Known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a destination as dizzying as it is mind-boggling. This Vietnamese city never sleeps, and its history, which includes its great role in the Vietnam War, is remote, complex and interesting.
This immense city, today turned into the great economic and cultural power of Vietnam, will dazzle you at first sight. Its modern skyscrapers rise up from the narrow streets of the past, where ancient temples are still preserved and aromatic street food stalls operate.
As you explore the city you will notice its colourful history. Notre Dame’s cathedral betrays its past as a French colony before the Vietnam War, and its culture is evidence of the strong Chinese influence in the region.
- Top 5 reasons to visit Ho Chi Minh City
- What to do in Ho Chi Minh City
- When to visit Ho Chi Minh City
- How to get to Ho Chi Minh City
- Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
- Getting around Ho Chi Minh City
- Cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City
- Where to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City
Top 5 reasons to visit Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City allows you to learn about its history through such illustrative sites as the Vietnam History Museum and the Museum of the Vestiges of War. Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Central Post Office are examples of French colonial architecture.
Iconic and grand, the Presidential Palace is also called the Palace of Independence and the Palace of Reunification. Attacked several times and rebuilt, today you can visit the conference room, the war basement spaces, the reception area and the presidential residences.
Ben Thanh Market
This is the tourist and shopping place par excellence in the city. Located in District 1, it offers everything from clothing, including the famous Vietnamese Ao Dai suit, shoes, accessories, jewelry, hardware, pet supplies, crafts, flowers, spices, nuts and other groceries. As a general rule, you should haggle, although not in restaurants.
Ho Chi Minh City Town Hall
Currently called the People’s Committee, this building was built between 1902 and 1908. It is not possible to enter, but it is highly recommended to contemplate its exterior and surroundings. At night it shows a captivating facet, thanks to its lighting system. In front of the town hall you will discover a small park, where the sculpture representing Ho Chi Minh sitting next to a child stands out.
Temples and pagodas
These admirable constructions are overflowing with beauty and history. Among many other temples, the Chinese pagoda Ba Thien Hau, dedicated to Mazu, the Chinese goddess of the sea, stands out. The pagoda of the Jade Emperor, also known as the Pagoda of the Turtle, one of the five most important sanctuaries in the city, is also surprising.
What to do in Ho Chi Minh City
Discover the tunnels of Củ Chi
These tunnels intersect under the city in a vast network that was once used to conceal the movements of North Vietnamese fighters. When you look at these passages, bear in mind that they have been widened to make them easier for visitors to pass through.
Climbing Saigon Skydeck
Remember to enjoy the views from the Saigon Skydeck overlook, located at 178 meters above sea level. It’s located in the Bitexco Financial Tower, which rises to 262 meters and boasts a design inspired by the lotus blossom, Vietnam’s national symbol. General admission costs ₫ 200 000.
Experience the city’s nightlife
From cocktails in a sophisticated rooftop lounge to a noisy bar full of backpackers, the options for enjoying Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife are almost limitless. There are lively casinos, live music bars and dazzling dance clubs.
Discover Ho Chi Minh City’s zoo and botanical garden
Located in District 1, it offers a haven of tranquility in the bustling city. It is the largest zoo in Vietnam and one of the oldest in the world. It is home to more than a hundred species of plants and animals, and will invite you to stroll through its beautiful and aromatic gardens.
Visit Monkey Island
When you need to get away from the urban hustle and bustle you can take a trip to Monkey Island, where Cần Giờ is located, an area declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There you can navigate through the mangrove forest in a canoe and visit the former military base at Rừng. Get out.
When to visit Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City’s most pleasant climate is between January and March, and the weather is also very good in December. Temperatures during these months range from 28°C to 40°C.
Foodies should travel to Ho Chi Minh City at the end of May, as the city hosts the famous South Vietnam Food Festival. It lasts five days, and takes place in the cultural park Đầm Sen.
How to get to Ho Chi Minh City
The Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) is the largest airport in Vietnam, located just over 6 kilometres from District 1. Taxis are the best option for getting into the city, and the fare is usually between ₫ 150 000 and ₫ 170 000.
The Saigon train station in District 3 is the largest in Vietnam and an important railway hub. It offers good daily connections to Hanoi, with night-time journeys that wind along the coast.
If you feel like driving from Hanoi, you should take Highway 1 to Ho Chi Minh City. Keep in mind that it is essential to drive with extreme caution.
The bus is an economical option for travel between major cities in Vietnam. There are two intercity bus terminals, Mien Dong and Mien Tay. Among the major bus companies, which have modern air-conditioned vehicles, is Hoằng Long.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
You will find many hotels with economic prices and 5 star establishments, such as Eastin Grand Hotel Saigon, whose rates are around ₫ 2 712 000 per night. At the top end of the luxury hotels is the An Lam Saigon River, and the price of its rooms is approximately ₫ 5 615 640.
If you decide to stay in an economy hotel, one of your options is the Ramana Saigon, located in District 3, which offers comfortable rooms at ₫ 1 302 180 per night.
Popular neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City
District 1. This district is the nerve centre of the city, home to exclusive hotels, casinos, glamorous rooftop bars and good restaurants.
District 3. This is the mecca for backpackers and young travelers. Here you will find animation and a youthful atmosphere. Its bars and restaurants offer good options to eat at affordable prices, mainly in the vicinity of Phạm Ngũ Lão.
District 5. Chinatown offers you to eat in tempting street stalls. In addition, many of the city’s most important pagodas and temples can be found here.
Getting around Ho Chi Minh City
It is possible to move around the city by bus, although the stops are far apart and some routes do not offer an acceptable frequency. The price of tickets varies according to distance, ranging from ₫ 3000 to ₫ 10 000.
There are many taxis in the city, and you can stop them on the street. Make sure you take metered taxis, which cost ₫ 12 050 and then cost ₫ 14 134 for each kilometre
If you want to drive in Vietnam you will need an international license. The traffic is quite chaotic, so you can choose to book a vehicle with a driver, which can cost you about ₫ 1 692 825 per day.
Cost of living in Ho Chi Minh City
If you feel like buying local crafts, such as lacquered plates and bowls, and also want to visit small fashionable boutiques, come to Dong Khoi and the boulevard Nguyễn Huệ. You’ll also find all sorts of souvenirs at Ben Thanh Market, while the Cho Binh Tay Market in Chinatown offers spices, silks and other textiles.
Supermarkets and groceries
Conventional supermarkets such as CitiMart and Co.op Mart serve Ho Chi Minh City. When looking for western items you should go to Parkson or Diamond Plaza, although they are much more expensive. A liter of milk costs approximately ₫ 38 230 and a dozen eggs ₫ 28 036.
Where to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City
Try dishes of Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cuisine at Nha Hang Ngon, a unique restaurant that offers a very attractive environment. The price of the main courses starts at only ₫ 60 000. Bloom Saigon restaurant, also located in District 1, offers fusion cuisine in a beautiful hall, and you can try delicious dishes from ₫ 100 000.
For a change, you can choose to go to Soul Burger and have a tasty burger and other American-style dishes. Their prices are around ₫ 165 000 per person.
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