HO CHI MINH CITY TRAVEL GUIDE
Explore Vietnam like a pro – this Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide shares everything you need to know including where to stay, how to save and what to do.
Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is a top choice for backpackers and tourists. It’s cheap but its historic nature means it is the perfect place for budget backpackers in Vietnam. The doorway to the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels; Ho Chi Minh is a chaotic city. Ho Chi Minh City at night brings just as much chaos, with market stalls flooding the streets and bars providing entertainment all night long.
A city of history, Ho Chi Minh offers museums, Pagodas and memories of war, alongside some extensive markets and a new and developing skyline. There is a whole host of things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City. Whilst in Vietnam, make sure you check out Hanoi and Mui Ne.
Budget: Dorm rooms start from as little as VND 92000 whilst decent private rooms in budget hotels and hostels start from around 250000 VND.
Midrange: Spacious, clean and comfortable double rooms in nice hotels cost between VND 820,000 – 1,200,000.
Luxury: There are many amazing hotels offering luxurious rooms, costing upwards of VND 1,500,000.
Transport: Buses cost around 3000 VND whilst taxi flag fall starts at 15000 VND for the first kilometre.
The average cost of food:
You will often find small front-room restaurants with tiny stools and tables. These serve some of the best food in HCMC and start around 20000 VND.
Popular street food choice; Banh Trang Tron starts at around 12,000 VND and is worth a try.
Sit-down meals in restaurants cost between 70,000 VND – 100,000 VND.
Local and imported beer can be found at some great prices, as is cocktails and wine.
Best time to visit HCMC
October and November is the best time to visit HCMD as the weather is warm, you can experience clear skies and there is less rain. April to June are also warm months but it can rain and there are more tourists at this time.
For those that want to avoid the heat, visit in December through to March but pack layers. July to September is very hot and humid with a chance of showers.
Avoid visiting during the Tea holiday or Lunar New Year, which normally falls around February.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon Inn offers dorm beds from 191452 VND with private rooms available from 478631 VND. Found in the backpacker area, and just 5 minutes from the popular Benh Thanh Market, the Luan Vu offers private, ensuite rooms from 430768 VND as well as high-speed internet throughout the hotel and breakfast.
Duc Vuong Hotel is a great choice for those wishing to be in the centre of the action. Located in district 1, tourists are in a great spot for nearby markets, shopping and nightlife. Double rooms start at 674,220 VND.
Also found in District 1 is another great choice and my favourite, is Sunland Hotel. With a rooftop pool and gorgeous views, the Sunland hotel is just a few minute’s walk from Saigon River and just a 10-minute walk from the Tay Ba Lo Backpackers Quarter; rooms start at 967,000 VND with river view rooms available.
Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel overlooks Saigon River and offers luxurious and modern hotel rooms starting at 2,089,000 VND.
For those looking for relaxation and luxury after a busy day of sightseeing, check out the Silverland Sakyo Hotel and spa, a 4 star hotel that offers a full host of amenities alongside a spa, swimming pool and beautiful terrace. Rooms start at 2,405, 370 VND.
Save money in Ho Chi Minh City
South East Asia destinations are cheaper countries to visit and Vietnam is no exception. However, there are still some more ways you can save money in Ho Chi Minh City, great for those on a tight budget.
- Eat local – There is no better place that this tip applies to. Eating local food will always save you money and in Vietnam it can make a huge difference. The local street food is delicious so stick to the stalls, vendors and hole-in-the-walls.
- Happy hours – HCMC has many bars to choose from but check the deals and happy hours to make the most of your drinking budget. Many of the bars have a Facebook page, so you can always double check offers online too.
- Bia Hoi – Beer is cheap in Vietnam but Bia Hoi is said to be the cheapest beer in the world. You can get this for as little as 30 cents (or 10p).
- Haggle – When buying items in markets, make sure you haggle the price. We found it easier to buy items from those that advertise their prices but if you want to buy something without a price, make sure you haggle for it.
- Get walking – HCMC offers many attractions to see and do (most of which are free). Save money on taxis by walking everywhere or renting a bike for as little as $1.
- Pay in VND – VND and dollar are accepted everywhere but pay in VND. When we first visited Vietnam in 2013, everyone preferred dollars, but now in 2020, we found everyone preferred VND. Some places would accept dollars but would massively overcharge you.
- Fly – Flights and trains are cheap so make sure to compare prices around Vietnam. Booking flights in advance, directly with VietJet can save you a lot of time and money.
- Overnight buses – If you aren’t booking your trip ahead of time and flights are too expensive when you are travelling, have a look at the overnight buses. You can save money on both the transport and accommodation.
- Private rooms – Hostels are all over Vietnam and are cheap. However, private rooms in hostels and hotels are also cheap here, so if you are travelling as a pair or group, you will likely save more money by having a private room.
- Shop around for tours – You are likely going to want to visit the Cu Chu tunnels whilst you are in the city. We recommend you compare prices of boats online before arriving and contact the companies directly; they often offer you better prices when booking directly. Alternatively, if you prefer to book whilst in HCMC, make sure you shop around for the best price and the best tour for you.
Best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Cu Chi Tunnel
- Ben Thanh Market
- Jade Emperor Pagoda
- Giac Lam Pagoda
- War Remnants Museum
- Bonsai River Cruise
- Central Office
- Reunification Palace
- History Museum
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum
- Notre Dam Cathedral
- Cao Dai Temple
- Bing Tay Market
- Bitexco Financial Tower
How to get to Ho Chi Minh City
Fly – The main airport serving Ho Chi Minh City is Tan Son Nhat International airport, 7km away from central HCMC. Take a Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi from the arrivals taxi rank, costing around 195,000 VND from the airport to the city center. For 5000 VND you can catch the air-con bus, route 152 to and from the international airport into HCMC center; making regular stops along De Tham (Pham Ngu Lao area) and international hotels along Dong Khoi.
Bus – There are plenty of international bus services that connect HCMC to Cambodia, departing from Pham Ngu Lao area, whilst international bus service Sapaco offers 9 direct bus services to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Train – Trains are available to and from popular Vietnam cities such as Nha Trang, Danang, Hue, and Hanoi; all leaving Saigon train Station.
How to get around Ho Chi Minh City
When traveling to the airport, ask your hotel to call you a taxi to avoid untrustworthily and overcharged taxis.
Bikes can be rented but ride with caution, HCMC is a hectic and busy city with a lot of traffic.
Buses are a popular choice as well as being incredibly cheap; get yourself an HCMC bus route diagram found in Ben Thanh Bus station. From Ben Thanh to and from Saigon train station, bus route 149 is useful whilst bus 1 takes trips between Ben Thanh to Binh Tay Market.
Taxis are an easy and convenient way of getting around HCMC, just make sure you travel with highly regarded companies such as Mai Linh Taxi and Vinasun Taxi.
HCMC also has the Grab taxi service (similar to Uber) which will tell you the price of your journey in advance and can help you communicate your destination.