Backpacker Nightlife in Saigon:
Backpackers usually stay and drink in the Pham Ngu Lao district area, along Bui Vien street.
Similar to Khao San Road in Bangkok, you will not find a lot of stylish places but they are inexpensive and great for meeting new people. Though popular with tourists, Pham Ngu Lao area can be considered as a red light district as you will see it has countless hostess bars and massage parlors with “extra” services. It is also a hub for drug dealing. Even if you look like a nun, you will be offered drugs several times during your evening.
The most popular bar in the area is probably Go2 Bar, famous for staying open until morning. It is one of the few after-hour clubs in Saigon to my knowledge, besides Last Call and T&R Tavern. It has 2 main areas: a terrace strategically located at the busiest intersection on Bui Vien street and a small club upstairs.
Alternatively in that area, you can have a beer at The View’s rooftop bar in Duc Vuong Hotel or at the quaint Vespa Sofar Bar.
Expats in Saigon often hate the backpacker district. They will tell you how dirty, dangerous and vulgar it is, which is quite an exaggeration. Instead, they will prefer more exclusive clubs and bars, which can also be popular with Viet Kieus.
Favourite Nightspots for the Artsy, Trendy, Hipster Crowd
The Observatory, the current most happening place in Saigon with young and trendy expats, is rather low-class itself. If you look like a hipster, that’s probably where you will end up on most weekends. Both a bar and a nightclub, the Observatory is located next to the port and offer a nice view on the river. It may have one of the best music programs in town. They will have foreign guest DJs regularly, usually playing minimal, deep house or world music.
Similar with The Observatory, you have several bars and clubs where you will meet the same groups of people and where you will have the same DJs. The most popular are Broma, Decibel or the Cube. Saigon Outcast is another artsy venue with a relaxed atmosphere. They have regular movie nights and open mic/DJ nights as well.
An up-and-coming venue is Saigon’s Lookout. Just opened in early 2015, it has pretty much the same music than the Observatory, but it looks way better. Located in District 1 in a renovated colonial house, it also has a great fusion restaurant which makes it a perfect venue for pre-party cocktails.
Where to Party in Saigon if you are Single?
Thirty-something single male expats will will prefer Xu Bar, Blanchy’s Tash, Lush, Chill Skybar or Glow Nightclub. These bars and nightclubs are getting a lot of Vietnamese and Western girls and it seems to make everyone happy. The music is generally more mainstream than in the clubs listed above.
Lush is probably the city’s most famous nightclub among foreigners. Honestly, the popularity of Lush is mostly due to the fact that it is a pick-up place for both girls and guys. In particular, their ladies night every Tuesday is one of Saigon’s best events for single people.
Xu Bar and Blanchy’s Tash, both located on Hai Bai Trung street, are the favorites of French expats. They are urban bars similar to those you could find in any modern cities. They will not be too crowded during the week, but on Saturdays and Fridays you can expect a full house with a very lively atmosphere.
Chill Skybar is the most exclusive rooftop bar in Saigon. On the 26th floor of the AB tower, it attracts an eclectic crowd of businessmen, socialites, tourists, expats and wealthy Vietnamese. If you can afford it and if you can get past the strict door policy, it is a recommended place for a classy drink or a date. The music starts to get louder on weekends after 11pm and you will have people dancing in the bar area until 2 a.m.
Note: Though Chill Skybar is expensive for Vietnam’s standards, a typical drink will cost you just above $10 US.
Last but not least, Glow is my personal favorite in Saigon. It is also a rooftop bar, located in the same building as Play nightclub. It combines all the best features of the venues mentioned above: great music, nicely designed open-air area, many single guys and girls looking to hook-up as well as generous, affordable drinks.
The infamous Apocalypse Now nightclub does not belong to any category. Often referred to as the oldest club in Saigon, it attracts a diverse crowd of late night revelers, expats or tourists, and many freelance prostitutes as well. The music includes any of the popular hits from the past 20 years.
Hostess Clubs and Bars
Saigon’s hostess bars scene attracts a mix of office workers, business tourists and husbands. The majority of hostess bars in the city are pretty innocent compared to those in the rest of Asia. They will usually have 5-10 young waitresses in sexy dresses chatting with customers in exchange for drinks. Bars as such include The Office andVoodoo. Be careful though: some places are actually disguised prostitution joints with private rooms upstairs, particularly on Hai Bai Trung street and in Saigon’s Little Tokyo on Ngô Văn Năm street.
Live Music in Saigon
The best options to listen to live music are located inside or next to 5-star hotels. The recommended venues areSaigon Saigon Bar in Caravelle, Catwalk near New World Hotel and Maxim’s. You also have jazz and rock clubs like Sax N’Art, and a Hard Rock Café attached to the Kumho Asiana Plaza.
If you want to listen to local bands, there are some alternative venues as well such as Fang, Carack and Yoko.
Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife scene for Vietnamese is incredibly huge, yet few foreigners seem to be interested. In District 1 only, you have at least 15 popular nightclubs, 30 karaokes, and twice as many beer bars. If you dare to venture in other districts, you will discover there are hundreds more.
I am a big fan of those clubs as they can be great for meeting Vietnamese people. The atmosphere is usually crazier than in more Western clubs. The way they operate is quite different than other venues though.
Typically, you will be ushered inside by the bouncers as if you were a royalty (or promptly shooed away if it’s a “Vietnamese only” club). They will make space for you to stand at a table and summon a waiter to bring you a menu. Naturally, they expect a generous tip for their services.
Most likely, you will have to buy at least one bottle of alcohol as they won’t sell drinks by glass. For this reason, it is best to come with a small group, unless you’re an alcoholic. The bouncers and waiters might offer you the company of ladies/hostesses who will expect some tips as well. They may also bring you an expensive fruit platter that is best to refuse.
Vietnamese are serious drinkers. You will most certainly see people pass out drunk. It seems that there are a lot of drugs also in some venues like 030 Club, DC or 02 Gold Club.
The latter is among my favorite in Saigon: It is a totally insane place and it should be on top of your list if you want to have a wild night out in Ho Chi Minh City. Located just a few hundred meters away from Bitexco tower, it is packed on weekends with a decadent crowd getting completely hammered in super kitschy décor.
If you are looking for more “normal” Vietnamese clubs, you can try places like Fuse, Canalis, Play or Pandora, all located in District 1.
Note: As you are most likely to be the only foreigner inside, it is possible that you won’t be allowed entry.
Beer bars and beer gardens are another craze in Vietnam. You would need more than one liver to try all of them.Vuvuzela Beer bars (several locations) are probably the most famous and popular in the city. You could also checkKingdom in District 1 and Poc Poc Beer Garden in District 3. All of them have very loud music. For a more quiet spot to enjoy a beer, you could visit sports bars such as Red or Phatty’s Pub.
As the Saigon nightlife scene is likely to change rapidly, I invite you to leave comments on this page to let us know if any of the nightclubs or bars mentioned here are closed. Don’t hesitate to share with us your favorite spots too!
Source main photo: 02 Golf Club