Have you traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam? If yes, I hope you enjoy your trip to the city. Otherwise, I suggest you spend a visit there. It’s not just the most developed city of Vietnam, but its lively life will attract anyone who loves something vibrant. So, in case you plan to come back or firstly travel to Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon, here is some necessary info that I believe will make your journey more enjoyable and a lot of fun.
A Very Quick Catch-up About Ho Chi Minh City
The Name Saigon
You may see many people call Ho Chi Minh City (or HCMC) is Saigon, an old name used for the land in the period 1955-1975. Actually, Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam, which belonged to the Republic of Vietnam. After the Vietnam War, when the Communist Party of Vietnam controls the whole land, it’s no longer the capital city of the country. Nevertheless, it becomes the very financial and economic center of the country. Moreover, it’s the hub of many start-ups, national and international companies in Vietnam. Nowadays, many people are still familiar with the old name and call it Saigon, but it’s mainly referred to as the central district or area of Ho Chi Minh City.
The Location of Ho Chi Minh City
Basically, the city is located in South Vietnam, with the Saigon River winding inside. If you drive a car from Hanoi to HCMC, it will take you about 31h for the approximate 1500-1700km in distance. I usually see Ho Chi Minh City as the gate of the Mekong Delta region because from the North, you have to pass the city to enter the area.
But on top of that, we are living in an era of smartphones and smart-app and smart-everything. So, here is the city shown on Google Maps. I believe this is the best, and clearest way for you to see.
The Five Areas
Totally, the city has 24 districts including –
|The Saigon Centre||District 1, District 3, District 4, District 5, District 6, |
District 8, District 10, District 11, Tan Phu District,
Tan Binh District, Go Vap District,
Phu Nhuan District, Binh Thanh District
|The Saigon East||District 9, District 2, Thu Duc District|
|The Saigon West||Binh Tan District, A part of Binh Chanh District|
|The Saigon South||District 7, Nha Be District, Binh Chanh District,|
Can Gio District
|The Saigon North||District 12, Hoc Mon District, Cu Chi District|
Ok, let’s see, if I’m a tour guide, I will quickly introduce you to these districts:
The land of the old Saigon isn’t lacking places for you to visit. As the very heart of the city center, there are a lot of 5 stars services and entertainment for you to enjoy. It’s not hard to find a shopping mall such as Takashimaya, or Diamond Plaza, etc. at the center. Additionally, there are high-end clubs, bars, restaurants, hotels in the area. Some of the historical sites such as Ben Thanh Market, Independence Place, Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, etc. are also here in district 1.
I would say district 2 is the hub of rich people. Simply it’s the newly developing area with carefully planned infrastructure, modern buildings, and high security. Therefore, mostly foreigners and the wealthy come to live for a high-quality life. As a result, services such as restaurants there are made with high levels too. If you wish to find the food of your hometown, remember the name Thao Dien street in district 2, perhaps you can find it there.
Welcome to my home-district! Actually, in Ho Chi Minh City, we usually say ‘eating in district 5, lying down in district 3, luxury in district 1’. Fortunately, I have a place for ‘lying down’ in district 3, LOL. Indeed, choosing to stay in district 3 is somehow a smarter choice. It’s not only near district 1 so you still access to many places in a short distance, but hotels in district 3 charge less than in district 1, definitely. Hence, you should consider renting a room in this area. Plus, local foods in district 3 are quite delicious.
If you ever heard about Cho Lon, welcome to district 5, an old area of the Chinese people living in Vietnam for a very long time ago. There is even a part of district 5 is the preserving area, and you can see them usually featured in the movie Kong: Skull Island. Coming there, you will be able to discover Cho Lon, an old traditional market with a lot of products at cheap prices. And as people say, eating in district 5 isn’t a bad choice with many good local foods.
Can Gio District
If you asking me ‘does Ho Chi Minh City have a beach’, my answer will be yes, it’s in Can Gio District, the city’s coastal suburban district. In detail, this district is about an hour away from the very center, or district 1. You can visit Can Gio to enjoy the beach and seafood. But trust me, you will love to go to Vung Tau more.
Cu Chi District
I believe many of you heard about Cu Chi Tunnel. Yes, it’s in Cu Chi district. I just want to mention it here to remind you not to forget this destination. And tell me about your experience there, I think it’s interesting!
