THE ULTIMATE HO CHI MINH CITY TRAVEL GUIDE
I. About Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, also commonly referred to as Saigon, is the largest city of Vietnam. Located in southeastern Vietnam, the city surrounds the Saigon River and covers about 2,061 square kilometres. Also, this is the economic and financial centre of Vietnam, and plays an important role in the country’s culture and scientific developments.
Today, the city is a popular tourist destination due to its fascinating culture, classic French architecture, and sleek skyscrapers as well as ornate temples and pagodas. The city is also filled with rooftop bars that overlook Saigon and beyond, while fantastic restaurants offer a combination of French, Chinese, and, of course, local Vietnamese cuisine.
When is best to visit Ho Chi Minh City?
Unlike Hanoi, the weather in Saigon is divided into 2 distinct seasons: dry and rainy seasons. But the sunshine of Saigon is not strong while the rain does not last too long. Therefore, you can come to Saigon at any time of the year because this is a vibrant, bustling city all year round. Whenever you can visit Saigon to experience, have fun or learn the differences of people here.
To make the trip more meaningful and full of memories, you should come to Saigon on the occasion after Tet (around February, March) to join the biggest January full moon festival in Chinatown and the Chinese New Year lantern festival on the Saigon River.
II. Vehicles To Ho Chi Minh City
Currently there are many options for visitors to get to this city. Saigon has all kinds of tourists to visit, and so it is also diverse in the way of travel. If you want to save time, visitors can choose to come to Saigon by airplane. Tan Son Nhat International Airport is South Vietnam’s main airport and one of the world’s busiest airbases. It has most routes from all parts of the country and abroad. Only a few hours if traveling in the country, and a little longer for foreign visitors, then it is possible to set foot on the land of Saigon and enjoy your ideal travel.
For those who want to explore a bit, you don’t hesitant to pick up motorbikes, along with some best fellow travelers to come to Saigon. Traveling by motorbike to Saigon will be a crazy but also attractive idea, marking a passionate youth with your best friends.
- From Hanoi to Saigon: about 1730 km
- From Danang to Saigon: about 965 km
- From Vung Tau to Saigon: about 96 km
If you are not afraid of a trip that is neither pleasure nor pain, and it might take a lot of time, but still contains interesting things, then hesitate no more to choose a train. Sitting on the chair and watching the scene of the countryside before your eyes, talking with friends or with strangers, will be an interesting experience when traveling to Saigon train.
4. Bus/ Coach
Bus is also a form of economic means when traveling to Ho Chi Minh city. There are many routes from different provinces to Saigon. You can refer to some of the following reputable buses/coaches:
- From Hanoi:
Mai Linh Express: 02839292929 (860,000 VND/person)
- From Danang:
Phuc Thuan Thao: 02363 767677(380,000 VND/person)
- From Lam Dong:
Phuong Trang: 02838386852 (220,000 VND/person)
III. Where To Stay In Ho Chi Minh City
There are various options for tourists to stay in Ho Chi Minh city. You can easily choose a place to live in the city center or suburb as well. Here are some references for you:
1. Dong Khoi Street
If you’re looking to stay in a fancy five star hotel, surrounded by French colonial architecture and lush cafes, Dong Khoi is one of the best areas to base yourself during your stay. Many of the large 5 star hotels are located in this street. That’s why it’s known as being one of the most prestigious areas of the city.
2. Ben Thanh Market Area
There are plenty of hotel options in the streets surrounding the market, and this is the area where many tour groups stay. Many of the hotels around Ben Thanh Market are mid range to upper level, but the location is extremely central and there are plenty of attractions and things to do in the area.
3. Pham Ngu Lao Area
The area of Pham Ngu Lao, and also Bui Vien Street, is the most famous budget backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh City. There are dozens of hotels, guest houses, and hostels along these two streets, ranging from very budget to mid-range.
If you want to be right in the thick of the energy of Ho Chi Minh City, with plenty of restaurants and nightlife options, and just a short walk from the famous Ben Thanh Market, Pham Ngu Lao is a good area to look for accommodation.
IV. Transportation To Get Around The City
Taxi would be the first choice when traveling to anywhere. Many reasons for this choice: avoid the intense heat, move quickly, carry many people and safe. Currently, there is an additional service to book trips by Grab or Uber, quickly and economically. Traveling by taxi, visitors can enjoy Saigon in a very private way.
