YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

Ho Chi Minh City

From Wikitravel
Revision as of 12:20, 22 August 2010 by 202.171.168.178 (talk)
Jump to: navigation, search
Ho Chi Minh City

Default Banner.jpg




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).

Afternoon siesta, near Ben Thanh Market

Understand

Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. However the old Saigon moniker is still used by both Vietnamese and foreigners, especially when referring to the most central part of the city, to which most tourists flock.

The helpful, Tourist Information Center (4G 4H Le Loi St, District 1. Tel (84-8) 822 6033) can be found on the northeast corner of the roundabout at the intersection of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue, right in the heart of the city. It's a great place to pick up a free map (which includes a map of Hanoi, as well) and get an idea of what the city and surrounding area has to offer.

Get in

By plane

Tan Son Nhat (Tân Sơn Nhất) (IATA: SGN | ICAO: VVTS) is Vietnam's largest international airport. You can fly direct to SGN from Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Pakse, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bandar Seri Begawan, Manila, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Nanning, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Seoul, Busan, Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Doha, Frankfurt, Paris, Moscow, Perth, Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne. There are two terminals: the new international terminal, which took over all international flights in 2007, and the old terminal, which is reserved for domestic traffic.

HCMC’s domestic departures area is perhaps Southeast Asia’s worst - with non-stop, deafening (and consequently inaudible) announcements through a distorting sound system; long queues at security checkpoints; and a lack of signage. A place to get through, rather than linger in.

By bus from the airport

The recently introduced No. 152 air-conditioned airport bus is the cheapest way to the city from the airport. For 3,000 dong per person plus a fee for bags which varies randomly, it will drop you off on the west side of the Pham Ngu Lao area, or at the bus terminal on the south side of the Ben Thanh Market roundabout. Upon exiting the airport, turn right and you will see the bus waiting there. If not, walk down to the domestic terminal - about a 5 minute walk. In front of the domestic terminal across a small road, you will see the bus waiting there. There is no signage indicating where the bus stop is. If you ask any of the taxi wardens (in uniforms) they will point out the spot to stand and wait. Note: Ignore taxi drivers that may tell you there are no more airport buses. However, the bus is only available until 6pm. The fee for bags range from an additional 3,000 dong for a smaller bag to 14,000 for two large bags. Try to have exact change or you will be given coins in return which is legitimate currency but many places will not accept.

By taxi from the airport

In lighter traffic periods (which usually only happens between 12 midnight and 6am), taxis from the airport to the city center will usually take as little as 15 minutes. During these lighter traffic periods, this should cost no more than 90,000 dong. More typically, taxis can creep along in near-standstill traffic for an hour or more. During these heavier traffic periods, taxis will cost about 120,000 dong to 150,000 dong from district 1 (inclusive of airport tax).

As of spring 2009, the airport instituted a taxi queuing system on the left side at the far end of the terminal. A company called Sasco has the airport taxi concession. Their cars are the first you will see by the curb. Less expensive rivals, such as Vinasun and Mai Linh, can be found waiting in abundance 500 meters away and further out into the parking lot. Whichever taxi you choose, immediately ensure and require that the driver uses the meter. Make sure they start the meter before you get in the taxi. They may start driving without starting the meter, and will try to negotiate for a fixed price at a location where it's not feasible for a tourist to hire another cab.

In general, use caution and common sense when hiring a taxi in HCMC. When locals avoid a particular taxi service/driver, you should sense something is wrong as well. Blindly queuing for taxis may cost you, so look for the taxi wardens usually standing around the queue line (Mai Linh wardens are in green shirt green tie, Vinasun warden are in dark green shirt maroon tie), and they will radio the taxi for you. Major taxi companies are fairly honest, but if you want to avoid all stress, you could simply buy a "taxi coupon" at one of the counters after the custom declaration & x-ray at international airport terminal, next to the exchange counter.

Be cautious of taxis which resemble the above mentioned reputable companies, yet are actually scam artists. A lot of gangster taxis exist and some very closely copy names and markings of the more reputable taxi companies with very minor differences, e.g. VinasOn or VinasuM instead of VinaSUN, MEi Linh or Mai Lin or M Taxi instead of Mai Linh) To the unsuspecting visitor, they will charge outrageous fares. There have been instances of the fake cab services/drivers running off with unsuspecting, overly trusting visitor's belongings still in the taxi trunk/boot.

Watch out for taxi touts who also dress in white shirt uniforms and brandish laminated "fixed prices" 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, stick to the metered taxis. Also ignore any taxi drivers that want to charge 140,000 dong to go from the Airport to Ben Thanh Market. The cost is only 75,000 dong on a weekday afternoon at 5 PM using a metered taxi.

If you are to take metered taxi, you should change just enough amount of money (usually around USD10 is sufficient) at the airport. The exchange in the airport may charge a commission as high as 3%. Taxi drivers earn commission by taking customers to certain hotels, so be explicit about exactly which hotel you want to be driven. To trick visitors into staying at other (commission paying) hotels, drivers may come up with any kind of excuses, e.g., "no vacancy", "the circus is in town", "that hotel burned down recently", etc.

Car Rental Service Drivers Recently, Budget Car Rental became the first international car rental company in Vietnam. They offer English speaking drivers and new model vehicles, one trip to the city costs fixed price of 140,000 dong.

Departure / Leaving HCMC When you going to the airport, be specific which terminal you want to go to. International flights go from the newer international terminal (go straight); Domestic flights (to Hanoi, Danang, Nha Trang, etc) are from domestic terminal (turn left).

If you get dropped off at the wrong terminal, you'll have to dash your way to the right terminal via pedestrian walkway link 600m away. This is not recommended, especially if you're already late for boarding.

When entering the airport, taxi drivers will add an entry fee to your total meter. This is for the airport entry fee (5000 dong). Don't confuse this entry fee with the "Airport Departure Tax" as International Departure Taxes should have been included in the price of your flight ticket. As of November 2009, going from Ben Thanh Market to the airport at noon, the total fare is 80,000VND using the green and white metered taxis (VinaSun and Mai Linh).

By bus

If you take a bus, you will end up at one of the following bus stations:

  • Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station - This is right in the centre of HCMC, in walking distance of the tourist sites and accomadation
  • Mien Dong Bus Station - Buses heading north leave and arrive here.
  • Mien Tay Bus Station - Take bus 139 from Tran Hung Dao Street to get here.
  • Cholon Bus Station

From these stations, public buses in around the city will cost you about 3,000 dong.

The multitude of private tour company buses usually drop passengers off on Pham Ngu Lao just west of De Tham, giving easy access to accommodation in the backpacker area. Of course, this means that you'll have at least 40-odd 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 (surprisingly safe) life of their own.

As you hop out of the bus, taxi drivers will surround you with questions "Where you go?". You might be confused about your location in the city and the taxi drivers will probably try to benefit from that. 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 go zigzag around few blocks getting easy money from you.

Bus travel is available from Phnom Penh via several different companies, at approximately $12 per person. Visas to Vietnam cannot be obtained at the border, so have one organised before you arrive (see Cope). Capital Tours operates a popular bus line from the Capital Guest House in Phnom Penh that takes passengers to the border, then after securing visas, passengers board a partner Vietnamese bus to continue travel to HCMC


By train

The train station GA Sai Gon [19] is on Cach Mang Thang Tam (CMT8) Northwest of the city center, and is a short taxi or public bus ride away from the main hotel districts.

There is an official train ticket office in the backpackers district, located at 275C Pham Ngu Lao.

Get around

By taxi and rental car

Taxis are the most comfortable way of getting around, and not too expensive - about 12,000 dong for the first 1km, plus 10,000 dong per additional km. (Prices jumped about 30% in 2008 due to the soaring price of fuel but have since been reduced.) It's usually not hard to flag a taxi anywhere in the central city, though finding an available one in the rain or during peak hours can be difficult.

Taxi rates are not regulated by the city government, and each company sets its own fare structure, which changes from time to time. The market is fairly competitive, however, and the major companies all reasonably honest with similar rates. Major companies include: Vinasun (white and dark green), Mai Linh (various shades of white for a standard car, light green for a mini cab w/ cheaper rate, brown and silver,) Vinataxi (yellow and blue), Petrolimex (white with blue and orange) and Savico (blue). Hoang Long (green and yellow) charges similar fares for short trips, but is 10-20% higher for long trips. Some off-brand taxis, such as "Taxi-Meter," have faster meters, and are best avoided unless you are a regular and know them well. Drivers generally speak limited English and do not speak any other foreign languages, you should get your hotel to write the name and address of your destination in Vietnamese to show the taxi driver, and get your hotel's business card in case you get lost.

Some of the larger, upscale hotels in the city (Caravelle Hotel, Sheraton, Park Hyatt, et al) are frequented by "Saigon Tourist" taxis, which often charge in dollars and are very expensive. Make sure to specify to your hotel receptionist or concierge that you want either one of the aforementioned taxi companies (Mai Linh, Vinasun, or Vinataxi) rather than the tourist trap taxis, or they will not hesitate to put you in an expensive taxi.

Carry small change and bills for paying fares, since drivers are often short of change. Taxi models in service range from the tiny Daewoo Matiz to big Toyota Innova minivans. Newer cars are more likely to have working air-con; larger mini-SUV-type models sometimes charge a higher rate.

Keep your eyes open for this possible annoyance: when using the meter, some taxi drivers slow down on purpose to increase the price.

