Ho Chi Minh City
The city that barely sleeps
With the city's back turned on a broad plain that stretches west across Cambodia, and with the rich Mekong Delta at its feet, Ho Chi Minh City sits regally on a giant bend in the Sài Gon River.
Ho Chi Minh city at night
Deemed as a microcosm of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is a melting pot of culture and an extravaganza of culinary delights. Albeit relatively young compared to Hanoi and Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, endowed with a rich and colorful history as well as staple yet delicious food, is far from lagging behind these two cities in terms of tourism. One of Vietnam’s most visited destinations, this city can be described as an amalgam of a fast-paced life and a rich inheritance.
Ho Chi Minh City is emerging as a quintessential cosmopolitan city with the construction of many mega-malls, entertainment complexes and an enhanced public transport system. Travelers can now have more choices to put in their itineraries other than traditional tourist attractions like the Notre Dame Cathedral or the Central Post Office. Also, there are now many types of restaurants and accommodation, ranging from budget hostels to luxury hotels, to opt for. A trip to Ho Chi Minh City will both fulfill your expectation of a rising Southeast Asian hub and surpass your imagination of any typical exotic tropical land.
Best time to visit
Having a humid sub-equatorial climate, Ho Chi Minh City has hot conditions with wet and dry periods over the year. The monsoon season, in which it tends to be sunny in the morning and rainy in the afternoon and evening, lasts from late April to November. Thus, in order to avoid getting drenched in rainwater, one may consider visiting this city from December to early April. However, it is from December to February that is the best time to visit this city because of the cool weather as well as festivals that take place during this time of the year, especially Tet (Lunar New Year).
Iconic View of Saigon
How to get there
Ho Chi Minh City is one of the aviation hubs of Southeast Asia with many flights landing and taking off at the busy Tan Son Nhat airport, making this city such an accessible destination. Upon arrival at the airport, you can catch a bus to the city centre for just VND 20,000 (approximately USD 1). One journey may last from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, depending on the traffic conditions.
Tan Son Nhat airport in ho Chi Minh city
For domestic travelers, there are lots of other ways to get to this city. Have you ever heard of the North-South train line? It may worth a try if you are willing to spend around two days being on the train as the route gives you many chances to immerse yourself in the beautiful landscape of Vietnam through the window of a train. Also, Ho Chi Minh City is connected to the Eastern provinces and the Mekong Delta two separate expressway systems. Thus, it is very much accessible by car.
Places to stay
There are a wide range of types of accommodation to choose from.
One can now easily find themselves lost in the luxurious atmosphere of a five-star hotel or resting on a bunk bed of a budget hostel. If you are looking for a decent budget lodge, those around Bui Vien street, which is a backpacker centre of the city, might be just fine. One night might cost as much as 10 dollars per person.
Bui Vien Street
For those who try to steer clear of the hustle and bustle of the city, they may consider using serviced apartments which are reasonably priced and easily found on AirBnB. Moving up the budget bracket, people who are not price-sensitive also have lots of choices. There are quite a few four to five-star hotels managed by global corporations such as Marriott International, AccorHotels or Hyatt around the city centre. For example, Park Hyatt Saigon, which is operated by Park Hyatt - the most lavish and luxurious brand of Hyatt, is the cream of the crop and Ho Chi Minh City’s top-notch hotel. Without a doubt, it is a perfect choice for those who are not traveling on a budget and seek to discover how it feels like to stay in a luxurious hotel. This hotel has a long history of serving business guests and diplomats thanks to its outstanding service and high-quality food. Other than that, Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers or Sofitel Saigon Plaza could be ideal choices if you want to earn points for your Marriott Bonvoy or ALL membership cards.
The Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh city
This world-renowned church is considered an iconic symbol of Ho Chi Minh City. Despite the fast-paced urbanisation of this city, the cathedral withstands the test of urban development and remains the centre of the city. Not only is it important for the Catholic community, but it is also a thing that all residents of Ho Chi Minh City take pride in because of its cultural and historical significance as well as its architectural value. However, please note that the church is currently under restoration and entries are not allowed outside of mass times.
The Central Post Office
Saigon Central Post Office
Located right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, built in the late 19th century, is another attraction that is worth a visit. This is probably the grandest post office in the whole of Southeast Asia and is still functioning as a post office besides being a top tourist attraction that gives people a glimpse of the city’s history. In the times of email and mobile phones, your beloved ones may be deeply touched by handwritten postcards sent from this post office. Thus, don’t forget to send your family and friends some beautiful postcards from the Central Post Office if you happen to be here.
The War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum
When the word “Vietnam” suddenly pops up in a conversation, the first thing to spring people’s minds is the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War is one of the most known wars in human history due to its being devastating and deadly. This museum preserves a lot of documents as well as artefacts of the wars in Vietnam, yet mainly focuses on the Vietnam War (from 1954 to 1975). Don’t be too overwhelmed when seeing the photos and the remains of the wars.
