Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City – Information for Visitors
Below, you’ll find the questions we often get asked about Ho Chi Minh City and our opinion based on years of experience living and visiting this amazing, chaotic, crazy place.
Just click on the question you’re interested in, and all will be revealed.
If there are other questions you have, please drop them in the comments and we’ll try to answer them and then add to the list.
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Frequently Asked Questions about Ho Chi Minh City
What is Ho Chi Minh City's Time Zone?
Ho Chi Minh City is in the Indochina Time Zone (ICT.)
The offset to UTC (or the old GMT - Greenwich Meantime) is +7
So that means:
It's already 7:00 am here in Saigon when it turns midnight in the UK.
(And for reference - 11 am in Sydney, 7pm the night before in New York, and 4 pm the afternoon before in LA.)
It's the same timezone for the whole of Vietnam, and there is no daylight saving.
Other destinations in the same time zone include Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Mongolia, and parts of Indonesia (Java, Sumatra and the Western part of Kalimantan).
What's the weather like in Ho Chi Minh City?
Ho Chi Minh City is in the tropics and has two distinct seasons. The wet season and the dry season. I'd add a third season which I call the 'Build-up!'
The wet season runs from about mid-May to mid-November. But that's not an exact science.
It usually doesn't rain all day during the wet season. However, it's common to get storms with heavy rain in the afternoon and evening that can last an hour or two.
Streets can and do flood, which makes getting around inconvenient. So head for a nice cafe, bar, or restaurant and wait it out. Water levels normally recede as fast as they rise so you can return to your explorations.
The hottest time of the year is the build-up to the wet season. This typically starts in April and goes into May when the rains hopefully start. Temperatures can get up to 35°C or more during the day, and the high humidity, without the relief of rain, can make things quite uncomfortable. This is the time of year when you want to plan lots of indoor activities and reserve your walking around for the early mornings and evenings.
The sun can be brutal anytime, so hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential.
The dryest and coolest part of the year runs from December to February. Temperatures can drop to under 20°C overnight, and days are often a pleasant 25 to 29°C. It's not unusual to see the locals all rugged up in bubble jackets, scarves, and gloves in the early mornings. But most of the rest of us find this time of year perfect.
What's the best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City?
We think it's a great time to visit Ho Chi Minh City at any time of the year. But we’re probably a bit biased.
The weather is milder from December to February, so many people prefer to visit then. But you can also expect there to be more tourists as that's when many nationalities have a longer vacation.
The rest of the year is typically hotter and wetter. But don't let that stop you from coming then. There are loads of things to do in Saigon that don't involve running around in the heat or the rain. And, the weather in other parts of the country, especially up north and on the central beaches, will be warmer. So, if you’re traveling to a few other places, you might have a better 'Vietnam experience' overall.
What is the airport in Ho Chi Minh City named?
The airport in Ho Chi Minh City is Tan Son Nhat, after the village it was originally built on.
You will find both the international and domestic terminals on the same site.
The airport code for Ho Chi Minh City is SGN, referencing the days when the city was officially named SAIGON.
Tan Son Nhat Airport is only 8 km (~5 miles) from the center of District 1. Even in heavy traffic, it shouldn't take more than 30 to 40 minutes (and 8 about 10 USD) to get to your accommodation if you are staying in District 1.
The government is building a new international airport at Long Thanh, about 50 km (32 miles) from town. But the first stage of this facility come online until at least 2025. (Reportedly) By then the metro will hopefully reach there to make the trip into the center of town a breexe...but we'll see!
The domestic airport will remain at Tan Son Nhat.
How can I get a SIM card in Ho Chi Minh city
If you arrive at a Tan Son Nhat International terminal, multiple SIM card vendors eagerly want to help sign you up to their telco provider. They can install and activate your SIM with all the requisite ID checks within 10 minutes.
The usual telco choices are Viettel, Mobiphone, and Vinaphone. We usually get Viettel, but the others are fine.
I suggest you get calls AND data as there are several instances where you might need to provide a number and receive calls (eg. food and grocery delivery, tour guides, calling accommodation, etc.)
