If you have an upcoming trip to Saigon? This guide to Ho Chi Minh city is all you need to ensure you have a fantastic trip.
Ho Chi Minh, or Saigon as its more (formally)/commonly known, is one of the most famous cities in south Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh is most notably known for its importance during the Vietnam war. However, there is so much more to this city than old war museums and vietcong tunnels. Ho Chi Minh has something for everyone ranging from the intense night life on walking street, to incredible local food found all over the city. No matter what you do, or where you go, you’ll definitely find something to like in this incredible city.
How To Get There
Traveling to Ho Chi Minh is relatively easy, often the main port of entry for many travellers. It is possible to take the bus, or fly by plane. For us, we traveled from Phnom Penh via bus. The overall journey took around 7 hours and the border crossing was particularly easy. One important thing to mention are the VISAS for Vietnam. Its possible to obtain a free 15 day visa for a quick trip (for some countries), but for a longer time spent in Vietnam, you’ll have to apply for a visa before hand. Be sure to do a lot of research before applying as some information can be conflicting. We actually visited the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia to obtain our visa prior to arrival.
GUIDE TO HO CHI MINH
WHAT TO DO
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a must if you’re in Vietnam. You’ll find advertisements for it in every hostel and hotel in Ho Chi Minh. Our recommendation would be the half day tour, costing roughly $20 for 1 adult. The tour includes the bus ride to and from the tunnels- of which takes around 1h:30 and a guide to walk you around. Once you arrive at the Cu Chi tunnels, you’ll be given your guided tour through the tunnels.
For us, we found this very interesting, the life of the Vietnamese during the war and the brutal traps used against the Americans were a sight to see. You’ll leave having learned a lot about the war and history of Vietnam. Additionally, there is a firing range at the back end of the park, so if you feel inclined to fire some guns that may have been used in the Vietnam war, then this is your opportunity. Be warned, they’re loud!
If you’re looking for the night life in Ho Chi Minh, then look no further than Bui Vien Walking Street. Like many other pub streets, or walking streets in Asia, Bui Vien is intense. With small bars literally filling the main streets and side streets, there are options for every one. Ranging from large clubs, to small stalls, a good time can be definitely found.
Tan Dinh Church (Pink Church)
With a name inclusive of the words ‘pink’ and ‘church’ it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but it is definitely worth seeing when you’re in Ho Chi Minh. Quite a sight to behold, the pink church is a great little excursion, as it is found close to other attractions. For the perfect Instagram shot, it is best to visit in the morning or late afternoon, as it is located next to a busy road it can be difficult to get that perfect shot.
Saigon Central Post Office
This cool iconic spot in Ho Chi Minh is a great place to check out. Still a running post office, this amazing building can found opposite the Notre Dame Cathedral. Rather touristy during the day, it’s still well worth visiting. Outside there are young street performers and inside you’ll find the souvenir shops.
Norte Dame Cathedral
This beautiful cathedral was built by the French colonists during the 1800s and still stands today. The cathedrals is one of the lasts Catholic strongholds in the very buddhist Vietnam. During our visit, the cathedral was under renovation, fortunately for us, the post office was located right next door.
The Vietnam War is a war that everybody has heard of, be it in movies, tv shows or books. The war its self was controversial and is still considered so today, with the regrets of the war still being felt. Such as the effects of agent orange and unexploded bombs and mines. Visiting the war museums is a must even if you’re not into the whole war thing, its eye opening and overall a good experience.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
One of our favourite places to visit in Ho Chi Minh was the Jade Emperor Pagoda. A still visited and very popular shrine, it is a temple dedicated to a supreme Taoist God who is the gatekeeper of heaven. Inside you can also find the God of fertility, set with a shrine filled with various statues of women. As an outsider, you can observe as Vietnamese women enter this shrine with their husbands. Saying prayers, whilst rubbing their stomachs, praying for a baby.
GUIDE TO HO CHI MINH
WHERE TO EAT
If you are looking for the ultimate sandwich, then the Hungry Pig is where you need to eat. From burgers, to panini’s and even a full English breakfast, you’ll satisfy any western cravings. Our favourite sandwiches were the Hogwarts sandwich, grilled cheese. This is any bacon lovers dream!
Pho Di Bo Bui Vien
There are many local restaurants that are worth going to in Ho Chi Minh, but for us we would recommend you try the traditional noodle soup, Pho, at Di Bo Bui Vien. Here you’ll find some cheap and amazing Pho (noodle soup). Busy with locals and expats its always hard to find a seat but it is well worth it.
If you’re visiting Vietnam then you are going to run into the legendary Bánh Mì Sandwich. For those of you who do not know. A Bánh Mì is a baguette filled with various savoury fillings, ranging from chicken, pork, beef and even vegetarian. These sandwiches will be your go to snack in Vietnam. So if you’re willing to try one, check out Charm Bakery in Ho Chi Minh. They have a ton of options including vegetarian.
For those of you who are looking to get their oyster fix, then Five Oysters is the place to go. With cheap oysters costing $2 each you can definitely get your fill for less. We definitely recommend this place if your heading to Bui Vien walking street. With cheap beers and cheap oysters, this is a great place to start your evening.
We wanted to point out that Ho Chi Minh is a city known for its variety of coffee shops and cafes. There are thousands spread out throughout the city, with so many different options! Make sure to try the infamous coconut coffee, or egg coffee here!
GUIDE TO HO CHI MINH
WHERE TO STAY
For cheap and awesome accommodation we highly recommend Luci’s house hostel. With large clean rooms, air conditioning and breakfast. Luci’s house hostel is a great choice for any backpacker visiting Ho Chi Minh. The staff are wonderful and will help you with any query, there is also free beer in the evenings !
If you are looking for a comfortable boutique hotel in the middle of Ho Chi Minh city than look no further! The Alcove Library Hotel is the perfect hotel for any couple, or family. With an extensive variety of books in the lobby, friendly staff. Even a delicious restaurant upstairs, there is bound to be something for everyone! We were immediately drawn to the hotel for its beautiful lobby. The elegant, timeless architecture combined with the vintage feel with all of the books, the hotel surely lives up to its name. With a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books, this place is a bookworms dream. For our full review of the Alcove hotel, read our blog here.