you are using an iPhone
Also remember to get them to activate data for you at the same time as well so you can start to tweet or FB your arrival.
Change some đồng
Next, if you have not change any đồng (Vietnamese currency is called đồng) back home, it is a good idea to change a little dong (USD50) now for your immediate needs. Rate is not the best until you know how to get to Ben Thanh Market. Follow this link below to my article about where to find the best rate in the city.
After feeling more confident with some đồng in your pocket, the next step is to get a taxi to your hotel safely without being ripped off by taxi thugs.
Taxi by flat rate
You can pay a flat rate of US$10 or 220,000VND (at the time of writing this) to get from the airport to anywhere in District 1, or you can try risking it out by taking a metered taxi outside the arrival hall.
But trust me, unless you know your way around the city, there is no way you can be certain your metered taxi fare is going to be cheaper.
The rates are almost the same for any of the taxi counter. The counter lady will ask for your hotel. There are literally hundreds of hotels in District 1 alone and they know every single one!
The counter lady will then write you a receipt and she will get someone to usher you to the taxi waiting outside. There is no need to tip anyone at this moment.
The usher will lead you to the taxi and along the way you will pass a horde of people waiting to receive arriving passengers. Do not get lost at this point. Be watchful. Don’t stop to smell the roses now.
- Check your if you have all your luggages.
- Make sure your passport is with you.
- Is your wallet missing?
- Check if your mobile phone is missing.
Once in the taxi you can breath easier. Enjoy the
view traffic jam along the way. There should not be any more fee to pay. At the end of the trip you may choose to tip the driver VND30,000 ~ VND50,000 (USD1.50 ~ USD2.50). It is also perfectly fine not to tip him.
Some driver will tell you to pay for their parking. Just lookout the window and pretend you are not aware that he is talking to you.
Taxi by meter
So you have decided to brave the arrival hall by taking a metered taxi?
In Tan Son Nhat airport arrival hall, upon exiting the custom you will be immediately greeted by the humid air and the sheer amount of people waiting outside. The next thing to hit you will be taxi touts.
Don’t bother to say anything in return. They will not get offended, trust me. Any reply from you is an opportunity to further the conversation into other things and eventually leading you to take their taxi.
Just walk on.
Knowing which taxi to take can be the difference between a happy holiday or a bad start to a nightmarish trip. In my series of guides about travelling to Vietnam, this chapter discussed about how to get from the airport to your hotel safely.
How much from airport to District 1? – Usually 130,000 VND (At point of writing). I usually round it off to 150,000 depending on the service of the driver.
How long from airport to district 1? – Usually less than 30 minutes to District 1.
Where is the taxi stand?
In a typical airport, the taxi queue is immediately outside the arrival hall. This is to ensure that passengers need not walk far to get in to a taxi.
Here, the taxi queue immediately outside the airport is hogged by taxi thugs. The entire city’s taxi thugs are congregated here in one spot hoping to make a kill.
Under no circumstances should you even try to attempt to ask for taxi on the ground floor.
So where are the legit taxi?
Walk pass the receiving crowd, and turn right. Keep walking until almost until the end of the terminal. On the right you will see an entrance, re-enter the terminal using that entrance. That will lead you to “Left baggage” and a lift + escalator to upper floors.
Take the lift to the second floor (which is the departure floor). Exit the terminal once again using the nearest exit similar to the one you use downstairs. Upon exiting, walk right up to the road and you see that it is actually an official Vinasun taxi stand!
Yipee! There may be another taxi company who will try to persuade you to take their taxi but stick to Vinasun.
Remember how it is spelt! VINASUN.
It is mandatory for the driver to put on a tie! All other thug taxi drivers do not put on tie!
The Vinasun taxi will charge fare by the meter.
The distance from the airport to district 1 is about 7 km and should cost no more than VND180,000.
The other thing to note is how to read the meter. If the meter reads 180.2 it means VND180,200. If it reads 25.5 it means VND25,500. It is very confusing for tourist at first and takes some time to get use to reading the meter.
There is usually a Vinasun employee stationed there to assist customer on where they want to go (in English as well) and will inform the taxi driver about your destination. He will also write on a piece of paper the taxi number for your reference in case you leave something behind.