Tips on Business Travel to Ho Chi Minh city

Today post will be about What you need to know if you have to travel to Ho Chi Minh City for business.

If you haven’t noticed yet, i am a Vietnamese. I have been in Singapore for more than 6 years. I travel back to Ho Chi Minh city quite often so i guess i can offer some insights to those who have never been to Vietnam before and suddenly find themselves have to do presentation to direct clients/agencies in Ho Chi Minh city.

To foreigners, there are basically two main cities in Vietnam that most business travelers go to: Ha Noi (in the north) and Ho Chi Minh city (or Saigon, in the south).
The flight from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh city is about 2 hours max. Flight to Ha Noi on the other hand is about 3 to 3.5 hours.
Since most of businesses from Singapore prefer Ho Chi Minh city, I will only write about Ho Chi Minh city in this post.

1. Visa to Vietnam:

If you are Singaporean or from SouthEast Asia countries (except the Philippines), you won’t need visa to go to Vietnam. You can stay up to 30 days each time.
If you are from other countries, you have to apply for Visa at the Vietnamese embassy or apply online and get your visa upon landing. Most expats in Singapore choose to get landing visa.

It’s fairly easy to go online, apply for Visa, get a pre approved letter, present the letter to the immigration officer at Ho Chi Minh city and get your visa.
You will have to pay around US $25 for your landing visa though.

2. Airlines to Ho Chi Minh city

You can have a variety of choices: Singapore Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Budget Airlines like (Tiger Airways, JetStar …)
There are many daily flights to Ho Chi Minh city from Singapore. Normally for business travelers, you can either take the early flight from Singapore, land in Ho Chi Minh city at about 8.30 am local time and start your day or you can take the late night flight from the day before.
Meetings in Vietnam normally start at around 10.00 am onwards so you are fine with the early morning flight.

Air Ticket

The air ticket is fairly cheap, from SGD $250 (budget airlines) to $400 or more for a round ticket including taxes.

3. Hotels in Ho Chi Minh city

Booking a hotel in Ho Chi Minh city is quite easy. However, most hotels (even 5 star hotels) do not accept Online booking using credit card so you can only send inquiries and they will confirm through email.
Alternatively, you can book with Travel Aggregators like Asiarooms or Agoda.
Or you can ask your local partners to help.

Booking directly with hotels normally cost more than booking through Travel Aggregators. However, you have the freedom of choices.

Some of the more high end hotels in District 1 ( Central Business District area) include Continental, Rex, Sheraton, Caravelle etc…
I actually prefer a 3 star hotel named Victory since i often spend most of the day outside. Even though it’s a 3 star hotel, the room is big enough for two and very clean. The price is not cheap though, around SGD $80/night.

4. Taxi in Ho Chi Minh city

I only use MaiLinh or Vinasun taxi whenever i am in Ho Chi Minh city. They charge by meter and so far i have great experience with them. Their logos are both green so it’s quite easy to recognize them. Please don’t use taxi from unknown brands because they will rip you off.
As long as you stick to MaiLink or Vinasun, i think you will be fine.

It takes about 30 minutes taxi from the airport to district 1 so if you land at around 8.30 am, it’s safe to set up meeting at 10. It costs about $8-9 Singapore dollars from the airport to District 1.

5. Meetings in Ho Chi Minh city

Vietnamese are generally very open and respectful so you don’t need to worry about any big cultural differences. Singapore is currently the model that Vietnam wants to adopt. Many managers from big companies or agencies in Vietnam visited Singapore many times before.

However, the way Vietnamese doing business is slower than Westerners. You can’t just go to a meeting, present and then hope to secure the deal.

Meeting in Ho Chi Minh starts fairly punctual. Yet it can last much longer than initially anticipated. If you can normally do 3 meetings/day in Singapore, you probably should only set up 2 meetings in Ho Chi Minh city.

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh is generally bad outside of the CBD area, with traffic jam everyday (except the way to the airport) so you should leave early for any meetings outside of the CBD.

Language may be an issue

While many directors of big firms/agencies in Ho Chi Minh city can speak English fairly well, their subordinates may not.
Be prepare to repeat yourself a couple of times and speak much slower than usual.

Many tag along

One thing i find quite strange is that there are many tag along for meetings.
It’s not like in Singapore where only people who need to be there attend the meeting, or people who can add some value.
That’s probably why in most meetings i’ve had so far in Ho Chi Minh city, there are normally rooms full of people.

6. Local food in Ho Chi Minh city/ Bars

Ask your Vietnamese counterparts and i am sure they can show you plenty of places for good food.
One thing to take note though is that the price is quite expensive in Ho Chi Minh. I feel that it’s comparable to the price in Singapore, unless you really know where to go.
If you are on business trip, most probably you would spend the same amount you spend on food here in Singapore.

As for Bars and other night life activities….
Well, the good thing about HCM city is that it sleeps very late. Bars/Super Place normally open until 2, 3 or 4 am. People in Ho Chi Minh like to enjoy life so after work they will go partying 🙂

That’s pretty much what you need to know to go on a business trip in Ho Chi Minh even for first timers. You don’t have to worry about pick pocket or people harassing you too much on the street or anything. However, please note that Vietnam time is 1 hour behind Singapore time 🙂

Good night,
Chandler

  2 comments for “Tips on Business Travel to Ho Chi Minh city

  1. Karla Boyd
    February 27, 2011 at 13:22

    Hi, you have mentioned in your article regarding the Philippines which needs visa going to vietnam, i am just wondering where you got this information? as i have searched on the internet that Philippines wont be needing a visa going to vietname provided they will only stay not more than 21 days. Please clarify

    • chandler nguyen
      February 27, 2011 at 14:19

      Hi Karla,

      My mistake, the Philippines don’t need visa to go to Vietnam in advance. I made changes to my post also.

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