A Single Girl’s Guide to Saigon, Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide)

Every time I sit down to write a blog post, I’m met with that “oh sh*t, I don’t know how to start” feeling. This time, I really don’t know how to start. Saigon, Vietnam is a place that’s long been illustrated in my mind through stories from my father of the fragrant fruit trees outside his house, of racing through the city on the back of his dad’s motorbike, and of the aromas of sizzling street food filling the air. Saigon is the city that my dad grew up in, in the country my family escaped from, and the place that I’m “from” when asked that all-too-cliché question.

So here I am, straight out of ideas when it comes to starting this post, because it doesn’t feel right to start my Saigon travel guide like it’s any other destination—it’s not. This trip was so much more than any trip I’ve taken. It was pure joy, deep emotion, some tears, and chicken soup for the soul all-in-one.

district 4 saigon vietnam eva phan travel blogger white linen high waisted shorts white crop top
Exploring my Dad’s old neighborhood

Emotional dump aside, first thing’s first: I love Saigon. Being there just felt right. I was surrounded by all of the smells and sounds that remind me of family. I think you’ll love it too. You’ll find fabulous, inexpensive street food every 10 feet; some of the world’s best chocolate; and innovative, up-and-coming designers all in one city. The best things to do in Saigon are some of the simplest, making it an easy city to relax and play in.

Note: For personal reasons, I chose not to visit some of the museums/landmarks that are considered the “top” things to do in Saigon. I’m not going to get into those reasons in this guide, but if you’re interested in hearing more about those places, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

All visitors to Vietnam should stay mindful that the war was not that long ago—many Vietnamese people around the world are still dealing with its effects, and it was devastating for all. Please stay respectful with the comments you make while there.

the best things to do in saigon vietnam for solo female travelers tan dinh church district 1

The Best Things to Do in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Saigon is a city to wander in (of all the best things to do in Saigon, wandering and hopping on a motorbike might be my favorite ones). It’s perfect for the solo traveler looking to get lost, discover something new, or make a new friend (though, approach with caution to make sure you’re not being scammed). 

Solo travelers in Saigon won’t feel out of place at all. It’s a busy city with no shortage of people, phenomenal food, amazing shopping, and local markets. It’s also home to a large community of expats, for those looking to meet fellow travelers.

If you’re eyeing Saigon solo travel, these things to do in Ho Chi Minh City are sure to convince you.

lotus flowers cho ho thi ky flower market saigon vietnam
ho thi ky flower market saigon vietnam

Ho Thi Ky

Hồ Thị Kỷ is Saigon’s flower market in District 10. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that flowers are well, kind of my thing. I’ve had this market saved for years, and can report that it lived up to the hype.

Watch out—like just about everywhere in the city, motorbikes race through the market. Otherwise, feel free to wander through one of the markets many alleys (hẻm). You’ll find everything from wedding arrangements to lotus stems falling out of buckets.

nguyen hue walking street music fountain lotus peoples committee building hcmc vietnam eva phan wearing revolve song of style gala top skirt

Nguyen Huế Walking Street

Located in District 1, Nguyen Huế is Saigon’s most well known pedestrian street. Around Nguyen Hue you’ll find HCMC’s town hall, the Saigon Opera House (Nhà hát Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh), Notre Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn), and tons of amazing high end shopping. Also around Nguyen Hue, are some of Saigon’s more innovative dining experiences.

Take a photo at the Lotus Fountain, or stop into the Cafe Apartments at 42 Nguyen Hue for trendy cafés and a rooftop overlooking the street in a formerly abandoned building.

tan dinh church pink saigon vietnam
tan dinh church pink cathedral district 1 saigon vietnam

Tan Dinh Church (Nhà thờ Tân Định)

If you’re looking for one of Saigon’s best photo spots, look no further! Tan Dinh Church is the pink church of my dreams (I’ve had it saved for years). This pink cathedral is exactly as vibrant as it looks.

Be warned—security here is not exactly friendly, and the church does close for a couple hours during lunch. Otherwise, visiting is free. Unfortunately, the church is no longer pink inside.