For trips outside of the city or for the convenience of having a private vehicle for the day, daily car hire with driver is a good option. Many of the taxi companies such as Mai Linh and Vinasun offer these services. For a little more money, Budget Car Rental, the American car rental company, offers English speaking drivers who serve as tour guides and to take you around the city or to sites such as Cu Chi.

By motorbike

Traffic In Ho Chi Minh City

Motorbike taxis (xe ôm, literally hug-vehicle) are plentiful (get used to hearing "you want moto!?" everywhere), cheap, and are generally quite safe. As of 2007 all riders in Vietnam are now required to wear helmets, a rule that is strongly enforced. Make sure a driver supplies you with a helmet. If he doesn't - find another one, as you'll be the one stung for the fine.

Absolutely agree on a price before you set off; short hops around town shouldn't be more than 20000 dong, and all the way to the airport around 40000 dong. A rule of thumb for the price is to round up of half the cost of taxi ride for the same travel. 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.

2nd opinion: Avoid Xe Om altogether. They are ridiculously expensive since for the same price or less you can use a Mai Linh or VinaSun taxi and arrive at your destination in air conditioned comfort and protection from the sun.

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 solid 100-110cc bike. 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 sidewalks, alleys, and basements of the city – look for rows of neatly-parked motorbikes or signs that say giu xe. Prices range from free at some restaurants (though a small tip is common) to 5000 dong at upscale night clubs.

By cyclo

A ride on a cyclo, which is sort of akin to a reverse tricycle with the passenger sitting in a front seat, through downtown HCMC is a great way to see the city the way the locals do. The sights, sounds, and smells are a large part of the excitement of the city, and are best experienced from 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 motorbike riders.

For many reasons, not least because of government attempts to restrict cyclos on busy urban streets, this form of transportation is disappearing. At around 36,000 dong/hr and because they are so slow, they can be a good choice for taking in the city. Be sure to bargain hard with the cyclo rider beforehand. Some cyclo riders have been known to attempt to change the agreed price after your journey has finished, whilst another trick may include the driver visiting places which benefit his wallet. To avoid these problems, make sure you are clear on the price and destination upon departing.

By bus

Bright green public buses serve 150 routes throughout the city. You can find maps of the bus system across the street from Ben Thanh Market - just go into the waiting room to the desk in the middle. Cheap, safe and not too crowded either but only if you can find the right line. If you cannot find your way, ask the locals nicely, they will try their best to help. A piece of paper and marker pen may help to ease the conversation. Cheaper 2,000-4,000 dong 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 Ho Chi Minh City very long, or want to save his/her time, take a look on the website [20] for the City Look Bus. It'll take you to the famous places in Ho Chi Minh City with the price from 15,000 dong to 75,000 dong, including the tour guide and the information in English.

On foot

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 150cc, and the traffic rarely gets above 20-30km/h in central areas.

However crossing the road in Saigon can be a nightmare. The first time may be a little scary, after that you will get used to it quite quickly. If ever in doubt, Saigon's "Tourist Security" officers (guys in marked 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.

However the true trick to crossing the road is to stay aware, and walk slowly and confidently. The motorbike riders are actually exceptionally good and will simply move to avoid you - just don't make any sudden lurches forwards, backwards, or stop for that matter! 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 a alert and prepared to stop putting your foot forward until he passes.

Adherence to traffic signals in Saigon is vastly improving, and while they're not always followed, riders/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 (albeit quite safely and slowly) in unexpected places also. Crossing roads is therefore a challenge for Westerners used to traffic laws and traffic lights.

The streets, sidewalks, and outdoor markets are covered by motorbikes, and not yet geared towards pedestrian traffic (although sidewalk clearing campaigns are now underway- many areas of the center are easy to negotiate as long as you keep your wits about you for speeding motorbikes). However walking along the edge of the road is easy enough. Any motorbikes behind you will generally beep at you to let you know they're there.

The traffic police occupy themselves with random roadside checks and do not bother the motorcyclists that are running red lights or driving on the sidewalks. 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.

But there are some open sidewalks to walk safely on and just walking around the city helps you really get a taste of it. Seeing people cook on the side of the street and just standing watching traffic go by in awe is just as entertaining as anything.

Maps

You will receive a free 'VN Trip Map - for travel and coupons' by Vietnamese women wearing the traditional ao dai dress as you are leaving Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Additionally, most hotels will provide a free tourist map of District 1 although these vary in quality and tend to be advertising based. The Sheraton have one of the best of these and will provide one if you ask at reception. Within 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 carry a full range of available 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 two star hotels.

Talk

As with most other parts of Vietnam, the main language is Vietnamese. The local dialect of Vietnamese is the southern dialect, 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. Most of them do not speak Mandarin.

See

Reunification Palace

Historical sites

The tank that ended the war, outside the Reunification Palace
  • Reunification Palace, Enter at 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, 9693272. Open daily 7:30AM-11:00AM, 1PM-4PM. Also known as Independence Palace (this is the old name). This is a restored five-floor time warp to the Sixties left largely untouched from the day before Saigon fell to the North (construction started in 1962 and finished in 1966). Formerly South Vietnam's Presidential Palace, the war ended on April 30, 1975 when tank #843 — a replica of which is now parked on the lawn outside — crashed through the gate. 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, upon 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. Entry 15,000 dong.
Last call for South Vietnam, Reunification Palace
  • War Remnants Museum, 28 Vo Van Tan Street, 9302112, 9306325, 9305587 (). Open daily 7:30AM-12PM, 1:30PM-5PM, last admission 4:30PM. Formerly known as the of Exhibition House of American War Crimes, the museum was opened in a hurry, less than five months after the fall of the South. It has moved to new premises with three stories of exhibits and various U.S. 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 fetuses blamed on Agent Orange. There is very obvious bias as there are no "records" of any unpleasant deeds having been committed by the North Vietnamese Army. However, despite it's obvious bias, there's also an exhibit on the third floor about the war journalists from all over the world who documented - and often disappeared or died in - the war. However watch out for the amputees who will try and sell you their wares. It's within walking distance from Reunification Palace — see the museum pamphlet for a map. Entry 15,000 dong.
  • On Le Quy Don, just south of the museum, is a soft ice cream vendor, a happy treat for about 2000 dong in a hot and hectic city.


  • City Hall, end of Nguyen Hue Street. Originally called the Hôtel de Ville and now formally re-branded the People's Committee Hall, 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.
  • Museum of Vietnamese History, at the intersection of Le Duan Street 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. If you care about animal welfare, avoid the zoo.
  • Ho-Chi-Minh Museum, Duong Nguyen Tat Thanh, Dist. 4, for your propaganda dose. Open daily 7:30AM-12:00PM, 1:30PM-5PM, last admission 4:30PM, 10,000 dong entry. The museum (in a French colonial era building) near the dock of Saigon shows the life story of the modern day father of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh. There's also a Ho Chi Minh book shop as well.
Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Religious sites

  • Notre Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà), Han Thuyen Street, facing down Dong Khoi (next to the Post Office). Closes for lunch and on weekends. A French-built Catholic cathedral in the city center. Free entry.

There are several Chinese temples in Cholon, the Chinatown district of old Saigon. Only a few are listed here.

Incense, Thien Hau Pagoda
  • 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 honor on the 23rd day of the March lunar month. Don't miss the gorgeous sculptures in the walls of the courtyard outside the temple. Entry free.
  • Quan Am Pagoda, 12 Lao Tu, Cholon (Just off Hung Vuong, close to Thien Hau Pagoda). Open 8AM-4:30PM. The oldest pagoda in town, home of a lot of incense and a cheerful puppy. Entry free.
  • 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.

Do

If the heat starts to get you down, there are several water parks where you can splash around to cool off.

  • Dam Sen Water Park, 03 Hoa Binh, Ward 3, District 11, 858.8418, 865.3453 (, fax: 858.8419), [1]. Mon-Sat 8:30AM-6PM, Sundays and Holidays 8AM-7PM. Close to the city centre. Opened in 1999, with new water slides added each year — this water park offers some truly unique water slide experiences (including the amazing "Space Bowl")! The slides have been badly designed and it's a common sight to see someone clutching their head when leaving them. Restaurant, health services, and animatronic dinosaurs are on the premises. Admission is height based; under 0.8m free, others 35,000-80,000 dong.
  • There's also Water World in District 9, Ocean Water Park in District 7, and Dai The Gioi Water Park in District 5.
  • Water Puppet Show at Ngon Restaurant, 95 Nguyen Van Huong Street, Thao Dien Ward, Dist. 2, (+84) (08) 3744.645. Every saturday at 7:30pm there is a traditional Vietnamese Water Puppet show on the riverside outdoor terrace of Ngon Restaurant in District 2. This is a traditional Vietnamese experience nobody should miss. The show is located about 15 minutes by taxi from District 1 (all Taxi drivers will know the address) and is well worth the trip.

Visiting hair salons is also a must do for tourists, as Vietnamese are famous for it. Hair wash, manicure and pedicure cost no more than US$10. However, if the salon seems to be staffed exclusively by comely young ladies in tight dresses sitting on display at the window, they may offer more than just haircuts.

If you're in Saigon on a Sunday night, then beg, borrow, or rent a two-wheeled vehicle and join the throngs for di choi. It's basically a party on wheels, where everyone just rides through the downtown streets until the wee hours.


  • MegaStar Cineplex Vietnam's leading world-class cineplex venue with 2 locations in HCMC and the first to offer 3D movies (at Hung Vuong Plaza only). All locations present first-run US Hollywood and International releases and situated within attractive shopping complexes. (1) Hung Vuong Plaza (about 20-30 mins from CBD) -- 126 Hung Vuong Str, District 5, Level 7. (2) CT Plaza (near the airport) -- 60A Truong Son Str., Tan Binh District, Level 10. The latest show session times and dates are available at "http://www.megastar.vn"
  • Galaxy Cinema at 116, Nguyen Du, District 1, is a favorite among locals.


  • Xuan Spa (If you have that much money. Services on the upside of 1,780,000 dong), Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel, 2 Lam Son Square, District 1, +84 8 824 1234 (), [2].
  • Dai Nam Tourist Park, Thu Dau Mot Town, Binh Duong Province (Catch the 616 Bus from the Bus Station, or talk to a travel agent), [3]. Located about 40km from Ho Chi Minh City, the Dai Nam Tourist Park, opened in November of 2008, it 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 sites, 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. Reports are that you can catch the 616 bus from the main bus terminal in Ho Chi Minh, but most hotels will tell you that's not possible and insist on a private taxi. According to the locals, it is very much worth a visit, purely just to view the temple.
  • Happy Ending Massage Yuan, 15B8 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1 Ben Nighe Ward Ho Chi Minh City (On Le Thanh Ton between Thai Van Lung and Ngo Van Nam. Across from Sky Garden), (08) 3825-0795. "Legitimate" foot and body massage, hostess will explain pricing to you at the beginning, usually offering 30% discount. 223,000 dong.
  • Twenty-Three September Park, (Across from Ben Thanh Market and running the length of Phan Ngu Lao Street). Running along Phan Ngu Lao Street 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 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 practise 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.
  • Central Mosque, 66 Dong Du, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, +84 8 824 2903 (Tourist information), [4]. 8 am to 8 pm Daily. One of 12 mosques serving 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 draws the biggest crowds. The shaded verandah 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.

Buy

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 Than 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. When buying keep in mind that is very useful to have local currency. Be advised that banks and formal exchange businesses will provide you with a decent rate, especially when compared with agencies like Statravel on the main Vui Ban street who 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 in luck.

  • BoSua Local Street Wear, 55B1 Vincom Tower, Dong Khoi St, District 1, 0904142182, [5]. 9AM-10PM. VND 145,000.
  • Ginkgo T-shirts, 20, Le Loi, District 1, 0905493148, [6]. 8am-11pm. Ginkgo makes original and quality souvenir t-shirts with creative designs inspired by Asian and Vietnamese cultures. Other store within District 1 is located at 56, Bui Vien. VND 210,000.
  • Phuong Mai Art Gallery - The gallery focus on Vietnamese Comtemporary Original Art Works including oil painting, lacquer painting, water color painting, scupture.... Address: 129B le Thanh Ton str.,Dis.1 & 213C Dong Khoi str.,. email: [email protected]; website: www.vietnam-art.com.vn

Markets

  • Chợ Bến Thành aka Ben Thanh Market, Southwest end of Le Lai: a den of thieves, but some great shopping. Ben Thanh is recognizable from its clock tower on the large traffic circle. 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 and candies). 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 many you are being quoted for; or what the exact price is; or what exchange rate is being used to calculate your change. Be ready for these onslaughts (often by a sweetly 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 possible, take your own bag when shopping; vendors have been known to give out different colored bags to indicate if you are a sucker, or a hard bargainer. If retail warfare isn't your cup of tea, you could skip the touristy Ben Thanh altogether and go to Chợ Bình Tây (see below).
  • Saigon Square will be good place for visit. It is a twin of Ben Thanh but with air-con. 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 Day Ben Thanh can be planned as a sight seeing instead of a shopping spree. It is a stones throw from Ben Thanh Market.
  • Chợ Bình Tây in the Chinatown, the more underrated twin of Ben Thanh, selling everything from spices, Chinese medicines, 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 head for Bình Tây instead. Most of Chợ Bình Tây is wholesale goods. In fact, you can see much of Ben Thanh Market's goods are from here.
  • Night Market (just outside of Ben Thanh Market). Here you can enjoy many kinds of different food and drink, and go round to do your shopping as well. Open from 6pm (when the Ben Thanh Market closes).
  • War Surplus Market, sometimes called the American Market or "Cho Cu" or "Khu Dan Sinh" in corner of Yersin and Nguyen Cong Tru, District 1. Hidden behind rows of hardware and electric supplies shops, just brace yourself and enter. Dense warrens of stalls with 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. Don't hope to find a genuine Marine Zippo; they're all fake now.

Supermarkets and department stores

  • Tax Department Store, corner of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue. 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.
  • Small western-style supermarkets, can be found on the top floor of the Parkson department store one block northeast of the Opera House, and in Diamond Plaza, behind the Cathedral, on the top floor of the department store.
  • Co-op Mart Supermarkets, frequented by throngs of the Saigon middle-class and backpackers alike, can be found everywhere around HCMC. In District 1 they can be found at the corner of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Nguyen Dinh Chieu, about 1km from the center OR in Cong Quynh, walking distance away from the end of Backpacker street Pham Ngu Lao. Prices are reasonably lower, though the selection leans more toward Vietnamese culinary requirements.
  • Three western/Japanese-style department stores exist near the center: Parkson on Dong Khoi a block north of the Opera house; Diamond Plaza, further north behind the Notre Dame Cathedral; and Zen Plaza on Nguyen Trai two blocks west of the New World Hotel. For most visitors, the only reason to go there is to enjoy the air-con, and derive some amusement from the silly-high prices of western-branded consumer goods.

Souvenirs

  • Phuong Mai Art Gallery, 129 B Le Thanh Ton St., District.1 (near the Norfolk Hotel and the Revolution Museum). A gallery showing contemporary Vietnamese artists, both established and emerging. There's another showroom at 213C Dong Khoi in District 1.
  • Oil-Painting - Bui Vien Street, near backpackers area in De Tham and Pham Ngu Lao streets, in District 1. There are several shops along this street selling oil painting at reasonable prices (ranging from 450,000-5,000,000 dong). 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.

Others

  • Contemporary Art Galerie Quynh, 65 De Tham St., District 1, HCMC (between Co Bac and Co Giang), ☎ +84 8 3836 801. Hours: 10:00-18:00, Tues-Sat. www.galeriequynh.com. Galerie Quynh is a serious contemporary art gallery located in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City. Unlike the myriad galleries that focus on more decorative works, Galerie Quynh represents innovative local and international artists including Tiffany Chung, Do Hoang Tuong, Hoang Duong Cam and Sandrine Llouquet. Galerie Quynh is the place to stop by to learn more about the contemporary art scene in Vietnam; for serious art collectors, this gallery is a must-see for contemporary Vietnamese art.
  • Electronics Just a warning for others, whilst some of the country's cheapest electronics can be found on and around Huynh Thuc Khang, be aware most shops are selling counterfeit items. Things such as dodgy iPods are easy to spot when compared to the genuine thing, but items such as camera batteries are much more difficult. If you are thinking about buying some extra memory for your digital camera, be warned that most of the memory will be fake. Fake Sandisk II Ultra cards are ubiquitous and extremely difficult to tell apart from real ones. These cards are apparently of low quality and one has to ask if it is worth risking your holiday snaps. Fake batteries have the potential to explode, too, so be careful. That said, you can pick up some bargains if you know what you're looking for. Just exercise caution; if it is too good to be true it probably is.
  • Headphone & Earphones Kool Audiophiles are a headphone and earphone company based in Ho Chi Minh City and are probably the only shop dedicated to selling genuine products. You'll find Koss products, ibasso, westone, Grado, Crossroads as well as the limited and hard to find genuine KSC35 products. All their products comes with warranty and the shop staffs and owner are able to converse in fluent English. Drop by if you are tired of fake earphones in Vietnam.
  • Lacquer ware One of the stand out things to bring home from Saigon. Head to Saigon Craft (between Mac Thi Buoi and Dong Du on Dong Khoi) for stunning original works, then Gift 42 (opposite Lucky Plaza on Dong Khoi) for the best of the rest.
  • Home Decor Originality and value. If you’re thinking of investing $2,000 or more on home furnishing, a crate shipped from Saigon could pay for your trip. Begin by looking for major items in Gaya (Ton That Thiep just before Pasteur) if you like modern, and Verlim (40 Ho Tung Mao - just up from Ham Nghi), if your style is more formal/traditional. Organize shipping through either of these fine merchants. Then you can go wild and buy up…framed art, Gom Viet pottery (Cnr Ly Tu Trong and Pasteur), Lighting from NGA (Le Thanh Ton between Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi) or Mosaic (Mac Thi Buoi just before Nguyen Hue) and antiques found on Le Cong Kieu. Provide extra padding for your crate with Catherine Denoual bed ware (Thi Sach, just down from Le Thanh Ton), and/or Dolce Casa cushions/quilts (Dong Khoi opposite the Sheraton). Ask these and other retailers to deliver your purchases back to Gaya or Verlim. They take care of the rest.
  • Clothes Vietnamese silk is fabulous and Hoang Khai shows the world. His flagship Khai Silk store at 107 Dong Khoi is a must visit. Next door, Creation and Indochina provide sterling competition. Ladies, you are spoiled for choice after this. Follow your nose, but make sure you don’t miss La Bella, La Bella Blue (Pasteur and Le Thanh Ton), Song (Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton and in Eden Mall on Dong Khoi), and acclaimed designer Minh Hanh (Just up from Dong Khoi and Ngo Duc Ke). Look out for exquisite hand embroidered items along the way.
  • Accessories At Gaya you’ll spot Anupa bags and you’ll want one. Those not loaded should avoid sticker shock and (ladies) head immediately to Ipa-Nima (No. 8, Nguyen Trung Truc Street, District 1) for a stunning and more affordable collection (www.ipa-nima.com). Press on to Mandarina (Le Than Ton just past NKKN) for bargain shoes and Le Hang (Le Thanh Ton between Pasteur and NKKN) for bead/bespoke jewelry nirvana.
  • Kids presents Musical stuff from Chuck and Anna (Lucky Plaza - bottom of Dong Khoi) will hit the spot.
  • DVD buffs with no scruples should head to Ho Tung Mao
  • Romance Candles, oils and soaps from Harnn (Dong Du near Hai Bai Trung)
  • Books Fahasa English Bookstore (Dong Khoi cnr Le Thanh Ton and Nguyen Hue just down from Mac Thi Buoi). Also try U.S.A Books [21] on 100 Pham Viet Chanh, Q1 near backpacker's area. They sell below-listed price,new hardcover/softcover originals imported from the States
  • For Men/Tailors Buying a suit can be fun and relatively cheap, but do your research first, and remember that you get what you pay for - labor costs are not what make suits expensive. Tailors frequently use fabrics whose quality is exaggerated (witness the constant claims of wool being "Italian/English Super 180"). Cheap Vietnamese suits don't compare to just having an $80 H&M suit altered by a tailor. Even the most expensive Saigon tailors fuse the suits, rather than canvas them. 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).

