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COVER STORY

The Asian Nomad in Ho Chi Minh City

There’s a new business traveler in town who is less interested in five-star luxury than the availability of Airbnb, tasty street food, and free Wi-Fi

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BY Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop - 22 Dec 2017

The Asian Nomad: Ho Chi Minh City

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Pros: A low-cost lifestyle with good Wi-Fi accessibility, a vibrant start-up community and bustling co-working hub, plus a range of lifestyle options from budget to five-star.

Cons: Chaotic motorbike-flooded streets contributing to poor air quality made worse during harvest season (burning crops during the summer months).

Monthly estimated living costs: $800-$1000 (source: Nomad List)

Get Your Bearings

The city has 24 districts, but you’re most likely to conduct all your business within District 1 and District 3, which you can easily and cheaply navigate by taxi. The most reputable taxi firms are Vinasun and Mailinh. A taxi ride from the airport to District 1 should cost 140-160,000 VND (or $6-7, make sure you carry small notes, tipping isn’t expected). Alternatively you can pay a flat fee of $12 at the airport’s prepaid taxi stand to avoid any “detours” or haggling.

Connectivity

Wi-Fi is widely available throughout the city with Wi-Fi network Wiman listing nearly 65,600 free Wi-Fi hotspots on its App. Alternatively, you can also buy an inexpensive SIM card on arrival at the airport. There are three main networks that cover almost 90% of the domestic market: Viettel (40% market share), Vinaphone (30%) and Mobifone (20%). There are several prepaid plan options depending on whether you want more voice, SMS and/or data, but expect to pay about 200,000 VND ($8-9) for 3GB a month of high speed data with unlimited free data throttled at 2G thereafter.

Work

ExtraDesk.co lists nearly 40 co-working spaces, with different pricing options such as a single day pass, shared desk and allocated desk.

Inc Southeast Asia picks:

- Start Saigon (18bis/14 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1): This mid-size co-working space has been designed to appeal to technology entrepreneurs and design professionals and offers one of the best value packages in town with a swimming pool and regular workshops and training courses. Day Pass VND 120,000 (around $5); Week Pass VND 550,000 (around $26).

- BIGWork Saigon (District 3): This well located co-working space, next to the War Remnants Museum, is spread over several upper floors of an office building with access to a canteen as well as a free gym. Day Pass VND 140,000 or $7; Week Pass VND 500,000 or $25/week.

- Don’t want a co-working space? There are the usual alternatives with countless cafés offering good Wi-Fi in a trendy décor. Warning: They will get noisy at lunch.

Inc Southeast Asia picks:

- The Workshop (27 Ngo Duc Ke Street, District 1) - Hip décor with large communal tables in repurposed timber, soft music and great coffee.

- L’Usine (151 Dong Khoi Street, District 1) – Retro feel for this combined retail space, cafe and gallery.

Excellent Apps

- Uber and Grab: Taxis are relatively cheap, but haggling can be a pain. These two apps offer very competitive rates and quick pick-ups. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can use GrabBike for a motorbike taxi.

- Maps.Me: This provides an offline map to help you navigate your way around Ho Chi Minh City without incurring roaming charges and it has handy features such as route-mapping.

- Coc Coc Map: It offers a “richer” experience than Google Maps and will help you find a nearby café, restaurant, or shop.

- XE Currency: To help you convert the millions of Vietnamese dongs.

- Triip.Me: Find more about Vietnam culture and history with this app which provides information about daily life in HCMC and incorporates a useful phrasebook.

- Foody: Provides locations, reviews, and pictures of various restaurants, and allows you to reserve a table or order some food. Much of the “English” version is still in Vietnamese, but the pictures will help you make a decision.

Play

- Chill Skybar (76A Le Lai, Rooftop of AB Tower, District 1): For a great location to impress a business associate, this opulent sky bar has earned a reputation for superb cocktails and good food while offering stunning views over the city.

- For a more chilled ambiance check out the Snuffbox (4 Ton That D?m, District 1), a dimly lit speakeasy bar offering well-crafted cocktails and live jazz music. Or head to Pasteur Brewing Co., Saigon’s first micro-brewery with over 15 taps in their flagship tasting room (144 Pasteur, District 1).

Detox

- Run in Tao Dan Park, a short walk from Ben Thanh Market.

- Go rock climbing at X-Rock Climbing in District 3.

- De-stress with yoga classes at Sunlight Yoga.

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