• Ho

Ho Chi Minh City

Viet Nam

An intoxicating mix of colonial grandeur and bustling commercialism, Ho Chi Minh City (still known to most by its old name of Saigon) has shed its war-torn past to transform into a dizzying metropolis and Vietnam’s engine of commercial growth. Unlike its ancient neighbour Hanoi, the city has just three centuries of history behind it and is thus marked an infectious, youthful exuberance (two-thirds of the country’s population was born after the war ended in 1975), along with a forward-looking attitude.

Today, Ho Chi Minh City enjoys all the trappings of economic success – gourmet restaurants, glitzy bars, clubs and designer malls – which add a layer of sophistication to its jumbled landscape of colonial shophouses, stately pagodas and austere, Soviet-style housing blocks. Visitors are immediately struck by the level of intensity and thirst for life that seems to spill uncontained onto the city’s streets. Wander through the narrow alleys and you’ll come across a contrasting tableau of bustling marketplaces, enterprising street-vendors, mystic pagodas and lively shops and restaurants; all topped off by a seemingly unstoppable tsunami of mopeds. It may seem overwhelming at first, but the energy and optimism in the air is contagious and you’ll quickly find yourself being swept along for the ride.

Why Go

Bustling Ho Chi Minh City is a blend of Vietnam's rich history and its equally bright future.

When to Go

The best time to visit tropical Ho Chi Minh City is in the dry season, which runs from December through to April. Frequent tropical storms occur during the wet season from mid-May to November, although these don't usually last long and shouldn’t disrupt your travels too much. Temperatures soar to as high as 35°C during the hot season from March to early May.

Average Temp

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F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

High °C

32

33

34

34

34

32

32

32

31

31

31

31

Low °C

22

23

24

26

26

25

24

25

25

24

23

22

High °F

90

91

93

93

93

90

90

90

88

88

88

88

  Low °F

72

73

75

79

79

77

75

77

77

75

73

72

 

Book to Pack

The Quiet American by Graham Greene, the definitive anti-war classic; or The Lover by Marguerite Duras, about a tumultuous love affair between a teenage French girl and a wealthy Chinese financier during the final days of the French colonial empire.

  • Ho Chi Minh City travel guide
  • Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Chinese temple in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Ho Chi Minh statue in Saigon
  • Vietnamese street food
  • Cu Chi tunnels outside Ho Chi Minh City
  • Colonial French architecture in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Vietnamese summer rolls

Things to Do

  • Admire the city's well-preserved colonial buildings, including the impressive gothic Notre-Dame Basilica, made entirely from materials imported from France, as well as the neoclassical Saigon Post Office next door, complete with its 19th century wall-maps of Ho Chi Minh City and South Vietnam.
  • Tailor an affordable custom-made suit or silk dress along the leafy boulevards surrounding Dong Khoi Street, the city's upscale shopping boulevard.
  • Shop till you drop at Ben Thanh and Binh Tay Markets, with a variety of stalls selling spices, fabrics, coffee beans, vintage goods and handicrafts.
  • Soak up the atmosphere at one of the city's famous street kitchens and enjoy a mouth-watering meal of piping hot noodles, wraps or freshly-baked baguette.
  • Pay a visit to the War Remnants Museum, a disturbing yet essential look at the lasting impact of the American (Vietnam) War.
  • Explore the legendary Cu Chi Tunnels, a vast and complex network of underground tunnels built by the Viet Cong and central to their guerrilla warfare tactics during the American War.
  • Feast on a mouth-watering buffet of street foods at Nha Hang Ngon, a collection of Ho Chi Minh City's most famous street hawkers housed under one roof in an elegant French colonial building.
  • Wander through the fascinating corridors of the art-deco style Reunification Palace and admire the well-preserved state rooms in their vintage finery.
  • Refuel with a cup of café sua-da, or Vietnamese drip-coffee with condensed milk and ice, at one of the city’s many trendy cafés.

Ho Chi Minh City District 1
Vietnamese beef pho

Getting There

NOTE: Travel information such as flight, train, bus and boat schedules and fares are subject to constant change. The information below is intended as a basic guide only; please check with the relevant companies/authorities before planning your journey.