Khai Silk and Creation have very desirable shirts at around $30, and ties to compete with your Zegnas for $10. Off the peg shirts can be tailored for you at no charge. Otherwise, take your favourite shirts/shorts/pants to Tricia and Verona (half way up Dong Du), who’ll make you up a perfect copy in silk, linen or finest Egyptian cotton. Allow two days. $25 - $50. Here for five days? You have time for a suit. For quality work from old boys who know their cloth - Cao Minh (Pasteur between Le Thanh Ton and Le Loi). Want to go where old money/ex pats go? Minh Doan (Le Thanh Ton just down from Nguyen Trung Truc) is your pick.

  • Art Vietnamese artists are increasing their international reputation. Sell some stock and invest in something yielding a daily return from your walls. Consider your investment in Apricot (Mac Thi Buoi), Mai’s (Nguyen Hue just up from Mac Thi Buoi), Phuong Mai Art Gallery (129B Le Thanh Ton str., Dist.1) Hanoi Studio (Dong Du), or Tu Do ((Ho Tung Mau). Eat and contemplate in Gallery Deli (Dong Khoi just down from Mac Thi Buoi). Listen and contemplate in Sax ‘n Art Le Loi and Pasteur). Bargain frames – Ben Thanh Art and Frame (11 Le Thanh Ton - 100 north from Thai Van Lung).
  • Bicycle Shops are most frequent along Vo Thi Sau. The biggest one - actually 6 shops next to each other - is Martin at 93-107 Vo Thi Sau and has the best selection of bikes. They also sell spare parts for western-style mountain bikes.

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.

Eat

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 center now sells for around US$16,000 per square meter, so even a modest-sized restaurant sits on real estate worth more than US$1 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" aka. Vietnamese pancakes, 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.

Budget

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. Additionally, foreign fast food franchises Lotteria and KFC have established presences in the city. Interestingly, this traveler at least did not see a single McDonald's in the eight days he spent in Ho Chi Minh City.

Along Pham Ngu Lao there are many budget Westernised options, and venturing a bit further into the side alleys can uncover some better choices than on the main streets. This traveler, for instance, had an incredibly tasty bowl of pho at a small roadside establishment near Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon for 10,000 VND, much more flavorful than the stuff at Pho 24 or Pho 2000. It is useful to remember that the local Vietnamese do not necessarily have to spend 50,000 VND on a good meal, and explore accordingly.

  • Dong Ba, 110A Nguyen Du, Dist 1. This is a shop that sells Hue Food including Hue beef noodles and traditional banh beo rice cakes.
  • Pao restaurant & caffe, 158 Bui Vien, Dist 1. This restaurant is just open on May 2009 but very unique decor with all small instruments, traditional dress, hats, of the minority ethnic group in North of Vietnam. Truly Vietnamese food like Spring rolls, Hot pot, Pho with reasonable price 35 000 -60 000 VND. They have live Vietnamese Instrument Show on every Friday, Sunday.
  • Faifo, on an alley off Huynh Tinh Cua, almost to Ly Chinh Thang, about 2km from the center in Q3. A family-run restaurant featuring central-Vietnamese dishes at modest prices -- a combination of value and authenticity not to be found directly in the tourist district. Dinner for two with beer or juice runs about 130,000 dong. It's becoming so popular, getting a table is sometimes difficult.
  • Pho Bo Vien Quoc Ky, 52 Ngo Duc Ke (near Nguyen Hué, District 1). A nice and cheap place for a soup. Try the sate version of the usual Pho or My: a spicy delicacy!
  • Doner Kebab, 198 Bui Vien st., District 1. Inside the backpacker area, you could easily find this small hawk. 18,000d for each Turkish Kebab.
  • Dream Cones, 16 Nguyen Thi Nghia St., Ben Thanh Ward, Dist. 1. What a great respite in such a hot and heaving city. Gelato ice cream for less than 16,000 dong a scoop. Nice quirky and cool neon atmosphere, with lots of white leather seating. Free unlimited (unsweetened) iced tea served with your ice cream they pour at your table.
  • Falafellim, 97 Pham Ngu Lao St., District 1. Homemade falafel, tahini and hummus in soft pita bread pockets. Sadly it has closed, but has reopened (in a sense) in the guise of a small Kosher restaurant down the alley at 121/37 Le Loi. Open only Monday-Thursday 6:30-9:30 PM.
  • Pho 2000, 3 locations, one sharing space with I Love Burger, one right next to Ben Thanh Market, and the last toward the end of Le Thanh Ton Street. Was honored by a visit from Bill Clinton. Has excellent pho (including a seafood version), along with the usual Vietnamese rice dishes, including a superb vegetarian curry.
  • Pho 24, Clean modern chain found everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City. Excellent beef noodle soup, very cheap.
  • BanhMiBistro, 76 Vo Thi Sau, District 1, across from Le Van Tam park. [22] Great fresh gourmet sandwiches, especially the famous Vietnamese "Banh Mi". Bread is baked fresh in the store. There are 3 other outlets around town.
  • Cafe Lam, 175 Bui Vien, District 1. Excellent restaurant in backpackers area. Huge portions with rock bottom prices. 1 dollar for a big tiger, 2 dollars for a chicken curry w/ rice which is so large you wont finish. This is a very inconspicuous place but most of the customers are regular expats looking for cheap and tasty grub. The food is nothing special but the prices, portions, and drink options make it a good bet.
  • Cafe India, 250 Bui Vien, District 1. Self-described as the "best south Indian food in city," this place is one of the best budget options in the backpacker's area. Their "happy menus" (thalis) - available all day - are 5 item meals that weigh in at 25,000 VND (vegetarian) or 50,000 for the chicken option. Truly, as they themselves proclaim, "thunder prices of competition."

Mid-range

  • Black Cat 13 Phan Van Dat, D1, HCMC. Black Cat offers one of the best burgers in the world. Fresh and juicy beef patty. Try their jumbo burger at US$15, which is the size of your face!
  • Barbecue Garden [23], 135A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia - Quan 1. HCMC Phone 8233340. Located 100 meters from Ben Thanh Market, behind the General Sciences Library. US$5-7 range. The restaurant is a barbecue specialist with both Vietnamese and International delicous recipes. At night, the garden is full of odors, of ambiance and music with guests sharing cheerfully the barbecue preparation. The restaurant is an amazing place to have diner but also to take a drink (free wifi) when during the day you want, for a moment, to forget about the city.
  • Papaya by Chi Nghia [24], 68 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh District (near the Zoo). Small place specializing in Northern style Vietnamese cuisine. It's run by the chef/owner, who has 25 years of experience with Sofitel hotels, so her cooking and presentation is five star quality, but the prices are definitely very reasonable. Entrees are US$2-5. Very clean, and nicely decorated.
  • Hoa Mai Coffee #43-45 Do Quang Dau Street #(08)-836-8310. Located in a fun, up and coming area, just off Phan Ngu Lao, between Phan Ngu Lao Street and Bui Vien Street. Restaurant downstairs has nice, relaxed atmosphere, and on the second floor is a comfortable bar with pool table. Reasonable prices and lots of international food and local dishes to choose from. Around US$2-5. Fresh fruit shakes, spring rolls, vietnamese noodles and pasta are recommended.
  • Huong Dong, which recently moved a bit further from the centre, to 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.
  • LA SEN Restaurant (Nha Hang LA SEN), 30 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, Phuong 6 - Quan 3. Phone 9306682 (+84 8 9306682). Opening hours 9:30AM-11PM. Very nice and clean medium-priced restaurant serving delicious food from the regions (Hue, Saigon and Hanoi) of Vietnam just in the center of district 3. Friendly service, fully air-conditioned, two floors and with room for about 100 persons.
  • Lemongrass, 4 Nguyen Thiep Street. Near the Opera House. A very touristy Vietnamese restaurant. Most dishes are in US$4-6 range, although some seafood items are expensive; try the daily business lunch at US$3++ and weekly special dishes. Expanded to a twin outlet on 14th Floor of Palace Hotel Saigon, 10 minutes away from the first outlet. Same menu, same price.


