FAQ for getting started in Ho Chi Minh City

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I have a medical Emergency

Dial *9999 for an English-speaking emergency service run by Family Medical Practice. That's http://www.star9999.vn

You can also call 115 (ambulance), 114 (fire) and 113 (police), but it may not help much unless you speak Vietnamese.

I need a cab

Stick to Vinasun or Mai Linh. Make sure the meter is at 11k or 12k VND when you start. Sometimes cabbies give change in batches, so don't rush out if you're shorted.

I need a SIM

Go with Mobifone, though Vinaphone and Viettel should also do the trick. Tariffs here. Text NN E to 901 to switch your admin language to English. Top up with 200k VND and try BMIU to 999 for 3GB high speed internet (and unlimited low speed) for a month or KM120 for 1.5GB.

Mobifone Account Balance & Usage Statistics - click while connected to mobile network.

A more recent tip for 45gb of mobiphone 3g internet, for 300,000vnd per month. Valid as of May 2016 - thanks Noah.

  1. Cancel all current mobile plans.
  2. Send the SMS "DK D10" to the number "999".
  3. Make sure to toggle flight mode so the plan takes hold and you don't burn all your credit.
  4. Have at least 10,000vnd loaded onto your mobiphone account every day.
  5. Every day you'll get an autorenewed 1.5gb for 10,000vnd for the next 24 hours update text.

What's where? I need a map

Hoch Hotspots

Where should I live?

Wherever you like. If you want to bump into DCers stay near 18a Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (NTMK), which is the address of an alley. It's pretty easy to walk up and get a short term apartment on the same day for $200-350/month. Other than that D1 and D3 are nice and central. Further out has more new developments. Staying near Pham Ngu Lau / Bui Vien will mean street touts and backpackers.

I need an affordable hotel

Good budget hotels around $20-25/day in the Dong Khoi, Japanese, and Cathedral Areas, where most DCers stay. Try the White Lotus Hotel. Lots of other cheap options if you're ok staying in the Pham Ngu Lao / Bui Vien (touristy backpacker area). Try Golden Wind Hotel

Tell me more about housing, services, and overnight guests.

A lot of cheap accommodation like the ones listed above are bedsit-style rooms in a larger family house with an combined lounge / lobby. Many will lock their doors at a certain point at night. You may not get a key and they may not allow overnight visitors, so be sure to ask for details before choosing a place to stay. Also ask about things like maid service, water, laundry, as often they're included.

It's technically illegal for a Vietnamese girl to spend the night at your apartment. To avoid trouble you'll want to explicitly ask whether your landlord would allow "your Vietnamese girlfriend" to spend the night on occasion. You can avoid this hassle by upping your budget, renting your own apartment, or getting a houseshare. Search facebook for Ho Chi Minh housing groups or Craigslist, but ask to be sure.

For nicer apartments ($400-800 or $800-1500) contact this agent: https://www.facebook.com/vunhuphuongchi. She is very helpful and understands the needs of Westerners. Most agents only do long term (6+ months), but she also has some short term available.

Where can I get some work done?

Summary of Saigon Cafes
(Ignore the Cosmo Cafe suggestion. It's not very good.)

For coworking, try:

When can I work at 2AM?

Summary of 24 Hour Cafes

Try one of these:

Random Tips

Keep your iPhone in your pocket big boy (and ladies even more so). Avoid riding a scooter with a purse or laptop back slung over one shoulder. Street snatchings are a thing here, mostly near the backpacker area.

Join the Expats in Ho Chi Minh Facebook group for useful info.

If you're shopping for clothes the outskirts of Ben Thanh market are much cheaper than the market itself. E.g. 50K VND for a tank top compared to 160-475K VND deep inside the market. Start haggling at 30% of original asking price.

Where can I meet the opposite sex?

Try Ladies' Night @ Lush on Tuesdays

Where can I get a hipster haircut?

Try Uncle Barber or Hurricane Barber #barberlifestyle

Visa Issues?

