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Useful information

Useful information

Embassies & Consulates -- Ho Chi Minh's consulates are all in District 1, as follows: United States, 4 Le Duan St. (tel. 08/3822-9433); Canada, 235 Dong Khoi St. (tel. 08/3827-9899); Australia, 5B Ton Duc Thang St. (tel. 08/3829-6035); New Zealand, 9/F 235 Dong Skhoi St. (tel. 08/3822-6908); and United Kingdom, 25 Le Duan St. (tel. 08/3829-8433).

Emergencies -- For police, dial tel. 113; for fire, dial tel. 114; and for an ambulance, dial tel. 115. Have a translator on hand, if necessary; operators don't speak English, and for any major situation you will want to contact your country's embassy or consulate. For medical emergencies, contact one of the clinics listed under "Hospitals & International Clinics"). For an international operator, dial tel. 110.

Internet -- Almost every upscale hotel provides Internet services in Saigon, but they charge a pretty penny. You won't find any service on Dong Khoi, but a short walk in any direction brings you to service for an average of 200 VND per minute. Try Welcome Internet, at 15B Le Thanh Ton (tel. 08/3822-0981). Service in the Pham Ngu Lao backpacker area is fast and cheap; Internet cafes line De Tham and charge 5,000 VND to 6,000 VND per hour. Hong Hoa (185/28 Pham Ngu Lao St., 250 De Tham St., District 1; tel. 08/3836-1915; www.honghoavn.com) is exemplary of the good, affordable services on Pham Ngu Lao (dial-up, though, which makes it a little slow). Bui Vien is lined with small Internet operators (try FTC Travel; 74 Bui Vien St.; tel. 09/201-228).

Maps -- The Tourist Information Center, at 4G-4H Le Loi St., District 1 (tel. 08/3822-6033), has free detailed city maps.

Post Office -- The main post office is at 2 Cong Xa Paris, District 1 (tel. 08/3827-1149), across from Notre Dame cathedral. It's open daily from 7:30am to 8pm. Postal service is also available in most hotels and at various locations throughout the city.

Telephone -- The city code for Saigon is 8. When dialing within Vietnam, the city code should be preceded by the 0 as indicated in the numbers listed in this guide; note that the 0 should be omitted when dialing from overseas.

Toilets -- There are no public toilets, per se. Seek out hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions.

Eat

You're spoiled for choice in Saigon, which offers the country's largest variety of Vietnamese and international food. Bargains are getting harder to find, however, and restaurant prices have been rising at up to 30% per year due to a combination of higher food prices, rising wages, and soaring real estate costs. Land in the city centre now sells for around US$16,000 per square meter, so even a modest-sized restaurant sits on real estate worth more than US$1 million. Authentic local food at bargain prices is one of the glories of Vietnam, but it's getting harder to find in Saigon as the city becomes ever more upscale and cosmopolitan.

The local food shows influences from French colonial times - bakeries have fresh and excellent baguettes, which they will fill with cheese (typically of the "la vache qui rit" or "laughing cow" brand), potted meat, ham, and onions, or any combination thereof, cheaply. Beef is used in various dishes - whether in any of the many variations of pho, or in a regional specialty such as "bun bo hue" or Hue beef soup. Be sure to try, aside from pho, dishes such as the above-mentioned Hue beef soup, or "banh xeo" aka. Vietnamese omelettes, consisting of a delicious filling of your choice (various options included bamboo shoots and enoki mushrooms, along with meat, prawns, or both) in a crispy outer crepe-like casing.

However, some good bargains can still be found. Banh Mi Thit (pork sandwiches) can be had for 13,000-15,000 dong. Com tam, a plate of rice with grilled pork (customizable with different types of meat) and a bit of vegetables is 18,000 dong. (May 2011). If you want a wide variety of street food you need to try another district than Sài Gòn, district 5 is good or district 3 and up will get better and cheaper. As Hanoi, street food in Saigon becomes a culture cuisine of this city, you can go around by motos, see the local life and enjoy great street food.

Due to the variety of culture, cuisine in Saigon is quite diverse. This is a place where you do not need to go far to enjoy dishes. If you want to enjoy rice cake with forest leaves in Tay Ninh, you can go to Hoang Ty rice cake store on Cao Thang Street, Phan Dang Luu Street, etc. If you want to enjoy central dishes, you can visit a chain of Hue dish restaurants. For Mekong Delta dishes, you should taste sizzling cake Muoi Xiem, etc.