  • Ngoc Suong Marina,19C Le Quy Don, is a restaurant specializing in seafood. Try the fish salad and the clams cooked in white wine.
  • Quan An Ngon, 160 Pasteur Street (no longer at Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street). A large and busy Vietnamese chain restaurant featuring regional specialties from around the country in the US$3-5 range. Rather than once central kitchen, the place has a row of independently-operated food stalls around the perimeter. (The name literally means "restaurant of delicious eating".) It's set in an atmospheric old French villa across the street from the Reunification Palace. Food can be good although some dishes lack finesse. The prices are very reasonable & the food is amazing!
  • Quan Nuong, 29-31 Ton That Thiep. A delicious, reasonably-priced open-air barbecue restaurant on the roof above Fanny's ice cream parlor and the Temple Club (see splurges below). Every table has a grill in the center, 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.
  • Sushi Bar, with two locations: corner of Le Thanh Ton and Ton Duc Thang in Q1, about six blocks northeast of the Opera House; and on the food-court floor of Zen Plaza on Nguyen Trai. Probably the best sushi value in Saigon. They serve a larger and more interesting variety than the typical American or European 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.
  • Spice, 27c Le Quy Don in Q3. Largest and most visited Thai restaurant in HCM. Mostly local Vietnamese and expats as it is out of the tourist area. Authentic Thai food prepared by the two Thai chefs. Food is served within minutes and thank to a high turnover of clients, it's always very fresh. In addition to a large selection of classics like Tom Yam Kung and Papaya Salad, try the specialties like Spice Shrimp or Bangkok Briany: fusion of Thai with other cuisines. Seating over 200, in a/c, al fresco or Thai style on floor mats. Nice choice for small parites and catering. Delivery available to all districts. New in Spice: top floor BBQ. (The above obviously written by management; more detached view: prices have more than doubled in the last three years and are now similar to the lunch menu at a Thai restaurant in the USA. The food is decent and reasonably authentic, but it's not longer any sort of good value and not worth the extra travel.)
  • Une Journée à Paris, 234 Le Thanh Ton St. Q1, 100 meters from Ben Thanh Market. Authentic French 'boulangerie, patisserie, et salon de thé'. French petit dejeuner at VND50,000, with egg/bacon VND100,000. A perfect respite from the heat and crowds of the market.
  • Wrap and Roll, 62 Hai Ba Trung. A growing chain. Serves up delicious wrapped Vietnamese fusion food in a modern minimalist setting. Try the desserts. Beer and a meal should cost less than US$10.

Splurge

  • Villa Romaine, part of the Thao Dien Village complex, which is located at 195 Nguyen Van Huong Street, Thao Dien Ward, Dist. 2, Tel: (84.8) 3744.645 - offering the highest quality Italian food in the city. The restaurant is just 15 minutes by taxi from District 1 (or 7 minutes by boat) and is set on the banks of the Saigon River. The restaurant is a peaceful change of pace from the chaos of District 1 and well worth a visit if you are visiting Saigon. For more info check out the website: www.thaodienvillage.com
  • 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, Dist 7. It's a larger and less crowded one with usually better service. (Price $30+ USD per person)
  • Co Ngu, on Pasteur just before Dien Bien Phu, Q1. 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.
  • Huy Long Vien, 99 Nguyen Du, across from the Reunification Palace. Fantastic Chinese food that has the works from Peking Duck to all you can eat dim sum. It's big and fancy inside and makes you feel like you're in ancient China. There's also some a guy who pours tea out of a long kettle while performing Kung fu poses.
  • La Habana, 6 Cao Ba Quat, Q1, 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. A gourmet Italian restaurant with excellent home-made pasta dishes in the range of 125,000 dong and main dishes 150,000+.
  • L'En tete, 1st floor, 139 Nguyen Thai Binh, Q.1 (at the junction with Calmette). Excellent French restaurant in a area not normally associated with high dining. Great for a leisurely dining experience, good food with main courses ranging from 150000-450000 dong. Open 17:00-midnight,
  • Pomodoro's, Decent small Italian restaurant on Hai Ba Trung, a block from the Hilton and around the corner from the Sheraton and Caravelle Hotels. Delicious lasagna is their specialty; the pizzas are a bit oily but OK. Prices are reasonable compared to the USA or Europe, with a nice dinner of 2 starters, cocktails, .5 litre carafe of wine, mains and deserts all for roughly US$50. very poor service
  • The Sheraton on Dong Khoi has a magnificent, though expensive (US$40-ish) all you can eat buffet dinner. Red and white wine included.
  • Tân Nam, 60-62 Dong Du, Q.1 (a few doors down from Sheraton Saigon). The ground floor is open-air, the upper floor is air-con. Rather expensive and mediocre food, around US$10/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) has a 1930's ambiance with separate bar, restaurant, and lounge area sections. The food is fair but most people come to soak up the atmosphere.
  • Villa Romaine, part of the Thao Dien Village complex, which is located at 195 Nguyen Van Huong Street, Thao Dien Ward, Dist. 2, Tel: (84.8) 3744.645 - offering the highest quality Italian food in the city. The restaurant is just 15 minutes by taxi from District 1 (or 7 minutes by boat) and is set on the banks of the Saigon River. The restaurant is a peaceful change of pace from the chaos of District 1 and well worth a visit if you are in Saigon
  • ZanZBar Restaurant & Bar 41 Dong Du Street, Q1 (diagonally opposite Sheraton Hotel) has modern casual-upscale feel with extensive range of international & Vietnamese cuisine (plenty for vegetarians to choose from too). Eclectic crowd comprised of local Vietnamese, local Expatriates and visiting Tourists. Huge wine-by-glass & cocktail menu. Food is world class and generous in size, cocktails memorable. You could be anywhere in the world. Very popular place at any time of the day - at night time the lit collums create a great ambience.

Halal Food

  • [email protected] 30 Dong Du Street, D1, is opposite to the Indian Jamia Mosque, near Sheraton Hotel. Phone: +84 8 38246823. [email protected] offers Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine.
  • Four Season Restaurant 2 Thi Sach Street, D1. Phone: 8257186. Also offers Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine.
  • Pro döner kebab, 169 De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, Distr.1, 22005959. a Turkish place with good service serving real doner kebabs, halal style.
  • Vn. Halal (Muslim Food Restaurant), 14 Pham Hong Thai, P. Ben Thanh, Q 1 (near Ben Thanh Market), 84 8.38.220.252. Malaysian cuisine and Vietnamese food.

Drink

Coffee shops

Vietnam is the worlds second largest exporter of coffee behind 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 twice the price of the local style.

  • Cafe 5 Sao Near the Turtle Pond, on Pham Ngoc Thach. Plays loud techno music. Attractive but pretentious crowd.
  • Bobby Brewery Coffee, on Bui Vien st., opened and operated by an American guy who is used to offering money for the charity. It's a nice place with good beverage. Used to show the movies on 2nd and 3rd floor.
  • La Fenêtre Soleil 2nd floor on the corner of Le Thanh Ton and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. Save the world from pint size caramel Lattes. Brave the decrepit stairway and enter an oasis.
  • Gloria Jeans Cnr Dong Khoi and Nguyen Thiep (opposite the Sheraton). Popular Starbucks-style chain.
  • Kem Café Nearest place for many in downtown D1 to go with a local. Pull up a plastic chair and sit on the pavement. A table will appear. Practice "Cà phê đá" or "Cà phê sữa da". If you want hot then attempt "nowm" but don't expect to be understood. Point.
  • Chot Nho Café 189, Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District. Reasonable price, good menu. 10 minutes by taxi from main city center. free Wi-Fi.
  • Cine Café 116 Nguyen Du, inside the Galaxy Cinema complex. Quiet ambiance with views of the park.
  • Givral Café, Dong Khoi (opposite Continental Hotel). More in the French tradition, with fresh pastries, collared waiters and elaborate portions of ice cream. Well located, but over 20000 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, is good. Free Wi-Fi.
  • Highlands Coffee is an upscale, somewhat pricey chain serving Western-style as well as local-style brews in prime locations around the tourist district. They also serve food and pastries. Cappuccino costs above 30,000 dong, approaching prices in the west, but the quality is disappointing.
  • 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 book to chose from. The price is fairly cheap, ranging from 11,000 to 30,000 dong. But only serves Vietnamese drinks, and the staff barely speak English. Has free Wi-Fi.
  • Cafe Napoly on Pham Ngoc Thach near the Turtle Pond. The decor is Roman-ruin-lite (they meant "Napoli") but the menu is typical for an upscale Vietnamese cafe -- coffee, fruit drinks, ice cream, and a simple food menu including eggs and rice dishes. Piped music is nice, not too loud by day (though louder at night), prices are decent. Has three parts: an outdoor terrace in front, air-con section on the ground floor, and evening time lounge-bar on the upper floor. Next door to the louder, more trendy / pretentious Cafe Nam Sao.
  • Poppy Café [25], 217 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3. Modern lounge café where the specialty is fruit-topped natural frozen yogurt. The only café in SG that serves this refreshing healthy treat. Creative fruit smoothies and light Vietnamese + Western fares also on menu. Free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and English-speaking staff.
  • Sozo has two locations, including one in Pham Ngu Lao. Prices are reasonable, Wi-Fi is free, and all proceeds benefit needy Vietnamese families. Good drinks, friendly staff, but their coookies could be better if they were baked in a real oven.
  • Trung Nguyen, [26]. 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 10000 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. Two convenient outlets are east side of Nguyen Hue right before City Hall, and corner of Thu Khoa Huan and Ly Tu Trong.
  • Regina Cofee 84 Nguyen Du Street, District 1, HCM City. It's a great p* lace to get a good cup of Vietnamese coffe or even American style cappuccino. They have an extremely skilled Japanese expresso master who knows how to brew coffee. The place has sort of a French mixed with Asian design with bricks covering all the walls. It's marketed towards tourists but it's a good place for expats with it's good coffee. All proceeds go to the church just around the corner.
  • Windows Cafe, near the Reunification Palace. This is a pen for Vietnam's fashion slaves and seems to be THE place to be seen. Pretentious atmosphere, good menu, 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; however 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 for beer, spirits, and cocktails.) Saigon is an early-to-bed town, and most places close at midnight in accordance with government-imposed restrictions. 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.

