Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon was the 19th and 20th century capital of French Indochina and a major outpost of the Vietnamese-American war. Today Vietnam’s southern metropolis, renamed Ho Chi Minh, reminds us of New York City with its grit and exhaust, blaring horns, bustling population and crumbling colonial infrastructure.

For visits up to 30 days, many nationalities can apply for an eVisa in advance of travel.

Walk or take taxis or Ubers to get around. A trip from the airport to the city centre should be around $10. Only use the green or white cabs from the Mai Linh and Vinasun companies. Make sure the driver is wearing a uniform, that his identification is clearly listed upfront and that the meter is on.

EAT

Make sure to try a bowl of beef pho, fresh and fried spring rolls, and a Vietnamese omelet.

Hoa Tuc Authentic, contemporary Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant also offers cooking classes.

Quán Ngon 138 An airy, two-story restaurant with traditional fare.

DRINK

The Vietnamese do not mess around when it comes to coffee (and they make it strong!). Pop into one of the city’s many cafes for a sweet iced coffee.

Rex Hotel Garden Bar The Rex was made famous during the Vietnam War as the American military would hold a daily conference here. Today its rooftop bar has great views of the city and live music in the evenings.

PLAY

Cu Chi Tunnels A short trip outside the city, the tunnels were an underground network built and used by Viet Cong soliders. They played a critical role in the Viet Cong’s resistance against the Americans during the war. Book a half day trip through your hotel or a local tour shop.

Ben Thanh Market The city’s largest marketplace, stop by for local handicrafts, souvenirs and food. Make sure to haggle!

Independence Palace Also known as Reunification Palace, it was home to the President of South Vietnam during the war.

Mekong Delta if you have enough time, take a day trip to explore the delta and Vietnamese countryside. Book through your hotel or a local tour shop.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Central Post Office This colonial vestige is incredibly well-preserved.

STAY

District 1, also known as Bến Nghé, is the city centre and provides convenient access to most sites, restaurants and nightlife.