Ho Chi Minh City, previously and commonly known as Saigon, is a city in southern Vietnam. It’s famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. It’s also known for its French colonial landmarks, including a replica of the Notre-Dame Cathedral – One tourist spot to check out when its not covered in scaffolding (November 2018).
Ho Chi Minh City is chaotic, noisy, VERY hot and just a bit crazy.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport
From Cambodia, 15+ hours
You must have a valid passport and a visa (or pre-approval for a visa on arrival) to enter Vietnam. Your passport must be valid for six months beyond your planned stay, and you must have at least one blank visa page.
*Double check entry dates for land entries and visa on arrival – they put mine minus 12 days to the 30 it should of been.
6 Must See Spots in Saigon
1. War Remnants Museum
The museum is open daily from 7.30 AM to 11.30 AM and from 1.20 PM to 4.30 PM.
The admission is VND 15,000 ($1 per person).
The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh is a must when visiting the city. Understanding Saigon’s history and the effect that the Vietnam War had on its people and the South of Vietnam is really important. The Museum is a heavy morning or afternoon trip. It’s a place that is necessary to visit to ensure that atrocities like the Vietnam War are acknowledged and remembered for generations to come. It is shocking, heartbreaking & quite disgusting to see the ability that humans have when it comes to war and its decimating effects.
*The below pictures are very graphic*
2. Tan Dinh Pink Church
I dragged the gang here mainly because of the fact it’s a PINK church! Mainly motivated for Instagram opportunities (sad I know), it gave us some exploration time and something to do in a city that doesn’t have much going on!
Can be easily found on Google Maps and is within walking distance from the main city shopping centre with Zara, H&M and the area we called 9121HO. You also have to play the Shrek song: Funkytown by Lips whilst walking through.
3. Nguyen Hue Apartment Mall
This huge apartment block made up of Cafés, clothes shops, bakeries and more, is a fun way to spend a rainy day in Ho Chi Minh. Shops within the block to check out:
The Cafe Apartment: for some of the best cheesecake and coffee’s in southern Vietnam.
Dosh is another sweet treat spot! Dosh specialises in extra fancy milkshakes and donuts so good you really don’t want to disrupt the mini artwork masterpiece in front of you. Obviously one for the gram too.
Saigon Oi was our favourite balcony. Decked out with cute wicker tables and chairs, Saigon Oi provides the perfect spot for people watching high above the city.
Other fun malls to check out whilst in Saigon:
New Playground Mall – Full of vintage, retro, Hipster and neon lit filled shops. Beware your budget when exploring through this mall. I nearly blew all of mine in the space of thirty minutes.
26 Ly Tu Trong – Right next door to New Playground Mall. Quirky and trendy shops in a vintage feel building. This place has a very similar building layout to the apartment block elevator in the TV series Big Bang Theory!
Market Mayhem: Ben Thanh Market
The market of all markets when it comes to purchasing your classic fruit shit shirt. A right of passage for anyone travelling Vietnam. The more banana’s in a bunch the better, especially when you hit Bui Vien Street (The main bar street in Saigon). You become shit shirt royalty and all thanks have to go back to the Ben Thanh Market. Great for knock-off designers, travel essentials like beer branded singlets, sliders and novelty towels. One of the last decent markets you will find if you are making your way up North. Hanoi markets are notoriously hard for western bargaining.
4. Bui Vien Street
Take your pick of happy hour bars, laughing gas vendors, street market food sellers, scorpions on sticks and flashing glowsticks locals all happy to take any money you willing spend or drop drunk staggering down the road.
1. If you are going to do laughing gas: SIT DOWN, otherwise, you will most likely end up on the floor anyway.
2. Tipping inside the bars are included on your receipt to prepare for a price higher than stated on the menu.
3. Keep your wits about you and stay safe, especially when leaving Bui Vien Street.
5. Cu Chi Tunnels
The tunnels of Củ Chi are a huge network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City. These tunnels were used extensively within the Vietnam War and are a part of a much larger network of tunnels underneath the whole country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations.
Entrance Fee: $6AUD
It takes about 1 hour 15 mins to travel to the Cu Chi Tunnels from Ho Chi Minh.
You can organise private tours that will pick you up from your hotel and include stops to visit some local shops and a lunch stop. Hostels can also provide tours and organise trips at a slightly cheaper rate than hotels and private tours. Make sure to shop around to check out the best prices.
The thought of crawling through tunnels in the dark, especially with my knees is probably the last thing I wanted to do. Fully supportive of my friends experiencing it for me, they had a great time navigating the small tunnels. Beware, it is very hot and humid down there, although there are exit points available before each level that goes deeper underground.
There is also a gun shooting range attached to the tunnels, here you can fire bazooka’s, AK47’S and rocket launchers if that tickles your fancy. Pricing is per bullet/casing so depending on your budget depends on what you fire off at targets.
6. Notre-Dame Cathedral
The French colonialism of Vietnam is noticeable across Ho Chi Minh City. Especially when you come face to face with a small scale replica of The Notre Dam Cathedral. As you can see, when we visited the sides were covered in scaffolding and entry times were limited. With the added bonus of palm tree’s outside, it makes a fun photo spot or educational point within the city centre.
Where to Stay?
Very basic hostel with very basic rooms. Has a small bar downstairs and a travel desk to help with bus bookings & tourist excursions.
$3AUD a night – Bunk bed dorms of max 12, no curtains but you have a bed plug & locker underneath. Free WIFI, Air Con in each room with small ensuite.
The Hideout Hostel
A much better hostel down the road, with more of a backpacker nightlife vibe, better entertainment and common area’s + rooftop bar. $4AUD a night with similar set up to Hangout Hostel, aircon, lockers, Free WIFI, Ensuite rooms.
The options for Air BnB’s in Ho chi Minh are endless, you can get some really stunning apartments in the centre of Saigon for a relatively cheap cost. If we weren’t on a backpacker budget, it probably would of been a lot easier to rent an apartment for the two nights we spent in Ho Chi Minh.
The general cost of a Air BnB in Saigon is between $30 – $70 dollars a night depending on how basic to luxurious you wanted to go.
With Ho Chi Minh being the financial centre of Vietnam and he most visited city in Vietnam, you are spoilt for choice with Hotels. From basic to 5* your options are vast and wide and can be found easily online.
Ho Chi Minh is a great starting or ending point if you are travelling across the country and allows a little bit of westernised luxury in comparison to the stunning and more rural area’s vietnams beautiful country has to offer.