Where you can find tourists

  • ZanZBar, located at 41 Dong Du St, Q1 with a 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), for the bespoke cocktail range (using only premium brands) and good selection of imported beers. Not for the budget crowd; but can remain open after midnight, depending on the number of customers.
  • American Discotheque, located on 3rd floor of An Dong plaza on An Duong Vuong st., District 5. It's definitely the biggest disco in Saigon, with great music and lights. It has also two seperated karaoke rooms where you could be sing 'til being tired. You could also enter it from Windsor Plaza Saigon Hotel.
  • VIBE Billiards & Lounge, 02 Sương Nguyệt Ánh, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1. VIBE - Saigon's most premium billiards lounge in town has a unique combination of high-class professional billiards & spacious lounge. At VIBE, guests can choose not only tasty foods and drinks but also customize the billiard table lights from the special lighting system which is exclusively designed for VIBE..
  • 163 Cyclo Bar, 163 Pham Ngu Lao Street, 2 doors down from the Duna Hotel. Thumping music until 2 a.m. and really friendly staff. The Vietnamese girls seem to have a strong affinity for Caucasian men.
  • Allez Boo, corner Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham. For those that 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 an air-conditioned bar on the second floor with DJ-type music, and an airy rooftop patio. Quite similar to its sibling establishment, Go2 Bar. Saigon green VND 30.000.
  • 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 150000 VND (9 USD) for locals (and those of Asian appearance), almost always waived for foreigners and anyone fashionably dressed.
  • Vasco's, upstairs of 74 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1, opposite Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel. You go to the alley of 74 Hai Ba Trung and find the bar on your left, 1st floor. It has terrific live music at certain nights in a week and a typical bar atmosphere for both tourists and expats. Drinks from VND50,000 (US$2.5), including sales tax, tip is not necessary.
  • Alibi, 11 Thai Van Lung. Very cozy atmosphere, with sofas lining the walls and beautiful decor. good food & drinks selection, nice music, and a mix of both local & expat people. friendly staff, and the management's always there to make you feel welcome and make sure you get what you are asking for.
  • Catwalk, at the side of 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. (Please note that if you want to occupy a room @ KTV, the minimum purchase is USD200.)
  • Eden, De Tham Street. Often busy, full of sporties, revellers, expats and others. Dark and deep and reasonably priced for the backpacker main drag.
  • Go2 Bar, corner De Tham and Bui Vien. The main backpacker bar while Allez Boo was closed, still a great meeting place, as it's impossible to miss the four floors of neon lights on the outside. Large patio on the sidewalk at street level, a cozier 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 fifth floor. Open very late most nights, all night on weekends. Saigon green VND 30.000.
  • 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. In years past, it was also a good value, but recent aggressive price increases have put it into the expense-account-only category: cocktails around 140,000 dong (including the ++, which hotels always add).
  • Level 23, Sheraton Saigon 23F. The latest on the 5-star hotel drinking scene, with separate bar and nightclub, and great views over the city. A little soulless though, and very pricey with most drinks 80000 dong.
  • Le Pub, 175/22 Pham Ngu Lao, located on the small road which connects Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien. Always busy after 6PM, famous for its western strength drinks, daily dollar-specials (e.g. Tuesday $1 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.
  • 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.
  • Saigon Saigon, Caravelle Hotel 9F, 12-13 Lam Son Square. A pleasant, breezy bar with a great view of the city. Live band (Cuban) playing inside every night. Cool, quiet ambience on the terrace. Attracts an expense-account crowd due to the prices (cocktails mostly >100,000 dong including the ++).
  • Shadow Bar, 41 Dong Du Street. Expat bar, good place to wind down or up. Recently renovated as an upmarket bar and restaurant under the new name of ZanziBar. Excellent menu, wine selection and imported beers along with a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere.
  • Sheridan's, Le Thanh Ton near Thai Van Lung. Small, cozy 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).
  • Underground - more a food than a drink spot, though open for both. Sometimes busy with the business crowd, always packed with people enjoying the reasonably priced burgers, steaks and the like. Currently closed and looking for a new venue (as of May 2009)
  • Cage - 3A Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1. As the name suggest the place is filled with birth cage. Very international crowd on the weekend with good mixed of local and expat/English teachers/backpackers.

Where you can see the locals

  • VIBE Billiards & Lounge, 02 Sương Nguyệt Ánh, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1. VIBE - Saigon's most premium billiards lounge in town has a unique combination of high-class professional billiards & spacious lounge. At VIBE, guests can choose not only tasty foods and drinks but also customize the billiard table lights from the special lighting system which is exclusively designed for VIBE..
  • Lush, at the far west end of Ly Tu Trong. A nightclub in the Western style, with loud pulsing music and minimalist too-cool decor. Drink prices on par with most Saigon Nightclubs, musically about as good as it gets in this part of the world if you like the particular style. Mixed crowd (Vietnamese, tourists and expats), pretty good food but has a small dance floor.
  • America Disco at 3rd floor of An Dong Plaza, but you could enter it from Windsor Plaza Saigon Hotel also. One of the best bar in Saigon.
  • Q Bar Saigon The original, internationally acclaimed Q Bar 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.
  • Xu Bar , Hai Ba Trung street, near the Opera house. Great wine list. Nice ambiance & service. Not a club.
  • Velvet, Ho Huan Nghiep/ Dong Khoi corner. Nice ambiance & music. Latest chic bar in town. Gets very busy, and at weekends you will need a booking.
  • Bounce Club, on top of Parkson on Le Thanh Ton street. Very crowded with locals in the weekends. Large dance floor, great hip hop music, somewhat too crowded.
  • Acoustic Cafe, 6E1 Ngô Thời Nhiệm. Though only 1 km from the heavily touristed center, 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 7:30 to have any hope of getting a seat. If your hobby is rock ballad or hardrock, you should go on Friday night
  • Carmen, 8 Ly Tu Trong, reopened in June 2009 after being dark for almost two years. The house band has changed some personnel but is still good, specializing in flamenco, salsa, and Latin pop, with an eclectic mix of other popular songs thrown in. Prices are up a lot -- cocktails 110,000 vnd, shots 80-85,000 -- but still no cover charge. It's popular and fills up on weekends.
  • Ice Blue, Dong Khoi. Downtown English pub, complete with darts board and warm beer (if you want it that way!). Friendly, but shuts at midnight.
  • Juice, claims to be Saigon's first juice bar (of course it wasn't, there were many local places before - but maybe it was the first Western-managed one). Food slipped recently, but still a nice place to hang out. Has Wi-Fi.
  • Khong Ten, (literally "No Name"), 147 Hai Ba Trung, is a large cabaret featuring some of the biggest Vietnamese celebrity singers still in Vietnam. The headliner is often familiar to the locals from television. Most overseas visitors would not like the musical style very much (mostly the mellow-to-melancholy, soft-jazzy, love-ballady style favored by the middle and older generation of Vietnamese.) But it's pure Vietnam and very popular with HCMC residents and Vietnamese expats on trips home. The cover charge is about the highest in town at 150,000 dong.
  • La Habana, 6 Cao Ba Quat, about two blocks north of the Hyatt. A restaurant and bar with Cuban theme that makes outstanding cocktails for 60,000 dong. Some are available in pitcher-size for 150,000 to 180,000 dong. The food is also excellent, though at the high end of Saigon prices. Their Friday night live music headliner, Jeram, has returned from Ireland, and it's usually standing-room only.
  • Lion's, 11-13 Lam Son Square, Dist.1 (next to Caravelle hostel). Brewery - Restaurant (somewhat German food), with tasty beers at an affordable price. 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. Cocktails are very good. Not a good place to please your teeth and tongue. though.
  • 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 9PM and midnight.
  • Napoly, Pham Ngoc Thach near the "Turtle Pond". The ground floor is a popular, somewhat upscale cafe with inside and outside seating. The bar is upstairs in the back, with a decent house band singing a mixture of Vietnamese and English songs. The resident band must predate the reunification as they know all the old songs.
  • Peaches Saigon South (Phu My Hung). Great place to enjoy a few drinks with friends. Friendly staff, great Asian food!!
  • Polo, Ham Nghi Street (above the Liberty Hotel). Mixture of expats and locals, starts getting busy quite early. Reasonably priced food and drink, good music spanning from the Eighties to the present. Noisy and smokey.
  • Rio Saigon, A brazilian flowery decor-themed bar/pub with a great Fillipino house band playing Pop/Rock (Bon Jovi, Skid Row fare). This joint was apparently the original "17 Saloon" bar (now at Pham Ngu Lao) when it was still located along the Saigon River. Great service staff and excellent atmosphere. It is situated at 131 Ton That Dam St. (District 1), Tel: (08)8211827 - 8211812. You will be surprised that its located somewhere within a wet street market. Gets crowded around 9PM and closes at midnight.
  • Saigon Pho, this little hole in the wall is only a stone's throw from Allez Boo, but much more expat orientated. Open 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, Saigon South (Phu My Hung) tel: 4120866. Great place to enjoy a cold beer or a great "Western" meal - favourite dishes are fish'n'chips & bangers'n'mash. Reasonable prices and nice, friendly staff and management. Opens for breakfast, closes at midnight.