Letters: To get a visa letter before arriving or for coming back check out:

Extension: Visa rules and price change pretty regularly. Check with one or more of the agents above to see your visa can be renewed without leaving the country and what the latest prices are.
If you need to leave then your best bet is probably a plane trip to Thailand / Singapore or a day trip by bus to the Cambodia border (see below for details).

Extension: Visa rules have changed as of early 2015. Currently it's not possible to get a 3 month extension without leaving the country and 1 month extensions are expensive (~$180). Your best bet is probably a plane trip to Thailand / Singapore or a day trip by bus to the Cambodia border (see below for details). This info is likely to change, so do ask around for the latest.

For the Cambodia Bus Option do as follows thanks Juergen

  1. Get visa recommendation letter from visa agent ($65)
  2. Make sure you have passport photo and USD
  3. Take bus 703 that goes to Moc Bai from the bus station opposite Pham Ngu Lao 343. Leaves at 5.30am and 4.30pm. Takes 2,5 hours (40k VND each way).
  4. Walk to the border.
  5. Get exit stamp on the main building on the Vietnam side.
  6. Walk to the Cambodia immigration buildings on the other side of the border.
  7. Get entry visa Cambodia at the small buildings next to the main one ($32).
  8. Go inside the main Cambodia building to get the visa stamped.
  9. Wait for a bit.
  10. Get exit stamp Cambodia at those same buildings.
  11. Walk back to the Vietnam side of the border - go to the pink building on the left hand side of the main building.
  12. Get entry visa Vietnam at pink building ($45).
  13. Get entry visa stamped at main building. Just hand it to one of the clerks, and wait until they're done (can take a while).
  14. Take the same bus back to Saigon. The whole thing takes about 8 hours and costs $142.

Where do I rent a Motorbike?

: Call Tham Le on +84 90 3177407, she'll drop off a bike for you, has reasonable rates, and shouldn't insist on taking your passport.

I need a Doctor

Go to FV Hospital in Bitexco tower. ~$35 for a consultation

Try these guys if you need a dentist

I gotta lift bro

Go to Vincharm for western-style gym and high prices. Go to the ghetto gym near 18a if you like to sweat (250k/mo). From Nguyen Thi Minh Khai take a left onto Dien Tien Hoang, then take the second entrance into the big complex on right. Stay to your left and look for white bars. Also check out this gym map for other options

Check out Saigon Sports Club out in D7 for a big gym with lots of options (MMA, BBall, Yoga, Pool, etc). 514B Huynh Tan Phat, Binh Thuan Ward, District 7. Phone: 08 37730 513

Where do I get protein / supplements?

Bodybuilding.vn - call if they're out of stock. They also have a local shop in D1 that you can visit for the basics. It's listed on their website.

Where can I find Computer Stuff / Electronics / Computer Repair?

Try Phong Vu on 125 Cách Mạng Tháng 8 or their repair shop around the corner at 31 Nguyễn Thị Diệu

I'm sick of the city already, where do I go on the weekend?

Try the Vanh Thanh swimming pool and resort area (busy on weekends), check out Binh Quoi Village for a park-like setting and a big buffet (Village 1 is full of newlyweds taking photos, Village 2 is a little further on the left and has a pool), or try Saigon Outcast for some hipster / urban / hip hop.. oh god, I don't even know. Vung Tau is a decent destination for a 1-2 day weekend trip to the coast.

I want to learn some Vietnamese

The Vietnomad Jeremy Ginsburg has created some useful Vietnamese video lessons. Free because he's cool like that.

The Vietnamese Language Garden offers good quality, structured lessons and proper pronunciation lessions. They are flexible on time & location, design your program based on your requirements and learning ability. They use practical Vietnamese language rather a text book, with a focus on pronunciation and day to day usefulness. They offer a 10% discount on the flexible 40/80 hours program for HochList.com users and Hoch Coach Members.

Are there any cinemas around?

Yes. Most western movies are shown in English with Vietnamese subtitles. Look here for info.

Brought to you by @laverick, HCM DC regulars and contributors like you.
Source on github. Suggestions & updates welcome.