Bars and clubs

Saigon has plenty of places to drink, although to a certain degree Vietnamese and foreigners hang out in different places; however this is slowly changing as Westerners become more familiar with the ways of the East (and vice versa). Places with live music usually have no cover charge, but impose somewhat elevated drink prices (typically 55,000-85,000 dong for beer, spirits, and cocktails). Many places close around midnight or 1AM. Some places remain open later (Go2 Bar in Pham Ngu Lao - popular with backpackers/budget crowd; Apocalypse Now on Thi Sach St - packed with people from all walks of life (you can find anything in this place regardless of your preferences (prostitutes straight/gay, drugs or just a place to dance the night away); ZanZBar on Dong Du St - will appeal to the "regular" bar crowd and closing time changes daily depending on the number of people in the bar). There are other late night clubs which cater almost exclusively to the young Vietnamese crowd. Anywhere in the city you can find Vietnamese bottle beer places that will stay open until 3-4AM. Several bars in Phu My Hung will stay open until 2-3AM.

Not to be missed (and surprisingly previously not mentioned on this page) are the pavement bars which get very busy with locals and travellers alike, about halfway down Bui Vien. they sell bottles of Saigon beer for 12,000 dong and draft beer for 7000,(February 2014) sit on the tiny plastic chairs and enjoy the friendly atmosphere. these are perhaps the best places to drink as a backpacker, as they are very cheap and also great places to meet people (and not just other tourists). As of June 14 its very much still goin on. Cheap beers (12k) and spirits (25k) with mixers along the shop fronts sat on cardboards and rugs. It a great vibe and real easy to socialise with groups around. Street entertainment of fires how's and the very interesting locals make it perfect people watching.

Breweries

There are a handfull of breweries in Saigon, you can easily visit all of them in one day. Lion brewery is the most central and the brewery with three kinds of beer on tap is Hoa vien. The full and updated list can be found at beervn.com. Hoa vien serves one black and one blond beer, but also imported pilsner urquell on tap. Pasteur Street Brewing Company is an American style craft brewery located in the heart of the city. They incorporate local Vietnamese ingredients into traditional craft beer styles.

