Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City – the ever bustling and chaotic business and financial hub of Vietnam.
Just a generation ago, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, formerly Saigon) was in turmoil after it fell to North Vietnam in the Vietnam War. Today, it’s a vibrant city with plenty of culture to soak up.
With a population of over 8 million people, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and it’s overflowing with art, history, mouth-watering cuisine, and nightlife. There is something to do for all types of travelers in Ho Chi Minh City.
However, due to its vast size, figuring out where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City can be a daunting task.
That’s why I created this guide on the best areas in Ho Chi Minh City for travelers to give you a feel for the different neighborhoods.
Whether you’re a budget backpacker, luxury business traveler or going on vacation with your family, I’ll make recommendations for exactly where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City and eliminate any guesswork for you!
This way you can focus on what matters, eating the best pho and taking in the city with every single one of your five senses.
Let’s take a look at Ho Chi Minh City’s neighborhoods and the best places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City below!
Table of Contents
- Quick Tips -Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
- Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City – Our Top 3 Picks
- Ho Chi Minh City Neighborhood Guide
- 4 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
- 1. Dong Khoi Street Area (District 1) – Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City for First Visits
- 2. Pham Ngu Lao (District 1) – Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City on a Budget + for Nightlife
- 3. Cholon (District 5) – Coolest Place to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
- 4. Thao Dien (District 2) – Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City with Family
Quick Tips -Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
- Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City the first time – Dong Khoi Street Area (District 1)
- Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City on a budget – Pham Ngu Lao (District 1)
- Best Place to stay in Ho Chi Minh City for Nightlife – Pham Ngu Lao (District 1)
- Coolest place to stay in Ho Chi Minh City – Cholon (District 5 )
- Best neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh City for Families – Thao Dien (District 2 )
In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first timers:
- See a different perspective of the War at the War Remnants Museum
- Sip on a yummy Vietnamese coffee at Kita Coffee House
- Enjoy an evening of Opera or classical music at the Saigon Opera House
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City – Our Top 3 Picks
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Best Hostel in Ho Chi Minh City: WillHome Hostel
WillHome Hostel is our top choice for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City thanks to its location and budget-friendly price. It’s close enough to the nightlife and restaurants, but far enough away that you can still get a good night’s sleep.
Plus, you can walk to all the places of interest. They offer all sort of discounts based on how long you stay plus a free drink per person at happy hour!
Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City: Lief Mojo Saigon
Lief Mojo Saigon takes away the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City. The staff are extremely friendly and they remember your name, making you feel even more at home. They’re beautiful and delicious breakfast is included in the cost of the room.
It’s located near several popular tourist sites making your time sightseeing easy and enjoyable. It’s our number one recommendation for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Best Airbnb in Ho Chi Minh City: Scandinavian Studio near Ben Than Market
Located in the center of Ho Chi Minh City, this is the best way to experience the city like a local. The apartment is spacious and beautifully decorated.
It also has a balcony where you can watch the everyday lives of Vietnamese people. The kitchen is fully stocked with everything you need to cook at home, but in case you don’t feel like cooking, there is an amazing noodle restaurant on the first floor.
Ho Chi Minh City Neighborhood Guide
Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Ho Chi Minh
Dong Khoi Street Area
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Pham Ngu Lao
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Pham Ngu Lao
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Ho Chi Minh City is divided into 24 districts each with their own charm, offering different experiences and accommodation options. However, only a handful of them are good for travelers. Understanding the lay of the land will help you make an informed decision on where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
District 1 is the heart of HCMC. Established by the French Government in 1859 as the center for government office buildings, this is the main commercial, cultural, and business hub.
You’ll find beautiful French architecture, busy markets, tree-lined boulevards, and cuisine from all around the world ranging from fine dining options to street food stalls. With so many things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, this is a great area to base yourself for your first visit.
If you’re a backpacker looking for nightlife and budget accommodation, then Pham Ngu Lao is the best place to stay in Ho Chi Minh City. This area of District 1 has been well-known in backpacker circles for years.
Within this neighborhood, there is a street that comes alive at night with street food and street performers. Bars line the street and it’s a lot of fun.
