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Phrases To Learn Before You Visit Ho Chi Minh


by Lexis Clancy



Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, the vibrant and bustling metropolis that serves as the economic and cultural hub of Vietnam. Known for its rich history, vibrant street life, and delicious cuisine, Ho Chi Minh City offers a multitude of experiences for travelers to enjoy.


Before you embark on your adventure in this bustling city, it’s helpful to have a few phrases under your belt. While many locals in Ho Chi Minh City speak English, showing an effort to communicate in Vietnamese will not only make your interactions smoother but also earn you the respect and appreciation of the locals. In this article, we will guide you through some essential phrases to learn before you visit Ho Chi Minh City.


Whether you’re strolling through the chaotic streets, exploring historical landmarks, indulging in street food, or diving into the local shopping scene, knowing these phrases will make your experience more enjoyable and allow you to connect with the locals on a deeper level.


From basic greetings to navigating the city’s transportation system, ordering food and drinks, bargaining at markets, understanding cultural etiquette, and even handling emergency situations, we’ve got you covered. By familiarizing yourself with these phrases, you’ll have a greater understanding of the local culture and be better prepared to make the most of your time in Ho Chi Minh City.


So, let’s get started and dive into the essential phrases that will make your visit to Ho Chi Minh City even more rewarding!


Greetings and Basic Phrases

When visiting Ho Chi Minh City, it’s important to greet locals with a warm smile and a friendly “xin chào” (pronounced “seen chow”), which means “hello” in Vietnamese. This simple greeting will go a long way in establishing a positive connection with the locals. Here are a few more basic phrases that will come in handy:

  • Cảm ơn (pronounced “kahm uhn”): This phrase means “thank you.” Expressing gratitude is always appreciated, whether you’re receiving directions, enjoying a meal, or receiving help from a local.
  • Đồng ý (pronounced “dohn ee”): This phrase means “yes” and can be used when agreeing or confirming something.
  • Không (pronounced “kohng”): This phrase means “no” and can be used when declining or negating something.
  • Xin lỗi (pronounced “seen loy”): This phrase means “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” and can be used to politely get someone’s attention or apologize for any inconveniences.
  • Tôi không hiểu (pronounced “toy kohng hye-uh”): This phrase means “I don’t understand” and can be helpful when you need someone to repeat or explain something.

By learning and using these basic phrases, you’ll be able to navigate everyday conversations in Ho Chi Minh City with ease and show your respect for the local culture.


Directions and Transportation

Getting around Ho Chi Minh City can be an adventure in itself, but with a few key phrases, you’ll be able to navigate the city with confidence. Whether you’re taking a taxi, using public transportation, or asking for directions, here are some essential phrases to help you get where you need to go:

  • Bến xe (pronounced “ben zay”): This phrase means “bus stop.” Handy for asking locals where to catch a bus or get off at your desired stop.
  • Giao thông (pronounced “gyow tong”): This phrase refers to “traffic” and can be useful if you find yourself in a congested area and need to explain the delay to someone.
  • Tiền công (pronounced “teen kong”): This phrase means “fare” and is essential when taking a taxi or motorcycle ride. Make sure to ask for the fare before getting in the vehicle to avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Đi đâu? (pronounced “dee dow”): This phrase means “Where are you going?” and can be used when asking a taxi driver or seeking directions from someone.
  • Trái (pronounced “try”): This phrase means “left” and is useful when giving or following directions.
  • Phải (pronounced “fy”): This phrase means “right” and is another essential word when it comes to giving or receiving directions.

Remember, Ho Chi Minh City has a bustling motorbike culture, so you may also encounter motorcycle taxis called “xe ôm” (pronounced “say ohm”). If you’re interested in trying this mode of transportation, you can simply say “xe ôm” along with your destination to negotiate the price.


Being able to communicate your destination and understand basic directions will greatly enhance your travel experience in Ho Chi Minh City and ensure you reach your desired destinations with ease.


