Travelling through South East Asia is every backpacker’s dream, and there are multiple reasons for this; so much to see and explore, a warm and friendly local culture, and most importantly, its relatively cost-efficient compared to other parts of the world. Its no wonder then that countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam overflow with tourists who are in for an inexpensive experience that would otherwise cost an arm and a leg in other parts of the world!
Vietnam is very popular on the backpacker’s tourist map. Each city in Vietnam abounds with a plethora of experiences that keep backpackers flocking in from all parts of the world. One of the more popular cities to visit in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City.
Why Ho Chi Minh?
Ho Chi Minh City is heady mix of all things that make for a great holiday. From a great nightlife to amazing food, crazy shopping to wild travel experiences, museums to rooftop bars to lots of cheap beer and a traditional heritage, Ho Chi Minh City offers everything a backpacker can ask for!
The best of Ho Chi Minh City – where less is more!
Backpackers can easily cover most of Ho Chi Minh City in about a week, and on a pretty modest budget. The main things to keep in mind when planning a trip here is where you intend on staying, the things you plan on seeing, your meals and getting around the city. All these things are extremely affordable in Ho Chi Minh City, making it a favorite with backpackers. A week’s budget of USD 250 – 300 will give you room for doing quite a bit in the city, with your stay, transport and food included.
District 1 – backpacker’s haven!
First things first, its important to find the most suitable accommodation in the city. While Ho Chi Minh City has plenty of accommodation options with varying budgets being catered to, backpackers usually flock to District 1. This district is home to an area called Pham Ngu Lao, which is filled with hostels that cater to backpackers budgets and amenities. The best part of this area is that there’s a hostel to suit every type of backpacker; a solo backpacker, couples, a group of backpackers, party hostels, hi-tech hostels and so on. In addition to hostels, District 1 is packed with eateries, bars, cafes, pubs and cheap restaurants.
The best way to travel through the city is on a motorbike; as clichéd as it may sound, its true. Motorbikes are cheap, fast and super easy to park, making them the preferred choice of transportation for most backpackers. However, keep in mind that traffic isn’t really sane in this city, so only risk riding a motorbike if you can handle crazy traffic. If not, then stick to public transport that is equally cheap and an efficient way to get around the city.
A week’s worth of backpacking bliss
It will take a day to get acquainted with Ho Chi Minh City’s chaos. Spend the first day soaking in the sights and sounds of the city; walk around to get an idea of people, places, distances. Learn how to navigate traffic especially when walking around. Bikes zip in and out at alarming speeds and mostly without warning. It does take a lot of getting used to! Stop by for a chilled beer the minute things seem to get too overwhelming! Beers are available for as cheap as a less than a US dollar!
The city offers free walking tours to various popular destinations. Keep in mind that it’s usually just the guide services that are free, and you’ll still be expected to pay your entrance fees to museums or attractions that have an entrance fee. Street food tours and walking tours to places without any entry charge are of course, free, so make use of the info of helpful and very friendly local guides. Try and schedule a walking tour for each day of your stay in Ho Chi Minh City. It helps to sign up for the tours before hand to guarantee a place on the tour.
For architecture lovers, make your way to the Notre Dame Cathedral. With no entry fee, take a walk in and marvel at the French-built church. Also worth checking out are the many pagodas visible across the city. The most popular one among them is the Jade Emperor Pagoda that showcases intricate detailing in its architecture.
Two museums that are must visits in Ho Chi Minh City are the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace. While the former has exhibits that aren’t for the light-hearted, dealing mainly with details of the Vietnam War, the palace focuses on exhibits signifying the country’s victory after the Vietnam War.
Set aside one full day of your time to explore the Ben Thanh Market and the Nguyen Hue Walking Street. From authentic street food to colonial French architecture, both areas are a delight to explore and walk through. Chinatown is another interesting part of the city that is totally worth exploring. And don’t forget a walk by the Saigon River. This is an absolute must-do. Food and drinks are available in plenty along the river as well.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are an important part of Vietnam’s history; head out towards the tunnels on a tour that will take up most of your day.
Ho Chi Minh City has a legendary nightlife reputation that must be included into every backpacker’s itinerary. While drinks are cheap, and bars and pubs are in plenty, you are guaranteed multiple nights out on the town without burning a hole in your pocket. And if you fancy getting the party started early, make use of the happy hours that nearly every bar or pub offer.
It’s easy to see now why Ho Chi Minh City is such a favorite with backpackers from around the world. For the experiences gained in this city, it’s more than well worth every dollar spent!