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Ho Chi Minh City

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Travel Guide Asia Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City

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Introduction

Red market

Red market

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Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh) is the largest city in Vietnam with a population of around 7 million. Although it was renamed back in 1975 after the Vietnam war, it is still commonly referred to as Saigon by both Vietnamese and foreigners alike. Ho Chi Minh City, former capital of South Vietnam, is located in the south of Vietnam about 1,750 kilometres south of Hanoi, todays capital. The city centre is situated on the banks of the Saigon river.

The wide avenues, a smattering of decaying French influenced architecture, sidewalk cafes and baguettes, seems to be the only evidence left that the place was occupied by the French. But it's enough to give it a very different feel from any other Asian City.

Ho Chi Minh is still the economic heart of Vietnam and the streets bustle with activity, not to mention what seems like an endless stream of motorbikes. Vendors, markets, shops, stands and cafés crowd the busy streets and sidewalks adding to the vibe. Booming economically, chic bars and clubs have popped up around the city to be crowded by affluent Vietnamese and expatriates.

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Districts

The main district that tourists visit in Ho Chi Minh is district one. This is the old town that the French have build and has most of the sights and older buildings. Pham Ngu Lao and the parallel street of Bui Vien in district one are where all the backpacker action is.

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Sights and Activities

Ho Chi Minh City Royal Palace

Ho Chi Minh City Royal Palace

© All Rights Reserved Grant-Alan

Visit the Tourist Information Centre (4G 4H Le Loi St, District 1. Tel (84-8) 822 6033) in the city centre to get ideas of what to see and do and to pick up a free map.

Independence (Royal) Palace - Independence (Royal) Palace - Distinctly 1970s architecture and fine grounds make this at least worth a walk by. The iconic Vietnam war picture of a tank crushing its way through the iron gates of the palace on liberation day was taken here. Across from the entrance to the palace on Huyen Tran Cong chua is a local swimming pool. For a dollar go take a dip.

  • Museum of History houses, amongst others, the mummy of Ms Tran Thi Hieu, who died in 1869. Admission is under one dollar.
  • War Remnants Museum - This moving if one sided view of the "American war" is well worth visiting.
  • Daytrip to Cu Chi Tunnels - These amazing tunnels cover an area of 150 square kilometres. They were a major thorn in the side of the US during the war, considering they were so close to Saigon. Even with heavy B52 bombing the tunnels remained a major Viet Cong defensive system. All travel agents can sell you a half day trip for $5, entrance not included which is 75,000 Dong. But a far better trip can be had by taking the local bus #13 from Ben Thanh market station, which costs 5,000 dong. The bus takes you to Cu Chi town bus station in about 1.30 hours. Change to bus #79 (5,000 Dong) which takes you right to the tunnels (13 kilometres). You are not allowed to enter the tunnels unaccompanied. Guides included in your entrance fee will show you around the park.
  • Daytrip to Tay Ninh
  • Pho Binh cafe - Pho Binh cafe is not really a cafe. It's a Pho (noodle) shop. Seems like this place is a bit of an unofficial tourist place now. The owner will take you up to 3rd floor to show you relics and pictures from Viet Cong meeting place. An interesting bit of trivia is that this was a major meeting place for Viet Cong officials, but at ground level oblivious American GIs were enjoying the noodles. Slip your man 10,000 dong and he is happy. Address: 7 Lo Ching Thang, at the intersection of Hai Ba trung
  • Chinatown.

Shopping

  • Ben Thanh Market (Le Lai Street), one of the city's most famous landmarks. Bustling with activity at night with vendors selling everything from snacks to souvenirs and cheap clothing.
  • Saigon Trade Tax Centre (39 Le Loi), the ideal place to find gold jewelry and gems.
  • T&T Tailor (112 Bui Vien, Tel +84 8 836 7108), let Mr Thinh sew clothes to your specifications without breaking the bank.
  • There is a little tailor's shop on the cross-section of streets where the Go Go bar is on Bui Vien Street. The tailor's shop is located right next to a little italian cafe. The shop makes custom-specific ao dai and silk trousers overnight. Very cheap at USD 30 per ao dai set and good as a souvenir. The quality of silk though is not as good as the silk available at the tailor shops on Dong Khoi street.
  • Also on Bui Vien street and next to the Beautiful Saigon hotel (62, Bui Vien street) is a small backacker shop selling backpacks and little souvenirs as well as books (great for travel reading) around 50,000 dong, CDs, DVDs at very cheap prices. A DVD collection of 21 Bernardo Bertolucci movies costs about USD 11.
  • Khai Silk - Khai Silk (Dong Khoi street) is a lovely shop for purchasing good quality silk shawls - both the Kashmiri pashmina shawls as well as the Vietnamese raw silk (Anh silk) shawls. There is a tailor's shop close by Khai silk shop that makes custom-specific ao dai as well as lovely evening wear. The Dong Khoi street shops are a tad expensive than shops elsewhere in Ho Chi Minh city but the quality is much better.