Tan Binh and Binh Tan Districts
Only having a switch of words in the names, and both are parts of Ho Chi Minh City, but the two districts nearly bring to you the feeling of the two different worlds. While a lot of people check-in Tan Binh district at many of its restaurants, hotels, or services; Binh Tan is a new zone for factories and a few entertaining activities. Anyways, if you want to thoroughly discover Ho Chi Minh City, don’t forget to put your steps at Tan Binh and Binh Tan districts.
Ho Chi Minh City WeatherHCMC WEATHER
Unlike the normal 4 seasons you knew, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City, or generally in Vietnam, it just typically has 2 seasons – dry and rainy. Specifically, the rainy season is from May to Nov, and the dry season lasts from Dec to Apr. Among those, the best period in the year is from Nov to Jan. In other words, it’s the best time for you to enjoy wandering around Ho Chi Minh City.
Furthermore, you may feel that Ho Chi Minh City air quality is better in the rainy season. It’s because the rain causes a cooler atmosphere and reduces pollution, heat from vehicle emissions. Indeed, if you use the AirVisual app, you will find the board red most of the time. It’s mainly because of the exhaust from motorbikes and cars. Hence, better preparing yourself a mask when exploring the city.
Moving Around the City
Definitely, you can easily catch a taxi or xe ôm, a kind of motorbike taxi, on the street to take you from point A to B in the city. Nevertheless, they could possibly take you on a long way for a higher fare if you don’t know the direction exactly. This problem even happens to the locals as well. To deal with it, nowadays, you can use ride-hailing apps such as Grab, Be, or GoViet to find yourself a vehicle that can take you to the destinations you want. They have a clear calculated fare showed before you book a car or a motorbike.
Alongside, there are waterbuses that help you mainly move on the two sides of the Saigon River. Honestly, I haven’t ever tried this type of transportation as I mostly use my motorbike. Nonetheless, I think it’s good to tell you in case you need to go by ferry.
Last but not least, you can rent a motorbike to ride around and discover the city. I believe this’s the best choice to experience and getting around Ho Chi Minh City. Moreover, it may make your trip extremely memorable.
In addition, right inside Ho Chi Minh City is different choices of transportation that you can choose to go to other provinces:
- Saigon Railway Station, located at 1 Nguyen Thong street, that always available for you to go to other provinces by train. There are stations across the country, but not the places do have. Thus, you should check the Vietnam Railway while planning your trip.
- There is Tan Son Nhat International Airport, from where you can go to different provinces and countries.
- Especially, there are sleeper buses, which are modified with beds inside the bus for a long go. So you can sleep on that bus while the driver takes you to your destinations the next morning. I particularly love using this for a distance of less than 600km to my loved places such as Dalat City or Nha Trang’s mud baths.
- You can also go to Bach Dang Pier to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau city by ferry.
What are Ho Chi Minh City Attractions?
To me, Ho Chi Minh City is more about an economic and financial hub than a tourism destination. However, there are still many places in the city that attract tourists to come.
- Many people love to visit historical sites in the city such as Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, Cu Chi Tunnel, etc. Indeed, those places are the true witnesses from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City. At those places, visitors could learn a lot about the history of the city in particular, and the country in general.
- If you would love to go shopping, there are Vincom malls, Aeon malls around the city. You can even go to traditional markets such as Ban Co market, Cho Lon market, etc. to have an experience of the local life. Also, Ho Chi Minh City has the high-end shopping mall Takashimaya right in the center of the city, with Saigon Square, the hub of super-fake products, just next by.
- A spiritual trip is a good idea to learn more about the culture. To illustrate, Jade Emperor Pagoda, Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, Thien Hau Pagoda, Vietnam National Pagoda, Giac Lam Pagoda are all the sacred Vietnam temples and pagodas located in the city.
- In case you stay in Ho Chi Minh City for a long time, and you want to do exercise, many parks in the city such as Tao Dan Park, September 23rd Park, etc. have the tools to support you. Alongside, those are places you can easily start a conversation with the locals.
- Nguyen Hue Walking Street and Bui Vien Walking Street are the two top destinations of the city at night. Both of them are pretty much vibrant and bustle that will make you in love more with the Saigon nightlife.
- Last but not least, the nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City is the most vibrant in the whole country. Certainly, this city has top-notch bars and clubs that you will never find anywhere in the country. So your list of extreme bars and clubs will have NASA Saigon, The Commas, Chill Skybar, Bam Bam Lounge, etc.
