Saigon Solo Tips and Guide
Updated: Apr 9
Ho Chi Minh or Saigon is Vietnam's most populous city. It's home to over 8 million people. Saigon is indeed backpacker heaven due to its cheap foods and affordable lifestyle. I put HCM on my list to visit and it did not disappoint me! Dear fellow solo traveler here are my tips in case you want to visit Saigon.
Where to Stay?
As a tourist and backpacker, if you prefer hustle-bustle and are near many tourist attractions, District 1 is probably the best. Choose a hotel located in District 1 (Quan 1). Saigon is divided into many districts and tourists mostly stay in District 1. I stay at The Platinum hotel - a very affordable, yet clean and safe hotel in District 1. But, there are so many options for hotels nearby.
As solo travel, the hotel price option is affordable. With RM90 to RM150, you can get decent 3-star hotels near to tourist attractions. Despite the communication barrier, generally, hotel team members so far based on my experience are very accommodating.
I list down some hotels that you might want to consider.
District 1 is located 21 minutes' drive from the city center. You can use Grab or a taxi to commute to the city center.
District 3 is another excellent choice for those who want to be close to the action but prefer a quieter area.
Telecommunication - Intenet
The first thing to do upon arrival is to have your sim card ready. It is available at the airport right before the exit point from the airport building. My choice is Vietel - highly recommended. Cost around MYR 30 for a week. During my trip, I rarely have problems with my internet and am able to navigate my maps, etc.
You may find it slightly cheaper in the city center but depend on the need and urgency. I always do this upon arrival because I will use it to book grab, look for alternative routes, or even make several bookings.
One of the first things you'll need to figure out when traveling solo in Ho Chi Minh City is how to get around. The city is quite spread out, so walking everywhere isn't always feasible. Some parts of the city are pedestrian-friendly with huge sidewalks however some of it is used for small cafe tables and chairs. Fortunately, there are several options for getting around:
Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Ho Chi Minh City and are relatively affordable. Be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in the taxi to avoid any surprises.
Grab: Grab is a ride-hailing app that operates in Vietnam. You can use it to book a car or motorbike taxi in advance, and the fare is calculated upfront, so you won't be surprised by the cost.
Public transportation: Ho Chi Minh City has a public bus system, but it can be challenging to navigate if you don't speak Vietnamese. The city is also building a metro system, but it's not yet operational.
As a solo traveler, GrabBike is available and probably the best way to move around the city.
Does it safe? Despite the crazy traffic, it is safe. Tips; hold tight and relax your body!
What to do in Ho Chi Minh city?
Ho Chi Minh City is rich in history and culture, and there are many fascinating sites to explore. The War Remnants Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the Vietnam War, while the Independence Palace offers a glimpse into the city's colonial past. The Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office are also popular tourist attractions, showcasing French colonial architecture. For a more local experience, head to the bustling Ben Thanh Market, where you can haggle for souvenirs and try some of the city's delicious street food.
Ho Chi Minh City has a vibrant nightlife scene, with everything from rooftop bars and nightclubs to live music venues and street-side bars. People hang out near the street and enjoy the night.
I will cover this more in detail in the next post on Top Things to do in Ho Chi Minh.
Malaysian passport holders DO NOT need a visa for Vietnam for every stay of a maximum of 30 days. They only need a visa if they wish to stay in Vietnam for over 30 consecutive days. For other nationalities - you can check it here https://www.vietnam-visa.com/vietnam-visa-requirements/
Cheap or Expensive?
Generally, HCM city is affordable. Yes, totally depends on how you travel too. Streets foods & accommodation is affordable.
My daily food expenses can range from RM20-RM40 a day including snacks in between. (I don't take breakfast btw). Sometimes, less than that.
All options are available throughout the city and bargaining is a must (if you are good at it). Everywhere we go in the world, there always be a "tourist or foreigner" price, HCM is no exception, a few famous tourist locations like Ben Tanh market can kill your wallet. Therefore, cheap & expensive depends on where you spend your money and how you travel. All in all, it is affordable.
Vietnamese food is underrated. Typically tourists will eat at Ben Thanh Market and it is rather expensive but a good option if you want to eat or experience the market. Street foods are everywhere. Must-try foods are
Phở bò (Beef Noodles Soup) from Pho 24
Banh Mi Op La from Bánh Mì Hòa Mã
Vietnamese Coffee at Cafe Apartment Saigon
Vietnamse Spring Rolls
Grilled meat at the night market
Vietnamese Steam Rice Cake
Bánh Chuoi(Banana Cake)
Bánh bo nuong (Vietnamese sponge cake)
From my observation, the Vietnamese eat a lot of beef and raw vegetables. Very healthy!
Coffee is a culture in Saigon. The city has a vibrant coffee culture with a strong focus on quality and taste. The city is home to numerous coffee shops, from traditional street-side cafes to trendy and modern spaces. Try Cong Caphe where you found the traditional Vietnamese coffee, which is made by brewing dark, rich Robusta beans with a Phin filter and served with sweetened condensed milk.
Don't simply cross the road because motorcycles are everywhere. Look left and right multiple times or not cross at all (better). Vietnam ranked 12th safest country in Asia in 2021 according to Global Peace Index, so, it is relatively safe for solo travelers. Like elsewhere, don't walk alone at late night, avoid dark alleys, and don't simply fall for too-good-to-be-true tourist offers from a stranger. During my visit, I never encountered any safety issues when I walk into the city or visit tourist spots. Vietnamese people are very friendly.
Stay hydrated: The city can be hot and humid, so be sure to drink plenty of water and take breaks from the sun.
One thing that I encounter in Ho Chi Minh is shoe cleaner scammers. I don't know whether it's a scam or not but they insist to fix your shoes or clean them for you even though you said no. I have encountered one before and it was a lesson learned. Beware of this.
In conclusion, Ho Chi Minh City is a dynamic and exciting destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you're interested in history and culture, food and drink, or nightlife, this city is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. Plan your trip today and discover the magic of Ho Chi Minh City for yourself.