HO CHI MINH CITY TRAVEL TIPS
⊗ Pham Ngu Lao (District 1) is the backpacker street of Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), this is where you’ll find budget accommodations.
⊗ Ho Chi Minh is notorious for motorcycle-riding snatchers. Even when walking, avoid flaunting your gadgets. If you are using a shoulder bag or hand bag, hold it tight. I recommend using backpack or body bag instead of hand bag or shoulder bag. Don’t use your phone while walking, be aware of your surroundings.
⊗ Crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh can be scary because of motorbikes, what I do is I always look for the pedestrian lane with traffic lights.
⊗ When riding cyclo or even when walking, avoid flaunting your gadgets because Ho Chi Minh is notorious for motorcycle-riding snatchers. If possible, don’t use shoulder bag as it can be snatched easily, use a body bag or backpack instead.
⊗ Always use the meter when riding taxis, do not negotiate the price with the driver to avoid being overcharged, and use the meter. And turn on Google Maps to make sure the driver is not going around in circles to charge you more. Better yet, use UBER.
⊗ When withdrawing money, use the ATMs inside the bank to avoid ATM skimming. Or use ATMs with doors, and always lock the door when making withdrawals.
HUE TRAVEL GUIDE + ITINERARY
MUI NE TRAVEL GUIDE (BUDGET + ITINERARY)
HANOI TRAVEL GUIDE (Budget + Itinerary)
III. Ho Chi Minh airport’s terminal & facilities
Ho Chi Minh Airport consists of 2 parallel runways. The runway No. 07L/25R is 3,048 meters long, 45 meters wide, and the runway No. 07R/25L is 3,800 meters in length and 45 meters in width. With 10 air-bridges (6 ones more than the domestic terminal’s), the international terminal is capable of handling wide-body airplanes including Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777-200/300, Airbus A340-300/500/600, Boeing 767, Airbus A330, Boeing 787, and Airbus A380.
1. The international terminal – Ho Chi Minh airport
Being officially opened in 2007, the International Terminal of Ho Chi Minh Airport covered an area of around 93, 228 meter square. Thanks to being installed with modern facilities and advanced aviation technology, the International Airport now has the total capacity of 15 million passengers per year. There are two distinct areas for departures and arrivals. In addition, the International Terminal comprises of 11 passenger baggage arrival carousels, 8 airport conveyors, 12 boarding gates, 1 automatic flight announcement system, 18 elevators, 20 escalators, 18 immigration passport control counters, 43 airport scanners, 01 transfer passenger counter, 20 migration passport control counters, 02 departure customs screening machines, and 06 arrival customs screening machines.
There are also a lot of restaurants, convenient stores, currency exchange booths in the international terminals. Together with these modern facilities, the terminal regularly enhance its service quality and provide new types of premium service to keep up with the dramatic increase in the air traffic in recent years.
2. The domestic terminal – Ho Chi Minh airport
After the inauguration of the new terminal in 2007, the entire old international terminal was turned into the domestic terminal. With the total area of 40,048 m2, the domestic terminal is capable of serve for 2,100 passengers in the rush hour and 13 million passengers per years. The domestic terminal consists of 111 check-in counter, 01 transfer passenger counter, 1 excess baggage counter, 19 boarding bridges, 4 baggage scanners, 4 magnetic gates, 6 arrival conveyer belt, 6 departure conveyer belt, 9 airport security gates, 2 elevators, and 10 handy metal detectors.
It also takes you around 10 minutes to move from the domestic terminal to the international one; therefore, you won’t meet much difficulty in case of having to transit in Ho Chi Minh City Airport.
1. FLIGHT from Saigon to Bangkok
- there are also direct flights from Saigon and Bangkok (or flights with stopover)
- airlines: Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific, VietJet Air, Nok Air, Air Asia, Thai Airways, Thai Lion Air
- flight time from Saigon to Bangkok is approximately 1.5 hour
- price of the one-way low-cost flight from Saigon to Bangkok is about $40-130/pp
- airport in Ho Chi Minh City – Tan Son Nhat International Airport
- airports in Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi Airport or Don Mueang Airport
- the plane is the fastest but the most expensive way of the transfer between Saigon and Bangkok
- Book your flights from Saigon to Bangkok online on Baolau icon-external-link-square or 12go.asia icon-external-link-square
Direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok is the most fastest option of transport.
Tips for Getting Around Ho Chi Minh City
- Renting a scooter is an option for getting around in Ho Chi Minh City though only expert drivers should even consider trying to navigate the city’s traffic.
- Renting a bicycle is also an option; although, some of the rusty rentals have seen better days. Remember that you’ll be at the bottom of the driver’s right-of-way hierarchy. Stay as far to the right as possible.