Around 400,000 VND (16 USD) will get you LOADS of data daily for a month. Even 250,000 VND (10 USD) will normally provide at least a few GB daily.
If you are only staying a few days or traveling through multiple SE Asian countries, an eSIM might be a cheaper, more convenient option, and you will be connected as soon as you land.
I have some 15% and 10% discount codes on the DEALS page.
If you have no idea what an eSIM is, take a look at this blog that explains what an eSIM is and how you can benefit from having one.
How can I get from Saigon Airport to my hotel?
When you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, you have a number of options to make your way to your accommodation.
In order of our preference, we:
1. Book a Grab. (Asian UBER)
There is a pickup zone 1 lane over from the main road (towards the parking lot) in front of the arrivals area.
Warning: Don't notice people who try to direct you further into the carpark. They want you to miss your ride so they can then hassle to take you into town for what will likely be an elevated price. Ignore them and watch the position of your car on the map. The fare will be as per the app, but you should add 10,000 VND (0.40 USD) as this is the fee the driver pays to exit the airport.
We always tip a little too (10-20,000VND) because we appreciate the simplicity and lack of hassle compared to the old days pre-Grab. It's cheaper now than it was ten years ago!!!
2. Take a Taxi.
WARNING: walk straight past any cab that isn't a Mai Linh or Vinasun. Watch for clumsy fakes with similar names!
The other drivers will howl about it, but stand your ground. More than one will be scammers. It helps if you can have your hotel address written for the driver. Bring it up in Google Maps or show them your accommodation booking.
There is sometimes a Mai Linh or Vinasun representative there who will speak English and can communicate with the driver about your destination.
If you have data, watch the map so the taxi doesn't decide to take you on a joyride to increase the fare.
When you reach your destination, you should add 10,000 VND (0.40 USD) to the total fare as this is the airport exit fee for the car.
We also tip 10 or 20, 000 VND. But that's entirely up to you.
3. Pay for the transfer in the ARRIVALS area.
There are numerous options for transfers in the arrivals hall. You will pay a little extra, but it's a fixed price, and you shouldn't have to worry about anything else unless you want to tip. (We do...maybe 10 or 20 000 VND)
The driver will take you directly to your accommodation because he doesn't gain anything from going the long way around.
Equal 4th for those that prefer to arrange something beforehand.
4a. Pre-Book a Transfer Online
Book an online transfer with a company such as:
Get Transfer - where drivers bid for your ride (Most likely to get the best price.)
Holiday Taxis - More expensive, but they'll have someone there to find you.
Kiwi Taxi - similar to Holiday taxis. Someone will meet you with a nameplate.
4b. Arrange an airport pickup with your accommodation
Unless this is a free pickup, it will likely cost you a bit more than arranging a ride when you get here, as per options 1 to 3 above. But it's probably not going to cost you more than 30 USD. And, if this is your first time in Saigon, it might be worth your peace of mind.
What's the best way to get around Ho Chi Minh City?
The best way to get around Ho Chi Minh City depends on your plans and your tolerance for chaos and adrenaline.
In order of preference, we like to:
Many of the interesting sites for first-time visitors are in District 1, and the distances between them are quite short. Take a look at my free self-guided Walking tours of Saigon as an example of how to plan your visit. Start with Walk Number 1, which will link you to the others if you want to explore outside of the main tourist area.
2. Take a motorbike taxi ( XeOm)
The days of haggling with crusty, cantankerous drivers with no English are long gone.
Today, apps like Grab and Gojek make booking a motorbike taxi anywhere in the city easy. Rides around the center are unlikely to cost you more than 1 USD, probably less. Motorbikes can navigate traffic better and reach your destination far quicker. And in my humble opinion, there's nothing like the thrill of cruising around this crazy city on the back of a bike.
3. Take a Car/Taxi
You can also book a Grab car, much the same as you'd book an Uber at home. We find Grab cars easier and more convenient to book than cabs, as the taxi apps aren't in English. A car between different locations in the city will only cost a few dollars at the most. Most are clean, comfortable, and air-conditioned.