Sleep

There are plenty of nice and reasonably priced local hotels available for tourists as well as the very expensive international chains like Sheraton and Hyatt. Do take note (especially lonely male travelers) that most hotels do not allow you to bring back a local female companion to stay overnight. Inquire about their 'guest privileges'. Many of the non-international chain properties (that are very nice) do allow guests.

Budget

The main backpacker hangout is Pham Ngu Lao in District 1, just a short walk (10-15 minutes) 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 US$12 per room (fan room with hot shower and cable TV). There is no difference in price between single or double occupancy so if you are traveling alone you might want to try finding a dorm bed for around $7 (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.

If you can find one of the ladies dressed in a blue uniform, stating something about tourist rooms - half the battle is won. These ladies will find you a room in the Pham Ngu Lao / De Tham area in a matter of minutes, eliminating much of the standard "do you have a room" hassle.

  • Blue River Hotel, 283/2C Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1, HCMC, (84).8.38376483 or Mobile 0903 679994, [7]. Amazing small hotel in an alley off Pham Ngu Lao. They will arrange an airport pickup for US$15. Of this, only $3-4 goes to the driver and they keep the rest. However, an official taxi from the airport counter will run you $8. There are two women named Thuy who work there, they have great English and the service is amazing. They can also be emailed at [email protected] $25 for a room without a view, $30 for a room with a view that may or may not have a balcony.
  • Ly, 84/24B Bui Vien Street, District 1, HCM City (A small alley off Pham Ngu Lao St. with lots of locals), 08.38364794 (). Wonderful guest house with very friendly staff who speak good English. The rooms are good size and come with AC, hot water, cable TV with Int'l channels, baggage storage, laundry service, big beds and some with balconies($15)(sleeping with at least 3). It might not be the easiest to find, but it's worth it when you get there. US$13-15.
  • Ly Loan, 241/11/2 Pham Ngu Lao St, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, Dist 1, HCMC, 8370067. Family run guest house in a small alley off Pham Ngu Lao St. Very friendly family who speak good English. All rooms are spacious and nicely furnished. With AC, hot water, big beds and some with balconies. It might not be the easiest to find, but it's worth it when you get there. US$13-15.
  • Duna Hotel [27], 167 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: 8373 699. Rooms range from US$12 for a single room with no window to US$30 for a triple with a window facing the street. All rooms have A/C, satellite TV, a fridge and are very clean for the price. The staff is pleasant and there is an elevator. The only complaint is that the front door is locked early (around 11 or 12PM) and to get back in you must bang loud enough on the shutter door so that the staff sleeping inside can wake up and let you in.
  • Me Them Bed & Breakfast [28], 203 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: 08 6 2915 407. Me Them B&B provides weary travelers a warm and comfortable place to stay. The staff is really friendly and will help you feel like you are in a home away from home. Excellent choice of local or western breakfast is included. The best dorm option in town (a/c dorms for $7), and the hotel also has many budget private rooms. Right off the main traveler's strip. Can also book quality, budget tours.
  • Hotel Bi Saigon [29], 185/26 Pham Ngu Lao (in alley #185). Tel: 8360678. Not the cheapest hotel, with a "Superior" room for two costing US$27, but clean, comfortable and terrific staff. In-room Internet access is just US$3/day (bring your own laptop). The lobby houses the La Table De Saigon restaurant, great food and a perfect place to get a snack before heading out on the town.
  • Xuan Loc Hotel www.xuanlochotel.com.vn, 47-49-51 Le Anh Xuan St. Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City. Tel: 84.8 3827 4641 / 3827 4642 / 3827 5507 / 3827 5508 mail: [email protected] 3-Star Hotel. Cheap and clean & comfortable room at cheap rates. Breakfast & internet access provided (computer are provided inside the hotel).
  • Xuan - Spring Hotel, 185/34 Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1, +84-8-8372115 (), [8]. Reasonable price accommodation with good service, price: ~USD14.00-USD17.00 per day for double room. All of rooms are maintained and cleaned in daily basis during your stay. Rooms are equipped with air-conditioner, refrigerator, cable TV and private bathroom with hot shower. Internet is provided for free, online booking provided at [9].
  • Dai Huy Hoang Hotel, 283/22 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: 38 370 677,

email:[email protected] Location in a small and quiet allay that links Pham Ngu Lao and Do Quang Dau, the reasonable price around US$13-20, comfortable room with A/c, fan, free internet and breakfast, friendly staff. We are glad to welcome.

  • Nguyen Khang Hotel, 283/25 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: 8 373 566, [email protected]. In a small and quiet alley that links Pham Ngu Lao and Do Quang Dau, along with several US$8-20 competitors of variable quality. This particular hotel has a nice vibe, kind staff, free Internet and free breakfast. Recently built (or remodeled), clean, tastefully simple in decoration, rooms have window, air-con, fan, TV, fridge (and those at the front have nice large windows). US$15/day and under.
  • Rainbow Hotel, 283/5 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: 8360039. Large bright (albeit somewhat worn) rooms, and those at the front have a nice view. US$15 or more.
  • Hanh Hoa Hotel [30], 237 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: 08 3 8372361. With a real Rattan feel to the hotel, you will be immersed in traditional Vietnamese styling, complete with bamboo interiors, rattan beds, and authentic wooden floors - combined with some of the best Saigon service you can find.
  • Ngoc Minh Hotel, 283/9 Pham Ngu Lao. Right next to the Rainbow this clean hotel with friendly staff and free internet and wi-fi is a good alternative. From US$20 for a room. No elevator.
  • An Phuong 2, 295 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: 08. 920 5509 / 08.836 9248, [email protected]. US $15. Situated directly across from where the buses drop tourists, it is a friendly family-run guesthouse, very clean and homely. Free internet, cheap laundry and all rooms have double glazing.
  • Thien Hong Hotel [31], 241/34 Pham Ngu Lao. Tel: (848) 3920 6078. In one of the small alleys running between Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien. Helpful and friendly owners, free wi-fi, TV in rooms with many channels including the Australia Network. A/C room with no window US$15.
  • Tan Dat My Hotel 81-83 Ong ich Khiem (District 11) Tel: (848) 3963 4424. If you want to get away from the tourists, enjoy a huge, nice room , AC, WiFi, Cable and a free rooftop breakfast next to the huge Dam Sen Park (see details under "DO" listed above) with swimming pools & water tube rides, big lake to rent a boat, amusment rides for kids, restaurants and more then this is the hotel for you. Fresh French Bakery 30 meters away. American style Supermarket 10min walk on same street. Only a 15min taxi ride to Tourist District 1. A huge 20sq meter room with 2 beds, nice Window View, Good AC, WiFi, Mini Refrigerator, Cable- Cheap $17/night

Mid-range

The area around Ben Thanh market along Le Thanh Ton and Ly Tu Trong has many reasonably priced hotels with clean rooms in the US$25-35 bracket; some provide free Wi-Fi.

  • Ngoc Ha, 53, Le Anh Xuan. Close to Ben Thanh market and the New World Hotel. Clean and decent rooms, air-con, fridge, WiFi in the lobby. Rooms US$25-35 including simple breakfast.
  • Y Thien, 247 Ly Tu Trong. Tel: (84-8) 824 8176. This full service hotel is 5 minutes from Ben Thanh Market and offers a range of rooms from tiny and windowless (yet functional) to quite nice with a full wall window overlooking the city and streets below (try the 4th floor room to the right of the elevator for US$20-25). Rooms are clean, bathrooms are large and recently upgraded (overkill on the shower remodeling). TV with cable, air-con, fan, 'fridge, elevator, all night guard for bikes, in hotel safe. If you don't want to stay in the backpacker area, and are willing to pay a little more, it's a good option.
  • Spring Hotel [32], 44-46 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1. Tel: (84-8) 829-7362. This boutique hotel is clean and walking distance to major attractions, i.e. Ben Thanh Market and Cathedral. Prices range from $32-$74.

The area around De Tham is close to the Ben Thanh market and is the backpacker area of the city.