- Hop-On Hop-Off city tour buses make a one-hour loop past top tourist sights in the city between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. A ticket starts at $7.
Many hotels offer airport pickup for an additional fee. Although the airport transfer service costs more than taking a taxi, the peace of mind after a long flight—especially if arriving late—is worth it!
You can pretty well count on all motorcycle taxis to provide a wild ride, but drivers don’t want to crash any more than you do. Their livelihood depends on that motorcycle. That said, if at any time you feel unreasonably unsafe, you can always tap the driver and ask to get off immediately.
Keep small denominations of Vietnamese dong handy for paying drivers and bus fares. Drivers usually can’t make change for larger denominations.
Tipping isn’t expected, however, you can round up the fare to an even amount that’s convenient.
Hailing a passing taxi (ideally, an official VinaSun or Mai Linh car) usually results in a better experience than approaching one of the drivers who park outside of popular places to poach tourists.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Finding the best place to stay in Ho Chi Minh is the key to a successful trip. There are many hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, guesthouses, hostels, and Airbnb apartments, but some of them are quite far from the District 1, so you’re gonna have to spend time and money going around the city.
District 1 is the best area to stay in Ho Chi Minh City. If you plan to stay anywhere from 3 to 5 days in the city, I’d recommend finding a hotel there. It’s close to most of Ho Chi Minh tourist attractions, there are several tourist agencies to book tours around Saigon and also restaurants with English menu.
I found it a bit dirty and the pushy street vendors can be annoying, but District 1 is definitely the best area to stay in Saigon.
A city of lights
We stayed in a private ensuite room, in a big house located in a small alley behind the Ben Thanh Market. We paid 20usd per night, a really good deal. To find more Airbnb offers in Saigon click here and get 20 USD credit to spend on your first booking!
Choosing the best hotel in Vietnam can be tricky. There are many fake reviews, especially on Tripadvisor, so you never know if you will get a superb or excellent room, as the reviews say. During our trip to Vietnam, we usedBooking.comto search and book our accommodation. You can find everything from top luxurious hotels tobudget hostels, and the reviews are trustworthy. You must stay in the hotel to review a property on Booking.com, so the possibility of fake reviews is low..
Here is a list of the best places to stay in Ho Chi Minh city according to travelers on Booking.com:
Renting a scooter to explore Ho Chi Minh City is a must!
Where to stay Ho Chi Minh
Unlike Hanoi, where staying at the Old Quarter is pretty much the best option for first-time travellers, Ho Chi Minh City is a lot bigger and more spread out. With Grab, things aren’t really that bad, though the traffic can still be horrendous. I like to get around by walking, and you can just about get away with it in Hanoi. After sightseeing around the city for a week or so, here’s my advice on where to stay:
Near Ben Thanh Market
This is where all the actions are and very close to the French architectures. I end up walking pass here almost daily as I make my way to the Coffee Apartment or to meet a friend for lunch.
Budget: for dorms, Hostel JoJo Dorm offers great value for money. For a few more bucks, you can get your own room in Ben Thanh Motel with great basic amenities.
Mid-range: Adora Hotel is a clean and spacious hotel that’s great for its price point!
Splurge: Liberty Central Saigon Centre Hotel is a beautiful modern hotel with a rooftop pool!
Near backpacker Street
A little further away but near the party central, this area is pretty nice, too, with more options to choose from that’s also cheaper.
Budget: Despite being small and cramped, you won’t get a better deal than the dorms at Aloha Saigon. More expensive in comparison, Khoa Minh Guesthouse is highly rated with clean private rooms.
Mid-range: Spotlight Hotel is a great, clean, and beautiful budget stay. The only downside is that they don’t have an elevator but have over five floors of rooms.
Splurge: For a stylish stay at a beautiful apartment, look no further than Mayfair Suites!
Another great area to stay is the northern section of district 1 where all the beautiful restaurants are. It’s also where my favourite live music bar is!
Budget to Mid-range: Vika Homestay is a gorgeous little place that’s hidden from the hustle and bustle. Central Park Apartment is another great choice, though both are without elevator and might get a bit noisy.
Splurge: with Somerset Ho Chi Minh City and Novotel Saigon Centre, you are spoiled for top hotel choices here! Both have a pool, too!
Ho Chi Minh City Airport to City Center
The airport is not too far away from the city center, but the travel time can range from 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on your mode of transfer and traffic conditions.
As you exit the terminal, you’ll be greeted by taxi drivers offering their services. To avoid getting ripped off, don’t pay any attention to them. Drivers operating at the airport are notorious for overcharging clueless international passengers.
