Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, still known to many as Saigon, is one of Vietnam’s largest and busiest city, the city that propelled the country to fame and development.
Beyond its chaotic whirl, Ho Chi Minh City — Vietnam’s centre for commerce and culture — brims with life and pulsates with energy. A stop at Ho Chi Minh City is a chance to explore and experience stunning French architecture, war memories, loud nightlife, and exotic food.
A number of attractions found in Ho Chi Minh City are a tribute to the 20th-century war that plagued and strengthened Vietnam. Although it sounds gloomy, and in some aspects it is, there are still engaging historical activities that both adults and kids will enjoy. A visit to the War Remnants Museum holds a comprehensive display of photographs, documents, immaculately preserved planes, tanks, and artillery that tell the horrific story of the 30-year battle between the Americans and the Viet. A trip to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels — the tunnel system soldiers used to travel undetected — provides visitors a glimpse of the Vietnamese ingenuity. Ho Chi Minh City is also home to Bitexco Tower and Sky Deck, Reunification Palace, and Notre Dame Cathedral — iconic landmarks known for their impressive architecture.
The fastest option to get into Ho Chi Minh City is via plane. Airlines offering flights to Tan Son Nhat airport include AirAsia, Cathay Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, and Malaysia Airlines. From the airport, you can get into the city centre via bus (VND 5,000 or USD 0.22 per person plus another VND 5,000 or USD 0.22 for bags), taxi, or a through a chartered car.
From Hanoi, you can reach Ho Chi Minh City via train. Travel time is approximately 33 hours.
Bus services from Cambodia are available daily. Travel time is around 7 hours, and the cost of tickets range from VND 307,000 to VND 409,000 (USD 13.5 – USD 17.8).
The official currency around Ho Chi Minh City is the Vietnamese dong (VND) which comes in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100,000, 200000, 500000 and 1000000. Paying with dong is still the most convenient for both buyer and seller. Although major establishments accept US dollars, they offer ridiculous exchange rates.
In Ho Chi Minh City, ATMs are everywhere. Just take note that under the Vietnamese laws, ATMs are only to dispense VND so make sure to withdraw only what’s needed.
When it comes to exchanging dollars for VND, avoid big stores at all costs since they offer lower exchange rates. Your best option is jewellery and gold shops since they offer more favourable rates.
Ho Chi Minh City has two distinctive seasons: dry and wet. The dry season lasts from December to April, while the wet season begins in June and ends in September. The hottest month is May while the coldest month is December. If you’re planning to visit Ho Chi Minh City, schedule it between January and March — these months have relatively cooler weather and lesser humidity.
Attractions around Ho Chi Minh City are located close to one another are easily accessible via the famous cyclo. Taxis and mototaxis also offer services within and around the city centre. Adventurous tourists can rent motorbikes to explore the city — just remember that navigating Ho Chi Minh City’s busy streets can be quite a challenge for the inexperienced.
With delicacies heavily influenced by the Chinese, Ho Chi Minh City’s popular treats often involve vegetables, fresh herbs, rice, and noodles. Visit Banh Mi Huynh Hoa and treat yourself to Vietnam’s Banh Mi — a vegetarian baguette made of pate, mayonnaise, carrot pickles, cilantro, and chilis. Taste the city’s most loved Banh Mi Op La — a concoction of eggs, luncheon meat, sausages, and onions — which is perfect for breakfast. While pho is considered the comfort food around the city, you can also try another dish called Bun Moc, a savoury rice noodle soup made of pork, vermicelli noodles, and Vietnamese sausage.
Needless to say, Ho Chi Minh City is both dazzling and dizzying — it’s so easy to get lost in its bright lights and seemingly endless hustle. But beyond its chaos, Ho Chi Minh City is a place that will leave a mark, a place that will give you renewed respect and appreciation for Vietnam and its people.