Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, has long been considered the focal point of Vietnamese culture. Located in the south, it is Vietnam’s economic powerhouse. District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City is the central urban area, a Mecca for exclusive designer boutiques and galleries, as well as popular things to do in Ho Chi Minh
such as visiting Saigon Notre Dame Basilica, Opera House and Reunification Palace.
Boasting a population of over 8 million people with Vietnamese as the local language, Saigon is one of the densest urban areas in the world. On many streets, it is common to see houses with the ground floor converted into a business, while several families share the living areas on the upper levels.
The country’s currency is the Vietnam Dong (VND). The US Dollar is the most favoured foreign currency. Australian, British, Japanese, Singaporean and Thai currency, as well as the Euro, can usually be exchanged in Saigon. An increasing number of outlets accept MasterCard and Visa. However, outside main towns and cities, it is wise to carry cash. There are ATM machines throughout the city, which issues Vietnam Dong. Travellers cheques are also accepted in banks and money exchange venues. It is best to take US Dollar travellers' cheques to avoid additional exchange rate charges and expect to pay a high commission.
Ho Chi Minh City is a year-round destination. The rainy season falls between May and October but showers are normally over in a couple of hours. In the run-up to the rainy season, humidity increases.
A common mode of transportation just a few years ago, “cyclos” are becoming rare since being banned from many streets. Replacing them are fleets of taxis and “Honda ôm” – Japanese-made motorcycles that you simply wave down and hop on the back of to be transported anywhere in the city.
Unlike other cities in Vietnam, Saigon is very active at night. Music halls often play to sold-out local crowds and restaurants stay open late into the night. During the festive months, the city’s streets and sidewalks are dotted with colourful lights and decorations.
With its mix of colourful temples, colonial architecture, classy boutiques, gourmet restaurants, parks and art galleries, Ho Chi Minh City has something to offer everyone.
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