A Quick Guide to Ho Chi Minh City

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Commonly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh) is a bustling city in Vietnam. It is also the former capital of Vietnam, as well as the largest city in the country. Two or three days in the city will allow for plenty to see the sights, however if you have an extra day spare, be sure to take a day trip to the nearby Mekong River to appreciate rural Vietnamese life. Here’s what to see, do, and discover in our guide to Ho Chi Minh City!

Ho Chi Minh

Population: 7.982 +
City Motto: Vibrant Ho Chi Minh City
Climate: Tropical climate, 78-82% humidity

A Guide to Ho Chi Minh City

Prior to Arrival

Before coming to Vietnam, be sure to research your visa requirements as many nationalities are required to have a visa prior to arrival. There are also visa waivers and visa-on-arrival, depending on your nationality (and are subject to change without notice – be sure to check with your consulate for up-to-date information).

On Arrival

Once here, your primary modes of transport are taxi and tuk-tuk. For arriving into HCM, if you’re on a budget consider taking the No. 152 (air-conditioned!) airport bus to arrive in the city centre for just 50 cents including a ticket for yourself + your bags.

Getting Around

If staying centrally, the best way to get around is on foot or to rent a bicycle (though be prepared for chaotic traffic nearly 24 hours of the day).

Otherwise, taxis are relatively cheap or hiring a motorbike is popular among backpackers staying for a longer period (though again, beware of the chaos on the streets!!!)

Getting By

If this is your first visit to a Southeast Asian country, be prepared for a culture shock! Nearly everything will be different and exciting – including the culture, food, language, customs and more. Vietnamese is the official language and locals speak limited English. To show your respect, try memorising the following phrases:

Hello: Seen-Chow

Excuse Me, Sorry: Seen-Loy

Thank You: Gam-Un

Bye: Tham-Beet

What to See

Interested in the history of Vietnam? You’ll be spoiled for choice here in Saigon! Here are a few points of interest not to be missed: War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, Museum of Vietnam’s History, City Hall.

Just after a damn good view over the city!? Head to Saigon SkyDeck.

Architecture more your style!? Check out the National Opera House and perhaps see a show.

Want to embrace the local culture and chaos!? Head for the Ben Tanh Market.

What to Eat & Drink

Ho Chi Minh has excellent coffee (try the Vietnamese special – sweet iced coffee with condensed milk), cheap beer, cheap eats, PHO, and fresh summer rolls. You’ll be spoiled for choice.

Get Out

Ready to see Vietnam beyond the chaos and craziness of Saigon!? If you have a spare day, consider taking a day tour to the nearby Mekong River.

Ho Chi Minh saigon Ho Chi Minh City Mekong River Mekong River tour

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    Leonie Parker
    September 16, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Will have to put this on my list to visit next year

    Leonie ♥

    September 15, 2015 at 10:05 am

    I love vietnam so much – I didn’t get to Ho Chi Minh when I visited but I will definitely get there next time, it looks amazing.

    September 15, 2015 at 5:28 am

    I LOVED this guide! I’ve been to Vietnam many times and it was fun to see someone else’s perspective on the city. The traffic is totally crazy and overwhelming! Gorgeous pictures!

    September 14, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks for this post! It´s very useful as I am hopefully going to Vietnam the next month.

    September 14, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    How interesting! I’ve never met anyone who has been there before.

    September 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Wow, I hadn’t really considered going here before, but it sounds really lovely from what you’ve shown here! Thanks for adding this to my list!

    Jennifer Stevens
    September 14, 2015 at 10:45 am

    One of my favorite cities in the world! <3

    Stray Asia
    September 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Great guide! HCM is an exciting city to explore and you’ve hit the nail on the head with these tips (particularly the 152 bus, it’s a great way to make sure you have a comfortable ride and don’t pay above the odds to get into the city in a taxi).

    A half day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels close by are definitely a “must-visit” to learn about the history of the American and Vietnam War. There are over 200kms of tunnels that were used by the Viet Khong in the war. People lived and survived in these tunnels, built schools and hospitals underground some people were even born in the tunnels!

    Another interesting thing to do in the evenings is visit the Golden Dragon Water Puppet theatre.

    September 14, 2015 at 3:05 am

    This is fantastic! I’m leaving for a trip to Bangkok, Cambodia, and Vietnam in October. All of this info is very well timed and informative. Thank you!

    September 14, 2015 at 2:41 am

    I left my heart in Saigon! Love at first sight, bite, everything.

    Livvy | Drink the Wild Air
    September 13, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    This is so useful! The first time I went to Saigon I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I returned at the end of my trip and LOVED it. I think Hoi An and Hanoi are my favourite parts of Vietnam though. I’m currently sharing memories from my summer spent backpacking around Vietnam and Cambodia. It’s such an amazing corner of the world! xo

      Minh Nguyen
      September 14, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      I prefer Hanoi as well. More things to see, more flavourful food and prettier views. Hanoi is fast enough for me, more elegant and street culture is just unique that you couldn’t find in anywhere else.

    Anne Slater-Brooks
    September 13, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Definitely agree with Elizabeth re crossing the road. The only problem is getting re-accustomed to the green cross code once you leave Vietnam. I too am not a fan of this city because the pollution was so shocking I felt like being sick most of the time we were there. However the War Remnants Museum was fascinating as was the old parliament building. I also loved drinks at the Liberty Tower in the bar overlooking the infinity pool.

    September 13, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Ho Chi Minh City’s traffic is by far the most chaotic I have ever encountered! All those motorbikes. I love how close they get to each other but never collide. Some great advice we were given for crossing the road (on foot) was to walk slowly at the same pace the entire way. They will judge your pace and go around you. Somehow it seems to work but there is no way I would drive there! LOL

      Minh Nguyen
      September 14, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Totally agree. Being from Hanoi, I thought driving a bike or crossing the road in HCMC wasn’t a problem for me, but it was. People drive so fast and dangerous. I was so scared when being given a lift by my friend. My hands just held the back seat tightly and my heart beat so fast. It’s such a heart beater!

    September 13, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    It looks so amazing. I had planned to travel there but sadly had to get back home in time for work. I still Have it up on my bucket list!

    Minh Nguyen
    September 13, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    glad to see this post. i’ve been to saigon (or HCMC) once. it is metropolitan city, centre of economy and commerce of vietnam. it’s also a town of food. however, there are not so many places to visit in the city. i’m actually not so keen on this city. the most impressive place in HCMC for me is Cu Chi Tunnel, which is a historical site but far from the city centre, about 70km. really recommend this place. i have written a post about this place.

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn
    September 13, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I’d love to visit Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City in particular. It looks like such a vibrant and interesting place!

    Tessa at

      Stray Asia
      September 14, 2015 at 10:50 am

      You should! Vietnam offers a bit of everything from bustling city life, quaint fishing villages and epic white sand beaches. It is a truly amazing country to visit. We operate a hop-on hop-off bus network that runs from Ho Chi Minh all the way north to Hanoi. Our travel passes offer passengers the flexibility to hop off along the way and spend time in the places they love. When they are ready to move on, they can simply hop back on the guided bus network. It is an easy, hassle free way to travel but still people all the flexibility they need to do their ‘own thing’ when they want to. Have a look at our “Dong Pass” online..

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