Best Bike Repair in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

During my almost 12 months in the serene chaos that is Ho Chi Minh City I have owned a total of two bicycles. As per custom I named each of them, and both Susie and Richard have been instrumental parts of my life here. They have also both warranted city-wide searches for repair shops, secondhand salesmen and the friendliest road-side tire inflator man. I have a few favorite tire inflator men. You should visit them too.

Repairs on the cheap, or not...

Sometimes it’s worth spending that tiny bit more on your bicycle just to make sure the job you get is a good one. Especially if you plan to ride it in Ho Chi Minh City. I mean after all, that thing is the only thing carrying you safely through the mess of chaotic bullets that are the streets of Saigon. That being said, cheaper options are available!

  • Đề Thám in District 1: all along this street there are a number of sidewalk motorbike and bicycle workshops. My favourite is at the Phạm Ngũ Lão end of the street on the corner of Đề Thám and Trần Hưng Đạo, but there are several other shops over the other side of Trần Hưng Đạo. Shop around for prices, and check all parts before you hand over your money. A new tire and inner tube should cost around VND 100,000 to 150,000.

Tire inflator men

Since my bike sports disgustingly old tires at the moment I have gradually become very well acquainted with the best of Saigon’s grinning men with gas, ready to pump up the tires of your motorbike or bicycle. My absolute favourite sits near the Đề Thám end of infamous Bùi Viện. This tiny guy wears only khaki and always asks for ‘ten dollar’ from me before giggling and accepting my usual VND 2,000 with a grin. The joker…

Second Hand Gems: Where to Buy a Second Hand Bike in Ho Chi Minh City?

There is a famous bike street in Ho Chi Minh City. Go to Bùi Hữu Nghĩa in District 1 and prepare to be overwhelmed by spokes and tires. At the intersection of Bùi Hữu Nghĩa and Trường Sa just as you cross over the river, a seemingly endless strip of bicycles and motorbikes appears. This street is a black market hotspot, so if you buy here bear three things in mind:

  • Shop around. There are so many stores on this street! Be patient and walk the strip, check prices at as many shops as you can and compare quality - don’t rush the process.
  • Bargain hard. I brought a dealer down from VND 3,000,000 to 800,000 with a simple stubborn ‘no’.
  • Check EVERYTHING. Look at the tires and if possible request to see the inner tube, check the spokes are tight and unbroken, try out the brakes and make sure the brake pads are intact, look closely at the chain and if there are gears test every single one. Bikes on this street are usually riddled with low quality and often stolen parts.

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ibis Saigon Airport: The First Choice for Business Travellers

By: Keely Burkey

Most people think of airport hotels as having grungy carpets, questionable sheets and a nondescript continental breakfast. But when I got to the newly opened ibis Airport Saigon, I could immediately tell that it was different.

Ambience

Checking in was a good experience. The lobby was well-designed, with plenty of natural light, a staircase leading up to the second floor and a Starbucks coffee shop firmly planted in the opposite corner.

Ibis lobby

The woman at the check-in desk was pleasant and professional, and told me a few key facts about the hotel. This branch opened in December 2016, making it one of the newest hotels in Saigon; a shuttle to and from the airport can be scheduled in advance, although Tan Son Nhat Airport is a mere six-minute walk from ibis’ front doors; and all ibis hotels offer what they call the 15-minute guarantee: ever since the first ibis opened in Bordeaux in 1974, every hotel ensures that if a customer has any sort of problem that’s not solved within 15 minutes, they get one more night free of charge.

Would I be able to wrangle a free night? I would soon find out.

Room with a View

The room was small, yet comfortable. Ibis offers a variety of rooms ranging from 18 to 72 square metres (you can also rent one of the studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom long-stay apartments). My room came with a queen-sized bed, mini fridge, small electronic safe and flatscreen cable TV. From my fourth storey room I looked out over a manicured courtyard with numerous blooming plumeria trees.

Ibis room

Before dinner I decided to treat myself to some spa time. Bathing suit on, I headed to the rooftop swimming pool where I could see the main draw of the hotel: the view. The long, rectangular outdoor pool ran along one side of the hotel, overlooking Tan Son Nhat Airport. Going for a swim and watching planes take off and land is quite special.

