Things must know when travelling to Ho Chi Minh City

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        Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, Saigon), is situated in southern Vietnam. The city used to be referred to as the Pearl of the Orient by the French. Now it is the largest city in Vietnam and the business capital of the country. The city centre is situated on the banks of the Saigon River towards the northern part of the Mekong Delta.

       The population of Ho Chi Minh City is more than 8m people (2016).

 

Topography
Ho Chi Minh City is located in the southeastern region of Vietnam, 1,760 km (1,090 mi) south of Hanoi. The average elevation is 19 metres (62 ft) above sea level.

It is flanked by Tay Ninh and Binh Duong provinces in the north, Dong Nai and Ba Ria - Vung Tau provinces in the east and Long An Province in the west. A stretch of 20-km coastline of the South China Sea lies along its southern end.

Numerous small rivers and channels flowing into the Mekong Delta are a noticeable geographic feature of Ho Chi Minh City.

The main ethnicities within Ho Chi Minh City are Kinh, Chinese, Cham and Khmer. There is also a large growing residential ex pat community mainly due to the large and expanding business sector based in the city.


Climate
The city has a tropical climate, specifically a tropical wet and dry climate, with an average humidity of 75%. The year is divided into two distinct seasons. The rainy season, with an average rainfall of about 1,800 millimetres (71 in) annually, usually begins in May and ends in late October. The dry season lasts from December to April. The average temperature is 28 °C (82 °F), with little variation throughout the year.

Tourism
Over recent years, Ho Chi Minh City has undergone a dramatic change in its cityscape. The city now has a cosmopolitan and highly energetic atmosphere. The central city is marked with high-rise apartments and offices, international hotels as well as luxurious restaurants and bars.

Despite its quite recent turbulent past, Ho Chi Minh City still retains beautiful buildings, reflecting multicultural influences. These include War Remnants museum and former Presidential Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Old Post Office, Saigon’s China Town, Ben Thanh Market, as well as numerous temples, pagodas and churches.

 

HO CHI MINH CITY


Also Known As Saigon

Renamed                     1976

Coordinates: 10°46′10″N   106°40′55″E

Region             Southeast
Area                 2,095.6 km2
    
Population (2015)

• Total            8,000,000
• Density       3,818/km2

Demographics    
• Ethnicities  Kinh, Chinese
                          Cham, Khmer
    
Calling code                               08

Website           www.hochiminhcity.gov.vn

 

Top Attractions

Saigon Skydeck: Reflecting the new high rise city, the high-speed elevator inside the Bitexco Financial Centre takes visitors up to a high level glass observation deck. The views from the Skydeck provide a panoramic vista across Ho Chi Minh City and many of its landmark buildings and sites.  

 

 
 

Ben Thanh Market: This is the most famous of the Ho Chi Minh City markets frequented by locals and visitors alike. It is centrally located, and the streets and alleyways around the market are full of food stalls which add to the overall ambience.

 

Ben Thanh Market sells almost everything that the locals need in their daily lives: from fresh meats to ladders. The market is a busy and vibrant place, full and noisy with the sounds of shoppers and the sellers.

 

It is a real experience to smell the fragrant fruits, herbs and spices on sale, and taste the authentic dishes from the food stalls at truly local prices. The market is well worth a visit to buy local goods or even just visit as a spectator to absorb the ambience.

The Cu Chi Tunnels is a maze of underground passageways and spaces over 120 miles (200km) in total length. Construction by the Viet Cong began in 1948 to provide a means of shelter from French assaults. Over the following twenty years the tunnels were expanded not only in length but also complexity to include hospitals,schools, defences and living quarters. At the height of their usage the Cu Chi Tunnels stretched all the way to the Cambodian border.

Parts of the tunnels have been restored and opened  to allow for a leisurely visit or even for a more challenging exploration for those who wish it. Although the Cu Chi tunnels have been widened in places for visitors, be warned as they can still be dark, hot and claustrophobic inside.

The location for the entry to the tunnels is approximately 20 miles (30km) from Ho Chi Minh City.

 
 

Saigon Opera House: built in 1897, provides a stunning example of French Colonial architecture, in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. The glistening white theatre is home to both the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet and Symphony Orchestra. Visitors can view one of the regular rehearsals, or attend one of the weekly cultural shows that take place at theatre. At weekends, free public performances often take place on the opera house steps, which is close to the nearby park and just a short walk from the Post Office and Notre Dame.

 

Cholon: is Saigon’s Chinatown district and it’s great place to spend at least half a day. Its hard to believe but it’s even more chaotic than downtown Saigon but with a distinctly Chinese character.

The place we list here are all located close by one another and can easily reached on foot or cyclo once in Cholon. Make sure you also take some time to cruise the pack streets.

 

Binh Tay Market: is the heaving wholesale market of Cholon. Food, clothing, pottery and plenty more are lined up in narrow corridor packed with stalls in this local institution dating back decades.

Watching the arrival of additional inventory on bicycles, motorcycles and an assortment of other curious road craft is part of the fun.

 

Thien Hau pagoda: the most popular and one of the impressive of Cholon’s Chinese pagodas for visitors, the temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, Goddess of the Sea. When the temple was established in mid eighteenth century, the Chinese community tended to be made up of merchants and seafarers who were grateful for the Goddesse protection of their ocean voyages. The temple’s significance was reinforced again the in late 1970s when many from Cholon’s Chinese community in small boats following China’s invasion of northern Vietnam.

 

Quan Am Pagoda

Nearby Quan Am pagoda is another favourite. It was established by Cholon’s Fujianese community and dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. Phuc An Hoi Quan pagoda is also close by.

 

Cha Tam Church

Cha Tam church is significance lies mainly in its bit part in the demise of south Vietnamese president, Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963. It was here that the devoutly catholic Diem was holed up having fled the coup from Gia Long Palace – now the Ho Chi Minh city museum. His desperate prayers here came to nothing and he was captured and murdered by members of his own military in an event considered pivotal in the unravelling of South Vietnam and an increased US involvement in the war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral: The Gothic twin towers of this classic cathedral are an icon of Ho Chi Minh City. The inside of the Cathedral  provides a quiet escape from the frenetic activity of Ho Chi Minh City. The striking red facade and impressive archways were constructed in the 1800s. Visitors have reported seeing tears flow from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary, resulting in the Notre –Dame becoming a location for Catholic pilgrimage. 

 

Central Post Office: It is unusual to have a  Post Office amongst tourist attractions, but the classic interior of the Central Post Office is well worthy of a visit.  Finally completed in 1890s,  this landmark building could be mistaken for an old European railway station with its high ceilings, old maps of the city, portrait of Ho Chi Minh and a centrally placed time piece. As well as the interesting features it remains a fully operational Post Office. The Post Office is conveniently located adjacent to the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

 

 
 

The Reunification Palace: built in 1868 by the French is an important location of political and cultural activity. In 1962, two Vietnamese dissident pilots bombed the palace – the then President Diem survived but the palace was significantly damaged. Diem commissioned a new one to be built.  It was named the Independence Palace and the design became the Modernist architectural structure seen today.

 

In 1975 the palace was the symbolic site of the liberation of Saigon when tank 390 broke though the gates on the 30th April signifying the reunification of Vietnam; since then the building has been known as the Reunification Palace. The Palace remains a working government building though it has areas open for public tours and viewing, including the president’s former office and the War Command Room.

