12 Mar Traveling with local friends
If you are lucky to have someone you know, a local buddy or a friend of a friend (lord knows there are a lot of expats living in Ho Chi Minh city!), in Ho Chi Minh City, they will. You will have a chance to see a completely different side of the city on your vacation when you are being shown around by someone who actually lives there.
Local and Hidden Gems of Restaurants and Coffee shops
Ho Chi Minh City is a total Mecca of coffee shops, which should come as no surprise, as you will see as soon as you taste Vietnamese coffee. The coffee alone is definitely going to be a highlight of your trip!. There are constantly new and interesting themed coffee shops (hidden down alleys and up grand staircases, or on the higher floors of buildings you would never have thought to go into) popping up all over the city, with certain Instagram accounts being totally devoted to the coffee shops of the city. If you have a local buddy to be your Ho Chi Minh guide, you can expect to be sipping some Ca phe da at the trendiest spots in town.
The same applies to restaurants. Ho Chi Minh City really is quite amazing when it comes to restaurants. The city is large options are seemingly endless. You want Italian? Greek? Turkish? Spanish? Mexican? Japanese? Ho Chi Minh City has got it all, and the restaurants are usually run by expats from those countries meaning that the food you have is authentic and good. Trust me, your local Ho Chi Minh buddy will have a long list of their favorite dining spots!
But the crown jewel of food in Ho Chi Minh City is, of course, Vietnamese. Thousands upon thousands of small places lined with metal tables and plastic chairs, dishing out the best the city has to offer. Your local friend will be able to show you their favorite Vietnamese hold in the walls, and you will be eating the real authentic stuff. As a rule of thumb when traveling, always eat where the locals eat! There is definitely an array of places to choose from in Ho Chi Minh City, but some places just do it better than others!
You’ll See More of the City
When it comes to what to do in Ho Chi Minh City, your tour guidebook will certainly have the big ones covered, like the Bitexco Tower, War Memorial Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office, but there is so much more to this sprawling metropolis lined with the Mekong Delta. Having a local or expat buddy will give you a totally different point of view of Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City is full of amazing but lesser known museums, haunted and historic buildings that don’t make it into the glossy pages of travel guides, but your local friend is bound to know about them and show you around! Seeing the city with a friend or local guide also makes it seem less hectic than seeing it with nothing to guide you but a tour book. Your friend will teach you the art of crossing the road, will be able to speak (hopefully at least some) Vietnamese and basically just know what areas are better to visit and spend your time in.
Your buddy will also undoubtedly have their own bike, and from the back of a bike is by far the best way to experience and see Ho Chi Minh City. They might even let you drive!
Clothing and Souvenir Shopping is Totally different
When friends come to visit Ho Chi Minh City, I will always take them to the markets to have a look around, feel the vibe and look for clothes, gifts, and souvenirs, but that’s not the only places I take them.
Your local expat or Vietnamese buddy will take you to their favorite stores and markets, places that tourists don’t frequent. Ho Chi Minh City has an impressive amount of trendy second-hand clothes stores, popular with those living there, that are not featured in any tour book.
Ho Chi Minh City also has absolutely amazing furniture warehouses that are sure to burn a hole in your wallet. Ceramics and wood works in these warehouses are at a much better price than at markets.
Every tour book you read is going to tell you to go down to Bui Vien, the “backpackers street”. And it really is quite the experience! But it’s not where you are going to find the real nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City. Bui Vien is a street catering to tourists and backpackers passing through the city. Sure it can be fun and you might end up at one of these bars anyways, but there is just so much more to the nightlife of this amazing city.
Your local Ho Chi Minh City buddy will be sure to show you the best rooftop bars and clubs, as well as seedy bars and beer gardens so often not mentioned in tour guide books.
There really is nothing more fun than starting your night out with a great dinner (be that Vietnamese or not, upscale or not), a few drinks at a fancy hotel or cocktail bar and ending up having a few ice filled bias at a small place spilled out onto the street, listening to the crazy karaoke of local Vietnamese people.
Get a Real Look at the City and the Locals
Vietnam is so special in large because of the people. Vietnamese people are so welcoming and helpful and so often people travel to a city or country and do not get the chance or take the time to get to know the locals.
Having an expat friend (or maybe even a Vietnamese friend you’ve met online or in your own country) is such a great help when it comes to getting to know the real people of Ho Chi Minh City.
No trip anywhere is complete without seeing the city or country through the eyes of a local. It’s a totally different experience! If you don’t have a friend living in the city, it does not mean you can’t meet local Vietnamese people. You will find that local Ho Chi Minh City residents will be friendly and quick to approach you, maybe try to practice their English with you.
You won’t get Swindled
Being a tourist with no real clue of what is going on or what the normal price for things is, you are bound to be taken for a ride at some point!
Going to a market, or anywhere similar, with a friend that can speak Vietnamese is a total game changer. Believe me when I say that: there is a difference in price for locals and for tourists when it comes to most things!
Having Ho Chi Minh City tour with local friends, why not?
If you do not have any friends in Ho Chi Minh City, try getting on some online or Facebook groups. Then, ask for recommendations from the group members! The Vietnamese people are so helpful and will be happy to point you in the right direction. We’re also sure you’ll make some local friend while here, you know, for when you come back!