Vietnam
Mar 2024
1 month

Ho Chi Minh

A pilgrimage to the home of the Banh Mi.

[Local Time}
{Temperature}
°C ·
[Description}

Formerly known as 'Saigon', the city has played a pivotal role throughout Vietnamese history.

Bearing witness to French colonisation and historic events of the Vietnam War. Today, it is the country's largest city and a vibrant metropolis for business and leisure.

Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Definitely worth a week or two if traveling through Vietnam or in the region. Otherwise, not quite enough to justify a month-long stay.

🌎
Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Definitely worth a week or two if traveling through Vietnam or in the region. Otherwise, not quite enough to justify a month-long stay.

Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Definitely worth a week or two if traveling through Vietnam or in the region. Otherwise, not quite enough to justify a month-long stay.

👎
Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Definitely worth a week or two if traveling through Vietnam or in the region. Otherwise, not quite enough to justify a month-long stay.

🛫
Vietnamese Dong (VND)
8.9 million
💰 Great value
🧳 Would like to return

Summary

I visited Ho Chi Minh in 2018 on a south to north trip of Vietnam and the hectic, chaotic atmosphere was always somewhere I'd wanted to return to for a longer stint.

Having just finished a month in Bangkok, it was the obvious next stop.

Accommodation
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Whilst not the haven for Airbnbs which Bangkok is, there's still a lot of great value options on the market. I stayed in the Millennium Masteri apartment building which whilst having a few failings, was a reasonable base for a month.

Certain buildings (including Millennium) technically do not allow short term rentals and may restrict your access to certain communal areas if you are not a permanent resident.

It's worth checking Google Maps for insights into specific apartment buildings which you may not be privy to on Airbnb.

info
New legislation
Recent changes introduced by the Turkish government has made short-term rentals for under 100 days more restricted. Keep an eye on Reddit threads for up-to-date assessments of how the new legislation is impacting short-term rentals in practice.
Places to work
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

If you plan on working from a cafe, Ho Chi Minh possesses one of the best selections of work-friendly cafes I can recall visiting with many open late into the night.

All across the city there are coffee shops with dedicated working areas where you would have no problems working from for a morning or afternoon. Internet speeds are generally rapid.

In terms of dedicated coworking spaces, there's not a great variety of destinations open late into the evening. The local branch of The Hive had really cramped desks with no spaces for calls and the Circo chain felt overly corporate and not suited to short term use.

I was delighted to find Workflow which I'd recommend for anyone looking for an ambient but professional environment to work from. I've written about it more depth further down.

Value
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

An excellent value destination with options for every budget. A high quality Airbnb in a modern apartment complex should cost you under £800 for a month. A meal from a street food vendor can be as low as 40,000 VND (£1.30) with international cuisine costing significantly more, but still good value by western standards.

More expensive options for eating and drinking out can be found, with higher end cocktail bars not far off what you would pay in western Europe.

Transport via Taxi or Motorbike is very inexpensive, with most trips across the city generally costing no more than 60,000 VND (£2).

info
The yen is currently at a 34-year low
While this is undoubtedly a negative for the Japanese, it makes for an exceptionally good time to visit Japan from abroad. Although this trend is unlikely to reverse significantly in the short term, it's still worth checking before visiting.
Read more
View the cost of living
open_in_new
Working hours
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Based in Indochina time, during the winter months, Vietnam is 6 hours ahead of Central European, dropping to 5 during the summer.

While this is a significant time difference, adapting your daily schedule can make it manageable, especially if you have some flexibility with your working hours.