War Remnants Museum: The War Remnants Museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Laid out in 8 themed rooms are different aspects of the war from imprisonment, to chemical warfare and military might. The long standing Requiem Exhibition includes photographs from the war all taken by journalists from many nationalities who were killed undertaking their job of work.

 

Military equipment, weaponry, aircraft, helicopters and tanks are on open display in the outside grounds.

 

The Museum tells the story of the Vietnam War from the reality of the atrocities to the practicality and might of the military hardware used.

 
 

Saigon River: The Saigon River is critically important to the day to day lives of residents in Ho Chi Minh City.   A cruise along the Saigon River will give a glimpse  of the critical nature of the River to the urban lifestyle but also show the nearby rural Vietnam, where life continues to move at a more leisurely pace.

 

The best way to experience the river is by a traditional Vietnamese boat. Many such cruises are on offer providing a lunch or dinner as part of the package. It is also possible to travel to the popular Cu Chi Tunnels via the Saigon River.

Dam Sen Water Park: This is a fun-filled attraction for adults and children of any age. The park area comprises of landscaped gardens as well as attractions both on and off the water. The park includes a rollercoaster, several water slides and a wave pool complete with lifeguards and seating area.

The attractions and rides are popular with the locals and it can get very busy.  Away from the play areas there are landscaped gardens with lagoons, pagodas where it is possible to just sit and relax.

Dam Sen is best reached by taxi or motorbike taxi (Xe Om) as it’s a fair distance from the city centre.

 
 

Suoi Tien Theme Park

Suoi Tien Theme Park is located about 40 minutes from downtown Ho Chi Minh City, in Thu Duc district. Several years ago, this was an uninhabited land which had a natural stream flowing across endemic forest and natural scenery. The name “Suoi Tien” (Fairy Stream) derived from a story about 7 sacred girls died and became fairies in this land. Later the land was turned into a forestry farm before being developed into what we see today – the biggest cultural theme park of Ho Chi Minh City.

Tourists visiting Suoi Tien can learn about legendary history of Vietnamese people. What’s more, cultural festivals are periodically held within the site, when interesting Vietnamese traditional activities and features are there for visitors to enjoy, such as in the occasions of Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Hung King Anniversary. It is no exaggeration that the park is a museum itself.

As an amusement park, Suoi Tien offers numerous kinds of game, from scary, thrilling to adventurous ones such as: Mystery of the Forest, 4D Theatre, Roller Coaster and Air Bycicle. No one would be disappointed when come to this recreational area, especially children, as there’s a specific area called The Children Kingdom. This place has a lot of funny and attractive games from superman electric car, children train to ball house.

The park opens daily from 8AM to 6PM. On weekends, it closes a little bit later, at 6:30 PM. On special occasions like national holidays, it closes at 11PM.

From the city center, it takes about 40 minutesr to get to Suoi Tien Park by car, following Ha Noi Highway. In case tourists want to travel by bus, take number 19, 50, 52, 53 or 150 and ask the driver to drop at the park.

Cuisine

Due to the major transformation over the past 30 years, vibrant Ho Chi Minh City now hosts a multitude of restaurants that can challenge other Asian cities such as Bangkok or Singapore in quality. The choice of menus available varies from Western to pan-Asian fusion as well as traditional Vietnamese. International food is now widely available in Ho Chi Minh City, and ranges from Japanese sushi to American-style hamburgers. Quality French restaurants add to the choice of European flavours on offer.

As elsewhere in Vietnam Pho is the staple constituent of Vietnamese food on offer. Locals will partake of the meaty noodle broth throughout the day either as street food or at one of the many clean, air conditioned pho restaurants around town. 

There is a lot more though to Ho Chi Minh City street food than just Pho, at all times of the day there are people preparing or eating food in every imaginable place. In deciding where to sample street food the two main tips for visitors are; Eat where the locals eat and chose where you can see food being cooked

The food in Ho Chi Minh City tends to be a little sweeter than that in North or Centre of Vietnam. The number of street food dishes and their variations are too numerous to mention but a few selected examples include;

Banh Mi: There are many varieties of Banh Mi, but the basic ingredients starts with a crusty baguette that’s sliced in half and filled with layers of pork, luncheon meats, shredded cured pork skin pate, mayonnaise, Vietnamese radish and pickled carrot, a handful of sliced cucumbers, coriander, and optional chilli sauce.

 

Bun Rieu: The key ingredient to Bun Rieu is the broth made from a crab base stock, and tomatoes, which creates a slightly seafood tasting, yet natural sweet but tart lavor. Along with the wonderfully flavoursome broth the rice noodles are added together with fried tofu, and a choice of meatballs, pork pieces, or squares of congealed pig’s blood, herbs and vegetables. Garnished with shrimp or crab paste, fresh lime juice, and some chilli.

 

Banh Cuon: Although a traditional Northern dish Banh Cuon is extremely popular throughout Ho Chi Minh City. Banh Cuon is a thin layer of rice and tapioca flour batter that is steamed into the form of a crepe. It’s then filled with a combination of minced pork, small dried shrimp, mushrooms, finely cut lettuce and steamed bean sprouts. Usually then dipped into a sweet fish sauce before eating.

Although available across the city, Banh Cuon is readily found as a snack food in the market areas.

 

Goi Cuon: is a non-deep-fried summer rolls that are made with moistened rice paper, filled with a mixture of rice vermicelli noodles, pieces of pork, shrimp, leaves and herbs like basil and lettuce before being wrapped. Finally, Vietnamese summer rolls are usually served with hoisin dipping sauce and accompanied by freshly ground chilli.

 

Chao: Cháo is the Vietnamese name for rice congee.  There are many different types, with pork and pig organs being extremely popular with the locals. An alternative version is cháo vịt, congee made with duck.

 

If you prefer to eat in quality restaurant style dining then Ho Chi Minh City has plenty on offer. A few examples include:

Quan An Ngon: 138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1

Camargue: 74/7D Hai Ba Trung, District 1

The Deck: 38 Nguyen U Di, District 2

Monsoon Restaurant and Bar: No.1, Cao Ba Nha, District 1

La Cuisine: 48 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1

Lemongrass: 4 Nguyen Thiep St., District 1

NIGHTLIFE

Ho Chi Minh City’s entertainment industry is growing fast, though it’s still not a city for round-the-clock entertainment – most places close soon after midnight. But what’s available is quality fun.

There is a wide variety of pubs and bars, especially in the city center, and the number of discos and clubs with regular live music is booming.

Some of these are must-visits for newcomers, especially those traveling alone who may want to make new friends and meet local people. 

Nightlife in Ho Chi Minh means very different things depending where you are in the city. Downtown in District 1, rooftop bars, high rolling casinos and smooth jazz bands are the choice forms of nightlife entertainment in Saigon. But move a few kilometres west into District 3 and the backpacker street of Pham Ngu Lao, with its boisterous street bars, cheap eats and good time vibe, is certainly the place to be when night falls.

Whatever your idea of the perfect night out in Ho Chi Minh, below is the very best of nightlife experiences we’re sure you can find something to suit your style…and then some!

