It won’t take long living in Vietnam for you to realise that exercise is a huge thing – from the very young to the very old. You will see the parks full of people exercising early in the morning – the free outdoor gyms are always busy – and it is inevitable that after a while you will start to think about joining a gym in Vietnam.
For most foreigners, although there are free outdoor areas, the most comfortable and familiar way is to join a gym. There are various types of gyms in Vietnam – some dedicated to things like kick boxing, others dedicated to dance or yoga – however, there are various gyms which offer the basics as in the West.
What do I find in a gym in Vietnam?
There are two main categories of gym in Vietnam – local and international. The local gyms are catered to Vietnamese and are generally more basic. They will have a series of weights, an exercise area and some basic machines, such as running or rowing etc.
These vary tremendously – from simply one large room with lockers in the corners and no showers to various small rooms with a couple of showers.
The international gyms cater for both Vietnamese and ex-pats and thus look a lot more like the sort of gym you would find in the West.
Both local and international gyms offer classes – yoga and Zumba are the most popular classes and typically last for one hour. The more international the gym the larger they typically are and thus the variety of classes is increased – to include classes such as cardio/bums and tums etc.
Although in Vietnam you will find that the attitude towards time is flexible, in relation to classes at a gym in Vietnam, you will be surprised to find that they always start exactly on time. In most places, it is strongly discouraged or even not allowed for participants to join once the class has started as there is the belief that if you miss the warm up then you will not be able to carry out the class.
Which gym in Vietnam you should go to?
It all depends on what you are looking for. There are positives and negatives for both types of gym – for the local gym you have a chance to feel that you are in Vietnam and living a real life – have a chance to meet a lot of Vietnamese people and have access to the basics at a very reasonable price.
On the downside, there is a tendency in Vietnam for people to look and talk about ex-pats – so you would attract a lot of attention and your every move is scrutinised. Some of the machines may not always work and since there are limited materials you may have to wait to use things.
The international style gym in Vietnam will make you feel very comfortable as this will be a setting that you are familiar with – there are more than enough pieces of equipment and you are able to work quietly and peacefully with minimal or no stares.
However, these are more corporate style gyms and thus much less friendly – the pace is higher and the focus is more on how to push additional offers so that they can earn more!
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The price range
This is a minefield! – for the local gyms there is usually a written price list – which tells you clearly how much a daily session is – a monthly subscription etc. – however for the more international gyms, there is a horrendous system of bargaining.
This means that some people will have the same subscription as you at a significantly lower price – it is dependent on the maximum amount of money that they think you can afford.
No matter how good you are at bargaining, you will be surprised at how good everyone at the gym is at the hard sell. It is more like being in a timeshare meeting. This is not restricted to the marketing and desk people – it is also with the personal instructors – so beware!
Many of the larger gyms advertise special offers with free or minimal prices for a day/week’s trial – however, when you get there you will be highly pressurised to join – with all sorts of added extras such as a personal trainer / special access offers etc.
It is possible to simply take the free offers. However, you will find that after enduring the first hour-long pressurised talk then you have to walk into the gym quickly to avoid being caught by the marketing / personal trainers who will start their spiel at you once more!
What do gyms offer and what do you need to take?
The gyms vary tremendously with the small extras. Although in the West at a gym it is usual to have a free locker, free towel and free shower gel, these are not necessarily given for free.
Instead, many gyms offer packages where you need to pay a bit extra to have these “luxuries “– however, it all adds up. I would recommend that instead if you need a towel then invest in a special compact quick drying super absorbent type of towel which you will find in Decathlon for about 50,000 VND – and you can buy your own lock very easily – irritating to walk around with a heavy lock – but worth it in the long run!
All of the gyms offer free water – some will give free paper cups however most require participants to take their own bottles.
Overall, there is a wide choice of gyms to choose from in Vietnam – from the tiny backstreet one room style to the four floor metropolis of the international gyms. Take advantage of the free trials to try them for yourself before joining a gym in Vietnam – and remember to take the hard sell in your stride and treat it as a Vietnamese experience!