Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh), commonly known as Saigon (Vietnamese: Sài Gòn) or by the abbreviations HCMC or HCM, is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. However the old Saigon name is still used by both Vietnamese and foreigners, especially when referring to the most central part of the city to which most tourists flock.
Though Vietnam has been united since the conclusion of the Vietnam War, cultural differences arising from the division of Vietnam can be seen to this day. To this day, locals in Ho Chi Minh City tend to be more business-minded and less ideological than those in Hanoi in the north. In addition, Southerners also tend to be more hospitable towards Western visitors than Northerners. The Vietnam War remains a sensitive topic, and it is advisable not to bring it up in discussions with locals. Do not assume that all Vietnamese think alike, as many Southerners are still bitter about having lost against the North.
Tan Son Nhat (Tân Sơn Nhất) (IATA: SGN) is Vietnam's largest international airport. There are two terminals: the shiny, pleasant international terminal which took over all international flights from 2007, and the old but functional domestic terminal 200 m away. The airport is conveniently located about 8 km from the heart of the city. The international terminal used to offer duty-free shopping after you landed, but that ended in early 2010 – purchase such items at the airport from which you are departing to visit Vietnam. Both terminals have limited food offerings at high prices once you pass immigration on your outbound journey.
Immigration and currency
Immigration protocols at the airport are very streamlined. It is no longer necessary for most passengers to fill in any immigration or customs declaration cards. (The latter may be necessary if you are intending to stay in Vietnam for a long period, or carrying unusual goods.) The baggage carousels are one level down from the immigration booths. You will need to have your checked-in and hand-carry luggage X-rayed before you leave the restricted area.
After you clear customs, you will find currency exchange booths to your right. The currency of Vietnam is the dong. Currency exchange rates at the airport are competitive, and it is preferable to change money here than at the backpackers area in the city which tends to have less favourable rates. Ask first if there's a commission, because this will add to the cost of changing money and nullify any rate advantage. There is an ATM machine on the right side near the currency exchange booths. The withdrawal fee is 20,000 dong. Maximum withdrawal is 6,000,000 dong at one time.
Getting to city centre
The No. 109 airport bus links the international airport and city centre (Pham Ngu Lao St). This bus runs from 5:30am to 1:30am of the following day, with a frequency of 15 – 20 minutes/trip, and the travelling time of the trip is about 45 minutes. Passengers travelling from Tan Son Nhat International Airport can take a bus at Column 15 (International Terminal) or Column 18 (Domestic Terminal). The fare for the service is VND20,000 ($0.9) for journeys over 5km and VND12,000 ($0.54) for those under 5km. Bus 109 has various advantages such as a low floor and wide doors which help passengers with bulky luggage, the elderly, the disabled and pregnant women easily get in and out of the bus; large luggage spaces; and information of upcoming stops is displayed and announced in English and Vietnamese.
The No. 152 airport bus is the cheapest and safest way for backpackers heading to Pham Ngu Lao St from the airport. At least some of these buses are now air-conditioned. (Ignore taxi drivers who tell you that there are no more airport buses.) For 6,000 dong per person plus a 4,000 dong fee for bags, the bus will drop you off at the east end of the Pham Ngu Lao area (at the bus terminal on the southwest side of the Ben Thanh Market roundabout). There is limited space for luggage so this may not be suitable if you have large suitcases. Upon exiting the international airport terminal, turn right and you should see the bus waiting on the road opposite Burger King. There is no sign indicating where the bus stop is, but if you ask a uniformed taxi warden he or she will point it out to you. If not, walk down to the domestic terminal, which is about a three-minute walk away. Try to have exact change or you will be given coins in return. These are legal tender in Vietnam, but many places do not accept them. The bus is only available until 18:00.
You can use Uber to get you where you want to go and as long as you enter your destination in the app, you and the driver don't even have to exchange one word. This is the best option since it is cheaper than taking normal taxis.
Caution: some travellers have reported that taxi scams at the airport are rife. To avoid being scammed, read the information here as well as in the "Get around" section.
- International terminal
There are three options for getting a taxi from the airport to the city centre (District 1):
- Main taxi queue. The main taxi queue is on your left as you exit through the main doors on the ground floor of the terminal building. Some travellers advise that you should head for the taxi queue, ignoring people who approach you offering taxis or advising you to purchase tickets at counters in the airport. It is suggested that you select a Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi. Apparently, it is not necessary to take the first taxi in the queue.
- Mai Linh counter in the terminal building. The Mai Linh taxi company has a counter that is on your right after you clear customs. You can order and pay for a taxi from the staff member there. He will then lead you out of the terminal building to the taxi queue and arrange a Mai Linh taxi for you. The cost for a trip from the airport to city centre is USD10-15. This fee covers all tolls that may need to be paid by the taxi driver.
- Taxis at the domestic terminal. There are taxis at the domestic terminal car park. After leaving the international terminal building, turn right and walk about 200 m.
The metered taxi fare from the airport to the city centre is about 140,000 dong, plus a toll of 10,000 dong. When traffic is lighter (usually only between 22:00- 06:00 or on a hot Sunday afternoon), the ride to the city centre takes as little as 15 minutes. More typically, however, taxis creep along in near-standstill traffic for up to an hour.
- Domestic terminal
At the domestic terminal, a company called Sasco has the airport taxi concession and is the only company allowed to pick up passengers directly adjacent to the building. Their cars are the first you will see by the kerb as you exit customs. However, less expensive rival taxis can usually be found usually in abundance 100 m out in the car park. They have uniformed taxi wardens who will try to capture your business as you approach.
- Taxi companies
Taxi rates are very reasonable in HCMC as long as you use a reputable company and the meter is used. Mai Linh (mostly white with green lettering, though sometimes green or silver) ☎ +84 8 3838 3838 (or 08 3838 3838 if dialling from a local telephone) and Vinasun (white with green and red lettering) ☎ +84 8 3827 2727 have the largest fleets in the city and are generally honest and reliable, with meters that start automatically after the taxis have moved about five metres. At the airport, Mai Linh taxi wardens wear green shirts with green ties, and Vinasun wardens dark green shirts with maroon ties. These wardens can radio taxis for you.
Be cautious of taxis from dubious companies with names that resemble the reputable companies mentioned above. Some of these include Mei Linh or Mai Lin instead of Mai Linh, and Vinamet, Vinason or Vinasum instead of Vinasun. It has been reported that such companies charge outrageous fares to unsuspecting passengers, sometimes by using meters that run faster or by manually increasing the fare when passengers are not looking. There have also been instances of taxi drivers from such companies driving off with passengers' belongings still in the boot.
Other taxi companies with smaller fleets that have been reported as reliable include Festive Taxi, Happy Taxi, Hoang Long (yellow top and green sides), Petro Vietnam (silver and green), Petrolimex (white, blue and orange), Savico (blue), Taxi Future (silver with orange lettering) and Vinataxi (bright yellow). Historically, Savico and Vinataxi have been the cheapest by about 10%, though they generally have older and more threadbare cars; while Hoang Long and Taxi Future are perhaps 10% higher than the average.
Taxis that some travellers have suggested avoiding include the following:
- Saigon Air Taxi (mostly white Isuzu SUVs). Their metered rates are reportedly competitive, though the company was started with the purpose of charging high prices to visitors for airport trips. With other taxis abundant, there is no reason to take the risk of an overcharge.
- Saigon Tourist (mostly silver with pink trim and a flower emblem). Their meter rates are reportedly competitive if they agree to use the meter, but they are notorious for refusing when passengers are foreigners, especially when picked up anywhere near a hotel. Drivers might require payment in US dollars instead of in dong, or quote fixed prices that are double the normal metered rate or more. Saigon Tourist taxis cluster around some of the larger, upscale hotels in the city centre such as the Caravelle, New World, Park Hyatt and Sheraton, and hotel staff won't hesitate to put you into one of these tourist trap taxis unless you specifically ask for a different taxi company. The Sheraton allows only Saigon Tourist to pick up at its door unless you specifically ask the bellman for a different company.
- Other tips for avoiding scams
- Avoid buying taxi coupons from dubious companies. Some taxi companies that overcharge have booths in the airport terminal buildings. Only buy taxi coupons from reliable companies such as those named above.
- Avoid taxi touts. Watch out for taxi touts who dress in uniforms and brandish laminated "fixed price" cards at 4,400,000 dong per car to the city hotels. They will be prepared to drop the price to 2,600,000 dong but it is still a rip-off. Ignore them, and stick to metered taxis or reliable taxi companies.
- Do not ask taxi drivers to suggest hotels. Taxi drivers earn commissions by taking customers to certain hotels, so be explicit about exactly which hotel you want to be taken to. Some taxi drivers have been known to trick visitors into staying at hotels which they recommend by informing them that the hotels the visitors have asked to be taken to have "no vacancies" due to some big event in town or have "burned down recently".
Car rental and private chauffeured services
Budget Car Rental offers English-speaking drivers and new model vehicles. A trip to the city costs a fixed price of 140,000 dong.
A pick-up from the airport by a chauffeured car can be arranged online from Your Local Booking,Book A Car Vietnam,or at booths in the airport terminal building from companies such as Saigon Tourist, Sasco,Hanoi Transfer Service ,Vietnam Transfer Service, Ho Chi Minh airport transfer.
If you take a bus into Ho Chi Minh City, you will end up at one of the following bus stations:
- Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station. This is in the centre of HCMC, within walking distance of accommodation options and tourist sights.
- Mien Dong Bus Station. Buses heading north arrive and leave from here. You can take Bus 19 from Cho Ben Thanh Bus station to this station.
- Mien Tay Bus Station. Take Bus 139 from Tran Hung Dao St to get here.
- Cholon Bus Station.
From these stations, public buses in around the city will cost you about 6,000 to 7,000 dong per journey.
Most private tour company buses drop passengers off on Pham Ngu Lao just west of De Tham, providing easy access to accommodation options in the backpacker area. Of course, this means that you'll have at least 40 people shopping for the same rooms, which can be daunting as the nearby spots get snapped up. Patience will reward those who dig deeper into the tiny alleys, which have a life of their own.
As you hop out of the bus, taxi drivers will surround you with questions like "Where you go?". You might be confused about your location in the city and consequently some taxi drivers will try to take advantage. You'll most likely already be in Pham Ngu Lao and when you tell taxi driver to head to the same place, he'll just zigzag around a few blocks to inflate the fare.
Several companies provide bus travel from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, at approximately USD12 per person. Visas to Vietnam cannot be obtained at the border, so have one before you arrive (see "Cope" below). Capital Tours operates a popular bus route from the Capital Guest House in Phnom Penh that takes passengers to the border. After securing visas, passengers board a partner Vietnamese bus to continue their travel to HCMC.
Ga Sài Gòn Saigon Train Station is on Cach Mang Thang Tam (CMT8) northwest of the city centre, and is a short taxi or public bus ride away from the main hotel districts. The ticket office at the train station has limited English proficiency. Recommended to purchase from the official train ticket office located at 275C Pham Ngu Lao, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1. Other options include travel agencies, also located in Pham Ngu Lao.
There are five daily departures from Hanoi along the "Reunification line". Although several of the trains are called "express", all journeys take about 30 to 35 hours. The fastest train is SE3 departing from Hanoi at 23:00 and arriving at 05:00 two days later. However, SE5 departing at 15:45 and arriving at 04:40 has higher-quality tourist carriages run by the private company Livitrans attached to it. Ticket prices are from 1,008,000–1,547,000 dong for standard carriages and double that for tourist carriages.
By taxi and rental car
Taxis are the most comfortable way of getting around, and very modest in price compared to other major cities in the world. Rates fluctuate over time depending on the cost of fuel. Expect to pay around 15,000-20,000 dong per kilometre. Taxis are numerous and it's usually not hard to flag one down anywhere in the city centre from early morning until about 01:00, though finding one in the rain or during workday rush hours can be difficult.
Taxi rates are not regulated by the city government, so each company sets its own fare structure which changes from time to time. You cannot choose a taxi at random and expect a standard fare; it is a caveat emptor market with a fringe of opportunistic drivers to overcharge foreigners. Fortunately, the market is fairly competitive and 80% of taxis are operated by reasonably honest companies with similar rates. The market of these companies is more than 90% local, so their policies are designed to win the trust of HCMC residents. In general, the only taxi companies you should use are Mai Linh and Vinasun, as the risk of getting ripped of is much higher with the other companies.
Dishonest taxi drivers may start driving without starting their meters, then demand a high fare or try to negotiate for a fixed price at a location where it's difficult for you to hire another cab. Therefore, make sure your taxi driver agrees to use the meter, and turns it on before you get in. As mentioned above, some taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Vinasun have meters in their taxis that start automatically once the vehicle starts moving.
Drivers generally speak limited English and do not speak any other foreign languages, so it's wise to write the name and address of your destination, preferably in Vietnamese, to show the taxi driver. Your hotel staff can assist. It also helps to carry one of your hotel's business cards so you can return to the hotel without too much fuss. Carry small change and notes for paying fares, since drivers are often short of change. Taxis are mostly Toyota Vios sedans (up to four passengers) and Toyota Innova minivans (up to six passengers), which are assembled in Vietnam and inexpensive to buy. Fares are almost always the same regardless of car model, although anything larger than an Innova generally costs more. Some older cars might lack working air conditioners.
Taxi drivers are likely to drive too fast when given the chance. Ho Chi Minh City has a unique traffic pattern in which cars and buses drive in the centre lanes on two-way streets, or the left lanes on one-way streets, while the outside or right lanes are reserved for motorcycles. During weekday rush hours, the car lanes often barely move for blocks on end, while the motorcycle lanes move a bit faster. Taxi drivers vary in their tendency to squeeze into the motorcycle lane and jump ahead of other cars. In theory, they can be fined for doing so. Rush-hour traffic in the city has become so bad that you might consider just planning not to go anywhere between the hours of 07:00-8:30 and 16:30-18:00.