1.      LIVE MUSIC IN SAIGON

Live music in Ho Chi Minh is never far away. Whether you are looking for relaxing background melody or a rip roaring rock session, Vietnam’s largest city has a place for you. Of course, most of the major hotels have live music entertainment. The recommended venues are:

Saigon Saigon Bar 

Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar on the ninth floor of the Caravelle Hotel will be forever immortalised for its role in the Vietnam War as the location of the daily war correspondents briefing, and it was the professions’ watering hole of choice all through the decade long conflict. In those days – before the construction of the much taller Sheraton Hotel nearby – the view from the rooftop bar looked uninterruptedly across the Saigon River so the journalists had a clean view of the fighting as they relaxed with a few beers and shared war stories.

This living history is palpable at Saigon Saigon and its famous past is reinforced with wooden fixtures, sepia photographs and a chequered black and white marble floor. Although the bar is only on the ninth floor, the view is majestic with many of Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous sites laid out beneath the right hand side of the bar. Directly below the hotel is Lam Son Square with the ornate Saigon Opera House and equally famous Rex Hotel facing each other, and stretching into the distance, the People’s Committee Hall and Notre Dame Cathedral. This is without doubt the best view of historical Saigon and a must for anyone interested in the tumultuous history of the city.

Chairs on the right hand side of the bar are mostly laid out in pairs with a small table, fairy lights and plenty of foliage to keep your experience private and romantic; to the left of the bar there are larger tables for bigger groups and good views of the stage. There is a daily happy hour from 18:00 to 20:00 when draft beers and wine are buy one get one free and every night at Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar there is an excellent live band performing Latino style lounge music from 20:00 that adds a lively touch to dinner or a few drinks. The cocktail menu at Saigon Saigon runs several pages and the menu has an excellent range of western favourites with some of the best steaks and burgers in town. All drinks are served with a sort of bento-box selection of nibbles that includes nuts, dried fruit chips and small crunchy shrimp.

·      Opening Hours: 11:00 - 02:45

·      Address: 19 Lam Son Square, District 1

·       

Chill Skybar

Uber cool with a stunning view of downtown Saigon, Chill Skybar is one of the most popular nightspots in the city. This rooftop bar and clubs sits on the 25th floor of the New World Building and attracts a lively crowd who are dressed to impress and keen to party. There is a strictly enforced dress code at Chill Skybar so make a little effort if you plan to enjoy a cocktail up here and definitely don’t wear Birkenstocks or flip-flops.

The walk to the outside bar has a real wow factor about it, especially as you descend the few steps that lead to the terrace and take in the sweeping panorama for the first time. The bar uses lots of neon lighting that feels totally modern, and then far below you can see the hustle of the city. 

The bar opens at 17:00, an hour or so before sunset, and plays down tempo, chill out music through dusk, before livening things up around 22:00 when the DJ spins popular hip hop and dance music. Unlike other cocktail bars in Saigon, there is a dance floor inside Chill which becomes packed with the city’s glitterati on weekends.

It must be said that drinks here are very expensive. A cocktail costs close to US$20 and are well mixed, but no better than you will receive at other rooftop bars for half the price. There is however an excellent happy hour from 17:30 to 20:00 when all cocktails, long drinks and beers, and some wines and snacks are half price. The cocktail menu is a rather limited collection of classics, some of which have signature twists, such as the mojito, made with sugar syrup instead of brown sugar and a splash of champagne instead of soda.

Owing to its popularity, you are advised to call ahead and make a reservation if you would like to take a seat while you enjoy the view. Otherwise there is standing room only at the bar or seating inside the club. Chill rooftop bar in Saigon is popular with tourists who come for the great views, cool vibe, and to take photographs to share their experience. Some of the staff don’t seem to appreciate this fact and will tell customers where they can and can’t take pictures, where they can and can’t stand, all of which detracts from the experience and feels a little like being back at school. Still, for people who love a good view while they dance to the latest hip hop tracks, Chill Skybar is unbeatable.

·         Opening Hours: 17:30 – 02:00

·         Address: 76A Le Lai Rooftop of AB Tower, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 

Catwalk Club 

Catwalk Club is one of the best entertainment venues in town. It combines karaoke rooms, a lounge, and proximity to the casino.

Since 1995 the International Tourist Club (ITC) has been dishing out glamorous entertainment for Saigon’s VIP-minded inhabitants and visitors. Two decades have established its joint entertainment expanse (consisting of Chats Slots Gaming Center and Catwalk) as the area’s staples for high-stakes thrill-seekers and sonic-minded aesthetes.

Maxim’s Club

1st floor, 13-15-17 Dong Khoi st., District 1

As an important part of downtown Saigon since 1925, Maxim’s Club has been known as THE entertainment venue for the business and social elites since last century. Dance the night away to live music on the expansive dancefloor or try one of their 10 exquisite cocktails. The second floor Vintage Lounge and Fine Dining Restaurant make a strong design statement.

Acoustic Bar

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The Acoustic Bar in Ho Chi Minh is the venue of choice for Vietnam’s up and coming rock musicians. This is the place where legends never die and you can hear amazing renditions of – amongst others – Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and John Lennon. But it’s not limited to the classics; the international roster of musicians is free to rock on with anthems from any era. The place itself is part bar, part cafe, with plenty of sofas for chilling with a coffee in the early evening and standing room for when it heats up at night – there is no food served at The Acoustic Bar though so be sure to fill up beforehand. This place is packed practically every night with a pleasant mix of Vietnamese and foreigners so if you only have one night for live music in Ho Chi Minh we recommend The Acoustic Bar. You’ll have no trouble finding the bar, just look out for an artistically upturned VW Beetle to guide the way.

·         Opening Hours: 18:00 – 24:00 (live music from 21:00, except on Sunday)

·         Address: 6E1 Ð Ngo Thoi Nhiem, District 3

Sax N’ Art Jazz Club

Dark and smoky, this live jazz bar is unique in Ho Chi Minh – somewhere to listen to contemporary jazz with subtle Vietnamese influences thanks to the talented owner who plays several traditional instruments on stage. Sax n‘ Art is more expensive than most bars in the city, and some people are put off by the $5 entry free added to their first drink, but that is the price you must pay to listen to Vietnam’s best jazz band in a compact and personal space. The house band weaves between jazz standards and into some more avant-garde compositions, and many touring musicians have been known to frequent the club owned by Vietnam’s foremost jazz saxophone player. This bar is easy to find on Le Loi, not far from Ben Thanh Market, with live music every night of the week.

·         Opening Hours: 19:00 – 24:00 (live music from 21:00)

·         Address: 28 Le Loi, District 1

Hard Rock Café

Hard Rock Cafe is a bar that needs no introduction – creative cocktails, huge portions of tex-mex favourites, memorabilia on the walls and a kick ass live band to entertain you after dinner. It’s a formula that has won plaudits from New York to New Deli and keeps tourists returning again and again. The live bands at Hard Rock Cafe in Ho Chi Minh are technically excellent and play a varied and middle-of-the-road selection of rock ballads and a few anthems to get people out of their chairs and singing along. Hard Rock Cafe Ho Chi Minh is tourist and family-friendly with a bar menu of Western classics that could quell the hunger of a wildebeest. Particular favourites include the intimidating barbeque rack of ribs and their legendary burgers. The bar is easy to find in Kumho Asiana Plaza, a sparklingly new lifestyle mall with several other restaurants and shops, close to the Botanical Gardens.