  • An An Hotel [33] 40 Bui Vien Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tel: (84-8) 3837-8087 this hotel is clean, popular and offers comfortable rooms with double glazing in the centre of the action on De Tham, free wifi in room and lobby. Prices range from $40 for a Superior Double room to $50 for a Luxury Double room. It is probably wise to book ahead as they sell out really fast.( email: [email protected])
  • An An 2 Hotel [34] 216 De Tham Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tel:(84-8) 3838-5665 This hotel is on the corner of De Tham and Bui Vien, about 20 meters down from the original An An hotel. An An 2 is a (much newer) sister hotel to An An hotel. Rooms are more variety range from standard to luxury, prices range from $22 (with window) for standard single ,$25 for double and $36 to $50 for superior and luxury with balcony and their service is excellent. The prices can be lowered if you stay for 4+ days (ex: 20$ for double for 6 days). Be aware that you need to know the prices, as one of the front desk lady asked 40$ for a single room and when the guy left, she said in vietnamiese to an other employe that she succeded ripping him off. (email: [email protected])

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 remain far and away the best choices at the moment.

  • Continental Hotel [35], 132-134 Dong Khoi Street. A perfectly located old-school colonial hotel dating back to 1880 and the setting of Graham Greene's The Quiet American (but not, alas, its filmatization). Lovely breakfast garden, huge rooms, nice balcony views and only slightly expensive at US$60 and up (taxes, service, breakfast included). On the minus side, there is no pool, and traffic noise can be irritating.
  • Dong Do Hotel, 35 Mac Thi Buoi Street, District 1. New hotel with clean and comfortable rooms. Reasonable (around US$20-35) prices.
  • Rex Hotel [36], 141 Nguyen Hue Boulevard. Ideally located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, next door to the People's Committee Hall. Another old standby, former haunt of the press corps and site of the daily news briefing during the Vietnam War. The 5th floor beer garden (Rooftop Garden) is famous and its symbol, the golden crown, is rotating again. Slightly more expensive at US$70 and up, but the rooms are very pleasant. There's a swimming pool on the roof and an excellent buffet breakfast.
  • Mai Hotel [37], 4A-4B Thi Sach Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1. Opened in 2008 and expanded with a second wing, it's a relatively new hotel with clean and comfortable rooms with air-con and bar fridge. Right around the corner is the Apocalypse Now Club. Reasonably priced (around US$30-55), breakfast included. There's free wifi in the lobby, while a connections are a little patchy in the rooms.

Other places include.

  • The First Hotel, 18 Hoang Viet St, Ward 4, Tan Binh District, (848) 3844 1199, [10]. A four star hotel offering 104 air-conditioned rooms, all of which have Cable television, mini-bar, shower with bathtub, and Wifi ADSL internet. Some of its amenities include casino and ballroom, fitness room, tennis court, swimming pool, and airport transfer and car rental. Best rates on official website start at US$75.
  • Thien Thao Hotel ", 89 Cao Thang, Ward 3, District 3. A small hotel with thin walls but also clean and comfortable air-conditioned rooms, bathtubs, local and cable channels on a large plasma TV, and minibar fridge. About twenty minutes walk away from the heart of District 1, with a bakery and several restaurants less than five minutes away, it feels safe, has free wifi in the rooms and three computers in the lobby, and the staff will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. The supervisor, Kevin, is particularly friendly and helpful. Rooms for about USD30, breakfast included.

Splurge

Luxury hotels are popping up faster than mushrooms in the monsoon rains. Expect to pay closer to US$200 for any of these unless you marry the owner's daughter. The Caravelle, Sheraton, and Hyatt are all within site of each other near the Opera House, in the heart of the city-center tourist district - though new high quality boutique hotels are popping up around the city, an example being Villa Thao Dien in the city's most elite neighborhood.

  • InterContinental Asiana Saigon Hotel, right on the corners of Le Van Huu Street, Le Duan Boulevard and Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1. Located at Asiana Kumho Plaza which also houses the Debenham stores and the Hard Rock Cafe. This is the newest 5 star hotel in Saigon, offers all high standard facilities. Dinner buffet is US$40++. Extremely close to Notre Dame Church, Re-Unification Palace, Diamond Plaza, Zoo, hospital, walkable to city center.
  • Park Hyatt Saigon, 2 Lam Song Square (Adjacent to Opera House), +84.8.824.1234, [11]. Newest 5-star hotel at the tourist center of District 1, i.e. Saigon. Quiet and sophisticated with no tourist club/bar. Breakfast buffet is world-class. $220 - $520.
  • Caravelle, 19 Lam Son Square @ Dong Khoi, across from the Opera House, in District 1. Offers in-house restaurants and spas. Seven kilometers from the airport. Deluxe rooms from US$188 per night. Ideal location in downtown. May 2009 celebrated their 50th year in Saigon. During the war it was home to many war correspondents and the rooftop bar served as their local "watering hole".
  • Mövenpick Hotel Saigon, 253 Nguyen Van Troi Street, Phu Nhuan District, +84 8 3844 9222 (, fax: +84 8 3844 9200), [12]. checkin: 14:00 hrs; checkout: 12:00 hrs. The only 5-star hotel in the Phu Nhuan, the strategically located Mövenpick Hotel Saigon is just 10 minutes away from the exhibition centre and international airport and 20 minutes from the Ho Chi Minh city centre. The 251 rooms and suites are designed to accommodate both short- and long- staying guests. All rooms are equipped with individually controlled air-conditioning system, TV with a variety of channels, minibar, private safe, hairdryer and safety standard fittings. Broadband Internet access is available in all rooms. ] The hotel is temporarily closed from March 2010. After a full refurbishment it will re-open in August 2010. Prices from US$120. (10°47'45.89N,106°40'22.45E)
  • Windsor Plaza Hotel, 18 An Duong Vuong, District 5, +84 8 38336688 (, fax: +84 8 38336888), [13]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 12 noon. The first domestically owned 5-star hotel in Vietnam. This large, 405-room luxury hotel is in Cholon, the historic China Town, so it is close to many pagodas, temples and the famous Binh Tay Market. Features several great 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. Windsor is currently undergoing an extensive upgrade to all areas of the hotel. Hotel guests can take the free hourly shuttle to the business district.
  • Hotel Majestic, 5 star hotel in District 1, at the waterfront at the end of Dong Khoi Street. It got its start in 1925, and though it has undergone a number of renovations since, it maintains the same basic look outside. Nice but expensive rooftop bar serving mediocre ice cream and drinks, and a non-smoking wing.


  • New World Saigon Hotel (New World Saigon Hotel), 76 Le Lai Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, (84 8) 3822 8888, [14]. Recently renovated, a single bedroom suite on the Executive Floor is US$250 including butler service, unlimited food/snacks/drinks during the day, and lavish buffet-style happy hour in the executive floor lounge every night. The nightly all-you-can-eat seafood buffet in the Park View Coffee Shop for US$32++ is fantastic. On the downside, the rooms can be noisy, and the air conditioning is weak in some rooms.
  • Park Hyatt Saigon, 2 Lam Son Square, District 1 (central downtown), +84 8 824 1234 (), [15]. 5 star hotel with a collection of contemporary art and a variety of dining options including al fresco. Also host to a 20m pool and Xuan Spa.
  • Sheraton Saigon. On Dong Khoi, in the heart of the tourist shopping district. Complete with Prada shop in the arcade.
  • Sofitel Plaza Saigon, 17 Le Duan Boulevard, District 1, +84 8 8241555 (, fax: +84 8 8241666), [16]. World class 290 room hotel in the city center. Airy if slightly small rooms, comfy beds, free wired Internet. Several restaurants, including good buffet, and a tasty breakfast spread. Compared to other top-end hotels, the Sofitel is closer to the universities and consulates of District $160-300.
  • Renaissance Riverside Hotel (Renaissance Riverside Hotel), 8-15 Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city, [17]. On the river and near the main tourist-shopping district, a block off of Dong Khoi.
  • Villa Thao Dien, 195 Nguyen Van Huong Street, Thao Dien Ward, Dist. 2, +84(08)3744.645 (), [18]. part of the riverside Thao Dien Village complex, Villa Thao Dien is the only boutique hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. The beautiful riverside setting will make you forget you are in Saigon, but is only 15 minutes away from district 1 by taxi. The 22-room hotel is surrounded by four excellent restaurants (Italian, Vietnamese, Thai & Japanese) and the city's premier spa. The hotel experience rivals the best hotels in the city, with a lower rate then most of the other hotels in the splurge category.

Contact

  • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) telephone code: 08. Please note that in late 2008 many (but not all) land line phone numbers in Vietnam were given the prefix 3.

Get out

  • 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 - 110,000VND, and are available every day of the week. Cu Chi tunnels are about an hour & a half drive out of HCMC centre. It's worth taking the trips to see these amazing structures so cleverly carved underground and used during wartime for survival. These should be included in the book 1001 things to do before you die, if not already in there.
  • Can Gio - the virgin mangrove forest 30 km South of the city, entrance to the Park is near Ca Cam bridge, typical day break from the civilization.
  • Dalat - popular temperate mountain side 'European' escape.
  • Mekong Delta - boat tours are available with an almost infinite mix of itineraries. They can be short overnight trips, leisurely meanders over several nights, or end in a boat + 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 - 530,000VND). If doing a two or three day Mekong Tour (which is exceptionally worth while), expect to be shuffled between tour companies along the way.
  • Tay Ninh - Cao Dai Holy See and Ba Den mountain.
  • Mui Ne - popular beach resort about 4-6 hours away by bus
  • Vung Tau - city with great beaches, about 2 hours away by bus, or less by boat along the Saigon River. The boat ride costs VND160,000.



Template:Guide