For trips outside of the city or for the convenience of having a private vehicle for the day, hiring a car with a driver for the day is a good option. Many of the taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Vinasun offer these services.
Getting to Vung Tau by hydrofoil is normally a good way to see the commercial maritime areas as the boat speeds down the Saigon River to the sea; however, as of 21 January, 2015, service has been suspended indefinitely after a boat sank. Price if service resumes: USD10/1 ticket/ 1 adult and USD5/child (age 6-11, height under 1.4 m). Duration: 75 min. Departs from Bach Dang pier in Saigon, District 1, not far from the Majestic hotel (100 m). Arrives in Cầu Đá Port, Ben Cau Da, Ha Long St, Vung Tau.
There are 3 lines (Petro Express, Greenlines, Vina Express) running this route with the same ticket price of USD10 one way. If you are planning to visit Vung Tao be sure to consult a Vietnamese calendar. Tickets often sell out over holidays.
Motorbike taxis (xe ôm, literally hug-vehicle) are plentiful (get used to hearing "you want moto?" everywhere), cheap, and are generally quite safe. All riders are now required to wear helmets, a rule that is strongly enforced. Make sure the driver supplies you with a helmet. If he doesn't, find another one, as you'll be the one stung for the fine.
Agree on a price before you set off. Short hops around town shouldn't be more than 20,000 dong, if you go between districts this increases and all the way to the airport around 70,000 dong. Drivers are generally quite friendly and will go slower upon request. They're also not adverse to a bear hug if you're really struggling to hold on to the motorbike. Many of the moto drivers, especially in District 1, speak some English and like many Vietnamese will repay you in a flood of smiles, and probably point out all the sights, if you make a little effort to get to know them.
You can rent your own motorbike in many places, especially around the backpacker area (Pham Ngu Lao) in District 1. 110,000 dong should get you a decent 100-110cc bike. Two main categories of motorbike are available for rent: scooters (automatic transmission); and four-speed motorbikes, the gears of which you change with your left foot. The ubiquitous Honda Super Cub is a common 4-speed bike that has a semi-automatic gearbox, i.e., no clutch, so relatively easy to drive. Other models may be fully manual and therefore you must also operate the clutch using your left hand. This takes a lot of skill and it's all too easy to over-rev and pull a wheelie or stall the engine. If you end up with such a bike then practice releasing the clutch gently before hitting the roads. Rental agents tend to steer foreigners toward scooters if available, on the (plausible) assumption that they don't know how to ride motorbikes that have manual gears. Motorcycles of 175 cc and above are only legal to ride if you make a connection with a Vietnamese motorcycle club.
Driving in Saigon is best left to experienced drivers. The traffic is intense and has its own rhythms and logic. However, if you're up for an adventure, it's best to keep a few things in mind: drivers with limited experience should consider renting an automatic bike (usually a bit more expensive), as at busy crossroads there is not time for worrying about how to change gears. Beware of thieves: always keep your motorbike in sight or parked with an attendant. Most restaurants have guards/parking attendants out front who will issue you a numbered tag and take care of your motorbike. Independent parking lots are scattered around the pavements, alleys and basements of the city. Look for rows of neatly-parked motorbikes or signs that say giu xe.
If you are here during the rainy season, make sure to buy a poncho or a raincoat before you start. They are available for as little as 10,000 dong. It rains daily for around 1–2 hours between 16:00-20:00 during Jul-Aug in Saigon. However, the traffic doesn't stop, it just becomes more chaotic. If you are hesitant or have not driven in such conditions before, it might be prudent to park and wait.
Riding long distance in the countryside can also be harrowing depending on the route you take. Major roads between cities tend to be narrow despite being major, and full of tour buses hellbent on speed, passing slow trucks where maybe they shouldn't, and leaving not much room at the edge for motorbikes.
Most places you would want to stop have parking attendants who will issue you a numbered tag and watch over your bike. Sometimes these parking operations are overseen by the establishment you are visiting, and sometimes they are free-lance operations set up in places where a lot of people go. You will usually see rows of bikes lined up parked. Depending on circumstances, you might park the bike yourself, or just put it in neutral and let the staff position it. In all but rare cases you keep the key. Parking is sometimes free at restaurants and cafes (look for "giu xe mien phi"). Elsewhere, fees range from 2,000 to 5,000 dong.
Traffic police in the cities pull over lots of locals, for reasons that are hard to discern, but conventional wisdom has it that they rarely bother foreigners due to the language barrier. Obeying the traffic laws is nevertheless advisable, especially if you have failed to obtain a Vietnamese licence. Cities like Ho Chi Minh have several one way streets, and it is too easy to just steer into them unknowingly as there are limited signs warning you. If you break the law, the police are sure to pull you over and fine you. They will also threaten confiscating your bike. The quoted price for fine is negotiable, and being apologetic and friendly can get you back on road quickly, with a few dollars less in your pockets. It is less likely that they will bully or harass you.
A ride on a cyclo through HCMC is a great way to see the city the way the locals do. Cyclos resemble a backwards tricycle, with the passenger(s) sitting in front and the driver peddling at the rear. The sights, sounds and smells are a large part of the excitement of the city, and are best experienced at the relaxed pace of a cyclo. A word of warning: be careful with cameras, purses and watches while cyclo riding as these items are easily stolen by drive-by motorbike thieves.
For many reasons, not least the government's insistence on restricting cyclos on busy urban streets, this form of transportation is dying. But at around 36,000 dong per hour and given their leisurely pace, they are a good choice for taking in the city. Be sure to bargain hard with the cyclo driver beforehand. Some drivers have been known to try to change an agreed price at journey's end. Another ruse is to stop unbidden at places where the driver earns a commission. To avoid these problems, make sure all are clear on price and destination at departure.
Bright green public buses serve 150 routes throughout the city. You can find maps of the bus system at the large Ben Thanh bus station across the street from Ben Thanh Market in District 1. Go into the waiting room to the desk in the middle. The buses are cheap, safe and not too crowded. Many are modern and comfortable, with such amenities as air conditioning, music, and even television. Finding the right line can be a challenge if you don't speak Vietnamese, but with the help of maps and your hotel staff you can get where you want easily. If you cannot find your way, ask the locals nicely, they will try their best to help. At the biggest bus stations you can read bus destinations at every single stop (useful, for example, if you need to get to Cholon).
The buses are efficient and fast. Most are staffed by two employees: the driver and a conductor. The driver keeps the bus moving while the fare collector interacts with the passengers. Locals claim, plausibly, that buses are even faster than taxis. The reason is that buses have an informal right of way on the streets of HCMC; when another vehicle sees a bus coming, that vehicle gets out of the way. Taxis know that they are supposed to back down from confrontations with buses. Buses are also cheaper, 4,000-8,000 dong per ride, and safer than many of the alternatives. The biggest problem is that when you get off the bus, you become a pedestrian (see below).
For those who aren't staying in HCMC very long, or want to save some time, the Vietnam Transfer Service will take you to the famous places in Ho Chi Minh City. Price is from 15,000-75,000 dong, including the tour guide and the information in English.
Traffic is made up of a staggering number of motorbikes and, since import duty was reduced upon Vietnam's joining of the WTO, an increasing number of private cars. However its exceptionally rare to see a motorbike of more than 150 cc, and the traffic rarely gets above 20–30 km/hr in central areas.
Crossing the road in Saigon can be a nightmare. It is always scary. If ever in doubt, Saigon's "Tourist Security" officers (guys in green uniforms) will happily help you across. A quicker way of getting across is to simply follow the lead of a local crossing the street.
The true trick to crossing the road is to stay aware, and walk slowly and confidently. The motorbike riders are exceptionally good and will simply move to avoid you, just don't make any sudden erratic moves. Just look for a gap or seam in the traffic, and begin a slow, but steady movement. If you hear a beep coming your way it's likely a motorbike rider is about to enter your personal space. Be alert and prepared to stop putting your foot forward until he passes.
Adherence to traffic signals in Saigon is terrible. Drivers tend to use "best judgment". Just remember though that vehicles can always turn right at any time (regardless of lights). Motorbikes often drive in the wrong direction to take a short cut from point A to point B even against the traffic flow. Crossing roads therefore maybe a challenge for Westerners used to traffic laws and traffic lights.
The traffic police occupy themselves with random roadside checks and do not bother the motorcyclists who are running red lights or driving on the pavements. The police recently announced a crackdown on pedestrians. This does not mean that they will hassle you. The most likely meaning of the crackdown is that you will be held responsible if you are involved in an accident.
You will receive a free VN Trip Map from Vietnamese women wearing the traditional ao dai dress as you are leaving Tan Son Nhat Airport. Most hotels will provide a free tourist map of District 1 although these tend to be advertising-centric. The Sheraton has one of the best of these and will provide one if you ask at reception. In District 1, 'Bookazine' at #28 Dong Khoi (between Ngo Duc Ke and Ho Huan Nghiep) have larger city maps if you plan to venture beyond District 1. The one published by Du Lich & Giao Thong has a street index on the back. Fahasa Books also carries a full range of maps. They have two large stores in District 1: 185 Dong Khoi, just down from Le Thanh Ton, and 40 Nguyen Hue, just down from Mac Thi Buoi. MySherpa Travel have also published tourist maps of central District 1 with all shops and points of interest marked. Outlets in Saigon include Gaya, Dolce Casa, Annam Fine Foods, T&V Tailor, Galley Deli and a number of hotels.
As in most other parts of Vietnam, the main language is Vietnamese. The local dialect is the southern, which differs somewhat from the northern dialect spoken in Hanoi, though speakers of both dialects are usually able to comprehend each other. English is spoken by most of the younger well-educated upper class. Educated senior citizens are usually able to speak French, though generally speaking, English is far more useful these days.
Ho Chi Minh City is also home to a sizeable ethnic Chinese community, mostly around Chinatown and many of them are bilingual in Cantonese and Vietnamese. Many of them also speak Mandarin.
A few useful phrases:
- Hello: Seen Chow (Xin chào)
- Excuse Me, Sorry: Seen Loy (Xin lỗi)
- What is this/that?: Day La Kai Yee (Đây là cái gì)
- Thank You: Kam On (Cảm ơn)
- Very Good: Rat Tot (Rất tốt)
- Bye: Tam Bee-it (Tạm biệt)
- People's Committee Hall, Nguyen Hue St. Originally called the Hôtel de Ville it's a striking cream and yellow French colonial building beautifully floodlit at night. No entry, but the statue of Uncle Ho in front is a very popular place for photos.
- Ho Chi Minh Museum, Duong Nguyen Tat Thanh, District 4. 07:30-12:00, 13:30-17:00, last admission 16:30. The museum, housed in a French colonial-era building, relates the life of the modern day father of Vietnam. The exhibits include various personal possessions of Ho Chi Minh, but are mainly photographs. It's not overly informative, the interior is shabby and the staff are disinterested. Whilst some may find the theme a little jingoistic, like most things it depends upon your point of view. The onsite shop stocks the usual souvenirs along with some books related to Ho Chi Minh. 10,000 dong.
- Museum of Vietnamese History (At the intersection of Le Duan St and Nguyen Binh Khiem, just inside the zoo gates). The museum has a fine collection of Vietnamese antiquities. Read up on Vietnamese history first or you'll have no idea what you're looking at. Outside, the Botanical Gardens are very nice and a good place for a cheap lunch away from the crowds.
- Reunification Palace (Also known as Independence Palace (the old name)), 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St, ☎ +84 8 969 3272. Daily, 07:30-11:00, 13:00-16:00. This is a restored 4 floor time warp to the 1960s left largely untouched from the day Saigon fell to the North; construction started in 1962 and finished in 1966. Formerly South Vietnam's presidential palace, the war ended on 30 Apr 1975 when Tank 843 crashed through the gate. A replica of that tank is now parked on the lawn outside. Be sure to check out the impressively kitschy recreation room, featuring a circular sofa, and the eerie basement, full of vintage 1960s phones, radios and office equipment, supposedly left exactly as it was found when the North took over. There is also a photo gallery and a propaganda film recounting how the South Vietnamese supporters and American imperialists succumbed to Ho Chi Minh's indomitable revolutionary forces, at which point the South Vietnamese supporters were forgiven and everyone lived happily ever after. Tours are available and are free, but not necessary. There is a nice outdoor café on the grounds outside the palace. 30,000 dong.
- War Remnants Museum, 28 Vo Van Tan St, ☎ +84 8 930 2112, +84 8 930 6325, +84 8 930 5587, e-mail: email@example.com. Open daily 07:30-12:00, 13:30-17:00, last admission 16:30. The museum was opened in a hurry, less than five months after the fall of the South Vietnamese regime. It has moved to new premises with 3 storeys of exhibits and various US military hardware (tanks, jets, helicopters, howitzers) on display outside the building. This disturbing display of man's cruelty during the Vietnam (American) War includes halls full of gruesome photographs, a simulated "tiger cage" prison and jars of deformed foetuses attributed to contamination by Agent Orange. An exhibit on the 3rd floor tells the story of the war journalists from all over the world who documented, and often disappeared or died in the war. Watch out for the amputees who will try and sell you their wares. It's a short walk from Reunification Palace — see the museum pamphlet for a map. Entry 15,000 dong.
- Cao Dai Temple (Dao Cao Dai or Caodaism) (95 km NW of HCMC). The temple is near the Cu Chi Tunnels where Vietnamese soldiers held out during the Vietnamese/US war. Tours of the Cu Chi Tunnels can also be arranged.
- Central Mosque, 66 Dong Du, ☎ +84 8 8242903. 08:00-20:00. One of 12 mosques in Ho Chi Minh City, the Central Mosque was built in 1935. It was originally constructed for worshipers from southern India then resident in Saigon, but now Muslims from as far as Pakistan and Indonesia come to pray. Friday has the biggest congregations. The shaded veranda and cool stone floors make it an ideal place to sit, read, or even nap in the heat of the day. As with most mosques, remember to take your shoes off before entering and dress conservatively if you wish to enter.
- Notre Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà), Han Thuyen St (Facing down Dong Khoi, next to the Post Office). Closes for lunch and on weekends. A French-built Catholic cathedral in the city centre. Free.
There are several Chinese temples in Cholon, the Chinatown district of old Saigon. Only a few are listed here.
- Phung Son Tu Pagoda, 408 3 Thang 2 Blvd (On the outskirts of Cholon). Dedicated to the god of happiness and virtue. The pagoda itself is dusty and dwarfed by high-rises under construction nearby, but the small, sculpted grounds are a good place for a rest from the hectic city.
- Quan Am Pagoda, 12 Lao Tu, Cholon (Just off Hung Vuong, close to Thien Hau Pagoda). 08:00-4:30PM. The oldest pagoda in town, home of a lot of incense and a cheerful puppy. Free.
- Thien Hau Pagoda, 710 Nguyen Trai St, Cholon. Dedicated to Lady Thien Hau, the sea goddess, who left two giant turtles to keep an eye on things in her absence. A festival is held in her honour on the 23rd day of the March lunar month. Don't miss the gorgeous sculptures in the walls of the courtyard outside the temple. Free.
- Bitexco Financial Tower, 36 Ho Tung Mau St, ☎ +84 8 39156156. Inside is a viewing platform with a 360° panorama of the city. Alto Heli Bar happy hour 13:00 to 19:00. 2 4 1 selected cocktails 290,000 dong and 3 for 2 Tiger draught beer 135,000 dong. 200,000 dong.
- Cholon - This area serves as Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown, and while many of the ethnic Chinese fled Vietnam for Western countries such Australia and the United States as a result of persecution following the Fall of Saigon, a large number of them continue to reside in the district. Many signs of the Chinese heritage can still be found in the form of Chinese clan temples, as well as stalls selling Chinese food. Many people are also bilingual in Cantonese and Vietnamese.
- Dai Nam Tourist Park, Thu Dau Mot Town, Binh Duong Province (About 40 km from HCMC. Catch Bus 616 from the Ben Thanh bus station and take it all the way to the end (90 minutes, 25.000 dong as of 12/2015), or talk to a travel agent). This is one of the newest and largest tourist attractions in Vietnam. It features the Dai Nam Van Hien Temple, an entertainment site, open range zoo, shopping areas, hotels, local and Western cuisine, and the largest man-made mountain range in Vietnam. Costing over 50 billion dong to build, this park is the beginning of mass tourism in Vietnam, although it is aimed at both tourists and locals and comes highly recommended. Transport options to the park are quite convoluted and as the park is new, online information is scarce. According to the locals, it is very much worth a visit, purely just to view the temple.
- Dam Sen Water Park, 03 Hoa Binh, Ward 3, District 11 (Take Bus 11 from Ben Thanh bus station), ☎ +84 8 858 8418, +84 8 865 3453, fax: +84 8 858 8419, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa, 08:30-18:00, Su and Holidays 08:00-19:00. Close to the city centre. This water park offers some unique water slide experiences, including the amazing "Space Bowl". Restaurant, health services and animatronic dinosaurs are on the premises. Admission is based on height and time of arrival; under 0.8 m free, others 40-110,000 dong (90,000 after 16:00).
- Emperor Jade (Tortoise) Pagoda (Chua Ngoc Hoang or Phuoc Hai Tu), 73 Mai Thi Luu St. Considered by many to be Saigon’s finest pagoda. Check out the room filled with unusual figurines, to the left of the main hall. There are many turtles in a concrete pond in the courtyard.
- Galaxy Cinema, 116 Nguyen Du, District 1. A favourite among locals.
- Happy Ending Massage Yuan, 15B8 Le Thanh Ton St, District 1 Ben Nighe Ward (On Le Thanh Ton between Thai Van Lung and Ngo Van Nam. Across from Sky Garden), ☎ +84 8 3825 0795. Despite the name, legitimate foot and body massage, hostess will explain pricing to you at the beginning, usually offering 30% discount. 223,000 dong.
- MegaStar Cineplex, 126 Hung Vuong St, District 5 and 60A Truong Son St, Tan Binh District. 2 locations in HCMC and the first to offer 3D movies (at Hung Vuong Plaza only).
- Les Rives, Suite 2105, Me Linh Point Tower, 2 Ngo Duc Ke, District 1, ☎ +84 128 5920018. VIP speedboat tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the Mekong Delta and jungle canal tours around Saigon. A sunset tour around Saigon involves exploring narrow jungle canals with a village made of bamboo and thatch as well as visiting a floating temple.
- Twenty-Three September Park (Across from Ben Thanh Market and running the length of Phan Ngu Lao St). Running along Phan Ngu Lao St are a number of parks which fill up with locals before sunset, after work. They play a variety of games which you can participate in: badminton, kicking a shuttlecock and womens group aerobics to music are all very popular, and are great to watch. If you sit down by yourself in the open area near the Ben Thanh market a number of young university age locals will come and ask to practice English with you, this is a great way to spend an evening and the best way to meet intelligent interesting youth, they will question you either individually or in groups and share with you a lot about their country. Beware of those men who want to introduce you to their "sister" who's working as a nurse and wants to move to your country. They will try to make you come into their home so you can reassure their parents, but will actually gamble and cheat at cards with you and/or ask you for money after telling a sad and fake story about some dying relative.
- Vietnamese Language Garden, 135/10 Nguyen Cuu Van, Binh Thanh District. The school offers one-on-one study,focus on intensive classes to get fluent in Vietnamese in a short time, or 1-2 weeks classes for tourist & homes stay to experience the local lifestyle
- Vietnamese Language Studies (on the edge of District 1 and 3 next to the HTV Broadcasting station). Private school with comprehensive courses from beginner to advanced composition. Students can take private courses or join group classes.
- VNS University. In District 1, the University of Social Sciences has comprehensive university-style courses in Vietnamese, group classes typically 6-10 people.
Vietnamese arts and crafts, or mass-produced resin knock-offs thereof, are sold by dozens of shops around the central tourist district. The best, most expensive items can be mostly found on Dong Khoi or the immediate side streets. The goods tend to get progressively simpler and cheaper as you move west toward Ben Thanh Market (though the best wood-carving shop is a stall on the back side of Ben Thanh). A few shops have authentic woven silk textiles from Sapa and the north. Lacquered paintings, plates, bowls, etc., are quite striking and unique to Vietnam. Vietnamese propaganda posters can be very impressive and offer a taste of history. It is very useful to have local currency when buying. Banks and formal exchanges will provide you with a decent rate, especially when compared with agencies like Statravel on Vui Ban St which will offer much lower rates. Goldsmith shops will also change money at decent rates, though as always it is better to know the going rate than to trust to luck.
There are two good guide books for shoppers in Ho Chi Minh City: the Luxe City Guide and the MySherpa Guide which also includes a map with shops cross-referenced.
- Galerie Quynh, 65 De Tham St, District 1 (Between Co Bac and Co Giang), ☎ +84 8 3836801. Tu-Sa, 10:00-18:00. A serious contemporary art gallery located in District 1. Unlike the galleries that focus on more decorative works, this gallery represents innovative local and international artists including Tiffany Chung, Do Hoang Tuong, Hoang Duong Cam and Sandrine Llouquet.
- Gallery Deli, Dong Khoi (Just down from Mac Thi Buoi).
- Oil-Paintings, Bui Vien St (Near backpackers area in De Tham and Pham Ngu Lao). There are several shops along this street selling oil paintings. If you want a portrait of a Vietnamese painting or even have your own photograph oil-painted, shop around here. You can get a readily available portrait within a day or two. 450,000-5,000,000 dong.
- Phuong Mai Art Gallery, 129B Le Thanh Ton St, District 1 and 213C Dong Khoi St. Vietnamese contemporary original art works including oil paintings, lacquer paintings, water colours and sculpture.
- Saigon Craft, Dong Khoi (Opposite Lucky Plaza). Lots of lacquerware.
Books and newspapers
- Bookazine, 28 Dong Khoi. New and antique copies of international titles like The Economist.
- Fahasa, Nguyen Hue Blvd (just down from Mac Thi Buoi).
- SahaBook, 175/24 Pham Ngu Lao (Near Le Pub). Lots of Lonely Planet titles here.
- Tri Books, Dong Khoi (Corner of Ly Tu Trong). Stocks a wide range of English language textbooks and reference books.
Vietnamese silk is excellent quality. Buying a suit can be fun and relatively cheap, but do your research first, and remember that you get what you pay for. Labour costs are not what make suits expensive. Tailors frequently use fabrics whose quality is exaggerated, for example the common claim of wool being "Italian/English Super 180". Cheap local suits don't compare to just having an USD80 H & M suit altered by a tailor. Any suit should contain 0% polyester. Any tailor should have multiple fittings, preferably three (with the third just being a check-up that probably won't require further alteration).
- BoSua Local Street Wear, 55B1 Vincom Tower, Dong Khoi St, District 1, ☎ +84 9 04142182. 09:00-22:00. 145,000 dong.
- Ginkgo T-shirts, 20 Le Loi and 56 Bui Vien, District 1, ☎ +84 9 05493148. 08:00-23:00. Souvenir T-shirts with creative designs inspired by Asian cultures. 210,000 dong.
- Ipa-Nima, 8 Nguyen Trung Truc St, District 1. Lots of accessories.
- Khai Silk and Creation, 107 Dong Khoi. Shirts at around USD30 and ties for USD10. Off-the-peg shirts can be tailored at no additional charge. Can make copies of clothes you supply out of silk, linen or Egyptian cotton. 2 days for shirt, 5 days for a suit.
Visiting the local electronics district on and around Huynh Thuc Khang is quite a sight, where anything and everything is repaired, and nothing wasted. It's about a 15 min ride on Bus 2 from District 1. Loudspeaker repairs and remakes, transformer and armature winding by hand. Think of any component and you may find it here, including 1968 helicopter parts. Some people bring older solid state and valve gear here to be repaired economically. Most electronics equipment in Vietnam originates here, so it's going to be a lot cheaper here than elsewhere.
While some of the country's cheapest electronics can be found here, most shops sell counterfeit items. Things such as dodgy iPods are easy to spot when compared to the genuine item, but things like camera batteries are more difficult to assess. If you are thinking about buying extra memory for your digital camera, e.g., be warned that most of the memory will be fake. These cards can be low quality and one has to ask if it is worth risking irreplaceable holiday snaps. Worse, knock-off batteries sold here have been known to explode. Nevertheless, if you know what you are doing, you can pick up some bargains here.
- DVD buffs with no scruples should head to Ho Tung Mao.
- Kool Audiophiles, 16/1 Phan Ngu, F Dakao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 38201757. 09:00-20:00. Headphone and earphone shop selling genuine products.
- Ben Thanh Market (Chợ Bến Thành) (Southwest end of Le Lai). Till 18:00. A den of thieves, but some great shopping. Ben Thanh is recognizable from its clock tower on the large roundabout. The largest old-style market in the central district, with several hundred small stalls stuffed with goods on almost impassably narrow aisles. Due to its popularity with tourists, the market is now divided between tourist goods (jeans, T-shirts, smaller souvenirs in abundance) and regular items (fruit and vegetables, rice, kitchen wares, flowers, meat, fast food and local-style pickled fruits). Most items are not price-marked, and vendors always quote a 50-100% higher price to tourists, so bargaining hard will save you money. The chief method of parting visitors from their money is ambiguity: for example, never making it quite clear how much you are being quoted or what the exact price is or what exchange rate is being used to calculate your change. Be ready for these ruses (often by a sweet, smiling young lady), or be prepared to part with more cash than you need to. Right at the north side (back) of Ben Thanh Market are some shops that are operated by Ben Thanh Group and they sell goods at fixed price and much cheaper than the stalls in the market. No bargaining needed. If the good selection of knock-offs here just won't do, there's plenty to be had in the surrounding side street shops or night market later. If retail warfare isn't your cup of tea, you could skip the touristy Ben Thanh altogether and go to Chợ Bình Tây.
- Chợ Bình Tây (In Chinatown). The underrated twin of Ben Thanh, selling everything from spices, Chinese medicines, and silk to obscure varieties of fermented fish, dried seafood, and jerky. If you are searching for a variety of Vietnam silks and velvets, skip the tourist trap Ben Thanh Market and go to Bình Tây instead. Most of Chợ Bình Tây is wholesale goods. Much of Ben Thanh Market's goods are from here.
- Night Market (Just outside of Ben Thanh Market). 18:00-late. Here you can enjoy many kinds of different foods and drink and do your shopping as well.
- Saigon Square (A stones throw from Ben Thanh Market). A good place for a visit. It is a twin of Ben Thanh but with air conditioning. Haggling your way through this place is the rule of thumb. Local middle-class Vietnamese shop here on the weekends too. Consider planning your shopping here during the day and go to Ben Thanh for the night market. The daytime Ben Thanh can be planned as a sightseeing trip instead of a shopping spree.