The Museum of Vietnamese History
The Museum of Vietnamese History
While the War Remnants Museum gives visitors information about the wars in the modern history of Vietnam, the Museum of Vietnamese History, which is located in the Botanic Garden, gives visitors a great deal of information about the culture and history of pre-modern Vietnam. It covers various cultural aspects of the Vietnamese people in the past, from religions to lifestyles, as well as displays lots of artifacts that hold historical and cultural significance.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh city
It will be a huge mistake if you do not put Ben Thanh Market in your itinerary as this market is extremely popular around the world. One does not need to buy anything in this market to go to the market. Although it is not a traditional wet market which local residents would flock to, its cultural and historical values are the things that make it worth a visit.
Tan Dinh Church
Tan Dinh Church
As the Notre Dame Cathedral is undergoing a major restoration and suspends entries outside of mass times, Tan Dinh church, which is also known as the pink church due to its pink colour, is an ideal alternative to the Notre Dame Cathedral. This Gothic church, which bears a striking resemblance to the Notre Dame Cathedral, is going viral on Korean social media as a lot of Korean tourists add this church to their bucket list. The great thing about this church is that it is not overcrowded and is relatively close to the city centre.
Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay market
You might be interested in knowing that Ho Chi Minh City actually has a Chinatown that used to be a city called Cho Lon. This Chinatown comprises of up to 5 districts, including Districts 5, 6, 10, 11 and part of District 8. The centre of the Chinatown is Binh Tay market. In this market, you can easily come across a local speaking Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin and English at the same time. It would be a fascinating experience to go shopping here!
Ha Ton Quyen Dimsum Road
Since you’re in Chinatown, it is highly recommended that you try dim sum here. The kind of dim sum on Ha Ton Quyen road embodies a confluence of Hong Kong-style dim sum as well as some Vietnamese tastes. There are so many dim sum eateries on this street and opting for one may be a challenging task. Since there is no big difference between the quality of food offered by those eateries, you can just drop by any eatery and try their food out.
Food to try
Best described as an extravaganza of culinary delights, Ho Chi Minh City has a wide range of foods to offer. One easily ends up coming across a road-side vendor that sells amazing hu tieu bo vien (rice noodles with beef balls), or hu tieu suon (rice noodles with pork ribs) which only cost as much as VND 35,000 (app. 2 dollars). These small vendors can be easily found on Co Bang and Co Giang streets, right next to the backpacker centre of Bui Vien.
Hu Tieu - Photo: @chaulita_hibou
If one seeks higher international culinary experience, Thao Dien (District 2) has many different small-to-medium-scaled eateries which allow you to enjoy international cuisine such as beefsteak (El Gaucho Steahouse), ramen (Ramen Danbo). Last but not least, if you are looking for fine-dining, La Villa (Thao Dien, District 2), Square One and Opera restaurants (Park Hyatt Saigon, District 1) can give you such a luxury dining experience.
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide
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Frequently asked questions
What is the best area to stay in HCMC?
District 1 is certainly the most popular area in Ho Chi Minh City since this area is home to the city’s most popular tourist attractions namely Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, and Bitexco Financial Tower. You can also find numerous hotels, restaurants, cafes, and bars around this area. Nevertheless, if you prefer a quieter place, District 2, District 3, or District 5, where the China Town locates, may also be taken into consideration.
How to get from Airport to downtown
Tan Son Nhat Airport is only around 7km from the center and you can easily transfer to the downtown by several means of transport like taxi, Grab or even a private car for the most convenience. Besides, you can also consider taking a public bus to save costs. There are a couple of options for you such as Airport Bus #109, Airport Bus #49, Public Bus #152, or Public Bus #119 (if you are staying in District 5 or 10)
Where can I exchange currency in Ho Chi Minh City?
The currency of Vietnam is Vietnam Dong (VND) and the best places to convert to VND is at the banks or some jewelry shops. You can easily come to various bank branches around the city or find some gold/jewelry shops near Ben Thanh Market for the best rate. You can also exchange currency at the airport or at your hotel, which is more convenient but the rate is normally not really favorable.
Is there any beach near Ho Chi Minh City?
You will be pleasantly surprised to discover breathtaking beaches which are only within a 2 to 3-hour drive from the city. Situated 100km East of Saigon, Vung Tau Beach is considered the most popular one with a wide range of budget to luxury hotels and resorts, which is perfect for your vacation. Some other pristine white-sand beaches you can also consider are Ho Tram Beach, Long Hai Beach, Can Gio Beach, or Ho Coc Beach.
When should I visit Ho Chi Minh City?
The weather in Ho Chi Minh City is quite pleasant all year around, however, it would be drier from December to April with the temperature is around 21-34 degrees C. Especially, this period is also the Christmas event, New Year, and the Lunar New Year Festival with numerous interesting activities, which makes it the perfect time to discover this lovely city.