Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A city of many names, many also call it Saigon, Prey Nokor or just HCMC, for short. This largest city of Vietnam was once colonized by France but has deep Khmer roots. Today Ho Chi Minh is home to more than 80 Universities and Colleges. And with over 7 million registered motorbikes, keep that head on a swivel! Remember: Yellow traffic lights just means drive faster! Let’s visit Ho Chi Minh City!
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City? Here’s What To Do
There’s really so much to do, this place could keep you busy for days. Here’s a list of our must-see’s when visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City? Get a good look:
Bitexco Tower and Sky Deck
You literally cannot miss this 68-story skyscraper complete with a helipad. Located in the heart of District 1 in the center of the city, head to the top for roughly $9, and enjoy 360-degree views of the city below or grab a drink at the bar.
Quite possibly the world’s highest concentrations of motorbikes, HCMC has some seriously busy streets. Head over to the neighborhood KFC or Lotteria and grab a top floor table during rush hour, for crazy views of the organized chaos below.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City? Admire the French Architecture:
Tan Dinh Church
Also known as Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this stunning architectural gift dates back to the 1880’s during the French colonial period. This Roman Catholic Church is painted pink from head to toe, inside and out.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Constructed in 1880, this cathedral is a replica of the original found in Paris. When in District 1, just look up for the soaring, 190-foot bell towers.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City? Taste the Local Flavors:
The French brought their delicious baguettes, and the genius Vietnamese invented the best sandwich on the planet. With ingredients like seasoned pork belly, liver pate, cucumber, pickled carrot and radish, cilantro, chilies, and chili sauce, we recommend finding a street vendor with a line of locals. Our favorite was Ngoc Huong food cart in District 3, charging less than $1 for their delicious sandwiches.
Although this Vietnamese soup can differ from the northern version in Hanoi, we found both to be absolutely mouthwatering. Find the world famous, 40-year-old Pho Hoa Pasteur restaurant in District 3. Two orders of Pho and four summer rolls cost just $8.50!
Tan Dinh Market
Located on the boarder of District 1 and 3, find this truly authentic Vietnamese market was built back in 1926. This market is a great place to experience the local culture, and you can find anything from underwear to spices, and fresh produce to live animals.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City? Book a Tour!
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City? Learn the History
War Remnants Museum
This museum tells the story of the war through the eyes of those who suffered its terrible effects and is one of the main tourist attractions in the city. While we did find the collection of military vehicles and weapons interesting, we found the old jail cells a bit disturbing and left feeling sad for all those involved in the war.
Also known as the Independence Palace, this is the site that the Vietnam War came to an end. In April of 1975, the North Vietnamese captured this last stronghold of Saigon, and the palace was evacuated by helicopter as a North Vietnamese army tank crashed right through the main gates.
Visiting Ho Chi Minh City? Bonus!
We’ve teamed up with GPSmyCity and converted our Ho Chi Minh City travel guide into a downloadable application that comes complete with a GPS map of our recommendations and operates offline without any need of data plan or Internet connection. You can check it out here.
Getting to Ho Chi Minh City
Getting to Ho Chi Minh City: FLY
If planned in advance you can find reasonable direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City from most major cities in Vietnam for under $15. You can also find affordable international flights from Kuala Lumpur for $17, Bangkok for $35, Singapore for $38, and Hong Kong for $42 with our favorite flight search site, Skyscanner.
Ho Chi Minh City Flight Deals
Getting to Ho Chi Minh City: TRAIN
For a genuine Vietnamese experience, take the 1,070-mile ride on the Reunification Express from Hanoi in North Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City. This 32-hour, scenic coastal train route costs between $65-$85.
Getting to Ho Chi Minh City: BUS
Buses are not our favorite mode of travel.. The seats are generally cramped, the ride is bumpy, and departure/arrival times can be unpredictable. And although bus travel is generally less expensive, we’ve found that flying is generally the cheapest and quickest option when in Southeast Asia.
Airport to Ho Chi Minh City Center
Tan Son Nhat International Airport is located about 4 miles northwest of the city center of Ho Chi Minh. How will you get there?
Take bus #152 for roughly $0.22, or the ‘fancy’ #109 bus for roughly $0.88 into the city center. Both options take about 45 minutes and depart from the airport every 20-30 minutes. Buy your tickets from the bus station stand at the right of the international and domestic arrivals entrances. The signs are written in Vietnamese and English and easy to find.
The 20-minute ride from the airport to Ho Chi Minh City Center costs about $7 when taking a taxi, or about $2 for an UBER. If you’re new to UBER, sign up and receive your first ride for free using our discount code: krissy98ue.
Getting around in Ho Chi Minh City
Taxis are available throughout the city. Just make sure the driver turns on the meter, or you might get “taken for a ride.” We prefer UBER, which is available throughout the city and is very affordable.
Walkscore.com gives Ho Chi Minh City a score of 75, calling it “Very Walkable”. We also found this to be true, and highly recommend walking around Ho Chi Minh City.
With over 150 lines running from one end of the city to the other, Ho Chi Minh City has an extensive bus network throughout the city. We recommend downloading the free ‘BUSMAP app’ for navigating the Ho Chi Minh City bus system.
Where To Stay in Ho Chi Minh City:
Where To Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: HOTELS
With prices ranging from $10-$300/night, from budget to luxury, you’re sure to find the right hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. We’ve found some great hotel deals using Priceline’s sister site, Agoda.com.
Ho Chi Minh City Hotel Deals
Where To Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: HOSTELS
With over 90 hostels in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll likely find one that suits your needs. Prices generally range from $7-$11 a night for a dorm room, while private rooms cost a bit more at about $22-$30 per night. Hostelworld always has great deals, especially in Southeast Asia:
Ho Chi Minh City Hostel Deals
Where To Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: AIRBNB
We love using Airbnb. From private rooms to entire homes, Airbnb is represented in all parts of Ho Chi Minh City. The average Airbnb price in Ho Chi Minh City is only $21/night. If you’re a first timer to Airbnb use our coupon for $35 off your first night’s stay.
Where To Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: NEIGHBORHOODS
Choosing a neighborhood is an important part of trip planning that should not be overlooked! Ho Chi Minh City is a large city with 24 districts divided into unique neighborhoods. While our general recommendation is to stay closer to the city center, here are some of the best areas in Ho Chi Minh City.
The city center, which is also referred to as Saigon. This is the city’s most expensive district, and is home to embassies, malls, movie theaters, and fancy hotels. For affordable lodging in District 1, check out Backpacker Street.
Packed with coffee shops, fashion boutiques, and loads of motorbikes, District 3 is a family-friendly, local neighborhood, that is walkable to the city center.
Also known as Chinatown, this neighborhood, just southwest of the city center, is known for authentic Chinese food, pagodas, temples, and good public transportation.
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Tips:
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Tips: Tipping
Tipping in Vietnam is not customary, although tipping for good service is always appreciated. At restaurants check your bill, as there is sometimes a 5%-10% service charge added. Leave $1-$2/day at hotels and round up for taxi drivers.
Ho Chi Minh City travel tips: Money
Vietnam’s national currency is the Dong and is currently exchanging at 22,645VND to $1USD. Credit cards are accepted at most places and ATM machines are readily available.
Ho Chi Minh City travel tips: Insurance
Traveling to Ho Chi Minh City is exciting and safe, but you never know when some good travel insurance could come in handy. World Nomads offers the best coverage in the business, is affordable, and is quick to act should something go wrong. For more info, check out our recent World Nomads blog post.