Vietnam Saigon Budget Day Tours - De Tham (Part 10)
Saigon is a cheap and friendly place for the first-time independent traveler, going on a shoe-string budget (its a fun way to travel too). I have taken (but years ago) and sent my friends (on their own) for day tours esp. to Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Vietcong tunnels. Saigon city-tour is also well-facilitated. Warning for the 1st timer - do not use cyclos and motorbike taxis for city tour until you are familiar with their dealings and are street-wise.
There are many tour operators (check it out) but I think the best and with the most customers is Sinh Cafe in De Tham Street which is perpendicular to Pham Ngu Lao Street. Do not buy online as it is much more expensive. Best of all stay in the budget tourist area and buy your tour a day or two before travel. A day tour to the Vietcong tunnels cost about USD5 per pax (excl. entrance fee). Equally cheap is their other tours. Those who have more time can go for 2, 3 and more days tour to Mekong, beaches and highlands.
De Tham and Pham Ngu Lao (outside Liberty Hotel) are abuzzed with vans and buses in the morning. If you stay in this area's hotel go for rooms at the rear as the din starts at 5:00am. The vans, mini and regular buses are clean, air-conditioned, non-smoking and passengers are mostly foreigners.
These are not those without air-con local buses with a free to smoke policy. But more and more air-con buses are available now. I was once returning from the provinces (6hrs away) riding in their local van due to non-existent air-con transport. The van was meant for 7 but they pack 12 in along the way. It was the raining season (it rains all day in tropical weather) and all windows were shut. The 2 guys on left and right each smoke a pack of foul local cigarettes throughput the journey. Guess what? I second-hand smoked 40 sticks that few hours.
The Sinh Cafe buses depart as promised and mostly on time usually at 7-8:00am to their tour destinations. The only complain is the tour and even long distance buses have no toilet. To keep from having bowel movements, do not take breakfast if you can. I have a few scary toilet stories to tell. But still many have excellent once a day, once and for all movement before breakfast. This makes a great tourist.
Have an adventure have a life!