Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) is a city that allows you to see its past and experience its present at the same time. With its colonial structures, war relics from the Vietnam War, modern skyscrapers, and upscale shopping malls and sports clubs, Ho Chi Minh has seamlessly fused the old with the new, resulting in a vibrant and fascinating city that's home to a diverse community of people.
- Language: Vietnamese
- Currency: Vietnamese Dong (1 VND = PHP 0.23)
- Payment Options: Vietnam is generally a cash-based society where card use among the locals (while increasing) is still fairly rare. It’s more convenient to just use the numerous ATMs around. There is generally a 20 thousand to 30 thousand ATM usage fee per 2 million but again that can vary. The 28Degree card is also popular among locals.
- Plug: The power outlets in Ho Chi Minh are type A (two flat vertical pins), type C and type F (two round pins) fit most Vietnam electrical outlets. If your power plug has 3 pins, you might need an adapter as most electrical outlets here do not include a grounding hole. Electricity supply in Vietnam is 220 Volts at 50 Hz.
What to Know Before Visiting Ho Chi Minh
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's largest city by population, was formerly known as Saigon. The name change goes back to 1976 but you can still hear some visitors and residents call it Saigon.
- Do not drink the tap water while traveling through Vietnam. Vendors are easily found around the streets selling water bottles but make sure the bottles are completely sealed. Most hotels and attractions provide safe drinking water for free or for purchase so it's best to stick to those instead.
- Vietnam is heaven for food lovers. They serve up unique yet delicious dishes that you won't be able to forget. Make sure to go where locals dine to get a better feel of Vietnam's flavorful cuisine.
- Three days won't suffice for a visitor. It would be best to try booking your stay for at least one week to really discover what Vietnam has in store for you.
As Filipino passport holders, you won’t need a visa if you decide to stay a maximum of 14 days in Vietnam. If you decide to stay longer than 14 days, you’ll need to apply for a visa.
For more information, you can email the Philippine Embassy with their official address at hanoipe dfa.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is during Dry Season which would be from December to April. March, April, and May are considered the hottest months. Temperatures reach up to as high as 39°C (102°F), but there's less humidity, which makes it tolerable.
Ben Thanh Market is the first choice for locals and visitors when it comes to currency exchange.
Here is the list of the recommended money changers:
1. Ha Tam Jewelry
Located across the west entrance of Ben Thanh Market.
- Location: 2 Nguyen An Ninh, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 3823 7243
- Operating hours: Daily l 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM
2. Ben Thanh Money Changer
Located about 9 meters away from the west entrance of Ben Thanh Market.
- Location: 30-36 Phan Boi Chau, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 97 375 67 76
- Operating hours: Daily l 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM
3. Hoang Thu
Situated across the north entrance of Ben Thanh Market.
- Location: 178 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 90 854 47 44
- Operating hours: Daily l 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM
4. Ben Thanh Jewelry
Located across the north entrance of Ben Thanh Market.
- Location: 166 Le Thanh Ton, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Phone: +84 8 2210 4929
- Operating hours: Daily l 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Connectivity in Ho Chi Minh
The average Internet speed in Vietnam has risen to 9.5 megabits per second (Mbps). Free Wi-Fi is available in most Ho Chi Minh cafés and bars, and if you decide to stay in town for an extended period your best bet is to purchase a 4G mobile access with a local SIM card.
Getting Around Ho Chi Minh
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- Taxi: Taking a taxi is the most convenient way to get to your destination in Ho Chi Minh. It's also considered the safest at night. It would be best to choose a reliable taxi company like the Mai Linh (white and green) and Vinasun (white).
- Bus: The best way to save up on transportation during your trip is to take the public bus system in Ho Chi Minh City. The bus schedule runs from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM and will take you to downtown Ho Chi Minh.
- Grab or Uber: Transportation apps are also a great choice for tourists. They're easy to set up and come with an English language interface. You can choose from a taxi, private car, or motorcycle. All three are safe to use as modes of transportation around the city.
