4 Vietnamese restaurants in Saigon

Saigon offers a huge selection of good restaurants, but it is not easy to find them when you are visiting the city and just walking around. Many restaurants are located in the upper floors and all you can see from a street is a modest entrance and maybe some stairs up.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find a nice restaurant when you already are hungry and tired of walking in the heat. I help you to avoid this by giving you four recommendations for Vietnamese restaurants in Saigon.

These restaurants are not the cheapest ones in the city and they are not the best ones for filling quickly your stomach on a tight schedule. They are nice places for a longer lunch or an enjoyable dinner after a long day of sightseeing or shopping. However, the price level is not high for a Western traveller.

When having a meal in Vietnam you enjoy it more if you know how to use chopsticks. In the most authentic Vietnamese restaurants there may not be forks or knives available at all.

Vietnam does not have a tipping culture so you are not expected to give any tip in restaurants.

SH Garden

Address: 98 Nguyen Hue, District 1

SH Garden is right in the heart of the city, in the middle of the hotel area and main sights. However, unless you know the location of the restaurant, you will probably just walk by and not notice it at all. There is a narrow entrance and stairs, and a hundred years old elevator, which brings you up to the restaurant.

This restaurant serves mostly foreign travellers and there are seldom any local customers. Service is friendly and efficient. The menu includes Vietnamese dishes with a modern twist.

SH Garden in the heart of Saigon (in the bottom left corner)

Secret Garden

Address: 158 Pasteur, District 1

This other “Garden” restaurant is very popular among foreigners, but it still has a very local atmosphere. At weekends, it is crowded and it is difficult to get a table without a reservation, even for lunch. The restaurant is worth its name – its entrance is hidden in a small alley and difficult to find even if you have the exact address in hand.

Would you believe this is the entrance of a very popular restaurant?

To get into the restaurant you have to climb some stairs to the fourth floor of an apartment building, through all kinds of stuff. But it is worth it and an important part of the overall experience!

The menu has great variety and everything looks very delicious – there are pictures of the dishes in the menu. One example of Secret Garden’s dishes can be found in the main picture of this post.

 

Com Nieu Sai Gon (CNSG)

Address: 59 Hồ Xuân Hương, District 3

There are several restaurants in the same CNSG group in the city. This one is closest to our home in D3 and has become very familiar to us during these months in Saigon.

The customers of this restaurant are mainly locals – we haven’t seen many foreign tourists here. You can get here easily by taxi from your hotel – it only takes 10 minutes from D1.

 

CNSG Restaurant in District 3

The menu is available in English. It has a huge selection of traditional Vietnamese food: fish and other seafood, frog, chicken, pork, beef, local soups, vegetarian food and some desserts. The prices are quite high for locals but still moderate for a traveller who looks for a little better Vietnamese restaurant experience.

Lâu Cá Kèo Bà Huyên

Address: 87 Bà Huyên Thanh Quan, District 3

This restaurant is next door to us and quite close to the War Remnants Museum. It is very popular among locals and almost full every night. The environment is authentic and very simple and the food very traditional Vietnamese food. The menu is translated in English, though. The personnel don’t speak English, but we have always succeeded in making our orders by just pointing the dishes that we want! So don’t be afraid to visit these local places just because you don’t have a common language!

Is Vietnam safe to travel?

Is Vietnam safe for a Western tourist? Based on my own experiences during six months here, my answer is definitely yes. If I would not feel safe, I wouldn’t like to live here.

I have travelled in Vietnam also alone, without my husband and I have never experienced anything threatening. Violence or harassment towards tourists is very rare here.

Using your common sense is as important here than in any other country in the world. You shouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t do in any other travel destination. However, there are some issues to notice and remember when you are having your vacation in Vietnam.

Traffic

It is impossible to describe traffic in the big cities in Vietnam. It is chaotic – traffic rules are not obeyed and the largest and strongest vehicle has right of way. As a pedestrian you are in the weakest position. You have to be careful and observant all the time – also when the light is green for you and when walking on a sidewalk .

Don’t even imagine renting and driving a car – it would be impossible. Just sit down in the taxi or Uber and try to relax!

When you travel a longer way by taxi, check that the safety belts are functioning. When you take a boat trip, check that there are safety vests for every passenger. Don’t go with the cheapest tour operator. Pick one who pays attention to safety issues.

Food safety

I have spent six months in Vietnam and have not suffered from any stomach problems. Not my husband either, and he has been here already for almost two years. On the other hand, some friends who visited us got an upset stomach already in the first day of their visit. I don’t have any explanation why it happened, and why we have avoided those problems.

It is true that the health standards in Vietnam are not at the same level than in our own countries. However, you don’t need to worry about it too much. One of the highlights of travelling is to enjoy local food! In Vietnam, it is ok to eat street food, have ice in your drinks and enjoy salads and fresh herbs. If you choose a restaurant that is full with people (locals and/or tourists), you are usually safe.

If you ask for water in the restaurant, they will bring you bottled water. Ice is made of clean water and it is perfectly ok to have ice in your drinks. Local people don’t drink tap water either.

