Skip to content

Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    ✓ You on Insta? 👍@triplyzer
    ✓ Find the best offers on your Stays on 🏡
    ✓ Deals on Private xfers, SIM Cards, City tours, Day trips on 🛵 GetYourGuide | on 🛵 Klook

    Backpacking Ho Chi Minh city? One of the top destinations in Vietnam, the city is known for its unique of the old and the modern.

    Read on for some crisp travel advice that you need to know. Located in south of the country, Ho Chi Minh will either be your first or your last spot in a 2 weeks Vietnam itinerary.

    The travel tips I share include getting getting Vietnam e-visa, essential info, guide to Vietnamese food, getting around, day trips and best area to stay in Ho Chi Minh city.

    Without further delay, here is my guide to help you prepare for your trip:

    Travel Tips | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    • Despite what other travel bloggers say, the traffic in Ho Chi Minh city is just fine, it’s not terrible at all! Traffic in Hanoi in comparison is worse.
    • Not only rent but you can also buy and sell motorbikes in Vietnam. Go on an adventure motorbike trip from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi, and sell the motorbike once you are there.
    • Traveling in Vietnam by train is a good option. Take sleeper when you are doing night train, else take the soft seater. Hard berth level 3 (top level) is the cheapest option. Hanoi to Saigon train is the most popular train route, with many travel destinations in between.
    • Exploring caves in Vietnam is quite a popular activity. The majority of the caves are located in the central Vietnam. Paradise cave is one of the best cave in Vietnam accessible to public.
    • It is actually very cheap to take day tours in Vietnam. The Vietnam day tours are very well managed and take the hassle of planning your trips from you.
    • Buy grocery, drinks, food from Vinmart – The king of cheapest shopping mart in Vietnam!
    • Some of the best places to visit in Ho Chi Minh city include the Notre Dame Church, Post office and Reunification Palace.
    • Best day trips from Ho Chi Minh city include the famous Mekong Delta. If your travel itinerary is little longer include Cu Chi Tunnels day trip as well.

    How to get Vietnam Visa on Arrival | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    Getting the Vietnam e-visa on arrival is quick and straight forward. The visa on arrival office is located on the right side just before the immigration check. You will see clear signs in English, just follow these.

    If you don’t have a photograph, fear not the people at the visa office will click it. The officials are very friendly and helpful.

    Visa fees: $50 USD

    My Vietnam Visa experience: When I reached the visa window, it was not crowded at all, I was positioned at 10-11 in the queue and I got the visa within 10 minutes. The process is simple: Stand in a queue, submit the documents, you will be called, pay the fees and get your visa. Done!

    No questions, no objections were raised by the visa officers. I booked the accommodation only for the first day and used it as my address in Vietnam. Importantly though, the official offered me the small return (about $20) in VND but I refused as the exchange was not good. She obliged and gave me the change back in dollars then.

    Airport Guide | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    I took a flight from Bangalore, India to Saigon and I can say it was the best decision. the views over the Ho Chi Minh city were simply fantastic. Irrespective of you take a day trip to Mekong delta from Ho Chi Minh or not, you need to at-least see the Mekong delta from the airplane.

    The Ho Chi Minh city airport is relatively small in size but quite modern in amenities. There is also a priority pass lounge available at the Ho Chi Minh city airport.

    ATM Ho Chi Minh city airport: There are plenty of ATMs located just outside the Saigon airport building. Remember that ATMs have a withdrawal fees There are several money exchanges as well, these don’t have a ‘fee’ and the rates are very good.

    How to get from Ho Chi Minh Airport to City

    An essential part of backpacking Ho Chi Minh city is getting from Ho Chi Minh city Airport to city center on budget. Public transport is very good, and getting from Ho Chi Minh city airport to district 1 by bus is simple, efficient and value for money.

    Ho Chi Minh city Airport Bus 152

    The airport has an excellent connectivity by Bus with the city center. I caught the bus 152 from Ho Chi Minh city airport. It takes around 30-40 minutes to get to the city center depending on the traffic.

    The bus is clean, has a working a/c and is not crowded at all. The bus driver understands just enough English to take you to your destination. The bus ticket is incredibly cheap and costs only 5000/- dongs. You may or may not be charged extra for luggage (upto a max of 5000 dongs), I had a big hand bag and I paid nothing extra.

    Alternatively, you can take bus 109 which takes you from the airport to the bus station in Pham Ngu Lao, the center of the city. The bus 109 is slightly more comfortable than 152 bus but also costs a little bit more in comparison (20,000 Dongs = ~$1)You can take the same buses, 109 and 152 while going back from Ho Chi Minh city center to the airport. The buses go via Ben Thanh market.