Where you can find tourists

  • ZanZBar, located at 41 Dong Du St, Q1 with a second entrance through the lobby of the Saigon Hotel. Casual-upscale, the clients tend to come for the great choice of wines-by-the-glass (huge walk-in wine cellar), for the bespoke cocktail range (using only premium brands) and good selection of imported beers. Not for the budget crowd; but can remain open after midnight, depending on the number of customers.
  • VIBE Billiards & Lounge, 02 Sương Nguyệt Ánh, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1. Professional billiards tables and a spacious lounge. Food and drinks and you can customise the billiard table lights from a special lighting system.
  • 163 Cyclo Bar, 163 Pham Ngu Lao Street, 2 doors down from the Duna Hotel. Thumping music until 2AM with friendly staff. Sex workers catering to Caucasian men here. If you're not interested, just gently disengage.
  • Apocalypse Now, 2C Thi Sach. Legendary and still packed on weekends, although aside from a few movie references it's not all that much to look at. Stays open late. Now opened their 2nd floor for dj, dancing, drinks with less crowded atmosphere. Cover charge of 150,000 dong.
  • Vasco's, upstairs of 74 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 1, opposite Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel. You go to the alley of 74 Hai Ba Trung and find the bar on your left, 1st floor. It has live music at certain nights in a week and a typical bar atmosphere for both tourists and expats. Drinks from 50,000 dong, including sales tax, tip is not necessary.
  • Alibi, 11 Thai Van Lung. Very cozy atmosphere, with sofas lining the walls and beautiful decor. good food & drinks selection, nice music, and a mix of both local & expat people. friendly staff, and the management's always there to make you feel welcome and make sure you get what you are asking for.
  • Catwalk, at the side of New World Hotel. All in one place with a massage parlour, disco, KTV and a mini casino. Price is on the expensive side but it is a sight to behold. (Please note that if you want to occupy a room @ KTV, the minimum purchase is US$200.)
  • Eden, De Tham Street. Often busy, full of sporties, revellers, expats and others. Dark and deep and reasonably priced for the backpacker main drag. Open late.
  • Fuse, 3A Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1 (formerly Cage). Full of parties. Lots of expats. Drinks are quite expensive charging around 80,000 dong for a cocktail.
  • Go2 Bar, corner De Tham and Bui Vien. Be warned, tends to overcharge/scam passerby's. The main backpacker bar while Allez Boo was closed, still a great meeting place, as it's impossible to miss the four floors of neon lights on the outside. Large patio on the sidewalk at street level, a cozier bar on the second floor with occasional live music or big-screen sports, plus a rooftop patio (with retractable roof!) with individual BBQs up a steep set of stairs on the 5th floor. Open 24 hr. Crawling with prostitutes after dark until sun up. Saigon green 30.000 dong.
  • Rex Hotel rooftop, corner of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi. They serve a buffet dinner at the dinner hour, which gradually gives way to drinks and music. Acts change over time, but recently included a Filipino band playing FM classics and a Vietnamese group playing Latin and flamenco. It's a pleasant place to get above the city noise and enjoy some fresh air. Cocktails around 140,000 dong (including the ++, which * * hotels always add).
  • Level 23, Sheraton Saigon 23F. 5 star hotel drinking venue with separate bar and nightclub, and views over the city. A little soulless, most drinks 80,000 dong.
  • Le Pub, 175/22 Pham Ngu Lao, located on the small road which connects Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien. Always busy after 6PM, famous for its western strength drinks, daily dollar-specials (e.g. Tuesday US$1 for vodka mixers all night) and friendly staff. It has the same owner as Le Pub in Hanoi. The Pub Quiz (almost every Tuesday) is very popular with expats, especially the english teachers. Get there early or it's too packed to find a place to sit down. Indoors and outdoor tables available.
  • Saigon Saigon, 12-13 Lam Son Square.. Saigon Saigon, Caravelle Hotel 9F, 12-13 Lam Son Square. A pleasant, breezy bar with a great view of the city. Great live band (Cuban) playing inside every night. Cool, quiet ambience on the terrace. Attracts an expense-account crowd due to the prices (cocktails mostly >100,000 dong including the ++).  edit
  • Shadow Bar, 41 Dong Du Street. Expat bar, good place to wind down or up. Recently renovated as an upmarket bar and restaurant under the new name of ZanziBar. Excellent menu, wine selection and imported beers along with a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere.
  • Sheridan's, Le Thanh Ton near Thai Van Lung. Small, cozy Irish-themed bar with imported draft beer and live music. Brits will appreciate the great food tasting of home (or the closest you'll get here).

