advertisement

Every major tourist agency has its headquarters or a branch in Saigon. They can book tours and travel throughout the city and the southern region, and usually countrywide as well. Ann Tours, Exotissimo, and Saigontourist are upper tier. Ben Thanh Tourist and Sinh Balo are a lower range. Ann Tours is a favorite of Frommer's readers and the subcontractor of choice for many of the best international tour operators.

  • Ann Tours, 58 Ton That Tung St., District 1 (tel. 08/3833-2564; fax 08/3832-3866; www.anntours.com), has a great reputation that's well deserved. Ann's specializes in custom tours for individuals or small groups. They can be relatively expensive, but that's in comparison to the seat-in-coach cattle-drive tours. These guys will help you do virtually anything you want to in Vietnam. Ask for director Tony Nong, and tell him Frommer's sent you.
  • Exotissimo, Saigon Finance Center, 9 Dinh Tien Hoang St., District 1 (tel. 08/3825-1723; fax 08/3829-5800; www.exotissimo.com), has a chic downtown office and can arrange just about any tour or international itinerary. They are a very professional outfit, and their guides are knowledgeable and speak excellent English. Like Ann Tours, they are on the pricey side, but I highly recommend Exotissimo for their attentive and thorough tours.
  • Saigontourist, 49 Le Thanh Ton St., District 1 (tel. 08/3824-4554; fax 08/3822-5516; www.saigontourist.net), is a large government-run group, but it'll get you where you want to go and is a far better choice than the budget cafes . They man desks in the Majestic, Rex, and Sheraton hotels. They can arrange tours by private car, organize specialized larger group tours to places like the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta, or match you up with larger groups. Day rates start at $18 for a city tour and $25 to $55 per day for sights farther afield. Offices are open daily from 7:30am to 6:30pm.
  • Sinh Balo means "Sinh the Backpacker," so-called after the company founder and budget-tour pioneer Mr. Sinh, who also gave his name to the very popular (and much copied) cafe tour company for budget tourists. In 1995, Mr. Sinh started this more high-end tour company and has attracted quite a large following. Sinh Balo runs good classic tours as well as a host of eco-tour itineraries. Their offices are at 283/20 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 (tel. 08/3837-6766; fax 08/3836-7682; http://sinhbalo.com).
  • Tourist Information Center, 4G-4H Le Loi St., District 1 (tel. 08/3822-6033; fax 08/3822-6028; www.ticvietnam.com), is a great place to pick up cards for a lot of the good restaurants and hotels in town. An on-site currency exchange center gives standard rates for cash-only transactions and charges 3% commission. There are also computers with free Internet access.
  • Vietnam Vespa Adventure, 169 De Tham St., District 1, inside Café Zoom (tel. 08/3920-3897; www.vietnamvespaadventures.com), is a fantastic new tour operator running multiday trips to Mui Ne or Nha Trang aboard beautifully restored vintage Vespas. The easy-to-handle scooters, spectacular views, and friendly co-owners Steve and Patrick come together to create an unforgettable experience. They also do 1-day city tours of Ho Chi Minh City.

Budget Tourist Cafes

Saigon's budget tourist cafes, with their many options for affordable seat-in-coach tours in the south and "open tour" bus tickets that run you along the length of Vietnam, are many and all quite similar in the Pham Ngu Lao backpacker area. Sometimes you book with one and get consolidated with another tour at another company. Same prices and services are the rule. Sinh Café is the über-cafe, but there are many others that offer much the same services, including TNK, 216 De Tham St. (tel. 08/3920-4766; www.tnktravelvietnam.com).

Sinh Café, 246-248 De Tham, District 1 (tel. 08/3837-6833; www.sinhcafevn.com), or in their newer office, Sinh Café II near the Dong Khoi area at 24-26 Pho Duc Chinh St. (tel. 08/3821-7421), is the best choice for inexpensive trips and tours. On paper, the tours seem exactly the same as others offered at private tour agents. They have computerized air booking and are quite efficient, if usually overrun with the heavy volume of Western tourists.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.