Information & Facts
Ho Chi Minh City is in the tropics, and very close to the sea,
so its climate is steadily warm to hot all year round. Temperatures
are slightly cooler between December and April, which is also the
dry season. Rains begin in May and become heavy from June to
August, but the showers are sudden and short, with the sun usually
reappearing fairly quickly. There is a danger of typhoons from July
The flavours one experiences when dining out in Ho Chi Minh City
will linger on the palate long after you've finished eating.
Vietnamese cuisine makes use of the freshest ingredients, ensuring
a taste sensation every time. Dishes are anchored around herbs such
as lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander and Thai basil
leaves with lean, healthy meat like pork, chicken, fish, and
various kinds of seafood. Fish sauce and soy sauce are used to
season dishes instead of salt.
Visitors will be able to enjoy a wide array of restaurants
specialising in cuisines from all over the globe peppered along the
streets of Ho Chi Minh City. With everything from French and
Italian to good old American burgers and fries, travellers will
find something to suit their taste.
Some of the best areas for dining out in the city are round the
Ben Thanh Market where some of the best local fare can be samples,
including dishes like mien ga (vermicelli, chicken, and mushrooms
in a broth-like soup) and the Vietnamese staple, pho (noodle soup).
Dine on a riverboat while you float along the Saigon or grab your
meal on the go from one of the city's popular street vendors - the
choices are endless!
This hectic city boasts the world's most chaotic traffic, much
of which consists of bicycles and motorcycles. It is tempting to
want to hire a bike and join in the fray, and they are available,
but it can be a nerve-wracking experience piloting your own
vehicle. A better option is to flag down a motorcycle taxi and
negotiate an hourly rate. Another alternative is a 'cyclo', but
tourists will need to negotiate a fee before getting in. Most of
the major hotels and restaurants attract concentrations of taxicabs
that can be hailed from the roadside, or ordered by telephone. Most
tour operators offer the services of a car and driver for the
The official language in Vietnam is Vietnamese. Some
Chinese, English and French are spoken. Tour guides can also speak
Russian and Japanese. Numerous ethnic languages are also spoken in
The official currency is the Dông (VND). There are no smaller
denominations. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de
change, hotels and on the black market. Visa, MasterCard and
American Express are becoming more widely acceptable, particularly
in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but it is best not to rely on them
elsewhere. It is recommended that visitors bring travellers cheques
in US Dollars, which can be cashed at major banks in the main
cities and tourist areas. US currency acts as unofficial tender and
is useful as a back-up when banks won't cash travellers cheques
outside the main cities, but notes must be relatively new and
unmarked. Dông can be withdrawn from ATMs, which are becoming more
Its nightlife gained notoriety during the Vietnam War for its
girly-bars but a lot has changed recently thanks to Vietnam's
tourist boom. Ho Chi Minh City's nightlife has grown and
diversified considerable, and while not rivalling the range of
entertainment of other Southeast Asian destinations, it's still
guaranteed to do the job.
With everything from rooftop bars and lounges to pubs and
nightclubs playing all the latest dance hits, travellers looking to
let loose on a night out on the town will have plenty of options in
this bustling, neon third-world city.
Start off at the Rex Hotel's a trendy Rooftop Garden for drinks
where you can watch the sunset over the busy streets where the
flicker of streetlights and neon begin to come to life before
heading out to District 1 where the funky bars and fashionable
clubs can be found, particularly on the streets around Dong Khoi
and Hai Ba Trung. Travellers should also head to the Apocolypse Now
bar and club, a popular spot for expats and other westerners, where
party goers can make use of the bar, dance floor pool tables and
The International Tourist Club disco and karaoke bar in the New
World Hotel is a must for a night of fun and singing, or head over
to the The Metallic Bar on Ba Huyen Thanh Quan in District 3 for
live gigs from local rock bands or for something completely
different, Bonsai Cruise on Nguyen Van Thu St. in District 1
operates Saigon River dinner cruises, the perfect way to relax and
spend a lazy evening.
Travellers should also note that many of Ho Chi Minh City's bars
and nightclubs close early by big city standards, around midnight
or when the last customer leaves so anyone looking to keep going
until the early hours of the morning will be sorely
Travellers in Ho Chi Minh City will at first be overwhelmed with
the amount of stalls and roadside vendors that cram the sidewalks
and street corners, but there are plenty of bargains to be found
amongst the usual tourists tat and counterfeit handbags.
Best buys include silk clothing and other hand-woven fabrics,
bamboo ware, ceramics and boxes and vases made from lacquer ware,
while traditional Vietnamese hats can be found just about anywhere
and tailor-made clothing is popular too.
Most of Ho Chi Minh City's shopping can be done from the local
markets and street vendors where polite haggling is expected,
especially at the Anh Dong Markets in District 5 or the Ban Thanh
indoor market in downtown Saigon.
Shoppers looking for something a little more upmarket should
head to Dong Khoi Street in District 1 where designer stores,
boutiques, antique stores and jewellery stores abound while bargain
hunters will also be pleased to know there is a duty-free store on
Nguyen Hue Blvd in District 1 which specialises in duty-free items
such as perfumes and colognes.
Most shops in Ho Chi Minh City are open daily from 8am to
Local time in Vietnam is GMT +7.