Eat & Drink in Ho Chi Minh City
I don’t know if my taste is now familiar with Ho Chi Minh City cuisine. I always feel that the foods in this city are the best. Actually, because HCMC is the biggest and most developed city, all the best ingredients and foods are primarily delivered here. Furthermore, as people from different parts of Vietnam and the world move to the city carrying their quintessence of cooking, it results in the diversity in the cuisine of HCMC. Therefore, this city has a very long list of Saigon foods and international foods that you can find anywhere.
Besides that, I think you may want to try ‘Quán nhậu’ here in the city. In definition, ‘Quán nhậu’ is similar to a restaurant, but Vietnamese people come to drink beer more than eating the foods. More than that, the locals drink a lot until they are extremely drunk. Ok, in case you want to try ‘Quán nhậu’, the city has the seafood one named Rạn Biển, Lẩu Dê 404 is specialized in the goat, and 5Ku has a long menu of miscellaneous foods. Alongside, you can go to Warning Zone restaurants to chill with music while enjoying the foods, or BiaCraft if you love craft beer.
On top of that, I suggest you trying Vietnamese coffee. I’m so sure you will be impressed with the Robusta bean brewed in the Vietnam way. Actually, Vietnam is the home country of the Robusta bean and the top 2 exporters of coffee beans in the world. And Ho Chi Minh City is home to so many coolest and nicest coffee in the country. Even I haven’t tried all the coffee shops, but here is a shortlist of some stores you can give a try: Trung Nguyên, The Coffee House, Là Việt Cafe, Shin Coffee, Highlands Coffee, The Workshop, Cộng Cà Phê, A’Dor, Infinity Coffee, Oromia Coffee, Katinat Saigon Kafe, etc.
Your Bucket List of 100 Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
Definitely, the city has enough tourist destinations and restaurants, cafes for you to plan and discover in months. Nevertheless, the below bucket list of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City will make you a true Saigonese (the way we call the residents of HCMC). Are you ready to live the Saigon life as a Vietnamese?
- Being a friend or even in love with a Saigon boy or girl.
- Viewing the whole city from the top of the Bitexco building.
- Driving in Thu Thiem tunnel.
- Watching the sunset from Phu My bridge.
- Trying the sidewalk coffee.
- Renting a motorbike to roam the streets and the alleys.
- Walking on Nguyen Hue pedestrian street.
- Buying books on Nguyen Van Binh street.
- Having breakfast at Banh Mi Hoa Ma.
- Checking-in Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.
- Visiting Ho Chi Minh City Museum.
- Discovering the beautiful cafes in Saigon.
- Taking the waterbus to see the Saigon River.
- Exploring Thao Dien area.
- Drinking beer at midnight at Bui Vien walking street.
- Eating snail at district 8.
- Watching Saigon at night at Anh Sao Bridge.
- Shopping in shopping malls.
- One-time watching performing arts at the Saigon Opera House.
- Purchasing a souvenir and eating local foods at Ben Thanh Market.
- Coming to Ngoc Hoang pagoda to pray.
- Dating in Crescent Lake, district 7.
- Partying or chilling at the clubs and bars.
- Eating balut in district 2.
- Eating the rice paper mixed at Nguyen Thuong Hien street, district 3.
- Enjoying Phuc Long milk-tea.
- Eating Phá Lấu, or beef offal in district 4.
- Eating dim sum in district 5.
- Trying Chaozhou rice porridge in district 6.
- Eating fruit bowl in district 10.
- Eating dumpling in Ha Ton Quyen street, district 11.
- Enjoying Char siu sticky rice in Binh Thanh district.
- Eating mixed noodles in Phu Nhuan district.
- Trying Lam Ky Goat Hotpot in Tan Binh district.
- Enjoying the delicious broken rice in Saigon style.
- Eating a bowl of Nam Vang noodles soup.
- Eating dried beef salad at Le Van Tam park.
- Exploring district 1’s milk-tea town.
- Eat fried flour in Vo Van Tan street, district 3.
- Waking up early in the morning to feel the peacefulness before starting the rhythm of Saigon’s vibrant life.
- Checking-in the alley at 144 Pasteur street.
- Discovering the old cafe apartment of Nguyen Hue street.
- Learning more about the history at the Independence Palace.
- Rain bathing in the streets.
- Sitting at a cafe and watching the rain.
- Checking-in Nguyen Hue Flower Street on Tet holiday.
- Spending a whole day wandering the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
- Riding motorbike around HCMC at night.
- Tasting a bowl of sidewalk noodles.
- Listening to early morning music at the opera house.
- Walking at Bach Dang wharf.
- Check-in Saigon railway station.