By Air

Tan Son Nhat International Airport serves both domestic as well as international flights from around the region, including Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China. Popular airlines serving the region include a number of budget airlines, including AirAsia, Tiger Airways, Jetstar and VietJet, linking Ho Chi Minh City to almost all of the major South-East Asian cities.

By Train

Ho Chi Minh City is the southern terminus of the Reunification Express, Vietnam's North-South rail connection. Popular connections include Nha Trang (about 6 1/2 hrs), Danang (13 hrs), Hue (14 1/2 hrs) and Hanoi (31 hrs). Overnight trains are available with comfortable, air-conditioned sleeper berths, and are a fairly efficient way of getting around the country. Be wary of travel agent scams when booking tickets; we recommend using Baolao to book online.

By Bus

Ho Chi Minh City is the southern transport hub for the country’s buses, meaning that almost all bus routes stop here. There are three bus stations serving a range of intercity and long-distance routes, including Hanoi (49 hours) and Phnom Penh, Cambodia (6 hours). Mien Dong Bus Station serves the north of Vietnam, including to the Central Highlands and Phan Thiet. Mien Tay Bus Station connects the Mekong Delta to the south, while Cholon Bus Station serves nearby towns in the Mekong Delta, as well as Cambodia.

Getting Around

By Cyclo

These rickshaws are gradually being phased out, but for now are still the most interesting way of seeing the town. Be sure to agree on a price beforehand and clarify in advance if this is per person or per trip.

By Motorbike/Scooter

Ho Chi Minh City is infamous for its crushing flows of traffic that leave driving best left to the locals. If you must rent, a basic 150cc model will cost approximately US$10 per day and will usually require your passport to be left as a deposit.

 

By Taxi

Taxis are plentiful in Ho Chi Minh City and can be easily hailed on the street. Look out for either the white, green and red Vinasun taxis or the green Mai Linh cabs for their reliable, metered services – avoid other taxi companies who typically insist on a fixed fare or engage in meter-rigging and other dubious practices.

The Essentials

Visa Requirements

Most nationalities are required to obtain a visa in advance before arrival in Vietnam. This consists of a letter of approval issued by your local Vietnamese Embassy or diplomatic mission, which is then exchanged at the immigration counter for a visa upon arrival (air travel only). The only exceptions to this rule are citizens from the following nations, although we advise checking with the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs for up-to-date information:

  • 15 days - Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Russia
  • 21 days - Philippines
  • 30 days - Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand

Currency

Vietnam uses the Vietnamese Dong (VND), which tends to fluctuate wildly in value and can be difficult to buy or sell outside of the country. Prices are sometimes quoted in USD (US$). As a general indication, US$1 is roughly equivalent to 22,500 VND. Visit xe.com for the latest currency exchange rates.

Health & Safety

Ho Chi Minh City has few violent crimes, although petty thefts such as pickpocketing and bag snatching are common and visitors should take precautions. Avoid holding your bag on the traffic side of the road, and try not to take out your phone or camera on the streets or in crowded areas if possible. If out late at night, opt for a metered taxi as cyclos can be unsafe. Scamming is also a widespread problem, especially amongst taxi and cyclo drivers. Be sure to politely but firmly decline any offers to take you anywhere besides your desired destination, as drivers may try to steer you towards places where they can collect a commission.     

The tidal-wave of non-stop traffic is an intimidating and unavoidable hazard to visitors. Pedestrian crossings have been introduced at a few major intersections, but these are still largely ignored. The best way to cross is to wait for a break in traffic and make your way slowly forward, one lane at a time, giving drivers enough time to see and slow down for you. Otherwise, try to look for locals also crossing the road and follow closely behind.

Mosquitos can be a concern depending on the time of year, as they can carry dengue fever (although seldom malaria). Use mosquito repellent when outdoors especially during dawn and dusk. It is not advisable to drink tap water; bottled water is cheap and readily available. 

Vietnamese lady in Saigon

Learn the Lingo

Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam. Basic English is spoken in urban areas.

Hello - chào

Thank You - cảm ơn

What is your name? - bạn tên gì?

How much is this? - cái này giá bao nhiêu?

Excuse me / sorry - xin lỗi

Help! - cứu với!

I don’t understand - tôi không hiểu