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The Best Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide

Ho Chi Minh travel guide 2020

And it’s one of the most popular places to backpack to by travelers exploring the area. Thanks to its cheap cost of living, now Ho Chi Minh is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

I come from another province of Vietnam but I love the chaos here. It’s a city with a billion things happening at once. Motorbikes, bicycles, cars, and rickshaws go wherever and whenever they please, and lots of street stands and market spill into the traffic lanes.

After Dalat and Danang city this is my second favorite city in Vietnam. The city has a lot of things to explore, insane street food, nightlife, people…

This Ho Chi Minh travel guide will give you the best places to visit, tell you how to save money, how to get around, give you costs, and help you plan the best trip to this city!

Ho Chi Minh Travel Guide – Things to do

Admire the Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral is an imposing red brick building built between 1877 and 1883. The two towers in the front of the cathedral rise above visitors at nearly 58 meters tall while the neon-lit statue of the Virgin Mary is also an intriguing sight.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Visit Emperor Jade Pagoda

This temple was built in 1909 to honor the supreme Taoist god, Emperor Jade. It’s one of the most impressive pagodas in Vietnam. The building is filled with intricate woodcarvings and statues of divinities and heroes, including Emperor Jade himself. The roof is also covered in detailed tile work showing characters from Buddhist and Taoist legends.

Shopping at Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh market is the iconic of Saigon from 1912. It is the ideal place to pick up some handicrafts or bargain souvenirs. It’s the largest market in Vietnam, so get lost in the chaos and enjoy it all. You can also try some traditional (and inexpensive) Vietnamese foods here.

ho chi minh travel guide

Visit Ba Thien Hau Temple

Located in Chinatown, the Ba Thien Hau Temple is a Buddhist temple that was built in 1706 for the Chinese sea goddess, Mazu. It’s believed she flies around on a cloud or a mat, rescuing people at sea. The outside of the temple doesn’t look like much but the inside is filled with porcelain figures, and the roof is covered in colorful dioramas.

Take a food tour

If you would rather not get hands-on with your food, take a tour through Ho Chi Minh’s best foodie neighborhoods. With Street Food Adventure Tours you will safely try lots of street food, including everything from rice vermicelli with BBQ pork to coconut juice and Vietnamese coffee (and more!). Tours are typically around 818, 825 VND ($35 USD).

Attend a show at the Opera House

The Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the best-preserved examples of French colonial architecture in the country. It was built in 1897 for the opera but now also hosts lots of different performances, including ballet and Vietnamese traditional dances and plays. Check the website to see what’s on during your visit.

Ho Chi Minh Travel Costs

Ho Chi Minh City is split into twenty-four districts (i.e. neighborhoods) and each has a different vibe. For visitors wanting to be in the center of Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife scene book a hostel in District 1. For more budget-conscious travelers, book a hostel in District 5. Here is my estimated living cost for backpackers in Ho Chi Minh city may need for your references

Hostel prices

Low-cost dorm beds start from 9,2885 VND ($4 USD) in a room with 8-10 people, but you’ll pay about 139,325 VND ($6 USD) for a bed in a smaller dorm with 4-6 people. There are so many hostels in the city to choose from. Most offer free wifi and breakfast. Private rooms start around 348,310 VND ($15 USD) for a double room, but the average is around 464,415 VND ($20 USD).

Budget hotel prices

A night in a budget hotel cost around 180,000 – 200,000 VND ($9 USD). There have some 2-star hotels near district 1 cost 300,000-650,000 VND per night ($13-28 USD). Hotel prices in Ho Chi Minh City don’t really change by the season; they’re pretty cheap all year round.

Shared rooms in an Airbnb accommodation start from 116,975 VND ($5 USD). Comfortable private rooms in an Airbnb apartment start from about 464,415 VND ($20 USD), while a full apartment is usually between 464,415-580,517 VND ($20-25 USD).

Average cost of food

Eat the local street food and you can get a meal for around 20,000 VND ($0.90 USD). Sit down restaurants are also inexpensive at around 80,000 VND ($3.45 USD) per meal. A western burger might cost around 40,000 VND ($1.70 USD). The backpacker area, Pham Ngu Lao, has a wide range of restaurants too.

I don’t recommend cooking your meals here since there is plenty of delicious street food to eat at very cheap prices. You won’t make it as good as they do and the food is too delicious to miss. Here is my top 10 street food in Ho Chi Minh city

Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

For me as a local guy in Ho Chi Minh city. A backpacker may have to spend with daily cost around 650.000 VNĐ (30$). This will cover a hostel dorm, eating cheap street food, public transportation, and few visiting places.