Things to do in Ho Chi Minh
- Experience and relive history at the War Remnants Museum: This museum details the effects of the 30-year long war between the Soviet-supported North and the US-backed South.
- Crawl like a soldier at Củ Chi Tunnels: The Củ Chi Tunnels offer the experience of living like the soldiers of the Vietnam War. Get your half-day pass here.
- Ask for miracles at the Mariamman Hindu Temple: Built in the 19th century by wealthy entrepreneurs from India, Mariamman Hindu Temple is devoted to the goddess of the rain Mariamman. Here, you can pray and ask for miracles, for visiting this temple is believed to provide luck and wealth to its visitors.
Tourist Spots in Ho Chi Minh
- Cao Dai Temple: An ornate and colorful temple built in 1955. Caodaists believe that all religions are ultimately the same and they strive to promote world peace and harmony. One of the highlights of visiting this temple is during worship when Caodaists pray in flowing robes in different colors, which depend on their roles. Get your full-day tour pass here.
- Mekong Delta: Known as the rice bowl of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is a vast area where boats, houses, and markets float on interconnected rivers, canals, and streams. Explore this world-famous delta by joining the Full-Day Mekong Discovery Tour.
- Saigon River: The Saigon River is a body of water that flows from Cambodia through South Vietnam before merging into the South China Sea which is close to the Mekong Delta. Purchase your ticket here to experience a dinner cruise along this iconic river.
What to Eat in Ho Chi Minh
- Banh Mi: A must-try Vietnamese sandwich. It comes in different forms, but the authentic Banh Mi is made with crispy baguette stuffed with pork, luncheon meats, cured pork skin, and slices of cucumbers, carrots, and radish pickles. It's seasoned with pâté and mayonnaise and topped with shoots of coriander and freshly pounded chilies.
- Pho: A soup dish present in almost every–if not all–Vietnamese restaurant's menu. Pho is composed of soft rice noodles in a tasty beef or chicken broth and served with a plate of fresh herbs native to Vietnam, including sawtooth herb, mint, and coriander.
- Bun Rieu: Another popular Vietnamese soup dish. Its soup consists of crab stock and tomatoes, which sweeten the dish despite its seafood flavor. Rice vinegar is also added to give the dish zestiness. Its noodles, though similar in shape and size to spaghetti, are made from soft rice. Completing the dish are slices of fried tofu, pork, meatballs, congealed pig’s blood, and a chunk of crab paste.
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh
- Hotel Nikko Saigon: The perfect choice for special occasions. Hotel Nikko Saigon has clean, elegantly appointed suites with beautiful bathrooms, and offers delicious meals and impeccable service. The staff is so efficient that you can even have your room tidied twice a day.
- New World Saigon Hotel: The top choice for couples seeking a romantic getaway or a honeymoon retreat. The hotel is grand and luxurious but warm and welcoming at the same time. It’s only 2.48 km away from the Saigon Railway Station so you can easily get around the city from the hotel.
- Tan Son Nhat Saigon Hotel: Highly recommended by guests who have stayed in the hotel. The rooms are classically designed, clean, and comfortable. What's more, the hotel is near the airport so you don't have to rush for your flight. Tan Son Nhat has everything you need for a great stay.
- Bay Hotel Ho Chi Minh: It's as amazing as it is photogenic! This hotel combines fun, modern design with great hospitality and amenities. I'ts near Saigon Square 2, Ton Duc Thang Museum, Vincom Center Shopping Mall, and Opera House. The only problem, you might never want to leave its premises.
- Hoang Vinh Hotel: A budget hotel in the best location. Hoang Vinh Hotel has clean rooms and all the basic necessities you'll need for a comfortable stay. You'll find a convenient store beside the hotel and you can easily walk to well-known tourist spots like Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, Tao Dan Park, Xa Loi Pagoda, and the War Remnants Museum.