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·         Opening Hours: Weekdays 11:00 – 24:00, Weekends 11:00 – 02:00 (Live music from 21:00)

·         Address: 39 Le Duan street, District 1

Seventeen Saloon

A two storey live music hall with rock and roll on both floors and a mostly Vietnamese crowd. Bands play all night at top volume so this isn’t the best place for quiet chat but if you’re in the mood for some U2, Bon Jovi and other heavy rock standards then this corner bar across the park from the famous New World skyscraper will give you an amazingly fun – if not slightly surreal – night out. This is an easygoing bar where waitresses are dressed up in sexy country and western garb and the bands play late into the night. Its location halfway between the backpacker part of town and the central tourist area means the foreigners who do make it here are always an eclectic and interesting bunch.

·         Opening Hours: 19:00 – 02:00 (live music from 21:00)

·         Address: 103A Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1

If you want to listen to local bands, there are some alternative venues as well such as Fang, Carack and Yoko.

Yoko Bar

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A short moto-taxi out from Ho Chi Minh’s tourist centre, Yoko Bar plays host to an assortment of bands playing rock and acoustic jazz pop in a smallish bar with a unique ‘lived in’ style. This is a true live music bar so there are bands playing every night of the week with a regular crowd of Ho Chi Minh scenesters and expats. Expect to hear some classic rock tunes along with some singer/songwriter type songs – and if the feeling grabs you, you are free to go up and sing with the band! There are plenty of comfy sofas and a small upstairs space with a great view of the performers. Yoko Bar is an authentic Ho Chi Minh venue that doesn’t rely on tourism so it’s the perfect place to sit back with a beer or cocktail and see how the cool kids have fun.

·         Opening Hours: 19:00 – 24:00 (Live music from 21:00)

·         Address: 22A Nguyen Thi Dieu, District 3

2.      Casino

Several of the best hotels in Ho Chi Minh have casinos within so you can hit the roulette table, play some mah-jong or get lucky on the slot machines. Two of the biggest casinos in Saigon are located in the Caravelle Hotel and Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers. Casinos in Ho Chi Minh City are not on the scale of Las Vegas and some games, such as hold ‘em poker, are available on a computer screen only, but having a flutter is still an enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

A list of the top casinos (or gaming centers, as they like to be called) in Ho Chi Minh City

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what casino beat out the competition for the top spot in our list of top casinos in Saigon, it’s important to establish a few things about gaming in Vietnam. 

Firstly, all the games mentioned (roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker) are ‘electronic’ versions – table games with real croupiers are strictly outlawed in Saigon. There is one exception to this, the Grand Ho Tram Strip mentioned at the end of the list. Technically, it’s outside of Ho Chi Minh City and is purpose-built for Asian and Western players used to playing in Las Vegas and Macau – as such the rules are a little more relaxed and there are live table games including blackjack, roulette and baccarat. 

You should also note that you can only gamble in US Dollars, so bring some along with you – the exchange rates you’ll get from Vietnamese Dong to USD are varied at best. Minimum bets start from 5 cents for slots and $10 for blackjack. In this article we’ll just be talking US Dollars to avoid confusion.

It’s also essential to bring along your passport or other proof of your nationality – there are strict laws against Vietnamese citizens gambling and only foreigners are allowed to step foot in a casino.

2.1 Palazzo Club

Add: 80 Dong Du, District 1, Opening hours: 24/7

Most of the casinos in Ho Chi Minh City have a membership programme, although they are sometimes hesitant, even reluctant, to offer this to tourists. Most of the time the benefits of such membership only come into play after a month of being signed up, far exceeding the average stay of a one-off visitor, and the staff in some casinos seem inconvenienced by requests for an application form.

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Seasoned gamblers will know that these memberships rarely pay off, with players losing far more than they ever gain back, but the Palazzo Club (inside the Sheraton Saigon) is a refreshing exception. With rewards for players who accrue as few as 50 points (the equivalent of placing $750 in bets). For slots players, you can get to 50 points simply by betting $250 over the course of an evening.

The downside of this is that there are no free alcoholic drinks and you’ll also have to pay as you go along for meals.

There’s a special area reserved for Gold and Platinum members (my membership is a lowly Bronze), with higher table limits and yet more attentive members of staff. If you want in you’ll have to bet big though, only members with 20,000 points (or $300,000 worth of blackjack hands or roulette spins) in a single month qualify to upgrade.

Standout: By far the friendliest service I’ve received in a Ho Chi Minh City casino was in the Palazzo Club. It seems that along with higher minimums come wider smiles.

2.2 Chats Slots Club

New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, District 1, Opening hours: 24/7

Also known as International Tourist Club, this is a great spot for social gamers – the roulette tables have a minimum bet of 50 cents and there are free drinks (although the floor staff will skirt around you unless you purposefully flag one down to make an order). Another bonus is that with a full minute between spins of the roulette wheel you won’t find yourself deep in a hole before your first Johnny Walker appears.

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This is one of the more spacious casinos in Ho Chi Minh City, with ample room dedicated to slots. What’s nice about the way things are arranged is that the constant chirruping of slot machines is far enough to act as background noise, rather than the main soundtrack to your evening.

The attendants at the blackjack tables are friendly and professional, and at $10 this is as cheap as you’ll find in a downtown casino in Ho Chi Minh City. You can also try your luck at baccarat.

Standout: This was the only casino we visited offering video poker, with a $300 minimum buy-in to sit. The game is Texas Hold’em only, so if you’re looking for anything more exotic than that you may need to wait until you reach Macau or Las Vegas.

2.3 Grand Club

Grand Hotel Saigon, Dong Khoi Street, Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m. 

If we were measuring casinos by speedy, free drinks service alone (and sometimes that’s all that really matters) then the Grand Club would be the winner by a long chalk. No sooner is one drink on its last ebb than an attentive waitress is there proffering a new one. 

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With only one table each for blackjack and baccarat (both minimum bet $10US) you may find yourself battling to grab a seat at the busiest times, but there’s plenty of roulette action to be had and a whole bunch of slot machines if you feel like chasing those big jackpots. Speaking of jackpots, the Grand Club offers roulette jackpots to spice up the play – if you hit the same number twice in a row the game pays out on your stake and an additional bonus ten times your wager. A $2 stake pays $92 back if you hit the same number on the second spin.

Another thing to note is that the Grand Club has a slightly unusual payout policy – you can swap your winnings for cash, but it may be paid out in a mixture of currencies. When we cashed out $74 we were paid $70 and 74,000 VND – this isn’t the worst exchange rate in the world but you’re still losing 50 cents on a $4 transfer. Be wary of this and try not to switch too much between currencies.

Standout: A single roulette bet at the Grand Club costs just 25 cents, making it by far the cheapest game in town.

2.4 Club Royale

1 Ngo Duc Ke, District 1, Opening hours: 24/7

The luxurious gold and black decor of Club Royale casino in Saigon sets it apart from the competition, while the speed and efficiency with which you’re provided with a membership card makes it possible to start collecting loyalty points as soon as you begin playing.

