FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where is a good area in HCMC to start looking for rent?

Depending on your purpose and the length of your stay in Vietnam, you can find support for renting a house or a room from different people. If you are on a business trip to Vietnam, you might have useful advice from your colleagues about where to stay. A room at a hotel near your company will be ideal for a short stay while a rental room/apartment will work for longer stay (more than 1 month).

District 2 and District 7 offer high standard rooms which are suitable for foreigners who are willing to spend more on the accommodation part. However, it is a little bit far from the city center. Some rooms are also available in District 3, Tan Binh District at a lower price.

District 1 is the most expensive to rent a room for a permanent stay. Price also varies depending upon the size and amenities of the room.   If you are backpackers to Vietnam, you can find affordable rooms along the streets wherever you go. Price should not exceed $10/person/night for a hostel or motel. Again, do not hesitate to bargain

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Where can I find dog food in HCMC?

There are two options to get food for your pet in Ho Chi Minh City: Supermarkets and street stores

In Supermarkets:

You can easily find dog food at supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City. There are a variety of brands you can choose from. Unlike Walmarts or other franchising stores, every supermarket in Vietnam has different ways to arrange their products. Therefore, if you are unsure where to get dog food and don’t want to spend time walking around, just ask a cashier or any supermarket staff for direction.

One advantage when buying dog food at the supermarket is fixed price and guaranteed quality. A drawback is there will be a long queue of people checking out at the cashiers during peak hours or the weekends. If you don’t want to wait for long, you can go to the supermarket in the morning or in the afternoon on weekdays. Some recommended supermarkets are Citimart, Coopmart, Lottemart and Maximark

In Street Stores:

Dog food can also be found outside of supermarkets in some pet shops or pet clinics. Unless you are familiar with roads in HCMC, it might be a little hard to find these shops. An advantage about buying dog food at street stores rather than supermarket is being free of queuing and waiting. These shops are small and the sellers often handle a customer each time so you can have advice or recommendations from the sellers.

A drawback is that its quality is not guaranteed. Some stores are just stocked with low quality pet food made in China because it is cheap and more profitable than other brands.  Some recommended pet stores are Saigon Pet clinic (33 street 41 Thao Dien, District 2), KC Pets (6 Hoa Su, Phu Nhuan district), Petit Ange (out in D7. 23 My Hoang, Phu My Hung , Tan Phong ward, District 7).  You may find other stores while walking around also! 

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Where can I find microwaveable food in HCMC?

Vietnamese cooking styles are often based on fresh ingredients which can be easily bought at wet markets. However, a wide range of microwaveable food is available mostly at the supermarkets to satisfy the needs of busy people who do not have enough time for cooking or find cooking so inconvenient. At the supermarket, frozen food is stored separately from canned food. If you don’t know where to get it, feel free to ask supermarket staff. After getting the food, just follow the instructions to make your meals correctly. Some require frying instead of putting in the microwave.

Frozen food in Vietnam might not be stored as long as food in your home country. So, make sure you take a careful look at the expiration date before you buy.  Citimart offers more food with Western style in comparison with other supermarkets. You might be lucky enough to find your favorite brands at Citimart also.

If you want to purchase food in bulk, you should visit Metro hypermarket (equivalent to Sam’s Club or Canada Superstore) as long as you have a Metro membership card. Vietnamese food might have different taste from yours and you might not be quite sure which food to get, why don’t you try one of each kind and come back to get some more when you know what your favorites are? To avoid long queues at the check-out, it is advisable that you go to supermarkets on weekdays. 

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I am intolerant of gluten products and therefore not able to eat foods containing wheat. I would appreciate your advice on whether gluten free meals are available in major cities Vietnam?

Thank you for writing to us. Gluten-free travellers will not have a hard time in Vietnam, because the main meal in Vietnam involves rice instead of wheat (see how rice is used in Vietnam). Major dishes such as "Pho" (beef noodle), "Nem" (spring rolls) are made purely from rice.

