Oh, how we wish we could go back to the life of a nomad! The new experiences, the people, and most of all the food… Do you want to know exactly how to take full advantage of the different food experiences Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has to offer? Then look no further. In this week’s blog, we’re going to give you a run down of the four (4) most popular types of restaurants that this wonderful food metropolis has to offer.
Street food is an ingrained part of Vietnamese cuisine, which is celebrated worldwide for its convenience, speed of service and its phenomenal flavours! Saigon is teeming with food vendors sprawled throughout the city: from wide open streets to narrow alleyways. There are usually only 1-2 sellers per vendor, but they are kept busy with long queues of hungry locals looking for a cheap and tasty on-the-go meal.
Why not try…
Banh Xeo Nga – This is one of our stops on the food tour, and are famous for their Vietnamese pancakes !
Banh Mi 37 – They do the best Perfect Pork Meatball Sandwich!
Family-owned restaurants typically only offer one type of dish which has been popular with locals over the years and ultimately made the family restaurant a household name. Their speciality could be a specific recipe or technique which the family has perfected and passed down from generation to generation. The true strength of restaurants like these are their affordable yet distinctly delicious dishes.
You can’t miss out…
Bánh Cuốn Tây Hồ – Try their popular fish sauce!
Miến gà Kỳ Đồng – It doesn’t get more traditional than this!
In Vietnamese drinking culture, there are some restaurants where people can both go out drinking to and eat dinner at the same time. Common dishes you can find at these establishments are shellfish, BBQ and hotpot. People tend to drink a lot of beer alongside the food and gather in hoards at weekends.
Join the party at…
The D Saigon – A unique and cozy bar inside the oldest market of Saigon.
Popular with tourists for their cosy atmosphere and English-speaking staff, it’s also the transformative experience that these traditional restaurants offer which attracts potential diners. Dining in one of these restaurants can feel like you have stepped back into 19th century rural Vietnam. These restaurants offer an immersive experience with beautiful decoration, relaxing music and a range of authentic Vietnamese food and drink.
A hidden gem…
Hue House – A rooftop restaurant that you wouldn’t even know is there!
When you travel somewhere new for the first time you can always feel a little bit ‘lost’ as you don’t know where anything is; the gym, the supermarket, the money exchange etc.. Whilst it is quite easy to find most things using the power of Google and Google Maps, sometimes you may be looking for something quite specific or uncommon; like a printing shop or a church.
We hope our ‘Saved Places’ will make it much easier and quicker for you to settle in during your first week in Vietnam!THE ESSENTIALS
– Supermarkets – probably the first question we get asked is “Where is the closest supermarket to my accommodation”. Convenience stores are on every corner but to do I larger grocery shop you may need to head somewhere bigger with more choice. Click here to find a selection across the city.
– Gyms & Fitness Locations – the second question we usually get asked is “Where is the closest gym to my apartment or work”. Have no fear – we have saved a huge variety of work out places on this list for you discover and keep fit whilst you are away.
– Entertainment (Cinemas, Bowling etc.) – for a chilled out social occasion bowling alleys, cinemas, Go Karting, VR Arcade etc.
– Services – need to find a money exchange, printer, passport photo etc. this should help
– Places of Worship – if you are looking to continue religious practice in Vietnam
– Health & Beauty – Spas, nail parlours, hair salons etc.
– Non-chain Coffee Shops – the fun and unique quieter ones that are off the beaten track from the chain shops
– Rooftop Bars – A more expensive drink but with a view of the city above.
– Craft Beer – Saigon has a lot of options for locally brewed craft beer.
If you find something in Vietnam you think we’re missing on here – then let us know!
Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, has many things do offer during the day time as well as during night time. If you need urgent medical help or just want to buy some snacks late at night, you can find it in Ho Chi Minh City 24/7.
Shopping malls are mostly opened till 9 – 10 pm but many small convenience stores are opened 24/7. You can find most of the elementary products there if you need it in the middle of the night. Inside most of the 24/7 convenience stores or nearby them you can find ATM s where you can withdraw money anytime you want.
There is no problem to find food place in Ho Chi Minh City at any time of day or night. Most upper and middle class restaurants work only until late evening but you can enjoy food from small restaurants and street food at night.