Where you can see the locals

  • Lush, 2 Ly Tu Trong. A nightclub in the Western style, with loud pulsing music and minimalist too-cool decor. Drink prices on par with most Saigon Nightclubs. Mixed crowd (Vietnamese, tourists and expats), pretty good food but has a small dance floor. Ladies night on Tuesday offers free drinks for ladies until midnight. Be sure to arrive early as it gets very busy from around 22:30 and it is difficult to get served at the bar.
  • Xu Bar, Hai Ba Trung street, near the Opera house. Great wine list. Nice ambiance & service. Not a club.
  • Velvet, Ho Huan Nghiep/ Dong Khoi corner. Nice ambiance & music. Latest chic bar in town. Gets very busy, and at weekends you will need a booking.
  • Bounce Club, on top of Parkson on Le Thanh Ton street. Very crowded with locals in the weekends. Large dance floor, great hip hop music, somewhat too crowded.
  • Acoustic Cafe, 6E1 Ngô Thời Nhiệm. Look for a narrow alley next to a cafe close to the east end of the Ngô Thời Nhiệm. The Acoustic cafe is right at the end of the end of that little alley. Though only 1 km from the heavily touristed centre, this club is completely outside the tourist orbit, and offers an interesting view of local life. The all-Vietnamese house band performs every night, mostly American music, and it's always jammed with student-aged groupies. For some reason, they address the crowd in English between songs, even though half the crowd doesn't understand. On weekends, at least, you need to arrive by 19:30 to have any hope of getting a seat. If your hobby is rock ballad or hardrock, you should go on Friday night. Wednesday is lady's night and the cheapest drink, even beer, start from 90,000-100,000 VND.
  • Carmen, 8 Ly Tu Trong, reopened in June 2009 after being dark for almost two years. The house band has changed some personnel but is still good, specializing in flamenco, salsa, and Latin pop, with an eclectic mix of other popular songs thrown in. Cocktails 110,000 dong, shots 80-85,000 dong, but with no entrance charge. It's popular and fills up on weekends.
  • Ice Blue, Dong Khoi. Downtown English pub, complete with darts board and warm beer. Friendly, but shuts at midnight.
  • Juice, claims to be Saigon's first juice bar (of course it wasn't, there were many local places before - but maybe it was the first Western-managed one). The standard of food has recently slipped, but still a nice place to hang out. Has wifi.
  • Khong Ten, (literally "No Name"), 147 Hai Ba Trung, is a large cabaret featuring some of the biggest Vietnamese celebrity singers still in Vietnam. The headliner is often familiar to the locals from television. Most overseas visitors would not like the musical style very much (mostly the mellow-to-melancholy, soft-jazzy, love-ballady style favored by the middle and older generation of Vietnamese.) But it's pure Vietnam and very popular with HCMC residents and Vietnamese expats on trips home. The entrance charge is the highest in town at 150,000 dong.
  • La Habana, 6 Cao Ba Quat, about two blocks north of the Hyatt. A restaurant and bar with Cuban theme that makes outstanding cocktails for 60,000 dong. Some are available in pitcher-size for 150,000-180,000 dong. The food is also excellent, though at the high end of Saigon prices. Their Friday night live music headliner, Jeram, has returned from Ireland, and it's usually standing-room only.
  • Lion's, 11-13 Lam Son Square, Dist.1 (next to Caravelle hostel). Brewery - Restaurant (somewhat German food), with tasty beers and cocktails. The outside terrace is a nice place to chill out, and the inside restaurant is very welcoming with its two beer tanks and cosy bar.
  • Metallic Bar, 41 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, District 3. House band plays covers of Metallica, Guns N Roses and other popular rock bands nightly between 21:00 and midnight.
  • Napoly, Pham Ngoc Thach near the "Turtle Pond". The ground floor is a popular, somewhat upscale cafe with inside and outside seating. The bar is upstairs in the back, with a decent house band singing a mixture of Vietnamese and English songs.
  • Peaches Saigon South (Phu My Hung). Great place to enjoy a few drinks with friends. Friendly staff, Asian food. Quite low key in comparison to other PMH bars.
  • Polo, Ham Nghi Street (above the Liberty Hotel). Mixture of expats and locals, starts getting busy quite early. Reasonably priced food and drink, good music spanning from the 80sƒhalal to the present. Noisy and smokey.
  • Rio Saigon, A Brazilian flowery decor-themed bar/pub with a great Fillipino house band playing Pop/Rock such as Bon Jovi & Skid Row. It was apparently the original "17 Saloon" bar (now at Pham Ngu Lao) when it was still located along the Saigon River. Great service staff and excellent atmosphere. It is situated at 131 Ton That Dam St. (District 1), Tel. +84 8 8211827,+84 8 8211812. You will be surprised that its located somewhere within a wet street market. Gets crowded around 21:00 and closes at midnight.
  • Saigon Pho, this little hole in the wall is only a stone's throw from Allez Boo, but much more expat orientated. Open until late.
  • Serenata and Soi Da, 6E Ngô Thời Nhiệm. Two open-air cafe-bars with live music in Villa-style settings, which attract few if any tourists but typify what most Vietnamese consider a pleasant evening out. Both feature a mix of classical chamber music, Vietnamese lounge songs, American FM classics and the odd French song.
  • The Tavern SB8-1 My Khanh 2 (H4-2) Nguyen Van Linh, Saigon South (Phu My Hung) Tel. +84 8 4120866. Great place to enjoy a cold beer or a great "Western" meal - favourite dishes are fish 'n' chips & bangers 'n' mash. Reasonable prices and nice, friendly staff and management. Opens for breakfast, closes at midnight.
  • Banana Pub Saigon South (Phu My Hung) Park View. The best bar in Phu My Hung. Pool table, darts, friendly staff, beautiful people, tasty drinks, loads of food. Stays open late depending on the crowd. Worth a trip from Q.1 to experience the true expat scene.

See more Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) travel guide at here.