Dinner at Oopen and Drinks at the Hub

Once I had worked up an appetite, I headed down to the 24-hour Oopen Restaurant on the first floor. The restaurant is best described as fresh and clean. I was seated quickly, and the wait staff were almost eerily efficient. I ordered the Terra pasta (linguini with creamy carbonara sauce with mushrooms), and as soon as I tasted it, I could tell Ibis was from Europe. If you’d prefer something Vietnamese, this fusion bistro offers delicacies like the Vietnamese barbecue pork banh mi and a more traditional com chien.

ibis oopen

I hadn’t hit 8 p.m. yet after dinner, which meant that happy hour (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) was still going on at the Hub bar on the rooftop. With a half-priced draft of Tiger in hand, I looked out over the expanse of Tan Son Nhat Airport and Tan Binh District and saw a different side of Saigon. One of the special things about the Hub is that it passes on house music of any kind, opting instead for a mellow, loungey feel, where you can converse with friends or take a dip in the pool after sundown. Despite the occasional startling sound of a plane roaring off the runway, I was in peace.

Sweet Sleep and a Breakfast of Champions

If I thought the drink at the Hub was peaceful, sinking into my bed later that night sealed it. Ibis’ slogan is a pillow, and now I can see why: the pillow, mattress and duvet were of a supremely high quality. This feature is highlighted in brochures, and rightly so.

The next morning, breakfast was waiting at Oopen. The hotel takes pride in its three breakfast shifts: the Early Riser from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., the conventional breakfast from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and the Late Riser from 10:30 a.m. to noon. I took advantage of the Late Riser (it was the weekend, after all, and I had no flight to catch) and was delighted to see a wide assortment. In the chafing dishes were bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs and hardboiled eggs; on the tables were orange juice, a sushi bar and a veritable mountain of baked goods.

Ibis 1 bedroom

As I checked out of ibis Airport Saigon at noon, I remembered the 15-minute satisfaction guarantee. I wouldn’t be getting my free extra night because I couldn’t find anything to complain about. If you’re curious what ibis has to offer, check out their website at ibis.com/9468.

 


Notary and Translation Services in Ho Chi Minh City

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnam’s notary sector, like many other sectors in the country, has its origins in the French system. A notary agent offers a range of services including:

- Witnessing the signing of documents
-Transferring of company capital
- Payout to beneficiaries from an estate

Most notaries in HCMC offer translations but cannot notarise these documents. For that, you will need to source a translation company or your district’s Department of Justice (DOJ) office. However, if you have legal documents that need translating, it’s best to have a law firm do the work. The ward People Committees can notarise and certify copies of Vietnamese documents, while the district People Committees provide a similar service for foreign language documents.

What are the prices for notarisation services in HCMC?

The People’s Committee instituted a blanket fee for notarisation services in the city. Fees are as follows:

- Real estate auction contract: VND100,000/set
- Guarantee contracts: VND100,000/set
- Custody of testaments: VND100,000 /set
- Authorization contracts: VND40,000/set
- Cancellation of contracts or transactions: VND20,000/set
- Other documents: VND40,000/set
- Translation from/to a foreign language: VND45,000-200,000/page
- Issue copies of notarized documents: VND5,000/page, from the third page VND3,000/page

What about translation services in HCMC?

Translation services are plentiful in HCMC both to and from Vietnamese, and between many international languages. Payment structures vary from hourly rates to per page rates. Instead of using a notary (as they cannot notarise translated documents), hire a translation agency to both translate and notarise your documents. You can also have documents translated and notarised at the Department of Justice of HCMC, along with each district.

What notary’s offices or translation service providers in HCMC you should know?

Asia Notary
44 Võ Văn Tần, D3; +84 28 3930 0903

Bến Thành Notary Office
97-99-101 Nguyễn Công Trứ, D1; +84 28 3821 4999

Central Notary Office
454 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, D3; +84 28 6291 5485 / +84 9 0375 2525

Việt Úc Châu
20 Trần Cao Vân, D1; +84 28 3825 6420 / +84 9 8350 8611

DOJ branch for District 1
47 Lê Duẩn, D1; +84 28 3822 3404

DOJ branch for District 2
249 Lương Định Của, D2; +84 28 3740 0509

DOJ branch for District 7
7 Tân Phú, D7; +84 28 3785 0612

DOJ branch for Other Districts
185 Cách Mạng Tháng Tám, D3; +84 28 3834 2441
5 Đoàn Như Hài, D4; +84 28 3940 2388

For more practical information about living in Ho Chi Minh City, order our latest HCMC Resident Guide.


