How to Live Like a Local in Ho Chi Minh City

How to Live Like a Local in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) has been one of the most recommended second homes for expats lately for its cheap prices and dynamic atmosphere. Are you planning to settle down a new life in this bustling city? Let’s find out tips to live like locals in Ho Chi Minh City!

01. Learn to ride motorbike

The best tip to How to live like a local in Ho Chi Minh city for any expats living in Ho Chi Minh city, being able to ride a motorbike is a must if you want to live like a local. Due to the massive amount of vehicles and small corners, streets in town, motorbikes are much more useful than a car if you plan to have a quick trip around the city. It’s much more affordable to own a motorbike than a car here. Whenever your motorbike has problems, it’s also easy-peasy to find local motorbike fixers.

How to live like a local in Ho Chi Minh city
Learn how to ride motorbike

Traffic might be crazy in this bustling city, you need to be cautious and always stay focused, look around and predict the situations.


  • Never forget your helmet and licenses. You can keep the licenses in your bike’s trunk and just use it when you need to show it to the police officers. Your motorbike driving license won’t be able to use in Vietnam so to be able to ride the motorbike over 50cc you need to apply for the motorbike license test.
  • Always make sure your motorbike is locked or secured when you stop to buy something. Unless, keep an eye on it. 
  • Saigon is famous for its unpredictable rains, even on sunny days. It’s also recommended to have a raincoat or poncho in your bike’s trunk.
  • You can buy used motorbikes for affordable cost, or using monthly rental service if you are not planning to live in Saigon for a long time.

Riding a bicycle to work is not a bad choice if the distance from your home to your company isn’t too far (less than 5 kilometers). There are some streets in Saigon that gather many bicycle stores adjacently like: Bui Huu Nghia (Binh Thanh district), Phan The Hien (District 8), Tan Thanh (District 5),…

02. Willing to Try Different Kinds of Street Foods

Street food is cheap and amazing all across Vietnam, and there is no exception in Saigon. The diversity of street food here won’t disappoint you.  Traditional Vietnamese cuisines from many regions of the country and famous dishes from all over the world are gathered in the city. Saigon Foodie Night tour can be a good option for you to try some of the most popular street food of Saigon – Ho Chi Minh city.

how to eat like a local in Ho Chi Minh city
Street regular meals for lunch and dinner

Don’t hesitate to try any food that impresses you on the streets, you also should try all sauces including. Normally, the local people would prefer rice for lunch and dinner. To enjoy it like a local, you will look for the keywords “com binh dan” (regular people’s rice meals) or “com van phong” (office worker’s meals), hanging on some food carts around the sidewalks. Usually, these include everything you want for a nutritious meal with vegetable soup, rice, main dishes like beef or fish, fruits and vegetable,..

03. Improve Your Communication Skills Versus Locals

To live like a local in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam, learning the language it’s the must thing to do. Vietnamese may seem to be difficult to learn, so let’s begin with the most useful sentences and words for expats (if you are talking to a non-english speaker). For examples: 

  • To say hello (xin chao) and thank you (cam on), sorry (xin loi)
  • To ask the price of something (Cai nay bao nhieu tien ?)
  • To ask someone to help you (Ban co the giup toi duoc khong?)
  • It’s important to remember the numbers in Vietnamese in case you want to hear the price of something or phone number

A thousand miles – journey begins with one footstep, so always remember to be confident and keep practicing Vietnamese to become a part of the community.

04. Enjoy The Morning Vibes with Traditional Coffee

Traditional Vietnamese phin coffee is unique and will offer you an unforgettable taste. It’s enjoyed by the local people at any corners of the streets: on the sidewalk, sitting-coffee (ca phe bet), alleyways cafes,…The local people love to spend their morning at coffee shops like that, enjoying the coffee while reading the newspapers, talking to their friends or neighbors.

how to enjoy coffee like local in Ho Chi Minh city
Authentic sidewalk coffee shops in Saigon

Vietnamese traditional coffee has inspired many expats from different countries. It’s not only about the taste of the coffee, but also a part of the culture. Let’s change your style of daily coffee and see how fast you become a local!