- War Surplus Market, Yersin, District 1 (Intersection with Nguyen Cong Tru). Sometimes called the American Market or "Cho Cu" or "Khu Dan Sinh". Hidden behind rows of hardware and electric supplies shops, just brace yourself and enter. Dense warrens of stalls include those selling old American military gear of indeterminate authenticity (e.g., "nice collection of so-called authentic GI's Zippo lighter from the war era"), cheap T-shirts and military paraphernalia: just don't hope to find a genuine US wartime Zippo, they're all fakes now. Despite the name, most stalls now specialise in various industrial-type products such as hand tools and personal safety equipment.
- Co-op Mart Supermarkets (In District 1 can be found at the corner of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Nguyen Dinh Chieu, about 1 km from the centre or in Cong Quynh, walking distance from the end of backpacker street, Pham Ngu Lao.). Frequented the Saigon middle-class and backpackers alike, can be found everywhere around HCMC. Prices are reasonably lower, though the selection leans more toward Vietnamese foods.
- Tax Department Store (On the corner of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue.). Now known as Saigon Square. Formerly the Russian Market, this is now a rather sterile department store of sorts filled with stalls selling touristy kitsch, although the selections get better as you ascend the levels. There's a good supermarket on level 2. If you are traveling here by taxi, the new name may be met by blank expressions from taxi drivers. The old name seems to work.
You're spoiled for choice in Saigon, which offers the country's largest variety of Vietnamese and international food. Bargains are getting harder to find, however, and restaurant prices have been rising at up to 30% per year due to a combination of higher food prices, rising wages, and soaring real estate costs. Land in the city centre now sells for around USD16,000 per square metre, so even a modest-sized restaurant sits on real estate worth more than USD1 million. Authentic local food at bargain prices is one of the glories of Vietnam, but it's getting harder to find in Saigon as the city becomes ever more upscale and cosmopolitan.
The local food shows influences from French colonial times. Bakeries have fresh and excellent baguettes, which they will fill with cheese (typically of the "La Vache Qui Rit" or "Laughing Cow" brand), potted meat, ham, and onions, or any combination thereof, cheaply. Beef is used in various dishes - whether in any of the many variations of pho, or in a regional specialty such as "bun bo hue" or Hue beef soup. Be sure to try, aside from pho, dishes such as the above-mentioned Hue beef soup, or "banh xeo". Vietnamese omelettes, consisting of a delicious filling of your choice (various options included bamboo shoots and enoki mushrooms, along with meat, prawns, or both) in a crispy outer crepe-like casing.
Local food at bargain prices is very easy to find in Saigon. Banh mi thit (pork sandwiches) can cost as little as 10,000-15,000 dong. Com tam, a plate of rice with grilled pork (or with different meats) and a bit of vegetables for 18,000 dong.
Food stalls are scattered all over the city, but there's a fair collection in the Ben Thanh market (see Buy). For local fast food, try the ubiquitous Pho 24 chain (though it can be more the twice the price of local fare). Additionally, foreign fast food franchises Lotteria and KFC are established in the city, with McDonald's just recently opening as well.
The setback of eating street food or food prepared in holes-in-the-walls in any town or city in Vietnam is dodgy hygiene. Street hawkers are not only cooks but they are also cashiers. They touch money and often flip over the notes with their fingers moistened with their saliva. If a bun or baguette is dropped in the pavement, it is picked up to be mixed with the rest. A hawker may cough or sneeze and while preparing food, cover their mouth with their bare hands then resume what they were just doing. Food may have unwanted items such as hairs. Utensils may be washed from the same portable ice-cream container washing basin, without detergent. Debris on spoons are just wiped off from the water on that small dish. Drinking glasses may just be dunked two or three times and ready for the next user.
At holes-in-the-wall, if there is shortage of counter space, contained food is placed on the floor. Floors are mostly wet and muddy. Utensils are washed on the floor itself. Waiters tossed used chopsticks and other dishes like bowls and if they don't get in the tub, they fall to the floor to be picked up later. Vegetables and meat parts are also cut in the floor and if they fell off, they are picked up again. Big quantities of vegetables are placed in plastic buckets and cleaned in the toilet tap. The plastic buckets may have been used as bathing or toilet flushing pail. And when they are not used, they may be stacked together and stored in the toilet.
However, street food and holes-in-the-wall food are flavourful, fascinating, exotic, ingeniously contrived, and cheap with all the elements of the nutrition pyramid and all the flavours: sweet; sour; salty & hot are well represented.
- BanhMiBistro, 76 Vo Thi Sau, District 1, directions. Fresh sandwiches, especially the traditional Vietnamese "Banh Mi". Bread is baked fresh in the store. There are 3 other outlets around the city.
- The Burger Corner, 43 Nguyen Hue St, District 1. Rice and hamburgers. The combo meals are good value.
- Cafe India, 250 Bui Vien, District 1. 5-item menu available all day for 25,000 dong (vegetarian) or 50,000 dong with chicken.
- Cafe Lam, 175 Bui Vien, District 1. Huge portions. USD1 for a big tiger, USD2 for a chicken curry with rice which is so large you won't finish. This is a very inconspicuous place, but most of the customers are regular expats. The food is nothing special but the prices, portions, and drink options make it a good bet. Good fruit salad, lovely smoothies and great tom yam soup.
- Doner Kebab, 198 Bui Vien St, District 1 (Inside the backpacker area). 23,000 dong.
- Dong Ba, 110A Nguyen Du, District 1. This is a shop that sells Hue food including Hue beef noodles and traditional banh beo rice cakes.
- Dream Cones, 16 Nguyen Thi Nghia St, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1. Ice cream in a quirky and cool neon atmosphere, with lots of white leather seating. Free unlimited (unsweetened) iced tea served with your ice cream. 16,000 dong a scoop.
- The Khmer Viet Kitchen, 185/14 Pham Ngu Lau, ☎ +84 126 5492647. 07:00-23:00. Vietnamese and Western food with good selection of pasta, sandwiches, burgers and enchiladas. From 40,000 dong (vegetarian 35,000 dong), beer from 20,000 dong.
- The Lunch Lady (Nguyen Thi Thanh), 23 Hoang Sa. 11:00-15:00. The famous Lunch Lady was featured on Anthony Bourdain's show. Different noodle dish every day. 30,000 dong.
- Pao Restaurant & Cafe, 158 Bui Vien, District 1. Special decor with small musical instruments, traditional dress and hats from the many ethnic groups of northern Vietnam. Vietnamese food such as spring rolls, hot pot & pho. They have a live Vietnamese instrument show on every Friday and Sunday. 35,000-60,000 dong.
- Pho Bo Vien Quoc Ky, 52 Ngo Duc Ke (near Nguyen Hué, District 1). A nice cheap place for soup. Try the sate version of the usual pho or my, a spicy delicacy.
- Pho 19, 19 Nguyen Trai St, District 5. 06:00-11:00. A small space and very cheap place for pho and bo kho. 25,000-30,000 dong.
- Pho Quynh, 323 Pham Ngu Lao St, District 1. 24 hours daily. Their specialty is pho. Locals come regularly and lucky backpackers stumble upon it. It is air-conditioned on the second and third floors. They also have decent banh mi bo kho, which is beef stew with carrots, served with French baguette. 40,000 dong.
- Pho 24. Clean modern chain found everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City. Excellent beef noodle soup, very cheap. Watch out for the fake Pho 24/24 on Pham Ngu Lao St, which does not belong to the chain and serves terrible and expensive food.
- Pho 2000 (3 locations, one sharing space with I Love Burger; one right next to Ben Thanh Market; and one toward the end of Le Thanh Ton St). The restaurant was once visited by a former US president, Bill Clinton. Has pho, including a seafood version, along with the usual Vietnamese rice dishes, as well as a superb vegetarian curry.
- Thiện Duyên Bễn Thành (vegetarian restaurant), 174 Calmette (Near the city bus station), ☎ +84 8 3914 7453. Well-presented vegetarian food.
- Trang, 102/6A Cong Quynh, District 1 (Not far from Pham Ngo Lao). Local food including excellent crab served in a friendly atmosphere.
- Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt, 15-17 Phan Chu Triuh (Opposite west entrance of Ben Thanh market, near the corner of Nguyen An Ninh). 08:00-22:30. From 40,000 dong, frozen yogurt 25,000 dong/100g.
- Barbecue Garden, 135A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Quan 1 (100 m from Ben Thanh Market, behind the General Sciences Library), ☎ +84 8 823 3340. A barbecue restaurant offering both Vietnamese and international foods. USD5–7.
- Bi Saigon, 185/26 Pham Ngu Lao St, District 1 (In an alley just off the main tourist street, Bui Vien). Extensive menu with a choice between Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican and other styles. Open plan kitchen so you can see your food being prepared.
- Black Cat, 13 Phan Van Dat, District 1. Fresh and juicy beef patty. Jumbo burger is USD15.
- deciBel Lounge, 79/2/5 Phan Ke Binh, Quan 1 (Close to the Jade Emperor Pagoda), ☎ +84 8 627 0115. 07:00-24:00. A nice range of Mediterranean food, Vietnamese breakfast and a prix fixe lunch menu. Hosts a monthly art exhibition 20,000-200,000 dong.
- Hanoi Oi Bistro, 225/7 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Phường 5, District 3. Spread over 2 floors, serving modern and traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Dishes include northern Vietnamese recipes of the owner/chef Thuy Linh, who is also an accomplished singer in a famous band, 5DK. Local singers, actors, celebrities and foreigners flock to this bistro both for its unique take on modern and classic Vietnamese food, and its ambience. USD2–25.
- Hoa Khai Vegetarian Restaurant, 124 126 Nguyen Cu Trinh St, Cu Trinh Ward, District 1 (About 500 m west of the backpacker area). Tasty Vietnamese vegetarian food although with surly service. Be careful of being charged for unexpected items, such as the disposable hand towels that are presented to you without asking as you sit down. 100,000 dong.
- Hoa Mai Coffee, 43-45 Do Quang Dau St (Just off Phan Ngu Lao, between Phan Ngu Lao St and Bui Vien St), ☎ +84 8 836 8310. Restaurant downstairs, on the second floor is a comfortable bar with pool table. International food and local dishes. Fresh fruit shakes, spring rolls, Vietnamese noodles and pasta. USD2–5.
- Huong Dong, 68 Huynh Tinh Cua. A modest, open-air restaurant serving mostly southern country-style food. The name literally means "scent of the fields". It's a place where families and groups of friends gather, drink a lot of beer, eat a lot of food, and make a bit of noise. You might need a few beers to get up the courage to try some of the more exotic offerings, including field mouse, whole frog, pigeon porridge and coconut worm. A whole char-grilled ga ta (local style free-range chicken) is 170,000 dong, head and feet included. A wide variety of other meats and seafood is available for 50,000-80,000 dong. Quirky English translations of the long menu add to the spirit of adventure.
- Une Journée à Paris, 234 Le Thanh Ton St (Quan 1, 100 m from Ben Thanh Market.). Authentic French boulangerie, patisserie and salon de thé. French petit dejeuner at 50,000 dong, with egg/bacon 100,000 dong.
- Lemongrass, 4 Nguyen Thiep St (Near the Opera House). A very touristy Vietnamese restaurant. Daily business lunch USD3+ and weekly special dishes. Expanded to a twin outlet on 14th floor of Palace Hotel Saigon, 10 min away from the first outlet. Same menu, same price. USD4–6.
- Lion City Cafe & Restaurant, 45 Le Anh Xuan, District 1 (Opposite New World Hotel), ☎ +84 8 3823 8371. 07:00-15:00. The biggest chain of Singaporean restaurants in Vietnam, all ingredients imported. 100% Singaporean food with a head chef and owner from Singapore. USD3-8.
- Ngoc Suong Marina, 19C Le Quy Don. A restaurant specialising in seafood. Fish salad and clams cooked in white wine.
- Papaya by Chi Nghia, 68 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh District (Near the zoo). Small place specializing in northern-style Vietnamese cuisine. Run by an chef/owner who has 25 years of experience with Sofitel hotels. Cooking and presentation is top notch. Clean and nicely decorated. From USD2–5 and up.
- Quan An Ngon, District 1. Two different restaurants operate with the same name within a few blocks of each other, one at 160 Pasteur Street, and the other (recently reopened) on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia across from the Reunification Palace. Set in atmospheric old French villas, with similar menus Vietnamese food, including regional specialities prepared in numerous independently-operated food stalls around the perimeter. Both are popular and both tend to be jammed at peak hours requiring a wait for a table. (The name literally means "restaurant of delicious eating".) The one on Pasteur has dozens of kerosene lamps burning for ambience at night, so if you have asthma or pulmonary issues or feel you've had enough pollution already, better to try the other one. Mains from 45,000 dong.
- Quan Nuong, 29-31 Ton That Thiep. A delicious, reasonably-priced open-air barbecue restaurant on the roof above Fanny's ice cream parlour and the Temple Club. Every table has a grill in the centre and the menu includes a variety of meats and seafood which you can grill yourself. Try the bacon wrapped salmon & the beef wrapped cheese skewers. They also serve a variety of mostly southern-style salads and noodle dishes. It's very popular and often fills up by mid-evening.
- La Sen Restaurant (Nha Hang La Sen), 30 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, Phuong 6, Quan 3 (In the centre of district 3), ☎ +84 8 930 6682. 09:30-23:00. Clean, medium-priced restaurant serving food from the regions of Hue, Saigon and Hanoi. Friendly service, full air-con, 2 floors and room for about 100 persons.