- Singing karaoke with your friends.
- Getting out to the street when the rain flooded the road.
- Going to Ho Thi Ky flower market at 4 am.
- Entering the Catholic area, district 8 during Christmas.
- Strolling in the lantern street in district 5.
- Watching the dramas at the theater.
- Checking-in Tan Son Nhat airport.
- Photographing at the old ferries.
- Eating popiah.
- Trying the racket-coffee.
- Checking-in the Tan Dinh pink church.
- Drinking craft beer.
- Wandering on East-West Avenue.
- Checking-in Landmark 81 and its area.
- Enjoying afternoon snacks at Con Rua Lake.
- Conquering Cu Chi tunnels.
- Shopping for cheap clothes at Nguyen Trai night market.
- Watching the bridges at night.
- Eating Bún Mọc Thanh Mai at Ben Thanh market.
- Enjoying chili chicken hotpot in district 1.
- Eating Bánh Canh Cua at Vo Van Tan street.
- Drinking KOI milk-tea.
- Eating Vietnamese pancakes, aka Bánh Xèo.
- Eating Bún Mắm.
- Drinking beer and enjoying hot pots with friends.
- Eating fat-grilled chicken rice.
- Enjoying a bowl of Bánh Canh on Nguyen Thai Hoc’s sidewalk.
- Visiting the temples and pagodas on the first and full-moon days of lunar calendar.
- Dating in the rooftop cafes, or restaurants.
- One day playing all the games at White Rabbit Amusement Park.
- Kitting in district 2, or district 7.
- Shopping at a second-hand market or Saigon Square.
- Listening to the acoustic at tea shops or cafes.
- Exploring the street art at OutCast and En-Dee Town.
- Checking-in the Graffiti world at the abandoned houses.
- Visiting Chợ Lớn, or Tan Dinh market.
- Seeing the city at the rush hour.
- Enjoying the “traffic jam” specialty.
- Exploring The New Playground underground shopping mall at Ly Tu Trong street.
- Shopping at the Takashimaya.
- Enjoying Mười fresh milk.
- Discovering the Chinatown in districts 5 and 6.
- Visiting the Mien market, aka Cambodia market.
- Eating at the food courts around the city.
- Enjoying the grilled rice paper in Cao Thang street, district 3.
- Having snacks at Market 200, Xom Chieu.
- Riding a motorbike on the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa streets.
- Saving this checklist right away and putting Saigon in your heart!
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City?
Unless you take a business trip to HCMC that you need to stay near the office for convenience, I suggest you stay in the center to thoroughly enjoy and experience the city. I’m certain that you will love the lively and vibrant nightlife of the center, which is never sleeping. What’s more, it won’t take you a long way to go to your bed after being drunk at a ‘Quán nhậu’ or a joyful club. And here’s your list of stays that I believe you will love considering:
District 1 is the main location of many luxury hotels such as Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, Caravelle Saigon, Park Hyatt Saigon, or Hotel Des Arts Saigon – MGallery. Those are all surrounded by attractive tourist sites and well-known restaurants, coffee shops.
Besides those, you can have a choice of Hotel Continental Saigon, one of the high-end hotels as well as a witness to many historical events in the city. Besides, New World Saigon Hotel is one of the first 5 stars hotels in Ho Chi Minh City that I also suggest you give a try. Have you watched the movie ‘Da 5 Bloods’? They featured Hotel Majestic Saigon in the beginning. It’s good, too.
Don’t worry so much about your budget, in HCMC, there are always different choices of the hotel for you to easily pick. In the middle-range, and still, in the center, there are The Myst Dong Khoi, A&EM Art Hotel, Fusion Suites Saigon, Silverland Jolie Hotel, or Huong Sen Hotel. Many of them have breakfast included in the price in case you don’t know where to go for your morning meal.
If you want to save the cost of staying for other expenses, in this range, I suggest you try Airbnb to find the homestay in the center. Not only you can find good choices with more affordable prices, but the host may also support you in cases you need help. Else, you could have a good experience staying with the locals and have them share a lot of interesting stories and info about HCMC life. They are very friendly, and some of them can even get you a motorbike to discover the city yourself or cook you a local delicious dish. Honestly, you should have a try for this kind of stay!
On the other hand, there are still choices for hotels with good deals if you prefer this kind of accommodation more. Here’s a list for you:
Overall, I hope this post gives you enough info to plan a fully enjoyable trip to Ho Chi Minh City. Welcome to my home city!
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