Some recommended local coffee shops address:

  • 30/4 Park sitting-coffee (in front of the Independence Palace)
  • Sai Gon Xua coffee (3B Tran Phu street, District 5)
  • Apartment’s coffee shop (518 Vo Van Kiet, District 1)
  • Random local coffee shops around the sidewalk with plastic chairs and traditional Vietnamese coffee, trust in your sense of choosing and give it a try!
  • Try to buy things at local places

Convenient stores are sometimes not as convenient as you think because of the limited kinds of products inside the store, while supermarkets could be far from someone’s home. It’s really awkward to look for some small things in the supermarket like: nails-cutter, toothpicks, pens, batteries…

how to shop like local in Ho Chi Minh city
These grocery stores may have things you need

Surprisingly, the grocery stores (“tap hoa” or “bach hoa”) have random things like that and are located somewhere on the alleys (not the downtown alleys) or in the local markets. It’s really suitable if you only need a few kinds of goods and don’t want to go for kilometers to get it.

Local market is the place for fresh food, selling almost everything you need for your homemade- meals, and it’s the place where most local people come to buy daily things. Some markets are specialized in specific kinds of products like:

  • Dan Sinh market (Mechanical goods)
  • Ho Thi Ky market (Flowers and Street foods)
  • Hanh Thong Tay market (Accessories and clothes)
  • Kim Bien market (Chemical products)

Besides the local ones, there are some more brands of modern grocery stores and markets: Winmart, Bach Hoa Xanh, Co-op Food…,where you can find most household things and fresh foods. Shopping at those places may be a little bit more expensive because of the air-conditioning but it’s still affordable for anyone, even the locals. 

how to shop like local in Ho Chi Minh city
Bach Hoa Xanh is both widely visited by locals and expats

05. Cross The Street Confidently

Traffic in Saigon is not as scary as you think, the local people have to do it everyday and they are used to it. Here are some tips when crossing the streets:

how to cross the street like local in Ho Chi Minh city
Crossing the street is the local’s piece of cake
  • Always use the zebra crossing despite the fact that sometimes it’s just for decoration.
  • Must wait for the green signal if there is a traffic light.
  • Raise your hand up high so the scooters will recognize you and make way for you, they will not make mistake if you let them see there are pedestrians crossing the street.
  • Be careful with the cars, make sure you see the cars are slowing down before next steps. Unless, we stop and make way for them, then continue to cross after.

If you are still not confident with these tips, let’s follow the local people when crossing the streets and learn their experiences.

06. Always Have Cash in Your Pocket

Saigon is the most wealthy city of Vietnam in terms of economy, trades on the streets are quick and cash-preferring, so it’s best to have a good quantity and diversity of cash in your wallet. 

One more reason for you to prepare the cash is: some vendors on the streets are people from the previous generation who could be poor and don’t have a bank account, so online banking doesn’t work with them at all, cash only.

It’s also notable that some vendors may don’t have enough change if you pay them big notes like 500.000 VND or 200.000 VND, so better be ready with small notes like 10.000 VND, 20.000 VND and 50.000 VND.

07. Take Advantages Of Numerous Shippers and Drivers in Saigon

In Saigon, many delivery and transportation services are available via aps, such as: Gojek, Grab, Be,…Don’t forget to look for it in some certain cases. The drivers will come to you quickly due to their coverage all around the city. 

how to live like local in Ho Chi Minh city
An army of shippers and drivers are waiting for your order

For example: If you want to deliver some stuff to any place, just need to book the drivers via apps and they will come to receive stuff from you in less than 15 minutes. These apps also have food booking and delivery service included, so just look for it and make your life easier.

08. Have Good Relationships with Your Local Neighbors

They – the ones who live closest to you- would definitely be the ones who help you to have a better understanding of how to live like a local in Saigon, also the ones who you can practice Vietnamese with and ask for help. The Southern people of Vietnam are well-known for their friendliness and kindness, so don’t worry about being annoying to them, just be polite and friendly with them and the result would warm your heart.

Overall, to live like a local in Ho Chi Minh City, endurance and open-mind are important. Saigon culture always welcomes any kind of characteristics and personalities from any corner of the world, so keep in mind that you don’t need to be exactly a true local, just need to find out what really suits you day by day in Saigon. 

Last but not least, understanding about Saigonese culture is an interesting way that could help you live like a local. May Jackfruit Adventure be with you? On the cultural exploring journey – Saigon Off-the-Beaten Path:
Ho Chi Minh city Cycling Tour, through smallest corners of Saigon and deeply witness the flow of local’s life that could help you on the way of becoming a true local.

explore life of locals in Ho Chi Minh city
Explore the local’s life on 2-wheels

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