Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is Vietnam in high gear. To travel to Ho Chi Minh City is to be introduced to a dramatic meeting of old and new culture, a dynamic metropolis of skyscrapers and traffic juxtaposed with a wealth of ancient temples and traditional markets. Whether you're traveling to Ho Chi Minh City for a quick stop en route to other parts of Vietnam or are planning a visit to the city exclusively, you will be won over the city's frenetic energy and the many local gems just waiting to be discovered.

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About Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh), commonly known as Saigon (Vietnamese: Sài Gòn) or by the abbreviations HCMC or HCM, is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Hold on - Ho Chi Minh City is a metropolis that is going places. It’s the flourishing fast-mover that’s somehow secured old Saigon onto the seat of its shiny, new motorbike as it roars off into the future. It’s t...

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Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh), commonly known as Saigon (Vietnamese: Sài Gòn) or by the abbreviations HCMC or HCM, is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
Ho Chi Minh City is a metropolis that is going places. It’s the flourishing fast-mover that’s somehow secured old Saigon onto the seat of its shiny, new motorbike as it roars off into the future. It’s the mesmerising gateway to Vietnam where traditional and modern influences live side by side. High-rises loom over shabby French colonial villas; conical-hatted street vendors plod past karaoke bars and glitzy shops.
Like the bamboo, shoulder-pole baskets you’ll see on the streets, Ho Chi Minh City is a balancing act of two parts: classical incense-filled pagodas are off-set by shopping malls and skyscrapers that wouldn't look out of place in the West. It's a forward-looking city but still locals refer to it as Saigon, a name evocative of the past. One of the city's most poignant symbols is the Reunification Palace, where the last days of the Vietnam War were played out.
Saigon's story, however, was penned long before the American army waded in. Just wander around the beautiful Jade Emperor Pagoda, built by the Chinese in 1909, or search out Saigon Central Post Office for some grandiose French architecture.
Few visitors get further than Districts 1 and 3, home to the Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and Ben Thanh Market, but rambling Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon (Chinatown) is worth discovering too. For a total contrast head out to Phu My Hung, known as South Saigon, where wide streets, smart villas, condominiums and manicured parkland appear to have been transplanted from California. Elsewhere, pavements teem with street vendors, barbers and dentists. Families perch on tiny plastic chairs tucking into bowls of pho. Roads bawl with a solid phalanx of two-wheeled traffic; bikes piled high with furniture and livestock.
Whatever you want, this incredible metropolis can deliver. Haggle hard in the markets or get measured up for custom-made clothes. Sip champagne cocktails with skyline vistas or swig cold Bia hơis (beer) from side street sup houses. Stay in grand international hotels or hide away in backpacker boltholes. Ho Chi Minh City is the face of new Vietnam and she's ready to show it off.

Weather in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is a year-round destination. The rainy season falls between May and October but showers are normally over in a couple of hours. In the run-up to the rainy season, the humidity increases dramatically and sightseeing can be quite exhausting. During the dry season (November until April), temperatures can lurch as high as 39°C (102°F) but usually average 28°C (82°F). The Mid-Autumn Festival (held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, usually September) can be quite a spectacle but hotels are often full.

Getting there

Thanks to its fast growing economy, Ho Chi Minh is well connected to the world by a vast amount of airlines. Operating airlines to Ho Chi Minh city include big names such as Air France, Japan Airlines, Asiana, Lufthansa, United Airlines, etc.

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AIR
Thanks to its fast growing economy, Ho Chi Minh is well connected to the world by a vast amount of airlines. Operating airlines to Ho Chi Minh city include big names such as Air France, Japan Airlines, Asiana, Lufthansa, United Airlines, etc.
These airlines serve direct flights to major cities in Asia (Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and all Southeast Asian capitals), Europe (Frankfurt, Paris, Moscow), Australia (Melbourne, Sydney) and America (San Francisco). The recently renovated international terminal made Tan Son Nhat airport the largest, both in size and capacity, among all airports in Vietnam.
Domestically, there are daily flights from major cities such as Hanoi, Danang, Hue. Others have 3-4 flights per week to Ho Chi Minh City, depending on seasons. There are currently four airlines serving domestic routes: Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific Airlines, Air Mekong and Vasco Airlines.
From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, there are 30 daily flights back and forth operated by Vietnam AIrlines, Jetstar Pacific, Air Mekong and the latest Viet Jet Air. One way fare is between $100 and $150, depending on season.
From Danang to Ho Chi Minh City, there are 10 daily flights back and forth. One way fare is between $70 and $90. The trip takes about an hour each way.

BUS
Bus runs from Phnompenh to Ho Chi Minh City everyday, crossing Moc Bai border or ferry transfer in Chau Doc (learn more about Crossing Vietnam-Cambodia border). The trip is about 6-7 hours and costs about $12.
For intercity travel, you can book a ticket from Mai Linh or Phuong Trang from almost any destinations. These two companies are reliable in terms of timing and bus quality. Other options include Sinh Cafe or Hanh cafe though there have been reports for scams and passengers pick-up along the way. Check out 2 main bus hub in Ho Chi Minh city Mien Dong and Mien Tay bus station.

