Is Ho Chi Minh City worth visiting? Are you planning a trip to Vietnam but can’t decide whether to include Ho Chi Minh City in your itinerary?
This guide highlights five critical pros and cons for Ho Chi Minh City which will help you determine whether Vietnam’s largest city is worth visiting for you!
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is a bustling metropolis in Vietnam, offering a diverse mix of culture, history, and modernity.
As you stroll the city’s streets, you’ll see iconic old buildings built by the French, such as Notre Dame and the Central Post Office, and many modern skyscrapers, such as the Landmark 81.
Whether you’re fascinated by history, food, shopping, or vibrant cities, Ho Chi Minh City has plenty to offer. That said, some may enjoy it more than others. Let’s discuss the city’s pros and cons!
TIP: Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City are the same city. When Vietnam unified, the city was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, but many locals still call it Saigon.
5 Pros for Ho Chi Minh City
Many City Attractions: Ho Chi Minh City’s biggest draw is its attractions, including temples, bustling markets, charming parks, diverse areas, and beautiful churches built by the French!
Along with the city’s many attractions, Ho Chi Minh City offers visitors a glimpse of the rich history of the region with its war-related landmarks, French colonial architecture, and museums.
The city offers both modern attractions such as large malls and developed parks and attractions that provide visitors with a glimpse into its past.
Vibrant Food Scene: The city is an absolute paradise for foodies. Not only is the local food exceptional, but there are plenty of top-tier international restaurants here.
What stands out the most is the street food in the city. Walking around, you’ll spot countless vendors selling Pho, Bo Kho, banh mi stalls, streetside coffee, and more; tourists and locals sit on plastic stools or lawn chairs and dine away!
Markets like the Ben Thanh Market, Ben Nghe, and others offer various food stalls next to one another. Additionally, you will find many upscale restaurants in the city, from steakhouses to Italian and French cuisine and more!
For those who love Japanese and Korean food, the city offers many Korean and Japanese restaurants. That’s because tourists from both countries frequent Saigon. There’s even a small Japanese town in the city!
Welcoming Locals: The city’s residents, also known as Saigonise, are known for their hospitality and friendly nature. After spending several weeks there, I noticed how eager they were to help with directions, order food, or share their culture.
This is one of the many aspects of Ho Chi Minh City that has made me decide I must visit again soon. The locals are very inviting and warm to tourists, smiling at you in the streets and making harmless small talk.
Diverse Areas: The distinctly different areas in Ho Chi Minh City offer various atmospheres. When visiting, I recommend you visit a few of them and feel out the areas. It’s enjoyable to see how the different areas vary in the city, and along the way, you will find your favorite.
Here are some of the notable areas in the city to discover when visiting:
- Ben Thanh / This is the most central part of the city, and it’s vibrant and busy.
- Da Kao / Centerl but calmer with more of a local atmosphere and plenty of local food.
- Japanese Corners / Quaint area with plenty of Japanese food and picturesque streets.
- Pham Ngu Lao / Backpacker Central, you’ll find many bars, western food & more.
- Thao Dien / Most expats live here, and it’s a calm area with beautiful city river views.
Nightlife: Ho Chi Minh City sure does come alive at night, with plenty of bars, nightclubs, and rooftop bars around the city. The city offers a lively nightlife scene every day of the week!
From casual and upscale rooftop bars with stunning panoramic city views to nightclubs, karaoke bars, and music venues with live music. Bui Vien Walking Street is the most notable street for nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re looking to party, be sure to check it out!
5 Cons for Ho Chi Minh City
Lack of Day Trips: This is by far the most noticeable con of Ho Chi Minh City. Besides the most popular day tour to the Mekong Delta River (an excellent day trip), there aren’t any other significant day trips to consider.
Anytime you visit somewhere new, it’s nice to have a few exciting day trip options. If you compare Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and Da Nang regarding day trips, you’ll notice a significant difference.
Unlike Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang offer many exciting and unique day trips.
Transportation: The city clearly lacks a subway system or another convenient form of public transportation because the current bus system isn’t enough.
Furthermore, the sidewalks can frustrate any visitor. Some streets don’t even have sidewalks, while others are too small. Then, there are sidewalks that are sometimes blocked due to so many scooters parked in the way. But what’s the most frustrating is when locals drive scooters on the actual sidewalks, beeping at you to get out of the way.
Ho Chi Minh City is a large city, and if you’d like to explore other areas if you don’t want to walk long distances, you’ll most likely have to take a taxi, Grab car, or motorbike taxi.
It’s Busy: Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, so this is expected, but experiencing the city’s business is something else! The traffic in the city is hectic at times, and sometimes, you’ll find yourself stuck in traffic.
Crossing the street sometimes becomes challenging due to the number of scooters and cars zooming by.
Scams in Ho Chi Minh City: When visiting the city, you must beware of scams. Here’s a quick list of scams to beware of.
- Taxi/Cycle Scam: Sometimes drivers overcharge you, and at times, they try to argue the agreed-upon price was higher when dropping you off at your destination.
- Pickpocketing & Bag Snatching: Watch your pockets when on public transportation or in crowded markets. Also, when walking on the sidewalk, watch out for scooters zooming by, at times they’ll snatch your purse.
- Touts: These are random locals who tell you to follow them to a “hidden gem” in the city. They take you to a known attraction nearby and then ask for a “tip.”
- Street Gambling Scams: Outside busy markets, you’ll notice gambling games happening sometimes. Don’t bother when asked to join, it’s a scam.
Rainy Season: From May to November each year, the monsoon season in Ho Chi Minh City occurs. During this time, visitors can expect heavy rainfall, some streets get flooded at times, and with thunderstorms some days, plans around the city are disrupted.
Also, humidity levels are much higher during this time, and mosquito activity is higher during the monsoon season, which is very annoying when sweating!
However, a positive aspect of the monsoon season is that, unlike beach destinations, Ho Chi Minh City offers plenty of things to do indoors when it rains.
Best Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
Ben Thanh Market: Dating back over 100 years, the Ben Thanh Market is one of the city’s most recognized landmarks. The bustling market offers various items, including clothing, textiles, spices, sweets, and fresh produce. There’s also an area in the market with food vendors.
War Remnants Museum: Vietnam has an eventful history that’s shaped the country into what it is today.
Visiting the War Remnants is the best way to learn about it all. There, you will find artifacts from the occupations in Vietnam and many stories to read about.
Tan Dinh Church & Market: Located in the Da Kao areas in HCMC is the Tan Dinh Church; the stunning pink church was built long ago when the French were in the city.
The contrast between its surroundings makes it stand out; it’s worth a visit. And steps away is also the Tan Dinh Market.
Mekong Delta River: Ranked #1-day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta River is a vibrant region with floating markets, fishermen, and even islands along the river with locals living there.
Throughout the tour, you will also visit Vinh Trang Pagoda, an area with a series of significant Buddhist temples and statues.
Jade Emperor Pagoda: One of the most beautiful temples in Ho Chi Minh City is in the Da Kao area. Built-in 1892, the temple showcases Chinese architecture and Vietnamese artworks.
Parks: There are plenty of excellent parks throughout the city. Bach Dach Wharf is the city’s main riverfront park, where you’ll find many locals having picnics and relaxing. You can also take a boat tour through the Saigon River from there!
Another must-visit park is Vinhomes Central Park, located slightly north of the center. It’s a newly developed park with many amenities and plenty of greenery. Ho Con Rua Park is a tiny park that takes up a center area of a traffic roundup. It’s a nice small park to have coffee or relax under shaded trees.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Below, I’ve shared the best and safest areas to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for your first visit based on your traveler type. Also included are the best hotels in each area by budget!
Ben Thanh is the most central area in Ho Chi Minh City. Staying here means you’ll have quick access to other areas and be in the center of the city’s hustle and bustle. It’s the best area in Ho Chi Minh City for first time visitors looking to experience a lot of the city!
- Orchids Saigon Hotel / A top-ranked 4 Star hotel located on a quiet street, near many attractions, shopping, restaurants, and parks.
- Nicecy Boutique Hotel / Cozy mid-priced 3-star hotel located in the Ben Thanh area near many attractions. Steps away from plenty of restaurants, markets, and shops.