Some popular taxi brands:
- Vinasun: 028 38 27 27 27
- Mai Linh:028 38 38 38 38
There are two main modes of motorbike transportation in Saigon: motorbike taxi and self-drive motorbike rental. When riding a motorbike taxi, you just need to say the address and the cute motorbike drivers will get to the place you want.
If you want to enjoy a free-style Saigon tour, then it is probably an interesting choice to rent a motorbike and explore Saigon by your own. Through the strange Saigon streets, everything is new and exciting!
Bus is the cheapest public transport in Saigon. Coming to Saigon, once experienced sitting on the bus traveling around the city, watching the crowded streets. In the afternoon, the rain drowned, sitting by the window of the bus looking out, everything was blurry, but beautiful and strangely romantic. Traveling to Saigon, do not miss the opportunity to experience this interesting transportation.
Certainly many tourists do not think of this mode of transportation when traveling to Saigon. Cyclo is not only popular with foreign visitors, but also domestic tourists. Visiting the city, watching the crowded cars through each slow rotation of the cyclo engine is such an interesting experience. Sometimes, you can stop at Notre Dame Cathedral or the Independent Palace to take a quick photos, too! Not a bad idea, right?
V. Saigon Street Food
It is not too much to say that Saigon is a culinary paradise because every corner of the city has delicious restaurants/shops with reasonable. Coming to this place, you can enjoy typical dishes of each region across the country. However, Saigon people still have ways to make their dishes more special.
1. Banh Mi
Banh Mi is a specialty of Saigon in particular and of Vietnam in general. The bread is sliced down the side, filled with a number of different meats, from luncheon meats to grilled pork patties, to pate, and often complemented with Vietnamese pickles, cucumbers, cilantro, and finally a bit of chili sauce and spicy peppers to top it off.
- Recommended spot: Banh Mi Huynh Hoa
- Address: 26 Le Thi Rieng, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
No matter if you’ve been to Vietnam before or not, you’ve likely heard of Pho. It is one of the most common dishes in throughout the country. And, it makes the Vietnamese food menu at nearly every sit-down restaurant, too.
Pho in Saigon is a bit different from Pho in Hanoi. The dish here is the combination of soft rice noodles in a soup broth, normally prepared with either beef or chicken – both of which can be extremely delicious.
3. Bun rieu
The broth is made from a crab base stock. Also, another key ingredient are tomatoes, which create a broth that’s slightly seafood tasting yet natural sweet and tartness. Along with the wonderfully flavorful broth, the noodles are often similar in shape and size to spaghetti noodles, except soft rice noodles.
- Recommended spot: Nguyen Canh Chan noodle soup
- Address: 18/5 Nguyen Canh Chan, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
4. Bot Chien
Bot Chien involves rice flour cakes that are chopped into chunky squares and then fried in a large flat pan with whipped eggs and green onions. It’s served when crispy, with a sweet rice vinegar and soy sauce concoction, and some shredded pickled young papaya to cool down the dish.
- Recommended spot: Bot Chien Dat Thanh
- Address: 277 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3
5. Bun Thit Nuong
You can find this dish throughout the city. It combines all of the satisfying textures you might want in a bowl of food. Bun thit nuong includes rice vermicelli noodles, grilled boneless pork, a crispy pork spring roll (often with taro), and fresh lettuce and herbs. You top it with sweet fish sauce and chilli, letting the sweet and pungent liquid seep into every bit of your food.
- Recommended spot: Chi Thong
- Address: 195 Co Giang, District 1
6. Hu Tieu
Hu Tieu soups are a complicated dish. The original type is Hu Tieu Nam Vang (hu tieu Phnom Penh style), which includes shrimp, liver, pork, etc. However, the popular Hu tieu in saigon street is Hu tieu suon – a variation of Hu Tieu Nam Vang. The dish only has small ribs yet still remains the full of flavor. The vendors choose ribs that are low in fat and chop them into bite size pieces and then cook until tender. That’s when the broth becomes imbued with the bone’s sweetness.
- Recommended spot: Hu Tieu Thanh Dat Co Bac
- Address: 34 Co Bac, Cau Ong Lanh St., District 1
7. Com Tam
Com Tam is especially known as a southern favorite, which is the combination of broken rice and grilled pork chop. However, a proper Com Tam in Saigon includes the broken rice and a thin grilled pork chop, served on a plate and accompanied by fish sauce dressing, cucumber pickles, green onion oil, and chilies to garnish. Com Tam is available all over in Saigon, especially at small street food stalls and markets throughout the city.
- Recommended spot: Com Tam Ba Ghien
- Address: 84 Dang Van Ngu Street, Phu Nhuan District