Ho Chi Minh City, or its more popular name, Saigon, is a city overflowing with activity. Being the largest city in Vietnam, it is the center of life in the small East Asian nation. The city has a rich history and culture which most visitors fall in love with. Because of tragic after effects of the Vietnam War, the nation suffers from poverty and health problems, and definitely needs volunteers.
Teach English: Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam in general, doesn’t have a very good education system. Many people live in poverty so they don’t have much access to education, English education in particular. There is a tremendous need for native English speakers to teach English in the nation, and as a volunteer you will be teaching English to children and young adults.
Orphanage Work: Poverty is just one of many reasons that many poor children are orphans in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, there are orphanages that cater to these children and take care of their needs. As a volunteer, you will help the administration take care of the children, teach them, and organize activities for them to take part in.
Healthcare: Due to the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, and children in particular, are victims of Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a code name for a herbicide that the US used as part of its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War. Due to this chemical, many Vietnamese are born with birth defects or are seriously ill. There are clinics in the nation that cater to victims of Agent Orange, as well as AIDS patients, and these clinics need volunteers.
NGO's/Nonprofits: Ho Chi Minh has many nonprofit organizations. Although they work in very diverse areas, there are many that specifically work on health related issues. There are also a fair number that work with children, specifically street children and orphans.
Questions to Ask: What will I be doing as a volunteer in Ho Chi Minh? Will my projects vary or will I be working on the same project for the duration of my trip? How much of my expenses will be covered by what I’m paying the provider and how much spending money will I need to bring? Are there ATMs in Ho Chi Minh or will I have to bring all the cash with me beforehand? Will I have time to visit other parts of Vietnam and possibly even South East Asia?
Planning Your Trip
Vietnam is very cheap relative to US prices. You can get a bowl of pho, along with an appetizer and drink for around $4 USD. That being said, watch out for "tourist traps" and make sure you are bargaining when going to a local market. A good rule of thumb is to pay a third of the price given.
There are local buses in and out of the city which are fairly dependable and run frequently. Renting a motorbike or paying for a ride is also common, as it is the most popular form of transportation in Ho Chi Minh. It is also very easy (and cheap) to get a Taxi, just make sure they use the meter! The hardest part of getting around in Ho Chi Minh? Trying to cross the road.
Health and Safety
As a volunteer in Vietnam, it is recommended that you’re vaccinated for Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid. If you are planning on visiting the nation for a long time and will be spending a lot of time outdoors, get vaccinated for Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis as well.
Ho Chi Minh is actually a relatively safe city for travelers. The city doesn’t face much crime. The worst you will encounter is pickpocketing or having your phone snatched if you are in a crowded area.