Moving around Vietnam takes a lot of time, so choosing overnight travel might be a good option. If you want to go from/to Ho Chi Minh City to/from other cities or just around the city, you have choice of taking plane, train, bus, taxi or motorbike. Vietnam Railway Systems (VRS) and The North – South train are providing good quality connections across the country also during night. You can buy tickets directly at the train station or, if you need English service, some websites and travel agencies are providing it. The taxi and bus are relatively slow, as the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is extremely heavy. Good alternative to taxi and bus for going around the city is motorbike (you can get it as a taxi, rent it or buy – if you’re staying for longer).
Alternatively, you can rent a car. It is easy – requires only passport and valid driving license. The car rental company might only accept international driving license or one in common language such as English or French.
The most popular (non-stop) party place in Vietnam is Pham Ngu Lao, well-known amongst backpackers as it’s comparatively cheap. If you’re looking for some more fancy clubbing places popular within young people, then you should check out clubs in District 1. If you’re a fan of Karaoke, you will be able to find a few places where you can rent a room at any time.
In case you need urgent medical help, those places have 24/7 emergency service with English speaking doctors: Family Medical Practice Clinic, Franco-Vietnamese Hospital, International SOS Clinic, Columbia International Clinic and Hospital (3 locations), Cho Ray Hospital, Emergency Centre. For urgent dental cases you can seek help in Victoria Healthcare Dentist Department in District 1. 24/7 pharmacy can be found in Family Medical Practice Centre and International SOS Clinic.
Life would be so much easier if everyone liked to eat everything or could eat everything. I know my life would, but, like many people, there are some things that I don’t like and others I can’t eat because I am allergic. There are so many dietary requirements in one’s life that you have to be careful, especially when you are not cooking yourself. When you go to a restaurant and order something, it is hard to know what ingredients they use exactly.
It is ok! You don’t really have to eat EVERYTHING there is. There are several reasons why someone doesn’t eat a specific type of food. It could be allergic reactions, religious reasons or simply because you don’t like it.
I hate it when I start eating something and all of the sudden my entire body starts itching because of something I ate (a lot of times I don’t even know what exactly). Others react very differently from me. Sometimes you could have a serious reaction to it, so you have to be careful.
Vegetarian / Vegan
Many of us have chosen to live a certain lifestyle and we all have to respect it. Vegetarian restaurants are really common in Vietnam, as there is a large Buddhist population. It means that being a vegetarian is not a big deal!
It is important to know the Vietnamese word for vegetarian (chay) and that would get you through. You can make any Vietnamese dish into a vegetarian dish like phở chay, bánh xèo chay, hủ tiếu chay, cà ri chay, and so on. Or say “Tôi ăn chay”, which means “I’m vegetarian” or, if you are a vegan, “Tôi là người ăn chay trường”.
In some religions, certain animals are sacred like the cow in Hinduism. In other cases, for example in Islam is forbidden to eat pork.
But also in Judaism you can find dietary restrictions. Jews are only allowed to eat Kosher.
Or if you simply don’t like a certain time of food you just simply say “I don’t eat (type of food)” in Vietnamese “Tôi không (…)”. For example,
There are many other dietary requirements and restrictions. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know if you like something if you haven’t tried it!
Today I am going to do a Vietnamese Crash Course for those who are learning or want to learn Vietnamese.
As redundant as it may sound, Vietnamese is the official language in Vietnam. But for a very long time Vietnam didn’t really have its own language. For so long it was object of constant foreign intervention. Therefore, Vietnamese has borrowings from Chinese, French and also English. Vietnamese is a difficult language, especially because it differs between regions.
Like other Southeast Asian languages, Vietnamese has a comparatively large number of vowels.
Some consonant sounds are written with only one letter like “p”, other consonant sounds are written with a digraph like “ph”, and others are written with more than one letter or digraph. Vietnamese has no use for the letters F, J, W and Z. Also, not all dialects of Vietnamese have the same consonant in a given word (although all dialects use the same spelling in the written language).
So in Vietnamese, every syllable is a separate word, this is why Vietnam is sometimes written as Viet Nam!
Vietnamese is a tonal language, with 6 tones in total, which means that one syllable can have at least 6 different meanings. Be careful with the tones! You’ll probably end up calling someone’s mother a horse or a grave at some point. Tones differ in length, melody, pitch height and phonation. The tone is indicated by diacritics written above or below the vowel.
Similarly to languages in Southeast Asia, there is no real number and gender for nouns in Vietnamese and verb tenses generally don’t exist.