The concept of gluten allergy and gluten free meal are not popular in Vietnam at all. You may find these niche products, however, in the expat area of Hanoi (Xuan Dieu road) and Ho Chi Minh City (Pham Ngu Lao street).

The advice we have for you is to check with the hotel and restaurants to verify that the ingredients do not contain wheat (bot my in Vietnamese). If you stay at upper-scale hotels in Hanoi or in Ho Chi Minh City, check with the hotel chef or restaurant head to ensure a gluten free meal.

A few popular food that will contain gluten for sure that you should avoid (this may help with the Vietnamese vocabulary):

- Any food with a "banh" (including baguette, baked goods, ..)

- Any food with a "my" (including egg noogle, instant noodle)

- Any food with a "quay" (fried fritter dough)

- Any food with a "tam bot" (Vietnamese term for fried fish or meat with a flour coating)

We hope this is helpful to you and your family. Bon Voyage!

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Where should I go to when I feel sick?

Vietnam has public, semi-public and private medical care facility. However, most of the quality ones concentrate in major cities such as Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Public hospitals are large but often heavily cramped with patients and the staffs do not speak English well. You can visit other healthcare services as listed in our city pages, many of which have foreign doctors. Normally you do not have to book an appointment in advance unless otherwise noted.

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What can I do during Tet in HCMC?

Tet is one of the most exciting festivals throughout the year in Vietnam. It is a wise choice to visit Saigon in Tet because there are a lot of activities going on on this special occasion.

Nguyen Hue Flower Street on Nguyen Hue Boulevard

The whole street is decorated with many kinds of flower and plants. However familiar you are with Nguyen Hue Street in daily life, you are still amazed how beautiful it is during Tet. The theme for the whole street is different from year to year. Thousands of colorful flower baskets of all kinds: orchids, daisy and carnations, gathered and arranged in an artistic way, will surely impress visitors. A gorgeous outfit with a nice camera can work out a good memorial album of Tet in Saigon. Spring can’t be better with the warmth of sunshine, the colorful flowers and happy people smiling everywhere on the street!

Flower Festival at Tao Dan Park

Tao Dan Park, located on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai-Cach Mang Thang Tam crossroads, is a place where Flower Festival is held every year. Different from Nguyen Hue Flower Street, Flower Festival brings visitors more chances to see much more kinds of flowers in an open and vast area. Besides, rocks and limestone are also exhibited. In another area, there are Vietnamese traditional games, such as: beating the pot with blind eyes or walking on a thin bridge (Cau Khi).

While Nguyen Hue Flower Street is free, Tao Dan park charges about $1-$1.5 for entrance ticket to the Flower Festival.

Besides these two major activities, you can also see lion and dragon dances in front of luxury hotels on the first days of Lunar New Year. Lion and dragon dances are believed to bring prosperity and luck for people in the upcoming year. Another fun activity to attend is to try the largest Banh Tet, a kind of tradition cake in the South Vietnam at Dam Sen Amusement Park (03 Hoa Binh St, Wd 3, Dist 11, HCMC) or join the fruit festival at Suoi Tien Theme Park (Tan Phu Ward, Dist. 9). 

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Where to take a good massage in Phu Quoc?

Answer: Below are top 6 spa and wellness centers in Phu Quoc voted by world-wide travelers in TripAdvisor for your reference:

1.    Phu Quoc Day Spa - Tran Hung Dao Street, Phu Quoc Island

2.    La Veranda Spa - Tran Hung Dao Street, Phu Quoc Island

3.    Aroma Spa - Tran Hung Dao Street, Phu Quoc Island

4.    Mango Bay Wellness Center - Duong Dong Town, Phu Quoc Island

5.    Spa Linh - Tran Hung Dao Street, Phu Quoc Island (Inside Thanh Hai Guest House)

6.    Aquamarine Ngoc Hai Lam Spa - Nguyen Trung Truc Street, Phu Quoc Island

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Where can I watch the latest films in Hanoi?