If you’re looking to get the best photo of this church, cross the street to Cộng Cafe and shoot it diagonally. Công Cafe on its own is a really cute coffee shop with a rooftop overlooking the church! Nhà thờ Tân Định is on a very busy street in Saigon, and shooting it straight on without traffic is near-impossible. Plus, if you’re shooting on tripod, this is a much quieter street where it’s easy to stay close.

bui vien walking street backpacker district saigon vietnam
Bui Vien Walking Street Saigon Vietnam Eva Phan Revolve Song of Style Gala top skirt

Bui Vien Walking Street

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with this popular tourist destination (okay, it’s basically all hate, save for the fact that it’s fun to photograph). Bui Vien Walking Street has earned a spot on just about every travel guide to Saigon. It’s a popular destination for backpackers and home to several inexpensive hostels and bars. Bui Vien is also a popular nightlife area, but I’d strongly recommend approaching with caution.

Bui Vien has a spot on this travel guide only to issue a warning—I frankly think this street contributes to tourists’ negative perception of Vietnam and is absolutely not an accurate depiction of Saigon. It’s seedy, scammy, and essentially Saigon’s red-light district. I covered most of Saigon in my time there, including some of the city’s low-income neighborhoods, and felt the least-safe in this backpacking magnet.

Go during the day to see it. Go at night if you’re trying to forget your day. Bui Vien Walking Street is definitely different from the rest of the city. Just stay smart and keep a close eye on your belongings.

tan dinh market fruit produce ho chi minh city vietnam

Tan Dinh Market

Saigon is home to many many markets, and Tan Dinh Market (Chợ Tân Định) in District 1 tops the list as my favorite. Skip Ben Thanh Market—it’s an overpriced tourist trap with frankly, low quality goods. Tan Dinh Market is a fabric and dried food market that is much more local. You’ll find gorgeous, colorful silk, stalls stuffed full of suiting, and tons of clothing and bedding. I went home with meters and meters of silk from this market!

If you go, be sure to negotiate (and negotiate hard). I found that some vendors would start at prices I knew were more fair and would only come down 20-30%, and others would start incredibly inflated and come down 50-60%. As the market is more local, vendors usually come down a little less than they would at say, Ben Thanh, because they start at prices that are less egregious.

If you get hungry, surrounding Tan Dinh Market are tons of street food stalls, and produce vendors. Stop for a bite at Cô Bông – Bún Mắm Chợ Tân Dịnh, for a bowl of bánh cánh cua and cold glass of nước mía (sugarcane juice). If you’re looking for a cute nearby café, try Cửa Tiệm Mộc Little Farm, just a 10 minute walk away.

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Wander by Motorbike

I really believe that the best thing you can do in Saigon is wander. The city isn’t exactly walkable—it’s definitely large and sidewalks aren’t in the best condition—but if you’re in District 1, wandering by foot is easy.

Grab is Vietnam’s equivalent of Uber or Lyft, and is very inexpensive. Unlike Uber or Lyft, Grab has a motorbike option, which is exactly as it sounds. Book your ride, hop on the back of a motorbike, and go! Motorbike rides around the city are usually $2 or less, and personally, I think that motorbike or scooter is the best way to see Saigon.

I know the idea of hopping on the back of a stranger’s motorbike sounds scary, but in Vietnam, this is the most common way for locals to get around when they don’t have their own available! I booked Grab Motorbike several times with no issue.

That being said, I’d strongly recommend against tourists renting motorbikes themselves in Saigon unless you have previous experience navigating a motorbike or scooter. Traffic is beyond hectic. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s dangerous.

walking ho chi minh city vietnam ho thi ky flower market modern ao dai traditional vietnamese dress

Tours in Saigon

I’m anti-tour generally, but very pro-tour in Saigon, that is, when it comes to food. On my first day in the city, I went on a vegan street food tour, and it was an amazing introduction to the city. We stopped at street food vendors across HCMC, driving everywhere by motorbike, and tried everything from Vietnamese classics I grew up with, to harder to find Vietnamese dishes in the States (chuối nếp nướng comes to mind).

