While Saigon is an easy place to enjoy a good walking tour, it may by no means be an easy walk; things can get hot and you may end up frantically searching for something to drink. If you happen to be in one of the tourist areas of the city you’ll find no shortage of drink ladies who have set up shop right on the side of the road. But buying a drink from one of these vendors is likely to start a bargaining session that you may not be in the mood for and that you may not be able to win. If you’re in a hurry, a simpler way to hydrate yourself is to hop into one of the city’s many 24-hour convenience stores.
There are many flavours of 24-hour stores in Saigon but the most common ones you’ll find are Circle K and Shop and Go. Inside you’ll find cold, half-litre bottles of water starting at the 4,000 VND price point, as well as sodas, juices, milk and alcohol. These are also some of the better spots in Saigon to find some of the comfort, snack foods you’re used to back home, like Pringles and Snickers bars. Plus sometimes a 24-hour store may even have actual, non-snack food like sandwiches or banh bao. Really you can find anything that you would in a normal Western convenience store but the low prices may surprise you. Most drinks are less than 20,000 VND and snacks are rarely above 50,000 VND.
Also, these 24-hour stores are air-conditioned and some, like the 24-hour store on Nguyen Du near the Notre Dame Cathedral, have a small seating area. You can sit down, recharge your batteries, and prepare yourself for walking back into the heat. Really, these stores can be lifesavers if you’re not used to the weather in Vietnam. And did I mention they are open 24-hours a day? If you’ve been out late or you’re catching a midnight bus these might be the only places open to buy any food or drink.
A few 24-hour stores are particularly strategic for tourists. If you’re at Ben Thanh Market, save yourself a few thousand dong and find the store toward the far end of Nguyen An Ninh. If you’re touring the area around the Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace there are a couple of stores on Nguyen Du, one right on the corner of Dong Khoi. In the Pham Ngu Lao area you can find a few on De Tham and one in the middle of Bui Vien.
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 2nd October, 2014.