Just across the Saigon River is District 2. Up until recently, this was one of the poorest areas of the city as it was cut off by the river but thanks to development and urbanization, District 2 has become quite exclusive popular with expats and locals alike.
There are several western restaurants, supermarkets, and sports pubs. Many families live here as there are a couple of international schools.
Back on the other side of the Saigon River, District 3 borders District 1 and has a delightful mix of old and new. It’s an area famous for colonial architecture.
There is plenty to do in District 3 thanks to culturally significant places such as the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace. The area is also dotted with temples, a wide variety of restaurants, and shopping.
Just south of District 1 along the river is District 4. This is the best place to stay in Ho Chi Minh City if you’re a foodie! You’ll find endless amounts of street food in this area along with a young and hip crowd of residents.
Visit District 4 to soak up Vietnamese culture. Be sure to check out the Dragon Wharf – a former trade port turned museum – and the XQ Art House where you can see traditional Vietnamese silk weaving.
Bordering the south end of District 1 is District 5. Home to a massive Chinatown (known locally as “Cholon”), this area is a great way to escape colonial architecture and western fast food restaurants and truly feel like you’re in Asia.
Wander through the Bin Thay Market, try delicious Chinese food, and browse through the little shops; then head out to gaze at the pagodas and enjoy a nice cup of Pu’er in one of the many teahouses.
Above I have summarized the best districts for travelers in Ho Chi Minh City. Wherever you decide you stay and hang out in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll find Vietnamese culture and local life on every corner.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each area, and explore what you can do, and where you can stay in each neighborhood.
Editor’s Note: Check out our backpacking guide on Vietnam too!
4 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is massive and doesn’t have the best public transportation system. There are a lot of public buses and taxis. Uber and Grab are there as well.
Traffic in HCMC is insane and trying to cross the street is like playing real life Frogger because of the all the motorbikes and other vehicles.
Because getting around the city can take quite a lot of time it’s best to choose the neighborhood that’s best suited to your interests. This guide for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City lays out all of those best neighborhoods and what you can do there.
Distric 1 is the beating heart of Ho Chi Minh City, and Dong Khoi Street is the main historical area that has seen the biggest changes throughout the city’s past.
During French colonial times, the street called Rue Catinat was a glamourous area. Then during the Vietnam War, it was called Tu Do which means “Freedom Street.” When Saigon fell to the North at the end of the War the street was renamed again to Dong Khoi which means “Total Revolution.”
Now, this street is the heart of the commercial life of Ho Chi Minh City. Come to this area to admire the old colonial buildings, grab a coffee in a stylish cafe, shop both international brands and local boutiques, and dine in world-class restaurants.
Top things to do in Dong Khoi Street Area
– Send a letter or souvenir to friends and family from the iconic Saigon Central Post Office.
– Take an Insta-worthy photo of the incredible architecture of the City Hall building, formerly the Hotel de Ville.
– Marvel at the Notre Dame Cathedral’s stunning facade made from imported materials from France.
– Casually stroll through the 30-4 Park which takes its name from Vietnam’s Liberation Day, April 30th.
– Get a strong dose of history by touring the Reunification Palace, a place frozen in 1975 complete with the tank that crashed through the gates, ending the Vietnam War.
– See a different perspective of the War at the War Remnants Museum.
– Wander through the Ben Than Market trying cheap, delicious food and browsing the endless amount of things for sale.
– Head to the Bitexco Financial Tower to enjoy the sweeping views of the city from the Saigon Skydeck.
– Sip on a yummy Vietnamese coffee at Kita Coffee House.
– Enjoy an evening of Opera or classical music at the Saigon Opera House.
Best Hostel in Dong Khoi Street Area: The Dorm Saigon
The Dorm Saigon is the best hostel choice around Ben Than Market. It’s new, modern, and has an excellent staff. There’s a common area both inside and on the roof where guests can hang out and mingle.
It’s surrounded by delicious restaurants and some of the most popular sites in the city. This is a perfect choice for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Best Hotel in Ben Than Market Area: Lief Mojo Saigon
Lief Mojo Saigon feels like a 5-star luxury hotel at an affordable price. Their included breakfast is amazing, the staff is super friendly, and it’s perfectly located next to great restaurants and the most important tourist sites.