Ordering Food and Drinks

One of the highlights of visiting Ho Chi Minh City is indulging in the incredible local cuisine. From pho and banh mi to fresh spring rolls and Vietnamese coffee, there are countless delicious options to try. To make the most of your culinary adventures, here are some essential phrases for ordering food and drinks:

  • Một/two/ba (pronounced “mote”/”zoy”/”baa”): These phrases mean “one”/”two”/”three” and can be used when specifying the quantity of a dish or drink.
  • Có không? (pronounced “koh koh?”): This phrase means “Do you have it?” and can be used when inquiring about the availability of a specific dish or ingredient.
  • Món này/món kia? (pronounced “mohn nay”/”mohn kee-uh?”): This phrase means “This dish”/”That dish?” and can be useful when pointing out the item you want from a menu or food stall.
  • Nước ngọt (pronounced “noo-uhk ngot”): This phrase means “soft drink” and can be used when ordering a non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Cho tôi xin một bàn? (pronounced “cho toy seen mote ban?”): This phrase means “Can I have a table, please?” and is essential when dining at a restaurant.
  • Cho tôi hóa đơn? (pronounced “cho toy hwa dorn?”): This phrase means “Can I have the bill, please?” and is handy when you’re ready to pay and leave.

Additionally, when dining out, it’s common to greet the server with a friendly “Chào anh/chị” (pronounced “chow ahn/chee”), which means “Hello sir/madam.” This shows respect and initiates a positive interaction.


By mastering these phrases, you’ll be able to confidently order your favorite Vietnamese dishes and enjoy the incredible culinary experiences Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.


Shopping and Bargaining

Ho Chi Minh City is a shopper’s paradise, with bustling markets, vibrant street vendors, and modern shopping malls offering a wide array of products. To ensure a successful shopping experience, it’s useful to be familiar with some essential phrases for bargaining and navigating the shopping scene:

  • Bao nhiêu? (pronounced “bow nyew?”): This phrase means “How much?” and is crucial when asking for the price of an item.
  • Mắc quá! (pronounced “mahk kwah!”): This phrase means “Too expensive!” and can be used during negotiations to express your dissatisfaction with the initial price.
  • Giảm giá được không? (pronounced “gyam gyah duok kohng?”): This phrase means “Can you lower the price?” and is essential when bargaining for a better deal.
  • Cho tôi giá tốt nhất (pronounced “cho toy gyah tote nyat”): This phrase means “Give me the best price” and is a strong request for the seller to offer their lowest possible price.
  • Tôi mua nhiều (pronounced “toy mwa nyew”): This phrase means “I’m buying a lot” and can be used to leverage a better price, especially when purchasing multiple items.
  • Có đổi được không? (pronounced “koh doy duok kohng?”): This phrase means “Can I exchange it?” and is useful to know in case you need to exchange or return an item.

When interacting with sellers, maintain a friendly and polite demeanor. Remember that bargaining is a common practice, so don’t be afraid to negotiate for a fair price. However, always be respectful and considerate of the seller’s livelihood.


By using these shopping and bargaining phrases, you’ll be able to navigate the markets, find great deals, and bring home souvenirs that capture the essence of your trip to Ho Chi Minh City.


Emergency and Safety Phrases

While Ho Chi Minh City is generally a safe destination, it’s always wise to be prepared and know how to handle emergency situations. Here are some essential emergency and safety phrases to ensure your well-being during your visit:

  • Gặp nạn! (pronounced “gahp nan!”): This phrase means “Help!” and can be used to attract attention or seek assistance in an emergency situation.
  • Cấp cứu! (pronounced “kahp kyu!”): This phrase means “Emergency!” and should be used to indicate a critical situation requiring immediate attention or medical assistance.
  • Bị mất/giật/tự nhiên (pronounced “bee maht/yiht/too nyen”): These phrases mean “Lost/stolen/sudden” and can be used to describe the nature of the emergency or incident when seeking help.
  • Các sở cứu hỏa (pronounced “cak suh kyu hwa”): This phrase means “Fire department” and can be helpful in alerting authorities to a fire emergency.
  • Cảnh sát (pronounced “cang sat”): This phrase means “Police” and can be used to seek assistance or report a crime.
  • Nhà nghỉ gần nhất? (pronounced “nya ngi gan nyat?”): This phrase means “Nearest hotel?” and can be useful if you need directions or assistance in finding accommodation.

In case of an emergency, it’s always a good idea to have the contact information for your embassy or consulate readily available. They can provide guidance and support during challenging situations.


