Ho Chi Minh City is the largest and most populous city in Vietnam with a population of nearly 10 million. It is also the old capital of South Vietnam until 1975. The city’s previous name is Saigon. Local people mostly still use this name. Ho Chi Minh attracts many tourists with its beautiful attractions and interesting history. On the other hand, with the vibrant Vietnam nightlife, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the must-see cities. I also explained where to shop cheaply, how to get, what to do, and the best things to do in this Ho Chi Minh City travel guide.
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide
Before I start the travel guide, I would like to start by giving short historical information about the founder of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, named after the city, is an important leader who plays a big role in Vietnam’s struggle for independence. Ho Chi Minh, also known as Uncle Ho, founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 after the Japanese invasion. But in 1946, this time he faced colonial French. In the war that lasted until 1954, the French were defeated. However, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement, the country was divided into two as north and south.
Then, in order to stop North Vietnam, which attacked the US-backed South Vietnam with the organization called Vietcong in the 60s, especially after 1965, America both increased its troops and started raining tons of bombs in the country. As a result, the Northerners entered Saigon in 1975, and then the war ended and South and North Vietnam united. And the name of the city was changed to Ho Chi Minh, which also means ‘bringing light.’ But since ‘Uncle Ho’ died in 1969, he could not see the country uniting.
Where is Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam
Let’s start with the question of where is Vietnam; This beautiful country is located on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia.
Where is Ho Chi Minh City (Where is Saigon)? The city is located in the south of the country. We can also say that it is close to the Cambodian border. So many travelers come to Saigon from Cambodia (Siem Reap or Phnom Penh) by bus.
Read that article: Places to Visit in Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh City Transportation
You can get to the city center from the airport by public buses or taxis. I came to the hostel where I stayed using the Grab Taxi application. I think it’s safer than normal taxis. Likewise, I used Grab Taxi to go from the city to the airport.
Brief Information About Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam
There are many motorcycles in this city, formerly called Saigon. An interesting image occurs when all of them wait at the traffic lambs.
It’s really hard to cross the roads without traffic lights. You really need to pay attention to motorbikes.
I read something about motor snatchers before I arrived in this city. Especially if you have a neck bag, you may get snatched at night. So you really have to pay attention. But I did not get any problems with that.
Read this article: Beautiful Places to Visit in Vietnam
What is the currency of Vietnam?
The currency of the country is Vietnam Dong (VD). Exchange rates at the airport were not that bad. You can easily exchange money at the airport or in the city center.
What is the religion of Vietnam?
Taoism is dominant in the country. To mention briefly Taoism; Lao Tzu is the founder of the religion of Taoism.
Besides, Buddhism is also among the common religions. Also since France was once dominant in the country, the number of Christian people is around 8 million here.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City?
Many places to visit and things to do in Ho Chi Minh City are located in District 1. Also, this region is more convenient for shopping, eating, hanging out, and nightlife. So most tourists prefer to stay in this region. You can search for comfortable and affordable hotels in Ho Chi Minh City using the Booking website.
I stayed at City Backpackers Hostel. It was very safe, comfortable, and affordable. Also, the staff was so friendly and helpful. They booked the Mekong Delta Tour for me. They also helped me with very late check-in.
You can also find accommodation in Saigon easily by using Airbnb ve Couchsurfing applications.
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City Nightlife
Saigon is the city with the most active nightlife in Asia. Bui Vien, especially known as Walking Street, is incredibly crowded. Many restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, night clubs are located on this street. There is also a lot of nice options for rooftop bar lovers like me.
Ho Chi Minh City nightlife was amazing. It was better than I expected. Many foreign tourists and backpackers go to Walking Street to hang out, drink, and clubbing at night. In addition, considerable local people come here to have fun. It is like the whole city comes to Walking Street.
Vietnam nightlife prices are not cheap in tourist attractions like Bui Vien, but it is still normal compared to European countries. It is definitely worth having fun, especially on Bui Vien Walking Street.
Massage is one of the things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam nightlife massage prices are affordable. There are many cozy massage places, especially around Walking Street. I suggest you try it.
Shopping in Vietnam
One of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is shopping. Because Vietnam is a kind of cheap country for shopping. There are many options such as shopping malls, night markets, and street markets. You can find most of the things you are looking for proper price.
There are also fake products too. As you know, the products of brands such as Adidas, North Face are produced here. In the street markets, you can find fake products for very cheap. When you ask whether it is fake or original, you get that answer “Made in Vietnam”. Don’t forget to haggle because they say a very high price at first.
The Best Places to Visit in Ho Chi Minh City for Shopping
Ben Thanh Market: A place where modern and the country’s traditional clothes, other accessories, items, souvenirs are sold. It is also a place where local people shop frequently. So you have the chance to observe Vietnamese culture here. It is closed in the evening, but night markets are set right in front of the market.
Saigon Square: A place where you can find a variety of dresses, bags, shoes, and other items. There are fewer people than Ben Thanh Market.
Saigon Center: A shopping mall across Saigon Square where you can find all kinds of brands.
Vincom Center: It is a large shopping mall with more than 200 brands. Shopping malls are also a good option to escape from hot weather. You can relax by eating and drinking in cafes and restaurants within the shopping mall.
Try Pho soup, which is the most famous Vietnamese cuisine. The unique noodle soup is actually. Optionally, it is made from beef, pork, and chicken. The spring rolls called Goi Cuon are also common foods.