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Events and Festivals

  • Tet Festival - The Tet Festival is the Vietnamese New Year, which is the same time as Chinese New Year (January/February). Visitors to Ho Chi Minh during this can can expect to see decorations all over the city, parades, food stands, and beautiful fireworks displays. It is believed that during this time of year, those who start a new business or project will have good luck.
  • Independence Day (02 Sep 2013) - September 2nd marks Vietnam's Independence Day. During this national holiday, thousands gather to celebrate and throw parties together. Concerts are held throughout the day, and during the evening celebrations, the city puts on an extravagant fireworks display.
  • Reunification Day - Sometimes referred to as Liberation day, this holiday, celebrated each year on April 30th, commemorates the moment the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1975. On this day, festivals, concerts, and special film screenings can be seen around the city.
  • [listing name=Le Van Duyet Temple Festival type=event]This event is celebrated to commemorate the life and death of Le Van Duyet, a national hero of Vietnam. This anniversary festival is usually celebrated on the 1st day of the 8th lunar month. Traditional Southern Vietnamese rituals are performed and incense is burned on this day. Visitors can also expect to see opera performances, and it is also a popular practice on this day to meet with a fortune teller or oracle.
  • Fisherman's Festival - Also known as Nghinh Ong Festival, this event is celebrated annually in the Can Gio District on the 16th day of the eighth lunar month. The history of this festival comes from Vietnamese folklore - where ancient fisherman were saved from a terrible storm by a whale. This festival celebrates that story, and mainly, the whales. It is customary that fishermen take this day off to attend the festival. Shrines are erected around town, and fishing harbors and boats are beautifully decorated for the event. Traditional meals of roast white pork and colorful steamed sticky-rice are served.
  • Wandering Souls Day - Primarily a Buddhist holiday, this event is intended to celebrate the souls of the dead that are thought to visit the city during this time (the 15th day of the 7th lunar month). During this holiday, religious ceremonies are performed, and traditional food is prepared as offerings to the wandering dead. Visitors will find local delicacies like boiled chicken, roast pork, sticky rice cakes, and meat rolls served from food stands all over the city.
  • [/listing]

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    Weather

    Weatherwise, the best time to visit Ho Chi Minh is in the dry season which runs from December to April. In the dry season the humidity is at a level which is easier to handle. As this is common knowledge it also means the crowds are bigger this time of year, so to avoid the crowds you'll need to tolerate the extra humidity. Temperatures average 31 °C during the day year round, and drops to just a little below 25 °C at night. Most of the rain falls from June to September.

    JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
    Avg Max31.6 °C32.9 °C33.9 °C34.6 °C34 °C32.4 °C32 °C31.8 °C31.3 °C31.2 °C31 °C30.8 °C
    Avg Min21.1 °C22.5 °C24.4 °C25.8 °C25.2 °C24.6 °C24.3 °C24.3 °C24.4 °C23.9 °C22.8 °C21.4 °C
    Rainfall13.8 mm4.1 mm10.5 mm50.4 mm218.4 mm311.7 mm293.7 mm269.8 mm327.1 mm266.7 mm116.5 mm48.3 mm
    Rain Days2.411.95.417.81922.922.423.120.912.16.7

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    Getting There

    By Plane

    Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) serves Ho Chi Minh City and is Vietnam's biggest airport. It has numerous flights both domestically, including flights to Hanoi, as well as many airlines serving the city from neighbouring countries and further beyond. Main destinations include Moscow, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei, Beijing, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Frankfurt, Melbourne, Siem Reap, Manila, Jakarta and Sydney.
    A taxi from the airport to district one is about 120,000-150,000 Dong.

    By Train

    Ga Sài Gòn Saigon Train Station is on Cach Mang Thang Tam (CMT8) northwest of the city centre, and is a short taxi or public bus ride away from the main hotel districts. The ticket office at the train station has limited English proficiency. Recommended to purchase from the official train ticket office located at 275C Pham Ngu Lao, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1. Other options include travel agencies, also located in Pham Ngu Lao.

    There are five daily departures from Hanoi along the "Reunification line". Although several of the trains are called "express", all journeys take about 30 to 35 hours. The fastest train is SE3 departing from Hanoi at 23:00 and arriving at 05:00 two days later. However, SE5 departing at 15:45 and arriving at 04:40 has higher-quality tourist carriages run by the private company Livitrans attached to it.

