My guide to finding top quality Italian coffee in Ho Chi Minh City for those on a shoe-string budget.
In the world’s number one exporter of Robusta coffee, a nation known for its own unique roasts and blends, a place where tourists come from all over the globe just to sit in a cafe and sip on something very very sweet, you’d think finding cheap coffee would be easy.
Well yes, ‘cà phê‘ is not difficult to find in Vietnam, and least of all in Saigon, where the average worker starts every day with a strong, violently sweet brew of caffein and sweet, thick milk.
‘Cà phê‘ is everywhere! Find a street, walk on it, and you’d literally have to be blind not to find a coffee-scented local selling one of those cheap, delicious glasses. It’s almost too easy to drink, to be honest, especially since the average wallet damage is VND 10,000 or less.
I know a place where you can down a large plastic cup of ‘cà phê sữa đá‘ for VND 6,000 and as much iced tea as you like. In Ho Chi Minh City, coffee and sweet milk is the budgeting caffeine-addict’s dream!
But…the same cannot be said for coffee and fresh milk.
I think the biggest issue here is that Italian coffee needs an expresso machine, and therefore tends not to be a street-food option.
When you pay for a cappuccino in Saigon you pay for the machine, the training to use that machine, the rent of the building you’re in, even the electricity! And often a bunch of other things too. The mugs, the beans, the brand, etc…in Starbucks a cappuccino will cost you upwards of VND 60,000. So naturally, Italian coffee in this city is notoriously expensive.
What to do? Well, I decided to challenge notoriety and look for 10 cafes in Saigon that offer cheap(er), delicious and most importantly quality Italian coffee. For all those broke creative types out there who need a bit of expresso in their life…
Address: 269/1 Nguyen Trai, F.Nguyen Cu Trinh, D1.
Wallet Damage: A cappuccino costs VND 33,000
Parking: Yes, for motorbikes.
Free Iced Tea: Yes, and it’s delightfully peachy.
Why Go? Because it’s my favourite cafe and I told you to. Also, because it’s genuinely a great place – think retro aladdin’s cave with a super catchy soundtrack and one of the best quality cappuccinos you have ever tasted.
2. Urban Station
Address: Many outlets in the city! Check out their website to find your closest coffee shop.
Wallet Damage: So low it makes you want to buy two. Cappuccinos are VND 27,000 if you buy one to take-away, and Vietnamese cà phê đá is only VND 14,000.
Parking: Yep, for motorbikes/bicycles
Free Iced Tea: Yep! You’ve got to look for it though and serve yourself, but I don’t mind that and neither will you. Trust me.
Why Go? Well…do you like quality Italian coffee? Do you like saving money? Do you enjoy cute, vintage settings? Does it make you happy when you can combine the three? If you answered yes, then stop reading this and go buy a coffee.
Address: 173/10 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1.
Wallet Damage: Not very damaging. It always feels nicely rounded and wholesome when you buy something that costs you a multiple of ten, doesn’t it? VND 500,000 seems worlds less scary than VND 505,000 and the difference is the cost of half your evening beer. Cappuccinos at YOLO cost VND 30,000, and it makes me feel so tranquil.
Parking: Definitely! And the parking guy is great.
Free Iced Tea: Icy cold water is available by the jug-full, just fill up when you need.
Why Go? Because, and well done if you saw this coming, you only live once.
4. The 1958
Address: 223/2K Pham Viet Chanh, D1.
Wallet Damage: A little bit more, but the shop’s general cuteness makes up for it. A cappuccino (with accompanying butter cookie) costs VND 35,000.
Parking: Not officially, but there is an area of pavement at the front of the shop where you can leave your motorbike. If you ride a pushbike obviously bring a lock.
Free Iced Tea: Yes, and I think 1985’s free iced tea is the best free iced tea out of this whole list of ten. Why? Well it’s just so cute and rosey. Go try some and you’ll understand…
Why Go? Apart from the free tea, the 1985 cafe has a delicious range of French cakes, macaroons, brownies…heaven. They also have a range of Japanese green and fruit teas which come in very exciting glass teapots!
Address: 219C Pham Viet Chanh, D1.
Wallet Damage: Low. A cappuccino costs VND 32,000.
Parking: Yep! Leave your motorbike with a decidedly attractive motorbike man for no money at all.
Free Iced Tea: Free iced water is served and topped up when you’re running low.
Why Go? Because this is one of the go-to hangout spots for anyone who is anyone in Saigon’s district 1. It also serves quality coffee, and has a large menu to which the Singaporean owner is constantly adding. The staff are lovely, and the ambience is stylish but not at all pretentious.
6. Thuc Coffee
Address: There are five outlets for this chain. One is on 156B Pasteur D1, one is on 180A Pasteur D1, one on 60 Huynh Thuc Khang D1, one on 37 Ly Tu Trong D1, and one is on 11 Le Quy Don, D3.
Wallet Damage: Minimal! And not only Italian but a wide range of coffees, icy concoctions and delicious local creations are available.
Free Iced Tea: Nope
Why Go? This chain is popular for a reason – the coffee is delicious and it’s cheap! Thuc coffee is also open 24/7, which is great for those excellent night-time creative splurges us artsy types tend to get.
7. Monkey in Black
Address: 263 Tran Quang Khai, D1.
Wallet Damage: Slim! A cappuccino is VND 35,000, and honestly with a name like that does money matter much anyway…?
Free Iced Tea: nah mate
Why Go? As I said before – with a name like that why would you not? And the plain stylishness of said name extends to their decor. Come to the Monkey in Black, and enjoy the synthesis of a brand that worked.
Address: 15 Nguyen Thi Huynh, Phu Nhuan District.
Wallet Damage: Very minimal! Only VND 35,000 for a cappuccino.
Free Iced Tea: Not when I went, but that’s ok.
Why Go? Well, possibly the best reason is because this place is so hard to find, masked as it is by a boutique with the same name. If you find it, you feel accomplished, and that makes your coffee taste so much better.
9. S’morin Coffee
Address: 240 Cao Thang (noi dai), D10.
Wallet Damage: A cappuccino will cost you VND 31,000, which is such a strangely specific number…but that’s why I like it.
Why Go? This coffee shop is perhaps one of the friendliest on our list. S’morin is well worth the visit for it’s coffee, yes, but also for the attitude of the person who serves it to you.
Address: 44 Ly Tu Trong, D1.
Wallet Damage: Reasonable. This place is very vintage and very nice to be in, so paying VND 45,000 for a coffee is totally worth it if you ask me. They have candles.
Parking: You bet ya.
Free Iced Tea: Nah not when I went, but like I said – they have candles.
Why Go? Did you know that this place is one of Saigon’s most dreamy, beautiful night-life spots? I bet you did. It’s pretty famous as a live music venue, and for those who like red wine and even redder lipstick its like the haven of all havens. But I bet you didn’t know you could buy coffee with that wine…
So there you have it! 10 coffee shops which won’t break your wallet for a humble cuppa, and which also happen to be pretty nice to hang out in. Do you have any to add?