If you don’t want to deal with all the scam-dodging or navigating around an unfamiliar city with heavy luggage in tow, you can book a private car transfer with Klook. A driver will pick you up at the airport and take you straight to your hotel.
Here are the prices if your hotel is located in District 1 or District 3. Rates are per vehicle, NOT per person and are inclusive of toll fee.
1-3 pax: ₫280,000 (USD12, PHP641)4-5 pax: ₫326,094 (USD14, PHP748)6-12 pax: ₫628,895 (USD27, PHP1442)
As you can see, this is best if you’re a group.
Here are your public transportation options to get to the city center.
- By taxi. Taxi scams are prevalent at the airport, so it is important to be informed and know when to walk away. When you exit the terminal, turn left and you’ll see the main taxi queue. This is the only place where you should take a cab. Insist on using the meter and keep an eye on it, for it might be tampered with. WikiTravel specifically mentions Vinasun and Mai Linh taxi companies as trustworthy. If your hotel is in District 1, fare should be between ₫140,000 to ₫170,000 plus ₫10,000 toll fee.
- By Bus #152. These are the older green buses. The cheapest way to reach the city center. After exiting the terminal, turn right and you’ll see the airport’s bus station. A bus departs every 15-20 minutes until 6pm only. If your hotel is in District 1, you can alight at Pham Ngu Lao. Fare: ₫5000. An additional ₫5000 baggage fee is collected for bags heavier than 10kg.
- By Bus #109. These are the yellow airport shuttle buses that are in much better condition than the green ones. It leaves the airport for Pham Ngu Lao Street every 15-20 minutes from 5:30am-1:30am. Fare: ₫20,000. No additional charge for the luggage.
Grab also operates in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m just not familiar with how much the fare should be.
Pocket Wifi Rental and SIM Card in Ho Chi Minh City
Staying connected in Ho Chi Minh City will prove useful when going around because of the language barrier. You can use your smartphone to research, look for recommendations, or simply get in touch with loved ones back home.
You have two options: renting a pocket wi-fi or buying a local data SIM card. Klook offers both. They can be delivered to your hotel, so no need to worry about going out of the way to pick it up. Just ask the front desk if there is a pocket wifi or SIM card for you upon check in. The SIM card can also be picked up at the airport, if that’s what you prefer.
- Pocket Wifi Rental. Delivered to your hotel. Perfect for groups because you can connect up to 8 devices at once. Unlimited data usage. .
- Local Data SIM Card. Delivered to your hotel. .
- Local Data SIM Card. Airport pick up! Pick up is from 7am-7pm only. .
HO CHI MINH DAY TRIPS
CU CHI TUNNEL
If you want a hassle-free tour to Cu Chi Tunnel, you can BOOK A CU CHI TUNNEL TOUR HERE. Tour includes pick up/drop off (hotels in De Tham, Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien Street only), English-speaking guide, entrance fee and bottled water.
CU CHI TUNNEL
Address: Ấp Phú Hiệp, Phú Hiệp, Phú Mỹ Hưng, Củ Chi, Hồ Chí Minh
Open Hours: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Entrance Fee: VND 90,000 (PHP 200/ USD 4/ EURO 3.36/SGD 5.45/MYR 17)
MEKONG RIVER BOAT CRUISE
Soak in the relaxing atmosphere of Mekong Delta passing by rice paddies, fishing villages and traditional stilt houses while aboard a boat. You can BOOK A MEKONG RIVER BOAT TOUR HERE.
CU CHI TUNNEL AND CAO DAI TEMPLE TOUR
- Visit one of Vietnam’s most vibrant temples and understand how this intriguing religion was set up
- Then see how the Viet Cong survived the Vietnam War with an elaborate labyrinth of underground tunnels
Private Ho Chi Minh Airport Transfer with Meet & Greet Service
Arrive or depart stress-free at the Ho Chi Minh Airport by pre-booking your private Ho Chi Minh Airport transfer.See our Ho Chi Minh Airport private transfer options page for more information and pricing.
Unofficial Ho Chi Minh Airport Taxi Service or Hire Points
For an unofficial Ho Chi Minh Airport taxi, head to the departures level by turning right and walking to the far end of the building near the ATM’s and then head up the stairs or escalator. Grab an incoming taxi that is dropping off a passenger. Airport officials know that smart travellers are doing this, but it is not discouraged and you might even receive help from officials in getting a taxi!
IHateTaxis.com recommends the unofficial Ho Chi Minh Airport taxi service.
This is a great way to skip the taxi lines.