    Day Trips | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    There are quite a few day trips around Ho Chi Minh city, but here are the most popular ones:

    Cu chi tunnel: One of the most popular, I also took this one and can say it’s so so. Cu Chi Tunnel feels like tourist trap in Vietnam. There is this one narrow tunnel that you get in and get out and that’s it! Visit this only if you have nothing else to do in the city or looking to cross that bucket list.

    Mekong Delta: Mekong delta is one of those fascinating day trip in Ho Chi Minh city that one must take. And guess what? It is very much possible to draw up your own Mekong Delta itinerary and go all by yourself. You can book the accommodation online, rent a motorbike or travel by a public bus. Traveling by bus is not that difficult but you do need to do research before hand as locals hardly understand English.

    Alternatively, you can take the day trip (or 2/3 days trip) to Mekong delta which is sold by every other hostel/ hotel and the tour companies. As always ask at couple of places to get the cheapest prices.

    Remember these tour companies are just a front or agents who sell tickets, the actual trip is organized by few companies and all these agents sell more or less the same tours for a commission. 

    Places to stay | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    Let me begin by saying that District 1 is the best area to stay in Ho Chi Minh city. And within District 1, the best place to stay is Bùi Viện, located right in the heart of the city.

    Bùi Viện is a popular backpacking area in Vietnam, somewhat similar to Khao San road of Bangkok, which hosts the best hostels in Ho Chi Minh city.

    Bùi Viện has everything that any backpacking Ho Chi Minh city would want: plenty of cheap accommodation, shopping marts (711 clones), restaurants for every budget and every food preferences (including vegetarians), coffee-shop, bars & pubs, and a loud, exploding night scene. Truly the best backpacker area in Saigon!

    Note that Pham Ngu Lao runs parallel to Bùi Viện and is also a very good area to stay.

    How to reach Bui Vien, District 1 from Ho Chi Minh City Airport: The public bus from airport drops your very close to Bùi Viện. Just let the driver know and he would help you out.

    Things to do | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    What you want to see completely depends on how many days you have to spend. If you have less time, you will likely see to Ho Chi Minh city’s top attractions. If you are living near Bui Vien street, most of these sites are easily accessible on foot or by bus.

    My personal best includes, the Old Post Office, Notre Dame Church, and Ben Thanh Market.

    Shopping guide | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    Shopping is one of the top things to do in hcmc. You will be amazed to see how many options you have but at the same time you will need some serious haggling skills.

    If you are shopping for grocery or food, it is fairly simple. You’d find branded Minimarts everywhere in Ho Chi Minh city, particularly around the Bùi Viện area. These minimarts are open round the clock and also sell alcohol. For the best prices head to Vinmart, other marts can’t match its dirt cheap prices.

    Food Guide | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    Non vegetarians would be spoiled for choice, even better if you eat sea food. The best restaurants are concentrated in District 1, and it helps if you are staying in the area. But some tourists also venture to Chinatown looking for Chinese delicacies.

    You can eat as cheap as you want, depending on where you prefer to eat. Many restaurants have extensive menu and dozens of specialties.

    If you are like me and looking for best food, just follow what and where the local eats. Eat at the small food joints where you’d only see local sitting on plastic stools, you’ll guranteed get the maximum bang for your buck.

    The trademark dish of Vietnam is Pho, which is basically a noodle soup – usually made with beef or chicken. The vegetarian variety is also available at select places.

    Vegetarians at disadvantage as usual, though it’s not that difficult to find vegetarian food in Vietnam.. If you want to try Pho, visit restaurant chains like Pho 2000 or Pho 24, bit pricier but much cleaner imho. To find a list of Vegetarian/ vegan only restaurant head to

    Spring roll in Vietnam is a must try, and the vegetarian one is delicious as well. Rice paper rolls are great too, except that they are not crispy as spring roll.

    Vietnamese Coffee | Backpacking Ho Chi Minh City

    Now, here it comes, one of my top travel tips: Strictly avoid Highlands Coffee, the supposedly upscale coffee chain spread like mushroom after the rain.

    Coffee at Highlands can be best described as bland and an insult to the authentic Vietnamese coffee. Seriously, can you imagine drinking Indian chai tea in a luxury hotel? Instead, head to small shops where locals usually go. There are many spots to have a delicious cup of coffee in Ho Chi Minh city district 1. Some of my favorite cafes in Ho Chi Minh city include: Cat cafe, Cafe Om, Cafe lu, and Saigon Cafe Maui.


    In this Ho Chi Minh city blog I have presented travel tips with a hope that they helps you plan your trip to Vietnam.

    ✓ You on Insta? 👍@triplyzer
    ✓ Find the best offers on your Stays on 🏡
    ✓ Deals on Private xfers, SIM Cards, City tours, Day trips on 🛵 GetYourGuide | on 🛵 Klook

    Join the conversation

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *