What are the best drinks to try in Vietnam?
Depending on where you’re traveling in the country, the weather can be very hot and humid (We’re looking at you – Ho Chi Minh City) or cooler weather. To stay hydrated all day long, you’ll need to grab something to drink to cool off or warm you up.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list, here are our recommendations of what to drink in Vietnam. There is a mix of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. We also provide some tips on how to order, where to buy them, and approximate costs.
Check out our Vietnam posts to help you with your planning.
- Why Visit Vietnam
- Vietnam Travel Tips for First Time Visitors
- Travel to Vietnam on a Budget
- What to Pack for Vietnam
- Places to Visit in Vietnam
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How To Order Vietnamese Drinks
It’s recommended to know a few Vietnamese words to help order a drink.
- Numbers: one (một), two (hai), three (ba) – Click here to see a fun video on learning Vietnamese numbers.
- Type of container: glass (ly) / cup (tách) / bottle (chai)
- Size: small (nhỏ), large (lớn)
- To-go/takeaway: mang về
The grammar for a to go/takeaway drink in Vietnamese is “To go. Number of drinks + container + drink + size.”
For example, 1 glass of large pineapple smoothie to go is translated as “Mang về. Một ly sinh tố thơm** lớn” in Vietnamese. It sounds like “Maang veh. Moat lee sin toe tuum leun” in English.
**Note: Thơm is how you say pineapple in South Vietnam. Otherwise, it’s dứa in North Vietnam.
The regional accent and vocabulary and tones are a bit challenging. Vietnamese has 6 tones and 11 vowels and each of the vowels can be said in the 6 different tones. Even after taking Vietnamese classes for 80 hours, we still have difficulties with the tones.
Therefore, you can order a drink in English. The vendor usually understands basic English in the main touristy areas.
Other Things to Know When Ordering Vietnamese Drinks
1. Drinks tend to be on the sweet side. Less sugar and no sugar options are available. You’ll need to ask for it.
- Less sugar is “ít đường” in Vietnamese. It sounds like “it dueng” in English.
- No sugar is “không đường.” It sounds like “k-ohm dueng.”
2. Ice is safe to have in your drinks. The ice is made from a manufacturing ice factory with clean water and gets delivered to restaurants and vendors several times a day.
3. Find many of these drinks at local markets or a sidewalk vendor for a cheaper price than at a restaurant. Restaurants will charge 2-3 times more.
4. Bring cash with you to purchase drinks, especially when buying from the sidewalk vendors. In the larger cities, chain coffee shops and tea shops will allow credit cards for payment.
5. If you buy drinks from a sidewalk vendor, they’ll use a lot of plastic if you will take away your drink. The cup, lid, straw, and bag or cup holder are all in plastic. Unfortunately, plastic is a huge concern in Vietnam since it doesn’t get recycled properly. It’s always dumped on the side of the road and collects in the streams or gets burned with other garbage.
TIP: Reduce your plastic by saying “không” (sounds like “k-ohm” and means “no”) to plastic straws and bags. Bring your own reusable water bottle and the vendor can fill it with your preferred drink.
6. Major cities have lots of local and coffee shop chains. You’ll see a coffee shop or two on every street so you could hop around to try your favorite Vietnamese drinks. Yes, there is a Starbucks in Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, and Hanoi.
7. At restaurants, a glass of water may not be automatically given. You’ll need to ask for it, even if you order a drink.
1. Fruit Smoothies
Vietnam has a variety of different fruits available all year round. Since there are a lot of fruits, what better way to consume your Vitamin C and nutrients for the day than by drinking a fruit smoothie (sinh tố in Vietnamese).
You can get any fruit possible as a fruit smoothie. Try avocado (bơ), soursop (mãng cầu), coconut (dừa), pineapple (thơm in South Vietnam/dứa in North Vietnam), banana (chuối), mango (xoài), strawberry (dâu), or other refreshing flavors.
Our favorite is the avocado durian smoothie (sinh tố bơ sầu riêng.) It’s a delicious combination since the avocado is slightly bitter and the durian has a creamy texture. Once you puncture the straw into the cup, the durian smell is strong but oh so good if you love durian!
