Connecting you to the local experience – My day out with Inspitrip
Well, I haven’t been out on a trip for quite a while. (I think the last one was with Saigon Treasure Hunt) The main reason is, I’ve been totally flat out writing and editing the second edition of my book for long term travellers. But I also I feel like I’ve been there, done that with the main attractions. Once you’ve done a food tour, day tour around town, a bicycle tour and explored District 5, you’ve seen and done all there is to do in Saigon right? Well, I’m happy to say I’m WRONG!
Recently I was invited to review a new online guide service that’s launched here in Ho Chi Minh City. At just 8 months young, Inspitrip already has over 1000 local guides in 30 countries and is growing rapidly. Inspitrip’s main aim is to link visitors with locals who have similar interests. With a tagline – Connecting you to the local experience (Find local insiders and experience the destination as if you live there), it didn’t take much to convince me to try them out. I know only too well how much your experience in a destination improves by having a local contact to help you out and show you around.
However, Inspitrip isn’t the only company that offers a local guide service in Ho Chi Minh City. There are several websites offering guide services by locals. And, some of them like Saigon Hotpot, are free. Why would you pay for something you could have for nothing? I needed to know more before I was prepared to write a glowing review.
So, I set them a challenge. I wanted the guys behind Inspitrip to prove to me why they were different. And, then show me something new. Something I wouldn’t find on my own without a local contact. To make it even more of a challenge, we met up in my local neighbourhood. I’ve been here almost six months now and feel like I’ve pretty much explored all the highlights so I was a little sceptical, to say the least.
My guide was Alex, who is one of the founders of Inspitrip. Alex was born in Saigon but moved to Australia when he was a child. Now he’s back, and keen to build something that not only helps visitors get the most out of their time in Ho Chi Minh City, but also provides opportunities for the many bright and energetic youngsters who love nothing more than to help out new friends and, earn a little income on the side.
We met in one of the big local parks, and I quickly worked out that Alex knew his stuff. Did you know that Le Van Tam Park was once a cemetery? Er… No, I did not! You mean I’ve been drinking beers in cafes, power walking and watching aerobics sessions in a cemetery!!! And not just any cemetery apparently. The former Mạc Đĩnh Chi cemetery was the final resting place of many VIP’s and dignitaries over the years. Including former South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm and his brother and chief political adviser Ngô Đình Nhu. Even though all the remains have officially been removed, many locals are still quite reluctant to enter the site as they believe it’s haunted. Creepy!
(If you’d like to know more, historian, Tim Doling has a very informative article on the story of the park HERE .http://www.historicvietnam.com/former-massiges-cemetery/)
So one point to Alex. Let’s see what else you’ve got.
Next we headed down Hai Ba Trung Street towards my local market Cho Tan Dinh. It’s where I do all my fruit and veggie shopping, and I’m pretty familiar with what goes on there. If you’re visiting Saigon, I highly recommend a visit as it’s probably one of the top 5 most authentic markets in Ho Chi Minh City. And, if you’re after fabric, this is the place to come. But, we weren’t heading to the actual market. A bit further up, wedged between a BBQ place and a small shop is a small local restaurant selling specialities from Central Vietnam – Quan An Hue O Xuan (22-22B Nguyen Huu Cau, P. Tan Dinh, D1). It’s been around for over 40 years and is quite famous with the locals. And yet I hadn’t even seen it. What am I blind?? How did I miss that? And unsurprisingly, the food was really good…I mean REALLY good and very cheap. It’s now heading up the top of my list of local favourites. Two points to Alex.
When I mentioned I love Pho, Alex asked me if I had eaten at the best Pho restaurant (Pho Hoa Pasteur) in Ho Chi Minh City. Errr…Yes, no, maybe….I’ve eaten a lot of Pho in my time here. Is it close? Um yes….only 10 minutes’ walk up the road. Better note that one down. (Three points!)