    By Car

    It is best to rent a car with driver, for example with Budget.

    By Bus

    Several companies provide bus travel from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, at approximately USD12 per person. Visas to Vietnam cannot be obtained at the border, so have one before you arrive. Capital Tours operates a popular bus route from the Capital Guest House in Phnom Penh that takes passengers to the border. After securing visas, passengers board a partner Vietnamese bus to continue their travel to HCMC.

    Open Bus Ticket
    Many different open bus ticket vendors start and end their operations in Ho Chi Minh City. Almost all the travel agencies will sell open bus tickets. Remember to shop around and ask other travellers about the quality of the different ticket vendors. It is best to find people that are heading out of the country in order to hear a review of their entire trip across the country with a certain open bus ticket company. Most of the open-tour companies sell tickets to Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Dalat, and there are night buses to Nha Trang.

    By Boat

    Getting to Vung Tau can be done by boat. There are 3 lines (Petro Express, Greenlines, Vina Express) running this route. If you are planning to visit Vung Tao be sure to consult a Vietnamese calendar. Tickets often sell out over holidays.

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    Getting Around

    By Car

    Taxis are the easiest way to travel around Ho Chi Minh city. However, one needs to be aware of the better known taxis such as Vinasun and MaiLinh.

    Taxi rates are not regulated by the city government, so each company sets its own fare structure which changes from time to time. You cannot choose a taxi at random and expect a standard fare; it is a caveat emptor market with a fringe of opportunistic drivers to overcharge foreigners. Fortunately, the market is fairly competitive and 80% of taxis are operated by reasonably honest companies with similar rates. The market of these companies is more than 90% local, so their policies are designed to win the trust of HCMC residents. In general, the only taxi companies you should use are Mai Linh and Vinasun, as the risk of getting ripped of is much higher with the other companies.

    By Public Transport

    SaigonBus (No. 152) is the cheapest way to get to/from Tan Son Nhat Airport from/to the bus station opposite Ben Thanh Market. The fare is only 3,000 dongs per person (sometimes, the bus driver may request an additional 3,000 dongs for big luggage). It is also possible to take this bus to the city centre (near Notre Dame Cathedral). The last bus departs from both the airport or bus station at 6pm. Note: The bus to the airport may drop its passenger at either the domestic or international airport. Whichever way, the two airports is only about 100 metres apart.

    SaigonBus (No. 1) goes to/from Cholon Bus Station. Binh Tay Market is very close to Cholon Bus Station. The fare is only 3,000 dongs.

    Bright green public buses serve 150 routes throughout the city. You can find maps of the bus system at the large Ben Thanh bus station across the street from Ben Thanh Market in District 1. Go into the waiting room to the desk in the middle. The buses are cheap, safe and not too crowded. Many are modern and comfortable, with such amenities as air conditioning, music, and even television. Finding the right line can be a challenge if you don't speak Vietnamese, but with the help of maps and your hotel staff you can get where you want easily. If you cannot find your way, ask the locals nicely, they will try their best to help. At the biggest bus stations you can read bus destinations at every single stop (useful, for example, if you need to get to Cholon).

    By Foot

    It is very easy to get to places in Ho Chi Minh City on foot. With just a couple of hours, one can walk leisurely from Pham Ngu Lao to Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, City Hall and Dong Khoi Area.

    Crossing the road in Saigon can be a nightmare. It is always scary. If ever in doubt, Saigon's "Tourist Security" officers (guys in green uniforms) will happily help you across. A quicker way of getting across is to simply follow the lead of a local crossing the street.

    The true trick to crossing the road is to stay aware, and walk slowly and confidently. The motorbike riders are exceptionally good and will simply move to avoid you, just don't make any sudden erratic moves. Just look for a gap or seam in the traffic, and begin a slow, but steady movement. If you hear a beep coming your way it's likely a motorbike rider is about to enter your personal space. Be alert and prepared to stop putting your foot forward until he passes.

    Adherence to traffic signals in Saigon is terrible. Drivers tend to use "best judgment". Just remember though that vehicles can always turn right at any time (regardless of lights). Motorbikes often drive in the wrong direction to take a short cut from point A to point B even against the traffic flow. Crossing roads therefore maybe a challenge for Westerners used to traffic laws and traffic lights.

    By Bike

    Motorcycle rental is very easily arranged, especially in the Pham Ngu Lao area. It will cost 80,000-100,000VND per day and includes up to two helmets. Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is required by law for both drivers and passengers (and is generally a good idea anyway). You wil be required to leave your passport with the rental agency.