- xin chào = Hello
- Khỏe không? = How are you?
- Khoẻ, cảm ơn = Fine, thank you!
- Tôi tên là… = My name is…
- Làm ơn = Please
- Cảm ơn = Thank you
- Không sao đâu = You are welcome
- Vâng = Yes
- Không = No
- Xin lỗi = I’m sorry
- Tạm biệt = Goodbye
Lost in Translation
- Biết nói tiếng Anh không? = Do you speak English?
- Tôi không biết nói tiếng Việt [giỏi lắm] = I can’t speak Vietnamese [well]
- Có ai đây biết nói tiếng Anh không? = Is there someone here who speaks English?
- Tôi không hiểu = I don’t understand
- Công an!/Cảnh sát! = Police!
- Việc này khẩn cấp = It’s an emergency
- Tôi bị lạc = I’m lost
- Tôi bị ốm = I’m sick
- Tôi cần một bác sĩ = I need a doctor
- Nhà vệ sinh/wc ở đâu? = Where’s the toilet?
- Cứu (tôi) với! = Help!
- Một vé đến … là bao nhiêu? = How much is a ticket to …?
- Xin cho tôi một vé đến … = One ticket to …, please.
- Tàu/xe này đi đâu? = Where does this train/bus go?
- Tàu/xe đi đến …ở đâu? = Where is the train/bus to …?
- Tàu/xe này có ngừng tại…không? = Does this train/bus stop in…?
- Tàu/xe đi…chạy lúc nào? = When does the train/bus for…leave?
- Khi nào tàu/xe này xẽ đến…? = When will this train/bus arrive in…?
- Tắc xi! = Taxi!
- Làm ơn đưa/chở tôi đến… = Take me to…, please.
- Mất bao nhiêu tiền để đến…? = How much does it cost to get to…?
- Có nhận thẻ tín dụng không? = Do you accept credit cards?
- Tôi có thể đi đổi tiền ở đâu? = Where can I get money changed?
- Máy rút tiền (ATM) ở đâu? = Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
- Cho tôi một bàn cho một/hai người = A table for one person/two people, please.
- Cho tôi xem menu? = Can I look at the menu, please?
- Tôi ăn chay. = I’m a vegetarian.
- Tôi không ăn thịt heo (South) / lợn (North) = I don’t eat pork.
- Tôi không ăn thịt bò. = I don’t eat beef.
- Tôi chỉ ăn thức ăn kosher thôi. = I eat only kosher food.
- Cho tôi xin một chaicà phê / nước trà / nước / rượu vang / bia? = May I have a bottle of coffee / tea / water / wine / beer ?
- Cho tôi xin một ly (South) / cố (North) …? = May I have a glass of …?
- Cho tôi xin một ly (South) / cố (North) …? = May I have a cup of …?
- Có size của tôi không? = Do you have this in my size?
- Bao nhiêu (tiền)? = How much (money) is this?
- Đắt quá. = That’s too expensive.
Seems like these tips might have been said many times before, but they are so true and useful!
- First of all, look for language classes. Either in a one-on-one class or in a group class, you can learn about the differences in tones and the Vietnamese grammar. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand.
- Also, practice makes perfect! For some people, learning a new language might come easier than for others, but no one can be fluent without practicing. You can look for a language partner. Go out and make friends!
- Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Locals will appreciate that you are making an effort on learning their language and you can also learn from your mistakes.
Learn more and apply now!
So you think you know all there is to know about Vietnam? Well, let’s see! Here are some facts about Vietnam for you.
There are approximately 20 times the number of motorbikes than there are cars!
According to the ministry of transport, there are only 2 million cars registered in Vietnam whereas the number of bikes exceeds 38 million! This number is growing year on year. In Ho Chi Minh over 90% of the vehicles on the roads are motorbikes!
The Oxford Dictionary contains two Vietnamese foods
Whilst many words in a foreign language must be translated before entering the English dictionary, two Vietnamese dishes are so famous that they don’t need translation. Banh Mi and Pho both feature in the Oxford English dictionary!
Vietnam is the 5th happiest country in the world!
This is due to long life expectancy, 75.5 years, and great public services resulting in a low regional inequality. One of the highest levels of school enrolment at 98%. All these factors and much more add up to make Vietnam one of the happiest places on earth!
Vietnam is a hub for manufacturing!
