CafesFeature

8 Saigon Cafes: A Digital Nomad’s Paradise

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with remote working in Vietnam.

And that is not an exaggeration.

In three weeks I only managed to scratch the surface of Saigon’s incredible cafe scene. From modern to hipster and every theme in between, each location I visited boasted incredible interior design and drip coffee that I swear is some kind of otherworldly elixir from alternate dimension. In the words of my tour guide friend Son, “it makes Starbucks taste like water.” I only wish he hadn’t been so correct in that sentiment since now literally any other kind of coffee is ruined for me, but much more on that in an upcoming post. Let’s get to why I really brought you here: to re-hash a bunch of similar blog posts I’ve seen floating around about the best cafes to work from in Ho Chi Mihn City!

But in all seriousness, since I wound up visiting way more than I planned to, I thought it would at least be beneficial to list their pros and cons, including some tips I couldn’t find in other blog posts during my research. Both so I don’t forget in case I’m ever back (which better happen someday) and to hopefully provide some marginal benefit to any other digital nomads out there who stumble across this post. All of these locations were within a walking distance of no more than 20 minutes from each of my Airbnbs in Districts 1 and 3, and at no point did I ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable walking around with my laptop in my backpack. Also keep in mind that the wait staff in Vietnam do not operate the same way as they do in the States. They will seat you and take your order, and once they deliver your food they will come back. They are, however, always standing close by and will come immediately when called or motioned to – you’re not being ignored! Everyone I talked to either had great English or knew enough to communicate just fine. You are not expected to tip either, but there were a few times I left 10,000VND if I thought they were exceptionally friendly or helpful.

I.d Cafe (D1)

34D Thu Khoa Huan Street, District 1
Website    TripAdvisor   Facebook    Google Maps

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While the ground floor is just as trendy, it’s a bit small. Make sure to walk up to the second floor for a more open and relaxed area with plenty of seating. It’s a little dark and the music seems to entirely consist of boy band ballads from the 90’s, but the staff provides you with free, unlimited iced green tea during your stay so that’s pretty rad. There are two I.d Cafes in Saigon and I think both are different enough to warrant separate visits, though the food and drink menu is the same. This one is located just a block away from the Ben Thanh Street Food Market so you could easily grab a slightly cheaper bite to eat over there and just head in for some coffee. The food prices are reasonable here though and I enjoyed the lunch and breakfast I had between the two locations. The coffee was great here too.

Price: 40,000-150,000
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: Very comfy, but the tables are low so it might be difficult to use a laptop unless it’s in your lap. Also might be difficult if you’re a very tall person.
Atmosphere: Great and very relaxing, but dark. Mostly locals with a few foreigners occasionally. Does get a bit loud at lunchtime.
Staff: 10/10. Probably my favorite wait staff of all the cafes I frequented. Friendly and very attentive. Got my food quickly and were always promptly refilling my green tea!
Wifi: 8/10. Worked decently but the power went out twice for about 10 minutes each time, as is prone to happen in the city.
Location: Very easy to find, right across the street from Lameda Cafe & Lounge and on the same street as the Ben Thanh Street Food Market. The outside is clearly labeled with a hanging sign.

The Loft Cafe

95 Pasteur Street, 2nd floor, District 1
Website    TripAdvisor   Facebook    Google Maps

On the ground floor of the building is an art gallery that’s pretty easy to spot. You can even watch the artist work! I came here on an early morning and only ordered a Vietnamese drip coffee with ice and milk (which was fantastic). Their food looked great though. When I walked in there was a wedding photoshoot happening in front of the big clock. I can only imagine how gorgeous those photos were! I actually only wound up staying for a couple of hours because the wifi cut out, perhaps due to there being so many people using it around lunchtime. I waited for a good fifteen minutes before I gave up and left. It worked fine while it was running but I was definitely disappointed. Had the service and wifi been better, I would have loved to work here for the entire day.

Price: 40,000-150,000 (very reasonable prices, check out their menu)
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: A mix between soft comfy chairs, stools and regular wooden-backed chairs. I sat at a table in the regular chairs and they were about as comfortable as you’d expect. Not bad at all.
Atmosphere: Very quiet in the morning, gets pretty busy and crowded around lunchtime. A decent amount of other expats working from their laptops. Lots of natural light and very well-lit.
Staff: 3/10. I ordered my coffee and they got in a huge reservation, so they got caught up moving around tables and forgot my order. I finally reminded them a half hour later, and they forgot to give me ice, so I had to call them over again. They seemed busy and flustered, but really? It was only coffee!
Wifi: 5/10. Worked decently but got overloaded about two hours into my stay.
Location: On the second floor, up the stairs past the art gallery on the ground level. Hang a right to enter. There’s a small sign outside hanging from the art gallery alcove.