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    Eat

    • Quan An Ngon, 138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St, is a great dining place for Vietnamese cuisine
    • Black Cat is a good place for lunch; whether a Black Cat Burger or a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. 13 Phan Van Dat Q1 ~ Telephone +84 8 829 2055.
    • Hoang Yen is known for its caramelized fish in a clay pot and pork stewed in coconut milk served with steamed rice. 7-9 Ngo Duc Ke ~ Telephone +84 8 823 1101.
    • 3T Rooftop BBQ lets you choose your own marinated meats, seafood and vegetables to cook on your own tabletop grill. 29-31 Ton That Thiep ~ Telephone +84 8 821 1633.

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    Drink

    • Cepage offers more wine by the glass than anywhere else in Ho Chi Minh City. 22 Le Thanh Ton ~ Telephone +84 8 823 8321.
    • Le Pub is a great place for a cocktail or a local or imported beer. It's associated with KOTO hospitality school which helps street kids by training them in guest services. 175/22 Pham Ngu Lao ~ Telephone +84 8 837 7679.
    • Velvet Lounge is a popular late night hangout with well-dressed locals enjoying the Hot Kiss, a drink made with tabasco and tequilla. 26 Ho Huan Nghiep ~ Telephone + 84 90 301 2158.

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    Sleep

    Mid-Range

    • The Palace Hotel is centrally located in the middle of midtown and offers reasonably priced rooms. Art Deco original with a mid-century modern vibe after a recent remodel. 55-56 Nguyen Hue, Telephone: +84 8 829 2860.

    Upscale

    • The Continental is the grande dame of the city's hotels. 132-134 Dong Khoi, Telephone: +84 8 829 9201.
    • The Park Hyatt offers the most expensive and expansive rooms of Ho Chi Minh. It also has two excellent restaurants. 2 Lam Son Square, Telephone: +84 8 824 1234.

    View our map of accommodation in Ho Chi Minh or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

    Booking.com

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    Work

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    Learn

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    Keep Connected

    Phone

    See also International Telephone Calls

    Vietnam's international dialing code is +84. To call to other countries from Vietnam, start with 00, followed by the international number, usually without the first 0. International and domestic phone calls are available in almost every hotel or internet café. International phone charges are high in Vietnam and hotels often add a mark up fee so it is smart to always check the rates before dialling. Public phones require phone cards, which are available at post offices.

    Some common and useful phone codes are:

    • 00 - International call prefix
    • 110 - Operator
    • 113 - Police
    • 114 - Fire Department
    • 115 - Medical Aid/Ambulance
    • 116 - Directory Assistance
    • 1080 - Information

    Post

    Vietnam Post is the government owned national postal service of Vietnam. Services are generally fairly reliable, cheap but not overly fast, except express services. Express Mail Service (EMS) ensures that letters and small parcels are delivered within 24-48 hours domestically. International EMS is associated with over 50 countries worldwide, with a delivery time ranging from 2 to 10 days. Regular services are cheaper but much slower. Most post offices keep much longer hours than most other official businesses, usually starting from 6:30am until 9:30pm and also open on Saturday and even Sunday. You can buy stamps here and they also offer other services like money transfers. You can also try other companies to send parcels, for example with DHL, TNT and UPS.
    The Ho Chi Minh General Post Office can be found at 2 Cong Xa Paris Square. It's an impressive building, designed by Gustave Eiffel and sets the standard for the city's colonial architecture.

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    Quick Facts

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    Coordinates
    • Latitude: 10.758
    • Longitude: 106.6534

    Accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City

    We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City and areas nearby.

    Contributors

    as well as Sam I Am (12%), chandie702 (10%), ngrick (7%), starhotel2 (4%), Lavafalls (4%), rasheeed (2%), adamandmeg (2%), dr.pepper (2%), Sander (1%), Peter (<1%)

    Ho Chi Minh City Travel Helpers

    • Quynh Giao

      Hello. My name is Quynh Giao. I'm a student of Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities. I came from Dong Thap (Vietnam) but now I'm living in Ho Chi Minh City.
      I've visited some of the famous places in this city and had a lot of information about them.
      If you visit Ho Chi Minh City and have any problem or if you just want a tourguide with no fee, please contact me by sending a message to ntqg1323@gmail.com or calling me. My phone no. is +841269854623 and Facebook address is fb/gkyuelf
      I'm so happy that I can introduce my country' beautiful places to you. Moreover, helping you have a nice trip is my pleasure.
      I always look foward to your request. I'll try my best to help all of you.

      Ask Quynh Giao a question about Ho Chi Minh City

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