Bùi Viện is a constant hive of activity in the evening, the equivalent of Bangkok's Khaosan Road.
Bùi Viện is a constant hive of activity in the evening, the equivalent of Bangkok's Khaosan Road.
Ho Chi Minh has no shortage of great rooftops to watch the routinely clear sunset. The Thương Rooftop in District 4 offers a panoramic views across the city with reasonable drink prices.
Ho Chi Minh has no shortage of great rooftops to watch the routinely clear sunset. The Thương Rooftop in District 4 offers a panoramic views across the city with reasonable drink prices.
A Banh Mi is a perfect snack at any time throughout the day and can be found widely across the city from street vendors.
A Banh Mi is a perfect snack at any time throughout the day and can be found widely across the city from street vendors.

Where to stay

There was no single district which particularly captivated me in the city, so if only visiting for a brief period I would aim to be within walking distance to the core of District 1.

Would avoid
Recommended
District 1 - Da Kao
Within easy walking distance of most places in District 1 and 3, if I were to return I would be looking for somewhere in this area. Within a 10-15 minute walk you've got a wealth of coworking spaces and numerous great options for food and drink, away from the main crowds.
Would avoid
Recommended
District 2 - Thao Dien
Popular with expats and locals alike, Thao Dien is a more relaxed option than staying in the centre. Whilst you would be reliant on a car or bike to get into District 1 there's enough food, drink and workspaces outlets to keep you satisfied in the immediate area.
Would avoid
Recommended
District 1 - Bến Thành
For a short visit of a couple days, this area makes the most sense. For longer stays, consider venturing a bit outside the immediate district to avoid the tourist crowds.
Would avoid
Recommended
District 4
Having spent a month there, I have left with mixed feelings. It is chaotic, dirty and lacking several key amenities but it does feel like a truly authentic place within Ho Chi Minh. An interesting alternative to D1 but not somewhere I would prioritise.
Would avoid
Recommended
District 2 - Thu Thiem
Having walked through this area, it's not somewhere I'd want to stay on a short visit. Quiet and residential, it feels distinctly cut off from the noise and energy from across the river.

Where to work

WorkFlow Space Hai Bà Trưng
Top Choice
☕️ Good Coffee
📍 Top Location
🥗 On Site Cafe
🧍Community Focused
⭐️ Quality Fit Out
🌳 Outdoor Space

Finding the perfect workspace in Ho Chi Minh City took two full mornings of trial and error visits, made even more challenging by the scorching 36-degree heat.

Everywhere either closed early in the evening, had overly corporate interiors, or was exceptionally cramped. Workflow was the ninth place I visited

Upon entering, the building offers two distinct work areas. The first floor features an ambient cafe ideal for casual work, while the second floor provides a quieter, perfectly air-conditioned office space.

It’s an ideal place to be positioned if you are working late evenings - the dedicated desk area boasts tall ceilings and bright lightning with the constant flow of people meaning you’re unlikely to feel isolated working late into the evening.

For anyone working more casually, or just passing through for a couple of days, the common areas are more than sufficient for light work.

Unlimited membership for the dedicated working space is £110 for the month, which additionally gets you a discounted rate on quality food and coffee from the cafe. On top, the staff are exceptionally kind, respectful, and welcoming. I would gladly return there if I ever visit Ho Chi Minh in the future.

Remote work visa

No remote work visa
Remote work visa available
Remote work visa coming soon
If staying for a prolonged period, you may want to consider a dedicated visa for this destination.
This country is actively working on a visa support for remote workers.
Check your government website for details of how to obtain a tourist visa.
View full details
To the best of my knowledge this information was correct as of 27th April 2024. If you notice something has changed drop me a message and I'll update it!

Citizen Remote is a great source of up to date knowledge for everything to do with remote work visas.

Safety

  • On the whole, a safe and friendly city.There's activity throughout District 1 until the early hours making it a safe place to walk late into the night.
  • Journeys via motorbike felt safer than in Thailand.The combination of the mandatory wearing of helmets and slower road speeds make journeys via motorbikes distinctly safer.
  • Watch out for scams.Whilst generally a very affordable destination, foreigners can make for susceptible targets in bars and nightclubs where prices can rocket. Keep an eye on Google Maps for recent reviews.