I still explored street food on my own (and it’s definitely less expensive to do so), but I’m also aware that doing that was successful for us partially because I grew up with knowledge of the culture and language. I really think food tours in Saigon are a must-do if you don’t speak Vietnamese or don’t have in-depth knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine in the South—Vietnam is SUCH a foodie country!

Keep in mind that many tours in Saigon are private. Group tours can be a great way for solo travelers to meet fellow travelers. If you’re looking for a group tour experience, pay close attention to your tour descriptions before booking!

Click below to discover the best tours in Saigon:

nguyen hue walking street saigon vietnam dear jose blazer dress

Where to Shop in Saigon

Saigon is one of the world’s best-kept shopping secrets for its emerging talent and bustling markets. For me, it’s right up there with strolling the streets of Paris, or wandering through boutiques in Cartagena.

For a full guide to shopping in Saigon, click here.

daphale studios boutique vietnamese fashion design saigon

DAPHALE Studios

272C Pasteur, Phường 8, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

22 Đặng Thị Nhu, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

DAPHALE Studios is the Vietnamese it-girl label taking social by storm. This trendy label features minimalist, well-fitting pieces, at an affordable price.

I picked up these white shorts while there, and am obsessed! I’m sure they won’t be my last purchase from this boutique in District 1.

cong tri luxury couture designer showroom saigon vietnam

Cong Tri

134 Đồng Khởi, street, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

Cong Tri is a Vietnamese couture designer who’s quickly becoming a celebrity-favorite. Recently, he’s dressed Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Adele. Best known for his innovative use of structure and volume with a strongly feminine lens, he has two showrooms in Saigon.

Cong Tri is one of my favorite designers, so getting to see his work in-person was so exciting!

Personally, I think the showroom on Đồng Khởi is much more impressive than the showroom near Ben Thanh Market.

cho tan dinh market silk fabric shopping saigon vietnam
hand painted embroidered ao dai fabric velvet saigon vietnam tan dinh market

Tan Dinh Market

336 Hai Bà Trưng, Tân Định, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

Tan Dinh Market is an explosive, exhilarating maze of silk, wool, tailoring, and linen fabric. You can find stunning fabric here at amazing prices, in addition to dried foods, ready-to-wear clothing, and bedding.

I picked up meters (and meters, and meters), of beautiful silk charmeuse fabric and silk brocade here. I paid just $5-6 per meter for lightweight silk brocade, and just a few dollars more for stunning, heavyweight silk brocade. What’s wild, is that I honestly wish I bought more.

In addition to the market itself, surrounding the market are áo dài fabric stores selling some of the best áo dài fabric in Vietnam. You can find gorgeous hand painted panels and heavy embroidering here. Just down the street is Thai Tuan Silk, a large fabric chain with a reputation for having some of Vietnam’s most high quality áo dài fabric (more on Thai Tuan here).

Annam Gourmet

6-18 Hai Bà Trưng, Phường Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

41 Đ. Thảo Điền, Thảo Điền, Quận 2, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

(I went to the locations in Bến Nghé and Thảo Điền. There are several locations in HCMC and Hanoi)

Annam Gourmet is one of the best stops to make in Saigon for souvenir food items. Although Annam is pricey when it comes to normal groceries, they stock all of Saigon’s top chocolatiers such as Maison Marou, Bellvie, and Alluvia, plus have a large variety of tea.

In addition to tea and chocolate, Annam Gourmet also stocks craft beer from local breweries, and Vietnam-specific snacks if you’re looking to try something new.

There’s Annam Gourmet locations across Vietnam—if you’re in Hanoi or Saigon, it’s a must-stop if you’re looking to take home tea or chocolate!

Bui Vien Walking Street backpacker district ho chi minh city Vietnam Eva Phan Revolve Song of Style Gala top skirt

Top Restaurants and Street Food in Saigon

Saigon is a foodie’s paradise. I mean really, the food is just incredible, and a good meal will only cost you a couple dollars (if that!).

The best food in Saigon is definitely found on the street (skip the fine dining here), but the city is also home to cozy cafés such as Mộc Little Farm, and tranquil vegetarian eateries like METTA Vegetarian.

Figuring out what to eat in Saigon can be an overwhelming and confusing task, so I’ve compiled a complete guide to the 20+ street food dishes in Saigon that you need to try. Click here to read.


The list below is just a fraction of the best restaurants in Saigon. For a full guide of 15+ restaurants and street food stalls you must visit in Saigon, click here!

pho phuong 25 da kao district 1 saigon vietnam best pho restaurant

Pho Phuong 25

25 Hoàng Sa, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

I visited Pho Phuong 25 at the recommendation of my cousin, who lived in Saigon for a few years. He scoffed at the idea of dining at the Lunch Lady, Anthony Bourdain’s pick for best pho in Saigon (recent reviewers would back him up on this).

Pho Phuong 25 is just down the street from the Lunch Lady, and is one of the best bowls of pho in Saigon. It’s popular with locals (as is the eatery across the street), with all the phở staples such as phở bò viên, phở đặc biết, and phở gà. Make sure to compliment your bowl with a cold glass of trà đá (Vietnamese iced tea).

che chuoi nep nuong saigon street food stall

Chè Chuối Nướng Võ Văn Tần

378 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 5, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

You’ve probably never heard of the Vietnamese desserts that Chè Chuối Nướng Võ Văn Tần serves up, which is exactly why it’s a must-go street food stall in Saigon.

Chè Chuối Nướng Võ Văn Tần grills hundreds of bananas over charcoal every day to make chuối nếp nướng, a grilled banana and coconut dessert; and bánh chuối, a steamed banana dessert. Learn more about chuối nếp nướng by clicking here!

vegan banh xeo saigon vietnam
cho ho thi ky banh xeo vietnamese pancake saigon vietnam

Bánh Xèo

Across the street from 123B Đ. Trần Bình Trọng, Phường 1, Quận 10, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

Bánh xèo is a Vietnamese crêpe named for the sizzling sound the batter makes as it hits the pan. 

This street food stall near Cho Ho Thi Ky is home to the best bánh xèo in Saigon. It’s extra crispy and delicate, with all the good greens for wrapping your crêpe in (they’ll taste floral, peppery, citrusy, and everything in-between). They also serve up bánh khọt, which is like a crispy, savory mini pancake.

Although bánh xèo is typically filled with meat, this stall will make it for you without on-request (be still my vegetarian heart!) for a vegan approach to the traditional dish.

maison marou chocolate cafe saigon district 1

Maison Marou Flagship Saigon

169 Đ. Calmette, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

If you ask my dad the one thing that you simply must buy in Saigon, it’s chocolate.

Maison Marou has built a reputation for itself as Saigon’s leading chocolatier. Founded by Frenchmen Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou, the brand sources cacao from six different provinces in southern Vietnam.

Maison Marou’s flagship café is a must-go for chocolate lovers visiting Vietnam. It’s conveniently located near Ben Thanh Market, and offers rich, chocolatey drinks and pastry, alongside Maison Marou confectionary and of course, chocolate bars.

I highly recommend the chocolate chili drink—it was a frothy blend of chocolate and spice.

METTA Vegetarian Restaurant Saigon Vietnam District 2 best restaurant
vegan mi quang METTA Vegetarian Restaurant Saigon

METTA Vegetarian Food and Drink

Số 6 Đ. Số 19, Khu B, Quận 2, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh

METTA Vegetarian Food and Drink is a calming, tranquil restaurant in a residential area of District 2. The open air space serves up an extensive menu of vegetarian Vietnamese dishes, alongside a myriad of refreshing teas and juices (do not skip the iced tea here).

Although METTA is technically a vegetarian restaurant, because Vietnamese food typically does not use dairy milk, many dishes are vegan. Keep in mind that Vietnamese cuisine does occasionally use egg, so you’ll need to ask.

METTA is definitely one of the best vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Saigon, but it is a little off of the typical tourist path in the city. Luckily, it’s just a $2-4 Grab from District 1.

