Ive been lucky enough to have visited the motherland many times and amazed at how rapidly its changed and grown in the last several decades. I'm probably biased but its one of my favorites cities in the world.
Ho Chi Minh:
To and from airport:
Taxis are affordable in Vietnam and you can catch one from outside the airport upon arrival. They also use an app called “Grab” (usually a little bit cheaper than taxi) so make sure you download it ahead of time. Other option is to check with the hotel since some offer private car pick up for an additional fee. Usually from airport to District 1 takes about 20-30 minutes and as I recall cost around $20 USD.
Where to stay:
Anywhere in District 1 is where you’ll want to stay since Ben Thanh market, Saigon Post office, Notre Dame Cathedral, Opera House, and few other sight-seeing attractions are all located in District 1.
Silverland Charner Hotel
Address: 87-89-91 Ho Tung Mau Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
We stayed here for several nights recently and I would highly recommend. It’s a newer boutique hotel that is clean, comfy, has cute décor, friendly staff, and great location. It’s on a smaller street with lots of food options all in walking distance. Down the block there is a famous Viet sandwich shop and Bitexco tower which is great for views of the city especially at night. To get to Ben Than market, Saigon post, etc. everything it’s about 10 minute/$5USD taxi/grab ride. You could actually walk but it’s so hot it’s worth it to catch a taxi/grab. We payed $75 USD per night which I booked on the Agoda app that sometimes tends to be cheaper than booking on the actual Agoda site. I recommended this hotel to a friend recently and he said he loved the place as well. Definitely staying here again.
Vien Dong Hotel
Address: 275A Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
I haven’t stayed here but my friends recently did and said it was a clean and nice hotel. If you’re looking for something a little more budget friendly this would be a good option at around $30 USD per night. It also located in a poppin area next to Bui Vien street which is called “backpackers street” in Vietnamese and has lots of clubs and bars. It’s definitely the place to go if you wanna party with other tourist or locals in HCM. Also located in District 1 it’s easy to access the tourist attractions in the city.
Where to eat:
Address: 50-64-68 Ham Nghi St. Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, VietnamIf you’re staying at Silverland this place is just down the block and popular for Vietnamese sandwiches. They offer other Viet dishes but are well known for the sandwiches. I make sure to take several back to HK with me bc they are so good. Thank you French influence for introducing the Vietnamese to baguettes and pate <3
I always recommend this place for travelers because they have an extensive menu and nice décor. On the outside seating area of the restaurant you can see all the different types of food they have laid out buffet style and the menu also have pictures so it’s easy to order. My fav is always the “bo kho” (Vietnamese beef stew with a baguette) and the avocado smoothie a must try if you like avocadoes.
Cơm Tấm Mộc
Address: 85 Lý Tự Trọng, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Cơm Tấm or “broken rice” is a pretty popular Vietnamese dish. Usually served with broken rice, grilled meat, greens, picked carrots and daikon, Bi (thinly shredded pork mix), Cha (egg meatloaf) and fish sauce that you pour over everything. This place also has some really good and refreshing drinks to choose from. They have veggie options but you have to come later in the day for them to be available. We had lunch here and I wanted to try the veggie options but they weren’t ready yet.
Address: Huyền Trân Công Chúa, Phường 27, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Located inside the Palace grounds this place is a good place for breakfast or lunch. If you’re here for breakfast try the Banh Mi Op La which are sunny side up eggs served with a baguette, pate, other breakfast meats, and soy sauce. It’s also a nice place to chill over coffee which is what the locals do.
Where To Shop:
Bền thanh Market
Address: Chợ, Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
I love going to Ben Thanh market but it can get a bit overwhelming at times. This place is a hustle so make sure you offer around %50 off the price they tell you for an item. Usually I say a last/final price and if they say no I’ll walk away. Most likely once you walk away they will try to call you back and continue to haggle. Just make sure you have a price set in mind you think the item is worth and what you’re willing to pay for it. Or if you don’t like to haggle around the entrances of the market they have items that are fixed price which is run by the Vietnamese government so the $ goes towards them. It’s only the stalls close to entrances of the market and usually its labeled or has some type of signage indicating its government run. If your buying gifts/souveiners this is a good option since they offer similar items sold by the independent stalls inside the market.
