20 Feb Vietnam: Life as a nomad in Ho Chi Minh City
While Vietnam as a whole is quite an undeveloped country, Ho Chi Minh is much more so. With French colonial buildings and modern skyscrapers quite commonplace, it’s easy to adapt to any culture-shock in Ho Chi Minh City. While the average wage is relatively low, around the £200 mark, the city services and infrastructure are pretty good, with local and western medical facilities, as well as city bus routes and the beginning of the HCMC Metro has already begun. That won’t be ready for a few years yet though.
The Vietnamese people are generally very friendly, although you fan expect a bit of the rushed hustle and bustle of the ‘city life’ feel around the centre, especially during rush hours. There is a huge expat community in the city, with the huge demand of English teachers this is to be expected I guess.
Food in Ho Chi Minh
The variety of food available is a clear representation of the cosmopolitan nature the city has developed, with every mainstream cuisine you can think of readily available. There are of course street vendors selling local dishes almost everywhere you turn so you’ll never be short of a snack. There is a vast array of stalls and vendors selling the famous Vietnamese Bao buns and Banh Mi. FoYou can pick one up for as little as 50p and the quality is nothing short of spectacular. Much like the rest of south-east Asia, the staple carbs here are rice and noodles, and the variety of fresh seafood to accompany it is as good as any I’ve seen. Even the quality of the street food is very impressive.
There are hotels, aparthotels and other tourist accommodation all over the city. The closer to the centre the more you will pay but it’s still pretty reasonable. A room in a 4 star hotel for a week can cost around £60 to £70. If you’re planning a visit for a few months, you can rent a furnished apartment for as little as £250 a month, again it will increase if you want to be in the centre. The city is separated into numbered districts, with districts 1 and 3 bring the majority of the foreigner/expat community, and district 2 being the same but much ‘higher-end’, more a village style, littered with huge villas with pools if you’re looking for a bit more luxury.
Work Spots in Ho Chi Minh
There are a number of co-working spaces around the city, Start Campus, Dreamplex and CirCO to name a few of the more popular. Aside from the co-work option, you will be able to access free wifi in most cafes and restaurants. The networks here are pretty good in terms of speed on offer, but they can all be quite temperamental in connection. So if you’re on an important conference meeting it may be wise to bite the bullet and tether to your mobile data for a few minutes.
Getting around Ho Chi Minh is possible in a few ways. Grab and Goviet are the most commonly used transport apps here, offering both cars and bikes for £1 and 50p per 2km respectively, although this can vary depending on the time of day. You can do as the locals do and rent a scooter and take on the chaotic yet organised traffic of the city. Alternatively, you can use the bus service, which has had a complete revamp in recent years. All new buses running every 15 minutes from around 5:30am to around 7pm all over the city, with tickets from around 30p to around £1 depending on the distance. There is also the new Saigon River ‘Water Bus’, a fantastic way of getting in and out of the city. There is only 1 running at the moment and only 5 stops but there are more planned in the future. Finally, there is of course the taxis. As with any undeveloped country, the local taxi drivers will always try to overcharge, but with some good, firm bartering skills you should be able to halve their offer on a good day.
Everything in Zanzibar can be highly bartered. Because of the amount of tourists, many people make their living from this industry.
- ACCOMMODATION – £220 – £700 per month (apartment up to villa)
- SIM CARD – £6.50 for 1 month with 20GB data only
- CAR – Car rental is only available with a driver in Vietnam. Prices vary depending on your trip. Nissan Sunny for 8 hours is roughly £50, with bigger / better cars available.
- SCOOTER – £3 to £4 per day, cheaper rates for longer rentals
- TAXIS – £1 per 2km ride or 50p on a bike taxi.
- BREAKFAST – £5 for fruit, eggs and tea / coffee
- LUNCH – £1.20 to £9 ranging from local street food to all kinds of western cuisine
- DINNER – £1.50 at a cheap restaurant up to £15 for a 3 course meal for 2 at a mid-range restaurant
- WATER – 1.5 litres – £0.40 in supermarkets – £1 at resorts and restaurants
- BEER – 60p for local 0.5l bottles or £1 for imported 0.33l bottles
- WINE – £8 average but big variations
- COCKTAILS – From £1.70 upwards
Sim card in Ho Chi Minh
There are 4 main mobile networks available here:
Prices and packages are pretty similar across the networks, but your best bets are Viettel and Vinaphone in terms of coverage. Bear in mind also, you have to register your SIM card with the government using your passport, and failure to do this will not take long to result in it being disconnected (sometimes as fast as 4 days).
When to visit Ho Chi Minh City?
- Feb to April and September to October – Lowest rainfall, moderate to high temperatures (22 to 32 degrees)
- May to August – Rainy season. RAINY season. Upto 25cm per month. Great for work indoors but that’s about it.
- November to January – Mostly dry and much cooler, temperatures from 17 to around 23 degrees.
Final Tips & Recommendations
- Register your SIM card – a small hassle to avoid a much bigger one.
- If you’re looking for work and are a native english speaker, pay a visit, they’re crying out for English teachers.
- If it’s not in a supermarket or got a barcode, barter. It’s always worth a try.