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Note, there’s a separate entrance to Club Royale, so you can’t access it from the main Renaissance Riverside reception. 

Free drinks are available as long as you’re playing and you can choose from an extensive lists of teas, coffee, soft drinks, beer, wine or spirits – the Coke I ordered was so sweet as to be nearly undrinkable – next time I’ll go straight for a whisky!

Standout: The membership programme at Club Royale offers some the best benefits around for those not in the city for a long time. You need to accrue 3,000 points in the space of a calendar month and in exchange you’ll get $50 back.

2.5 Vegas Club

Caravelle Hotel, 19-23 Lam Son Square, District 1, Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.

With a minimum roulette bet of $1 (and $10 for doubles and triples), plus blackjack at $10 per hand, this is one of the more expensive casinos in Ho Chi Minh City. To make up for this the drinks are free and free-flowing and service is fast and friendly.

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Situated on the first floor at the Caravelle Hotel, the room itself is a strange shape, with a labyrinthine layout of slot machines that leave you questioning whether there is anything but one-armed bandits available to play. It’s only when you get round the corner that you find the table games like baccarat, blackjack and roulette. The ceiling is also too low for things to ever feel that luxurious and the whole place could do with a lick of paint. Management could also do with turning up the A/C a little to flush out a little bit of the low-hanging cigarette smoke that fills the air.

In its favour, the Vegas Club is one of the few casinos in Ho Chi Minh City that uses printed cashout tickets instead of hand payments. The latter method involves flagging down an attendant - not always the easiest thing to do. They then make a record of the amount you have won – one place even snapped a photo with a pink digital camera – before rushing off to the cashier to get your winnings. It’s inefficient and ripe for human error, and if you’ve just taken a big loss the last thing you want is to hang around at the machine waiting for your last $11 to returned to you!

Standout: A bank of secure lockers for small to medium sized bags and backpacks makes Vegas Club a nice place to properly relax, without worrying about where your valuables are at any given moment. 

2.6 Galaxy Saigon Club

Rex Hotel Saigon, 141 Nguyen Hue, District 1, Opening hours: 24/7

Operated by the same group that runs Club 9 at the First Hotel, this is the more refined of the two locations – with ample floor space and a variety of table games and slots. The latter are extremely loud, so if you like your gaming experiences free from bells and whistles, you may need to look elsewhere.

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The main game here is roulette, with a special table dedicated to VIPs and high rollers – plus two large games for regular punters. There was also a roulette tournament advertised for later in the month, but when I asked for more details the attendant seemed totally bemused. 

A free bottle of water appeared quickly when I sat down, and I was able to order additional drinks without fuss. The free wifi didn’t appear to be working when I tried it.

The blackjack minimum bet is $20US, which may make it too rich for some people’s blood.

Located in the Rex Hotel Saigon, one of the most luxurious hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, I was a little surprised to see the European floor manager admonishing one of his staff in full view (and earshot) of the tables. One wonders if a quiet word out of sight might have been a better way of preserving both the staff morale and the upscale atmosphere.

Standout: The spacious layout and classy decor at the Galaxy Saigon Club sets it apart from some of the others in this list. 

2.7 M Club

1 Dong Khoi, District 1, Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m. 

The M Club is situated on the mezzanine floor of the Majestic Hotel and boasts roulette, baccarat and slots – but no blackjack tables. Players get a free water when they sit down and can order extra beverages from the bar at no cost. 

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Traditional Vietnamese music plays in the background, a change from the din of slot machines and Western pop that tends to dominate the senses in most Saigon casinos. Smokers will be pleased to hear that as with most of the clubs on this list there are ash trays at each gaming station – non-smokers will be pleased to find out that the air remains clear and fug-free throughout.

If I had one gripe it’s that I lost $10 when a machine locked me out and let a previous winning bet ride for the next spin of the roulette wheel. In all honesty I would probably have lost it anyway, but the clunky interface on the electronic roulette console didn’t help!

Standout: I changed some Vietnamese Dong into dollars here and am pleased to announce I got a very decent exchange rate – something of a rarity in Saigon, a city notorious for its scams.

2.8 OV Club

242 Tran Binh Trong, District 5, Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.

The OV Club at the Hotel Equatorial is a little far out of the centre of the tourist district and with limited options for play it’s probably not one that you have to visit. Comprised of two rooms, the main game here is roulette, with 24 terminals all facing one central wheel. Around the fringes you can also play baccarat but there is no blackjack to played here. At $1 per bet this is the higher end of the roulette spectrum, and the spins come thick and fast. On the plus side, having so many players focused on one wheel (and every seat was full on our visit) adds a palpable group excitement to the atmosphere. 

Despite taking my order as I sat down, the drinks service was quite slow. Still, free drinks are free drinks, and I later found out that the bar was located in the other gaming room. We’ll give them a pass.

For high-rollers there’s a VIP room which also offers roulette but at higher stakes. 

Standout: If you’re looking for the casino which most closely apes the outrageous gaudiness of Las Vegas then this is the one for you. Between the huge wall murals depicting tropical beach scenes, the ‘gold’ columns and dubious framed oil paintings of the parochial european countryside, this place has casino-kitsch down to a tee.

 

2.9 Club 21

253 Nguyen Van Troi, Ho Chi Minh City, Opening hours: 24/7

The recently rebranded Eastin Grand Hotel Saigon rents out a small amount of space to a casino operator. The room is small and dominated by slot machines, with a couple of tables for e-gaming, but if you’re looking for a casino near Ho Chi Minh City airport then this may well be your best bet.

With slots costing just 5 cents per spin and $5 per hand this is the cheapest blackjack in Ho Chi Minh City, if a little remote from the centre for most visitors.

There are excellent food and beverage facilities within the hotel property so you won’t have to go far for a good meal after leaving the tables. 

Standout: The proximity to Tan Son Nhat International means it’s not unusual to see flight crews checking in at the hotel reception – you may even find yourself playing baccarat with the flight attendant who served you on the plane into Vietnam!

2.10   Club 9

First Hotel, 18 Hoang Viet Street, Tan Binh District, Opening hours: 11:00 a.m. – 04:00 a.m.

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Club 9 is a Saigon gaming club located in the First Hotel Ho Chi Minh (Khách sạn Đệ Nhất) in Vietnam. The gaming club is set in a high energy and vibrant environment all its own within the hotel and includes a refreshment bar, VIP massage, and many of the amenities of the hotel are available to visitors. Some hotel features are only available to First Hotel guests but fine dining is open to all.

First Hotel has been awarded a 4-star rating and is recognized as a top ten hotel by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism every year since 1999. You will be only 5 minutes from Tan Son Nhat International airport. Hotel amenities include spa, massage, tennis, fitness, and pool privileges as well as four restaurants and a lobby bar/coffee shop.

Standout: With a dedicated kitchen promising Western, Chinese and Vietnamese food – all free for members – this seems to be an alluring place to spend a few hours.

