Ho Chi Minh City's Coolest Places for Backpackers
By Billie Tyler
The mighty Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon before the Vietthewar, is the biggest city in Vietnam and the most historically rich.
Famous for its cafe culture, intensely strong coffee, traditional noodle soups, pork rolls and rowdy nightlife, this city is not one to miss!
Most Asian cities like Bangkok and Dempassur have similarities but this rich, fastly developing city is like no other. So, how to wander Ho Chi Minh like a boss?
Let’s see, shall we?
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City
When stepping off the plane you’ll see plenty of shops selling SIM cards which I'd advise you get immediately. MobiFone and Viettel are the best servers in Vietnam with the most coverage. 180’000VND ($8) will get you 5GB that’ll expire after thirty days.
Getting into the city is extremely easy and quick. Taking a taxi into the city is the easiest option and costs only $10, for budget travelers I'd suggest you take the airport shuttle for 80 cents.
Ho Chi Minh Accommodations
District One and District Three are the ‘’go to’’ areas for backpackers. The majority of cheap hostels are based in District One. I stayed in a lovely homestay called Saigon Cozy House.
For only $14 I bagged a lovely double room with wifi, air conditioning, and a hot shower. Directly opposite is the popular Friends Hostel which my friends highly recommended. The homestay is in the best location with Chill Sky Bar, the bus station and sense night market all a two-minute walk away.
What to see in the city center
Sense Market - District one
Open from 10 am - 10 pm, Sense is the best indoor, air-conditioned market to have lunch when the heat becomes too much. Inside you’ll find an international selection of food, everything from Korean to Indian and local cuisines.
My personal recommendation is to avoid the sushi as it's served hot and the pizza from the Vietnamese stalls are served with no tomato sauce and a sprinkle of sugar?
Stick to The Pizza Company. This market also has a pharmacy, bookstores, clothing stores and an outside area where you can watch local musicians perform.
A great place for family dinners where everyone is cared for. There is also a Turkish man dressed in traditional clothes selling ice cream, he puts on a show to entertain children and families alike.
The Ice Cream Challenge - District one
Ikem ice cream shop provides you with a fun challenge everyone should attempt to complete. You pay 99’0000VND ($4.30) for 1kg of tasty gelato.
You have four minutes to eat everything if you win you’ll be rewarded 1’000’000VND ($44). Only two people have completed this challenge in the last four years, make sure to give it a go!
Liem Barber Shop - District one
This barber shop is followed by nearly half a million people on Facebook and Instagram, making it one of the most famous barbers in Asia. Even with twenty-five experienced barbers working at once, you definitely need to get their first thing to avoid the midday queue. People come from all over the world to get their hair cut here and it’s incredibly cheap! I paid $2 for hair tattoo with a cut-throat razor, it looks awesome!
Ho Chi Minh Nightlife
If you’re wanting a proper night out in the city there are no shortage of choices. I grabbed a taxi to visit the most recommended clubs in one night, and here’s what I experienced.
Chill Sky Bar - District one
The infamous Chill Sky Bar rated as number two in Trip Advisor's ‘’Must-See Attractions’’ and is certainly something you would not want to miss. The sky bar is located on the 26th floor and offers free entry provided that you buy a drink.
Drinks are expensive even by western standards, cocktails start a 300’000VND ($13) unless you arrive at happy hour (5:30 - 8) when all drinks, wines, and snacks are half price.
Outside on the balcony, you will find a bar, comfortable seating areas, a DJ booth with a spectacular view of the city. A smart dress code is in place, so no baggy harem pants and sandals!
S5 Club - District One
Now, this is the opposite of a recommendation. When arriving outside the club I was greeted by two angry bouncers yelling at me to go away, when asking why they told me it’s because I’m white then literally put me back in the taxi. Racist and rude, it’s best to avoid this club.
Apocalypse now - District One
A large spacious bar with a dance floor, multiple bars, a sports area and a restaurant. It is also the longest-running venue in all of Vietnam!
Playing EDM and offering free entry all night long brings to the western travelers and expats.
The drinks start at 45,000VND ($3.50) for a beer and 80,0000 ($12) for liquor. One main attraction of this bar is the incredibly beautiful prostitutes that frequent it. With cheap drinks, soccer matches and young girls, no wonder this is the most popular bar for western men.
Lush - District One
An incredibly commercial two-story club with half the space reserved by VIP’S. Weirdly, it’s free entry but unless there’s room on the dance floor there’s literally nowhere else to stand. The main area plays
EDM while the smaller room plays US rap and trap, which I personally enjoyed the most.
Beers start at 120’000VND ($5.20) and liquor starts at 200’000VND ($8.80) which makes it no place for a budget backpacker.
Pham Ngu Lao Street - District Three
A backpacker's heaven, my favorite! Bars and bars lined up one after another selling cheap drinks and playing all genres of music. It’s the perfect place to meet people if traveling alone or you just want to dance until the night is over, which recently is 5 am.
Getting out of Ho Chi Minh
Flying - If you’ve got the money and limited amount of time flying is the easiest option. The airport is only a twenty-minute taxi ride from the city center.
Train - You can get anywhere in Vietnam by train but it’s actually the longest route. I wouldn't suggest getting a train if you’re on a time limit.
Bus - The main source of transport for traveling in Vietnam. Buses run from Pham Ngu Lao bus station, district one, to anywhere in the country. The closest ‘’must see’’ destination in Dalat which is a seven-hour bus ride costing only 270’000VTD ($12)
If You Go
Accommodation (Including Saigon Cozy and Friends Hostel) - www.agoda.com
Liem’s Barber Shop Address - 79 Nguyễn Sơn Hà, phường 5, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh
Cheap taxi app - Uber
Best currency converter app - XE
Billie Tyler is a 23-year-old traveler from Somerset, UK. She has been traveling for the last four years, managing to explore 41 countries. During her time abroad she started blogging her experiences and personal encounters. She is currently based in Vietnam until her next big adventure to Myanmar.
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