Many global brands such as Nike and Old Navy produce their products in Vietnam. Also, Samsung assembly takes place in Vietnam!
You can be a millionaire!
With the exchange rate from most Western countries to Vietnam, you can have millions in your wallet every day! Whilst this may seem like the coolest thing ever you’ll have to quickly get used to using Vietnamese Dong to make sure you hand over the right amount of money!
Want to check out Vietnam for yourself? Apply now!
Just a few years ago, it was hard to find an ATM in Ho Chi Minh’s streets but these days they are almost everywhere: in the shopping malls, near restaurants, bars and convenience stores. The majority of ATMs belong to local Vietcombank but you can also find many foreign banks’ ATMs of ANZ, CitiBank and HSBC.
Withdrawing money with your home country’s bank card
There is no problem with finding ATMs which accept Visa (Plus) cards, but it might be a little bit more difficult to find an ATM accepting Maestro (MasterCard) or Cirrus. To easily find your nearest ATM, you can visit MasterCard’s ATM locator or Visa’s ATM locator.
Before arriving to Vietnam make sure that your card has a magnetic strip on the back as chip-and-pin cards probably will not work in most Vietnamese cash machines. The main difference is with the length of PIN, Vietnamese bank cards have 6-digit-long PIN. You can easily solve this problem by adding two zeros in front of your card’s PIN but it does not always work, so you better ask your bank for advice. Remember to let your bank know that you are going to use your card abroad, otherwise they might take it as suspicious activity and freeze it.
Limits and fees
Most of the Vietnamese banks’ ATMs have a 2 million VND limit per single withdrawal outside Ho Chi Minh, and 4 million VND limit inside the city. The foreign banks have higher limits for one withdrawal – ANZ in Ho Chi Minh has 10 million VND limit, CitiBank has limits between 5 and 8.5 million VND (depending on the location – airports usually have a higher limit), HSBC has a limit of 4.8 million VND. If your home bank also has transaction limits, check with them before you arrive in Vietnam.
ATMs owed by the Vietnamese banks charge between 40,000 and 66,000 VND as a single withdrawal fee, so it is much better to get more cash at once rather than getting a few transactions. Foreign banks’ fees are usually at the same level or sometimes a big higher, depending on the bank. Also, your home bank may charge you fees for foreign transaction.
Vietnamese ATMs mostly dispense only Dong but might sometimes ask you if you want to be charged with your home currency – always say no as the exchange rate would be much lower than the mid-market one!
How to reduce or avoid fees
- Check if your home bank has a partnership with Vietnamese bank.
- Use ANZ, CitiBank or HSBC.
- Use a fee-free card.
- Pay with debit card instead credit card.
- Use TransferWise.
Interested in doing internship in Vietnam? Why not Apply Now!
Transportation in Vietnam, especially in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, can be chaotic and confusing for foreigners. Many even called it an “organised chaos!” However, you can easily find services like taxis, Uber, Grab, Easy Riders, among others.
Taxis are really cheap and you can find them everywhere. However you might find the occasional fake taxi, especially around the tourist areas, so be careful.
Did you know that there are more than 38 million motorcycles in Vietnam? That’s 18 times more than cars! That means that mopeds are make up more than 90% of the whole country’s vehicles. The main reason why there are more motorcycles than cars is certainly because the cities are extremely compact and dense. Also, no license is necessary for motorcycles under 50cc, or electric bikes!
It is quite impressive what Vietnamese locals can balance and transport on just a motorcycle, from live animals to stacks of chairs. If you see 4 dogs and an entire family on just one motorcycle, don’t be surprised!
Uber versus Grab
Uber started operating in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in mid-2014.
It offers 5 types of transportation services, UberMoto, UberBlack, UberX, UberSUV and UberTOUR. Since Vietnam loves motorcycles, UberMoto it may be faster to travel with the motorbike due to traffic jams. They are also a very cheap form of transportation. UberX is a low-cost Uber, while you can also use UberTOUR for longer trips.
Prices with Uber are almost one third versus Vietnamese taxi services due to their promotion programs.
Uber not only offers transportation services, but also delivery services. Since September 2017, UberDELIVERY delivers your food from your favorite restaurant to your doorstep.