Au Parc Saigon

23 Hàn Thuyên, District 1
TripAdvisor   Facebook    Google Maps
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So this is where I ended up when I left The Loft since it was only about a 3 minute walk away. It boasts a great selection of Mediterranean and other European/Western dishes. When I was sick the week prior I ordered a take-out breakfast of yogurt, granola, fruit and breads with different spreads. It was delicious but the price was a bit steep. This time I ordered a smoothie and it was also delicious, but for whatever reason I had the same staff issues all over again. How hard is it to bring someone a drink?! The place has it’s own storefront, with a ground floor and a huge upper level that was absolutely gorgeous. I came around lunchtime and stayed around 5 hours, and it never felt crowded due to the amount of space. The whole place was very bright but calm, due to the warm lighting mingling with the natural light pouring in from the huge glass windows. The best part was that it had GREAT wifi.

Price: 45,000-300,000 (definitely the most expensive place I visited, check out their menu)
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: Wooden benches with pillows, soft booths and padded chairs. I sat in the area pictured in the bottom-left photo and my only gripe was that the table seemed a little high for working on a laptop, but maybe I’m just short. Which is also true, so…yea. It didn’t seem like an issue in the other areas of the restaurant.
Atmosphere: Very quiet. So much space and it never got loud. Well-lit. As this was in the heart of District 1 I would say the majority of people I saw there were tourists and backpackers.
Staff: 2/10. Ordered a smoothie, waited an hour and never got it. Finally flagged someone down and got it right away. Staff was mostly standing around chatting or on their phones. Seems to be mostly par for the course at most places in Vietnam, but this was a little much. I also witnessed them get multiple other orders wrong too or forget them completely.
Wifi: 9/10. Worked damn near perfectly.
Location: Very easy to find, has it’s own storefront and is clearly labeled. In an awesome area right between the Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace and across from a giant, shady park.

M2C Cafe

44B Ly Tu Trong St., District 1
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There are three locations; I visited the one on Ly Tu Trong. It’s just a short walk away from the two previous cafes above. The full name is Modern Meets Culture – they provide free iced green tea and I loved the quirky decor; very hipster with an eclectic mix of funky chairs and couches, plus plenty of mirrors and bookshelves. These cafes are actually owned by the same people who run the I.d Cafes, which would explain the mood lighting. Music was at a nice volume (newer pop songs) and the upstairs was generally quiet even at lunchtime. It is clearly labeled from the street, and has a cute ground floor with a slightly more spacious upper level. This was one of my favorite places to work since it had cheap, delicious food, incredible wifi, a great staff and the most comfortable seating arrangement I encountered. The only thing that was a bit strange was towards the end of the day when I ran to the bathroom. A few minutes after I sat back down, I noticed my leg was somehow eaten alive by what I’m guessing was a mosquito(s?). It only happened during the last half hour I was there and I think the mosquito might have been in the bathroom, but who knows. Either way I ran out of there pretty fast to go grab some Tiger Balm because my leg was on fire, so…yea.

Price: 40,000-85,000 (great prices, check out their menu)
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: Couches with low tables and padded chairs with standard tables. I saw at a regular table and it was the comfiest seat and most comfortable table I used out of everywhere I visited.
Atmosphere: Calm and quiet. Dark with mood lighting. A few other expats working on their laptops, but for the most part it seemed to be mostly a local hangout. Didn’t get too busy even at lunchtime.
Staff: 9/10. Super nice and very attentive. Always kept my iced green tea topped up.
Wifi: 10/10. Worked all day and had zero issues. Super fast. PERFECT.
Location: Very easy to see from the street, there is a hanging sign outside the entrance. Great location right in the middle of D1.

L’usine

70A-70B-68 Le Loi, Ben Thanh, District 1
Website    TripAdvisor   Facebook    Google Maps

L’usine has two locations, I went to the one on Le Loi. It has a really cute and trendy (and expensive) store on the lower level, but upstairs is an awesome cafe with minimalist/hipster decor that’s to die for. This was the most expensive breakfast I bought in Saigon at $8, but it was totally worth it. The portions were huge and it was the best Western breakfast I had in the city (there were at least 7 pieces of bacon, waddup homie!). It was also my favorite work  atmosphere since there were quite a few business professionals and other expats chattering away next to me. It felt like a co-working space!

Price: 40,000-200,000 (check out their awesome menu)
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: Metal-backed chairs/stools. Not the most comfortable after a few hours but the tables were at the perfect height for using a laptop.
Atmosphere: Bright, modern and fun with a mix of tourists, locals and quite a few business people having meetings.
Staff: 8/10. Super sweet and attentive. As with most other places I paid my bill at the counter because I didn’t feel like flagging anyone down.
Wifi: 7/10. Worked for about 5 hours with minimal interruptions before cutting out when it got busy. I wound up just running down the street to M2C.
Location: They have a storefront so it’s easy to spot from the street. It’s right near Cong Vien park and Saigon Square.