Best Mobile Phone Repair in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

Repairing or replacing anything worth more than a few million VND in Ho Chi Minh City is notoriously difficult. Why? Simply because the process will either cost you half your annual salary at a reputable chain, or at least that much in stress as you try to figure out which non-brand repair shop to go with.

I’m talking about laptops, phones, bicycles, iPods, musical instruments - if it's in your insurance policy it probably fits into this category! Intrinsic to everyday life, and a serious headache in Ho Chi Minh City. Over six million tourists travel to Vietnam every year for its fascinating history, hot sun and cheap prices, but electronics in this country can be a lot more expensive than you would think. With Vietnam’s high import tax and the local capacity for scams and overcharging, buying, repairing or replacing a phone can pretty much bust your budget! So what do you do when your smart phone, that best buddy who is by your side day in day out, suddenly pops its clogs?

If I'm honest, I tend to panic.

When I first came here I had no idea where to buy anything. Everything was a mystery to me: the must knows of valuable repairs, the ins and outs of spending and buying, even where to get a pair of socks! (For the record there's a weirdly wooly shop on Lê Thánh Tôn behind Bến Thành market District 1 that sells all things warm and sock related.)

But socks aside. Without a bit of insight into Saigon’s maze of commerce, shopping in this city can be a downright scary process. I'm freaking out a bit just writing about it. Here are some tips to make it easier.

How to Fix Your Phone in Saigon?

Broken Phone Taken by Robert Nelson

Photo Source: Robert Nelson

If you haven't had your phone stolen in Ho Chi Minh City yet, hold on to that sucker as tightly as you can because in reality you're probably next. Almost every tourist who visits this fascinating metropolis loses something valuable at some point, and if it isn't the wallet or the passport it is usually the phone.

The phone. Everyone's best friend, your entire world in one little piece of shiny plastic… If you lose it in Saigon, apart from mourning your loss, what do you do next?

Well first let me advocate filing a police report in case you can claim it on your insurance and changing the passwords on all your social media, email and banking accounts. Also, top tip for all those of you who still have your phone - if it’s a smart phone put a lock password on it! If your phone is stolen this gives you a bit more time to change all those details before the thieves can get inside and access them.

Usually you won’t see your phone again, even if you do go to the police. There is a thriving black market here in Saigon, and many stolen phones are sold either for parts or as full models to secondhand shops and dealers around the city. Often the police either lack the motivation to help, lack the ability, or are in on the whole thing. Police bribes are common. I’m sorry, Lucy (yes, I named my iPhone) is gone. Your best bet is to look for her replacement.
But what happens if your phone isn’t gone? It’s just having a nervous breakdown? Where can you repair that cracked screen or broken camera?

Repairs on the cheap

  • Hùng Vương in District 5: Lining the left side of this street as you enter it from Ngã sáu Cộng hoà turning circle, there are a number of secondhand phone shops that will repair your phone in front of your eyes for a very reasonable price. No English, so grunt a lot or use some of the ‘Useful Words’ at the bottom of this post. It cost me VND 300,000 to replace the screen on Lucy and it came with complimentary peanuts.
  • Giakien Services in District 10: 352, 3 Tháng 2 Street. This shop is well known for it’s reliable, cheap repairs. You can also visit their website here.

Secondhand gems

  • Hùng Vương in District 5. This strip also deals in quality secondhand models. I bought Lucy, an American iPhone 5 with completely authentic parts, great battery life and a complementary case for VND 7,000,000 here. It came with a 1 year warranty.
  • Saigon Square in District 1. There are quite a few second hand phone stalls in Saigon Square which quote a similar price. Turn the phone on to check it before you buy it, and make sure you bargain as sellers will try to charge you more.
  • Online. Be very aware when doing this, I lost $350 in a deal with an online seller. We met in a coffee shop, I checked the phone, and just as I handed the money over he switched it for a worthless Chinese knock-off! 