If you hail a cab, only take a Mai Linh or a Vinasun. There are a lot of taxi scams, and these two companies are the most reputable. Look out for fakes with similar names.
4. Take a Bus
Ho Chi Minh City now has a hop-on-hop-off bus service to get you around the main sights with audio commentary. You get a bird's-eye view. Avoid the manic traffic, and the price is extremely reasonable. You can pre-book a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus pass here. (for what looks like a cheaper price than the official site.) Hop-OffThere's also a night tour available.
4b. Public Bus
Believe it or not, the local buses are efficient and comfortable outside peak hours. Not to mention dirt cheap. So, if you don't fancy riding on the back of a bike and don't want to fork out for a cab, public buses provide a realistic option for you. The bus app (Bus Map - Transit and Bus Ticket) makes planning and completing your journey easy.
What area should I stay in when I visit?
There are a lot of great areas to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
These days, I (almost) exclusively use Booking.com via my WayAway Plus account to get the best deals plus cashback. If you use our discount code, one short stay earns the annual membership fee back. There's a no-risk 7-day free trial to test it out before deciding.
Most visitors tend to find accommodation in District 1 as that’s where many of the main attractions are.
But District 1 is pretty big, so you might like to hone in on a particular area, depending on your budget and comfort levels.
The Eastern end of District 1 (towards District 5 - China Town) is where you’ll find the backpacker haunts of Bui Vient and Pham Ngu Lau. There are loads of budget options in these areas, including hostels. But you’ll also find a few luxury options as well, like The Pullman.
The center of District 1, near the Saigon Opera House and Ngueyn Hue Walking Street, is where you’ll find many of the 5-star places, such as the:
- Hotel Continental
- Hotel Grand - where some good friends stayed.
- The Renaissance - Where other good friends stayed. It has stunning views of the river.
- Park Hyatt
- the gorgeous French Colonial - Majestic
- The magnificent Reverie. (allegedly 6 stars.)
Also, check out the boutique options, such as the Hotel des Arts, which is highly recommended by some good friends who stayed there.
The western end of District 1, towards the zoo, is Da Kao (or Japan Town). You’ll find a mix of accommodation in this area too, from budget rooms to the 5-star Norfolk Mansion.
District 4 is just across the canal from District 1. So walking or taking a short ride to see the main sites is easy.
In this area, you’ll find many newer apartments to rent for a reasonable price. But the area also has many traditional lanes serving up local food options at much lower prices than District 1.
District 2 is across the river from District 1, and it will take you between 20 and 30 minutes to get to the center, depending on traffic. This area is popular with expats and is full of great restaurants, bars, and cafes. But it still retains a lot of local character in parts.
District 7 is another area popular with expats, especially Japanese and Koreans. I sometimes find it hard to believe I’m in Vietnam here as it’s one of the most modern areas in the city with wide, uncluttered streets and lots of shiny new shops.
This area is one of the oldest in Saigon. It’s quite a wealthy area but is also very local, with great cafes, restaurants and street food. It's only a short ride (or even a walk) to D1. We’ve lived in this area several times and love it.
This is one of the areas of Ho Chi Minh that is undergoing a lot of development. It’s here you’ll find the new tallest building in Saigon - Landmark. And with that comes lots of shiny new shops, restaurants, and bars. Like D4, you can often rent an apartment in a new complex, but there are also older places with loads of character.
We really like the other ‘Japan Town’ area, which is situated around Phạm Viết Chánh (PVC) street.
What are the main attractions in Ho Chi Minh City?
There is so much to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City; most tourists only get to experience a fraction of what’s available.
I’ve included many of the popular sites in my FREE, self-guided walking tours around town. Start with Number 1, and it will direct you to the others as I get them together.
Must see’s include:
- The War Remnants Museum,
- Reunification Palace,
- Saigon Central Post Office,
- Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral,
- Saigon Opera House,
- Nguyen Hue Walking Street
- Ben Thanh Market.