TRAIN
The North-South Express trains connect Ho Chi Minh City to other major cities such as Hanoi, Nha Trang, Hue and Danang, on a daily basis. There are 4-5 express trains and it takes about 2 days to arrive in Hanoi or 1 day to Danang. Taking the train, although slow, is a great way to appreciate the natural beauty and local culture of Vietnam that unfold along the way.

Night life in Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City is known for its exuberant nightlife. In downtown Saigon, plenty of bars, clubs, tea rooms and bia hoi vendors operate well in late hours.

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Ho Chi Minh City is known for its exuberant nightlife. In downtown Saigon, plenty of bars, clubs, tea rooms and bia hoi vendors operate well in late hours. Dong Khoi area is a great place to start, with highlighted names such as Cafe Latin and Top of 23. Most popular nightlight scenes can be caught around District 1 area.
There is almost everything for everyone after the sun sets in Ho Chi Minh City. There are many music shows, from the grand event in Lan Anh stadiums to the No-name tea house. If you are into jazz, do not miss Saxn’art at 28 Le Loi Street, where the famous Vietnamese saxophone artist Tran Manh Tuan frequents.
Drinks are also widely offered, anything from bia hoi on the side walk to fancy selection of cocktails in Vasco’s Bar at 16 Cao Ba Quat. If you are ready for some body movement, Top of 23 (88 Dong Khoi) has the most prestige. Whatever your preference, there is no space for boredom in Ho Chi Minh City.

Things to do

The small villages of the Mekong Delta are where the Vietnamese continues to live life simply, in tune with the changes in the tides, throughout the year. Experience the Mekong on a boat or cycling through the villages — visit the Cai Be floating market, amble through a fruit orchard, try the local fare as well as the traditional coconut candy.

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From gourmet restaurants to fast food outlets and the humble curbside carts at Ben Thanh Market, the city’s dining options are as exciting its nightlife. Speaking of which, once the sun sets and the neon lights come on, Ho Chi Minh City serves up everything you could ask for in terms of a night on the town, from no-frills beer joints to swanky cocktail bars and thumping clubs. With so many to choose from, you might find yourself collapsing into bed just in time for sunrise. This isn’t the case elsewhere in Vietnam, so make the most of the after-dark hours while you can.

A full plate

If you’re looking to escape the street stalls and motorbike chaos, there are a lot of ritzy but affordable restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Kidding around

Dam Sen Park in Hoa Binh offers fun for families with young children. It’s a welcome escape from the city rush. Paddle a boat around the lake, jump on the monorail traversing the park or catch one of the weekend shows.

Painful past

Just a generation ago, this city was in turmoil. Spend a few hours learning about the impact of the war on what was then known as Saigon. Go back in time at the Reunification Palace and The War Remnants Museum. Both spots trace the story of Vietnam during its turbulent 20th century.

Party line

Unlike Hanoi, Saigon’s nightlife keeps going into the wee hours. Imbibe while the night is young with cheap local beer while perched on tiny blue stools on Pham Ngu Lao Street. For river views, head for hot new hangout Broma and for good music go to elegant lounge and restaurant Xu.

As the river flows

The small villages of the Mekong Delta are where the Vietnamese continues to live life simply, in tune with the changes in the tides, throughout the year. Experience the Mekong on a boat or cycling through the villages — visit the Cai Be floating market, amble through a fruit orchard, try the local fare as well as the traditional coconut candy.

Shopping

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City is pure joy for avid souvenir hunters and shopaholics. Whatever your budget, make sure you have plenty of space in your luggage as you are sure to fill it whether you bargain hunt at the city’s many markets or browse the small, traditional shops that are still found in the main shopping areas.

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Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City is pure joy for avid souvenir hunters and shopaholics. Whatever your budget, make sure you have plenty of space in your luggage as you are sure to fill it whether you bargain hunt at the city’s many markets or browse the small, traditional shops that are still found in the main shopping areas. Alternatively, you can splurge in the high-class and international designer boutiques that have mushroomed in recent years, but don’t leave without having some clothes made to measure.

Key areas: 
Many shops are found along Dong Khoi but close by are Hai Ba Trung, Le Thanh Ton and Le Loi, which are also worth a look. For silk clothes and accessories try Khoi Silk at 107 Dong Khoi.

Markets: 
Busy Ben Thanh Market on Le Loi is crammed with inexpensive but quality clothes and souvenirs. In the evening, a night market opens outside the building including dozens of food stalls. Binh Tay Market in Cholon throngs with people from early morning until early evening, and the gloomy, narrow walkways are crammed with consumer items and exotic foodstuffs.

Shopping centres: 
There are now several very smart shopping malls in the city including Diamond Plaza on Le Duan and Parkson Saigontourist Plaza on Le Thanh Ton.

Opening hours: 
Shops are generally open seven days a week from around 0800 until between 2000 and 2200.

Souvenirs: 
Silk clothes and accessories, in particular handbags, are readily available as are beautifully made hand-embroidered items. Lacquerware is extremely good value and the traditional designs are now complemented by some funky new patterns. Colourful woven bags are always a good buy as is clothing made by the hill tribes of the Central Highlands.

Tax information: 
VAT is included on most items sold and 10% is the standard. As part of a pilot scheme, foreign visitors are able to claim 85% of that VAT back at the airport for purchases of VND2million and over. Ask in the shop if they are registered for the scheme, which has been extended from 1 July 2014.

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