Remember, staying vigilant and taking necessary precautions are key to ensuring your safety while exploring Ho Chi Minh City. By familiarizing yourself with these emergency and safety phrases, you’ll be better equipped to handle any unforeseen circumstances that may arise.


Cultural Etiquette

Understanding and respecting the local customs and traditions is vital when visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Here are some cultural etiquette tips to help you navigate social interactions and show your appreciation for Vietnamese culture:

  • Say “xin chào” and “cảm ơn”: Greeting people with a friendly “xin chào” and expressing gratitude with “cảm ơn” is a simple way to show respect and create positive connections with the locals.
  • Remove your shoes: It is customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, as well as certain businesses, temples, and pagodas. Look for a pile of shoes at the entrance as a cue.
  • Dress modestly: When visiting religious sites or rural areas, it is important to dress modestly and respectfully. Avoid revealing clothing and opt for clothing that covers the shoulders and knees.
  • Use both hands when giving and receiving: When offering or receiving something, such as money or gifts, it is polite to use both hands as a sign of respect.
  • Avoid public displays of affection: Vietnamese culture values modesty, so it is best to refrain from public displays of affection, such as kissing or hugging, in order to respect local customs.
  • Respect religious sites and customs: When visiting temples or pagodas, dress modestly, remove your shoes, and follow any specific instructions or guidelines given by the staff or locals.
  • Mind your body language: Avoid pointing with your finger, especially at people, as it is considered impolite. Instead, use an open hand or nod in the direction you want to indicate.
  • Avoid sensitive topics: Politics, religion, and the Vietnam War are sensitive topics in Vietnam. It is best to avoid discussing these subjects to prevent any unintentional offense.

By observing these cultural etiquette practices, you will demonstrate your respect for Vietnamese customs and create a positive impression during your time in Ho Chi Minh City.


Sightseeing and Tourist Attractions

Ho Chi Minh City is filled with a plethora of captivating sights and tourist attractions that showcase its rich history and vibrant culture. To make the most of your sightseeing adventures, here are some key phrases to enhance your experience:

  • Chỗ này đẹp quá! (pronounced “cho nay dep kwah!”): This phrase means “This place is beautiful!” and can be used to express your admiration for a particular attraction.
  • Lối ra là ở đâu? (pronounced “loy ra lah oh dow?”): This phrase means “Where is the exit?” and is helpful when navigating through crowded attractions or museums.
  • Bao lâu đi từ đây đến điểm đến? (pronounced “bao lau dee tooe die day den dieuhm den?”): This phrase means “How long does it take to get from here to the destination?” and can be used when planning your itinerary or seeking directions.
  • Đây có hướng dẫn bằng tiếng Anh không? (pronounced “day koh hoo-uhng dan behng tyeeng ahng kohng?”): This phrase means “Is there an English guide here?” and can be useful when visiting attractions that offer guided tours.
  • Tôi muốn chụp hình ở đây (pronounced “toy muoan choop heen oh day”): This phrase means “I want to take a photo here” and is handy when you want to capture memories of your visit.
  • Bạn có gợi ý nơi thú vị nào khác không? (pronounced “bahn koh goy ooi noy thoo vee now kahc kohng?”): This phrase means “Do you have any other interesting recommendations?” and can be used to get suggestions for additional attractions to visit.

As you explore the city’s attractions, keeping these phrases in mind will enable you to communicate effectively, seek information, and fully absorb the beauty and culture of Ho Chi Minh City.



Congratulations! You now have a repertoire of essential phrases to navigate your way through Ho Chi Minh City like a pro. From greetings and basic phrases to directions, ordering food and drinks, bargaining, and handling emergency situations, you are equipped with the tools to communicate effectively and engage with the local culture.


By demonstrating respect for Vietnamese customs and cultural etiquette, you’ll leave a positive impression on the locals and create meaningful connections during your visit. Remember to embrace the vibrant street life, savor the delicious cuisine, and explore the fascinating sights and attractions that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.


Whether you’re strolling through the bustling markets, marveling at historical landmarks, or interacting with the warm and friendly locals, your newfound knowledge of Vietnamese phrases will enhance your travel experience and create memories to last a lifetime. So go ahead, immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Ho Chi Minh City, and enjoy every moment of your adventure!