Smoothies have ice, milk or condensed milk (non-dairy options such as soy or coconut milk are available at vegetarian/vegan restaurants and specialty shops), and extra sugar so it can be a little too sweet. You can request less sugar which we mentioned how to say in the section above.
Heads up: The smoothies are very filling and can be almost a meal replacement.
Cost: Starts from 50,000 VND ($2.20) and up
Read more: Delicious fruits to try in Vietnam
2. Fresh Fruit Juice
We’ve already mentioned fruit smoothies above, now we’re sharing fresh fruit juices (nước ép trái cây tươi). Some of the milder and juicier tasting tropical fruits taste better as juices than smoothies due to flavor and texture.
Check out freshly squeezed orange juice (nước cam ép), watermelon (dưa hấu), passion fruit (chanh dây), and guava (ổi).
These fruit juices are placed in a juicer and served with ice.
Sometimes sugar is added to the juice if the fruit is on the tart side such as passion fruit. If that is the case, then you’ll need to ask if sugar is added and request the juice to not have any.
We’ll also mention some noteworthy fruit juices to try in Vietnam below.
Cost: Starts at 10,000 VND ($.44) and up
3. Sugarcane Juice
Sugarcane juice (nước mía) is one of our favorites juices to enjoy on a hot and humid day. You can find sugarcane juice in many Southeast Asia countries.
What exactly is it? A long sugarcane piece gets pushed into a machine that crushes it and the pulp and juice get extracted. The juice may get mixed with kumquat juice to get it some extra citrus flavor. (If there isn’t any kumquat added, it’s not a big deal but the flavor is different.) Afterward, the juice gets poured into a plastic cup with ice.
It’s easy to find a sidewalk vendor selling sugarcane juice. Look for the sugarcane processing machine and a bucket of fresh sugarcanes.
TIP: You’ll see a bunch of flies swarming around the machine and the already crushed sugarcane pieces. While it may turn off some visitors, we’ve personally haven’t gotten sick from it as the flies prefer the sweetness of the crushed pieces versus the juice.
If you’re adventurous, one of the unique sugarcane juice mixes to try is durian sugarcane juice (nước mía sầu riêng). Yes – durian! While durian has a reputation for being a stinky fruit, the creamy fruit chunks complement the sugarcane. Since we like durian, the smell doesn’t seem pungent but you do smell it.
Cost: Expect to pay 5,000-10,000 VND ($.22-$.44) for a regular size and 20,000 VND ($.88) for a large size
4. Pennywort Juice
One of the unique drinks to try in Vietnam is pennywort juice (nước rau má). Pennywort is a herbaceous plant that grows easily in wetlands and tropical climates, which is why this drink is available in Southeast Asia.
In Vietnam, the pennywort leaves are juiced to a gorgeous dark green color and then poured into a cup of ice.
While having the plain pennyworth juice is very healthy to drink, you can add jellies and coconut milk or soy milk to the juice for extra texture and flavor. We’ve tried the toppings, such as mung beans, durian, taro, and jellies (tapioca jellies, white pearls, and pandan jellies). We love them all, especially with the mung beans for extra texture and fiber.
Cost: 15,000-30,000 VND ($.66-$1.30)
5. Fresh Coconut Juice
When living in the U.S., we’re used to drinking coconut water in tetra packs. Once we moved to Ho Chi Minh City, we saw how easy it was to buy fresh coconut from a local market and street vendors.
We buy fresh coconuts from a vendor near our apartment complex and drink coconut juice often. It’s quite refreshing to drink coconut juice on a hot day. Plus, there are natural electrolytes and potassium to help with any workout recovery.
TIP: Look for dừa xiêm when buying coconuts. These are small, yet super sweet young coconuts are grown in Ben Tre, in the Mekong Delta. These have the sweetest coconut juice that we’ve tried in Vietnam and do not have a strange aftertaste.