The rooms are spacious and offer special comforts such as bath tea. You won’t regret booking the Lief Mojo Saigon.
Known as the “backpacker district,” Pham Ngu Lao is an area in District 1 that attracts budget travelers thanks to the low prices for everything from food and drink to accommodation.
Pham Nhu Lao is actually a street that runs parallel to another street called Bui Vien. Between the two are a handful of small connecting alleyways full of spas, delicious restaurants, and plenty of hostels. It’s very reminiscent of Khao San Road in Bangkok.
Prices for rooms in the hostels are quite competitive and it’s easy to negotiate a pretty good deal. I once stayed in a private room with two beds, a desk, A/C, and a private bathroom with hot water for only $16 USD per night.
Pham Ngu Lao is also the best area of Ho Chi Minh City for nightlife. There are bars all along the street as well as restaurants with cuisine from all over the world. You’ll also find a high concentration of street food carts here. It’s definitely the best area to stay in if you want to party and not spend a ton of money.
Top things to do in Pham Ngu Lao
– Indulge in amazing yet cheap spa treatments like massages and pedicures.
– Grab an inexpensive Bia Hoi at one of the many bars lining the street.
– Delight your taste buds with the best bowl of Pho you’ve ever had at Pho 2000.
– Dance the night away after enjoying your dinner and comfort food at the Crazy Buffalo bar.
– Book your onward travel at one of the many budget travel agents.
– Join a Vintage Vespa Tour and explore Saigon on two wheels.
– Take a day trip out to the Cu Chi Tunnels and learn how the village protected themselves during the War.
– Dance to the live music while enjoying a cheap cocktail at Thi Bar.
– Learn about Saigon’s troubled past at the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City.
– Sip on a cup of coffee while reading a good book at the Bookworm’s Coffee Saigon.
Best Hostels in Pham Ngu Lao: WillHome Hostel
This is the best budget hostel in Pham Ngu Lao. They have dorm beds for as little as $5 USD per night. They also offer free breakfast, a beer at happy hour for each guest, and the longer you stay the more discounts you get such as free laundry and free airport shuttle service.
The rooms are clean and it’s in a quiet location. It’s a great budget option for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Saigon Hub Hostel is a great value for money. They have both private rooms or capsule dorm beds that are so private you’ll forget you’re in a dorm room.
They also have a happy hour on the rooftop every day and everyone gets one free drink. The staff is knowedgable and very kind. It’s also located a quick 5-minute walk from the party street, but you’ll still be able to sleep at night. A quality choice for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City!
Best Hotels in Pham Ngu Lao: Chill Suites
The Chill Suites offer clean and comfortable rooms complete with a desk and a TV. The rooms also have a fridge and a sitting area. The reception desk is available 24 hours a day for answering questions about everything from tours to where to eat.
It’s located in a popular area close to multiple restaurants and tourist sites. It’s a great budget hotel for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Chez Mimosa Boutique Hotel offers great value for money. They have a rooftop terrace where guests can enjoy a free drink at happy hour.
They also offer free laundry service and a Vietnamese foot soak! The staff are all very friendly and go out of their way to make sure guests are taken care of by offering recommendations for whatever you’re looking for. It’s the perfect option for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
District 5 is more commonly known as Cholon and it’s Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown. Cholon literally means “big market” and it’s obvious why as soon as visitors arrive at Binh Tay Market, which is the largest market in the country.
Ethnic Chinese people have been settling in the area since 1778. They began selling Chinese products here, which is what led to the big market area it is today. During the War, it was a black market for American troops selling American Army issue supplies.
The Chinese influence in Cholon is very apparent in the many charming temples and pagodas scattered throughout the district.
The best part about this area is all the delicious Chinese food. You can find all kinds of Chinese and Vietnamese dishes at the food court inside the Binh Tay Market as well as outside. There are food vendors everywhere!
You can also learn a lot about the culture and ingredients for the dishes by wandering through the stalls outside the market where they sell most of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and seasonings.
Top things to do in District 5
– Wander through Binh Tay Market admiring all the things for sale.
– Visit Cha Tam Church to see where the first president of Vietnam – Ngo Dinh Diem – was arrested.