3.      DINER CRUISE DOWN THE SAIGON RIVER

One of the most popular Nightlife things to do in Saigon for tourists is to go on a two hour Dinner Cruise along the historic Saigon River with a wide variety of River Cruise Boats and Companies Available, from the budget to the Expensive. The assorted Tour Bouts are of different built and sizes like the traditional indo china junk ships to the most modern and sleek cruising boats. The dinner cruise can have set meals (either local vietnamese food or international or a combination of both) or a grand buffet with several cooking stations located at points around the boats. Some even offer unlimited open bar as options. Saigon river tours usually start at 6:00 pm up to 10:00 pm, depending on the tour company and the package includes the hotel pick up and drop offs at the Touristy Bach Dang Pier along District 1 in the Saigon River.

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Prices of the Dinner Cruise range from $20 to 100, depending on the tour companies, buffet lunch or set meals and if you have open bar options.

4.      BEER CLUBS

Drinking alcohol is an important part of Vietnamese culture and few people would pass on the opportunity to share a drink with friends or colleagues. Beer is the most popular beverage and also the cheapest. Backpacker bars in Pham Ngu Lao street will sell a glass of Saigon Green/Red or 333 for less than a dollar. In Vietnamese beer gardens, people usually order beer towers containing several liters of their favorite brews. Most often, those venues are located in the open air and feature loud dance music.

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The variety of beer produced in Vietnam can be an enjoyable surprise to first time visitors as it seems that every city has a local brewery specialising in their own beer. Whether it’s sitting on a plastic chair in a humble Hanoi bia hoi or a chic brauhaus located on a bustling street in Saigon’s District 1, one thing is certain: Vietnam is gaga over beer.

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Vietnamese are quite tribal about beer! It became a heated discussion and before it descended into fisticuffs.

We amassed a wide range of locally made beers in bottles and cans but also threw in a couple wild cards in for good measure.

Rank Beer:

1.      Bia Hanoi

2.      333

3.      Saigon Special

4.      Biere Laure

5.      Saigon Red

6.      Tiger

7.      Heineken

8.      Saigon Green

9.      Huda

10. Zorok

These results were a bit of a shock for us as we expected the international players to place a little higher. Also, Bia Hanoi rated in the top two for both locals and foreigners.

5.      BARS & NIGHT CLUBS

5.1 For backpackers

Backpackers usually stay and drink in the Pham Ngu Lao district area, along Bui Vien street.

Similar to Khao San Road in Bangkok, you will not find a lot of stylish places but they are inexpensive and great for meeting new people. Though popular with tourists, Pham Ngu Lao area can be considered as a red light district as you will see it has countless hostess bars and massage parlors with “extra” services. It is also a hub for drug dealing. Even if you look like a nun, you will be offered drugs several times during your evening.

The most popular bar in the area is probably Go2 Bar, famous for staying open until morning. It is one of the few after-hour clubs in Saigon to my knowledge, besides Last Call and T&R Tavern. It has 2 main areas: a terrace strategically located at the busiest intersection on Bui Vien street and a small club upstairs.

Alternatively in that area, you can have a beer at The View’s rooftop bar in Duc Vuong Hotel or at the quaint Vespa Sofar Bar.

GO2 Bar

GO2 Bar is a popular nightspot located in the Pham Ngu Lao (backpackers) area. The bar has 2 levels with the bottom level playing mainly rock tunes and upstairs playing dance, pop, hip hop, and other tunes to get you moving! This is one of the many bars in the Pham Ngu Lao area that stays open late into the night so come on in for food,drinks and some dancing.

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Last Call

59 Dong Du, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Artisan cocktails take centre stage here, sipped to the mellow sounds of Motown and the 70’s. This cozy bar with terrace makes for a popular spot with both expats and young modern Vietnamese. Last Call is Saigon’s answer to the early eve and late night blues!

T & R Tarven

T & R Tavern also know as T and R and TnR is popular spot for English teachers and travelers in the backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City. Drinks are very affordable and the music is generally chosen by the patrons in this small bar.

This cosy little bar is tucked away between Bui Vien and Pha Ngu Lau. You can play darts or shoot some pool, but it is best know for being the after hours venue where you can dance the night away.

Free entry

5.2 For the artsy, trendy, hipster crowd

The Observatory

The current most happening place in Saigon with young and trendy expats, is rather low-class itself. If you look like a hipster, that’s probably where you will end up on most weekends. Both a bar and a nightclub, the Observatory is located next to the port and offer a nice view on the river. It may have one of the best music programs in town. They will have foreign guest DJs regularly, usually playing minimal, deep house or world music. Lovers of things indie and arty still flock here each weekend to hear local and visiting DJs. Weeknights can be busy as well – especially when there is an event.

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The crowd’s a mix of young expats and tourists with a smaller turnout of locals.

There is an outdoor balcony looking over the Saigon River that can be a good escape if the tunes and the cigarettes smoke indoors get too much. The Observatory’s pretty well hidden but is only a short walk from Cargo.

The area outside and around the Observatory is a tad dodgy so take care when coming and going and choose your cabs carefully.

Broma, 

Broma Not A Bar provides a comfortable lounge atmosphere and is especially renowned for its beautiful rooftop views and it’s music themed parties. Offering more than 30 beer varieties, Broma also serves one-of-a-kind signature cocktails.

Broma is a popular bar on weekends with expats and it is similar with the Observatory. It will attract similar DJs playing minimal, deep house and techno songs. We consider it is one of the best bars in Saigon.

Decibel 

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Decibel is a one-stop lounge, bar and restaurant located in the heart of HCMC. It is set in an old garden house that exudes a chilled and carefree vibe. Along with a menu that includes an eclectic mix of European cuisines, Decibel also features live music, Saigon-based and international art exhibitions and truly inventive cocktails. Be sure to stop by Decibel to see what all the fuss is about.

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Come inside Decibel and discover their many treasures such as exciting events, quality and friendly service and reasonable prices. You'll also savour a gastronomic and artistic journey of discovery. Food menu items are rich and varied and there is an extensive cocktail list. Featuring live acoustic music, DJs and art exhibits, Decibel is impossible to leave without a smile.

Cube Bar Saigon

The Cube Bar Saigon, a new place in town where unique, educational and exciting events such as bar tendering, modern cuisine, art crafts, theme parties, live music... take place in a daily basis, is hosting its soft opening party this Thursday.

Get down for some drinks, great music and enjoy the artwork of Yanneth Albornoz shown during the party. 

31B Ly Tu Trong, D1, HCMC 

Saigon’s Lookout

Saigon’s Lookout is firmly grounded in a glorious French Colonial mansion over three floors. The looking out that goes on here is at the fancy fit-out and clientele.

Saigon’s Lookout is just opened in early 2015 and is already filling a need in the city. It also has a great fusion restaurant which makes plenty of local influences. Some very nice flavor experiences. It’s a perfect venue for pre-party cocktails.

The weekend DJs serve up a variety of tasty musical fare too.

Dress up a little for a night out here.

There is no smoking indoors – but there’s ample space out the back for smokers. May this concept catch on in Saigon.

Saigon’s Lookout is located about 5 minutes away by taxi from the city’s main night life centres not far from Ben Thanh Market.

For single men

Thirty-something single male expats will will prefer Xu BarBlanchy’s TashLushChill Skybar or Glow Nightclub. These bars and nightclubs are getting a lot of Vietnamese and Western girls and it seems to make everyone happy. The music is generally more mainstream than in the clubs listed above. Lush is probably the city’s most famous nightclub among foreigners. Honestly, the popularity of Lush is mostly due to the fact that it is a pick-up place for both girls and guys. In particular, their ladies night every Tuesday is one of Saigon’s best events for single people.