Pirate Ho Chi Minh Airport Taxi Serivce
Ho Chi Minh Airport taxi touts will approach you as you exit security and ask if you need a taxi. Many of these ‘drivers’ are found standing at the glass-door exit of the Ho Chi Minh Airport. This is a pirate taxi operation and they are not legally allowed to operate here.
IHateTaxis.com does not recommend the pirate Ho Chi Minh Airport taxi service.
Avoid talking to touts, you will be ripped off.
Ho Chi Minh Airport Taxi Scams
Good Cheap Hotels
Beware that Ho Chi Minh Airport taxi drivers will probably recommend “a good cheap hotel”, and deliver you to a hotel for commission. If you do not have accommodation booked, then this might be a good idea to allow the driver to “recommend” something. Problems may arise, however, when you ask a taxi driver to take to you to a hotel that does not pay commission. The driver may tell you the hotel has burnt down or it is dirty and dangerous. They will say anything to steer you somewhere else where a commission awaits.
Ridiculous Fixed Prices
Be on the watch for taxi touts who also dress in white shirt uniforms and brandish laminated “fixed prices” cards at a ridiculous VND 440,000 (or more) per car to the city hotels. They will be prepared to drop the price to VND 270,000 but it is still a rip-off. Ignore them and stick to the metered taxis.
Also be cautious of taxis which resemble the above mentioned reputable companies. To the unsuspecting visitor, they will charge absolutely outrageous fares and have been known to take off with your belongings still in the trunk. Use caution when hiring a taxis from the Ho Chi Minh Airport.
Price guide for Saigon
The following is a list of basic items you might need to purchase along with a rough guide to their cost. Current US$ exchange rate is around VND20,500.
Small bottle of water: VND5,000 to VND10,000 in the street, VND15,000 to VND30,000 in a restaurant.
Large bottle of water: VND10,000 to VND20,000 in the street, VND30,000 to VND40,000 in a restaurant.
A local beer (Saigon Beer / 333): VND15,000 in a street food restaurant or convenience store. VND20,00 to VND50,000 in a more upmarket or Western-style restaurant.
A ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk): VND10,000 to VND15,000 from a street vendor, VND20,000 to VND50,000 in a cafe.
A meal in a street food restaurant: VND20,000 to VND60,000.
A meal in a western or upmarket restaurant: VND100,000 to VND 500,000+.
A banh mi sandwich: VND15,000 to VND35,000.
A pair of “Ray-Ban” sunglasses from a street vendor: VND40,000 depending on your bartering skills. They’ll often start at around VND600,000. Beware, however, that counterfeit sunglasses frequently offer little to no UV protection.
Postage stamp to Europe: VND12,000. Available only in post offices.
Search for more Saigon Hotels
How to Get to Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is served by Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport (IATA: SGN), Vietnam’s busiest airport. It’s designed to accommodate 25 million passengers, but in 2016, record hit over 32 million, so expect some congestion if this is your gateway to the city.
Part of the reason why Ho Chi Minh City is popular among tourists is its proximity to other destinations not just in Vietnam but also Cambodia, making it a compelling entry point for those planning a multi-city or multi-country backpacking tour. From Ho Chi Minh, you can easily reach Mui Ne and Da Lat, and even Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
V. Flight status & transit at Ho Chi Minh airport
At present, there are three domestic airlines operating at Ho Chi Minh Airport including Vietnam Airline, Vietjet Air, and Jetstar Pacific Airline. You can check the flight status of Ho Chi Minh Airport (SGN Airport) at:
To book a ticket, you can visit the website of the airlines as follows:
- Vietnam Airline:www.vietnamairlines.com
- VietJet Air:www.vietjetair.com
- Jetstar Pacific:www.jetstar.com
Or else, at the website of some online travel agency such as:
- Avia Vietnam:avia.vn
Now, there are 45 international airlines operating at Ho Chi Minh Airport, 6 ones of which including LOT Polish Airlines operating seasonally.
Busiest international flights Out of Ho Chi Minh
International Airport by Frequency
|2||Bangkok(Don Mueang + Suvarnabhumi)||104|
|6||Tokyo(Haneda + Narita)||42|
|20||Paris-Charles de Gaulle||7|
|30||Bandar Seri Begawan||6|
|37||Moscow(Domodedovo + Sheremetyevo)||2|
I’ve totally scrapped the links to all the other online routes and timetables. They were forever going down and creating frustration for my readers and me. The absolutely best way to find a bus route to where you want to go is to either download this fantastic FREE App or use the web version. It’s in both Vietnamese and English and is incredibly easy to use. CLICK HERE to access the APP.
The only downside at this point is it doesn’t have the details of the new SHUTTLE BUS. I’ll give you more on that below.