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The Best Cocktail Bars in Saigon

The cocktail scene in Saigon is still up-and-coming, with these bars leading the way. From Vietnamese cuisine-inspired cocktails at Summer Experiment, to fantastic live music at Snuffbox, you’re sure to find a nightlife spot in Saigon to enjoy.

For a complete list of the best cocktail bars in Saigon, click here.

summer experiment best cocktail bar saigon vietnam

Summer Experiment

Summer Experiment is the younger sister to Layla, another one of Saigon’s best bars (more on Layla here). The menu at Summer Experiment takes cues from Layla, but has a more unbridled energy, with lots of experimentation and new ingredients in a way that still feels approachable, not alienating. 

Of all the bars I tried in Vietnam, Summer Experiment was the one to leverage the most unique ingredients specific to Vietnamese cuisine in its cocktails (Snuffbox does also, but mostly on their Mixology Night on Thursdays).

Like Snuffbox, Summer Experiment is a bit of a speakeasy, in that you’ll find yourself wandering through an Indochine-era building wondering if you’re in the right place. But you are, made obvious by the guard downstairs.

Summer Experiment also has a patio, perfect for watching the bustle of District 1 below.

snuffbox speakeasy cocktail bar hcmc vietnam

Snuffbox

Snuffbox is a special place. Not for the cocktails (which are solid, not striking), but for the amazing vibes, live music, and speakeasy space. Snuffbox is a true speakeasy—you’ll enter the building through an unmarked entrance, that will have you wondering if you’re in a garage or the right place. 

Once you realize that yes, this definitely is correct, you’ll push past the curtain and enter a two-level space with high ceilings, dark lighting, and chilled out atmosphere.

Snuffbox has live music (the band was phenomenal), like many of Saigon’s best bars. I’m all for a city that favors live music in its nightlife—I could use more of it at home.

I stayed far longer at Snuffbox than anticipated, and don’t regret it at all.

rabbit hole best cocktail bar saigon vietnam

Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole is the most refined bar of any on this list. This speakeasy is easy to miss—I certainly did. You won’t be entering a building from street level here. Instead, you’ll enter via a staircase at street level, down to a basement. 

Rabbit Hole is sexy and feels almost New York. Their menu favors the classics, but is still innovative in its design and delivery. Plus, the bar has live jazz. It’s the perfect place to take yourself on a sleek date night in Saigon.

intercontinental saigon rooftop pool luxury hotel district 1 ho chi minh city diving underwater

Where to Stay in Saigon for Solo Travelers

Saigon really isn’t a walking city. It’s relatively spread out, and apart from that, the city’s sidewalks aren’t necessarily in the best condition (watch your step). Where you stay matters. It’s worth it to spend a little more to be in just the right spot, but even if you don’t, luckily Grab in Saigon is easy to use, fast, and inexpensive.

Outlined below is the best neighborhood to stay in Saigon. It’s part of District 1. Don’t stay below this neighborhood—you’ll end up in a seedy backpacker area with a red light reputation that is dodgy during the day, and even more so at night for solo female travelers.

Click below to discover the best hotels in Saigon!

Booking.com
the myst dong khoi luxury boutique hotel district 1 saigon vietnam
rooftop bar ho chi minh city vietnam the myst dong khoi luxury hotel district 1

The Myst Dong Khoi

The Myst Dong Khoi is one of the best luxury boutique hotels in Saigon, paying homage to the city’s colonial architecture. Rooms here feel cozy and elevated. After waking up, you can take a dip in your outdoor tub, or grab a bite at the hotel’s fantastic complimentary breakfast.

Located in District 1, the hotel is in an amazing location for seeing Saigon. It’s just steps from famous shopping street in Saigon, Dong Khoi, and only a short walk to Sông Sài Gòn (the Saigon River) and Nguyen Hue Walking Street.

Despite its convenient location, the street the Myst Dong Khoi is located on is quiet, making it the best of both worlds.

Solo travelers shouldn’t worry about safety at this hotel—there’s 24 hour security onsite, and elevators are keycard activated.