I.d Cafe (D3)

61B Tu Xuong Street, District 3
Website    TripAdvisor   Facebook    Google Maps

This was the first cafe I visited during my stay in Saigon. They have a spacious ground floor but an even roomier second level with covered outdoor seating if that’s your thing. There is a lot more natural light here than the location in D1, but it’s still dark and moody. It torrentially downpoured while I was upstairs and I loved watching the rain fall outside the big windows. They provide free iced green tea and I had a great lunch here that was very reasonably priced. Really good coffee as well.

Price: 40,000-150,000
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: Couches and soft padded chairs. Very comfy but except for the lone table I found on the first floor, the rest were too low for working adequately on the laptop. I wound up with it on my lap when I moved upstairs.
Atmosphere: Dark and moody but much more lighting on the upper level. Definitely a local hangout. Very quiet even when it got busy. Same 90’s boy band ballads as the other location.
Staff: 7/10. Very nice and helpful, always smiling. Kept the green tea refilled.
Wifi: 6/10. They had three wifi networks that all had the same password for some reason. When one cut out I would connect to another and that seemed to work, but it cut out pretty frequently and got pretty annoying after awhile.
Location: There is a small sign off the street, look closely for it. Follow the small alley and hang a right through the big wooden doors to find the entrance. The area just outside is lovely with a few tables and ample greenery.

Casanova Cafe

61C Tu Xuong Street, Ward 7, District 3
Website    TripAdvisor   Facebook    Google Maps

Located in the same alley as I.d Cafe, this was probably the quirkiest of the places I visited. There was such a crazy mix of hipster and contemporary decor: colorful chairs, lit bookshelves, entire walls that were painted with European scenes (think Venice and Greece). Seemed to be a local dive but I saw a couple of expats working here sporadically throughout the day. I found a great little couch table in the corner and for once the table was a reasonable height for a laptop.

Price: 40,000-150,000 (I think that’s about right, their menu is here but the pricing on the site is a bit confusing)
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: Couches, padded chairs, wooden seating/walls with pillows. Some places are a bit more suited than others for using a laptop, but I had no problem finding a good spot. There was a lot of room.
Atmosphere: Fairly dark mood lighting which seems to be a common theme, but it was so colorful and cool. A really calm and fun work environment.
Staff: 7/10. Really nice and attentive. No complaints here. A lot of them spent time milling about on their phones but they always came over with a smile when beckoned to.
Wifi: 9/10. Wifi worked fairly flawlessly, even when it got a bit busier during lunchtime. Just a few slow spots but nothing long enough to interrupt my work.
Location: The same alley as I.d Cafe – there’s a small sign at the entrance. Just enter the alley and follow it all the way back. Walk through the tiny door that leads to the main counter, and then walk down a couple of stairs to the main lounge area.

Work Saigon

267/2 Dien Bien Phu, District 3
Website    TripAdvisor   Facebook    Google Maps

I saved the best for last – this was the one true co-working space in Saigon that I visited and it didn’t disappoint. The quick photos I snapped don’t do it justice, so the one of the right I stole from their website. The wifi was absolutely glorious. Never cut out once and was lightning fast. The upper level is reserved for business and members that pay monthly, but anywhere on the ground floor is free to use with the purchase of a menu item. I wound up coming here for two days because I loved the atmosphere and the wifi so much. The music is super low and everyone is extremely quiet, just typing away on their laptops and working hard. It wasn’t exactly the most social environment but since I sat near the cafe counter, I was able to strike up conversations with folks as they were ordering food, so that was fun. The entire place is built with working remotely in mind so the tables are great, there are plenty of outlets and the staff is fast and crazy attentive. Their food and coffee was delicious too! There’s a really clean swimming pool out back that I never saw anyone use, and a cute courtyard and outdoor seating area as well.

Price: 40,000-140,000 (awesome food and coffee, check out their menu)
Outlets: Plenty
Seating: Benches, wooden chairs, padded chairs. There are small “desk” areas that provide a bit more privacy, and long bench tables that encourage socialization.
Atmosphere: Very bright and open, tons of natural light. Modern and clean, consisting of mostly expats and foreigners.
Staff: 10/10. Always nice and were proactive in clearing tables, which was something I didn’t see much of at other establishments.
Wifi: 10/10. I will probably be dreaming about this wifi for the rest of my travels.
Location: This was the most confusing place for me to find as it isn’t labeled on the building or anywhere on the street (that I saw anyway). It’s easiest to just check the map – from Dien Bien Phu, walk down the alley and look to your right for the house number on the gate entrance. Go through the gate and you’ll immediately see a big white building with a cute courtyard to the left, and a swimming pool. I can’t even remembered if the door is labeled, but it’s pretty easy to tell you’re in the right place once you walk in.

 

And that’s it for the cafes I visited, but here are some other resources that I used when researching where to go. I wish I’d had more time to check everything out, but I definitely can’t complain. Vietnam truly is a remote worker’s paradise!

The Hungry Suitcase – My 15 Favorite Cafes in Saigon
Nomadic Notes – The incredible cafe scene of Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam
Vietnam Coracle – Saigon’s Hidden Cafes

Ho Chi Mihn City: 7.31 – 8.19, 2016

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