Xu Bar & Lounge

75 Hai Ba Trung, District 1,

Searching for a high-class, stylish restaurant and bar in the heart of HCMC? Look no further than Xu, which features Vietnamese cuisine made with quality local produce. Their ground floor lounge offers contemporary cocktails and tried-and-true standards. Check out their extensive selection of appetisers and quality wine list. 

One of the few places in Ho Chi Minh City to make the crossover between cafe culture and bar atmosphere, Xu has a cool, contemporary design, an intelligent set lunch menu and a laid back atmosphere. Sample their international food menu and unwind in their cosy lounge setting, the perfect place to get your evening started. Located in the centre of Saigon, it is walking distance from the popular expat bar Blanchy's Tash.

Note that the dress code is smart casual; leave your sandals and singlets back at your Saigon hotel!

Xu Bar is one of our favourite party places in the city

Blanchy's Tash

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Blanchy's Tash is one of the few places in the city where you can hear something other than the typical commercial cheese that pretty much every other bar or club seems to insist on playing. They have DJ's there most nights of the week but the main nights are Friday and Saturday. They even have some big name DJ's on a fairly regular basis. Decor wise the place is pretty minimal with subdued lighting and lots of concrete which is cool. Their terrace bar is a nice place to hang out too if you fancy something a bit more 'open air' although it does get pretty hot up there! They've recently opened a new middle floor venue but at the moment they don't seem to be using it that often, hopefully they will make it a more regular location for their parties as when they have big names on the place can get a little bit too busy. Drinks prices are a little on the high side but given that it's probably one of the coolest places in you can kind of forgive them for charging a premium... 

Address: 95 Hai Ba Trung, District 1

Lush Nightclub Ho Chi Minh

·      Address: 2 Ly Tu Trong, District 1

Lush Nightclub in Ho Chi Minh is a sleek and fashionable nightspot where the young and beautiful party the night away to different styles of music, depending on the evening. On Fridays and Sundays Lush is taken over by some of the best hip hop DJs in the city while Saturday night is the real highlight of the week with International funky house ensuring Lush is packed by a crowd of locals and foreigners. There is an amazing ladies night on Tuesday when the fairer sex drink free until midnight and on Thursdays there is a buy one get one free deal on beers and mixed drinks that lasts until closing.

Following a renovation in 2012, the decor of the club is modern and playful with steel and concrete creating a masculine, almost industrial feel, but the use of neon strip lighting and Manga style animations add some fun to the surroundings. One thing is for sure: Lush is certainly the coolest nightclub in Ho Chi Minh. In front of the club there is a small garden which offers a great place to relax and perhaps grab a bite to eat and behind there is an outdoor bar – we recommend you start the night here before moving inside as the party heats up.

Lush Nightclub is located on Ly Tu Trong Street in District 1, close to the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Doors open at 20:00 but we wouldn’t advise arriving before 21:30. The club is open seven nights a week and is consistently busy. For a modern, funky and fashionable nightclub in Ho Chi Minh, Lush is the obvious choice.

Chill Skybar 

The original open-air rooftop club and bar in Ho Chi Minh City, Chill Sky Bar is a Saigon staple, attracting crowds of stylish socialites, businessmen, party-goers and tourists looking to let loose 26 stories above ground.

Few have not heard about Chill Sky Bar. AB Tower’s crown jewel occupies the entire 26th floor, covering both an indoor lounge and an outdoor bar-and-party space.

Chill is the most exclusive rooftop bar in Saigon. On the 26th floor of the AB tower, it attracts an eclectic crowd of businessmen, socialites, tourists, expats and wealthy Vietnamese. If you can afford it and if you can get past the strict door policy, it is a recommended place for a classy drink or a date. Attracting big-name DJs, brand ambassadors and a constant flow of themed events, Chill is relentlessly pumping out new reasons to visit the kinetic vantage point, at all times and hours – from ladies nights to sunset dinners to EDM and hip-hop takeovers.

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Music transitions from recorded chill-out music from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to late night live DJs playing hip-hop, EMD and house and you will have people dancing in the bar area until 2 a.m.

Glow Skybar

Glow Skybar is also a rooftop bar, located in the same building as Play nightclub. It combines all the best features of the venues mentioned above: great music, nicely designed open-air area, many single guys and girls looking to hook-up as well as generous, affordable drinks.

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If you are interested in Saigon’s history, you will have a view across the treetop to the former Presidential Palace. Even closer is the French colonial era city courthouse. It may look a tad shabby, but this is one of Saigon’s most striling remaining pieces of colonial architecture.

Then there’s the city’s fast changing skyline and its incredible density – it all makes for interesting viewing at the end of a day of exploration. And the skies are likely to add to the spectacle.

Head up at 5.30 in time for sunset - and happy hour, which run till 8.

Glow’s feel is a little more welcoming and relaxed than some of the city’s other skybars. Staffs seem allowed to smile and the security thing is also handled with more discretion.

The space has been put together well too. It isn’t too big – nor is it too small. It feels comfortable with 50 05 200. Glow’s great spot for an early evening quiet drink and a chat. Later in the evening, especially on weekends, the DJ fires up, Saigon’s young pretty things come out to play and Glow’s vibe becomes more like a club. It’s one of the Saigon’s busiest nightspots right now. And if it rains, there is a full blown nightclub downstairs too.

 Apocalypse Now

 Address: 2B-C-D Thi Sach Street, District 1

The infamous Apocalypse Now nightclub does not belong to any category. Often referred to as the oldest club in Saigon, it attracts a diverse crowd of late night revelers, expats or tourists, and many freelance prostitutes as well. Set over two floors, it isn’t the most sophisticated of clubs, but its lots of fun, with cheap drinks promotions, western pop tunes and plenty of space for dancing or chilling out with a few drinks and playing some pool. Open until 04:00, it is also one of the last places to close at night so Apocalypse Now is a great place when you’re in the mood for that one more drink. The music includes any of the popular hits from the past 20 years.

Universal bar

Universal bar is a relatively new bar in Saigon. They have really good live music there on most nights. The musicians are a wide range of people from around the world but they usually put on a good evening there. It's not a big posh place, but a nice little hole in the wall bar with a lively scene.

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Alto Heli Bar

The Alto Heli Bar is located on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City. You should visit this bar during your visit to the Saigon Skydeck observation deck (on the 49th floor). 

Having spent some time admiring the panoramic views of the city and the Saigon River below us, and with sunset fast approaching, it would be nice to watch the sun go down while sipping on cocktails.

Cocktails were the most apt drink for watching the sun set. As luck would have it, Alto Heli Bar operates a "Happy Hour" each evening between 5pm and 8pm where selected cocktails, beers, wines and spirits are half price. That means that cocktails go from being ridiculously overpriced to only moderately overpriced; it was too good an opportunity to miss!

The bar doesn't appear to have a dress code. I was wearing shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops, which seemed fine when we arrived, but when we left after darkness the arriving clientele were in much smarter attire.
Watch the sun go down with Happy Hour cocktails on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower!