Here’re a couple of screen shots to help you find your way:
Crazy, helpful bus APP to help you find your way around Ho Chi Minh City
Look up the entire route including each stop along the way
Use the navigation function to find transfer point and connecting buses.
You can travel from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne (and Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh) via bus, train, private car/van, or motorbike.
The Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne route is a well-trodden trail for backpackers, kitesurfers, and all you nomads looking to swap out the city streets for the beach.
Mui Ne’s beach front.
I’ve been coming to Mui Ne for a good few years now, and in that space of time, I’ve made the journey from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne (and back) more times than I care to remember. So take it from someone who’s done this a lot, the following is everything you need to know in order to have a smooth, stress-free trip.
We’ll look at how to get from Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) to Mui Ne by
- Private car
- Private van
We’ll then quickly break down each option based on its cost, timing, comfort, and overall awesomeness (think sightseeing and soaking in the countryside).
You might also like:
- 5 Waterproof Smartwatches for Kitesurfing, Windsurfing and Sailing
- Best Surf Movies on Netflix
- Thailand’s Best Kite Spots: Ultimate Guide
- Sorrento Beach Club: Phan Rang’s stunning Kiteboarding Center
How far is it from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne?
There’s close to 220 km of distance from Saigon to Mui Ne, which takes anywhere from 3.5-7 hours to cover (depending on traffic and which mode of transport you choose).
The fastest way to get from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne is by private car, which typically takes around 4 hours (as little as 3.5 hours if you don’t hit any traffic or make any stops).
If you’re looking to get some kite lessons, book your lessons with the best kite school in Mui Ne right now!
What to eat in Saigon
There are so many delicious dishes in Saigon that could write books about them all. In fact, I nearly did during this Ho Chi Minh food guide. My favourites dishes were bun mam (seafood noodles) and com tam (succulent pork with rice and a gooey fried egg). These are local to Saigon and rarely found in Hanoi or Hoi An. Don’t leave until you’ve had them all Browse food tours in Ho Ch Minh and check out EatWith, a website connecting travellers with local chefs, cooks and food lovers.
Related reads: My Hanoi street food & Hoi An street food guides
How to get around Ho Chi Minh
While many of Saigon’s sights are walkable distances from each other, I’d recommend getting taxis between those that aren’t. Download the Grab app and opt for scooters rather than cars to save money. One day I rode seven times for under 150,000 VND ($7). Bargain!
Getting there and away
Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport flies all over Vietnam, greater Asia and internationally. A cab ride from the airport is around 100,000 VND or you can pre-book your transfer.If you’re travelling north in Vietnam, you can catch an 11-hour night bus between Saigon and Nha Trang from 200,000 VND. The train is slightly quicker at 7 hours but often double the price. Other options include an 8-hour bus to Da Lat or a 5-hour bus to Mui Ne. My flight to Hoi An (via Da Nang airport) set me back $50 and saved me two night buses: Saigon to Nha Trang then Nha Trang to Hoi An. Keep an eye out for bargain flights if you’re short of time or travelling long distances.
Thanks for reading my Ho Chi Minh itinerary!
Northern Vietnam posts:
- 3 x Northern Vietnam itineraries
- 3 days in Hanoi for first-timers
- Where to eat street food in Hanoi
- Where to drink coffee in Hanoi
- The hidden gems in Hanoi
- Truc Bach, Hanoi visitors guide
- Ngoc Ha, Hanoi visitors guide
- The ultimate guide to Hanoi egg coffee
- How to spend 3 days in Sapa
- Ha Long Bay guide and tour review
- Ninh Binh from Hanoi day trip
Central Vietnam posts:
- The ultimate Hoi An itinerary
- The best Hoi An cafes
- Where to eat vegetarian food in Hoi An
- A complete street food guide to Hoi An
- Co-working cafes for digital nomads in Hoi An
- Hue Abandoned Waterpark
- How to spend 2 days in Hue
- Phong Nha National Park travel guide
See you next time for more adventures,
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Vietnam quick linksFlights – I use Skyscanner and Kayak and search by month to see the cheapest dates.Confused about visas? I use iVisa to check visa requirements and apply for visas online.Stay connected with E-sim data plans that don’t require delivery or collection; just span the QR code.In my opinion, Lonely Planet offer the best guidebooks. Get the latest Lonely Planet Vietnam.For Vietnam buses and trains, I use 12GoAsia. The search feature allows you to compare prices and durations. I use Booking.com for accommodation. They have the best range of hotels and self-catering apartments, plus you can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.For activities, I use GetYourGuide as they have a huge range of affordable tours.Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance.Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!