By this time I was starting to see the difference between this and any regular guide service. I would mention something I was curious about, and Alex would propose a solution. I happened to mention that a reader had recently asked me about custom-made shoes. Despite asking some of my best sources, I hadn’t been able to give a satisfactory answer. All I could tell them was to look in the general area around Ben Thanh market. I couldn’t believe it when Alex pointed out one of the best value custom shoe makers in Saigon a few shops later. (Four points)
By now we were chatting like old mates. Everything I asked about Alex had an answer. We even managed to find one of those sidewalk drink carts with a new flavour I hadn’t tasted. I thought I’d tried them all, but nope! (Five points) And, when I mentioned I had friends coming over who wanted a good tailor, he had a name for that as well. (Six points)
So now I’m at the point where I get it…I don’t know as much about Saigon as I thought I did. But still, what else can Inspitrip offer for the average tourist? Why are they unique?
Well if you take a look at the website you’ll notice something different to the other tour guide companies. Inspitrip is not about tours. I hadn’t realised it at first, but all the profiles on Inspitrip are about people NOT where they are going to take you. You won’t find a guide advertising a half day city tour or a back of the bike food tour. You choose someone you think you’ll like from their profile and then sort out the details of what you’re going to do later. If you want a tour of all the Ho Chi Minh City tourist hotspots you want, then most guides on Inspitrip can take you on one. Most of the guides here are ordinary locals who offer you their local knowledge and what their local life is all about. If you want in-depth details of topics that you are interested in, you can ask them to prepare in advance or book a professional guide. There are several available on the website. If all you need is someone to pick you up at the airport, sort your SIM card, find you a decent cheap hotel and teach you how to catch a local bus, then Inspitrip is where you’ll source that help. How about a quirky café tour, an explanation of all that activity in the Local Park, or exploration of some hidden temples? Want to know which bars and nightclubs are in at the moment, then there’s a local who can put you right there as well. If you need someone to help you:
- Out with local administration (I’m thinking work permit peoples!!!),
- Bargain at the local market, or
- Translate for you to get something done (tailor, shoemaker, fix your camera),
There’s a guide that can help you with all of those. It really is like you’re hiring a personal assistant, but one who just might become a good friend. (Seven Points)
Inspitrip addresses any security concerns you might have. Guides undergo a background check, and the most robust of those earn them a “verified guide” badge. And, while you pay as soon as you book the time, the guide only gets paid when either you:
- leave a positive review or
- Don’t respond at all for seven
Two negative reviews will get them removed from the site. Alex told me that they have yet to receive a request for a refund or had to remove anyone yet. (Eight Points)
The other difference with Inspitrip is that you can hire the guide for as little or as long as you need. (Although, for the guide’s well-being, there are minimum and maximum limits per day.) If you decide to extend your time with them after the first booking, there is no extra administration fee charged by Inspitrip at all. (Nine points)
The website is easy to use and provides ample opportunity to communicate with your guide about your needs before you meet. Of course, you shouldn’t leave you booking to the last minute, or you might find it difficult to get your first choice. The Inspitrip website gives guidance on how far ahead you should book. (Ten Points!!!)
At the current time, there are 83 Inspitrip local guides in Ho Chi Minh City and more joining every week. If my experience is anything to go by, the guys are on a winner. They’ve carved out their niche well and have all the systems in place to give the customer (YOU!) a seamless experience. If you
- dislike tour groups,
- want plenty of freedom to customise your activities on your visit,
- need assistance that only a local can give, and
- want to make a new friend with the same interests as you,
then why not take a look at what Inspitrip has to offer. I know I’ve made a valuable new contact. You might too. And if you’ve taken a tour with the guys, I’s love it if you leave a comment down below on how you found the experience.
Inspitrip – Connecting you to the Local Experience
Quan An Hue O Xuan – Central Vietnam Cuisine
Pho Hoa – Best Pho in Saigon?
Address: 260C Pasteur St, D3
Ngoc Hien – Custom Made Shoes
Note: I do not receive any payment for this post (or any others on the site for that matter unless I have a full disclosure!). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.