81 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
New mall just built with lots of japanese brands and cute boutique-ish stores. It has air conditioning so it’s a good place to stop in and cool down. I didn’t get a lot of time to look around the entire mall but they have a Topshop and Chanel makeup store which had really great service. If your paying by card they do tax refund so have a copy or picture of your passport in your phone available for them.
Across from Saigon Center this is a new mall that is similar to Ben Thanh market but its carries mostly clothes, designer knockoff, shoes, sunglasses, and electronic gadgets. If your looking for cute and affordable clothes, cellphone cases, or accessories, this place is easier to shop at than Ben Thanh market. I feel like they weren’t trying to hustle us as much here and although we did try to bargain they gave more honest pricing so we didn’t have to haggle as much. I was able to buy jeans for only $12 USD and cute tank tops for only $7USD and my aunt bought several nice dresses for about $20 USD.
What to do
If you have time buy tickets for this show. I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard from two different people it was very entertaining. They have different shows in different cities but in HCM the show is located in the Saigon Opera House which was built in 1897. Definitely on my list for my next visit to HCM.
Saigon central post office
Address: Số 125 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 710009, Vietnam
Constructed in 1886-1891 by architect Alfred Foulhoux during the French colonial era the Saigon post office is an iconic tourist destination. Still a functioning post office you can mail letters and post cards from here (they still use old fashion glue pots for sticking stamps to letters).
Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica (officially Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception)
Address: 01 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Built in the 1880s by the French colonist the cathedral is located right across from the post office and also an iconic tourist destination. All the materials were imported from France and even though the bricks were never coated they still remain bright red until today. Supposedly in October 2005 tears flowed down the Virgin Mary's right cheek and thousands of people for days came by the statue to catch a glimpse. However the top clergy of the Vietnamese Catholic Church denied it ever really occurred.
Bitexco Financial Tower/ Saigon Skydeck
Address: 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, 700000, Vietnam
If you end up staying at Silverland Charner the tower is conveniently located down the street and the tallest building in HCM. During the day you can go onto the sky deck to check out amazing views of the city. I recommended going at sunset to capture the transition from day to night as the city lights up as the sun goes down. Other option is to check out the cafe or bar (two different places) in the Bitexco Tower at night time for some pretty cool views of the city. I've only been to the cafe which was chill and had ice cream and drinks. Never been to the bar so unsure what its like.
Cu Chi Tunnels
TL15, Phú Hiệp, Hồ Chí Minh, 733814, Vietnam
I’ve never been but I heard its interesting.. You can literally climb into the tunnels that they used during the war... kinda eery!
Bui Vien walking Street
206 Bùi Viện, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam
It’s called the “backpackers’ area” and the place to go to for nightlife with bars/clubs/ loud music/ food/ people. If you're looking for a good party Bui Vien is where it's at!
We took 2 separate day trips here from Da Nang since our hotel offered free shuttle which was really convenient. We got there in the early afternoon and tbh I wasn’t really feeling it at first since the city was PACKED with tourist (I tend to avoid too touristy spots and like a little more low key when I travel). But walking around there were lots of cafes, food, lantern shops and turned it out to be a really beautiful and photogenic city. There is a popular Viet sandwich shop we tried to go to called Banh Mi Phuong (2B Phan Chau Trinh, Hoi An 560000, Vietnam) but it was closed for the entire week so we were super bummed we didn’t get to taste. Instead we walked around and discovered a food area with a bunch of street food carts selling everything from Vietnamese tacos to frog legs (the tacos were pretty good and would recommended… sorry we didn’t try the frog but heard they are good)
Definitely the highlight of my trip was the boat ride we took in Hoi An. Along the water there are ladies hustling the rides (I think it was about $5USD for 2 ppl).Once we got into the little boat they give us each lantern to light up and set into the river. For centuries this has been a tradition as an offering and sign of worship to our ancestors and God of the land. We ended up picking the perfect time because as the city transitioned from day to night the city and lanterns lite up to such a beautiful sight. Floating on the water and seeing how all the lights, lanterns and city reflects off the water was truly one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever felt. It might not be as special for everyone but to me it only deepened my sense of appreciation, gratitude, and love for the beautiful culture and country my family came from. I feel in love with Hoi An and it holds a special place in my heart. I understand why it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and definitely be back for more of the magic it has to offer.
BTW tips are appreciated but not expected in Vietnam. Also there aren't money exchange counters so I find it easiest to use ATM machines to get vietnamese dollars. Only some of the bigger shopping malls and restaurants take cards so its best to always have cash.