Saigon or as it is now officially called Ho Chi Minh City, though it’s older more romantic name is still widely used. Saigon is an amazing city, incredible diverse and much bigger than the nation’s capital Hanoi. The buildings here are a chaotic but attractive mix of old and new, eastern and western. Some of the French colonial buildings in the city rival anything built anywhere in the world. The Notre Dame Cathedral, The Old Post Office and the Opera House are just three incredibly beautiful examples of significant French Colonial Design and build.
Vietam tours packages modern skyscrapers continue to be built at a fast pace, presenting a magnificent skyline particularly when viewed from across the river in District 2. At night the whole city takes on a different appearance as these huge buildings are illuminated to dramatic effect. Saigon rivals any major Western city as a shopping destination, with large modern shopping Malls, designer shops and small indigenous emporiums offering just about everything to delight the shopper. The bars and particularly the restaurants are of an exceptional standard, offering all major cuisines from around the world. This is truly a full-on modern city in every sense. [divider]
How to Get There?
Tan Son Nhat International Airport is the largest in the country and can be found, just a few miles to the north west of the city. The new International terminal is modern and efficient, the old domestic, less so. Always allow a little more time than you would expect as things do not move quickly here. Both Vietjet and Vietnam Airlines operate flights to and from Hanoi and all other major cities in the country, daily. Vietnam Airlines customer service: +84 (0) 20 3263 2062 Vietjet customer service: +84 (0) 1900 1886
Saigon Train Station is on Cach Mang Thang Tam to the northwest of the city centre, and is a short taxi to Pham Ngu Lao. An official train ticket office is located in the heart of the backpacker district at 275C Pham Ngu Lao. There are five daily departures for Hanoi on the Reunification Express. Not very, express, journeys take about 30 to 35 hours. The fastest train is the SE3 these are safe, have air-con, are comfortable, and quite reliable. As always it is better to book in advance.
Public buses run from all the large cities and connect to the main bus stations. Most private buses arrive and depart from the Pham Ngu Lao area of District 1. This is right in the heart of the backpacker district. Be aware of the taxi drivers that hang around the bus drop off points, many have metre rates set at much higher rates than the reputable companies. Public buses arrive and depart from one of the following bus stations:
- Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station: This is right in the centre of the city
- Mien Dong Bus Station: Buses heading to and from the north arrive and leave from here.
- Mien Tay Bus Station
- Cholon Bus Station: in the heart of China Town
- Dinh Bo Linh station: MaiLinh buses from Da Nang arrive here.
Buses arrive and depart for all the other main cities in the country and also international destinations. Many buses leave every day for Phnom Penh, due probably to the fact that it is the nearest destination for expats doing the necessary visa runs.
Taxis: Without any doubt the most convenient and trouble free way to get around the city is by taxi using with either the Vinasun or Mai Linh companies.
- Mai Linh: +84 (0) 18.104.22.168
- Vinasun: +84 (0) 22.214.171.124
Motor bike taxis are available but not as noticeable to spot as in cities like Bangkok where they wear a uniform. They are generally about half price compared to taxis. All expats and locals use motorbikes, the sheer volume of them on Saigon streets is a little daunting to say the least. Many shops around the backpacker district offer rental bikes. If you have a little experience of driving, it is easily the best way to see the city. Cyclos whilst fun, can be expensive. Always get a quote before making a journey. Walking around the city center is a great way to see the city and enjoy the hustle and bustle. Just remember to take care and constant look out for motor bikes, which will appear on footpaths, coming the wrong way up streets and doing the most unbelievable things. To cross the road, take a deep breath, set your path and stick to it. Raise one hand above your head and amazingly all the bikes will somehow miss you. It is not for the faint hearted.