Level 23 Bar

Level 23 Bar of the Sheraton Saigon Hotel is the second highest bar in Saigon (the highest is the Alti Helibar at the Bitexco Financial Tower at the 52nd floor, too bad I have no time to go there). Level 23 is located at the 23rd floor of the tall hotel. Sheraton Saigon is also owned by the Huge Conglomerate Saigon Tourist Company, whichs owns most of the hotels in District 1 like the sheraton, oscar, palace, kimdo, bong sen, etc). 

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They have a separate Wine Bar Facing the City and a Night Spot with Live Band located inside but both offer the same set of menu, cocktails and snacks.

The Wine Bar part of the Level 23 is the open air area with magnificent views of the Saigon Skyline. The bar is subdued and quiet, unlike the nearby nightspot which is loud. The prices of the drinks and meals here are through the roof!

Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 7:00 PM - 12:00 AM

Cuisine: Light Fare

Hours: 7:00 pm till late

Setting: Stand Up Cocktail and Lounge Areas 

Dress Code: Smart Casual, no flip flops, shorts and tank tops allowed.

6.      Hotest clubs and bars

Saigon’s hostess bars scene attracts a mix of office workers, business tourists and husbands. The majority of hostess bars in the city are pretty innocent compared to those in the rest of Asia. They will usually have 5-10 young waitresses in sexy dresses chatting with customers in exchange for drinks. Bars as such include The Office and Voodoo. Be careful though: some places are actually disguised prostitution joints with private rooms upstairs, particularly on Hai Bai Trung street and in Saigon’s Little Tokyo on Ngô Văn Năm street.

The Office Bar Saigon,

16 Huynh Thuc Khang, Ben Nghe wards, District 1

VooDoo Bar

92 Ho Tung Mau, District 1

7.  Vietnamese Night Clubs

Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife scene for Vietnamese is incredibly huge, yet few foreigners seem to be interested. In District 1 only, you have at least 15 popular nightclubs, 30 karaokes, and twice as many beer bars. If you dare to venture in other districts, you will discover there are hundreds more.

I am a big fan of those clubs as they can be great for meeting Vietnamese people. The atmosphere is usually crazier than in more Western clubs. The way they operate is quite different than other venues though.

Typically, you will be ushered inside by the bouncers as if you were a royalty (or promptly shooed away if it’s a “Vietnamese only” club). They will make space for you to stand at a table and summon a waiter to bring you a menu. Naturally, they expect a generous tip for their services.

Most likely, you will have to buy at least one bottle of alcohol as they won’t sell drinks by glass. For this reason, it is best to come with a small group, unless you’re an alcoholic. The bouncers and waiters might offer you the company of ladies/hostesses who will expect some tips as well. They may also bring you an expensive fruit platter that is best to refuse.

Vietnamese are serious drinkers. You will most certainly see people pass out drunk. It seems that there are a lot of drugs also in some venues like 030 ClubDC or 02 Gold Club.

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030 – Xclub

21 Ton That Thiep, Ben Nghe, District 1.

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DC Club

148 Cong Quynh, District 1

The latter is among my favorite in Saigon: It is a totally insane place and it should be on top of your list if you want to have a wild night out in Ho Chi Minh City. Located just a few hundred meters away from Bitexco tower, it is packed on weekends with a decadent crowd getting completely hammered in super kitschy décor.

If you are looking for more “normal” Vietnamese clubs, you can try places like FuseCanalisPlay or Pandora, all located in District 1.

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Note: As you are most likely to be the only foreigner inside, it is possible that you won’t be allowed entry.

Beer bars and beer gardens are another craze in Vietnam. You would need more than one liver to try all of them. Vuvuzela Beer bars (several locations) are probably the most famous and popular in the city. You could also check Kingdom in District 1

Mob – Beer Club

92 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Q.1, TP. HCM.

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Poc Poc Beer Garden in District 3

All of them have very loud music. For a more quiet spot to enjoy a beer, you could visit sports bars such as Redor Phatty’s Pub.

Transportation

Air

Tan Son Nhat Airport: Tan Son Nhat International Airport, is the largest airport in Vietnam. It is located 4 miles (6 km) north of the centre of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

The airport operates from two terminal buildings - Terminal 1 for Domestic flights and Terminal 2 caters for the International destinations. The airport has a total capacity for 15-17 million passengers per annum.

(Long Thanh International Airport: is scheduled to begin operating in 2025. Based in Long Thành District, Đồng Nai Province, about 40 km (25 mi) northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Long Thành Airport will serve international flights, with a maximum traffic capacity of 100 million passengers per year when fully completed; Tân Sơn Nhất Airport will then service the domestic flights.)

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Rail

Within Ho Chi Minh City there are  two main stations Sóng Thần and Sàigòn. The Reunification Express (tàu Thống Nhất) runs to Hanoi from Saigon Railway Station in District 3, with many stops en-route at cities and provinces, including Nha Trang and Hue. 

In addition, there are also several smaller local stations such as Dĩ An, Thủ Đức, Bình Triệu, Gò Vấp.

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Water

The city's location on the Saigon River makes it an important commercial and passenger port; servicing both cargo vessel and passenger boats which operate regularly to various destinations in Southern Vietnam and Cambodia, including Vung Tau, Can Tho and Phnom Penh.

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Bus

The bus system in Ho Chi Minh City covers most tourism destinations with 152 routes.  Buses in Ho Chi Minh City can be realised easily by their white and light green livery. The price for bus ticket fluctuates, depending on the distances and the type of buses but remains a cheap form of transport.

Buses in Ho Chi Minh city tend to be less crowded than those in Hanoi, but the quality can be poor.  The distances between the bus stops and tourist destinations are often reasonably distant. Most buses in Ho Chi Minh City have their terminal at a depots such as Ben Thanh Station, Cho Lon Station and Mien Dong station. Whilst it is cheap, bus transportation is not necessarily the easiest means to explore the city.

City travel

The main means of private transportation within the city is via cars, motorbikes, taxis, and bicycles. Motorbikes remain the most common way to move around the city thought the number of cars is increasing dramatically. Taxis are plentiful and usually have trip meters, although it is also common practice to agree on the price before taking a long trip, for example, from the airport to the city centre. Public buses run on many routes and fares can be purchased on the bus. For short trips, "xe ôm" (literally, "hug vehicle") motorcycle taxis are available where the passenger sits at the rear of a motorbike. A popular activity for tourists is a tour of the city on a cyclo which enables sightseeing at a more relaxed pace. The growing number of vehicles in the City leads to gridlock at key times and the air pollution is noticeable and can be problematic.

Metro system

The Ho Chi Minh City Metro, a light rail rapid transit system is currently partial under construction and further expansion is planned. This first line will connect Ben Thanh to Suoi Tien in District 9. Planners expect the route to serve more than 160,000 passengers daily. Several more lines are currently the subject of feasibility studies.

Accommodation

The economic transformation of Ho Chi Minh City led to a boom in new hotels and accommodation. Ho Chi Minh City now offers a wide range of accommodation options from low cost budget to high quality international standard are all available.

Internet

There are many internet cafés around Ho Chi Minh City. Rates vary but are generally very cheap. Most of the hotels, restaurants and cafes  around Ho Chi Minh City will  offer Wi-Fi to their customers and readily advertise their Wi-Fi password.

 

 

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