Popular Day trips include
- Cu Chi Tunnels
- Mekong Delta
- Vung Tau
Popular experiences include:
- Cooking classes
- Back-of-the-bike food tours
- AO show at the Saigon Opera House
- Water Puppet Theatre
What are the Best Bars in Ho Chi Minh City?
Without knowing an exact number, I would guess that Ho Chi Minh City has well over a thousand bars. Most probably, it’s multiple thousands. And there’s everything from street corner Bia Hoi places through to 5-star sky bars and everything in between.
So, we’d be a bit pretentious if we categorically stated which are the best. However, the following list includes a few of our favorites in District 1.
A great selection of craft beers, malt whiskeys, and cocktails, are served with a smile. The food is also good here. And they have one of the only shuffleboards in town.
Actually known as Quan Nguyet (Nguyet eating house) A great little bar at 28 Do Quang Dau, which runs between Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao streets. Out of earshot of all, the boom boom 'carry on,' but it's still great for people watching. The folks who own this place are great. You can also get some pretty good food here at awesome prices.
A fabulous garden setting across from one of the nicest parks in Saigon. The guys that own this place are good friends who love beer and good food. You’ll get both of those in spades here.
A great place to go any night of the week. They have a jam-packed schedule of Quiz nights, jam sessions, open mic nights, and more. Good beer, food, and service.
A Czech beer hall in central Saigon. Great for a rollicking good time with a group of friends.
A posh place that runs between Dong Khoi Street and Nguyen Hue walking street and is next to the VERY ritzy Reverie. They have a good happy hour in the afternoon, which makes the prices quite reasonable, and the menu is delicious.
A delightfully authentic Spanish tapas bar selling craft beer and cocktails. Watch out for their happy hours and specials. Great food, service, and decor. We love to sit in the window seat and play voyeur on Saigon street life.
This bar at the top of the Rex Hotel is one of the best places to watch the sun go down and Ngueyn Hue walking street light up.
As not just a bar, it’s a BBQ joint as well. They serve Tim’s favorite IPA - Xa Mau Chanh, which you’ll only find at Quan Ut Ut and Biacraft outlets.
Where should I go if I get injured or sick while in Ho Chi Minh City?
If you get seriously injured or sick in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll probably want to access international standard healthcare. Luckily for you, there are several good clinics and hospitals that can help.
Mind you, while still much cheaper than Western facilities, the international centers are much more expensive than public health care here.
Hence, you should ensure you have good Travel Insurance covering medical costs before you come.
Family Medical Practice - 24/7
Le Duan Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel; +84 28 3822 7848
08 Alexandre de Rhodes Street, District 1
+84 28 3823 8888
20-20Bis-22 Dinh Tien Hoang St, Dakao Ward, Dist 1, HCMC
Tel; (028) 73094545
167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Str., District 3, HCMC
3rd floor Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu St., Ben Nghe Ward, Dist.1, HCMC.
Tel: (028) 62 90 61 67
This last one is a private Vietnamese hospital we’ve had a good experience with.
It’s a lot cheaper than the clinics above, although there’s a lot less English spoken, and it’s a little more difficult to navigate where to go and how to pay.
You’ll find it at 60-60A Phan Xich Long, Ward 1, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel; 028 3990 2468
Blog Posts about Ho Chi Minh City
- In Saigon- Pho Binh: the Noodle Shop That Changed The War – A fascinating tale of how an inconspicuous noodle shop changed the course of the Vietnam War in Saigon.
- Visiting Saigon During Tet 2024 – Best prepare or you might get caught out.
- Vietnamese Dong, Money, and Costs – Learn about Vietnamese money, how to access it, and what it will cost you to stay there.
- 1-Day Walking Tour of Ho Chi Minh City: Unveiling the Magic of Saigon
- Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour 2 – See Another Side of Saigon
- Reunification Palace – Crashing Down the Gates For Independence
- Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral – A Beacon of Faith in Ho Chi Minh City.
- Saigon Opera House – Ho Chi Minh City’s Best Performance Venue?
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