– Shop for fabrics, clothing, home wares and craft goods, handmade jewelry, and hand-carved woodwork at An Dong Market.
– Admire the ornate decorations on the walls of the Phuoc An Hoi Quan, a Chinese Taoist Temple.
– Explore the narrow alleyways in search of dim sum.
– Light a stick of incense and admire the shrines at the Thien Hau Temple.
– Pray to the Goddess of Fertility at the Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda – a Buddhist temple.
– Take a traditional cyclo ride around the district to give your feet a rest.
– Slide down the waterslides at Dai The Gioi Waterpark.
– Reflect on life while enjoying the reflections in the pond at Quan Am Pagoda.
Best Hostel in District 5: The Common Room Project
The Common Room Project is a unique hostel experience. It’s a boutique hostel with 48 beds aimed at solo travelers and groups of friends who want to meet other people.
They believe that “sleeping is devine,” so they offer the softest bed sheets and linens to ensure a good nights sleep. It’s a great choice for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City outside of the center.
Best Hotel in District 5: Windsor Plaza Hotel
The Windsor Plaza Hotel offers a luxurious stay at an affordable price. It’s located in the heart of Cholon District (Chinatown) and each room has large windows with incredible views of the city.
Guests can relax with a massage at the spa, work out at the fitness centre, or arrange a day trip at the tour desk. It’s one of our top recommendations for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
In the past, District 2 was one of the poorest areas in Ho Chi Minh City because the Saigon River separated it from District 1, but nowadays things are much different.
Thao Dien in District 2 is a thriving area with high-rise apartment buildings and cute restaurants and cafes; it’s where most of the expats reside.
Boasting the largest amount of healthy eateries in the entire city, visitors can find things like soy yogurt ice cream and plenty of health and fitness classes like yoga and pilates.
They are building a metro in Ho Chi Minh City that is set to open in 2019. When it does finally open, visiting Thao Dien and getting from Thao Dien to other areas of the city will be much faster and more convenient.
Top things to do in Thao Dien:
– Sip a tasty cocktail or 5 along the banks of the Saigon River at one of these establishments: The Deck, Villa Song, or BoatHouse.
– Take in the impressive exhibitions on light, poetry, self and philosophical questions at The Factory Contemporary Arts Center.
– Improve your upper body strength by rock climbing at Saigon Outcast.
– Get high and practice your dunking skills at Jump Arena Trampoline Park.
– Enjoy a beer while you mingle with the varied clientele over a game of darts at Buddha Bar.
– Indulge in a spa treatment at Thao Dien Spa.
– Forget you’re in sweltering Southeast Asia by ice skating at Vincom Mega Mall.
– Spend an hour relaxing at Dolphy Cafe.
– If you need a pick-me-up, grab a massive ice coffee from Hue Cafe Roastery.
Best Hotels in District 2: Villa Song Saigon
Stay classy in the city at Villa Song Saigon. Located on the Saigon River, all the rooms at this boutique style hotel come with a view of the river, pool, or garden.
Breakfast is included and guests can easily get downtown thanks to the complimentary two-way shuttle by speed boat to the city center. This is an ideal hotel for those wondering where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
With large, spacious rooms and a deck overlooking the Saigon River, you won’t be disappointed with your stay at River Cottage. Guests can enjoy breakfast while watching boats float by on the river.
All rooms come with a fridge, flat-screen TV, and free WiFi. It’s the perfect choice for where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City can be overwhelming. This is a massive city and it’s not easy to get around, but with the help of this guide, it doesn’t have to be difficult to figure out where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
And despite this being a big city, you can still get a grasp of some of its highlights in 48 hours, like this.
Just to recap, our top hostel recommendation is WillHome Hostel, thanks to its location and budget-friendly price. It’s close enough to nightlife and restaurants but far enough away that you can still get a good night’s sleep.
Plus, you can walk to all the places of interest. They offer all sort of discounts based on how long you stay, plus a free drink per person at happy hour!
For the best hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll want to book a room at Lief Mojo Saigon because it feels like 5-star luxury at an affordable price. Their included breakfast is amazing, and it’s perfectly located next to great restaurants and the top tourist sites.
Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City and think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below! Cheers!
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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Need More Inspiration?
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