Among Vietnamese dishes, dog meat and snake meat are also very common. Frankly, I did not even try it.
As in most Asian countries, street food is very popular.
I suggest you try tropical fruits such as mango, durian, dragon fruit, jack fruit, pineapple, etc. Even taste tropical fruit shakes.
Their local beer ‘Saigon’ beer is sold for about 10000 VD.
You should also try their famous egg coffee. You can find this Vietnamese coffee in most places on Walking Street.
Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Mekong River Delta Tour
Mekong River is very important for some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Because the river gives life to those countries. The river is also known as the ‘Nine-Headed Dragon River’ in here. Mekong River is poured into the South China Sea. The Mekong Delta is a very natural place. Many foreign tourists visit that place every day of the year. One-day tours star from the city center to Mekong Delta. The tour price is around 12 dollars. It starts at 8 am in the morning, and finishes around 5 pm in the evening. Your hotel or hostel can set up this tour for you.
They pick you up from your hotel in the morning and take you to the tour agency in the morning. Then the tour starts from there by buses to the Mekong Delta.
You will visit different places on the tour. At first, we went to a place where fiber was made. There was a presentation about fiber for 15 minutes. If you want to buy it, there is a souvenir store here.
Then, we went to a place where some products made from coconut oil were made. They make and sell handmade candies. It tasted good. They also take you to a place where people produce honey. You can taste honey tea.
Canoeing is a must on the Mekong River Delta tour. It is really enjoyable. While riding the canoes, they give you the traditional hat to wear. Vietnamese called that ‘non la’. If you like that hat, you can buy it from shops in Saigon.
At the end of the tour, we spent 30 minutes in a place with ‘Reclining Buddha Statue’ and ‘Sitting Buddha Statue’ while going back to Saigon.
Cu Chi Tunnels Tour
The Cu Chi Tunnels played a very important role in Vietnam’s struggle for independence. So you definitely visit Cu Chi Tunnels. You can witness the history of the Vietnam War. If you join a tour, it takes a half-day.
Tunnels began to be built in the war against the French in the 1940s. The length of the tunnel is 250 km. Vietnamese built a city under the ground. Also, Vietcong (Viet Cong) soldiers used these tunnels very well while fighting against the Americans after the French left. Coincidentally, America has established its base exactly in the region where these tunnels are located, but of course, they did not know about the tunnels.
Vietcong soldiers, who leave the tunnels every night, return to their tunnels after killing the Americans while sleeping. Americans could not understand and solve this issue. The Americans tried to drop tons of bombs on this area to fix it, but nothing changed. As a result, the Vietnamese Socialist Republic was formed by uniting the North and the South at the end of the Vietnam War.
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is located in the center of the city, where you can find most of what you are looking for shopping. Souvenirs, local dress (ao dai) and traditional hat (non la), shoes, bags, etc. It is one of the best places to visit and things to do in Ho Chi Minh Cİty (Saigon).
War Remnants Museum
War Remnants Museum is a place where you can get information about the history of the Vietnam War. It effectively shows the traces of the war. Some photographs show the effects of the orange gas the Americans used. It really affects people. Also, they display used tanks and helicopters in the war in the garden of the museum.
The story of the photo above is very important. Kim Phuc is the girl running naked in the picture. The body is burning due to the Napalm bomb by the US. People and children were hiding in a temple but the Napalm bomb hit them. She ran like the picture and shouted that ‘I want water’. The war reporter named Nick Ut, who took this photo, brought the little girl to the hospital immediately. She was treated in hospital for 14 months. You can see this significant photo in the museum. Also, this picture received the ‘Pulitzer Prize’ and became a symbol of war.
Reunification Palace was the administrative center of South Vietnam. When the Northerners seized this palace in 1975, the North and South united and became the one country. The first tank which entered the palace is also on display in the garden of the palace. This place is one of the best attractions in the city.
Notre Dame Cathedral
The cathedral, whose construction was completed in 1883, is one of the structures built by the colonial French. The cathedral with its historical texture and structure is one of the nice places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City.
Central Post Office
Central Post Office building next to the cathedral was opened in 1891. The French also built this place. There are stores where you can buy souvenirs. I recommend you to see Central Post Office during your Vietnam tour.
Saigon Opera House
You can attend the events here on certain days of the month. If you like opera arts, you should definitely visit here. So Saigon Opera House is one of the must-see places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City.
Nguyen Hue Street
It is a very crowded and lively place at night. It is for pedestrians. There are many cafe restaurants in this area. Also, you can try street food in Nguyen Hue Street. It’s a very colorful place. If you have not decided what to do at night, this street is one of the free things to visit in Ho Chi Minh City.
Bitexco Financial Tower Saigon Deck
This skyscraper is the tallest building in the city. There are very good cafes and restaurants on the top of the building. You eat and drink here against a unique view. The shape of the building is similar with the national flower of Vietnam and the lotus flower. Lotus flower is a symbol of purity in Vietnam.
Saigon Zoo & Botanical Garden
If you like to visit the zoo, you should visit the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden. I did not visit here because I did not enough have time, but it is also on the list of places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a place where you can see many different kinds of plants besides animal species. The entrance fee is 50,000 VD.
If you want to visit other countries around Vietnam, you should read those blog below.