It’s worth noting that travelers with accessibility challenges may have difficulty with the short flight of stairs leading up to the entrance.

intercontinental saigon ballroom

InterContinental Saigon, an IHG Hotel

The InterContinental Saigon is the best hotel in Saigon for travelers looking to stay at a reputable, luxury Western chain. I’ve stayed at many an InterContinental, and this one is by far my favorite.

Like the Myst, the InterContinental has an amazing location—it’s in-between Tan Dinh, and Nguyen Hue Walking Street and the Saigon Opera House, making for an easy walk to either area.

The InterContinental Saigon offers stellar service, tight security for solo travelers, and a complimentary breakfast like I’ve never seen (I mean honestly, the spread was massive, pulling from more than five different cuisines). 

For my full review of the InterContinental Saigon, click here.

tan dinh church pink cathedral motorbikes ho chi minh city vietnam

Transportation in Saigon (How to Get Around)

Rental Car

If you’re looking for a rental car in Saigon, stop. Although rental cars are practical in some cities and countries, Vietnam isn’t one of them. As a matter of fact, you likely won’t even be able to find a car rental agency at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Saigon.

You’ll notice right away in Saigon that traffic is hectic, and overwhelmed by tons of motorbikes and scooters. While people do drive cars in HCMC, they’re typically reserved for taxis, Grab, and long journeys.

Trust me, as a foreigner, you don’t want to drive in Saigon! Traffic is dense and very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

hydrangea motorbike rental ho chi minh city vietnam

Renting a Motorbike or Scooter in Saigon

Motorbike or scooter is the transportation method of choice for locals in Saigon. As I mentioned above, riding around the city on a scooter is so. freaking. fun.

For most tourists, the best way to experience riding a motorbike in Saigon is via a Grab motorbike, or tour. If haven’t driven a motorbike before, your first time should definitely not be in Ho Chi Minh City.

However, if you are comfortable driving a scooter, staying in Vietnam for a while, and familiar with traffic in Southeast Asia, renting a motorbike is an inexpensive alternative to a car rental or calling Grab, especially if you’re traveling solo.

You can typically rent a motorbike in Saigon for $4.50-6 a day, or $50-$100 a month (renting longer means you can negotiate the price a lot lower). Now, the caveat to this is that technically, you do need a Vietnamese driver’s license to do this. The Vietnamese government only recognizes the IDP for a select few countries.

Luckily, foreigners can convert their driver’s license from their country of residence to a Vietnamese driver’s license relatively easily. The catch, however, is that you need an extended stay visa to do this.

To be honest, many motorbike rental companies in Saigon will rent a bike to you without you having the proper license. It’s not difficult to find a rental company that will, though you will need to be prepared to deal with the consequences if you’re pulled over by police (so I wouldn’t recommend this).

Regardless of what you choose, be careful. Some scooter rental companies in Saigon are known to rent Chinese knockoffs of reputable brands such as Honda and Toyota that are dangerous, and not regulated to the same standard. Do your research, and only rent from motorbike rental agencies in Saigon with lots of good reviews.

Grab

Grab is the most popular rideshare app in Vietnam. It’s like Uber, but better (and a fraction of the price).

Grab is an all-in-one app—within a single app, you can book a car rideshare, and motorbike rideshare, order food delivery, or order groceries.

You will need a Vietnamese phone number to use Grab, but Vietnamese SIM cards are easy to get at the airport. I paid $5 for 5 GB of high speed data from Viettel at the airport—more than enough to last me 2.5 weeks in Vietnam. Don’t bother with getting an international plan from your cell service provider at home. it’s much easier and less expensive to use a Vietnamese SIM card in Ho Chi Minh City. Just make sure you’re buying from a licensed, legitimate service provider, not a travel agency or local shop.

I really appreciated that Grab drivers are clearly marked. All Grab food delivery and motorbike drivers wear green uniforms to make them easily identifiable. This made me feel a lot more comfortable that I was dealing with a legitimate Grab employee, vs. with Uber or Lyft where drivers aren’t as easily identified. One of my food delivery drivers actually apologized for forgetting her shirt that day!