- Spice, 27c Le Quy Don in Quan 3. Largest and most-visited Thai restaurant in HCMC. Mostly local Vietnamese and expats as it is out of the tourist area. Authentic Thai food prepared by the two Thai chefs. Food is fresh and served within minutes. Tom yam gung and papaya salad, spicey shrimp, fusion of Thai with other cuisines. Seating over 200, in air-con, al fresco or Thai style on floor mats. Delivery available to all districts. Top floor BBQ.
- Sushi Bar (Four locations: corner of Le Thanh Ton and Ton Duc Thang in Q1, about six blocks northeast of the Opera House; on a large alley full of restaurants off Ton Duc Thang by the river and near the Legend Hotel; on the food-court floor of Zen Plaza on Nguyen Trai; and in the Saigon Court apartment building on Nguyen Dinh Chieu.). Probably the best sushi value in Saigon. They serve a larger and more interesting variety than the typical sushi restaurant, at half the price. Draft Tiger beer is 24,000 dong. Very popular, so you can expect to wait during the middle dining hours.
- Wrap and Roll, 62 Hai Ba Trung. A growing chain. Wrapped Vietnamese fusion food in a modern minimalist setting. Try the desserts. Beer and a meal should cost less than USD10.
- Au Lac do Brazil, 238 Pasteur (Between Dien Bien Phu and Vo Thi Sau.). Just to prove that Saigon has everything, here is a Brazilian-style churrascaria (all-you-can-eat restaurant featuring barbecued meat), with live Latin music Tuesday to Saturday. They also have a new outlet in Sky Garden II, Phu My Hung, District 7. It's a larger and less crowded one with usually better service. USD30+ per person.
- Co Ngu (On Pasteur just before Dien Bien Phu, Quan 1). Nice Vietnamese and Asian-fusion food in a villa setting, with indoor and garden seating. Popular for business groups. Prices higher than average for Saigon, but a better value than you will find in the tourist section of town.
- The Deck Saigon, 38 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, An Phu, District 2 (15 min from the centre of Saigon), ☎ +84 8 3744 6632. The only posh restaurant on the banks of the river. Modern fusion cuisine using the local ingredients.
- La Habana, 6 Cao Ba Quat, Quan 1 (Two blocks northeast of the Hyatt and opera house). Outstanding Spanish and Cuban-style food, including a large tapas menu. Also one of the few places in Vietnam that makes really good cocktails.
- La Hosteria (On Le Thanh Ton a few blocks east of the Hilton). An Italian restaurant with excellent home-made pasta dishes in the range of 125,000 dong and main dishes 150,000+.
- Huy Long Vien, 99 Nguyen Du (Across from the Reunification Palace). Chinese cuisine including Peking Duck and dim sum. Large with an ancient China theme.
- Pomodoro's (On Hai Ba Trung, a block from the Hilton and around the corner from the Sheraton and Caravelle Hotels). Decent small Italian restaurant. Delicious lasagna is their specialty; the pizzas are a bit oily. Dinner of 2 starters, cocktails, 0.5 litre carafe of wine, mains and deserts for roughly USD50, but with poor service.
- Tân Nam, 60-62 Dong Du, Quan 1 (A few doors from Sheraton Saigon). The ground floor is open-air, the upper floor has air-con. Rather expensive and mediocre food, around USD10/person but they will park your motorcycle while you eat, and wander around the waterfront.
- Temple Club, 29-31 Ton That Thiep, Q.1 (First floor, with an ice cream parlour below). 1930s ambiance with separate bar, restaurant, and lounge area sections. The food is fair but most people come to soak up the atmosphere.
- L'en Tete, 1st floor, 139 Nguyen Thai Binh, Quan 1 (At the junction with Calmette). 17:00-24:00. Excellent French restaurant in an area not normally associated with high dining. Great for a leisurely dining experience. 150,000-450,000 dong.
- ZanZBar Restaurant & Bar, 41 Dong Du St (Diagonally opposite Sheraton Hotel). Eclectic crowd comprised of local Vietnamese, local expats, and visiting tourists. Wine-by-glass and cocktail menu. At night the lighted columns create a great ambience.
- Urban Kitchen + Bar (urban kitchen bar restaurant ho chi minh city saigon), 18 Ngo Van Nam, District 1 (At the beginning of Le Thanh Ton Street you will take the first left on to Ngo Van Nam Street. The street splits off into two and the restaurant is located on the left side.), ☎ +84 8 6250 6363. 11:00 - late. A welcome addition to the HCMC culinary scene, serving delicious American and International cuisine. The two level building has a modern industrial design element that makes you feel like you aren't in Vietnam. At night, the restaurant takes on a bar like atmosphere and their bartenders serve up some great cocktails from the amber lit rock bar. On Friday and Saturday nights, they also have DJ's spinning hip hop. Brunch favorites are served on Saturday and Sunday from 10am.
- D'Nyonya Penang Restaurant, 58 Dong Du St, District 1 (Beside the Mosque and Sheraton Hotel), ☎ +84 8 6678 6044. Malaysian owned, authentic Malaysian cuisine and Vietnamese menu.
- Four Season Restaurant, 2 Thi Sach St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 825 7186. Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine.
- Halal@Saigon, 31 Đông Du, District 1 (Opposite the Indian Jamia Mosque, near Sheraton Hotel), ☎ +84 8 3824 6823 (Vietnamese), +84 8 38274602 (English), fax: +84 8 38274603, e-mail: email@example.com. 10:00-22:00. Vietnamese, Malaysian, and vegetarian cuisine prepared to halal guidelines. Has a Malaysian owner and there are several Malaysian staples on the menu, however it is primarily Vietnamese, with a wide range of dishes from around the country.
- Lion City Cafe and Restaurant, 45 Le Anh Xuan, District 1 (Near Ben Thanh market opposite New World hotel), ☎ +84 8 3823 8371. Daily, 19:00-03:00. Certified halal, serves halal food on 2nd floor.
- Pro Döner Kebab, 169 De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, ☎ +84 8 2200 5959. Turkish place with good service serving real doner kebabs, halal style.
- Vietnam Halal (Muslim Food Restaurant), 14 Pham Hong Thai, P. Ben Thanh, Quan 1 (Near Ben Thanh Market), ☎ +84 8 3822 0252. Malaysian cuisine and Vietnamese food.
Vietnam is the world's second largest exporter of coffee after Brazil, and cà phê is very popular among the Vietnamese. It's a paradise for coffee-loving visitors. The local style is strong and sweet; key words to remember are: sữa (sweetened condensed milk), đá (ice), and nóng (hot, pronounced "nowm"). Cà phê đá is strong, sweet iced coffee; and cà phê sữa đá is the same with condensed milk. Cà phê (sữa) nóng is brewed fresh on your table brewed in a little metal apparatus placed over a cup; just lift it off when it has cooled enough to touch (and hence drink). Prices range from 10,000 to 20,000 dong for coffee in the local style.
Since ice might or might not be made with purified water, strictly cautious visitors should avoid it, though long-term residents consume ice from reputable cafes and restaurants all the time.
Espresso, cappuccino, and American-style filter coffee are now also widely available in the tourist district, usually at 2-8 times the price of the local style. You will be able to differentiate the better places if they use UHT milk as opposed to condensed milk.
- Bobby Brewery Coffee, Bui Vien St. Nice place with good beverages. Used to show movies on 2nd and 3rd floor. Now reopened as La Cantina.
- Cafe 5 Sao, Pham Ngoc Thach (Near the Turtle Pond). Plays loud techno music. Attractive, but pretentious crowd.
- Cafe Napoly, Pham Ngoc Thach (Near the Turtle Pond). The decor is Roman ruins-lite (they meant "Napoli"), but the menu is typical for an upscale Vietnamese cafe: coffee, fruit drinks, ice cream, and a simple menu including eggs and rice dishes. Piped music is nice, not too loud by day (though louder at night), prices are decent. Outdoor terrace in the front, air-con section on the ground floor, and evening lounge-bar on the upper floor. Next door to the louder, more trendy and possibly pretentious Cafe Nam Sao.
- Cafe Saigon, 57 Nguyen Du St (Opposite to Immaculate Conception Cathedral Basilica), ☎ +84 9378 66066. Italian coffee, foods, free Wi-Fi, relaxing & modern music.
- Chao Ba Ca Phe (Granny's Coffee), TK49/5 Nguyen Canh Chan, Q1 (Walk down Nguyen Canh Chan from the junction with Tran Hung Dao and take a left down the alleyway where the fruit salad restaurant is). This place has a really authentic and wonderful cafe sua da served by the famous "grandma" for about 8,000 dong. A little tricky to find.
- Chot Nho Café, 189 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District (10 min by taxi from city centre). Reasonable prices, good menu. Free Wi-Fi.
- La Fenêtre Soleil, 44 Ly Tu Trong (A small entrance up to the 2nd floor, near the corner of Ly Tu Trong and Pasteur). Save the world from pint size caramel lattes. Brave the decrepit stairway and enter an oasis.
- Fresco Coffee, 121 Le Loi St, ☎ +84 838 211 009. Free Wi-Fi, play hill song music.
- Givral Café, Dong Khoi (Opposite Continental Hotel). In the French tradition, with fresh pastries, collared waiters and elaborate portions of ice cream. Well-located, but over 20,000 dong for the simplest cup.
- Hideaway Café, 41/1 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q.3. As its name implies, this place is hidden away and a good place to read, or have a quiet conversation or meal. Decent Western menu, although slightly pricey.
- M-Comic, 99B Vo Thi Sau A. A rather hard to find coffee shop. Upstairs is like a bedroom with a couple of beds. Arrive early if you want to occupy one. It has large selection of magazine and comic books to chose from. Only serves Vietnamese drinks, and the staff only speak a little English. Free Wi-Fi. 11,000-30,000 dong.
- Old Saigon Coffee, 2nd floor, 63 Dong Du St, District 1 (Opposite the Sheraton). Reminiscent of HCMC in the past. It has a great view to Dong Khoi St. All the drinks and foods are typical Saigon. The staff are quite decent.
- Poppy Café, 217 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, District 3. Modern lounge café where the specialty is fruit-topped natural frozen yogurt. The only café in HCMC that serves this refreshing healthy treat. Creative fruit smoothies and light Vietnamese and Western fare. Flat-screen TVs, and English-speaking staff.
- Regina Coffee, 84 Nguyen Du St, District 1. Vietnamese coffee or cappuccini. They have a skilled Japanese espresso master who knows how to brew coffee. French mixed with Asian design with brick walls. It is marketed towards tourists and all proceeds go to the church around the corner.
- Sozo, Pham Ngu Lao. All proceeds benefit needy Vietnamese families. Good drinks, friendly staff, but their cookies could be better if they were baked in a real oven.
- Trung Nguyen (Two convenient outlets are on the east side of Nguyen Hue right before the People's Committee Hall, and the corner of Thu Khoa Huan and Ly Tu Trong). The Vietnamese version of Starbucks, but with much better coffee. They have locations all over the city, but are not well represented in the heart of the tourist district. Figure on 10,000 dong for a basic cuppa, although there are plenty of variations including the infamous weasel coffee (cà phê chồn), made from coffee beans collected from civet excrement; however, a quick Google search about the conditions in which the civets are kept may further dissuade some from sampling.
- Window 4 Cafe (Near the Reunification Palace). This is the scene for Vietnam's fashion slaves and seems to be the place to be seen. Pretentious atmosphere (it's not the best for those who want to relax), but their coffee is very good and their menu is quite satisfying. The place is always packed.
Bars and clubs
Saigon has plenty of places to drink, although to a certain degree Vietnamese and foreigners hang out in different places. This is slowly changing as Westerners become more familiar with the ways of the East (and vice versa). Places with live music usually have no cover charge, but impose somewhat elevated drink prices (typically 55,000-85,000 dong for beer, spirits, and cocktails.) Many places close around midnight or 01:00. Some places remain open later: Go2 Bar in Pham Ngu Lao, popular with backpackers/budget crowd; Apocalypse Now on Thi Sach St, packed with people from all walks of life (you can find anything in this place regardless of your preferences (prostitutes straight/gay, drugs or just a place to dance the night away); ZanZBar on Dong Du St will appeal to the regular bar crowd and closing time changes daily depending on the number of people in the bar). There are other late night clubs which cater almost exclusively to the young Vietnamese crowd. Anywhere in the city you can find Vietnamese bottled beer places that will stay open until 03:00-04:00. Several bars in Phu My Hung stay open until 02:00-03:00.
Not to be missed are the pavement bars which get very busy with locals and travellers alike, about halfway down Biu Vien. They sell bottles of Saigon beer for 10,000 dong. Sit on the tiny plastic chairs and enjoy the friendly atmosphere. These are perhaps the best places to drink as a backpacker, as they are very cheap and also great places to meet people, and not just other tourists.
- Chill Sky Bar (Sky Bar). Rooftop bar at AB Tower in District 1 along September 23 park. This is the place to see and to be seen. drinks are expensive at 200,000+ If you are around the September 23 park at night you will see the lights and hear the music blasting from the top of the AB tower. Look for the spotlights shooting into the sky.
Where you can drink with locals
- Acoustic Cafe, 6E1 Ngô Thời Nhiệm. Though only 1 km from the heavily touristed centre, this club is completely outside the tourist orbit, and offers an interesting view of local life. The all-Vietnamese house band performs every night, mostly American music, and it's always jammed with student-aged groupies. For some reason, they address the crowd in English between songs, even though half the crowd doesn't understand. On weekends, at least, you need to arrive by 19:30 to have any hope of getting a seat. If your hobby is rock ballad or hard rock, you should go on Friday night.
- Banana Pub, Phu My Hung District. Park View. Pool table, darts, friendly staff, beautiful people, loads of food. Stays open late depending on the crowd. Worth a trip from Q1 to experience the true expat scene.