Pham Ngu Lao is regarded as backpacker central. Around it, you’ll find plenty of hostels, affordable places to eat, and Bui Vien Walking Street, the city’s nightlife district.
If you’re curious about where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for backpackers or nightlife, this area is the place to be.
- Saigon Chill Hostel / This awesome hostel is very clean, is centrally located, and has a cafe below.
- Mobylette Saigon Hostel / A charmingly decorated hostel, top-ranked amongst travelers and centrally located.
Da Kao is a vibrant area with many parks, river views, a zoo, and markets. Despite being centrally located, it has more of a neighborhood touch than Ben Thanh. Da Kao is perfect for families visiting Ho Chi Minh City who’d prefer to be centrally located!
Sofitel Saigon Plaza / Luxrious 5 Star hotel offering many amenities, on a quieter street but still centerally located, near many attractions, shopping and restaurants.
Wink Hotel Saigon / Ultra modern hotel in the center of the Da Kao area offering many amenities for visitors.
Thao Dien is regarded as the expat area in the city. It’s a laidback area with diverse food options and bars, and the whole area offers charming river views. Thao Dien is the best area for families to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Aurora Western Village / Top-ranked hotel/serviced apartments in the center of the Thao Dien area. Those looking for a more cozy, homey stay.
Sen Boutique House / A lovely mid-ranged boutique hotel offering spacious/modern rooms by the river.
How to Get Around Ho Chi Minh City
- Grab Taxi / Popular ride-sharing app in Southeast Asia.
- City Taxi / Taxis in the city are white, you’ll spot plenty of them around.
- Guided Tours / A great and easy way to get around is by joining organized tours.
- Public Bus / The public bus has many routes around the city & costs only 5k Dong.
- Motorcycle Taxi / Either use Grab or City moto-taxis.
- Cyclo / This is a three-wheeled bike; you sit in the front, as the driver cycles.
- Rent a Scooter or Motorcycle / Be careful when driving around Saigon.
Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City
Like many places in Southeast Asia, Ho Chi Minh City has two distinct weather seasons: dry and wet.
If you visit during the dry season, you can expect hot weather, sunshine, and low humidity. During the wet season, expect sporadic rainfall in the city and humidity levels higher than in the dry season.
Dry Season: December to April
The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is during the dry season, from December to April. Average temperatures range from 27°C (81°F) to 33°C (91°F).
In the dry season, the city’s weather is relatively consistent, with plenty of blue skies, sunny weather, and low humidity levels. The driest month is February.
Wet Season: May to November
The worst time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is during the wet season, when you’re more than likely to experience a few days of rain. The rainfall in the wet season is usually in the afternoon and tends to pass by quickly, but not always!
Expect temperatures in the city around 30°C (86°F) to 33°C (91°F); it’s essential to know that humidity levels are also relatively higher compared to the dry season.
Is Ho Chi Minh City Worth Visiting? — Final Thoughts
So, is Ho Chi Minh City worth visiting? Have you decided whether you’ll add it to your Vietnam itinerary?
Ho Chi Minh City is definitely worth visiting. It offers plenty of significant landmarks, its bustling markets are like no other, the locals are warm and friendly, and the food scene is exceptional.
Are you curious about where to go after Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam? Consider Nha Trang, Da Nang, and the country’s culturally rich capital, Hanoi!
How many days do you need in Ho Chi Minh City?
Plan to spend at least three days, ideally four days, in Ho Chi Minh City. There’s plenty to do, and you should take a day trip outside the city!
Is it better to go to Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi?
Both cities are very different. Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s busiest, most lively, and most modern city. In contrast, Hanoi is more culturally rich and a step into the past.
Is Ho Chi Minh City tourist friendly?
Yes, Ho Chi Minh City is very tourist-friendly. There are plenty of excellent areas in the city to consider, and there are many hotels to choose from.
The locals are warm and welcoming to tourists, and the food is quite diverse- it can satisfy any visitor!
What is so special about Ho Chi Minh City?
The city claims an eventful past in the country and is Vietnam’s largest city. Ho Chi Minh City also has a clear contrast between between new and old, making for a unique experience.
Also, Ho Chi Minh City has an excellent food scene, offering traditional Vietnamese food from all regions in the country and many international restaurants.
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