Most cinemas in Hanoi, like Thang Tam, Dan Chu, Sinh Vien, National Cinema Center, only show films with dubbed Vietnamese and no English subtitle. Thus far, choices for foreigners in Vietnam in term of cinemas are very limited.

In Hanoi, only 2 cinemas provide original films with Vietnamese subtitle: Megastar at 6th floor, Vincom tower (191 Ba Trieu Str.) and Platinum Cineplex, 4th floor (The Garden center, Me Tri, Tu Liem). Both cinemas provide films in 3D and 2D, but the prices are different. Megastar asks for around VND 70,000  for a normal movie ticket and VND100,000 for a 3D seat, meanwhile Platinum’s prices are just VND 50,000 and 80,000, respectively. Compared to other local cinemas, the prices are quite high, but it is worth every penny with high quality movies and comfortable seats. Megastar even provides couple seats in Valentine period and other discounts for students during the week.

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How much money should I bring to travel to Ho Chi Minh City?

Hi,

As you do not mention clearly about your travel time as well as your budget condition, so we can only give some general advices.

To travel to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, you need to have enough money for these main spendings: transportation, food, accommodation and entrance tickets to tourism destinations, not to mention your spending on shopping and other unexpected fees.

Saigon is such a big city that in order to visit all of the most well-known tourism destinations, you need at least two or three days.

Normally, the minimum budget spent for accommodation will range from VND 150,000 to VND 300,000/day, depending on the quality of the hotel and its location. Public transportation is quite cheap, which will cost you about VND 50,000 to VND 70,000/day if you move around inside the city. However, if you choose taxi as a means of transportation, the fare will be about VND 11,000/ km so each journey will cost you VND 50,000 on average.

As every other city and province in Vietnam, Saigon is a heaven of street food. If you do not mind eating like the locals at street vendors, you will only need to spend about VND 100,000 each day to have very good meals. The ticket for museums will take you about VND 10,000- VND 30,000; while most of other tourism destinations like Notre-Dame Church or Central Post Office have free entrance.

In sum, if you want to travel on a shoe string, you can do so with only VND 1.5 million (or $75) for 3 days in Saigon. $120 will probably give you mid-range hotel and more flexibility with travelling. For top hotels and sit-down restaurants, expect your budget to start from $500 for 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City. You can also refer to our guide to cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City for further information.

We hope this helps!

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When is Vietnamese new year 2012? Will Cu Chi Tunnel be open during Tet?

Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, is the biggest festival and holiday of a year in the country. In 2012, Vietnamese New Year will fall on Monday - January 23rd. Most public offices will be closed from Saturday (January 21st) and will be reopen on Monday (January 29th). The main Tet days are January 23rd, 24th and 25th.

Many attractions will be closed, while those like Hue citadel will be open during the three days of Tet with free admission. Cu Chi Tunnel, for your information, remains open during Tet holiday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.

For more information about Tet and Tet travel advice, read visit our Vietnamese Tet page or take a look at the following articles:

• 5 things to know about travelling during Tet

• Tet in Ho Chi Minh City - what to do

• 7 tips for travellers in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet

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nice beach destinations nearby Saigon?

Question: Hi there, I’ve been in Sai Gon for a week and now I’m looking for nice beach destinations nearby the city. Could you please suggest me some options?

Answer: If you are staying in Ho Chi Minh City, you should go ahead to Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province or Phan Thiet City which are well-known for its magnificent beaches. Vung Tau is one of the best destinations in the South Vietnam for beach fans. Some renowned ones in the province are the untouched and immaculate Ho Tram Beach and the famous Con Dao Island with blue crystal-clear beaches, white sand dunes, and amazing coral reefs. Another popular beach heaven in Vietnam is in Phan Thiet City with the prominent Mui Ne Beach, which is widely known by worldwide travelers. For more information about the best beaches surrounding Ho Chi Minh City, please visit our website http://www.vietnamonline.com/ho-chi-minh-city-beaches.html

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