Off-work

Visit the Independence Palace

One of the most striking buildings in the city, this historical building of the Vietnam War era, provides self guided tours of government offices, war rooms & artefacts.

Worth setting aside a couple of hours before, with entrance to all areas of the site costing 65,000VND (£2).

Learn more
Explore Ho Thi Ky Food Street

Night market with a vast array of local seafood options and BBQ'd meats. Crowds not too busy around 17:00. If for whatever reason you need to pick up some flowers or plants there's a number of florists on the western perimeter.

Walk down Bùi Viện

Home to predominantly backpackers, aggressively loud EDM, and exceptionally cheap beer, even for the most prudish of individuals, it's worth walking through this chaotic, almost dystopian landscape, even if only to never return again.

Visit the Independence Palace

One of the most striking buildings in the city, this historical building of the Vietnam War era, provides self guided tours of government offices, war rooms & artefacts.

Worth setting aside a couple of hours before, with entrance to all areas of the site costing 65,000VND (£2).

Explore Ho Thi Ky Food Street

Night market with a vast array of local seafood options and BBQ'd meats. Crowds not too busy around 17:00. If for whatever reason you need to pick up some flowers or plants there's a number of florists on the western perimeter.

Walk down Bùi Viện

Home to predominantly backpackers, aggressively loud EDM, and exceptionally cheap beer, even for the most prudish of individuals, it's worth walking through this chaotic, almost dystopian landscape, even if only to never return again.

Duration & season

The heat throughout March was intense from start to finish. Day time temperatures frequently rose to 36 degrees and rarely dropped below 25 in the evenings. Whilst there would be cloudy spells each day, there was not one instance of rain throughout. I understood this to be somewhat typical from the dry season (December to April) before the monsoon season brings with it routine wet weather.

Do you really need a full month in Ho Chi Minh? In all honesty, probably not. Unless you are explicitly looking for searing heat and Banh Mi, it would probably work best as part of a wider itinerary of the country with a week or two being sufficient.

Food & drink

Thao Dien Loop
·
Walk
The first half of this route can be avoided, but it's well worth a walk up to Thao Dien to explore some comparatively calm streets, with plenty of coffee shops and restaurants to unwind in.
Bach Dang Wharf Park
·
Run
Running along the East border of District 1 next to the Saigon River, this is a good interrupted route which is best done after 23:00 where the number of people in the area drops down.
District 4 Loop
·
Run
Finding an uninterrupted running route is practically impossible during the day time in the centre of Ho Chi Minh. By 21:00 the outer perimeter of the island of District 4 makes for an ideal circular loop where you can run a relatively continuous 5 miles.

People

There didn't appear to be anywhere near as much as a distinct remote work community in the city, especially when compared to neighbouring Bangkok. Whilst there were a few expats occasionally in Workflow, it was definitely not as a notable presence.

The city is a popular backpacking destination, attracting people from all over the world, with French, Germans and Australians over indexing in comparison to other cities. The areas around Bến Nghé being particularly dense with holidaymakers.

I had nothing but positive interactions with Vietnamese people who I met throughout the month. There appeared to be a strong hustling, working culture with long work days and weekend working common throughout young professionals in the city.

Exercise

Thao Dien Loop
The first half of this route can be avoided, but it's well worth a walk up to Thao Dien to explore some comparatively calm streets, with plenty of coffee shops and restaurants to unwind in.
keyboard_arrow_down
Bach Dang Wharf Park
Running along the East border of District 1 next to the Saigon River, this is a good interrupted route which is best done after 23:00 where the number of people in the area drops down.
keyboard_arrow_down
District 4 Loop
Finding an uninterrupted running route is practically impossible during the day time in the centre of Ho Chi Minh. By 21:00 the outer perimeter of the island of District 4 makes for an ideal circular loop where you can run a relatively continuous 5 miles.
keyboard_arrow_down
Thao Dien Loop
The first half of this route can be avoided, but it's well worth a walk up to Thao Dien to explore some comparatively calm streets, with plenty of coffee shops and restaurants to unwind in.
Bach Dang Wharf Park
Running along the East border of District 1 next to the Saigon River, this is a good interrupted route which is best done after 23:00 where the number of people in the area drops down.
District 4 Loop
Finding an uninterrupted running route is practically impossible during the day time in the centre of Ho Chi Minh. By 21:00 the outer perimeter of the island of District 4 makes for an ideal circular loop where you can run a relatively continuous 5 miles.

