A Backpackers Guide to Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is Vietnam’s biggest city, located in the south. It’s a noisy, dynamic, bright city which also serves as the business and financial hub of the country. Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most modern cities in Vietnam where you’ll see skyscrapers and tall financial towers. Many travelers either end in Ho Chi Minh City or begin there, depending on if they want to go north to south or the other way around. Either way, it’s a city that one must not forget to visit. There’s plenty of things to see and do here, and if you’re on a backpackers budget, you can still manage just fine.

Best season to visit Ho Chi Minh City

There’s not really a bad season to visit the south of Vietnam since the weather here is mild and warm all year round. But if you want to be guaranteed good weather, come during dry season, which runs from December to April. It’s a bit cooler than during the hottest months of the year, when the sun can feel a bit overwhelming, and you’ll avoid any rain showers as well. If it’s sun you’re looking for, you’ll no doubt get it here, no matter the season you go.

Where to stay

Vietnam is home to many budget hostels and you can find a bunch of them here in Ho Chi Minh City. There’s plenty of so-called “backpacker hostels” where you can meet other travelers and sleep in dorms (there’s usually also private dorms as well). Here are some of the most affordable and social hostels:

1. The Hideout

If you’re looking for the ultimate social hostel, you’ve found it. They offer great value for your money and you can enjoy their rooftop bar which overlooks the city, clean facilities, tourist desk who can help you book tours to Cu Chi tunnels for example, and they also offer free drinks from 7-8 PM. They arrange events such as pub crawls, beer pong tournaments, ladies nights and neon parties. It’s perfect for the ones who are traveling alone or just want to get to know other people. It’s also very centrally located, so if you want to take the party outside of the hostel, you’re just a few minutes away from the big party street ‘Bui Vien’. The prices start from about 6 dollars and up.

2. Flipside Hostel HCM

It’s a relatively new hostel in HCM, located at District 1. The hostel has a swimming pool, comfortable beds, a social vibe and free breakfast – which is absolutely perfect if you want to save some money on food. As many hostels in Vietnam, they offer pub crawls and even parties on their own rooftop. The prices start from about 6 dollars per night.

3. Prei Nokor Hostel

If you would like to stay in a more calm hostel,  you should check this one out. This hostel offers a calm oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city and anyone who loves comfort will like it here. It’s very centrally located, just in the heart of Saigon, so you don’t have to go far to see all the main sites. The prices start from 7 dollars.

What to do

If you don’t want to spend any money, the best thing for you is to walk around in HCM. You could visit some historical landmarks such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, whom are both two beautiful pieces of French architecture. You can also stroll around on Nguyen Hue Street, which is one of the main streets of HCM. When night falls, head over to Bui Vien street, the intense party street that has been compared to Khao San Road in Bangkok. After a long day of walking, grab a beer in Bui Vien (which will only cost you roughly 50 cents) and enjoy the crazy city of Ho Chi Minh City.

Just remember to apply for a Vietnam visa. If you’re not on the visa exempt list, it is required of you to show the immigration officers a valid visa. You can apply online or through a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate. You have two online options: first is to get a Visa on Arrival, which is the most popular way to acquire a visa, or you get an E-Visa. However, the latter is only eligible for certain countries, so if you’re not sure if you can apply for an E-Visa, check with your embassy.