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!
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.
Imagine yourself walking through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam and a wave of people with food in their hands comes towards you. Suddenly you are surrounded by all sorts of smells and flavors! Just the thought of that makes you hungry, right? So let’s explore the wonders of Vietnamese food together.
Some might say that Vietnamese food is like any other in Southeast Asia, nothing special. What they don’t know is how wrong they really are! Vietnamese food is neither bland nor boring.
The combination of fresh herbs and spices makes the food not only colourful, but also full of flavor. Although it might differ from region to region, there is always something that makes Vietnamese cuisine unique. The aroma, the taste of sweet and sour, and the hint of fish sauce are all combined and perfectly balanced. It is all about yin and yang, in every meal providing beneficial input to your body!
China influences heavily the food in the north. That means a lot of stir-fries and noodle-based soups. Then towards the southern part the flavors become more and more tropical, almost blending with Thai cuisine. But it is hard not to talk about the French influence in Vietnam cuisine.
One example would be the bánh mì which is basically a crispy/fluffy baguette filled with seasoned pork and vegetables like cucumbers, cilantro and pickled carrots. Some say you can find the best bánh mì in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
When you walk through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, you are definitely going to find Phở. Pho is made of a smooth broth with vermicelli rice noodles and meat, topped with the freshest herbs you can find. It is a very popular street food in Vietnam and probably the most known Vietnamese food in the world. Surprisingly, is usually eaten as a breakfast!
If you are a pork fan, then bún mọc is for you. In it you can find pork sausage, fried pork meatballs, pork ribs and pork belly with a light mushroom broth and garnish with fresh herbs. That is a lot of pork and all in one bowl!
If you have more of an adventurous side, you can try the coconut worms in fish sauce and chili slices, usually eaten alive while drinking! One bite of these fellas pops salty and spicy flavors into your mouth. But be careful with their mandibles because these little worms may bite while you are trying to eat them!
Another daring option would be the balut, a fertilized bird embryo, usually duck. The Vietnamese believe that the balut is very nutritious and restorative for pregnant women.
But enough about meat!
Don’t be afraid to visit Vietnam if you are vegetarian. 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. And even if the restaurant is not specifically vegetarian, you can still find or ask for vegetarian options.
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”. Another option is to say that you don’t eat pork “Tôi không ăn thịt heo” or beef “Tôi không ăn thịt bò“.
There are a variety of vegetarian dishes you can get, like sticky rice (xôi). Most of the xoi are vegetarian and found in the food stands on the streets. Đậu sốt cà chua is a fried yellow tofu with tomato paste and onions. You can accompany your dậu sốt cà chua with some fried water spinach and garlic (rau muống xào tỏi) or some bok choy with shitake mushrooms (cải xào nấm).
Drinks are on me! A common drink is the Vietnamese iced coffee or cà phê đá made with freshly brewed dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee and condensed milk. But if you go to Hanoi, you might come across the egg coffee (cà phê trứng) which includes egg yolk. Sugarcane (nước mía or mía đá) is a really popular drink during the hot summers. Kumquat juice is often added to the sugarcane to balance the sweetness.
Vietnam has its own brewery called Sabeco, which is Vietnam’s leading beer producer. They produce not only the classic Saigon Beer, but also Vietnam’s favorite 333. Bia hơi is a draft beer popular among the locals. It can be found in small bars and on street corners. It’s brewed daily and each bar gets a fresh batch delivered everyday! Going to the stronger liquor is the rượu đế, rice wine, made out of cooked glutinous rice.
Enjoy these delicacies and join us!