- Carmen, 8 Ly Tu Trong. The house band has changed some personnel but is still good, specializing in flamenco, salsa and Latin pop, and with an eclectic mix of other popular songs thrown in. Cocktails 110,000 dong, shots 80-85,000 dong, but with no entrance charge. It's popular and fills up on weekends.
- Ice Blue, Dong Khoi. Centrally located English pub, complete with darts board and warm beer. Friendly, but shuts at midnight.
- Khong Ten (literally 'No Name'), 147 Hai Ba Trung. Large cabaret featuring some of the biggest Vietnamese celebrity singers in Vietnam. The headliner is often familiar to the locals from television. Most overseas visitors may not like the musical style as it is mostly the mellow-to-melancholy, soft-jazzy, love-ballady style favoured by the middle and older generation of Vietnamese. But it's pure Vietnam, and very popular with both HCMC residents and Vietnamese expats on trips home. Admission 150,000 dong.
- Lion's, 1-13 Lam Son Sq, District 1. Brewery, restaurant offering German food, with tasty beers and cocktails. The outside terrace is a nice place to chill out, and the inside restaurant is very welcoming with its two beer tanks and cosy bar.
- Lush, Ly Tu Trong. A nightclub in the Western style, with loud music and minimalist too-cool decor. Drink prices on par with most Saigon nightclubs. Mixed crowd (Vietnamese, tourists and expats), pretty good food but has a small dance floor. Ladies night on Tuesday offers free drinks for ladies until midnight. Be sure to arrive early as it gets very busy from around 22:30 and it is difficult to get served at the bar.
- Metallic Bar, 41 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, District 3. House band plays covers of Metallica, Guns 'n Roses and other popular rock bands nightly between 21:00 and midnight.
- Peaches, Phu My Hung District. Great place to enjoy a few drinks with friends. Friendly staff, Asian food. Quite low key in comparison to other PMH bars.
- Polo, Ham Nghi St (Above the Liberty Hotel). Mixture of expats and locals, starts getting busy quite early. Music from the 1980s to the present. Noisy and smokey.
- Q Bar Saigon. Established in 1992 under the Opera House. Mix of locals, tourists and expats in a grotto-like uber-chic setting that could as easily be in Soho as Saigon. Open till late every night. Great cocktails, though at very high prices, similar to the roof-top bar of the Caravelle Hotel across the street. It's the cool place to be seen if you have a lot of Uncle Hos in your pocket. Terrace and Indoor areas. DJ nights.
- Rio Saigon, 131 Ton That Dam St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 8211827, +84 8 8211812. Until 24:00. A Brazilian flowery decor-themed bar/pub with a Filipino house band playing pop/rock such as Bon Jovi and Skid Row.
- Saigon Pho. This little hole in the wall is only a stone's throw from Allez Boo, but much more expat orientated. Open until late.
- Serenata and Soi Da, 6E Ngô Thời Nhiệm. Two open-air cafe-bars with live music in villa-style settings, which attract few if any tourists but typify what most Vietnamese consider a pleasant evening out. Both feature a mix of classical chamber music, Vietnamese lounge songs, American FM classics and the odd French song.
- The Tavern, SB8-1 My Khanh 2 (H4-2) Nguyen Van Linh, Phu My Hung District, ☎ +84 8 4120866. Opens for breakfast, closes at midnight. Western food with fish 'n' chips and burgers.
- Velvet, Ho Huan Nghiep (Corner of Dong Khoi). Nice ambiance & music. Latest chic bar in town. Gets very busy, and at weekends you will need a booking.
- Xu Bar, Hai Ba Trung St (Near the Opera House). Great wine list. Nice ambiance & service.
Where you can drink with tourists
- Alibi, 11 Thai Van Lung. Very cosy atmosphere, with sofas lining the walls and beautiful decor. Good food & drinks selection, nice music, and a mix of both locals & expats. Friendly staff, and the management's always there to make you feel welcome and make sure you get what you are asking for.
- Allez Boo (Corner of Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham). For those who have been here before, you'll find the original bar is now Highlands Coffee and an all new Allez Boo has opened on the opposite corner. It's shiny and brand-new, but retains the same feel as the original. There's a bar with air-con on the 2nd floor with DJ-type music, and an airy rooftop patio. Quite similar to its sibling establishment, Go2 Bar.
- Apocalypse Now, 2C Thi Sach. Legendary and still packed on weekends, although aside from a few movie references it's not all that much to look at. Stays open late. Now opened their 2nd floor for DJ, dancing, drinks with less crowded atmosphere. Cover charge of 150,000 dong.
- Catwalk (Beside the New World Hotel). All-in-one place with a massage parlour, disco, KTV, and a mini-casino. Price is on the expensive side, but it is a sight to behold.
- Go2 Bar (Corner, De Tham and Bui Vien). 24/7. The main backpacker bar while Allez Boo was closed, still a great meeting place. It's impossible to miss the four floors of neon lights on the outside. Large patio on the sidewalk at street level, a cosier bar on the second floor with occasional live music or big-screen sports, plus a rooftop patio (with retractable roof) with individual BBQs up a steep set of stairs on the 5th floor. Crawling with prostitutes after dark until sun up.
- Oblivion (Bui Vien). Late night venue with lots of character, claims to be Saigon's premier music bar and it's hard to argue, assuming, that is, you have a taste for non-chart buzzy British guitar and obscure dark US/European stuff. You have to ask for happy pop, though if you're spending enough it'll sometimes get an outing. Like most Saigon bars, it attracts its share of working girls. If you're not interested, simply say you're not and you'll be left alone.
- 163 Cyclo Bar, 163 Pham Ngu Lao St. Two doors down from the Duna Hotel. Thumping music until 02:00 with friendly staff. Sex workers catering to Western men here. If you're not interested, just gently let it be known.
- Le Pub, 175/22 Pham Ngu Lao (On the small road which connects Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien). Always busy after 18:00, famous for its strong drinks, daily dollar-specials (e.g., Tuesday USD1 for vodka mixers all night) and friendly staff. It has the same owner as Le Pub in Hanoi. The Pub Quiz (almost every Tuesday) is very popular with expats, especially the English teachers. Get there early or it's too packed to find a place to sit down. Indoors and outdoor tables available.
- Rex Hotel Rooftop (Corner of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi). They serve a buffet dinner at the dinner hour, which gradually gives way to drinks and music. Acts change over time, but recently included a Filipino band playing FM classics and a Vietnamese group playing Latin and flamenco. It's a pleasant place to get above the city noise and enjoy some fresh air. Cocktails around 140,000 dong.
- Saigon Saigon, 12-13 Lam Son Sq (Caravelle Hotel, 9F). A pleasant, breezy bar with a great view of the city. Great live band (Cuban) playing inside every night. Cool, quiet ambience on the terrace. Attracts an expense-account crowd due to the prices. Cocktails mostly cost over 100,000 dong.
- Seventeen Saloon. American Wild West-themed bar, live music every night and other entertainment. Drinks are expensive.
- Sheridan's (Le Thanh Ton near Thai Van Lung). Small, cosy Irish-themed bar with imported draft beer and live music. Brits will appreciate the great food tasting of home (or the closest you'll get here).
- Vasco's, 74 Hai Ba Trung St, District 1 (Opposite Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel. Go to the alley at 74 Hai Ba Trung and find the bar on your left, 1st floor). Live music on some nights of the week and a typical bar atmosphere for both tourists and expats. Drinks from 50,000 dong, including sales tax, tip not necessary.
- VIBE Billiards & Lounge, 02 Sương Nguyệt Ánh, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1. Professional billiards tables and a spacious lounge. Food and drinks and you can customise the billiard table lights from a special lighting system.
- ZanZBar, 41 Dong Du St, Q1 (Second entrance through the lobby of the Saigon Hotel). Casual-upscale, the clients tend to come for the great choice of wines-by-the-glass (huge walk-in wine cellar), or for the cocktails (premium brands) and good selection of imported beers. Can remain open after midnight, depending on the number of customers. Not for the budget crowd.
Most hotels do not allow you to bring back a local female companion to stay overnight. However it's best to confirm guest policy as plenty of non-international chain hotels allow guests.
The main backpacker hangout is Pham Ngu Lao in District 1, just a short walk (10-15 min) from Ben Thanh Market. The lanes and alleys in the area between Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien are jammed with 5-10 room mini-hotels offering prices around USD15 per room (air-con with hot shower and cable TV). There is no difference in price between single or double occupancy so if you are travelling alone you might want to try finding a dorm bed for around USD6 (but there are not many of them around.) Keep heading southwest away from the backpacker hustle closer Ng Thai Hoc, you'll likely find that as the alleys get smaller the rooms get quieter and owners more friendly. The area swarms with touts and other nuisances. The area is not the safest, and it'd be wise not to run around carrying something like an expensive DSLR camera, thereby making yourself a target for thieves.
- An Phuong 2, 295 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 (Across from where buses drop tourists), ☎ +84 8 920 5509, +84 8 836 9248, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A friendly family-run guesthouse, very clean and homely. Free Internet, cheap laundry and all rooms have double glazing. USD15.
- Blue River Hotel, 283/2C Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3837 6483, +84 903 679994 (mobile), e-mail: email@example.com. Amazing small hotel in an alley off Pham Ngu Lao. They can arrange an airport pickup for USD15, although an official taxi from the airport counter will cost USD8. Some staff members speak English and the service is good. USD25 for a room without a view. USD30 for a room with a view that may or may not have a balcony.
- Dai Huy Hoang Hotel, 283/22 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 (In a small quiet alley that links Pham Ngu Lao and Do Quang Dau. Coming from Pham Ngu Lao the alley is next to the Canadian Hotel), ☎ +84 8 3837 0677, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Comfortable rooms with air-con, fan, free Internet and breakfast. Friendly staff. USD13-20.
- Diep Anh, 241/31 Pham Ngu Lao St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 38 367920, e-mail: email@example.com. Very friendly owners. Rooms with air-con, refrigerator, cable TV, en suite bath, and Wi-Fi. Very reasonably priced minibar. USD10-30.
- Duna Hotel, 167 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 8373-699. All rooms have air-con, satellite TV, a fridge, elevator. Pleasant staff. The front door is locked around 23:00-24:00. From USD12 for a single room with no window to USD30 for a triple with a window facing the street..
- Hanh Hoa Hotel, 237 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 38372361. Vietnamese styling, with bamboo interiors, rattan beds and wooden floors.
- Hotel Bi Saigon, 185/26 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 (In alley #185), ☎ +84 8 836 0678. Clean, comfortable, and terrific staff. In-room Internet access for USD3/day. The lobby houses the La Table de Saigon restaurant. Double USD27.
- Ly, 84/24B Bui Vien, District 1 (A small alley off Pham Ngu Lao St), ☎ +84 8 3836 4794, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Family-run guest house with friendly staff who speak English. Air-con, hot water, cable TV with international channels, baggage storage, laundry service, big beds. with balconies. USD10-15.
- Ly Loan, 241/11/2 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 (From airport take a taxi to Pham Ngu Lao St (7 km) and enter Alley 241 (between Liberty 4 Hotel and ABC Bakery), 15 m into the alley, turn left), ☎ +84 8 837 0067, e-mail: email@example.com. Family-run guest house in a small, safe, quiet alley. Some English is spoken. Rooms are spacious and nicely furnished. With air-con, hot water, big beds and some with balconies. Free Internet and Wi-Fi. Warning: two yapping small dogs. USD16.
- Mai Guest House, Hem 104 Bui Viên or 241 /41 Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1, ☎ +84 8 5559 3898. Friendly family. Tucked in a side alley from Pham Ngu Lao or Bui Viên next to My Home Guest Home. Small balcony. Clean apartments with aircon and wifi. 15000 or 30000 VND per kg for 24h or express laundry. Doubles USD12, doubles with balcony USD15.
- My Home Guest House, 241/43 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 5559 3898, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Friendly staff and clean. The buses from up north drop you right near this hostel. Air-con, hot water, comfortable beds, free Wi-Fi. Free bananas at all times and they do laundry. Tourist bars and clubs are a couple hundred metres away. Singles USD12, doubles USD18, triples available.
- Nam Chau, 171/2 Co Bac St (Near Co Giant St), ☎ +84 8 3837 0294. Nice and very clean. USD10-15.
- Nga Hoang Hotel, 269/19 Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, ☎ +848 3 9203 356, fax: +84 8 3920 3357, e-mail: email@example.com. Friendly German and English speaking staff. Air-con rooms with private baths, hot water, Wi-Fi, cable TV with international channels. Baggage storage and laundry service. Travel desk can arrange flights and bookings. USD12/day including breakfast..
- Ngoc Minh Hotel, 283/9 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1. Clean hotel with friendly staff, free Internet and Wi-Fi. Elevator. 5 storeys, garden on top floor and free breakfast. From USD20.
- Nguyen Khang Hotel, 283/25 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 (In a small quiet alley that links Pham Ngu Lao and Do Quang Dau. Coming from Pham Ngu Lao the alley is next to the Canadian Hotel.), ☎ +84 8 837 3566, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 12:00. Good staff, free Internet with PC in lobby and Wi-Fi in rooms. Free breakfast served on the ground floor from 07:00-10:00. Clean, tastefully simple in decoration, rooms are rather small but have air-con, fan, TV, fridge, and those at the front have large windows. Visa and Mastercard accepted. USD10-20.
- PP Backpackers, 283/41 Pham Ngu Lao (In an alley off PNL along with various other guest houses and hotels), ☎ +84 1262501823, e-mail: email@example.com. Run by a friendly Englishman, offers clean dorms and rooms, can book tours and offers a big breakfast for USD1. Dorm USD6.
