By: Jess Warren
So, you’re thinking about working in Vietnam? I’ve just come back from spending two months interning in Ho Chi Minh City for the expat-orientated magazine, AsiaLIFE, and it was one of the best ways I could have spent my summer. Instead of being sat at home, I was out gaining valuable experience in industry I’m looking to work in.
Working for a magazine for two months was also a pretty good way to see the city. Instead of being in the office nine-to-five each day, I was tasked with finding stories across the city, and interviewing interesting people, from business owners to government staff. I had the chance to work remotely, and was trusted to manage my time efficiently, and turn in the articles on time, without needing to be in the office. A pretty good way to grow my own time-management and organisational skills.
Living in Ho Chi Minh City is a bit of a whirlwind, the traffic is constant and chaotic, with bikes passing you by at every angle. If you’re up to it, travelling across the city via Grab (a ride hailing service for bikes) is a fantastic opportunity. Of course, take all the necessary safety precautions such as covering your legs and arms and wearing a better helmet than they provide. My employer gave me a helmet to use, and I would fully recommend making the minor investment.
The strangest thing about living abroad for two months was the considerably lower living cost, it actually turned out to be more expensive to buy western food items in a supermarket and cook at my apartment compared to eating lunch and dinner in small eateries and restaurants. This meant I had the opportunity to try out a variety of cuisine. Whilst you might think Vietnamese food is the only option, it’s far from the truth. In fact, Ho Chi Minh City has restaurants featuring every food from around the world, and done to a very high standard. At the end of my street, I had a pizza takeaway run by an Italian man from Naples. However Vietnamese food is incredibly fresh and delicious, so I would fully recommend.
The one thing that made my experience even better whilst living abroad was joining expat Facebook groups, and going to local events. I stumbled across a trendy arts café about five minutes from my apartment, where locals performed live music, stand-up comedy and there was even a magazine launch party there. By embracing living abroad, I found so many more opportunities outside of my working day. I joined a group and practised yoga in a local park situated on the riverbank, and I followed recommendations of places to see and go from the people I met. Instead of seeing your internship as a temporary ‘holiday’, I found the best way to view it was that I was living abroad in a city I would call home for two months.
Interested in applying for an internship just like Jess’? Then apply now!
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.
Lifestyle in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam is a rather poor country with few Western-style amenities. However, the country is developing and that progress includes the appearance of more facilities like gyms and golf courses. The fastest growing areas are of course the big cities, such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Now the life of a foreigner in Ho Chi Minh City is very easy!
Food & Drinks
Local food is super cheap and tasty, and Vietnamese beer, spirits and cigarettes are a very affordable price. However, if you like to treat yourself to Western food and drinks you should expect to pay more! Both Vietnamese and Western restaurants can be easily found around the city. For the brave ones it might be a nice experience to try local street food, which is delicious!
Vietnam is a real paradise for people who love to shop. You can find a wide range of products and places to buy them from, from typical Vietnamese street markets, through to supermarkets, fancy shopping malls and designer boutiques.
If you’re looking for some local food, clothes and souvenirs, we would recommend you to go to places such as Saigon Square, Zen Plaza, Lucky Plaza, Cho Ben Thanh, Cho Binh Tay and Ly Chinh Thang. If you’re missing some Western food you can shop in Auchan, Metro, or, if you fancy some vegan products, Annam Gourmet, Veggy’s, The Organik Shop and Loving Hut Hoa Dang.
For the international clothing brands, you should look in Vincom Centre and Union Square, Diamond Plaza, The Crescent Mall, Parkson Plaza, Bitexco, Takashimaya Vietnam or Dong Khoi Street. You also might find L’Usine an interesting place, it is a combination of contemporary fashion shops, art galleries and cafes. Most of those places are open from morning until 10 -11 pm.
Ho Chi Minh City offers two types of entertainment: Western- and Vietnamese-style. If you chose the first option, you can go to clubs, bars and pubs to taste some of the city’s nightlife and most probably meet some other foreigners as well as locals.
Downtown’s District 1 is popular for its rooftop bars, whereas a bit further from the city centre District 3 is famous amongst backpackers for its cheap eats and bars.
Another big attraction of Ho Chi Minh City are casinos, which are often compared to Las Vegas. The ones in Caravelle Hotel and Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers are considered as the best ones in the city.