Uber is not the only company offering transportation services with an app. Grab is their main rival in Vietnam, who also started operating in 2014. It was the top-ranked ride-hailing app in 2017 in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In this case, Grab has 3 types of transportation services, GrabTaxi which are regular taxis, GrabCar which are private vehicles and, like Uber, Grab also has a motorcycle taxi service, which is very unique to Vietnam. GrabExpress it’s their delivery service.
Taking the bus is probably the cheapest way to get around Vietnam. The bus network is very extensive and goes across the country.
Every province in Vietnam has a main bus terminal,, mainly in the big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These are interprovincial buses. Prices always depend on where you want to go and which type of seat you choose. There are travel agencies who can help you buy a ticket in advance.
Wherever you go, I advise only to buy bus tickets of registered booths from large companies inside the bus terminals.
Experience the streets of Vietnam and Apply Now!
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), which symbol is ₫ . The VND is one of the world’s highest denominated currency, so do not worry if you see high prices with many digits for staples, and also do not get too happy seeing how much Dongs you can get for £1!
£1= 31,838.94 VND (as of 14/03/2018 – you can check the latest exchange rate here). The most used banknotes are from 500 to 500,000 VND, so be prepared to have a lot of them in your wallet because of the various denominations of VND. If a shop vendor is giving you change in coins – refuse them! Coins are out of use and then you would have problems with spending them, as they are accepted only in some banks.
We recommend you exchange some money before coming to Vietnam to get you through the first few days. You will usually need about 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 VND (approximately £47 to £63) for your first week. American Dollars are also accepted in Vietnam but it is not a good idea to pay with that currency. The local shops, restaurants and taxi divers have their own “exchange rate”, which is much different from the bank one, so you can easily end up paying more.
If you brought some cash in your national currency with you, you can easily exchange it in the bank with your passport or at a money exchange – we can recommend suitable places. When changing your money – make sure that you check and count the amount you have received before leaving the shop to make sure it is correct. If bringing in cash – please not the custom limits on the amount of cash you can bring into Vietnam:
Local Currency: Amounts exceeding VND 15,000,000 must be declared on arrival
Foreign Currency: Amounts exceeding USD 5,000 (or equivalent) must be declared on arrival
Using your bank card
If you brought your bank card with you, you can withdraw money from the ATM. There are many ATMs across the city including international banks such as HSBC & Standard Chartered. The charge ranges between 40,000 and 66,000 VND (this depends on the specific banks). Your Visa (Plus) card should work fine in every ATM, Maestro (MasterCard) and Cirrus are less common. Alternatively, you can use Transferwise, which is s very cheap option, as well as other tried and tested currency cards such as Monzo and Starling Travel Card.
Cash or card?
Card payments are widely accepted in most of Ho Chi Minh’s modern businesses and hotels. But if you want to get a taste of city’s street food, you better get cash. When paying with your card, you will be asked if you want to be charged in VND or in your home currency. Always choose to pay in VND, as it is much cheaper.
Always remember to let your bank know that you are going to use your card outside your country, so they will not see your withdrawals in Vietnam as suspicious and block your card! When paying with cash, make sure you use the right banknote, as some of them have almost identical colour. And remember to ask for your change!
Can I get a local bank account?
If you are looking to access your cash locally then there is an option for you. A Timo Card is an app based banking system (linked to VP Bank) that it very simple to set up. You simply sign up online, arrange an appointment and then go to the Timo Hangout with your passport and valid visa to complete the paper work. You can easily transfer into the account from overseas using TransferWise to be able to access money locally. The advantage of this, is you can use the card to top up your Grab Pay Credits, top up your phone as well as using it in shops without the mounting extra charges.
Interested in internship in Vietnam? Why not Apply Now!
What’s in the InternVietnam Welcome Pack?
If you are reading this you are probably very curious about what kind of treasures are included in our not-so-secret welcome pack! Hopefully for you, this is the right blog.
Below is a list of the essentials we provide when you arrive in amazing Ho Chi Minh City! This list is of course not exhaustive, and your welcome pack may vary, but these essentials will always be provided!
- InternVietnam T-Shirt
- Ho Chi Minh City Guide
- Vietnamese Sim Card
- Some snacks
- Basic Vietnamese phrases
With all of these elements, you’ll be feeling confident and ready for your new internship adventure in Vietnam! You will quickly be living like a local and living the dream.
We hope your internship will bring you success and you will make many unforgettable memories during your time in Ho Chi Minh City!
If you are ready for an adventure in Vietnam, please click here!