A mid-range budget of about 1,150,000 VND ($58 USD) per day. You can get a private two-star hotel room, enjoy street foods, or budget restaurants. You won’t be living the rich life here but you really won’t want for anything on this budget.

ho chi minh travel guide

On a luxury level of 2,800,000 VND ($130 USD), you will stay at a nice four-star hotel (with a spa or swimming pool!) which included breakfast, and drinks. You can take taxis or a Grab just about anywhere and as often as you like. At this budget or more, the city is your oyster.

ho chi minh travel guide

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. 0

Ho Chi Minh travel guide – Tips to save your money

You don’t need to do much to save money in Ho Chi Minh City as it’s super inexpensive to visit already. But, if you must, here are some ways you can cut down your costs in Ho Chi Minh:

Book grab taxi or grab bike only

Make sure you book the grab bike or grab a car to get around the city. Or better yet, skip them and walk. Or rent a bike and try to navigate the chaos of the city.

Learn from the local people

The surprise thing in Vietnam, when you’re foreigners if you need help you always got the best advice. As Ho Chi Minh travel guide, I recommend you to ask people around you if getting lost in things. Especially, young people, they are willing to help for free, also they have a chance to speak English with foreigners.

Enjoy street foods

This is the best food the eat in Ho Chi Minh. Street food in Ho Chi Minh City is inexpensive and delicious. Be sure to try a banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich popular in the south. You can find many different kinds of noodle soup at small street stalls.

In Ho Chi Minh travel guide for places to eat, I just listed top 10 places to enjoy street food in HCMC

Walking around the city

Free walking tours are one of the best ways to get oriented in a new city. I recommend Saigon Free Walking Tours. Whether self-guided or led by a local, these free tours are sure to introduce you to the main attractions and hidden gems of the city. Most tours are held in the morning, from 08:00 until 12:00, stopping at popular hotspots within the city centre.

Pack a water bottle

A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy in Southeast Asia since you can’t drink the tap water. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw ($49.99).

How to get around in Ho Chi Minh

Bus

Ho Chi Minh City has over 100 different bus routes, and you can reach all major tourist destinations this way. They’re safe and affordable, costing between 3,500-10,000 VND ($0.15-0.43 USD) depending on the distance. You’ll pay the driver in cash as you get on the bus. However, if you’re going a short distance, this isn’t the most practical way to travel, as traffic congestion is very high in this city. For longer distances, yes, go on the bus!

Bicycle

A common way to get around the city is by bicycle, which you can ride easily since the city is so flat. You can rent a bike for about 130,000 VND ($5.60 USD) per day.

Just a note of caution: traffic in Ho Chi Minh can be intense, so if you’re not an experienced cyclist, you may want to skip this option.

Taxis

Since Uber left Vietnam in 2019 so for me Grab is the best taxis service in Ho Chi Minh. Prices are average at 12,000 VND ($0.52 USD) for the first kilometer and 10,000 VND ($0.43 USD) per kilometer thereafter. You can also use traditional taxis services but always check the price before entering the car.

get around in ho chi minh

Xe om (Motorcycle taxis)

I call this the best driver in Ho Chi Minh. Because they know every corner of the city so these motorcycle taxis will get you places the quickest. Before you go, remember to ask about the price.

Cyclo

Cyclos are like tuk-tuks, except they run completely on man-power. Because cyclos are slow-moving and often a nuisance in traffic, many roads in Ho Chi Minh City are entirely closed off to them. If you choose to go this route, your driver may have to navigate around prohibited roads and may not be able to drop you off right at your address. Because of this, I do not recommend cyclos. A short trip within the city center shouldn’t cost more than 50,000 VND ($2.15 USD).

How to Stay Safe in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is a very busy city, but it’s a safe place to backpack and travel – even if you’re traveling solo or even as a solo female traveler. Violent crime against travelers is very rare, but petty crime and theft is not. In crowded places, you’ll want to keep your purse/wallet close and be mindful of the activity around you. Don’t keep your cell phone or money in your hand as you’re walking around.

Traffic can be hard to navigate in Ho Chi Minh City. Motorbikes are everywhere, and as a pedestrian, crossing the street can be scary. Wait for a break in the traffic before crossing the road, but then don’t slow down or adjust your gait. Make a beeline to the other side.

Be on alert for scams. Mostly people are really just going to try to nickel and dime you and try to get you to spend extra money since they know, as a tourist, you have more than they do. Just keep an eye out. Most people are very honest!

Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.

If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.

The last advice to travel safety is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong.

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