District 1 is the center of the city where most of the commercial activity is – where shopping, theater, and entertainment options are plentiful. Heading just outside of District 1 is District 3 which offers tightly compacted streets with a plethora of coffee shops. Hugely popular with the younger population and students, this area offers some great entertainment and food at much cheaper prices.
No city visit is complete without a stroll through Chinatown, which you’ll find in District 5. With more temples and pagodas than any other district, festival times here are a huge attraction for travelers and the selection of street food is simply enormous (and delicious!)
Places to Visit in Ho Chi Minh City
- Lam Son Square – a prestigious area with great nightlife
- Dong Khoi – shops and bars, colonial architecture, street food stalls
- The Chu Chi Tunnels – underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong
- Pham Ngu Lao street – a backpackers haven of shops, bars, and cheap beer with plenty of fun “people watching”
Unique Things to See and Do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Visit Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
- Tour the Museum of Vietnamese History
- Admire Gia Long Palace
- Visit Jade Emperor Pagoda
- Sing Karaoke, practically a national pass-time
- Drink Vietnamese coffee
The Perfect Sandwich – Banh Mi
As you’re travelling around the city, in amongst all the chaos of motorbikes zooming around everywhere, you’ll start to see particular street food vendors that get a lot of business. Take note or stop by; these are usually great food spots. One of the first things you must try while in Vietnam is the Banh Mi sandwich. The crust of the roll is nice and crispy while the inside is super soft and fluffy. Stuffed with sliced pork meat, pâté, radishes, mayonnaise, coriander, egg, and chilies – these sandwiches sound strange but are bursting with flavor! What makes them truly unique is the marinades used on the meats.
Getting around Ho Chi Minh City
If you’re from North America, you’ll be in for a surprise getting around here – it’s an adventure in itself. Traffic and horns honking, buses, motorbikes, and cars all competing for the same space, and yet there is a real rhythm to it that works.
Getting in from the airport is best done by taxis, which are plentiful and comfortable. The biggest obstacle for most people is learning how to get one without getting overcharged. Two companies that are considered reliable are Vinasun and Mai Linh, but beware of taxis that “look” like them. Make sure the meter is running when and ask how much the ride will be (approximately) ahead of time. If you travel during rush periods, the traffic is thick and slow moving.
Once you’re settled into your accommodations it will be time to explore – and what better way than on foot. Always be aware of your surroundings though, as motorbikes will use the sidewalks to avoid heavy vehicle congestion.
Motorbikes, motorbikes, and more motorbikes. It’s an endless sea of them and they all work pretty synergistically, with just a few bumps and scrapes along the way. Even the younger designer-dressed girls will be sporting motorbikes or mopeds. When riding on a motorcycle taxi, make sure you wear a helmet (hefty fines are enforced) and always decide on a price before embarking. Make sure you have an idea of where you are going and how much it should cost. Have the addresses written down, as most motorcycle taxi and standard taxi drivers do not speak English.
Did you know…?
The Buu Long Pagoda is a combination of architectural styles from India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Did you ALSO know…?
The Mekong River has many bustling floating markets primarily selling fruits and vegetables, but on flower day the markets are bursting with colour.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is located in the south of Vietnam and the climate is very different from the north. In Ho Chi Minh there are only two seasons: dry and wet. The most popular time to go is during the dry season when the temperatures are hot – ranging from 27C to 40C. The season starts in December and runs until April, and without the rains the humidity is obviously lower.
During the wet season - from May to November - it is humid and rainy. The temperature ranges from a low of 21C to high of 35C, but on average the temperature sits around 27C. One positive aspect of travelling during this time of year is that costs drop significantly for hotels and flights, and the tourist volume is much lower – which is appealing to many people. The hardest part of the rainy season is when a flash downpour occurs, the streets start flooding and there is no choice but to walk through it. Taxis can be difficult to hail when this happens, but the beauty of this time of year is that the air is fresher, the streets feel cleaner, and the countryside is incredibly lush. In addition, if you are planning to go up north to Hanoi and surrounding areas, the terraced rice fields are in their full growing periods.
Ready to plan your visit to Ho Chi Minh City? Check out these popular guides and trips.