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.
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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= 30,022.24 VND (as of 04/12/2019 – 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. When exchanging money check that the notes you are given are not fake – the water marks should be transparent.
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. Make sure that your bank card has your signature on the back so in the unlikely event that the machine doesn’t return it, it is easier for us to help you retrieve.
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 you will only be able to open an account if you have a valid Vietnam visa for 12 months. InternVietnam can support you with recommendations in these circumstances.
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If you are coming to Vietnam and wondering how to transfer money from your home country without being charged huge fees, there is an answer – Transferwise. Transferwise is a peer-to-peer platform that allows sending money internationally for individuals as well as businesses without hidden costs and for much lower fees than other such type companies. The company supports over 300 currency routes worldwide and also provides multi-currency accounts.
Transferwise already passed the test with our InternChina offices, which host interns from all over the world, helping them pay internship fees from their home country and then receiving money during their stay in China with very profitable transfer.
Transferwise started their operations in Vietnam not long time ago (in August 2016) but have already made this country one of their busiest markets in the Asia Pacific region.
How it works
The transfer fee for sending money to Vietnam with Transferwise is 1.5% (or 95,000 VND for transfers under 6,300,000 VND), the money will take maximum 2 days to arrive at the recipient’s account. So it is much cheaper and quicker than a traditional bank. Before you make the transfer, you can check how much money you will have after transferring it into the new currency, how much of a fee will you have to pay and then compare the prices with other platforms or banks. If it turns out that Transferwise is the best option for you, all you need to know to make the transfer is the recipient’s full name (English), Local Account Number, Branch Code and BIC/SWIFT Code.
If you want to get more information on how it works with Transferwise, please see this video:
Or visit their website.
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