Using Grab is much cheaper than using Uber or Lyft anywhere else. Rides on a motorbike or in a car can be as low as $0.35. If you’re calling a car, expect to pay no more than $4-5 within Saigon (and that’s if you’re going across the entire city. Many rides are just $1-2). A ride between the airport and District 1 will likely only cost $5-8.

Taxis

Taxis are everywhere in Saigon, but be careful—it’s easy to get scammed. If you choose to take a taxi in Saigon, make it a Vinasun or Mai Linh taxi. Both of these companies are reputable and well-known, with drivers that are typically honest.

Unfortunately, some taxis have started posing as Vinasun or Mai Linh, making counterfeit vehicles. Pay close attention to the car’s logos, design, and phone number before getting in the car.

Taxis at Tan Son Nhat International Airport are typically legitimate, and honest (taxis need to pay a fee to enter the airport at a security checkpoint). I took a taxi from the airport to my hotel in District 1 late at night, with no issues.

I personally wouldn’t take a taxi in Saigon unless you’re really pressed for time or stuck in the rain and needing to get a car immediately. It’s rare to wait more than 2-3 minutes for a Grab, and you’re much less likely to get scammed using Grab.

Click below to discover the best private airport transfers in Saigon:

Public Transportation

The least expensive way to get around Ho Chi Minh City is public transportation. The city doesn’t have any trains, but it does have buses.

From the airport, you can take shuttle buses #109 and #49 will take you into HCMC. The bus line’s final stop is the Saigon Bus Station at 23/9 Park. Along the way, it stops both at Ben Thanh Market and Ham Nghi street—convenient for tourists staying in District 1 or the backpacker district.

The SGN airport shuttle bus operates from 5:30 am to 1 am, running every 20-30 minutes. Expect to pay 20,000 VND ($0.85 USD) if riding all the way to 23/9 Park, and less if you’re getting off earlier.

Within Saigon, there’s a few different buses to get around the city. The Chợ Lớn bus (Bus #1), is the one tourists will find most useful. This bus runs from Ben Thanh Market to Chinatown, stopping near some of the most popular tourist attractions in Saigon.

Inter-HCMC buses will be green or blue, not yellow like the airport shuttle. Buses within Saigon range from 5,000-10,000 ($0.21-$0.42), depending on how far you go.

Although public buses are the least expensive transportation option in Saigon, Grab is so affordable and convenient that I decided against using them.

As I didn’t use a public bus myself in Saigon, I can’t speak to the quality of them. Others have reported that the yellow airport shuttle buses, which are new, are air-conditioned, large, and have security cameras for safety. Green and blue buses have been reported to be more worn down, and older.

modern ao dai teal instagrammable house saigon vietnam
In front of my dad’s old house, 45+ years later!

Safety in Saigon for Solo Female Travelers

Saigon is a safe city for solo female travelers. It’s very normal to see women in the city walking, eating, or working alone. The biggest safety risk in Saigon for solo female travelers is getting pickpocketed or scammed. Violent crime, like kidnapping or sexual assault, are rare.

I recommend staying in District 1 in Saigon to maximize safety. This is Saigon’s wealthiest neighborhood, and a safe neighborhood to walk alone at night in. I can’t say the same for other neighborhoods in the city. It’s also rare to see a motorbike thief in District 1.

Solo female travelers in HCMC should be aware of motorbike thieves. These thieves snatch bags when someone is standing too close to the street, or walking with their bag on their outside arm. A friend of my cousin’s got her purse snatched by a motorbike driving past while she wasn’t paying attention! Always wear your handbag on your inside arm to the street while in Saigon, and never wear it crossbody. Women wearing bags across their body have been known to be dragged by motorbike thieves.

As usual, exercise normal “big city” safety measures while in Ho Chi Minh City. Be aware of your surroundings, and keep valuables tucked away.

saigon opera house district 1 ho chi minh city vietnam

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Vietnam good for solo female travel?

Vietnam is an amazing country for solo female travel. It’s safe for women, and offers tons of interesting cultural things to do and places to eat. Solo female travelers to Vietnam will love how the popularity of street food stalls makes it easy and comfortable to dine alone, and dense cities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An make it easy to make friends with locals and fellow travelers.