When buying coconuts, there are a few ways for it getting prepared:
- The vendor can hack off the sides and bottoms of the coconuts with a machete and cut them into the top part of the coconuts so you can enjoy them there or at your next destination.
- The vendor can do the process above and pour the juice into a plastic cup. Afterward, they can scrape the coconut meat and place it inside the cup. This way is easier to transport for takeaway but requires more plastic usage.
Cost: Large coconuts can cost 10,000-25,000 VND ($.44-$1.10) each. For the dừa xiêm, you can find them at 2 for 15,000 VND ($.66).
6. Iced Tea
Who loves drinking tea? We do!
Vietnam has many beautiful tea plantations across the country and some delicious teas to try. (We suggest that you visit Bao Loc, close to Dalat in the Central Highlands, to see the endless rolling hills of tea plantations.)
While we prefer drinking hot tea at home, we have to drink iced tea whenever we go out. It’s a staple drink wherever you go and is one of the cheapest things to order. You can get iced tea at hair salons, noodle shops, restaurants, and coffee shops.
The well-known tea used for iced tea is either oolong or jasmine green tea. The tea flavor isn’t strong due to the ice and the tea leaves getting seeped multiple times throughout the day. Yet, it’s better than having plain water.
We’ll share more unique teas to try in Vietnam.
Cost: Usually between 5,000-20,000 VND ($.22-$.88)
7. Artichoke Tea
We love eating artichoke and have never heard about artichoke tea (trà atiso) until seeing it for sale at L’angsfarm, a food souvenir shop selling snacks, dried fruits, and tea that is grown in the Dalat area.
Dalat grows a lot of artichokes (which are really delicious to eat!) due to the cooler weather so it makes sense that artichoke tea is popular.
The tea is made with 92% dried artichoke, including the stem, leaves, roots, and flower, and 8% sweet grass. You can drink the hot tea either with loose artichoke stems and leaves or in a tea bag.
While you may expect the tea to have the flavor to be similar to drinking the boiled water after cooking artichokes, it has a unique flavor which may not be for everyone due to the sweet grass. The grass makes the tea extremely sweet. Yet, if you’re looking for a dessert-type of tea after finishing a meal, then you may like the artichoke tea.
Cost: Tea bags can cost 50,000 VND ($2.20) for 20 bags. Loose artichoke tea at L’angsfarm costs 186,000 VND ($8.20) for 225 grams
8. Bubble Tea
Are you a fan of drinking bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea or boba tea? This drink originated in Taichung, Taiwan, and has made its way to Vietnam. These drinks are extremely popular in Vietnam and there are new shops opening frequently.
The tea is either fruit-flavored, milk tea, or regular tea (oolong, green tea, earl grey, or black tea) with balls made from tapioca balls. These tapioca balls look like “bubbles” and come in two different colors and sizes – the black balls are larger called “boba” while the white ones are smaller and called “pearls.”
These teas can also have chewy jellies (made from coconut, pandan, and aloe vera juice) or grass jelly as toppings.
Tip: Depending on the tea shop, you can customize your sweetness and ice level. We prefer to get no sugar and no ice for our bubble teas so we can get the maximum amount of tea in the cup.
The teas and toppings are poured into plastic cups and then sealed with plastic covered (this is done by a sealing machine). Therefore, you need to puncture the plastic covering with a straw.
**Note: There are two straws provided – the regular and wider ones. You’ll need the wider straws if you have boba and toppings in the drink.
We love drinking bubble tea from Koi Thé, Gong Cha, and The Alley as they use high-quality teas. You can taste the brewed tea and have delicious bubbles (Koi The has the perfect sweetness and chewy factor out of the three.) Other shops for you to try are Sharetea, Toocha, and Toco Toco. (The last two shops are Vietnamese-based tea shops.)
Cost: There are two sizes – small and large. The small starts at 45,000 VND ($2.00) and the large starts at 60,000 VND ($2.65).
9. Fresh Soy Milk
Have you tried fresh soy milk (sữa đậu nành) before? We’re talking about soy milk that is made daily from soybeans and not already prepared from a Tetra box.
