Think it’s all tanks and tunnels? Wake up and smell the pho. Saigon still rocks elegant boulevards and French colonial architecture, plus it’s a swank shopper and foodie’s dream to boot. Stacked with world-class local designer fashion, interiors and lifestyle, the city is saturated in history and waiting for you on a plate.
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon? Though technically former, locals use the latter. HCMC sprawls over 24 districts, but thank (the) God(s), your main action stations are in the commercial and retail centre District One and lower-key, tree-lined adjoining District Three, plus a generous smattering of goodies across the river in expat compound District Two.
Need to Know
Weather: Dec-Apr is dry season and best time to visit, May-Nov wet season (wettest Jun-Sep), but it’s warm all year round
Transport: Quickest way around town (and to ruin your hairstyle) is on the back of a motorcycle. But road safety and traffic law – dream on, doll. Have your hotel’s business card on you at all times as most cabbies and locals don’t speak English
Taxis: Avoid scams with metered taxis from reliable companies, have places written down, and pre-arrange transfers; or hire a driver
When to Eat: Many kitchens open and close early, so dine early
Pickpockets: Beware of light-fingered rogues, especially in crowded places – keep your hand on your dong. Note bag-grabbers on bikes can also be a problem
Hawkers: Politely but firmly decline their advances unless you’re keen to buy – in which case, haggle
Smart Stuff: HCMC is in a state of flux and businesses change their addresses and hours more often than you change your knickers, so call ahead to avoid disappointment
Events: Tet (Lunar New Year) occurs around mid-Jan to mid-Feb and Saigon shuts down for 3-4 days – but it can be pleasantly cool, uncrowded and colourful