How do you avoid pickpockets in Vietnam?

The best way to avoid pickpockets in Vietnam is to stay alert at all times. Carry your handbag on the inside of the sidewalk, not on the side of the street, to avoid having it stolen by motorbike. Never stand too close to the sidewalk while using your phone, or you risk it being stolen by motorbike thieves. Always put your wallet in a front, zippered pocket.

Make sure to always make multiples paper copies of important documents, such as your passport, in the unfortunate event that you are pickpocketed.

Is Ho Chi Minh City safe?

Ho Chi Minh City is one of the safest major cities to visit in Southeast Asia. Overall, the city is safe for tourists, aside from some pickpocketing, petty crime such as taxi scams, and of course, hectic motorbike traffic. Violent crime in HCMC is generally rare, and does not affect popular tourist areas.

Is Ho Chi Minh City safe for solo female travelers?

Ho Chi Minh City is a safe destination for solo female travelers. Robberies and assaults have been increasing in recent years, but still rarely, if ever, affect tourists. It is common to see women walking and dining solo in Saigon.

The biggest threat to Saigon solo travel safety is petty crime. Solo female travelers in Ho Chi Minh City should stay on the lookout for pickpockets, and motorbike thieves.

Should I stay in Saigon or Ho Chi Minh?

Saigon and Ho Chi Minh are two different names for the same city. Although the official name of the city today is Ho Chi Minh City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh), it was known as Saigon until 1975. Today, locals use both names for the city, and you’ll see signs for both Saigon and Ho Chi Minh while visiting.

What should I pack for Saigon?

Saigon is hot and humid year-round. Even in winter months, pack lightweight, cool clothing such as shorts, sundresses, and sleeveless or short sleeve tops. If you’re visiting Saigon during the dry season, pack sun essentials such as sunscreen and sunglasses. During the wet, rainy season in Saigon, pack rain gear including a rain jacket, and umbrella. Many hotels in Saigon have pools, so make sure to pack a swimsuit as you’ll want to cool down by midday!

Can I drink the water in Vietnam?

You shouldn’t drink the water in Vietnam under any circumstances. Tourists to Vietnam should also avoid brushing their teeth with tap water at all costs. The water in Vietnam is not safe to drink, and contains organisms that could leave you exposed to cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, giardia, gastroenteritis, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever.

Ice in Vietnam is generally okay to drink. Most restaurants and street food vendors use machine-made ice that uses filtered water.

Is there Uber in Ho Chi Minh City?

There is no Uber in Ho Chi Minh City. Uber’s operations in Southeast Asia were purchased by Grab, who now operates the majority of rideshare services in HCMC. Grab is similar to Uber, inexpensive, and easy to use for transportation or food delivery.

What is the best time of year to visit Ho Chi Minh City?

The best time of year to visit Ho Chi Minh City is between December and March, when the weather is generally sunny and rain has slowed down. December is the coldest month to visit, while March is the sunniest month in Ho Chi Minh City. Avoid visiting HCMC in April, the hottest month of the year.

Love my Saigon solo travel guide and looking for more things to do in Saigon? Click here, or the links below.

Where to Shop in Saigon, Vietnam: The Best Stores and Things to Buy

17 Amazing Places to Eat in Saigon, Vietnam

13 Best Cocktail Bars in Saigon, Vietnam

22 Street Food Dishes in Saigon You Need to Try

xx,
E

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2 Comments

  1. Laura
    November 5, 2023 / 7:17 pm

    Do you have any recs for getting my nails done in Saigon?

    • Eva Phan
      Author
      November 7, 2023 / 6:26 pm

      Hi Laura! Unfortunately I didn’t get my nails done in Saigon, so I can’t recommend a salon I’ve been to. I know there’s a few good Korean/international style salons in D1 and Thảo Điền (The Privé Salon, Charm and Chill) that could be worth looking into. Thảo Điền has a ton of English speaking expats that live there, so you might be a little more likely to find a salon with English speakers than elsewhere in the city, if you don’t speak Vietnamese

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