We avoid eating street food of the smallest food stalls or vendors. We never touch food with our hands. To get a genuine Vietnamese meal, we usually go to a proper restaurant with tables and chairs. Street food is not the only option of getting great food experiences in Vietnam!

Pickpocketing, snatch-and-grab robbery

Unfortunately, robberies are increasing especially in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. I have never witnessed any incidents but I have heard that it happens quite a lot. The criminals usually use motorbikes during their assaults. There are two individuals riding a motorcycle, with the passenger snatching a victim’s bag, camera, cell phone, etc.

Keep this in mind when walking around Ho Chi Minh’s District 1. If you want to take a picture with your phone, don’t do it too openly and not too close to the road and bypassing motorcycles.

Environmental hazards

Vietnam has a long coastline and is often affected by typhoons coming from the South China Sea. In early November 2017, Typhoon Damrey hit Central Vietnam badly and caused a death of over 100 people. Typhoons are most common in the autumn months.

 

 

As a summary:  use your common sense, don’t carry too much money or other valuables with you, don’t get too drunk, and be as alert as possible to the traffic around you.

And most of all: Enjoy your time in Vietnam!!!

 

 

 

When to come and where to go?

Vietnam for different travellers and tastes

Whether you are a beach life lover or history enthusiast, Vietnam has a lot to offer. However, planning your vacation gets easier if you know a little bit more about the country and its different regions. I give you here some tips which help in making your travel plans.

If you just want to relax under palm trees and enjoy beautiful sea scenery, go to central or southern parts of the country. In mid-winter, south is the best direction for you. Danang, Nha Trang, Phan Tiet and Phu Quoc island are nice beach destinations.

If you are interested in historical buildings and landmarks, old emperor culture, museums or war memorials, your best targets are Hanoi and Hue. The cities are full of historical sites, and there are also day trips and excursions to nearby attractions.

You can find modern, international city lifestyle with department stores, cafes and fine dining in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, the biggest city in Vietnam with almost 10 million people.

If you are rather a nature lover and want to discover Vietnam’s most beautiful sceneries, you have plenty of choices. There are several national parks and protected areas in the country. Ecotourism, travelling sustainably, is growing strongly and there are many travel agencies and hotels which promote green values.

The central coast area is a great place for combining beach holiday, shopping and history. Cities to explore are Danang, Hoi An and Hue. You can live at a beach hotel and make day-trips to many fascinating historical places. Here you can also enjoy perhaps the best food in the whole country. If I had only one week for a holiday in Vietnam, I would go there.

If Halong Bay is your number one target, remember to allocate at least three days of your vacation to get there, enjoy the cruise and get back. Most of tourists travel to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Driving there takes at least 4 hours.

When would be the best time to visit Vietnam?

Vietnam is a long narrow country and the weather conditions are quite different in north and south. In south, it is 30 degrees all the time but in north winters are cooler. It rains a lot between May and October. The main tourist season is from November to April when it is dry but not so hot than in summer months.

During Tet-celebration in January or February there can be some changes in normal services and schedules. Tet is Vietnamese New Near and it is usually at the same time with Chinese New Year. Tet is the most important celebration in Vietnam, and it is important to Vietnamese to spent it with the closest family members. For many Vietnamese people, this is also the only holiday from work in the whole year. During Tet-week there are several national public holidays and many museums, restaurants and shops are closed.

One or two days before Tet-season the planes, trains and buses are fully booked since people want to get to their home towns.

In 2018 Tet-celebration begins in 16 Febuary and starts the Year of the Dog

5 reasons to travel to Vietnam

I came for my first visit in Vietnam in October 2016. I have since spent half of my time here, half in my home country. Based on my experiences so far, I give you five reasons why I have been enjoying being here so much.

  1. Versatility: In Vietnam, you’ll find exotic beaches, fascinating cities, ancient history, diverse culture, wonders of nature, nice and kind people and delicious food. The only problem is that there are too many attractive options, too many interesting places and things to see in a two-week vacation.
  2. Climate: It is warm year-round, which is so nice for a person from the land of cold and snow! Here you don’t need long sleeves, socks or gloves, except in some cooler days in the northern parts of the country.
  3. Prices: Western tourists with a normal, average budget can travel very nicely and comfortably in Vietnam. Travelling around the country, eating in restaurants, shopping souvenirs, using laundry services and going to museums is very affordable. For example, the entrance fee to one of the most popular museums, War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, is 15 000 dongs, which is less than one euro.
  4. Authentic culture: In Vietnam, there are still not many resorts or towns that are built only for tourist industry. One of my friends said that when it comes to tourism, Vietnam is now at the level, which Thailand had in the 1980’s. This doesn’t mean that there are no tourist services at all. This means that wherever you spend your vacation, you get to see how ordinary Vietnamese people live. I think this is one of the best attractions in Vietnam.
  5. Food: One of the best things in travelling is getting to taste local food. In Vietnam, enjoying this part of the vacation is very easy. Vietnamese food is tasty, fresh and healthy. Different parts of the country have their own local specialities. Food in the North differs from food in the South. The city of Hue in the Central Vietnam is said to be a food capital of Vietnam. And if you want to have a pizza instead of pho, you will find it in every town.