Before you dive headfirst into the action of Ho Chi Minh City, it's important to know a bit about Vietnam's largest city. The following basic information will come in handy on your Ho Chi Minh City holiday.
Australian passport holders must obtain a visa or a visa on arrival approval letter prior to entering Vietnam, which is only available from your nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam. All foreigners are required to register their place of residence with local police within 24 hours of arrival, although if you are staying at hotel accommodation this will usually be taken care of for you. Please be aware this information is only a guideline. For up-to-the-minute visa information, contact your local Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam.
The currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and Vietnamese Dong fluctuates constantly, so in order to get the best exchange rate, aim to monitor the rate in the lead up to your trip and purchase your cash when the rate is optimal.
Ho Chi Minh City is famously regarded as the cuisine capital of Vietnam, offering the country's largest variety of local and international food. While holidaying in the city though, it's best to make the most of the local dishes, which typically involve ingredients such as seafood, bean sprouts, garlic, noodles and coriander. Some must-try dishes include the stuffed savoury omelette called banh xeo and various soups including the traditional delicately flavoured noodle soup, pho. Baguettes with pork, coriander, mint, basil, fish sauce and various other Vietnamese-style fillings are also popular, stemming from the city's French colonial heritage. As for where to eat, Ho Chi Minh's street stalls, like the ones found in Ben Thanh Market, are fantastic for cheap eats. Just be wary of hygiene and opt for the stall with the longest line of locals. To sample the local, preservative-free beer, head to a bia hoi streetside bar for a cheap-as-chips watery lager. Also worth trying on a hot humid day is ca phe sua da - a strong dark coffee served with sweetened condensed milk over ice.
Much like its cuisine reputation, Ho Chi Minh City is also fantastic for nightlife. For the most part, the city's clubs and bars are concentrated around District 1 where some are down and dingy while others are the picture of modern sophistication. Most travellers tend to stick to the tourist bars, and although some charge entry fees, it's usually never more than AU$10. Ho Chi Minh City's backpacker central is Pham Ngu Lao Street where the party continues until the wee hours. For a quintessential night out in Ho Chi Minh City, few budget travellers can resist the lure of Crazy Buffalo, a 24-hour backpacker bar where the party doesn't usually kick off until midnight and the dance options are endless. For a more sophisticated option, head to hotel bars or the Temple Club, a former temple guesthouse.