I was in Ho Chi Minh City back in 2007, and the city seemed simpler and more pedestrian. Ten years later, modern skyscrapers are popping up everywhere, and construction cranes dominate the sky.
Visitors go to Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, to see war relics from the Vietnam War and the French colonial architecture influences all over the city. And sampling Southern Vietnamese cuisine is high on everyone’s list. Meanwhile, traffic is in complete chaos and yet there is some sort of organization where cars, motorcycles and pedestrians can coexisting.
The combination of the different sights and sounds can either overwhelm or excite you. Either way, there wasn’t a chance for us to leave this city out of my three week Vietnam itinerary!
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Why Ho Chi Minh City is Great for a Female Solo Traveller
Well, here’s the thing, I have a split opinion about Ho Chi Minh City.
I like this city because of the vibrant city life and the enormous amount of food options (keep reading for the long list of food options below). From accommodations to food and almost anything else, everything is very economical. From the affordability perspective, Ho Chi Minh City is great for any travellers. And not to mention that it is a great hub to hop around in Asia.
As a solo female traveller, I did have to take extra precaution roaming around the city, especially after the little incident. Generally speaking, tourists stand out more in the crowd since a lot of locals are on their motorbikes and tourists tend to be on foot mostly. Pick-pocketing and snatch theft is a problem in this city. But this is always the case with any major city in any country. Just because I had an incident, it doesn’t mean it will happen to everyone. As a smart solo female traveller, the rule is always to practice safety precautions wherever you go.
I would still recommend everyone, including a solo female traveller, to visit Ho Chi Minh City. It is a vibrant city, and everyone should at least experience this city at least once in your life!
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Most visitors stay in District 1 since most of the attractions are within this area. Accommodations range from a dorm bed to glitzy international chain hotels. Check Agoda (probably one of the best sites for finding accommodations in Asia) for all your accommodation needs.
During my first visit to Ho Chi Minh City, I stayed around the backpacker’s area where accommodation is plentiful and inexpensive. You are literally in the heart of all the action! This area comes alive after dark where you can find cheap food and cheap beer served on a low table and small stools.
However, if you are sensitive to noise (people honk their car horns all hours of the day!), avoid Bui Vien and any main roads like Nguyễn Thị Nghĩa.
During this trip, I stayed in a wonderful Airbnb unit near Ben Thanh Market. Maison31 Homestay is an absolute dream! The apartment is newly renovated, modern and very clean. And they brought water and fresh towels for me each day. While I was going through my ordeal of losing my laptop and mobile phone, the hosts were so generous and helped me replace all my stuff. If anyone goes to Ho Chi Minh City, definitely stay at this charming place.
Where to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City
With influences by the French and as well as neighbouring countries like China and Thailand, Southern Vietnamese cuisine has an eclectic mix of flavours that you just cannot get enough of.
I only sampled some of the fantastic food in Ho Chi Minh City and here are some places I tried. There is still so much more to discover!
- Quán ăn Thanh Bình – try bún thịt nướng (grilled pork and rice noodle, a southern favourite) or anything on the menu, they all look great
- Bánh Mì Huynh Hòa – try their famous seven meat banh mi and be prepared to line up if you go in the evening
- Bánh Mì Hòa Mã – their breakfast, banh mi op la, is outstanding and comes with the ambience of sitting in an alley with motorcycles driving by
- Nam Giao Restaurant – walk into the alley and you will find this restaurant that serves southern and central Vietnamese cuisine
- The Lunch Lady – made famous by one of the best travel shows, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. She is THE lunch lady in Saigon that serves amazing Vietnamese food
- Secret House – this is a fancy Vietnamese restaurant and everything on the menu looks yummy
- Miyama Cafe – Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of Japanese restaurants, and everything looks beautiful in this cafe! Try their lunch set and afternoon tea set
- Banh Da Cua Di Ly – the cute little restaurant on the second floor serves all the southern Vietnamese cuisine in the most appetizing way
Coffee Shops / Bars
- Maison Marou – lots of delicious coffee and chocolate treats
- The Workshop – a cool spot in the city to sip coffee and do some work
- L’Usine – 70B Le Loi, District 1; an Instagrammable cafe that has great coffee and desserts
- Cafe Runam – classy cafe space with a great coffee selection and local food
- Rex Hotel Rooftop Bar – the hotel is centrally located, and the view from the rooftop bar is definitely worth the pricey cocktail
- Beer Street – everything comes alive when the sun goes down. Grab a stool here for cheap beer and food, and people watch
What to Do in Ho Chi Minh City in 3 Days
Most of Ho Chi Minh City’s attractions are within District 1 where almost everything is easily accessible by foot. However, you may not want to walk too much as the heat and humidity are quite brutal if you are not used to it. And another option is to hop on a Grab bike to get around the city to make the most of your time there.
Here are some of Ho Chi Minh City’s best attractions which you can see while spending 3 days in Saigon:
Day 1 in Ho Chi Minh City
Central Post Office
War Remnants Museum
Day 2 in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts
Dong Khoi Avenue (Scenic Avenue)
Ho Chi Minh City Opera House
People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City
Ben Thanh Market
Day 3 in Ho Chi Minh City
On day 3, spend the day touring through Cu Chi Tunnel and Mekong Delta. They are both half-day trips which you can go with a tour company. You can find all the tour companies in the Bui Vien area or book ahead online.
Cu Chi Tunnel
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