Some of the best deals can be had with private secondhand deals, but do be careful. Meet in a public place and bring a second pair of eyes. Make sure you check the phone carefully first, and don’t hand over the money unless you’ve got the right model in your hand! Insist that the seller gives you the phone, box, charger and other accessories separately so that you can see them all as you make the exchange.

Here are some of the more reliable sites offering secondhand models:

Most Reliable iPhone Repairs

iKnow in D2 is the best option for reliable, reasonably priced Apple phone repairs in this city. They also repair laptops and other Apple products which you can read about here. While you can expect to pay a bit more for your repair job than at the super cheap options above, you know that what you're paying for is genuine, quality hardware and the skills of qualified professionals.

Brian, the founder of iKnow, is an ex-Apple repair technician who started the company in HCMC to provide reliable Apple repair services and to sell reliable Apple products to Apple customers in the city. And that is exactly what he does.

Useful Words

  • buy: mua
  • repair: sửa
  • phone: điện thoại
  • laptop: laptop
  • how much? bao nhiêu?
  • how long will it take? bao lâu?
  • I want to watch: tôi muốn xem

How about you? Where do you go to repair your mobile phone in Saigon? Do you have a great address to recommend to anyone who has a broken screen or a dead battery? 

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Shipping Things to Vietnam: A Warning

By: City Pass Guide

Importing any goods into any country is, of course, subject to certain restrictions and prohibitions.

In this respect Vietnam is no different. In order to check the prohibited and restricted items, the British Royal Mail website (royalmail.com/viet-nam), has some useful information. In addition to this, it is worth remembering that the country of origin will also have regulations as to what can and what cannot be exported.

It is almost always safer to use one of the recognised courier companies like FedEx, DHL or UPS, rather than unknown companies or the postal service. Things have a habit of getting “lost” as soon as they hit the country. Using a courier will cost you more, but at least it will arrive.

"Professional courier services can be expensive but prove to be the most secure method."

It is also worth remembering that your parcel will more than likely be opened by customs as soon as it hits Vietnam. So accurate labelling as to the contents is important. You don’t want to fall foul of customs services here. They deliver a white slip of paper informing you that a parcel has arrived and that it must be collected from an exact location within a certain time frame. If you happen to be travelling when this happens and miss the deadline, your parcel will be sent back to whence it came and the sender will be liable for charges. Also the internet is full of horror stories when it comes to the postal service. People can sometimes get bounced around from one post office to the next before finally finding their item, only to be informed that ridiculously high import duties are liable, before the parcel will be released.

"Miss your collection time and your parcel will be sent back to its place of origin."

Photo by: SpirosK photography

The problem is not restricted to Vietnam - this seems to be relevant for all of Southeast Asia. When I emigrated to Thailand in 2008, I put all the things that mattered to me in a rather nice chest of drawers and paid a courier company in the UK £170 to ship it out. I was told that the fee charged in the UK covered all import duties in the destination country. It arrived about three months later and I was told to go to the docks to collect it. I duly arrived at the customs office and was told that the import duty was well over $5,000 dollars. The whole lot was worth nowhere near that. Despite things of sentimental value, I decided against it and lost the lot forever. No doubt the customs guys had a great time sharing it all out.

The problems don’t end here either. Many people, upon hearing of the shortcomings of the Vietnamese postal service, decide to simply put valuable items on a plane when they are travelling out to Vietnam. However, putting anything valuable in the hold of an aircraft is never a good idea, and not just in Vietnam. By 2014, airlines were losing almost 22 million items of luggage per year, and that was down by more than half on the staggering figure of 47 million in 2007 (The Wall Street Journal).

Whilst only one in every 2,000 mishandled bags is lost forever (The Independent) that still represents more than 10,000 items per year that are never reunited with their owners. In 2008, Essex CID conducted Operation Bruno, which led to the arrest of 22 baggage handlers at London’s Stansted Airport, who were caught stealing from luggage.

"Airlines are losing almost 22 million items of luggage per year."