Verdict

Positives
  • Inexpensive options for food and drink, open late into the night.If you’re finishing work at 11PM, you’ll have no shortage of places to grab a bite to eat with numerous places appearing to stay open deep into the night. Street food stalls and small restaurants all represent tremendous value for money.
  • A unique domestic coffee scene.A country traditionally associated with darkly roasted Robusta beans, locally produced Arabica appears to be growing in popularity and availability across the city. Plenty of international coffees are also on offer but a late afternoon Cà Phê Sữa Đá (iced coffee with condensed milk) can be the perfect energy boost you might need to continue working into the evening.
  • There’s a significant and welcomed drop in evening temperatures.Once the sun sets, the outdoor temperature becomes perfect for engaging in more strenuous activities. Running in the evenings is much more enjoyable compared to Bangkok, where the warmth never seems to subside enough.
  • An ungentrified, authentic experience of urban Vietnam.Beyond District 1 and Thao Dien, encountering many foreigners is uncommon. As a tourist destination, amenities are concentrated within a relatively small geographical area. While walking through areas like District 8 or 6, I was consistently greeted with friendly, if not surprised, waves and welcomes.
  • The Banh Mi is an incredible piece of street food.In a region of the world dominated by rice and noodles, a sandwich based street food item is a welcome addition. Typically incorporating a selection of pork meats, pâté, butter, pickled vegetables, they can be picked up from vendors across the city. After aggressively sampling 30+ my favourite was the chicken variety from Bánh mì Bùi Thị Xuân.
  • A city with plenty of history.If you are interested in the Vietnam war, there's plenty to see both within the city and in the surrounding region.
Negatives
  • A woeful city for navigating by foot.Crossing the road requires a mixture of confidence, bravery and stupidity. The volume of bikes combined with the sweltering day time temperatures make it a taxing environment to explore on foot.
  • A monotonous and uninspiring urban landscape.Aside from the notable buildings in District 1, there’s very little to differentiate each of the 24 districts. Having walked exhaustively in every direction, few areas make a compelling argument to warrant a visit.
  • Little means of public transport.5 years delayed, the HCMC metro appears to be as plagued as a typical British infrastructure project, with continuous set backs en route to full operation.
  • Not a tonne to do outside of the immediate vicinity of the city.Unless you're willing to get on 3+ hour bus on the weekend, there's not a great deal of places to visit within easy reach of the city.
Tips
  • Download the Grab app for both food delivery and transportation needs.Both services are cost-effective, with ride-hailing offering both car and bike options. Bikes tend to arrive more quickly and are your optimal choice. More details here.
  • Grab a Viettel SIM card at the arrivals area in the airport.A 30-day 150GB data plan should cost around 135,000 VND (under £5). These can be easily recharged at Viettel outlets.
  • ATM fees are a reasonable compared to Bangkok.Card is widely taken everywhere aside from street food vendors so it's not as imperative to carry cash around at all times.
Planning a trip?
I loved everything about this trip to Japan. I've put together some thoughts on my entire stay in the country, which may come in handy if you are planning a visit soon.
The back streets of District 4 are a labyrinth of meat and fish markets, with lots of local delicacies like snails & chicken feet on offer.
Motorbikes out number cars and pedestrians at every turn throughout the city.
If there's any data missing that you would like to see in these articles please leave some feedback and I'll aim to add it in.