Saturday, May 7, 2011

What to Bring and What to Leave at Home

[caption id="attachment_731" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="That's a NO-NO! (c) flamingbear. Source: Flickr."][/caption]

Lists make me avoid chaos. This time, the Don't Bring That to Saigon list is more important than the other. Saigon is relatively inexpensive and unless you're high-maintenance and extremely picky you'll find everything you need there. What we found out online was quickly confirmed by our very helpful colleagues in Vietnam. We compiled our lists and theirs and this is the result: UBYMKRDVREG8
What to bring to Saigon:

1. Your passport, credit cards, documents + copies. My advice is to keep original copies in a safe at the bank. You don't know when you need them and it's safer that way.

2. Cash - a few dollar or euro bills - crisp, unmarked. ATMs are available, but the safest bet is to always have some cash on you.

3. Laptop and camera. Notebooks and laptops are somewhat more expensive in Vietnam. You can check prices online at the Apple store in Saigon.

4. A supply of regularly taken medication and your prescriptions.

5. Glasses, contact lenses and prescriptions.

6. Cosmetics you can't live without and sun protection.

7. Small gifts to give locals on various occasions - foreign gifts are much appreciated.

8. Lightweight and quick dry leisure clothes, suits, and shoes, especially if you have big feet (men >42/9.5, women >38/7.5) or wear extra-large apparel. Even many average-sized foreigners have a hard time fitting into pre-made local clothing. However, tailor-made clothes are readily available at very reasonable prices (<$150 for a custom-made suit, probably $20-$30 for a pair of pants, slightly less for a shirt, etc.).

9. spices you can't find here. It may sound awkward, but I will bring my stash of dried lovage and powder-borsch. :)


1. Cell phone. Take your cell phone with you only if it's a tri-band one or if it's valuable to you. Otherwise, cell phones are readily available in Vietnam and really affordable. Most services utilize pre-pay, rechargeable sim cards. Minutes can be purchased at shops everywhere, and there are often specials by which you can double your minutes if you recharge on certain days.

2. Reading material. My advice is to buy the electronic version of the book or magazine (if available) and read it on your Kindle, iPad, or computer. Any kilo of luggage you can save matters.

3. Sheets and pillowcases (for queen size beds), as they can be expensive.

What not to bring to Saigon:

1. Appliances that don't operate at 220V.

2. Fine jewelery and other accessories.

3. Warm clothes. In case you travel to the North in the winter, you'll be able to find warmer clothes in Saigon. There is no use to overload your suitcases. Bring only one sweater/jacket.

4. CDs, DVDs, etc.

5. Food. One of the reasons for which you are blessed to be in Saigon is food. You have to try a new cuisine, learn new recipes, find out about a new culture and you have all the time in the world to go back to your oatmeal, hamburgers, or fish and chips. However, there are many international food stores and international restaurants in Saigon that cater for your homesickness.

6. Insect repellents. You'll need that only when traveling in forested areas, but they are available locally.

7. Film for conventional cameras.

8. Raincoats and umbrellas.

So, travel light!


  1. Books? Diving equipment? Fishing gear? Telescopes? Painting/pottery supplies? Dog toys? (wonder what packing light would feel like?)

  2. Saigon ExperienceJune 13, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Jerome Rothenberg's Poetry of the Millenium - 3 volumes. Chris's shoes, sandals, and slippers - size 46 (13). Cosmetics I'll probably never use. 2 suitcases almost full. Sigh.