I hate to sound so negative about all this but the only safe way to get your valuable items arriving safely at their destination is to use one of the well known reputable companies, as named above, or to hand carry it on the plane yourself and never let it out of your sight. Letting it out of your sight opens up a whole new level of airline theft. Passengers have been reporting items stolen from hand luggage in increasing numbers. In 2012 Vietnam airlines reported 28 cases of valuables stolen from hand luggage. In 2013 nine thieves were caught in the act (Vietnam.net).

The bottom line is, unless it is imperative, don’t bother. The costs are high and the risks are higher. Using reputable courier services is definitely the way to go; or if you can, carry it on board your flight and sit on it!

Header photo by: Niklas Morberg


Best Laptop Repair in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

In this article, we will give you the best tips to repair your laptop or to fix problems with computers in Saigon.

Laptops are perhaps even scarier to replace or repair than phones. They have more bits that could go missing, they're bigger, and they tend to hold more of your life than your iPhone or Android. They also cost more money!

Only last week I may have spilt a cup of warm milky coffee all over my laptop keyboard, and it may have thrown a tantrum, and several of the keys may have stopped working…and long story short, I may have suddenly needed a quick, cheap and reliable repair shop pretty urgently.

You see, I work entirely from my laptop. If I lost Alfred (yes I named my gorgeous Macbook Pro too) I would lose life itself. Literally. So what did I do?! I panicked. But in the end it turned out I didn't have to.

How to repair a non-Apple laptop in Saigon for the cheapest price?

Broken Laptop Keyboard

Photo Source: Ron Howard

Many people recommend a visit to Cách Mạng Tháng 8 in District 3, but without a specific recommendation the world of cheap repairs in Ho Chi Minh City can be difficult to navigate.

Countless workshops are dotted around the city with “sửa lap top” stamped on the front, but unless they repair the machine in front of you there is no guarantee that parts of your laptop won’t go missing during the process. You also can’t guarantee the quality of the parts that are used!
So taking all of that into account, the shop I ended up going to was an absolute find… 

 

  • 223A Phạm Viết Chánh in District 1. Though these rustic blokes speak little more English than ‘today’ and ‘laptop’, they are kind, reliable and skilled at their trade.

 

The guys here will repair all machines including Apple, but are best with non-Apple products. I paid VND 1,000,000 for a new keyboard for Alfred, with a warranty of 6 months. They replaced it in a few hours right there before my eyes, offered me a seat and a coffee, and chatted to me via Google Translate. I would recommend them every single time!

 

  • Expat Blog. I tend to trust this platform in general, and they do have a number of listings here. I guess the key is to Google the correct price for the repair before you go there, bargain hard, check the parts before they put them in, watch them do it and ask for a warranty. Good luck!

 

And what about my Macbook?

If you are looking for somewhere reliable and well priced to repair your precious Apple laptop or in fact any Apple product, iKnow in Thao Dien is the place to go. iKnow also sells top quality Apple products and accessories.

I recently had a big issue with my hard drive and had the whole thing replaced, upgraded and the bottom of my laptop screwed back on for about half the price I was expecting to have to fork out. The best bit about this repair shop is its credibility - Brian, owner and founder of iKnow, is a Phillipino-American ex-employee of Apple, and an expert in Apple product repairs.

The iKnow staff speak great English, so there is none of that usual worrying about wether the technician understood you need your fan re-oiled or will start hacking away at your battery... And, perhaps best of all, with wifi, comfy chairs and a very exciting expresso machine almost begging to be used, waiting around at iKnow for your Apple machine is almost worth paying for in itself. The iKnow team certainly know about customer service. The only thing I would say is that it's quite far out of town, but if you live in D2 it's perfect! 

 

So, where can I buy secondhand or used laptops in Saigon?

The general consensus by locals and visitors alike is that buying a secondhand laptop in Vietnam is not the best idea. ‘Used’ tends to mean that most of the machine’s components have been removed or tampered with and are being ‘used’ in another machine, so your best bet is to buy new or not at all! Due to import tax, prices in Vietnam for laptops and netbooks are on average very high. 

 

  • Apple Authorised Resellers: these are shops that are legally authorized by Apple to resell Apple products, and as such they are relatively scam-free. Look out for a black Apple logo with “Authorised Reseller” beside it. Try Apple Saigon on Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai or premium reseller iCentre with outlets around the city. 

 

  • Buying online at one of these sites may be the way to go:

 

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