Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city with over 8 million people. It typically marks either the start or the end of your trip to Vietnam, with a north-to-south or south-to-north approach common.
Here, you will find a melting pot of culture from the French cathedrals and baguettes sold on most corners, to Chinese inspired spring rolls and typically Southeast Asian architecture.
Ho Chi Minh City is a huge and hectic city so it can be overwhelming for a lot of visitors. This travel guide will prepare you for your visit and hopefully answer any questions you have.
Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City
The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is during the dry season, from November to April, when it is significantly less wet and humid. It is still great to travel to Ho Chi Minh City any time of the year, you just might be a bit less comfortable during the wet season.
Ho Chi Minh city has unpredictable weather. It can start raining without warning, then suddenly stop as soon as you pull on your raincoat.
Having a tropical climate, Vietnam has a defined wet and dry season. The wet season is from May to October. If you are wanting to avoid the heat, then this could be a better time for you, but bear in mind it will be very wet.
Although it’s hotter, the dry season from November to April is likely to be a better time for you to visit. Temperatures regularly sit above 30 degrees Celsius, and there are still occasional showers, but you won’t find the streets flooded and you won’t be constantly running for shelter!
Ho Chi Minh City is a busy place, and it’s not thanks to tourism. If you are looking to avoid crowds, then it’s probably not the right place for you. That said, the main tourist areas (district 1) will be much busier during Christmas.
Cheapest Time to Visit
Compared to western countries, Vietnam is an incredibly cheap destination to travel.
From December to early January you can expect higher prices for accommodation. It is also likely your airfares will be more expensive during this time. Budget-conscious travelers should consider visiting Ho Chi Minh City during off-peak periods (such as the wet-season) and avoid December.
What to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is a crazy city with plenty to see and do. Despite this, the best thing to do here is to embrace the culture and experience the city as close to like a local as possible.
This is our number one thing to do here. There are so many great restaurants and dishes to try in Ho Chi Minh City, so just make it your goal to try as many of them as you can during your stay.
Ho Chi Minh City is a great destination for bargains and cheap items. Head to local markets to barter yourself a new jacket or some gifts to take home. Ben Thanh Market is one of the most popular markets in Singapore and is a great place to pick up souvenirs and nab a bargain. Just remember to bring your bartering skills.
Visit the Mekong Delta
This is technically not in Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s a super cool experience. Rent a driver, ride a motorbike, or take a tour. You’ll get the opportunity to visit floating markets, try unusual cuisine (we ate snake) and possibly spend a night in a local village.
Head to the top for a cocktail during sunset, it offers a great view over the city.
Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels
You shouldn’t miss a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels. It is an excellent display of Vietnam’s history and helps you envisage what it was like for Vietnamese during the war. If you’re on a budget, skip out on the shooting range – it is seriously overpriced.
Post Office & Notre Dame Cathedral
These are both right next to each other. They are great examples of Vietnam’s French heritage, so well worth a visit.
Eating in Ho Chi Minh City
The cuisine in Vietnam is amazing, and Ho Chi Minh City is home to some of the best restaurants and dishes in the entire country.
Imagine the most delicious broth you have ever tasted, delicious spring rolls and the world’s best sandwiches – all for just a few dollars each!
There is a reputation for poor food hygiene in Vietnam, and for good reason – they don’t have any. This doesn’t mean you will get sick, however, it just means you need to be extra careful when eating. These are our top tips:
- Check TripAdvisor reviews to find the best restaurants (we love Mountain Retreat!)
- Use your senses, if you smell or see anything unhygienic then walk away
- Eat where the locals eat, if a vendor is busy it’s a good sign
- Be very careful with street food – don’t avoid street food, just if something seems off don’t eat it
- Don’t drink the tap water – ice is mostly fine in Vietnam
- Get your vaccinations for Vietnam to avoid some food- & water-borne viruses
If you follow these tips, food poisoning is largely avoidable. But still, take some Immodium with you just in case!
A delicious broth typically served with either chicken (pho ga) or beef (pho bo), noodles, and fresh herbs/vegetables.
Pork mince wrapped in rice paper and deep-fried. Need I say more? You should order this many times.
The healthy alternative to cha gio, and every bit as delicious. A fresh, cold spring roll with pork, prawns, and fresh vegetables, served with a yummy dipping sauce.
A savory pancake that looks a bit like an omelet – there is in fact, no eggs involved. It is a pancake made with turmeric (the yellow color), then you pick it up, wrap it in lettuce and dip it in the sauce.
The French colonized Vietnam and brought with them baguettes. The Vietnamese quickly created and perfected the sandwich. Delicious, crispy baked rolls are stuffed with pate, processed meat and vegetables.
Banh mi’s can be found all over Vietnam, but for the best stop by Banh Mi Hoang Hoa in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Getting Around Ho Chi Minh City
Getting around Ho Chi Minh City is super easy, but it pays to be diligent and keep these tips in mind.
Use Grab Ridesharing
This is an app like Uber where you get matched with drivers. It typically costs just a few dollars to get anywhere you want to go.
Use Green Mai Linh or Vinasun Taxis
There are a lot of dodgy taxi companies in Vietnam. These ones are reputable and have a reputation to uphold. Watch out for fakes, other drivers pretend to work for Mai Linh or Vinasun when they do not.
Insist on the Meter
If using a taxi, insist they use the meter. If they refuse, you should get out and find another taxi. It is always cheaper and fairer to use the meter.
Getting From the Airport
It should cost about 160k VND to get from the airport to District 1.
Follow the Route on Google Maps
As an extra safety precaution, follow the route the driver is taking on your phone. You’ll be able to call him out if he takes an unusual route.
Rent a Motorbike
For most people, Grab is cheap enough that you wouldn’t wish to brave the madness of the Ho Chi Minh City roads. If you are confident on a motorbike, you can rent one cheaply making them a convenient option.
Fun Facts about Ho Chi Minh City
- Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam with 9 million people residing in the region.
- The city has had many names throughout its history, but it is commonly known today as both Ho Chi Minh City and Saigon. The correct name is now Ho Chi Minh City.
- The most prevalent religions in Ho Chi Minh City are Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
- According to the World Health Organisation, Vietnam has the second-highest traffic fatality rates in Southeast Asia – it pays to be careful.
- Ho Chi Minh City was colonized by France until it gained independence in 1975.
Ho Chi Minh Hotels
It makes sense to stay in District 1. This is the main tourist area, and as such, it is perfectly tailored for tourists’ needs. There is a great nightlife, affordable accommodation and good food all around. On top of this, most of the locals speak passable English making it easier for you to do things.
You can get out of the main parts by ordering a Grab to check out other districts. Renting a motorbike or booking a tour would allow you to explore further afield, such as the Mekong Delta. This is a great place to stay for a night.
Punto Hostel is conveniently located in District 1 and is a great place to stay for budget to mid-range travelers. For luxury travelers, The Myst is a unique and luxurious hotel in the heart of the tourist district.
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Delilah is a freelance writer, photographer and traveler. Her favourite place in the world is Queenstown, in her home country New Zealand. She has traveled extensively around southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Thailand & Singapore.