An exciting metropolis made for food lovers and night owls
Ho Chi Minh City, still known to some by its former name Saigon, pulsates with energy unlike any other city in Vietnam. Skyscrapers tower above old French museums while swarms of motorbikes hum down the streets. The city’s buzzy rush is exciting and infectious.
From gourmet restaurants to fast food outlets and the humble carts at Ben Thanh Market, the city’s dining options are as exciting as its nightlife. Once the sun sets and the neon lights come on, Ho Chi Minh City serves up everything you could demand from a night on the town, from no-frills beer joints to swanky cocktail bars and thumping clubs. You won't find this kind of after-dark action elsewhere in Vietnam, so dive in.
Things to do: Ho Chi Minh City
Discover Ho Chi Minh City's dining scene
Ho Chi Minh City is a food lover’s wonderland. It’s famous for its flavour-packed street food – pho and flaky banh mi – and its singular coffee culture. If you want to explore Saigon's food scene beyond the street stalls, there are many stylish yet affordable restaurants to try. Mediterranean, classic French, English high tea, Mexican and various takes on Vietnamese fine-dining – your every food whim will be met in this food-obsessed city.
Explore the Mekong Delta
Experience the magnificent Mekong Delta on a languid river cruise, a cycling adventure, or a quick daytrip from Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll see rice paddies and pagodas, busy cities and traditional villages, and the region’s famous floating markets. Visit the Cai Be market, amble through a fruit orchard and try the local fare – don’t miss the traditional coconut candy.
Check out Saigon Central Post Office
Saigon Central Post Office is one of the best examples of the ornate, romantic French Colonial architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. Designed by the same architect who created the Eiffel Tower, it has a domed roof, intricately tiled floors and a gorgeous sense of grandeur. The post office is still operational so go ahead, send your postcards from one of the most famous buildings in Vietnam.
Image credit: Richie Chan/stock.adobe.com
Learn about Vietnam's war history
Learn about Vietnam’s turbulent modern history as you tour the halls, war rooms and former command centre at the Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace. At the three-storey War Remnants Museum, see sobering wartime photography exhibitions, as well as out-of-commission tanks and aircraft from the 1960s and ‘70s.
Take the kids to Dam Sen Park
Dam Sen Park in Hoa Binh is tonnes of fun for families with young children. There are themed gardens, adventure playgrounds and an electronic games zone. Paddle a boat around the lake, jump on the monorail traversing the park or catch one of the weekend shows. This park is also close to the Dam Sen Water Park, which has a wave pool and all kinds of water rides.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN)
Distance to city centre 6km
Taxi Metered taxis are available outside and to the left of the terminal; go for the reliable Mai Linh or Vinasun brands. To get to District 1 should take around 15 minutes and cost about VND160,000 (plus a VND10,000 airport surcharge). There are also counters inside the building, where you’ll pay more for a pre-paid taxi voucher.
Bus Public city bus 152 goes to Pham Ngu Lao (the backpacker street) every 20 minutes from 6am until 6pm. The fare is VND5000, plus VND5000 for bags. The more modern and comfortable bus 109 runs through the city centre to Pham Ngu Lao every 15-20 minutes from 5.30am to 1.30am. It takes about 45 minutes and costs VND20,000.Back to top
When to go
Ho Chi Minh City has two distinct seasons: wet and dry. It's always hot, with average temperatures year-round up around 28°C. It’s said that there’s no bad time to visit but when it rains it pours, and exploring can become difficult. The dry season runs from December until April, a period when there’s considerably less humidity, and temperatures may get as low as 18°C, especially in December.
Many businesses close during Tet, Vietnam’s Lunar New Year from the end of January to mid-February. City residents tend to leave town to visit family in the countryside. This makes things eerily quiet but it also means visitors have the city pretty much to themselves.Back to top
Taxis are cheap and plentiful, though you need to beware of dishonest operators. Stick with the reliable brands like Mai Linh and Vinasun, and watch out for crafty imitators with very similar names! Be sure the driver uses their meter, and carry small change for the fare, as drivers will usually not have change.
Xe om (motorbike taxis) are everywhere. Make sure you agree on a fare before you set off (and ensure your travel insurance covers you for motorcycle travel).
The city’s bus network can be tricky if you don’t speak Vietnamese, but buses are fast and frequent. Many buses depart from Ben Thanh Station, where you can also get a route map.Back to top