Ho Chi Minh City or also known as Saigon is the largest and busiest city in Vietnam. The city is very chaotic because there is just so much going on at the same time. Motorbikes, bicycles, cars and rickshaws are everywhere to be found. You will have to be very patient and cautious when you walk across the busy streets. The city has an incredible history, great nightlife, good street food and friendly people. If you love new experiences and places then you will most likely think Ho Chi Minh City is amazing!
Top Things To Do And See In Ho Chi Minh City
Go back in time and crawl through the Cu Chi tunnels - Visit the 70 year old tunnels if you want to know more about the dark days of the Vietnam War. The Cu Chi tunnels are a part of a museum that offers a sneak-peek at the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back in 1948. Located 70km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, the historical site comprises more than 120km of underground tunnels with plenty of different chambers. It is quite an experience but not meant for anyone with claustrophobia. Admission is 110,000 VND (5 USD), and a half-day tour from Ho Chi Minh City with transportation included should cost about 350,000-400,000 VND (18 USD).
Visit one of the many museums - Ho Chi Minh City is a museum itself but it also has countless museums where you can learn about the city, the country and its history. I will give you my top 3; War Remnants Museum, Museum Of Ho Chi Minh City and the Museum Of Vietnamese History. Admission fee is 15,000 VND (0,60 USD) per person and per museum.
Shop at the Ben Thanh Market - You can find some really good traditional and inexpensive Vietnamese food on this market. But keep a close eye on your belongings. The market is crowded and many pickpockets happen. This could actually happen anywhere in Vietnam.
Rent a motorbike - Renting a motorbike is the best way to explore the city. If you are not that confident on a motorbike you can always get a bicycle, walk or take a taxi. If you take a taxi, make sure that they turn on the meter.
Visit the impressive Emperor Jade Pagoda - This is one of the most spectacularly atmospheric pagodas in Vietnam. The roof has got amazing tile work and the statues are made from reinforced papier mâché.
Go see the monkeys - If you want to escape the busy city life of Ho Chi Minh City you can visit Can Gio Island, also known as Monkey Island. The island is a monkey sanctuary so the beaches are not amazingly beautiful. But it is a beautiful trip where you can relax and get away from all the hassle in the city.
Costs In Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam in general is not an expensive country to travel. Although Ho Chi Minh City is a popular destination because a lot of travellers fly into Tan Son Nhat International Airport to start their trip through Vietnam. The prices are still very cheap for western tourists but this will most likely change over the next couple of years.
Food and Drinks - It won't get expensive for you but if you want it really cheap and delicious you should eat street food. But even if you go out and eat in a cute restaurant you won't have to spend too much money. Every bar offers you good deals for beer and cocktails.
Hostels - You will notice that there are plenty of hostels you can choose from so it is all up to you in how much you want to spend a night. There are low-cost dorm rooms starting from 90,000 VND (4 USD). Private rooms start at the rate of 220,000 VND (10 USD). Most of the hostels will offer you free WIFI and maybe even breakfast. If you want to meet fellow travellers we suggest you to stay in District 1 which is also the backpackers area. There is this street, Bui Vien Street and it reminds me of Khao San Road in Bangkok. This street has so MANY restaurants, bars and shops. Look into District 5 if you want more for your money.
Hotels - There are many budget hotels around and these rooms start from 200,000 VND (9 USD). If you want something more comfortable with air conditioning you will pay the rate starting from 300,000 VND (13 USD). It is only a couple of dollars more and you will get much more for your the money you pay. We stayed at Bali Boutique Hotel in District 1. Price quality was good. The hotel is in the famous Bui Vien Street so it did get a bit loud at night but we knew this before.
Transport - A lot of travellers rent a bicycle and explore the city that way and it is around 120,000 VND (5 USD) a day. You can also rent motorbikes starting from 300,000 VND (13 USD) or catch a motorbike taxi for 10,000 VND (0,50 USD) per kilometer. Taxis are more expensive but also still affordable. Always make sure that the meter is on. A taxi from the airport to the center of the city is around 200,000-350,000 VND (9-15 USD).
Bargain - Don't bargain for street food because it is already ridiculously cheap. But you can bargain for taxis, renting bicycles or motorbikes, buying stuff on markets, almost everything!
Enjoy street food - Eating street food is the key to save money and it is also delicious so it is a 100% win-win situation.
Happy hour - Every bar has a happy hour and they have some really good deals on every single night. Buy one get one free, cheap cocktails and large beers for half the price.
No online bookings - Try not to book accommodation in front and just walk around the area and pick one out. It is always cheaper or you might end up getting a great deal!
Ho Chi Minh City is very special. Or you like it, or you don't and we both have a total different opinion. The streets were crazy busy, it was very humid and sticky and we were extremely tired from full time travelling the past months. We weren't a huge fan at first but I started to like it when we first got out the hotel and starting walking around. The atmosphere was crazy but amazing. The locals are so well mixed up with the backpackers and I admire this. I think that they have done such a good job for themselves to create a place for travellers to come together and have fun. In a way it reminded me of Khao San Road but also so different at the same time. The crazy traffic in between makes Bui Vien Street unique. I would highly recommend to stay in District 1 and get the local-lifestyle feeling mixed with travellers and parties. Even if it is just for a day and night.