If you haven’t tried it, you should! Soy milk is a fantastic milk alternative and can be found easily at the local markets and local shops selling rice plates.
The soy milk has a smooth texture and is either unsweetened or has some sugar or condensed milk.
At the local market, find a vendor selling soy milk and fresh tofu and you’ll see small plastic bags of soy milk for sale. These are usually unsweetened. There are two sizes to choose from – small and large. The small bag is enough for one cup while the large one can get you 2.5 cups of soy milk.
Heads up – The soy milk may be hot so you’ll want to cool it down if you plan to drink it immediately.
If you’re in Dalat, you can find hot soy milk, along with green bean milk and peanut milk, in the Night Market area. Since the city is cold at night, the hot drink will warm you up!
Cost: 5,000-20,000 VND ($.22-$.88)
10. Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnam is one of the top coffee exports in the world. It’s famous for Vietnamese coffee made with robusta or arabica beans. Coffee is a staple drink and can be enjoyed at any time of the day, even at 3:00am!
While we’re not coffee experts, Vietnamese coffee tends to be very strong and on the bitter side which is why condensed milk and/or sugar are added to offset the bitterness.
Depending on your preference and the weather, you can enjoy Vietnamese coffee either cold or hot. The coffee tends to be a slow drip coffee using the tin coffee phin filter so the flavor is stronger.
You can get coffee either at local coffee shops, coffee chain shops, or even on the side of the road.
The coffee chain shops that you’ll see around the country are – Trung Nguyên Legend, Highlands Coffee, Phúc Long and Tea, and Cộng Cà Phê.
Here is a snapshot of what to order:
- Iced coffee (cà phê đá) – This is the coffee to order if you don’t want any added sugar or milk.
- Iced coffee with condensed milk (cà phê sữa đá) – Iced coffee is the go-to drink to enjoy on a hot day. It is on the sweeter side due to the condensed milk. It’s a popular drink for takeaway/to go.
- Hot coffee (cà phê nóng)
- Hot coffee with condensed milk (cà phê sữa nóng)
Some of the unique coffees that we haven’t tried yet are:
- Egg Coffee (cà phê trứng) – This coffee originated in Hanoi, and is offered around the country. This coffee has egg yolks with coffee, condensed milk, and extra sugar. The egg yolks are whisked so it has a frothy texture.
- Weasel (civet) coffee (cà phê chồn) – Ever heard of weasel poop coffee? This coffee comes from the beans that the Asian palm civet (which is not a weasel but it’s translated as one) excreted in their waste.
The production of the coffee beans is controversial as the civet are force-fed these beans and placed in small cages. We visited a coffee place in the Dalat area and saw the conditions that the civet lived in.
While we won’t discourage you from trying it, these living conditions for the civet are something to consider before trying the coffee or buying for souvenirs.
Beer is one of the cheapest drinks in Vietnam to have during a meal. Whether you’re eating shellfish (ốc and BBQ seafood or enjoying a burger, a can of beer (or maybe multiple cans) is available to complement the meal.
The local Vietnamese beer brands are Saigon Beer, 333, and Tiger Beer. International beers such as Heineken, Corona, Guinness are also available in Vietnam.
Even small business have their own craft beers. When we finished hiking from Hang En Cave at Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park, the Oxalis company provided their exclusive craft beer to everyone who finished. The beer is not sold anywhere else.
Cost: A can of beer start at 20,000 VND ($.88)
12. Lemon-Lime Soda
Are you a fan of drinking 7-Up or Sprite? Since these canned drinks are overloaded with sugar, try the natural version of lemon-lime soda (also known as soda chanh. Chanh is lemon/lime in Vietnamese.)
All you need is a can of sparkling soda water (Schweppers brand), several slices of lime, and simple sugar syrup (optional). Then, you pour everything in a glass with ice and enjoy the flavors.
The simple sugar syrup usually comes in a mini syrup pitcher so you can determine how much sweetness you want.
It’s a simple yet refreshing drink to enjoy at any time of the day!
Cost: Start at 20,000 VND ($.88)
We hope you get to try one or more of these Vietnamese drinks in the future!