If you want to get closer to Vietnamese culture, you can watch traditional dance performance and observe some cultural and religious festivals held throughout the country. A good idea is to visit the Sax n’ Art Jazz Club where you can see performances of most celebrated Vietnamese musicians as well as international guests.
Sports & Leisure
In Vietnam you can find places to do any sport you want. Most popular sports in Vietnam are badminton, tennis and football (soccer). In modern cities like Ho Chi Minh you can find gyms with world-class equipment, basketball and volleyball courts and futsal fields. Recently, also golf became very popular in Vietnam. Golf Resorts can be found inside as well as very near Ho Chi Minh city.
Places of practising religion
Over 69% of Vietnamese determine themselves as folk religions believers, nearly 12% are Buddhists, 7% Catholics, 0.1% Muslims and over 5% do not follow any religion. Even though Buddhists, Catholics and Muslims are in a significant minority, you can still find many pagodas, temples, churches, cathedrals and mosques in the Ho Chi Minh City. For the convenience of Expats living in the Ho Chi Minh City, many of them offer their service in English. A few of those religious places are also a tourist spot worth visiting.
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!
It’s 40 degrees Celsius, you’re in a full suit, you show up to the office dripping in sweat.
No one wants to turn up to work for his or her first day in the wrong attire. Whether it’s too smart or too casual. You want to slide in just perfect, like you’ve been in the office for ages.
In Vietnam, you can hop on the back of a motorbike and get into work with ease. This means pretty much door-to-door service. No need to work up a sweat running for the bus!
So, you want to know what to wear?
In Ho Chi Minh City you will not be expected to wear a suit as it is simply too hot! Most office workers will wear a simple trousers and shirt combination along with a smart pair of shoes. It may be an idea to bring a tie just in case you have an important meeting and need to smarten up!
No need to pack a suit!
Women in the office are much the same. You won’t be expected to wear a suit. Due to the modest and conservative nature of the culture in Vietnam, women should not wear anything too revealing. Skirts should fall below the knee and sleeveless tops are a no-no. Also when it comes to footwear, you are not expected to wear high heels. A small-heeled shoe or a pair of flats is more than acceptable.
However, it is the case that your attire should match those you are meeting. If you have a meeting with a high-ranking official, it may be an idea to smarten up a little!
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Ho Chi Minh City is also known as Saigon. It is definitely a party city with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from. Of course, Saigon parties to late, and it seems like the perfect place to spend your time is around the Pham Ngu Lao district area. Due to its popularity among foreigners, it is usually called the backpacker district, right in the heart of the city. The Pham Ngu Lao area is made up of two parallel streets, the Bui Vien Street and the Pham Ngu Lao street. In between, there are small alleys connecting them.
The streets are full of light and people. Small shops tend to set up tables and chairs on the street and offer drinks. Pham Ngu Lao is where the expats and the locals come together to eat and drink. The most popular places to go around the area are the Go2 Bar, Allez Boo Bar, Crazy Buffalo Bar and The View Rooftop Bar at Duc Vuong Hotel Saigon, where, rumor has it, you can find beer for US$1!
Because they are the perfect place to enjoy the sunset, rooftops bars are really a thing in Saigon. Enjoy the sunsets in one of the most exclusive rooftop bars in HCMC, Chill Skybar on the 26th floor of the AB Tower. If you can afford it and if you can get past the strict door policy, it is the place for a classy drink or a date. Glow Skybar and MGallery are favourite among expats and tourists.
In case what you are looking for is to dance all night long, then Lush is your place. It is probably the most famous nightclub in the city, especially among foreigners. Ladies’ Night is every Tuesday!
Saigon has something for everyone. In some places in the city you can find good coffee shops with live music. Whether you are into rock or jazz or anything in between, you can go to Abracadabra Café, House 7 Café, Yen Café, Cúcuta Café, and others.
Quiet Nights in Saigon
If all of this sounds like too much for you, there are some quiet activities you can do. Good for a quiet night out, the Bonsai Dinner Cruise takes you to a journey down the Saigon River with live jazz music and traditional Vietnamese dance. Or enjoy a play, opera or even ballet shows at the Saigon Opera House.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street is the place you wouldn’t want to miss. It is the perfect place for a night walk through the city. The visitors, the performers and the local shops create an upbeat atmosphere.
People say “Saigon never sleeps”. Well…there’s only one way to find out. Explore Saigon with us and Apply Now!