- Rainbow Hotel, 283/5 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 836 0039. Large, bright albeit somewhat worn rooms, and those at the front have a nice view. From USD15.
- Tam Anh Guesthouse, 241/21 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3837 0756, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A clean and secure family-run guesthouse. Good air-con, free Wi-Fi. USD15.
- Tan Dat My Hotel, 81-83 Ong ich Khiem, District 11 (About a 15 min taxi ride to District 1), ☎ +84 8 3963 4424. Large rooms with a view, air-con, Wi-Fi, fridge, cable TV and a free rooftop breakfast next to the Dam Sen Park. French bakery 30 m away. American-style supermarket 10 min walk on the same street. USD17.
- Thanh Guest House, 84/9 Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, ☎ +84 9 318 8588, e-mail: email@example.com. Warm and friendly guesthouse. Lobby inside the house with comfy sofa, cable TV and Internet. Free Wi-Fi throughout. Trips and tours can be booked at reception. USD12-18.
- Thien Hong Hotel, 241/34 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 (In one of the small alleys running between Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien.), ☎ +84 8 3920 6078. Helpful and friendly owners, free Wi-Fi, TV in rooms with many channels including international. Air-con room with no window, USD15.
- Ty Mon, 693 Nguyen Thi Dinh St, Dist. 2, ☎ +84 86 2870526. Friendly owners, very good basic rooms with air-con, TV, decent furniture and fridge. Very cheap price, mostly used by Vietnamese people. A bit far out from centre. USD8-12.
- Xuan Spring Hotel, 185/34 Pham Ngu Lao St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 837 2115, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Air-con, refrigerator, cable TV and private bath with hot shower and free Internet. Online bookings. Good service. USD14-17.
- Christina's Saigon, 212/2B Nguyen Trai St., Nguyen Cu Trinh Ward, District 1 (5 mins ride from Ben Thanh Market), e-mail: email@example.com. Christina's Saigon is an amazing flashpacker slash guesthouse slash bed and breakfast concept run by Thu and his team. The studios are beautifully designed with modern bathrooms so clean that they would put most hotels, even the higher end ones, to shame. Booking is exclusively available through Airbnb. If you're lucky enough to get a place, you'll have a different impression on Vietnam altogether...and that's not an exaggeration. USD35-60.
- Asian Hotel, 146-148-150 Dong Khoi St, Ben Nghe District, ☎ +84 8 3829 6979. Every room has air-con, cable TV, and Internet.
- Bloom Hotel I, 270 Le Thanh Ton St, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1 (Very near Ben Thanh Market), ☎ +84 8 48382 58698. Lovely modern, clean hotel. Rooms come with LCD flat screen TVs, and wall-mounted air conditioning controls. The suite has a spa bath. Free Wi-Fi and friendly staff. USD25-40.
- Dai Nam Hotel, 79 Tran Hung Dao St, District 1 (5 min walk from Ben Thanh Market and the backpacker area on Pham Ngu Lao St), ☎ +84 8 3824 2525, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Breakfast and free in-room Wi-Fi. Houses the Gossip Nightclub. USD35-55.
- Elegant Hotel, 122F-122F1 Bui Thi Xuan, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3925 8866. All rooms and suites have air-con, TV with satellite channels, IDD telephone, coffee/tea maker and minibar. Bar, cafe, spa and massage services, business centre, gym and high speed Internet access. Annoyingly, housekeeping have a tendency to knock on bedroom doors early in the morning, but then don't make up the rooms until early afternoon. From USD35.
- Golden Rose Hotel, 3A Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3 (20 min from airport), ☎ +84 8 3824 7248, e-mail: email@example.com. 80 modern and cosy rooms with air-con, cable TV, mini-bar, and safe. Jacuzzi and fitness centre, Internet, and massage services. From USD60.
- Ngoc Ha, 53 Le Anh Xuan (Close to Ben Thanh market and the New World Hotel). Clean, decent rooms, air-con, fridge, Wi-Fi in the lobby. USD25–35 including simple breakfast.
- Nhat Ha Hotel, 252 BC Le Thanh Ton St, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3824 6368. 57 rooms decorated with traditional Vietnamese handicrafts. IDD telephone, satellite TV, mini-bar, and air-con. From USD33.
- Sanouva Hotel, 175-177 Ly Tu Trong St, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1 (Central business district 15 min from Tan Son Nhat Airport), ☎ +84 8 382 75275. Air-con, 32" LCD TV with cable, Internet, and IDD telephone. Restaurant, bar, café, car rental, travel bookings, tour services and safes. From USD55.
- Spring Hotel, 44-46 Le Thanh Ton St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 829 7362. Clean, boutique hotel that is walking distance to major attractions such as Ben Thanh Market and the cathedral. USD32–74.
- Thuan Thien Hotel, 277 Le Thanh Ton St, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822 8122. Air-con rooms, cable TV, DVD, coffee/tea maker, minibar and a private toilet and shower with bath. Internet, dry cleaning, and laundry service and a travel agency for booking tours. From USD34.
- Y Thien, 247 Ly Tu Trong (5 min from Ben Thanh Market), ☎ +84 8 824 8176. Full service hotel with a range of clean rooms with large baths. Sizes from tiny and windowless (yet functional), to full wall window overlooking the city and streets. The 4th floor room to the right of the elevator is USD20–25. Cable TV, air-con, fan, refrigerator, elevator, all night guard for bikes, hotel safe. A good option if you don't want to stay in the backpacker area and are willing to pay a little more.
The area around De Tham is close to the Ben Thanh market and is the backpacker area of the city.
- An An Hotel, 40 Bui Vien St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3837 8087, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Clean, popular, and offers comfortable rooms with double glazing in the centre of the action on De Tham. Free Wi-Fi in room and lobby. USD40-50.
- An An 2 Hotel, 216 De Tham St (On the corner of De Tham and Bui Vien, about 20 m down from the original An An Hotel), ☎ +84 8 3838 5665, e-mail: email@example.com. This is the (much newer) sister hotel to An An hotel. From USD22 (with window) for standard single, USD25 for double and USD36–50 for superior and luxury with balcony. The prices can be lowered if you stay for 4+ days (e.g.,: USD20 for double for 6 days).
Many of Saigon's historical hotels are in the hands of Saigontourist, the former state monopoly. Thanks to recent competition, service and facilities are adequate, although not quite up to modern standards; but if you want to experience a little colonial atmosphere, these are far and away the best choice.
- Continental Hotel, 132-134 Dong Khoi St. An old-school colonial hotel dating back to 1880 and the setting of Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American. Garden, huge rooms, nice balcony views. On the minus side, there is no pool and traffic noise can be irritating. USD60 plus (breakfast included).
- Dong Do Hotel, 35 Mac Thi Buoi St (District 1). New hotel with clean and comfortable rooms. USD20–35.
- The First Hotel, 18 Hoang Viet St, Ward 4, Tan Binh District, ☎ +84 8 3844 1199. Luxury hotel, 104 air-con rooms, cable TV, mini-bar, shower with bath, and Wi-Fi. Casino and ballroom, fitness room, tennis court, swimming pool, airport transfer, and car rental. From USD75.
- Mai Hotel, 4A-4B Thi Sach St, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1. Clean and comfortable rooms with air-con and bar fridge. Right around the corner is the Apocalypse Now Club. Breakfast included, free Wi-Fi in the lobby, while connections are a little patchy in the rooms. From USD30–55.
- Mekong Lodge, 196/1/20 Cong Hoa St, Tan Binh District, ☎ +84 9 3344 9391, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A good hotel for those who love nature. USD60.
- Rex Hotel, 141 Nguyen Hue Blvd (In the heart of HCMC, next door to the People's Committee Hall). Ideally located. Another old standby, former haunt of the press corps and site of the daily news briefing during the Vietnam War. The 5th floor rooftop beer garden is famous and its symbol, the golden crown, is rotating again. The rooms are very pleasant and there is a swimming pool on the roof. Buffet breakfast. From USD70.
- Thien Thao Hotel, 89 Cao Thang, Ward 3, District 3. A small hotel with thin walls but also clean and comfortable with air-con rooms, bathtubs, local and cable channels on a large plasma TV, and minibar fridge. About 20 min walk away from the heart of District 1. Bakery and several restaurants less than 5 min away, free Wi-Fi in the rooms and three computers in the lobby. USD30, breakfast included.
- Xuan Loc Hotel, 47-49-51 Le Anh Xuan, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3827 4641, +84 8 3827 4642, +84 8 3827 5507, +84 8 3827 5508, e-mail: email@example.com. Clean and comfortable rooms. Breakfast available. Internet and computers are provided. From USD60.
- Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Square @ Dong Khoi (Across from the Opera House in District 1.). In-house restaurants and spas. 7 km from the airport. During the war it was home to many war correspondents and the rooftop bar served as their watering hole. USD188+.
- Hotel Majestic (District 1, at the waterfront at the end of Dong Khoi Street), ☎ +84 8 3829 5517. Luxury hotel that got its start in 1925, and though it has undergone a number of renovations since, it maintains the same basic look outside. Rooftop bar serves mediocre ice cream and drinks. Has a non-smoking wing. From 122 USD.
- Hotel Nikko Saigon, 235 Nguyen Van Cu, District 1 (Beside Nowzone Shopping Mall), ☎ +84 8 3925 7777, fax: +84 8 3925 7766, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. USD160+.
- InterContinental Asiana Saigon Hotel (Corner of Le Van Huu St, Le Duan Boulevard and Hai Ba Trung St, District 1. At Asiana Kumho Plaza). Dinner buffet is USD40+. Can walk to city centre.
- Mövenpick Hotel Saigon, 253 Nguyen Van Troi St, Phu Nhuan District, ☎ +84 8 3844 9222, fax: +84 8 3844 9200, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Luxury hotel in Phu Nhuan, 10 min away from the exhibition centre and international airport and 20 min from HCMC centre. 251 rooms and suites. All rooms are equipped with individually controlled air-con, TV, minibar, safe, hairdryer. Broadband Internet in all rooms. USD120+.
- New World Saigon Hotel, 76 Le Lai St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822 8888, fax: +84 8 3823 0710, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Park Hyatt Saigon, 2 Lam Son Square, District 1 (Adjacent to Opera House), ☎ +84 8 3824 1234, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Luxury hotel which features a collection of contemporary Vietnamese art, a variety of non-smoking dining options including an al fresco setting, an Italian restaurant, Opera, the signature Vietnamese/Western restaurant, Square One, Park Lounge that serves afternoon tea, and a martini bar, 2 Lam Son. The hotel has a 20 m pool, fitness centre, and the Xuan Spa. USD220-520.
- Renaissance Riverside Hotel, 8-15 Ton Duc Thang St, District 1. On the river and near the main tourist-shopping district, a block off of Dong Khoi.
- The Reverie Saigon, 22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard (Corner of Dong Khoi), ☎ +84 8 3823 6688, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Features 286 rooms and suites furnished with Italian designs, five high-end restaurants, a spa, swimming pool, fitness centre and an executive lounge.
- Saigon Domaine Luxury Residences, 1057 Binh Quoi Street, Ward 28, Binh Thanh District, ☎ +81 8 483556 6163. Luxury serviced apartments. Cable TV, radio, air-con, safe, hair dryer, Internet, phone, mini–bar and coffee/tea maker. Swimming pool, fitness room, sauna, business facilities and currency exchange. Car rental and airport and city transfers. USD169+.
- Sheraton Saigon (On Dong Khoi, in the heart of the tourist shopping district). Complete with Prada shop in the arcade. Restaurants are around USD40 for an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner, wine included.
- Sherwood Residence, 127 Pasteur St, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3823 2288, fax: +84 8 3823 2299, e-mail: email@example.com. Sherwood Residence is a luxury serviced apartment in HCMC. The property offers two and three bedroom apartments for short- and long-term. A private restaurant serves Western and Asian cuisine. On Pasteur Street, Sherwood Residence is within walking distance to the War Remnants' Museum and guests can take the free hourly shuttle to the business district.
- Sofitel Plaza Saigon, 17 Le Duan Blvd, District 1, ☎ +84 8 824 1555, fax: +84 8 824 1666, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 290 room hotel in the city centre. Airy, if slightly small rooms, comfy beds, free wired Internet. Several restaurants, including a buffet and a breakfast spread. USD160-300.
- Somerset Chancellor Court Ho Chi Minh City, 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822-9197, fax: +84 8 3822-1755, e-mail: email@example.com. The serviced residence is in the heart of the business district. It offers 172 apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom. Each apartment is fully furnished with an open kitchen concept, contemporary Western style decor and balcony. Daily, 2,521,000+ dong.
- Thao Dien Village (Villa Thao Dien Hotel and Spa Resort), 195 Nguyen Van Huong St, Thao Dien Ward, District 2 (15 min by taxi from District 1), ☎ +84 8 3744 6457, fax: +84 8 3744 6458, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A colonial-style boutique hotel in tropical gardens on the banks of the river. 22 rooms, spa and health club. 4 restaurants; Ngon (Vietnamese), Villa Romaine (Italian), Chaba (Thai), and Tama-Gawa (sushi bar). Every Saturday at 19:30 there is a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show on the riverside outdoor terrace of Ngon Restaurant.
- Windsor Plaza Hotel, 18 An Duong Vuong, District 5 (Chinatown), ☎ +84 8 3833 6688, fax: +84 8 38336888, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. A high-end hotel with 386 rooms in Cholon (Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown). Several restaurants including an extensive Western and Asian buffet on 4th floor; a Chinese restaurant serving live seafood, southern Chinese cuisine and dim sum; and a rooftop international restaurant that has panoramic views of Cholon. Guests can take the free hourly shuttle to the business district. Free Wi-Fi in public areas.
