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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 our itinerary!
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!
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What to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
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.
Must-see Attractions in Ho Chi Minh City
Here are some of Ho Chi Minh City’s attractions which can be done in two days or so:
Central Post Office
War Remnants Museum
Fine Arts Museum
Dong Khoi Avenue (Scenic Avenue)
Le Van Tam Park
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City
Visit Ben Thanh Market for all your souvenir needs. But make sure you bargain with the store owners. If you have extra time in the city, there are a few shopping places like Vincom Centre, Saigon Centre and Takashimaya (which is my favourite store in the city).
Interested in tours in Ho Chi Minh City? Try one of these tours below:
Day Trips from Ho Chi Minh City
And definitely, make your way out of the city to see either the Cu Chi Tunnel or Mekong Delta. They are both day trips which you can go with a tour company. You can find all the tour companies in the Bui Vien area.
For tours outside of Saigon, check out one of these tours:
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!
Banh Canh Cua – 87 Tran Khac Chan, District 1; try bánh canh cua tôm (crab and shrimp tapioca noodle soup), might be the best noodle soup I ever had!
Quán ăn Thanh Bình – 140 Lê Thánh Tôn, Bến Thành, District 1; 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 – 26 Le Thi Rieng, District 1; try their famous seven meat banh mi and be prepared to line up if you go in the evening
Bánh Mì Hòa Mã – 53 Đường Cao Thắng, District 3; 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 – 136/15 Le Thanh Ton, District 1; do directly into the alley, and you will find this restaurant that serves southern and central Vietnamese cuisine
Com Tam Ba Ghien – 84 Đặng Văn Ngữ, District 10; their pork “broken rice” is delicious!
Secret House – 55/1 Lê Thị Hồng Gấm, District 1; this is a fancier restaurant and everything on the menu looks yummy
Miyama Cafe – L3 – 01, Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi Blvd, District 1; 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 – 103 Dong Khoi Street, District 1; the cute little restaurant on the second floor serves all the southern cuisine in the most appetizing way
Coffee Shops / Bars
Maison Marou – 167-169 Calmette Street, District 1; lots of delicious coffee and chocolate treats
The Workshop – 27 Ngo Duc Ke Street, District 1; 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 – 96 Mạc Thị Bưởi, Bến Nghé, District 1; classy cafe space with a great coffee selection and local food
Rex Hotel Rooftop Bar – 141 Nguyễn Huệ, District 1; the hotel is centrally located, and the view from the rooftop bar is definitely worth the pricey cocktail
Beer Street – Bui Vien Street, District 1; everything comes alive when the sun goes down. Grab a stool here for cheap beer and food, and people watch
Other Places Worth Trying
Bánh Xèo 46A – 46A Đinh Công Tráng, District 1; their famous large bánh xèo (egg fried crepe)
Banh Cuon Hai Nam – 11A Đường Cao Thắng, District 3; a northern favourite, bánh cuốn (Vietnamese noodle roll) is probably one of my favourite Vietnamese food!
The Lunch Lady – 23 Hoang Sa Street, District 1; made famous by Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations, she is THE lunch lady in Saigon that serves amazing food
Quan 94 – 94 Dinh Then Hoang, District 1; all the crab dishes are worth trying
Bánh Tằm Bì Đồng Tháp – 352 Nguyễn Trãi, District 5; try bánh tằm bì (thick rice and tapioca noodles with creamy coconut milk, only available in Southern Vietnam)
Bún Bò Chú Há – 300 Võ Văn Tần, District 3; try bún bò huế (beef noodle soup)
Bánh cuốn Kim Khánh – 100/7 Nguyễn Công Trứ, District 1; their bánh cuốn (Vietnamese noodle rolls) looks amazing
Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang Nhân Quán – 72 Nguyen Thuong Hien, District 3; there are all kinds of soup noodles to choose from
Bun Cha Ha Noi Nem Cua Bien – 26 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1; try bun cha (grilled pork with noodles), a delicious Hanoi dish
Bánh Khọt cô Ba Vũng Tàu – 4 Hoàng Hoa Thám, District 3; their bánh knot (small shrimp mini-pancake) is supposed to be amazing
Bánh cuốn Song Mộc – Hẻm 107, Đường Vườn Chuối, District 3; I really like bánh cuốn, which probably explains why I keep looking for places that have good bánh cuốn
Quan Bui – 17a Ngô Văn Năm, District 1; a fancier restaurant that is a favourite amongst travellers
Dong Ba Hue Restaurant – 110A Nguyen Du, District 1: try bún bò huế (beef noodle soup)
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.
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