In general, Ho Chi Minh City is a safe city, with violent crimes such as armed robbery being relatively rare. The most common crimes faced by tourists are pickpocketing and snatch theft from motorbikes.
Scam artists operate on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. A person will strike up a friendly conversation claiming they've either seen you at the airport or some other tourist place where they work. Usually they'll be with other family members who will join the conversation very naturally and once they find out where you're from they'll mention that another family member is moving to a city in your country. You will be invited over for food at their house to help console a worried grandmother or to give advise to their family member. Once you arrive at the house however the family member is not there, or the grandmother has suddenly fallen ill and had to go to the hospital. You'll be presented with various business opportunities, legal or not, or asked for financial support for the suddenly sick grandmother.
Hotel scams are very common, even in the mid-range price level ~USD20-70. The hotel will remind you that you should place your valuables in the room safe or the hotel safe. Lock up everything that is more or less valuable.
Don't hold up expensive things near the street or leave them out on the table while you're having a meal, especially in District 1, especially around the backpacker area. Petty theft is a big problem, and a lot of times it's done by people on motorbikes. It's easy to prevent by not giving thieves the opportunity.
Don't buy coconut more than ~USD2, real-price is ~USD0.5. If you are forced, call police: +84 8 3829 7643, +84 8 38299835
Also, the prostitutes on Bui Vien and Ton That Tung will try to rob you. Usually, they'll approach guys just acting like they're up to normal prostitute business, but they're really trying to pickpocket you.
The telephone code of Ho Chi Minh City is 08. Many (but not all) land line phone numbers in Vietnam have the prefix 3.
Free Wi-Fi access is provided at nearly all hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and cafés. You can find open access points that don't require a password throughout the area around Pham Ngu Lao/Vu Bien and Ben Thanh Market.
It is also possible to buy a SIM card with unlimited internet access for a month directly at the airport for about 300,000 dong.
- Nu Cuoi Duyen Dental, 15-17 Cach Mang Thang Tam, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, ☎ +84 9 7377 9900, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 8:00-12:00, 14:00-20:00. Equipment is modern, and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly. Prices are well below Western rates. USD19 for cleaning.
- Far East Dental, 249 Le Thanh Ton St, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1 (A stone's throw away from Ben Thanh Market), ☎ +84 8 3825 7789, e-mail: email@example.com. 9:00-12:00, 13:30-19:00. Equipment is modern, and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly. Prices are well below Western rates. USD13 for cleaning.
- Institut du Coeur / CMI Vietnam, 1 Han Thuyen, Quan 1 (Near Notre Dame cathedral, opposite central post office), ☎ +84 8 3827 2366, fax: +84 8 3827 2365, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 08:00-19:00, Sa 09:00-13:00; Emergencies 24/7. Created by Fondation Alain Carpentier, famous French cardiologist. Modern equipment and French-trained staff speaking English and French.
- Immigration Department, 161 Nguyen Du, District 1 (~ 15-20 min by walk from Reunification Palace, ~10 min from Ben Thanh Market following Le Lai St), ☎ +84 8 299398. To get a visa or modify one, you may be able to get it done, or may have to ask a travel agent. Typical cost for a visa extension of one month is USD10, 5 working days delay (they keep the passport). You need to fill form N14/M with your details and the one of your sponsor, either a hotel or private house and get a stamp from the police station corresponding to its location. This point could be tricky as it implies that you have register at the police station before. If not, expect extra delay (5 or more days, for example) or cost. Quick processing (2 days) is possible, but you need to justify it. Going through travel agents costs about USD30, but they manage the police stamp whatever your situation is (extra fee of USD20 for quick processing). Other prices: single entry visa USD25, multiple-entry USD50-100, change single-entry visa to multiple-entry for 6 months USD25-75, modification/extension of visa USD10. As of April 2015 this office will tell you that you must use an agent if you wish to extend a tourist visa.
If you need to lodge complaint, for example about a stolen object, go to a police station. For a stolen item, you need to report to a station near the theft. It can be tricky as small stations will probably not have an officer with very good English language skills. If possible, go with a Vietnamese speaker.
- Police station District 1, 24-26 Duong Pasteur, District 1 (10 min walk from Ben Thanh bus station, near Fideco tower, crossing Ham Nghi & Pasteur streets.), ☎ +84 8 38297373. 07:30-11:30, 13:00-17:00.
- Police station District 2, 989 Dong Van Cong, W.Thanh My Loi, D.2, ☎ +84 8 37451325. 07:30-11:30, 13:00-17:00.
- Police station District 3, 01 Nguyen Thuong Hien, Ward 4 , District 3, ☎ +84 8 38392764. 07:30-11:30, 13:00-17:00.
- Police station District 4, 14 Doan Nhu Hai, Ward 12, District 1, ☎ +84 8 39400188. 07:30-11:30, 13:00-17:00.
- Police station District 5, 359 Tran Hung Dao, Ward 10, District 5, ☎ +84 8 38550878. 07:30-11:30, 13:00-17:00.
- Police Station Binh Thanh, 18 Phan Dang Luu, ward 6, Binh Thanh, ☎ +84 8 38414882. 07:30-11:30, 13:00-17:00.
- Police Station Phu Nhuan, 181 Hoang Van Thu, Phu Nhuan. 07:30-11:30, 13:00-17:00.
Consulates and representative offices
- Australia, 20F, Vincom Bldg, 47 Ly Tu Trong St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3521-8100, fax: +84 8 3521-8101.
- Belgium, Tầng 7, Tòa tháp Sunwah, 115 Nguyễn Huệ, ☎ +84 8 3821-9354, fax: +84 8 3827-8068.
- Cambodia, 41, Phùng Khắc Khoan, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-2751, fax: +84 8 3829-2751.
- Canada, 10F, Metropolitan Bldg, 235 Đồng Khởi, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3827-9899, fax: +84 8 3827-9935.
- Chile, 79/1/1 Phan Kế Bính, Quận 1, ☎ +84 8 3910-2903, fax: +84 8 3910-2904.
- China, 175 Hai Bà Trưng, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3829-2463, fax: +84 8 3827-5845, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Cuba, 5B, 45 Phùng Khắc Khoan, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-7350, fax: +84 8 3829-5293.
- Czech Republic, 28 Mạc Đĩnh Chi, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-0585, fax: +84 8 3822-6043.
- Denmark, 1801 Tòa tháp Sunwah, 115 Nguyễn Huệ, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3821-9373, fax: +84 8 3921-9371.
- France, 27 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3829-7231, fax: +84 8 3829-1675.
- Germany, 126 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3829-2455, fax: +84 8 3823-1919.
- Hungary, 22 Phùng Khắc Khoan, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-0130, fax: +84 8 3827-9622.
- India, 55, Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3823-7050, fax: +84 8 3823-7047.
- Indonesia, 18 Phùng Khắc Khoan, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3825-1888, fax: +84 8 3829-9493.
- Italy, 91 Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, Bình Thạnh District, ☎ +84 8 6258-6473.
- Japan, 261 Điện Biên Phủ, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3822-5314, fax: +84 8 3822-5316.
- Laos, 93, Pasteur, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-7667, fax: +84 8 3829-9272.
- Malaysia, 2 Ngô Đức Kế, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-9023, fax: +84 8 3829-9027.
- México, 215 A-B Hoàng Văn Thụ, Phú Nhuận District, ☎ +84 8 3844-5520, fax: +84 8 3842-3960.
- Mongolia, 18K30 Phổ Quang, Tân Bình District, ☎ +84 8 3997-0691, fax: +84 8 3997-0537.
- Myanmar, 50 Sầm Sơn, Phường 4, Tân Bình District, ☎ +84 8 5449-0805, fax: +84 8 3842-8789.
- Netherlands, 29 Lê Duẩn, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3823-5932, fax: +84 8 3823-5934.
- New Zealand, P 909/Tầng 9 Tòa nhà Metropole 235 Đồng Khởi, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822-6907, fax: +84 8 3822-6905.
- Norway, 21-23 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822-1696, fax: +84 8 3827-2696.
- Panama, 7A Lê Thánh Tôn, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3825-9334, fax: +84 8 3823-6447.
- Philippines, Số 8, Tầng 11, Nguyễn Huệ, Phường Bến Nghé, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-4738, fax: +84 8 3911-0287.
- Poland, 5 Le Loi St, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3914-2883, fax: +84 8 3914-2884.
- Romania, 33/6 Đặng Văn Ngữ, Phú Nhuận District, ☎ +84 8 3991-1204, fax: +84 8 3845-0587.
- Singapore, Tầng 8, Saigon Centre, 65 Lê Lợi, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822-0173, fax: +84 8 3914-2938.
- Slovakia, 64-68 Hai Bà Trưng, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-8888, fax: +84 8 3827-7999.
- South Korea, 107 Nguyễn Du, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822-5757, fax: +84 8 3822-5750.
- Spain economic and commercial office, 25 Phùng Khắc Khoan, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3825-0173, fax: +84 8 3825-0174.
- South Africa, 25 Phùng Khắc Khoan, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3823-8556, fax: +84 8 3823-8557.
- Sweden, 8A/11 Thái Văn Lung, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3823-6800, fax: +84 8 3824-4856.
- Switzerland, Bitexco Financial Tower, 37th Floor, 2 Hai Trieu, District 1, ☎ +84 8 6299 1200, fax: +84 8 6299 1222, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Thailand, 77 Trần Quốc Thảo, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3932-7637, fax: +84 8 3932-6002. M-F 08:30-12:00 & 13:30-17:00 (Consular section: 08:30-11:30 & 13:30=15:00).
- Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office, 336 Nguyễn Tri Phương, District 10, ☎ +84 8 3834-6264~7.
- UK, 25 Lê Duẩn, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3829-8433, fax: +84 8 3822-1971.
- Ukraine, 22-24 Nguyễn Văn Thủ, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3910-4054, fax: +84 8 3910-4053.
- USA, 4 Lê Duẩn, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3822-9433, fax: +84 8 3822-9434.
- Russia, 40 Bà Huyện Thanh Quan, District 3, ☎ +84 8 3930-3936, fax: +84 8 3930-3937.
When going to the airport, specify clearly which terminal you want to go to. International flights leave from the newer international terminal (go straight). Domestic flights (to Da Nang, Hanoi, Nha Trang, and so on) are from the domestic terminal (turn left). If you get dropped off at the wrong terminal, you'll have to dash to the correct terminal via a pedestrian walkway link 600 m away. This is not recommended, especially if you're already late for boarding.
When entering the airport, taxi drivers will add an airport entry fee of 5,000 dong to your total metered fare. This is not to be confused with the airport departure tax, which should have been included in the price of your airline ticket.
If you're booking a bus around the Pham Ngu Lao area, you probably want to consider buying the tickets right at the bus company instead of one of the booking agencies. The FUTA bus line has an office at the corner Pham Ngu Lao / De Tham (orange-green building) and you get the tickets for around two-thirds the price compared to booking in an agency.
Avoid booking trips through your hotel as you'll pay a significant surcharge to join the same trips which can be booked at the plethora of travel agents throughout the city.
- Can Gio - the virgin mangrove forest 30 km south of the city. Entrance to the park is near Ca Cam Bridge.
- Can Tho is the biggest city of the Mekong Delta and famous for its floating market, delicious food, and fresh fruits. The name comes from "cầm thi giang", river of poems. The city is also referred to as "Tay Do" meaning "Western capital". It has an estimated population of 1.5 million. Can Tho is 169 km (3 hr) from Ho Chi Minh City. You can get tickets at Le Hong Phong in district 3 and take a free shuttle bus to Ben Xe Mien Tay, where the air conditioned buses leave. Tickets to Can Tho cost around 100,000 dong. Free shuttle buses in Can Tho will take you directly to your hotel.
- Cu Chi Tunnel - day-trips are tirelessly flogged by travel agencies around Pham Ngu Lao, and can be done as a half-day trip, or as a full-day with a stop at Tay Ninh to see the Holy See of the Cao Dai religion. Tours, including admission, should cost 70,000-110,000 dong, and are available every day of the week. Cu Chi tunnels are about a 1.5 hr drive out of HCMC centre. It's worth taking the trips to see these amazing structures so cleverly carved underground and used for survival during wartime. One way to get to the tunnels is by speedboat.
- Dalat - popular temperate mountain side "European" escape. Consider going via Cat Tien National Park to see wildlife (including primates, rare birds, and crocodiles) and spectacular jungle scenery.
- Mekong Delta - boat tours are available with an almost infinite mix of itineraries. They can be short overnight trips, leisurely meanders over several nights. If doing a two or three day Mekong tour, which is worth-while, expect to be shuffled between tour companies along the way. 2-day, 1-night organised trips to the Mekong Delta can cost as little as $US25, including transportation, tour guides, lodging and several meals.
- Mui Ne - popular beach resort about 4-6 hr away by bus
- Tay Ninh - Cao Dai Holy See and Ba Den mountain.
- Vung Tau - city with good beaches, about 2 hr away by bus, or less by boat along the Saigon River. The boat ride costs 250,000 dong.
- Phnom Penh - a 6 hr bus journey to the capital of Cambodia ranges from USD10–12 (210,000-252,000 dong). When you pass into Cambodia and the bus stops for 15 min, do not buy anything from the roadside cafe. Instead, cross the road to purchase drinks or food from the roadside shops because prices can be up to 50% cheaper than the bus stop cafe. Alternatively you could book a tour with boat and bus to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, which will have you spending a night in a cheap hotel in Chau Doc before making the trip over the border (cross-border package prices may include visa support, which should cost 360,000-530,000 dong).